This years Potato Plot spread with dung and straw. Don't mention the weeds.
Yes folks it's official. 2012 was the wettest summer (year) on record. It's been officially called the: 'Year Of The Slug'. Look it up on the old t'web and Tinternet (northern viewers will understand) and type 'Year Of The Slug', if you don't believe me. It makes you want to write a song or even paraphrase Al Stewart's 'Year Of The Cat' doesn't it?
Happy Christmas everybody. I hope you all got some great Christmas presents this merry morn? My early and endearing memory was the lumpy brown parcel with the Eire stamps on it. I must have only been about five but I can remember the postman knocking on the door with the lumpy brown parcel tied up with string. My Irish grandmother had sent us one of her turkeys, some brown leather boots for me and my brother, a scarf, for my mother and I think a cigar for my dad, or was it some 'boot' socks? On top of the turkey would be a Christmas card in a envelope and a long letter all about the farm animals and how she was looking forward to hopefully seeing us again next summer. I think it was the lumpy Christmas parcel and the summer trips to my grandparents farm in rural Ireland. That inspired me to get an allotment and eventually live on my very own smallholding in the countryside, next to the sea.
Any road (northern English talk) I hope you got that book or spade, or cow or pig, packet of vegetable seeds, beer kit, along with the aftershave, new socks and jumper. And that includes the women. Eh?
Have a great Christmas and thanks for reading the blog and all your very welcome comments. Oh yeah I forgot somebody didn't I?
I often think when I am scattering straw around my smallholding (stable) cowshed. Of how the lord Jesus himself was born in a stable because there was no room at the Inn in Bethlehem. I often think that my cattle have a better life than a lot of humans. Especially the one's who are homeless. There are thousands of visible and the 'invisible' homeless sleeping on a friends floor or even in a van in the countryside. I often think when there is a bad storm it's freezing. I wonder how many people are sleeping rough tonight?
I have decided to choose the Salvation Army for my chosen blog featured Christmas charity this year. What's yours? We don't see many of the Salvation Army in Ireland, but I know there are some in Dublin. They are an incredible Christian organization that offer practical unconditional support to anybody regardless of gender, race or creed.
I know money is tight for a lot of folk this Christmas. Yet if you and your friends donated nineteen pounds it would pay for a nutritional food box for a struggling family. Twenty eight pounds will pay for Christmas dinner for 5 lonely old people at one of their weekly Lunch clubs. Forty seven pounds pays for a meal run to help people sleeping rough. Sixty three pounds pays for a bed for a homeless person in one of their centres for three weeks. Go on folks support the Salvation Army Christmas appeal. You can find out more and how to donate at the Salvation Army website. That reminds me. I must make a donation myself.
Here's Mel C singing a song about the homeless. It's a good song to listen to and think about the homeless at Christmas. Lets spread the message of:
There is still no chance of me doing any kind of cultivation nay earth works on my smallholding vegetable plot at the moment. It's times like this when I often hear myself singing one of my son's compositions. Pray let me explain dear readers.
A few years a go when number 2 son was about 4 years old. I once left number 1 son and number 2 son sit and wait on the supermarket bench while I went for some of my 'medicine' in the OFF LICENCE department. I came back a few minutes later and number 2 son was singing at the the top of his voice:
"Oh it's pissing it down, it's pissing it down, oh it's pissing it down...."
Repeat for ever and a day.
One old man who looked like a farmer (chewing grass, wearing smock, not really..) thought number 2 son's song was hilarious. Whilst a few old ladies shook their heads with very sullen expressions. I just laughed and we made a quick exit out of the supermarket. I mean I could hardly chastise him could I? I wouldn't be surprised if I had composed the song myself.
Here's another one of my favourite Christmas songs for you: Jethro Tull: "Ring Out Solstice Bells." It's the shortest day this week (21 Dec) and I thought it's topical and a celebration of the old Celtic Winter Solstice. I have been lucky enough to see Jethro Tull a few times and they have done some pretty awesome tracks down the years. 'Songs From The Woods' and 'Heavy Horses' are my two favourite albums. When you listen to the lyrics, you realise what an ecological and environmental thinking band they are. Enjoy.
I am getting tired of these long Winter nights living on my Irish smallholding. For one thing we have no 'street' lights (can't you tell I was born in northern England?) for at least 4 miles. So it's 'pitch us blackish' from 4 in the afternoon until eight O'clock next morning. So it's usually, see to animals, eat tea and watch telly or surf the old computer and sup a few pints of ale or so. That's usually my every night schedule in Winter? Well, most of the year, these days. I have attempted reading but I once commented to 'wifey' that reading is ignorant. Now every time I pick up a book or my android (more about that in a blog or two) one of 'Northsider Towers' residents pipes up:
"Reading is ignorant."
You just can't win can you?
Two of my regular readers (Pat Papertown 2 and Cumbrian), inform me that they don't watch television. I think I would go mad if it wasn't for my computer, android (did I tell you I have got one of those androids?) and my life time subscription to Sky Sports complete with Manchester United supporters armchair? I exaggerate. What about you folks? Can you manage life without your John Logie Baird machine?
Years ago. You would wait for everybody to finish eating the rice pudding and your dad would use the bowl to make the'crystal set'. You could listen to great radio (the theatre of the mind) programmes like: 'Band Wagon' (anybody remember Arthur Askey?) and listen to adverts about 'Ovaltine.'
Here's another of my favourite Christmas tracks for you enjoyment. The great Greg Lake himself. I once saw him and Emerson Lake and Palmer play at Manchester Apollo. I think they are probably most talented band ever to come from Britain. My favourite track of theirs is 'Jerusalem'. I think it should be the national anthem. William Blake was a genius. Any ELP fans? What do you think about television? Can you live without it?
Still can't get to work on the old veg plot. The ground is saturated - for a change. Perhaps it's a time to read and write blogs and books and even watch some telly? Why don't we have a 'Smallholding and Allotment 'channel?
Well we did it. We borrowed my brother and his trailer and we collected a years rubbish from a round the Haggard (Where the moo cows and the silage and tractor live) and farmyard. We filled a full 6 x 4 car trailer to the top. The square plastic tank with the metal cage isn't part of the rubbish. That's for carrying (wait for it) WATER to the cattle when get a drought. Laugh I nearly got my cigs out then. Not that I smoke any more, of course!
The farmyard detritus was mainly old silage plastic wrappings baling string, animal feed paper bags and silage netting. Why is everything made from plastic?. How much does it cost to pay for it and how much does it cost to get rid of it? Well it only cost me eighty Euros. But what cost will it be to to the environment?
Right time for a song. Seeing it's near Christmas I would like to play: 'Dedication': Thin Lizzy. If they had played Live Aid, I think this would have played this song. I play Thin Lizzy every week, religiously. I think they are the best band to come out of Ireland. Did you know Phil Lynott was born in England? No, nor did I. I once saw them on the 'Renegade' tour way back in 1981 at Manchester Apollo theatre. Fantastic band. Fantastic lyrics. See you later in the week. Thanks for reading.
BANTRY BAY 2010. The locals hadn't seen scenes like this since 1947.
"In The Bleak Midwinter' was recently voted the world's greatest Christmas carol. I would not disagree. The hymn was originally penned by the great English poet: Christina Rossetti. The hymn talks about the bleakness of winter and that we have to have a child like relationship with God our father. I wonder in this hi- tech world we live in. What gift would we give the baby Jesus? What could be a more beautiful gift than than that of a new born lamb?
What's your favourite Christmas song? Over the next few weeks I will play you some of mine. Hope you like them and tell me about your favourites?
Here's the incredibly beautiful Welsh' diva , Katherine Jenkins singing: "In The Bleak Midwinter".
Today I would like to take a break from writing about smallholdings and allotments. Don't worry normal service will be resumed over the weekend. 'They' who ever 'they' are. Say you should never write when you're emotional. However, blogs are supposed to have meaning and they don't always need to be light hearted or one of my rants about the lack of public transport (here we go) in the countryside.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was my 49th year to Heaven or Hell or even eternal sleep. See it how you will It was my first birthday without my mother ringing me and saying:
"Hello David. Happy birthday."
Just a few words that I will never hear my mother's voice say ever again. Not in this life any way. Life is so cruel at times. I nearly put a swear word there, but I won't. I thank God for my mother's life for everything she ever did for me. Grief is very strange. My mother died (passed away even) in January and I thought the pain had eased. Then some occasion comes around and the morose feelings over whelm you once again. You only have one mother.
Many moons ago I used to be a born again Christian. I really believed that Jesus was my friend. Some how I drifted away and circumstances made me cynical and even at times wonder if God exists. However when somebody like your mother dies, you change your outlook on life. You can either be bitter, or you tell yourself, there's got to be a God, you have got to hope that you will meet your loved one's again.
My good friend and fellow blog writer: Pat Papertown 2 puts it perfectly:
"Better to believe in God even if he's only an illusion(better to have a glorious illusion than a 'meaningless life'), I think."
I couldn't put it better myself. Here's a track by the late Norman Barratt: "Your Love." I think a member of his family recently posted it on You Tube. I thank them for that! Norman Barratt was in the early nineteen seventies rock group 'Gravy Train'. I once saw him and his band at a Christian music festival in Bedfordshire in the early 1980's. The lyrics are superb and mean so much. Hope you enjoy them.
We recently got ourself a new addition to our West Cork Smallholding. A young billy goat called: Mr Bramble, now resides on our little farm on the edge of Bantry Bay in Southern Ireland. We have finally got some help in the garden. I have to stake it though because he's pretty partial to my cabbages. He works hard and we can afford his wages: some vegetables and some straw.
We have had goats before and they are characters and excellent browse grazers. Shall I tell you some tales about them? Are you sitting comfortably? OK then, I will begin.
We purchased our first white goat (a Saanen) in 2002. A street stall holder lady we knew. Gave us the phone number of a goat herd owner on the outskirts of Dunmanway. Jean rang the goat owner and took some directions and we set off without a road sign or a talking horse (Old American tourist joke, yawn!) and after a few miles (at least thirty) of driving over hill and dale, we found ourselves stopped outside a smallholding. How does she do it? My mother always said that Jean had radar up her jumper. I think she must have been a homing pigeon. Jean that is, not my dear mother.
Any road. The lady from the telephone conversation, introduced us to a beautiful white goat called 'Lily'. The goat lady showed me how to 'milk the goat' and I paid her fifty punts for Lily. I then attempted to lift our new goat into the back of our Volvo hatchback. Talk about 'one lump or three'. I struggled and moaned and Lily bleated and took great exception to me man handling her. The goat owner's male partner heard the commotion and helped me lift Lily into the car and we set off back home.
Our poor little car, struggled over and around the West Cork hills and the meandering, pot hole scattered roads. The back of the car was weighed down to her haunches and we got many curious looks from passing motorists and farmers. Think I read the mind of 2 of them:
"Did you see dat?"
" That blue Volvo then. I am sure I have just seen Bin Laden going down the road, in the back of that little Volvo."
Well Lily did have a beard.
Time for a song. Here's Val Doonican (the man with the multicoloured jumpers) singing: Paddy Mcginty's goat.
There's not a lot happening on the vegetable plot at the moment. The ground is still saturated so apart from cleaning out the cattle and ducks and feeding them silage and straw, there's not a lot we can do. On a positive note. You can see my Japanese Winter onion sets starting to push up their green stalks.
There's not a lot you can do except chop wood, read, watch the television, eat and drink well and maybe listen to some good music. Time for some music. Here's the late and great (Deep Purple and Whitesnake) John Lord's version of 'Green Onion's.