Wednesday 19 December 2012

Christmas Thoughts From My Smallholding Stable.

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:

"Peace on Earth and good will to all men."


  1. dave, I have always noticed that most of the animals I have owned have sought out company from other breeds if they are alone in the world.

    one year I had a lone guinea fowl who teamed up with a cockerel and went everywhere with him....

    it saddens me too when people are alone especially at christmas

  2. Hi John, We have also had donkeys and goats who grazed with the cattle and followed them. Guinea fowl always seem really worried characters. It must have been funny to see one team up with a fiercely independent and stoic cockerel. Farm animals are characters aren't they?

    You're right about people being alone at Christmas. I think back to that fantastic film 'Shadowlands':

    "We read to know we are not alone."

    I would change the word 'read' to 'write'.

    Jesus is said to have to loved all the animals. I like to think of our lord being a smallholder.

    Thanks for your thoughts John.

  3. Good points, Dave, am I write in remembering you saying that you also admire the Hare Krsna and Capuchins/Franciscans for their work with poor and homeless people?

  4. Yes, being homeless and sleeping out rough might not be so bad in the middle of a warm summer, but must be hellish in cold or wet weather, which is most of the time in UK.

    Salvation Army used to have quite a large following locally, they had their own building, (was it called the Kingdom Hall?) but I haven't seen or heard of them for a long time.
    We don't see so many homeless in this area, but I'm sure they're there, some of the "invisble" ones.
    We had one local character, a youngish chap, totally dropped out, used to walk about sniffing petrol wearing a top hat, he turned up in all sorts of places, complete with tin of petrol. Somebody let him sleep in a caravn once, but he burned it down, probably smoking at the same time as sniffing petrol. Strange personality, often found begging loose change or cigarettes. Haven't seen him for years now, wonder where he went?
    Then a few young people built a shelter out of driftwood on waste land near the harbour a few years ago, lived there with an alsation for a couple of weeks, then it turned cold and rained heavy for a few days, dunno where they went to.
    And there's the young drug-adicted ones, drifting from one friends couch to another or breaking into empty houses for somewhere to sleep.

    At the same time there's tens, if not hundreds of thousands of caravans on parks all over the country, unoccupied for a lot of the year; and an armada of pleasure yatches tied up empty for most of the time. Not to mention the coutryside and village holiday homes, lived in for maybe 3 or 4 weeks a year, and all the rural derelicts.
    While people sleep rough, no wonder some of them prefer to be in prison for winter.
    Strange world.

    Keeps wet here, not quite as cold but raw.
    Raggy cat in its usual preferred position in front of fire.

  5. Hi Pat. Yes you're right about the Capuchins/Franciscans and the Hare Krishnas. There's a fantastic soup kitchen in Dublin run by them. The Hare Krishna give over 200000 free meals per day to anybody who needs sustenance. All 3 of the organizations give unconditional practical help. They practice the beatitudes and all three are very worthy causes to donate to at this time.

    Thanks for reminding me of them Pat.

  6. Thanks for your comment Cumbrian. Think the 'Kingdom Hall' is the Jehovah's Witnesses place of worship. I think the Salvation Army call their building: The Citadel? You raise some very good issues about being homeless.

    How can we call ourselves a society when we have homeless people? The countryside is full of derelict and empty holiday homes. They are all privately owned so nobody can do anything about them. Then there are private landlords who make fortunes from the government in terms of rent assistance or what ever it's called these days.

    Perhaps if there was a housing party with a manifesto of building cheap social housing to rent and buy, would be the answer?

    You often hear of people helping people in Africa and places that have had natural disasters and we send people over to build them new houses made from blocks and corrugated iron sheets. Why can't they make pre-fabricated buildings for the homeless? It would give everybody the basic requirement of a roof over their heads and create much needed jobs for the unemployed.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  7. Pre-fabricated buildings? There were whole estates built out of them in lots of places immediately after the war, to house all the people made homeless by Germanys bombing runs. There's a full set-up of one, furnished 1950s style, at Eden Camp (google it). They lasted for a few decades until enough Council houses were built, and then removed; there was a small estate of them near here, they removed them about late 60s / early 70s. I don't think there's any left inhabited anywhere now, but I might be wrong.
    Just shows we can do it when we want to.

    Another quick-fix would be shipping comtainers, they'd make ideal basic housing, there must be a lot of them not up to shipping standard but capable of putting a roof over somebodys head. They're transportable, stackable, weatherproof and instant. OK they'd be cold, but warmer and drier than outside and sheltered from the wind. They could even be fitted out as semi-permenant accommodation units.
    I talked to a bloke on a ferry one evening a good few years ago, he was a joiner going to Holland to work in a factory making cheap caravans to send to Kosovov to house people made homeless by the latest conflict there.
    And there's homeless people in Holland as well.

    A manifesto to build cheap social housing? But we used to have that, it was called Council Housing; now they're all sold off or transferred to Housing Associations with expensive top-heavy corporate management structures and long waiting lists, and as you say a lot are in the hands of private landlords who exploit the Housing Benefit system.

    Raining again, quite heavy this morning.
    Damp Raggy cat waiting on kitchen window cill, it's on the sheltered side this morning.

  8. Hi Cumbrian, A lot of houses in America are made out of wood. And Germany makes a lot of houses in their factories. Also there are lots of empty industrial units and empty offices that could all be made in living accommodation for the homeless and for people on housing lists. Maggie Thatcher sold off thousands of the council houses and made the private landlord a fan of hers. A lot of people never get a foot on the rung of the housing ladder through no fault of their own.

    It's been raining here today but exceptionally mild for the time of the year. Raggy cat isn't daft.


  9. Yes, Cananda and Scandinavia as well build extensively with timber, I saw a couple of examples at Building Exhibition years ago, Swedish I think it was, 12" insulation and quadruple glazing. Strange to say, for a timber house, heated by log burners. Suppose everybody builds with local materials, Cananda and Scandinavia having big forestry industries.
    Contrast with our throw-away culture, I think I could build a dwelling from stuff salvaged from skips; wouldn't be allowed to though.

    You're right, I don't know how young people get on the house ownership ladder, expensive houses, tight lending criteria and lack of employment have slowed down the market considerably. All to the benefit of private landlords, ironically it's probably the same cost or more to rent than to buy.

    Got round to bottling a couple of djs of wine, strawberry and apple, I think the strawberry's going to be very nice, white with a faint blush of pink colour and very sweet (accidental taste when starting syphon)
    How's your alcohol production going?

    Still raining but not as heavy.
    Raggy cat still sleeping, as you say not so daft.

  10. Most houses/bungalows here are made with concrete blocks and rendered with cement. Years ago. You would quarry some stone, chop down some trees and build yourself an home. Think that's what gave them their 'rustic charm'?

    I once talked to the man who suppplied us with our concrete septic tank. He told me he knew man who did builders cleans and tidied up sites after the builders had left. He collected bricks and built his house with them.

    Here in the West of Ireland there are hundreds of derelict old buildings that could make potentially new buildings. But now the banks have stopped borrowing money and the building boom is over. It's common sense when you build houses, you create jobs. Be it for a new kitchen, television, or the lady selling bacon butties for the lads on the building sites. House building creates jobs.

    We got carrots from Aldi today for 20 cents a bag. Bracken is getting some on Christmas day.

    The strawberry wine sounds delicious. We are still buying Newcastle Brown to go with the home brewed bitter. We're not so keen on some of the beer kits. Really pleased with your Jeddah Gin though. Thanks again for the recipe and advice making it.

  11. Yes, the building boom seems to be over, but it will come back in time, as you say, the house-building industry is a pretty good barometer of the state of the economy, it drives everything.

    Some of the cheaper kits tend to be a bit "thin" and bland, have a look at the link, they've got all sorts of kits, I go for the better 3kg all malt ones priced about £20-23, might sound expensive, but there's no sugar to add, and the finished product usually compares very well with pub offerings. Still only works out at 50-60p a pint, so well worth the effort. I only have 2, one maturing and one drinking; a standard 40-pint kit fills one keg and 4 or 5 pint bottles, they're a good test to see how it's maturing.
    They deliver free over £75 orders, dunno about Ireland though, might be worth a phone call to enquire, I can recommend the service. One order I asked for a £17 stout kit, they phoned and said Sorry it's out of stock, well send a £21 kit, no extra charge.

    I also use the Cornelius kegs with pub type CO2 bottles and regulator so the dispense is as you would expect in a pub, a better longer-lasting head. It's not cheap to set up, but I can't visit the pub, so I thought it was worth investing in the best kit I could, and it'll last longer than me probably. I got the full set-up from Norman Felton.

    This is the quote I got from Norman, full kit, as you see it's from July 2011, but I'm sure he'll send you an up-to-date price if you ask.

    From: Norman Felton
    Subject: RE: Cornelius Kegs
    Date: Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:08


    Pleased the Jeddah Gin worked out, it might even improve with keeping. Found a bottle of mead I'd forgotten about from last year, very nice too. Try hiding a couple of bottles with the Christmas decorations, forget about them until next year.

    Dark at 3:30 today, shortest day tomorrow.
    Raggy cat gone out, asked to go the back door, unusual.

  12. Hi Cumbrian, I was wondering whether to go for the more expensive beer brewing kits because some of the cheap one's are very bland. Thanks for the info about the Leyland home brew company.

    I have just looked at the Mead and it's really clear. Will try it tomorrow. We also intend to drink the Jeddah gin over Christmas. I really enjoyed making it. It smells gorgeous when you chop up the fruit and vegetables.

    Yeah it's the shortest day tomorrow. Apparently it's also the end of the world according too many experts. I think we will still be here next week though. It will start getting lighter after tomorrow. Lets hope we get a great summer next year. Even make hay and sit outside drinking our home brewed wine and gin.


  13. Dave, I've thought a bit more about your reflections on people like the Franciscans/Capuchins; Hare Krsnas; and Salvation Army unconditionally helping people, and, of course, this is great altruism.

    However, a religious group like the Mormons, for example, would work in a different way where the help it offers is often more conditional on how the person positively develops within its religious organisation. From here, a group like the Mormons would then claim that their kind of two-way 'charity work' is more efficient, as it encourages self-responsibility.

    Thus, what do you think?

  14. Yes, the "two-way" idea has merit, I suppose it forces people to make some sort of effort to receive help, the more they put in, presumably the more they get out, could be the help they need on the road to self-responsibility. It's hard to fault the reasoning behind this attitude.

    The Sally Army on the other hand don't seem to care, as you say, unconditional assisitnace to the bottom layer of society without any expactations for the assisted ones. I suppose the reasoning behind this is that some people are incapable of helping themselves, be it through drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, mental illness, or have just fallen through the cracks in the safety net of society.

    Difficult to sit in judgement over two opposing attitudes, both have merits in different situations.

    Received a bit of charity myself this morning, a call from No 2 son, can I call at his place of work and collect some fish, if I fillet it I can have half of it. A lovely cod, fresh caught accidentally by a boat in the Irish Sea fishing for scallops, about 6lb weight gutted. 2 big fillets now reposing in the fridge, he's going to call later, he can take his choice, we get the other. Looks like fish for dinner for a couple of days at least, one freezers full and the other's not working.

    Not raining today, damp cool and breezy.
    Raggy cat on its Chesterfield throne.

  15. Think you're right, Cumbrian, it depends on whether the person receiving the help is capable of being regenerated or not.

  16. Good point Pat. I think the Mormon philosophy of 'two way' is very wise and would well for a lot of people who are not too far gone. However for those who are the other 3 organizations are there just to give shelter, warmth, food and friendship.

    I often wonder if these organizations sat on government panels they would make housing and welfare far more efficient. After all they have their finger on the pulse of what is really going on.

    Good point Pat.

  17. Hi Cumbrian, I wish organizations like the Salvation Army and the Capuchins (there's a great day care centre for the homeless in Dublin run by brother Kevin) and the Hare Krishna's owned farms and big estates and they could grow food for the homeless and give them housing and rural skills.

    The cod will be delicious Cumbrian. I only eat fish in batter. Do you make your own beer batter?

    Been busy bringing a field roller back to life again today with number one son. He's brilliant at welding at making things. Last week he made a tractor powered log splitter. He want's to work with his hands but there are no apprenticeships. Why can't we go back to apprenticeships and blacksmiths?

    Raining here for a change.


  18. Don't do fish in the batter, usually just microwaved and served with new potatoes and peas, maybe a parsley sauce.

    Yes, it would be nice if the homeless charities could buy up some of the derelict rural buildings and a bit of land, I'm sure they'd fill the places with people happy to become involved in food cultivation, poultry keeping and stock rearing; in return for a place to live. It wouldn't need much land for intensive hand cultivation, and it's gotta be better than being homeless.

    Sad about the appreticeships (or lack of), the system survived for a long time and produced some excellent craftsmen; sadly nowadays most things seem to be made by a mschines or robots. Building trade still has the remnants of the learning methods, but a lot of trade work is now done in factories.
    I can't think of a blacksmith locally, nor a farrier, but somebody must shoe all the ponies, there's quite a few about.
    No 2 son's the same as your No 1, he's worked in small engineering workshops for 20 years and can operate most of the machines in them, he now works for a hydraulic supply and maintenace company, making and replacing hoses and fittings for all sorts of machinery, agricultural and building site plant. He never served a recognised apprenticeship, but when he was looking for a fresh job last year, he asked about and got 4 offers the first morning, so he must be good at something.

    Raining a bit heavy this morning, and feels too warm for December.
    Raggy cat back on its Chesterfield throne, good life that cat has.

  19. Hi Cumbrian, Thanks for that. Land ownership seems to become more difficult for most people. There's no politicians who seem to address the problem of private ownership. I have even read stories of middle class families in England who have had too sell parts of their gardens for building sites.

    Living in rural Ireland. I see lots of empty holiday homes and derelict smallholdings. It's so sad and it was much easier to live in the countryside when John Seymour was writing books in the 1960's like: The Fat Of The Land.

    The apprenticeship shortage and lack of manual work in the UK and Ireland is terrible. Everything seems to be made in China these days. Nobody seems to say:

    "Buy British."

    There's 25 million unemployed people in the EEC. History just seems to repeat itself. Boom and bust. Your son sounds like he's very practical. A lot of the homeless are people who have lost their jobs and ended up on the scrap heap of life.

    It threw it down all day today. Being working in it seeing to animals and making a base for a garage/workshop. Never known a year so wet.

    Good old Raggy cat.

  20. Buy British? How?
    Just about impossible, I think all our production and manufacturing industries have been bought up / taken over by other countries.
    Even stuff made in UK is owned and managed by foreigners, the latest being the sad remnants of our once great steel industry now in Indian hands. First our motorcycle industry then our car building went to Japan, and latterly Germany, ship-building to the Greeks and Italians, paper and board to the Swedes, fishing to the EEC, electronics to Japan then China I think about the only thing left is forestry, and from what I beleive, a lot of that has been bought by Arabs. Supermarkets are dominated by Asda (American), Aldi & Lidl (German) and most of the produce sold there is imported. Even some of our utility suppliers are part-owned by the French. And just about everything else is made in China.
    They're building a big new bio-mass generating plant here, for a Swedish company being built by Polish workers, in an area with high unemployment.

    Dry this morning but blowing a gale, we seem to be missing the floods some poor people are getting. Are the weather patterns changing, or is it only my imagination?
    Raggy cat in earlier and now front of fire.

  21. Hi Cumbrian, No wonder there is 25 million people unemployed in Europe when everything seems to be made in the Far East. There doesn't seem to be any loyalty these days to local manufacturers. Everybody seems to go for cheapness rather than quality. It's frightening to think that the only jobs available are for shop and bank workers or the NHS or some other civil servant occupation. I suppose that is why the countryside seems to offer such limited work opportunities and people have to commute to the big towns and cities. If they decide to live their they can't afford to pay the extortionate rents or house prices.

    It's been dry today but everywhere is saturated. Talking to an elderly farmer today. He said he'd never in his life seen such a wet year. Climate change is definitely changing for the worse. I feel sorry for all those flooded places like Cornwall on the news. You're right the weather patterns are changing.


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