Sunday 29 December 2013

More Adventures Of Domino The Smallholding Cat And A Poem About The Wind.

Here's our Domino busy tree climbing this morning.  Who needs a gymnasium if you are a cat?  That's a willow tree he's climbing in.  They call it the 'Salix' here in Ireland.  Which happens to be it's real Latin name.  They also call the airing cupboard the 'hot press'.  And (never start a sentence with and) they often say they are going for the 'messages' if they are going shopping.  It's strange and incredibly interesting the regional differences and words we have in the British Isles.

The two storms of the last week have been very frightening.  I have never known noise like the thunder and lightning storm we had the other Wednesday.  It sounded like World War Three.

I talked to a middle aged farmer the other day.  Says he had never seen or heard storms quite like them in his life.  The storms look like they are to be a regular visitor.  I often wish we had built a cellar when we built our little cottage in the countryside next to the sea. Somewhere to go in a storm. We live ten minutes walk from the bay.  Luckily we have cliffs above the sea.  Also it means that the land can drain via the streams into the sea.

I  remembered a poem from years a go the other night.  It's called 'Wind' by Ted Hughes.  He talks about the house being far out at sea all night.  Thanks to You Tube and the people who put these poems on it for our viewing.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Pictures At My Smallholding Tractor Exhibition.

I seem to be collecting prints of old tractors these days.  There are pictures of Fergusons and Fordsons.  People like myself have a few REAL tractors on the smallholding.  They all remind of us of by gone farming times.  

Here on our smallholding.  We love to watch television shows like "All Creatures Great And Small" and "Wartime Farm".  Thought last weeks Christmas special was quite magical.  Especially the Christmas Carol service.   It was quite moving to think that people were missing their loved ones serving overseas.  

A lot of people will be missing loved ones through bereavement this year.  This will be our first Christmas with out my parents.  It can be a very sad and numb like loss feeling for so many.  I hope there is a better place for all our loved ones.  

Many thanks for reading this blog over the last year.  Special thanks for those who make comments.  I wish you all a very peaceful Christmas and I hope you have a very prosperous year on your allotments, kitchen gardens and smallholdings.

Thursday 12 December 2013

"All Around My Hat". Another cap to wear around the smallholding.

A belated  50th birthday present arrived the other day.  It's a baseball cap from America with a picture of a Ford 3000 tractor on it.  I have a real Ford 3000 tractor on our smallholding.  So I couldn't have got a better present.  I seem to be collecting hats these days.  I reckon I have at least 16 hats these days.

Hats are great around a smallholding.  If I had a pound (or Euro) for the number of times a cow or branch or bramble took my hat off instead of damaging my head?  

Any road I reached the big FIVE 0 last week.  Fifty to be precise.  According to the adverts I can take out a funeral plan (free Parker pen), go a (wait for it!) over fifties holiday.  Perhaps I could get an allotment or a smallholding?  Already done that.  In my twenties and thirties.  I blame that self sufficiency guru:  John Seymour.  He wrote some brilliant books and inspired millions.  

Time for a song.  "All Around My Hat!"  Steeleye Span are currently touring Blighty at the moment.  Wish they were playing Ireland.  

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Digging Up The Drive With Our Little Digger.

"Number One" son digging up the front garden/drive.  Spot the silage plastic I used for a weed mulch under the stone?
We have been busy again this week putting our new digger to the test.  Here she (all machinery are female aren't they?) is digging up the drive in front of our dwelling.  We (me) never put proper grids or drains for the rainwater when built our 'des res' in the countryside, next to the sea.  That was way back in the last century (2003) and we decided it's time to finally put some proper ground works in.  I suppose a true smallholder/ self supporter would go to Aldi and purchase a couple of  them there rainwater collecting barrels with the hose attachments.  Living in the 'Emerald Isle' means that we never have a shortage of rain.  So I don't think we need to get any.

We reckon that the 'Smalley' digger is at least half paid for already in the first week.  No there's a lot to be said for your own mechanical digger.

Thursday 28 November 2013

"Can We Fix It? Yes We Can!" A mechanical digger gets a new home on a Smallholding.

We have been early Christmas shopping for a second hand mechanical digger. She arrived last week on our smallholding.  Here's a few quotes from  recent farm visitors:

"I have never seen one of those before".

"Is she from over the water?"

"Isn't she a mighty yolk?"

"Where did ye get her from?"
Me and Number 1 son fitting a newly made leg to our Smalley digger.

The Ford 4000 tractor tows the digger.  She will self propel her self by pushing her a long with the bucket pressed into the ground.  

Domino our farm cat says "It's all too much."  Smallholding cats seem to have a different time schedule to us.

I have been dreaming of a mechanical digger for many months.  Every morning I have been looking on the Internet ('Done Deal') for vintage and plant machinery.  They have all either been too far away or far too expensive.  The other week number one son informed me he had a phone call from a tractor mechanic who had just found something interesting.  Already she's ripped out a big hedge and moved a big pile of stone for us.  She starts by turning a starting handle.  The best thing about her is she hardly drinks any diesel.  The smallholding fleet keeps growing.  What mechanical equipment would you like for Christmas?  

Friday 22 November 2013

Frost And Ice Make The Smallholding Soil So Nice!

Me piking over the plot for next years potatoes.

Picture of my 'Japs' (winter onions), leeks and sprouts and my corrugated sheet around my compost heap.  I love corrugated ('tin') sheeting.  

Me with my Portugal hat on and my body warmer bought from Aldi in Dunmanway.

Not bad for somebody who is 50 next month.  There's life in the old dog yet.  

Even the nettles like my compost heap.  Notice my four prong pike taking a rest?  
Old Jack Frost came round and painted the smallholding last night.  I decided to make use of his help by digging over the veg plot and scattering fym all over the surface.  Years a go I would dig trenches and bury the muck.  Not any more though.  I just let the worms and the anaerobic bacteria and the frost and rain take it down for me.  You can't beat a bit of digging on a cold winters morning can you?  Just keep your back to the undug soil and work away.  Have you started digging over your veg plot yet?  It's much better than watching the test cricket on the old telly, isn't it eh?  Anybody staying up to watch it? Please God let it rain in Australia tonight!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Stocking Up For Winter On The Smallholding.

Our fridge runneth over.  
We have started stocking up for winter on our smallholding.  The freezer is full with one of our heifers and the old cart house is full of logs for the Stanley range in the kitchen and for the multi-fuel stove in 'front room'.

That's a picture of the old cart house (now a log store with small door) full of logs.  We bought a massive trailer of tree trunks and chain sawed and split them with the tractor and log splitter.  Then all was safely gathered in.  Do you buy in bulk?  Wish I watching the Ashes test series in Australia.  Are you going to stay up and watch it?

Monday 18 November 2013

Rubber Mats Instead Of Lying On Concrete Slats. Comfort For The Cattle Or Ease For The Farmer!

Regular readers will know that we built a slatted tank for the moo cows this year.  For the last twelve years or so I have been mucking them out with pike, wheel barrow and giving them straw and shavings to lie on.  There are lots of for and against for slatted tanks.  I think they are great in terms of saving labour for the farmer.  You don't pollute and everything is under one roof.  Not forgetting all that free slurry to put on the silage fields next year.

I just don't like the cattle having to lie down on cold concrete with a sewer beneath them.  So we compromised and made a raised concrete platform for the lads and lasses to rest and chew the cud on.  A local dairy farmer sold me some old milking cubicle rails to make the cattle rest in line.  The cattle soon got used to the cubicles and use them every day.  Archie the bullock still likes to lie on the concrete slats.  That's Archie for you.

Any road.  I still thought that the cattle needed a bit more comfort.  So I bought 8 second hand rubber cubicle mats to place in the raised platform/cubicle area.  You can't give them straw to lie on because it would block the slats and we would be back to mucking them out again.  I suppose rubber is some comfort.  But it's not straw or saw dust.  What do you think?  Should it be ease for the farmer or comfort for the cattle?

New (secondhand) cubicle rails and rubber mats for cattle to rest and chew their cud and ponder on their meaning of life, perhaps?

Monday 11 November 2013

A New Home For An Old Anvil.

Do you believe in luck?  The other week we went to see our tractor mechanic friend.  He fixes machinery in a scrapyard.  We were talking to him and suddenly number one son shouts:




I looked again.  I couldn't see any but a myriad of old scrap parts and then suddenly a rusty  metal point grabbed my attention.  We had passed the same spot many times that day.  But never noticed the ANVIL stood there looking at us.  Even our tractor mechanic friend didn't know it was there.  It was like it was waiting for number one son to find it!

Any road.  Without going all round the houses.  Number one found himself a small anvil.  He duly paid the man for it.  Took it home, cleaned it up and painted it.  Then he got a tree trunk from a lumberjack friend.  Hey presto!  The anvil got a new home on our smallholding.

Did you see Bantry on Country File the other night?  I could have shown them round my smallholding.  Never mind.

Here's the Blacksmith Song.

Friday 8 November 2013

Nettles On The Veg Plot.

The old veg plot seem to have become a nettle patch lately.  If you want Urtica Dioca (their posh Latin name) in abundance. Just keep spreading farm yard manure on the plot.  It's also great for "Twitch" (couch grass) and our friends: 'Docks'.

It's been too wet all week to get my trusty Azada working and give the plot a thoroughly good weeding.  I have started mulching paths with flattened cardboard boxes (always remove the Cellotape) and covering it with gone off silage and musty straw.   The worms like it (so do the slugs to hibernate in) and they make it into compost.  Slowly dragging the grass stalks below the soil.  I suppose we are copying nature when the trees shed their leaves and they drop on the forest floor to make lovely friable soil.  Mole hills also make excellent compost.  Never seen any over here in Ireland.

Any gardener will tell you that sometimes it's too wet to work the soil and you have got to wait for the right conditions.  I wish I had a large greenhouse or a polytunnel.  Then I could work the soil even when its raining.

Back to the nettles.  I recently discovered the poet Vernon Scannell.  He wrote a poem about nettles.   I think it's excellent.  Do any of you write poetry?  I used to and I am just getting back into writing them.  Enjoy the poem.

Monday 4 November 2013

What Passing Bells For These Who Die As Cattle?

Today is the 4th of November.  This is the day that the great First World War poet Wilfred Owen died in 1918.  Just a week before 'Armistice' day.  Wilfred Owen wrote the incredible moving poem 'Anthem For Doomed Youth'.

Every hamlet, village, town and city in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  Lost their young men in the poppy fields of Northern France and Belgium.  We must never forget those people who gave their lives and our freedom.  Especially our freedom to write books and blogs. I have always wanted to visit Ors cemetery where Wilfred Owen is interred and the world war battlefields.  Here's the great English actor Kenneth Branagh reciting 'Anthem For Doomed Youth'.

Do you have a favourite war poem?

Friday 1 November 2013

Country Pancakes In The Water Feeders. (More Fascinating Tales From A Smallholding In Wild Southwest Ireland!)

I went over to the cattle this morning and gave them their yellow meal and beef nuts.  'Archie' the British Friesian bullock was roaring at me.  'Archie' is one of those characters who lets you know he's around.  I piked him some silage and he still roared.

'Archie' having a good drink of clean water.

He looked OK but he wouldn't stop roaring.  All the other cattle scoffed contentedly.  'Archie' still roared.  So I climbed over the head feeder and jumped in among the four bullocks.  I decided to check their new automatic water feeder bowls.  These have a little ballcock fitted under the stainless steel bowl.  Every time the cattle drink, it fills up again.  It had filled up again.  Filled up with good old bull shit.  That stuff which we normally hear the politicians speak.  I quickly retrieved a sop of silage from behind the head feeder and proceeded to clean out the drinking bowl.  Perhaps somebody should invent 'Marigold' smallholders gloves?  Perhaps not.

I moved away from the now sparkling clean water and trough.  'Archie' the gormless bullock took a long slurp from the drinker like a brewery dray horse on it's day off, and he lashed out with his hind leg to kick me out of the way.

That's gratitude for you!.  

Friday 25 October 2013

Our Cats Tour Around The Smallholding.

Domino exploring the Ferguson 20 tractor. 
Domino deciding on what restoration work is required.

Domino looking for rats around the cowshed.   Or maybe he's looking at the tyres?
My newly planted 'japs' Winter onions growing in a bath.  Well you don't think we keep coal in it, do you?

Saturday 19 October 2013

Smallholders Question Time. "Is it animal, mineral or vegetable?"

What am I?"
I pulled this farm implement from under one of our Fuchsia hedges this morning.  Do you have any idea what it is?  I think I will paint it up for a garden ornament.  Number one son wants it for his scrap metal pile.

Do you know what it is?

I always like reading about the people farming long a go.  One piece of equipment that you would see in any haggard (where the cowshed and haystack lived) was a Furze machine.  This was turned by hand.  You would pass Gorse ("Furze") bushes through it to crush it an make it palatable for the farm horse and cattle.  I believe you can cut down "Furze" with the loppers and bash it with a wooden mallet.  Anybody ever fed it to their cattle or horses?

Any road.  Many years ago.  When a bachelor met a young spinster at a dance.  He would always check if she had all her fingers.  "Why"? you ask.  It was very common for a milk maid to lose the top off her finger from the blade on the old "Furze" machine.  She would be know good for a wife for the farmer.  She wouldn't be able to milk his cows.


Tuesday 15 October 2013

Making Life So Much Easier On Our Smallholding.

We  have been busy lately making the old cow shed into a new slatted house.  This means that no longer do we need to clean them out with the four prong pike and barrow every day.  The cattle are in now for the winter.  I can't believe how easy it is.  The tractor puts in the a bale and we spread it about with a pike.  They are eating barley silage and straw in the above photographs.  Yes I know the straw is piked much too close to the head feeder.  

Cattle are making savage money at the moment.  The only thing is the small cattle are also making big money.  So if you sell your cattle you can't really afford to buy any replacements.  How can can this be so?  Dear cattle in a recession.  Me not understand?

When we were making the new slatted shed.  I kept thinking me or my son would get hurt.  We didn't though.  Oh no!  We took down the scaffolding last week and guess who split his finger open with a scaffolding plank?  Yeah it was me!

Number one son made (cut and weld) the head feeders and gates.  Not bad for a 16 year old eh?  

Friday 11 October 2013

Log Splitting Time On The Smallholding.

I spent last Saturday afternoon splitting logs with my son's home made tractor log splitter.  It's powered by my beloved Ford 3000 tractor.  Number one son made it with no plans.  A clever lad.  It's a shame there are no apprenticeships  for all these clever lads and lasses.  Ireland and England (UK even) need to start manufacturing instead of importing everything.

The log splitter saves the back breaking work normally done by ME and the axe.  Rather like the man who claimed he owned his grandfather's axe:

"It's had seven new handles and seven new heads.

But it's still my grandad's axe."

The old one's are the best aren't they?

Have you invented a useful piece of smallholding equipment?

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Rhododendron Television..

That's a photograph of Derreen gardens near Kenmare, here in Ireland.  I love Rhododendrons and Azaleas and visiting stately homes with their fantastic old gardens.  Most of the one's in Ireland seem to have belonged to Anglo Irish families.  A lot of the houses and gardens need lots of tender loving care.  It's a shame the National Trust isn't in Ireland.  Don't think it is.  Is it?

Derreen Gardens near Kenmare
If you tune into BBC 4 tonight at 7.30.  There's a programme called:  A Garden in Snowdonia.  Tonight it's all about my friends the Rhododendrons at Bodnant gardens in North Wales.  It costs the National Trust one million pounds a year to run and maintain Bodnant.  I once visited it many moons a go.  It's well worth a visit.  So is Heligan, (been there) Tresco (went there in an helicopter) and Cholmondley (fantastic refreshments and Italian garden).

Well done BBC.  Can we have a weekly television programme about vintage tractors?  Please!!

Saturday 28 September 2013

A Bramble ("don't you mean a ramble") In The Irish Countryside Next To the Sea.

Went for a stroll with my loppers yesterday.  Cutting the brambles that seem to be growing a foot a week at the moment.  There always seems to be some weed problem on our smallholding.  If its not rushes its the brambles.  The cattle eat the blackberry leaves sometimes.  They are supposed to be a fine tonic for them.   

 The Fuchsia grows wild in West Cork.  It's said to originate from Chile.  Some say travellers brought it and sold it.  Others say the Ice Age brought it. A lot of smallholders have Fuchsia hedges for field boundaries.  There are also quite a lot of Gorse ("Furze") hedges.  I believe that they used to grow fields of "Furze" for firewood and sell it it the towns and cities.

 Domino our resident smallholder ratter and mouser followed me round the boreen.  He just watched though and rested now and again.  Makes me think of that "Only Fools and Horses" theme song: "Only fools and horses work."

Friday 20 September 2013

Allotment and Smallholders Hot Cider Punch.

You don't need to have a smallholding or allotment to enjoy this.  But I think you would appreciate it after an hard few hours weeding or tending to the livestock.  There are lots of apples about at the moment.  Why not use them to make this drink?

Have a go at this recipe for a great warming alcoholic drink:

4 small apples
1 Lemon
1 Lime
1 Orange.

Cut them into quarters and remove any pips.  Add half a Cinnamon stick.  About ten Cloves.  Two tablespoons of Sugar (white or brown), 2 tablespoons of Honey and 4 litres of Cider.  Cheap stuff will suffice.  Warm slowly until it starts bubbling.  Taste it and add more Sugar or Honey if it needs it!


Do you have a hot punch recipe?

Monday 16 September 2013

"Ryton We Have A Weed Problem."

If you ever want a great day out.  Go to Ryton organic gardens, near Coventry.  I last visited them about 14 years a go.  The organic vegetable gardens are a credit to them.  I grow my vegetables in a similar way.  Wish I could say the same for the rest of the smallholding.
Mr or Mrs Rabbit observing the Red Shank ("Fat Hen") growing in my field of Kale.
Regular readers will know I set this field after leaving it fallow for several weeks.  One thinks that the weed seed came with the Kale seed.  It's far too uniform for the seed to have been there already.  Perhaps I should have sprayed the field with weedkiller first?  If it had been a field of grass.  One could just mow it and the Red Shank would soon disappear.  The idea was to sow some Kale seed and strip graze it with the electric fencer.  We would also place a bale of straw in the round ring feeder to give the cattle a bit of roughage to go with it.

Any road.  Me and the missus have decided we are going to hand weed the whole field.  There doesn't seem to be any other way.  Red Shank contains Oxalic acid and is therefore poisonous.  Rather like Rhubarb leaves are.  All we need now is for it to stop raining.  Enjoy your weeding.  We won't!

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Silage Making On The Smallholding And A Busking Cat And Dog In Krakow.

The silage man came back last week and mowed and baled the fields we had saved for silage.  I estimated 20 bales and the other 3 of us estimated around the 40 mark.  The total number of bales including the Barley (baled a few weeks a go) was 44.  That's not bad for a first crop so late in the year.  That's about 22 weeks (2 bales a week) of feeding.  We have also bought some round bales of straw and we will go through over a ton and a half of beef nuts during the winter.  It costs a fortune to over winter cattle.

The picture of the cat and dog was taken recently when we went to Krakow by train from Warsaw.  I can't remember what instrument their busking owner was playing or what tune for that matter.

Monday 2 September 2013

Pictures From Warsaw Zoo. A Break From The Smallholding.

A crafty Tiger peering through the Elderberries.

 Elephant eating freshly strimmed grass, courtesy of the zoo keepers.
Mummy and baby Rhino tucking in. 
Bison scoffing contently.  Made me think of my cattle back in little old Ireland.

These are pictures of our trip to Warsaw.  The admission charge was 15 Zloty each.  Which is about 3 Euros and fifty nine cents each.  That's fourteen thirty six Euros for a family of four or eleven Pounds and eighty four pence in good old Sterling.   It was an unbelievably inexpensive trip to the zoo.

I don't know what you think about zoos?  I commented to my son how zoo animals are confined to live in the same place all their lives.  Yet they are well fed and have no danger of being killed by other animals.  Number one son pointed out that our cattle have to graze behind electric fences and the field boundaries are fenced with barbed wire.  I think he's got a point.  What do you think?

Monday 26 August 2013

Red Squirrel's in Warsaw And Buildings That Look Like They Are From Gotham City.

Hi there.  I have been away for a week in Warsaw, Poland.  Above are some Red Squirrel's we took in one of the many enormous parks in Warsaw city.

I was very impressed with the superb public transport infrastructure.  We bought 3 day passes for 30 Zloty (about 8 Euro or 6 quid in Sterling) and availed of the underground, bus and trams.  You could just jump off one mode of transport and jump straight on another.  It made me wish that there was public transport where we live in the countryside.

Here's a picture of the incredible 'Palace of Culture'.  Mr Stalin gave it for a present just after the war.  It looks incredible lit up at night.  It reminded me of Gotham City.  We went to the top of the building and had an amazing birds eye view of Warsaw.

Whilst walking around the 'Old Town'.  I spotted this 'Trabant' car.  She's probably from East Germany before the wall came down.

Talking of the 'Wall'.  I went to see Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) at the national football stadium.  The show was incredible.  It was indeed a pleasure and privilege to say that I have finally seen one of my rock heroes.  I would recommend you get a ticket when Roger arrives in Blighty in September.  You won't be disappointed.  The pyrotechnics, computer screens and music was superb.  You can see the Warsaw show on good old You Tube.

Mean while back at the ranch (smallholding).  The weeds have grown like wildfire.  Especially the Red Shank in the field I set with kale.  Perhaps I should have sprayed  the soil with weedkiller first?  Is it poisonous or can you feed it cattle?  I believe it's a good indicator that your land is deficient in lime.

Sunday 11 August 2013

"Isn't She Lovely?" A New Tractor Pal Arrives On The Smallholding.

A new tractor arrived on our smallholding the other day.  Her livery looks a bit rough because she's had some of it took away too be sandblasted, sprayed and a brand new 'roll bar' is on order.  If you want to see what a Fordson Super Dexta looks like in all its glory.  Type Fordson Super Dexta into Google Images.

Our old girl (made in Dagenham in 1963) is mechanically sound.  She sounds like a plane from the 'Battle of Britain'.  She absolutely purrs!  I am told she can go forty miles an hour.  Will post more pictures of her restoration very soon.

Talking of restorations.  There's a promising looking programme on BBC Two tonight.  It's on at 9.00:  The Hairy Bikers: Restoration Road Trip.  Tonight Dave and Si visit Pleasley Colliery in Derbyshire.  They help restore the mine.  Sounds good.

Have you or are you restoring a smallholding machine please tell us all about it!


What We Had For Our Smallholding Tea.

 The polytunnel and veg plot keeps on giving and we seem to be eating new spudatoes every day at the moment: Snowball onion, kale and new po...