Wednesday 30 January 2013

Back To Work On The Smallholding. (The Smallholders Isambard Kingdom Brunel?)

"Maggie" our new Ford 4000 lifting a silage bale.  Number one son is driving her .  She's getting a coat of blue paint tonight and her wheels white.  I'm looking on telling him to take it easy.
"Sid" the Silage bale.  They weigh about 500 kgs and are far too big for my little tractor: "Anna Ford.  
"Yours Truly" operating our "Log Splitter".  Number one son made her.  He's only 16 and thinks he's the Smallholding answer to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  He's got fantastic manual dexterity, unlike me.  
Me again operating the log splitter.  My beloved small tractor "Anna Ford" is providing the power.  She's about 41 years old and I love her to bits.  Do tractors go through the menopause?  I hope not because she's a pal and always helps out around the smallholding.  
It's been a fantastic day today and me and my son got tons done.  We cleaned out the old straw and FYM (full morning) with "Maggie our new Ford 4000 tractor and then we split logs this afternoon with "Anna Ford" my beloved little Ford 3000.  It's always nice after a storm.  Don't tell everybody but it's not raining.

My tractors are both named after females.  So here's a track dedicated to them by Barclay James Harvest: 'The Lady Loves'.  Anybody like them?  I think they are one of the best bands (rock) to come from the Manchester area.   Yeah 10CC weren't bad either, we know.

Monday 28 January 2013

When Will We Have A 'Cows Disco' On The Smallholding?

"The weather outside is frightening..."

Gosh it's been wet and wild here in Southern Ireland.  Normally we get the Atlantic gales from November to around Christmas.  But this year it's going all the way through to March.  March  usually comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.

Any road.  Normally we get some great days when the cattle are taken to the pasture for the day.  I can then give their stall a thorough cleaning out and they have a 'cows disco'.  They dance and jump and run up and down hill and dale and generally act rather silly.  It's my favourite sight of the year: The "cows disco."

Still can't get on the old vegetable plot and I honestly think we are going through climate change.  A lot of the older country folk I talk to say exactly the same.  The seasons have changed for the worse.  Some say it's down to pollution from all the cars, households and industry.  I dunno, but I wish it would book up.  I have lots of jobs that I want to do.  I bet you have?  Perhaps we should grow some rice in the saturated fields?

Keep warm and here's to some sunshine.

Friday 25 January 2013

Do Smallholders Need Europe? Does Anybody?

David ("call me Dave") Cameron made his Churchill/Shakespeare speech on Britain's future in the EEC yesterday.  I loved the poetic imagery of draining the English Channel and the Mavis Riley (Coronation Street) :

"Well I don't really know",

Dithering of:

"IF we win the next general election, we will let the people decide whether they still want to be in Europe."  

It was a bit like a kid saying: 

"It's my ball and I don't want to play any more.

Come on "Dave" it was Ted Heath (Conservative Party) who took Britain into the Common Market in the first place.  Why not disband Parliament and have a referendum on every subject, every week?   It really annoys me how Britain wants to be in Europe, but won't join the Euro.  What a statement that makes, that the fifth biggest economy in the world doesn't have the confidence to stick their big toe in the European water and say:  

"OK we are in".

The best thing about the EEC is that it's stopped France fighting Germany for the last forty odd years since the Common Market was formed.  Farmers have received a 'Farmers Dole' single farm payment and other subsidies.  There has also been investment in Infrastructure like roads.  The downside has been the wine lakes, beef mountains, mass emigration (depends if you see it that way) and faceless bureaucrats making laws and statutes that can never be changed.  It can never be changed Dave. 

I personally think C.A.P (Common Agriculture) is unfair and it always seems to reward the big farmers and cares little about the smallholder.  What about allotment holders.  Why shouldn't they get a payment?  

So in the words of that brilliant TV chat-show host: Mrs Merton:

"Lets have an heated debate."

Should Britain stay in the EEC and if so why?

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Smallholding Machinery Renovation and 'Maggie' our 'new' tractor arrives on the smallholding.

Old 'Horse Harrow' brought back to life.

That's an old horse harrow that me and 'number one' son rescued yesterday.  I painted it up about 12 years ago and used it for a garden ornament.  The old lever was ceased and the spades, blades (what they called?) wouldn't turn.  Number one soon got it working.  He's now in the process of welding a three point linkage to fit on 'Anna Ford' my Ford 3000.   You can see her back wheel in the picture complete with spike.  I adore my little tractor but the silage bales are getting far too big for her to manage.  So we have been looking for something bigger for a while.  Last Saturday morning we went 'tractor searching'.  Below is our new arrival on the farm.

'Maggie' our new tractor.  She's a Ford 4000 and was built in about 1968.  A lot of these tractors are being renovated and shipped to the developing Third World.  They want the Ford 5000 more than any other tractor because they are four cylinders and more powerful.  It's also relatively simple to make new parts for the Ford and Massey Ferguson tractors.  We still can't change the date on the digital camera.  Did I tell you the story of when I went to Argos in Killarney and bought the 'digital' camera and I asked the woman on the counter in all seriousness:

"What film does it take?"

Any road.  That's number one son taking  'Maggie's' roof off and cab.  She's now minus mudguards and inside the shed. Number one son's got his 'renovation' project and I'm minus a lot of beer tokens.  I sold two cattle last week and they paid for the new tractor.  So at least we have no finance to find every month.  Will post more renovation pictures over next few weeks.

Anybody else renovating any farm machinery?  

Sunday 20 January 2013

Mystical and Magical Machinery.

Two Ford 4000 Tractors 'resting' in a West Cork scrapyard.  
2 Zetor tractors 'waiting' to be placed in containers and shipped to Poland and Eastern Europe.  

A little plough.  She would just fit on my Ford 3000 tractor.  Only eighty Euros.  Hmm....  I am very tempted.
We spent Saturday morning looking for a Ford 4000 tractor.  I sold my 2 heifers last week and number one son says he wants a 'restoration' project.   So we contacted a really amiable tractor mechanic/restorer and he showed us around a scrapyard and took us to a farm to look at some Ford tractors.  I have a little Ford 3000 and she is about forty years old.  I christened her 'Anna Ford' after the BBC newsreader.  The silage bales seem to be getting bigger and bigger.  So I decided to get a Ford 4000.  The tractor mechanic gave our 'new' tractor the once over and said he would buy her.  So I bought her and I'm going to buy some Ford parts from him, when he delivers her tomorrow.  We will have to give her and name and find her somewhere to live in.  God bless all the little tractors.  Anybody got any farm machinery renovation projects on the go?  Will post some pictures of her when she arrives.  The timer on my digital camera is still displaying the wrong dates. Sorry about that folks.

Thursday 17 January 2013

"Feck All Here." ("The View Won't Feed You".)

A picture taken last year of 'Bantry Bay' from our kitchen window.
I think it was 2003.  The year we built our little dwelling next to the sea.  It was an incredible year for fantastic weather.  A farmer roped me in to help him load his small bales of hay on to a tractor and trailer.  It was incredible hot and physical work.  But the manual work made us all have a laugh and a joke and have a really good talk.  You don't get that listening to modern farm machinery all day.

Any road (proper Northern English talk), me and this middle aged farmer are sat on these hay bales drinking bottles of Budweiser, eating sandwiches and he had a smoke or ten.  I remarked about there being a lack of infrastructure ("pubs and buses and job, repeat...) in rural Ireland, and I couldn't understand why rural houses are so expensive.  The farmer thought for a second and then he said:

"You're right boy.  There's Feck all here.  Feck, feck all."

I laughed, but he didn't.

Is that why the countryside is so beautiful, because there is nothing there?"

My grandmother used to say to people when they talked about the wonderful view from her farm:

"The view won't feed you."

My late father left Ireland in the 'Black' 1950's.  There was no paid labour any where, so he went to England.  In the 1980's it happened again and now it's repeating itself.  Ten thousand people are emigrating from Ireland every year.  There are no apprenticeships for the young.  I pray to God my children won't have to emigrate like their grandfather.  I'm nearly fifty and I have my cattle and little farm to pass my days.  When will the young get a chance and the countryside be full of jobs and communities?

Here's a song by 'The Seekers'.  It's one of my earliest memories of my parents records being played in  our house in the nineteen sixties.

See you.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The Goat And The Horse In The Suitcase.

The brass goat and horse that my dad cherished.  Digital camera date is wrong!
The goat and the horse are in our house today.  No they are not the real one's.  These are brass ornaments that my dad bought in West Cork, many moons a go.  He bought them from a pub landlord and brought them back to England in his suitcase, on the bus, trains and boat.    Six years a go the goat and horse came back to Ireland.  I often said while visiting them, that I would love to own the goat.  My dad would often say:

"You can have them (horse and goat) when I'm gone."

Yesterday my brother brought over several bags of clothes, shoes, photographs, papers and the brass horse and goat.   I looked at the bin bags of clothes that we are going to take the charity shop.  The photographs such happy memories and of people who are no longer with us.  I thought to myself:

"It's not much to show, for your time on Earth."

Any way.  The goat and the horse, sit proud under the television cabinet.  Last night I raised a glass to my parents.  I have finally got the goat and the horse, that I always wanted.  Wish they weren't mine, and my dad still polished them.

Isn't life tripe?

Here's a great song by the Fureys.  "The Old Man."

Sunday 13 January 2013

Smallholding Ghosts?

Since we moved here from Blighty nearly 12 years a go.  We (me and missus)  have had a few ghostly experiences.  So I thought I would share a few with you and then ask you to tell me about your ghostly experiences.  Well it's a bit better than me saying it's raining and we have no infrastructure (or a pub) near us, isn't it?

The missus told me about seeing a ghost once when she was baby sitting, many moons a go.  I nodded my head and thought:

"You must have been at the wine gums again."

My late grandmother used to tell my mother about the footsteps that she used to hear at night.  One night we heard them; hob nailed boots clomping down the path to where we built our dwelling.  My grandmother said it was my great grandfather's ghost, checking the farm animals in the old buildings that used to be there.  She recognised the familiar clomp and walk of her late father in law.

Some times I am working (some times) in the vegetable garden and I get a whiff of pipe tobacco smoke.  I remember the smell from my grandfather's pipe.  We some times hear the creak of farm gates that we know are not there.

About two years ago.  One July night, I was sat drinking a pint of stout and I looked out of the window and a shadowy elderly lady dressed in white with a white veil and pointed nose was looking right back at me.  I had just witnessed my first proper GHOST!  My face went white like a sheet or even a ghost, and I shouted to Jean and pointed at the window:


The ghost moved away quickly from us.

I told Jean that I had seen a ghost.

"Now do you believe me?"

Says she.

"I have seen them a few times when I'm washing up."

Don't wash up folks, you might see a ghost.

I relayed the story to my mother.  She told me:

"Its only your relatives coming to see if you are OK."

Anybody ever seen a ghost.

Thursday 10 January 2013

The Mental Jukebox: A Cure For Rural Isolation And What Ever Life Throws At You.

My old pal and fellow blog writer: Pat Papertown 2.  Often talks about the Rush drummer Neil Peart and his 'Mental Jukebox'..  In fact we have both seen Mr Peart and Co in Birmingham and Sheffield.  Pat's seen them about 10 times altogether.  If you want to read about  life in Poland or about some great music.  Pat's blog is well worth a read.  That's just a pint when I see you, Pat, please!

A couple of years a go.  Pat recommended me 'Ghost Rider' a book penned by Neil Peart.  It's one of the best books I have ever read.  Neil contemplates ending his life after personal tragedies in his family.  So he got on his BMW R1100GS motorbike and rode 55,000 miles all over the United States, Mexico, Belize and Canada.

Dunno why it says 2008.  Silly digital camera.   Must change that 60 watt light bulb! 

It's an incredible and moving memoir and  word picture artistry of an incredible man.  In the book Neil Peart talks about the 'Mental Jukebox' he often plays in his head, especially when he's riding his motor bike..  I think we all have a 'Mental Jukebox'.  These tracks help us cope and enjoy what ever life throws at us.  Below are 2 of my favourites: "Oh England My Lionheart': Kate Bush and 'Madrigal': Rush.

"Oh England'..This is supposed to be the last fleeting thoughts of a spitfire pilot hurtling towards earth.  I have always had a thing about spitfires, the battle of Britain and of course: Kate Bush.  I would put her in my top five First Ladies of Rock?  Who are yours?  'Madrigal' is just a fantastic song.  It's lyrics say it all.  They are a wonderful tonic when you are feeling down.

What tracks do you play on your mental jukebox?

Monday 7 January 2013

Back Amongst The Living.

An Happy belated New Year to you all.  I have just been to Hell and back during the last 8 or 9 days.  Last Friday night (Dec 28) was spent in the ICU unit at Bantry General hospital waiting for my father to take his last breath.  He fought like a lion and after 25 hours we went home for a rest.  Two O'clock in the morning and a nurse phoned us to tell us that my dad was taking his last breath.  So we got ourselves together and drove to the hospital and found out that he had just died.  I touched his head and it was still warm.

The next few days were spent preparing the funeral service and generally moping and grieving and seeing to the livestock.  Death is such horrible unfinished and inevitable business.   The Anglican Canon let me help him prepare the service, choose the hymns, write the Eulogy and add a few music pieces.  All through the wonders of the Email. Wednesday arrived and we drove to Durrus passing council workmen crossing themselves whilst the hearse passed by.  Then we carried my dad into St James Church on the shores of Dunmanus bay.  It's such a beautiful little stone church and one of the graves contains the remains of a Booker prize literature author.

The service was beautiful, moving and a fitting send off for my dad.  We placed a floral cross from Jean and me with red, blue and white ribbons, a floral 'dad' tribute from my brother and a floral arrangement from my two lads with green white and orange ribbons.  The ribbons represented Britain and Ireland and my father's love for both countries and the time he spent in them.

The Canon even allowed for a CD with a choir singing 'Jerusalem' to be played whilst the congregation reflected on my dad's love of England and Ireland.  I thought to myself:

"Why can't the world be English and Anglican?"

The service was incredibly moving and my Eulogy (the vicar read it) told my dad how I loved him and how I was sorry when I let him down and how he never let me down.  Isn't it sad how I never told my dad that when he was alive?

We buried my dad in the grave beside my mother, next to his parents and brothers and sisters grave.  I looked down Dunmanus bay and thought about the words what my wife Jean first said when she visited my grandparents grave:

"They lived by the sea and they are buried by the sea."

Now the same can be said for my dad.  .

The day after the service I walked passed the world famous singer Donovan in Bantry.  I had seen him play Glastonbury festival in 1989 and always loved his song 'Universal Soldier'.  The mental jukebox started playing in my head.  It made think of my dad fighting like a lion in the ICU.  God bless all those doctors and nurses who fight to save people's lives and for their honesty when they tell you they can't do miracles.

Here's 'Universal Soldier' for you to listen to.  See you later.

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...