Friday 29 March 2013

4 Black Polly Calf's For Our Smallholding.

The dairy farmer down the road rang us last week and asked us if we wanted to purchase any of his new born Aberdeen Angus calf's.  So we jumped in the car and  went to have a look at them.  The missus thought I would buy a couple and we ended up coming home with 4 of them.  They are absolutely adorable and resemble 4 black Labrador puppies.  Except they are really heavy and about three foot high.  There are 2 heifers and two bull calf's.

The Aberdeen is a very small calf and it's great for a first calf for a maiden heifer.  The Aberdeen is also naturally polled (they don't have horns) but we may get a few stumps from their Holstein/Frisians mothers.  The Aberdeen Angus is very popular and MacDonald's make their big macs from them.  We often purchase Aberdeen /Angus beef ourselves.

We  probably keep them until next summer, when they are ready to go to be cows or meat animals.  It doesn't take long for them to become adults.  We give them artificial milk re placer mixed with hot water, calf pencils and straw to pick at.   It gives the smallholder a wonderful feeling of satisfaction when they have seen their 'dropped calf's mature to adult cattle.

Thursday 28 March 2013

A 7 month Smallholding Winter.

Haven't we had a lot of weather lately?  It's been dry here this week in Southern Ireland, but bitterly cold and the cattle are still using their winter housing, head feeder and yard.  Here's a photograph of the lads and lasses penned in the yard.  I do this so I can muck them out, spread saw dust and not get kicked or my wheelbarrow deliberately knocked over.  Cattle get great devilment out of kicking a wheelbarrow full of muck.

 The cattle looking ever so forlorn and not liking being penned in.  Notice a few of them have horns appearing.  It's too cold to cut them off though.  If I leave it until summer it will be fly season and they will get maggots if we cut them off then.  There's always a problem to be solved on a smallholding isn't there?

The cattle have been in for 7 months now.  That's thirty three big round bales of silage and 14 round bales of straw, a ton bag of beef nuts, lots of bags of 25kg beef nuts, lots of tractor diesel, bags of sawdust, dosing chemicals and a new pair of wellingtons for me.  I have never known such a long winter and late spring.  Thankfully we have not had the snow like the poor farmers in northern Ireland and parts of the UK like Wales, Cumbria and Scotland.  I still haven't planted my onions, but the potatoes are in.

Tomorrow is Good Friday and you can't a pint or drink of alcohol for love nor money in Ireland.  So if you are on holiday in Ireland, make sure you stock up today.  It's not even a statutary public holiday in Ireland and folk will work tomorrow and have bank holiday Monday off.   Never understood why Good Friday is not treated like Christmas day.  Obviously hospital workers and farmers have to work.  But surely Good Friday should be a public holiday.  Happy Easter folks.

Monday 25 March 2013

Shakira The Smallholder Sheepdog Vegetable Grower?

"Football is better than weeding!"

That's a picture of our Shakira playing football on my vegetable plot.  The old carpet is mulching some weeds before I plant some leeks there.  We have just spent FORTY flipping Euros for 2 dog licenses this morn.  Apparently it pays for dog wardens and homes for stray animals.  Don't think you need a dog license in the UK any more, do you?  Think it used to be 37p or seven shillings and sixpence or something?  

I had to laugh when I Googled 'Irish dog licenses' today.  It said you can have a 'lifetime' license for 140 Euros.  Is that for the dog or me?

It reminds me of that brilliant Python 'fish license' sketch, way back when we could laugh and joke.  I wish there was an Open University degree in British comedy.  What's your favourite comedy show?

Saturday 23 March 2013

A Smallholding Time Portal? ("Goodnight Sweetheart")

"Goodnight Sweetheart" is the must watch programme on our smallholding at the moment.  It's currently being shown on UK Gold week day nights at 7 in the evening.  It's the story of a TV repair man who finds a time portal and goes backwards and forwards from the 1990's to the 1940's war time Britain.  Gary Sparrow attempts to keep his modern wife and 1940's lady friend, happy at the same time.  It's a brilliant idea for a sitcom and it's a shame it was never made into a film.  Why couldn't the Beeb have made it into a regular weekly soap series?

I particular like the way Gary sings modern day songs to the 1940's pub revellers.  In one recent episode he quotes John Lennon:

"Imagine there's no Heaven, it's easy if you try."


If I could travel through a time portal.  It would be back to the second world war to see the 'Dig for Victory' campaign in the UK.  Something like this video:

Thanks to You Tube and the compilers of these excellent videos.

Would you like to time travel?

Wednesday 20 March 2013

A Mouse In Our Smallholding Garden.

Looked out of our smallholding window this morning.  I saw this brown mouse scurrying about in the garden.       When you move to the countryside, you soon realize that it's not very sensible to leave doors and windows open.  Or else some creature will take up residence.  It also shows me that  the smallholding doesn't just belong to us.

Time for a song.  Jethro Tull (again) playing 'one brown mouse.'

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Anybody Got Any Smallholding Paintings or Pictures?

I have been following a blog: Don't unplug your hub, for the last six months or so.  John writes with his heart on his sleeve and he's got that great British gift of self deprecation.  He's also a writer, musician, photographer and artist.  Any road.  Pop over to his blog and have look at his photograph pf his beloved grey Fergie tractor.  She is a beauty.  I think I would call her something like Marilyn or Diana after a post war film star.  I wish she was mine.

We (me and my number one son) own 2 Ford tractors (Ford 3000 and Ford 4000) and we are looking for a renovation project for next Autumn.  We want all the 2 wheel Fords then it's the Massey Ferguson's.  Don't ask me how we will pay for them, but I think my cattle will probably be sold to pay for the next project.  Do you have the tractor illness?

Any road.  Many moons ago, way back in 1995.  Me and the one who must be obeyed, got married and went for our honey moon in Newquay in February.  It was one of those 4 day coach parties that picked people up throughout the West Yorkshire the Northwest and the Potteries to fill up a coach in the middle of Winter.  It only cost us 84 quid each and you stayed in an hotel that served breakfast and a evening meal, provided nightly entertainment ("Saturday night" was the hit at the time)  and we went on day trips.  The weather was fantastic and we walked around in T shirts.  It all sounds unbelievable now, but it's true.

The reason I tell you this.  We found an art gallery in Newquay that sold paintings (no!) and we bought two or three with our wedding money.  Here's a painting by a Cornish artist: David Robert.  He paints vintage cars from yesteryear in rural settings.  Anybody heard of him or got one of his paintings?  We paid fifty quid for it back in 1995, when the world was still black and white or not.  What's it worth now? Have you got any rural paintings?

David Robert: Cornish artist.  Digi camera still being daft, displaying wrong dates.

Monday 18 March 2013

Potato Planting On A West Cork Smallholding.

It was often the custom to plant the 'praeties' (spudatoes) on St Patricks Day or Good Friday.  Today is a bank holiday in Ireland.  Yet Good Friday is not.  I have never understood why Good Friday is not a public holiday.    Today I turned on the telly and they say Yorkshire is getting snow.  We''ll just have to cover up the stalks with old newspapers (we only buy one a week for the telly guide) and straw, if we get any frost.

Any road.  That's what we did.  We got out my trusty Azada (you have got to get one) and hacked out some trenches for our Orla potatoes.   Then I dug out the remaining fym/soil mix and we planted the potatoes fifteen inches apart.  I always use my loppers to cut some Buddliea cuttings to mark the rows.   These will also root and you have got some new shrubs.

Here's some photographs of us busy 'potatoing' yesterday morning.  Bantry Bay is in the background.  It's one of the deepest natural bays in the world.  I have told that it is sixty fathoms deep in places.  To those of you who didn't do metalwork at school.  A fathom is 6 feet deep.

Here's some photographs for you:

Me watching number 2 son dig with the long handle shovel.

Me with my trusty Azada.  Bantry Bay is in the background.
Potatoes ready to be covered up.
Potatoes covered up.  Leeks are watching from a 'raised bed'  made from the sides of an old old wardrobe.   The corrugated sheets is another compost area.  You can't have enough of them can you?

Sunday 17 March 2013


Bantry  Bay.  Taken this very morning from our  smallholding in Bantry, County Cork.   I don't know how I managed to capture my shadow.  "What's that in the shadows?"  Think that's the lyrics to a Stranglers song.  The mental jukebox is always playing songs in my head.

Amazing sunset taken by number 2 son last night.

Another amazing photograph.  Think number 2 son designed Camel and Gong album covers in another life.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Keeping Busy Around The Smallholding (waiting for the phone to ring)

I have been busy all week shovelling stone, clay and soil, filling in a drain.  We also got the digger man to dig over the second plot where the polytunnel got wrecked one winter.  I said to the digger man:

"I don't know how it got so wild.  It must be the dreadful weather last summer and all the cow shit I put on it."

He said:

"I'd stop putting cow shit on it if I was you."

Why didn't I think of that?

That's me using the mattock to break up the pile of soil.  The green thing is an old plastic heating oil tank which number one son made into an animal shelter.  The calves used it last year.  I bet it would make a great ark for some pigs.  

 That's me again with the mattock.  My jack russell terrier: Fido is supervising and thinks only about rabbits and rats.  At least she stays around and pretends to help me.  Any one get fed up with rural isolation?  Day after day without seeing any body, except a pheasant, cow, rabbit or Fido.  I love the peace and quiet, but I get brassed off working all day on my Jack Jones.  You didn't know I could speak Cockney, did you?
Yours truly again.  Notice the pile of old fence posts aka: bouquet of barbed wire.  Wasn't that a drama series on the telly?  Do you spend hours removing the staples with a claw hammer and screwdriver and recycle the posts and barbed wire.?  Notice our digital camera is still displaying the wrong dates?  I can't say nothing.  When I bought it.   I only went and asked them in Argos:

"What film does it take?"

Any road I have worked like a Minotaur with a mattock and shovel and the drain is covered.  It was too wet for the digger to filling in the drain, so I did it myself.  That's my excuse any way.  More like I am too careful to get the digger back.  Any body want a bad back.?

And Finally:

One thing I have noticed since my parents passed away.  The phone very rarely rings any more.  This afternoon was different though.  It rang a few times and I picked up the receiver and the Mrs pipe up or down the phone, if you follow me:

"Will you bring that washing in?  It's starting to rain."

Later folks.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Growing Barley In The Smallholding Kitchen.

To those who of you who follow this blog.  You know that I often go to see an agricultural mechanic who repairs anything and his yard is an Aladdin's cave for us smallholders.  He's currently renovating (supposed to be) an old hand pulper for me.  He also mills grain and sells it.  So the other week I asked him if it would grow if I planted it.  He told me it would so we decided to have an experiment in the smallholding kitchen.

Do you remember when you used to go to school and you would cut up a laboratory white rat (why?) cover your work books in wall paper (why?) and you would grow some peas (Marrow fat) on a wet paper towel?  I think it was summat (proper talk) to do with germination and it was obviously stored somewhere in the filing cabinet in my head.  So there you go we placed them on a saturated paper towel  in a silver foil tray we got from the Indian take away ("any one for Shish kebabs?") the other week, and left them next to the Stanley range.  Hey presto we have germination.  My very own Barley field in the smallholding kitchen.  So this means that I got myself a sack of Barley for 7 Euros.  Instead of paying thirty Euros from the agricultural merchants.  Just got to wait until the end of the month for it to warm up.

Here's a picture taken this merry morning of Bambi, Charlotte and Hippo scoffing some straw under our homemade bovine headfeeder.  Hippo looks like a market stall seller shouting:

"Get your lovely straw."

The lads and lasses have been in the yard, nearly six months.  Do you think Spring will ever arrive?

Sunday 10 March 2013

Mothers Day Preparation On The Smallholding.

I went to Bantry yesterday to buy flowers for my wife and to put on my mothers grave in Durrus.  I hate going to my parents graves and it crucified me again yesterday.  Death is something that we will never ever comprehend.  I hope and pray that there is an after life and we meet up with our departed loved one's, friends and domestic and farmyard pals some time.  Wouldn't it be great if Heaven sent us an email and we could communicate?  Do you believe in God?  I do, but sometimes I don't understand why he lets us suffer and why he is so silent.

Any road.  Happy Mothers day to all the mothers in the world.  I think it's when you have children yourself that you realize what your parents did for you.  A mother loves her children with love that is unconditional.  Is there anything more wonderful or beautiful than that?

Any road (again) I gave number 2 son the mothers day card to write.  He went away and came back with the envelope sealed. I asked him if he had put my name on the card and all the animals names:

Archie, a bullock,  Dal boy (a bullock who looks like a Dalmation), Lightning (a bullock with a white lightning stripe on his fur), Rosie (heifer), Bambi (a bullock that looks like a deer), Hippo the heifer (she arrived covered in mud),Charlotte the Charolais heifer, Blue the Belgian Blue heifer, Fido the terrier, Shakira the sheepdog, Bracken the pony, the ducks, Domino the cat....

Number 2 son said he hadn't put their names on the card and I didn't need to worry about not signing it.  He said:

"Don't worry dad.  I've put a fiver in the card.  So she''ll be alright."

Don't kids make you laugh?

Time for a song.

Here's 'Pal of my cradle days'.  It's an old song but the lyrics are incredible.

Friday 8 March 2013

Smallholding Unemployment Solutions Please?

One major problem facing anybody moving to the countryside is what one will do for a living.  Here in West Cork there is a major unemployment problem.  Many of the young people are emigrating like my father had to in the 1950's.

It's not just confined to Ireland though.  There are over twenty five million people unemployed in the E.E.C alone.

Karl Marx once wrote that on a perfect day in a perfect world:

"Hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening and criticize after dinner."

It sounds like the perfect smallholding, doesn't it?

I often get fed up working on the smallholding and never seeing anybody to talk to all day.  Why can't the governments create jobs for people to work on other people's smallholdings or allotments?

I would even suggest that everybody should work a paid three day week and they claim a benefit for the other 2 days.  This would give EVERYBODY a paid 3 day week job and lots of time to work the allotment and smallholding.  Yes it's radical.  But it's treating everybody equally and we all know that poverty creates crime and depression and despair.  So lets all have a living wage in the countryside.

Any suggestions please?

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Something Old and Something New On The Smallholding.

It's been hectic on the smallholding the last few weeks.  All this dry weather means that our little farm in the countryside, next to the sea, is starting to look like it's loved again.  Grief gives you great strength and keeping busy and dry weather certainly helps combat any depression and the profound sadness that life is so transitional and cruel and short.  Oh how I wish my dad was telling me that I need to get "somebody proper" to do this and that job.  It's so awful to think that the telephone will never ring again and my mother and father will never speak to us again.    I just try to keep busy and that's all you can do.  Mother's Day on Sunday.  Best get some flowers and visit my parents graves.  You can do without it can't you?

Any road.  Number one son made me a new harrow the other day.  He's a bit like that inventor in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Nothing daunts him and he believes anything can be fixed or made again.  The harrow works fine and it keeps bringing up the stones and pieces of old turf for us (me) to pick.

New 'home made' harrow.

Another picture of our home made harrow on  'Anna Ford' my little Ford 3000 tractor.
Ancient horse shoe resting on 'Maggie'' our Ford 4000 tractor.
Me spreading FYM with 4 prong pike and 'Maggie' the tractor.
Yours truly again spreading farmyard manure.  Don't I look grumpy?  

The tractors have also been working hard and 'Anna Ford' stopped dead in the field yesterday.  'Number One' got a good rollicking for  not keeping the diesel (tractor pop) topped up.  He went back to the shed for his number thirteen spanners and bled her there in the field.  Then he noticed one of her diesel pipe injector thingummy jig pipes had a pin prick hole in it and was spurting out the diesel.  He wasn't to blame for her running dry and I ate humble pie and  almost apologized.  Well the intonation in my voice changed and I walked away silently.

Spent most of yesterday spreading FYM with my four prong pike and tractor and transport box.  Everybody seems to disappear when I turn into a peasant farmer.  What's wrong with muck spreading and a bit (lot) of manual labour?  Did I tell you about my bad back?  More of the same today.  Then we should get some lovely silage or hay this year.  Isn't easier to just spread some granulated fertilizer with the tractor spreader?  Probably.  But you're not a proper farmer if you haven't got a Sisyphus complex, are you?  You know that Greek chap who was condemned to carry a big boulder up the hill, for eternity?. Sounds like an allotment holder or a smallholder, doesn't he?

We also found an ancient horse shoe yesterday.  Looks like an heavy cart horse to me.  What do you think?  Suffolk Punch or a Shire maybe?  God speed the plough.

Time for a song me thinks.  Here's Jethro Tull playing: 'Heavy Horses'.  What a great band.  I have seen them four or five times and they rock!

Sunday 3 March 2013

Smallholding Shopping In The Agricultural Mechanics Yards And Scrapyards.

Since the weather became dry, I have got back into being my old self again.  God forgive me but it's fine today so I am working on the smallholding.  I know you shouldn't really work on a Sunday, but if it's fine, you make hay while the sun shines, don't you?  Any road.  I am back into my old routine.  I get out of bed at 6.30 and it's off we go.  Ten O'clock means it's time for bed.  Maybe half past if I can stay awake.  Yawn.

Any road (again) we went for some steel for one of number one son's projects on Friday.  He also bought 22 spring tines for a new harrow he's just made.  The old horse harrow (see previous blog post) gave up the ghost the other day.  It cracked in half.  So number one son cannibalized it into a new harrow.  He's only 16 and he's always making something out of steel.  Why are there no apprenticeships or blacksmiths any more?  All the lad wants to do is leave school and make things and work the farm.  

The worst thing about me doing some 'proper shopping' is that I always come back with something for the smallholding.  We walked around this West Cork agricultural machinery workshop yard and I found an old fodder beet slicer.  It's one of those that you turn with an handle and the veg drops into a bucket and you feed it to the livestock.  The elderly proprietor says:

"Will ye be wanting it for a garden ornament or to work?"

"Work of course".

I says.  The man said he will make a new knife to convert it into a pulper, so the cattle won't choke.

The hand pulper will be ready in two months.   It's less than 200 Euros and I am well chuffed with my purchase.   I best get ploughing another field and set some Fodder Beet.  I love it when old machinery is brought back to life.

Anybody ever grown Fodder Beet?

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...