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?


  1. I think Sunday's just another day on the land, the animals don't understand weekends, you can take days of rest when you're rained off.

    So the beef is going to have a fodder beet flavour after all?
    Can the beet chopper / pulper not be fitted with a drum for a belt drive from one of the Fords? Do they have the belt drum on them? It would make life a lot easier.
    Can't ever remember a beast choking on chipped swede, never seen a pulper blade, but better safe then sorry I suppose.

    Yes, really good to see some of the old implements brought back into use, sounds like No 1 son has the gift as well. sad there doesn't seem to be any old-style craftsmen left taking apprentices, if nobody keeps the old skills going, eventually there'll be none left.

    Get the ditching done yesterday?

    Dull here this morning but dry, a bit warmer as well.
    Raggy cat waiting as usual, milk and biccies, back sleeping in front of fire (on)

  2. Hi Cumbrian. Topped a field and atteempted to plough it with my plough, minus its socks (shoes?). This didn't work. We took the shoes off and going to get some new ones made this week.

    The pulper will keep us fit turning the handle. Just a couple of buckets at a time. You can get one's that are electric or run off the pto on the tractor.

    I have heard of young cattle choking, so the pulper should make it more palatable for them.

    Everything seems to come in a container from China these days. It would be great for a new Arts and Crafts movement to start again, creating rural jobs.

    Digger man arrived about 4.30. Put two hours in. He was busy calving all day. Hopes to be back around ten in the morning, when he's finished the milking. Hopefully, he's not delivering any calves?

    Cold but dry. Got up at 6.30 and looked over the bay at the land opposite. Thought it was dawn or sun rise. It was a gorse fire. Always get the gorse fires when it's dry. Sheep farmer needs new, sweet grass.

    Good old Raggy cat.


  3. Yes, crated up from China, and the sad part is they can make it and send it half way round the world cheaper than we can make it just down the road. The quality and reliability seem to be OK as well. But they'll need repair and maintenance eventually, so we're always going to need skills of some sort.

    That's why I love to see programmes like Victorian Farm, using a lot of the old-time skills and local materials. And How Britain Worked, with Guy Martin showing us just how we led the world in engineering acievment and ability. Trouble is, it's all graft, and we seem to have lost the ability to work hard, when there's a machine to do just about everything.

    In fact I think you'd struggle to buy anything that's still made in UK, even our car plants are foreign owned.

    It's hedge-trimming time here, even that's done with a flail device on the back of a big tractor, makes a mess of the road as well as the hedge. A far cry from the hedge-laying skills, or dyking as we used to call it.

    The digger man sounds busy, maybe you could buy a JCB and hire out? I think your No 1 son would make a good digger operator? There's a local bloke been making a fair living for years with a Case machine, he seems to be kept busy, does a lot of drainage, foundations and driveways apart from ditching.

    Best of luck with the new shoes, at least you've still got somebody can make them.

    Not a bad day here, a bit less sun and a bit more cloud, but very pleasant for March. Everything's starting to come to life, a lot of snowdrops in the garden.

  4. Totally agree with you Cumbrian, about China. I can get Ford parts made in India far cheaper than anything made in Europe. Twenty five million people are unemployed in Europe, we can not compete. They also recycle steel to make cheaper products.

    Yes Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Tales From The Green Valley and Wartime Farm are excellent. The best thing for me about them is there are always lots of people helping each other. The machines took away the farm labourers from the countryside.

    The hedge trimming is the same here. They are a cheap and quick maintenance service, but they are also great for puncturing tyres. I rode my bike the other week to town and it was avoid the Blackthorn spikes and pot holes. No wonder you don't see many cyclists on the country roads.

    The digger man is doing a great job. His track machine (four ton) is excellent. Trouble with self employment, you are often waiting for your money. Perhaps some time, we should buy an older machine for just around the farm?

    I can get new shoes made cheap. Only trouble is you have to take them 30 miles and drop them off and wait for a few weeks. You can't get any local.

    Been a dry here today. Rain is supposed to be put off until Wednesday now. All the trees are budding.


  5. Yes, the old-time farmimg series really shows it how it was, a lot of people on the land and using hand tools and horse-drawn implements, but seemingly quite happily going about their business and having time for a drink in the evening without the questionable benefit of TV or even electric.

    Had a look at some of the cropped hedges, they look terrible, no bottom left in them, just big gaps, not stock-proof at all, and lots of punctures waiting to happen on the roads.

    Country File just gave their weeks weather forecasat, we're in line for rain and wind about Friday, sods law just when your plough shoes will be ready?

    Self-employment is a double-edged sword, it's nice to be your own master and work for your own livelihood, but as you say, you're often the last in line to be paid. If I'd every penny I was owed, I could probably take a round the world cruise and have change.

    Just been out to my cellar (garage) for a jug of ale, it's still dry but got a feel for rain in the air. New brew kegged today, Woodfordes Real English Ale.
    Raggy cat gone out, must have some pressing business.

  6. I have been thinking what you said Cumbrian, about how a lot of the people on the land seemed quite happy going about their business and having a drink and coping without modern household gadgets. These people farmed organic before it became trendy. If they wanted to build an house they quarried some stone, cut down some trees and they built it. If they wanted vegetables they grew it. These people must of been virtually self reliant.

    John Seymour talks about hedge laying and making them stockproof in his classic: Self Sufficiency. I call it the 'smallholders bible'. Most farmers seem to opt for sheep and barbed wire these days. I saw a fox climb over our fence the other year. It used the sheep wire spacings for a ladder - clever fox!

    Going to make some phone calls today and try to get the shoes on the plough before the rain. Spreading FYM today with my pike. Then ploughing it in and rotovating it. Farmer digger man supposed to be back today.

    I suppose you would look after your bread and butter customers who regular bought your products and paid promptly? Once saw a sign in a garage:

    "No cash, no keys."

    Hope you get to take that world cruise.

    Cold today, but still dry.


  7. Sure, a lot of people and a lot less money, hard graft but not unrelenting like the factories where there's no down season; the agricultural year had a lot of down time and the frantic busy times at spring preparing and planting then harvest were balanced by less busy periods.
    And money would play a relatively minor part in peoples lives, as you say if they wanted something they found it locally, and if it wasn't available locally they didn't have it, didn't miss it either because nobody else had it.
    And they'd have feast days, high days and holy days, most of which are ignored by todays mercenary society.
    I think they'd eat fairly well, with grains, veg, fruit, dairy, eggs, meats; wild foods like fish, seafood and game; the main thing missing would be sugar, and honey would probably be produced; the drink would be home brewed, ales, ciders and wines. Probably a very healthy diet.

    I can understand the garage owner, once he's let the car go, it's very difficult to get money out of somebody who doesn't want to pay after their car's been fixed. A garage owner once told me the way to do is to always have something fitted to the car, a set of spark plugs, an oil filter or whatever, then the car owner can be threatened with theft if they don't pay. At least that was his theory.

    Reynard can be a clever little chap, he's survived centuries of persecution, and is actually thriving in lots of urban areas, a very adaptable and versatile little fellow as well. We're not even allowed to hunt them any more, they made it illegal a few years ago.

    FYM sounds like a better bet then the bagged PKN, if a bit harder on the back.

    I'll never take the cruise, unless pigs start flying.

    Nice morning again, bright but not sunny, touch of frost, didn't rain at all.
    Raggy cat back in, found a new nest beside the radiator in our bedroom, what a hedonistic little sod.

  8. Yes Cumbrian, the Enclosures Acts and the Industrial Revolution changed the rural demographic population for ever in Britain. I suppose it also depended on your status in the feudal old days too? People like the country parson or the gentleman farmer had a very good life. Myself and the missus often say we should have lived in Victorian times. Living in a rural landscape like the one that Thomas Hardy used to write about.

    My farmer friend here in Ireland told me that is mother used to say:

    "Be poor and be happy."

    Couldn't put it better myself.

    The last few weeks of dry weather have made country living very enjoyable. When you can get on the land and prepare it for future crops. I still miss living in England though with it's infrastructure (public transport, shops and pubs) and meeting people. You get dispirited farming every day and not seeing folk.
    Smallholdings are too isolated and it would be better if a couple of families work the land together instead of just one.

    Digger man calving today. Hopefully we'll see him tomorrow. Raggy cat is very clever.

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