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?


  1. No, I don't think Ireland's unique in its unemployment problems, most other parts of the EU seem to have it. West Cumbria has more than its share, Ian McGregor (remember him, Margaret Thatchers hit-man?) closed our pits then our steelworks, and West Cumbria relied heavily on coal and steel (and all the spin-off). Unemployment hit 35% the day the steelworks closed in the 70s, and the area hasn't fuly recovered yet. They gave us the BCMS, British Cattle Movement Services, which employs a few dozen on decent wages and a couple of hundred on minimum, but nothing to replace the heavy industry of past decades.

    The local councils were encouraged by government to give new firms a start with rate-free units, which they did, but all that did was attract the chancers, such as fish-packing, they employed 200 on minimum wage, mostly Polish, had a 10% a week staff turn-over, and lasted until the rate-free period ended, then disappeared.

    The brighter young people disappear to university and never return, the slightly less bright get a start at Sellafield, the practical ones go to college to try and learn a trade, and the masses fight for the few remaining slave labour minimum wage positions at the likes of Asda or one of the chemical factories locally.
    A lot finish up on the dole, I know there has always been work-shy on the dole, and always will be, but a lot of good youngsters are consigned to it without a chance, and become numbed and despondant by the benefit culture, often becoming involved in drugs and all the associated crime.

    Emigration used to be an option, but all our colonies are now full up, independant, and don't want any more, unless you have a particular skill they want. Australia's typical, originally you needed a criminal record to be sent there, ut now you can't get in with one.

    Even the armed forces are restricting their recruitment, and entry criteria are becoming more demanding. They even rely more on machines and computers than men in our modern world.

    To solve your staff problems, what about WOOFFers? Might be worth looking at, I'm not that familiar with the system, but as I understand it, they provide labour, you provide food and board. Sure google will help.

    Yes, a radical approach, a 3 day employed week, but like a lot of good ideas, doubt if it would work in practice.

  2. Thanks for that Cumbrian. I do remember the eighties when all the factories and mines closed down in industrial england. I often spent many a wasted year on goverment yts schemes for twenty five and forty ponds a week and various dead end factory jobs .

    Don't think Britain ever recovered from the last recession. Everything comes in a container from Asia and the young have no manufacturing jobs.

    Looked into Woofers. great idea but I wouldn't let anybody work for nothing.

    "The labourer is worthy of their hire".

    That's what the bible says. Perhaps I should rent the farm house to a smallholding family? Say fifty Euros a week and a days labour and they can have a piece of land to grow something.

    I think a 3 day week for everybody would solve the
    unemployment problem and every body could have a job.


  3. WWOOFERs are a great idea - and it's just that money doesn't exchange hands - you get some labour - they get food & lodgings and an experience of life on a smallholding and hopefully pick up some skills - as well as seeing the local area.

    Neither of us are working at the min, although we both have some savings (ever-decreasing!!) it would be great if we could make some money from our life here. It doesn't have to be a lot - just enough to cover bills.

    I think renting out a house is a great idea - but then you'd have to pay PRSI - have the tenants registered etc - the govt doesn't make things easy!

  4. Hi Lorraine. WWOOFERs sounds a good idea. Suppose there is no reason why you can't pay them something(beer money, travel expenses) for working on your smallholding?

    I am a published author and a smallholder and I have never been able to make a real living writing or farming. There are very few jobs in the countryside. I sometimes think having no jobs, public transport, basic infrastructure, pubs, community centres..., is the price for living in a beautiful location. Think that's why so much of rural Ireland is full of empty holiday homes.

    I have looked into renting the old farmhouse out. Like you say it's not easy, because governments don't help.

    I enjoy reading your blog Lorraine. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. WWOOFers aren't expecting payment in money, their payment is as Lorraine says, it seems like a good 2-way thing for both sides. You get the benefit of another pair of hands, they get to see a lot of life that they wouldn't otherwise. And I agree it's not good to have people working for nothing, but I don't think there's a rule that says you can't provide a little pocket money or expenses.

    What about renting out as a holiday cottage? Big business in rural Normandy, the gites as they call them are very popular. You need to make it comfortable with decent furnishings, but not everybody wants the bright lights. You'd need to test the water with a bit of selective advertising before you spent any money though.

    Renting can be a minefield, and tenents, once installed, can be Hells own job to get out if something goes wrong. But with the right people I'm sure it would be a good idea.

    Raining this morning, overcast, cold and windy.
    Raggy cat come in for a rest.

  6. Morning Cumbrian. I have looked at WWOOFERS. I may register with them. Only thing is I am not organic. Would love to be but it's not possible.

    We want to plant a wet area with trees. It's full of rushes. Think the only option is to spray it. Can't see any organic option. Too steep a locker to top with tractor mower.

    Think WWOOFERs is good but it's not a permanent solution for making a living in the countryside. People need paid jobs to live here.

    I have thought of renting the farmhouse out but they (who are "they") come and inspect for insulation and then there's the tax issues.

    Also it's next to a farmyard and I am not waiting for the tenants to get up before I start farming, every morning. If they had small children it would be a dangerous place to live. Probably have to make a secure fenced off area for kids to play in the garden.

    Think I would only let somebody live there who was interested in smallholding and wanted to cultivate a bit of land and keeps some farm animals.

    Rained here last night. Can't finish my ploughing. Not that we have got any plough shoes yet. Going to get strimmer going today for the new tree area.


  7. I think it's just about impossible to be completely organic in this day and age, unless we turn the clock back and dispose of all oil-driven machinery and return to packing everything in wooden crates, hessian sacks, and paper bags, delivered by horse-drawn cart. Even organic milk comes in plastic containers, and everything, even farmers markets, is delivered by diesel power.
    So although the concept of organic production is worthy one, it's a pipe dream, and won't happen until the oil runs out.

    I don't think the majority of WWOOFers will be so pedantic as to worry themselves about spraying a few rushes as a one-off solution to planting a very organic piece of woodland / orchard.

    "They" (if it's anything like England) are the council officials who check your property to ensure it provides a safe, secure, dry, insulated, heated, ventilated, healthy environment for your tenants. I gave up renting property about 7 years ago, the tenants were beginning to have more say than the owner, and the legislation seems to favour them, they can be very aware of their rights but not so keen on their obligations.
    WWOOFers might not be so fussy or demanding, and there's no need to trouble the council officials.
    Bottom line though, it's not providing sustainable employment.

    Faired up here, a bit brighter, east breeze and cool.
    Raggy cat in as usual, found a warm place somewhere, it's realised radiators are a great place to sleep next to.

  8. Hi Cumbrian,

    Totally agree with you about being organic. It's not just about not using chemicals on your veg plot. I think plastic is one of the worst things ever invented. There is a myriad of organic food products covered in plastic wrapping. It is a pipe dream you are right. It would be great to go back to paper bags, hessian sacks, food sold loose, glass bottles (white glass is totally harmless when it goes in landfill)and horses and carts.

    A lot of organic farmers use tractors (diesel) and toppers to mow rushes. What harm does this equipment do to insects, reptiles, the environment and wildlife? Surely an organic weedkiller that doesn't kill grass is the answer. I know of a conventional weedkiller called MCPA that doesn't kill the grass.

    I noticed that my 3 day working week idea for everybody met with indifference. People with full time jobs won't share with those who have no job.

    It's very difficult to find any jobs in the countryside. That's why the countryside seems quiet in the day time. People have to commute to the towns or live on benefits to survive. In reality the single farm payment subsidies mean that farmers are getting a 'farmer's dole' payment.

    Good old Raggy cat.


  9. The others are right Dave - WWOOFERS aren't expecting payment, other than their meals and a warm place to stay. The idea is that you pay them by imparting your infinite wisdom.
    There is also another scheme called HelpX that isn't specific about what kind of establishment you are, so suits more people. Not sure about spraying those rushes though - it doesn't kill them permanently, just for a season or two and then they are back. Apparently the seeds can sit dormant for 25 years, so they are nigh impossible to remove in wet ground. If you cut them back the horses will eat the young ones.
    We've just planted birch and alder into the wettest bits, and you can probably get a grant for it, especially if you plant over half an acre.
    Love the idea of the three day week - if only it didn't take all seven to do the things that need doing around the place. I would happily give some poor soul some of my days as long as they didn't mind working for what I get, which isn't much more than the wwoofers sometimes.....
    The idea of volunteers coming to the farm and busting themselves for the fun of it does seem odd at first, but we have lots of regulars and they all have a great time. There's no way we could get everything done without them. You should give it a go, it definitely makes life easier once you have a good crew. Just feed them - people will do a lot of digging for some decent soup.

  10. Thanks for the advice Steve. The one downside of rural living is the rural isolation. When I rented my council allotments in England and Wales, there was always somebody to talk to and have a laugh and a joke. The one's who had the most wild and weedy allotment always talked the best allotment. I will look into WWOOFERS. Thanks!


Pictures From My West Cork Gardens In June.

 I couldn't think of much to write about so I have had a week blog break.  This morning I walked around the gardens and the flowers were...