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!.  

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...