Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Digging Up The Drive With Our Little Digger.

"Number One" son digging up the front garden/drive.  Spot the silage plastic I used for a weed mulch under the stone?
We have been busy again this week putting our new digger to the test.  Here she (all machinery are female aren't they?) is digging up the drive in front of our dwelling.  We (me) never put proper grids or drains for the rainwater when built our 'des res' in the countryside, next to the sea.  That was way back in the last century (2003) and we decided it's time to finally put some proper ground works in.  I suppose a true smallholder/ self supporter would go to Aldi and purchase a couple of  them there rainwater collecting barrels with the hose attachments.  Living in the 'Emerald Isle' means that we never have a shortage of rain.  So I don't think we need to get any.

We reckon that the 'Smalley' digger is at least half paid for already in the first week.  No there's a lot to be said for your own mechanical digger.


  1. Looks like you're doing a fab job, my mowers a male called Fagin btw so they're not all female

  2. Hi Dave. I am very envious of that little digger.

  3. Fagin the lawnmower. Sounds like a character. You must write a post about it. Thanks Bedford Gypsy.

  4. Hi John, I am envious of your tractor. The digger is a great smallholding pal. Thanks for your comment, John!

  5. Looks like your past sins catching up with you, good idea to use the black plastic as a weed-suppressant. Lets hope the weather holds until you get it done.

    Good to see digger earning its keep. No name for it yet?
    Might be a beer money business there, hiring out to other smallholders, not many will be able to afford 50 euros an hour for a full-size machine, but a small machine will do a lot of work in a day for considerably less?

    Keeping dry here as well, feeling colder though and getting breezy, there seems to be a lot of North winds.

    Raggy cat continues its comfortable lifestyle.

  6. I usually pay to get rid of the silage plastic, Cumbrian. Landscape fabrics like Mypex are far better. I read that a lot of silage plastic gets shipped to Saudi Arabia and its made into plastic granules. Which gets shipped back to Germany to be made into garden furniture. Think most of it probably goes in land fill. There was never a plastic problem with hay.

    Heather seems to be the new name for the digger. After Heather Small from 'M' People. She's a Smalley digger. If you follow the logic?

    You can get a 3 or four ton digger with a driver for about 200 Euros a day. When they turn up? There is lots of work for her around the smallholding. Drains and dykes and the ever encroaching brambles.

    Gales today.

    Terrier cut its paw pad the other day digging. Missus sprayed it with Iodine and the terrier is back on four legs. Cheap smallholding vet solutions!


  7. ..........Which gets shipped back to UK to sell in garden centres to grace patios. Sounds like good economics in our crazy world.

    Biggest problem with the small bale hay was having a sharp pocket knife to cut the strings, it was a coarse sisal type stuff, but could be saved and sold for recycling, or used as "farmers weld", there was always plenty of it for all sorts of fastening jobs. Then came the plastic string.

    Heather sounds like a nice name for a digger.

    Gales here as well, but not too cold, and no rain in it at present, but looks like there's going to be soon.

    Raggy cat stretched out in front of fire, it's keeping its distance today, it got a bit too close yesterday and burned itself, I wondered when that would happen, it sleeps on the hearth (or did)

  8. Spoke too soon, heavy rain showers blowing in.
    Wheelie bins blowing about, lots of twigs blowing off trees.
    A full gale.

  9. I wonder Cumbrian, if old farmers will become all dewy eyed about round bales of silage? In the same way we think about steam engines, diesel locomotives and hay? I suppose its progress, the need for change, finance (fewer wages) and awful summers that paved the way for silage and silage plastic.

    I often wonder how much oil the ships burn taking things to be recycled? I suppose it's like people turning on the hot water tap to wash jam jars and then driving to the recycling centre. Then the council burns more oil taking it all away to be recycled. None of it makes sense, does it?

    Got all the new drains piped and stoned up today. Just to put it all back with digger tomorrow. Number one son made himself a big grading bucket for less than a hundred Euros.

    We seemed to have escaped any gale damage. Scotland and Northern England seems to have suffered.

    Hope Raggy cat is OK?


  10. Don't know about the round bales of silage, never worked with them, just seen the mountains of them, usually in a field handy to the farm buildings. The old way in bulk seemed a good enough idea, suppose it was labour intensive though.
    Easy to be nostalgic about the hay-making if you weren't actually doing it, bloody hard work it was.

    Agree some of the recycling seems to be a bit self-defeating, things that came in glass were usually liquids, and the milk, lemonade and beer bottles were all re-filled, I can't remember much coming in jars except jam, and a lot of people used these to fill with home-made jam, preserves, etc. My sons used to dig old bottles up, presume it was from the site of an old tip, little thick green-shaded glass ones, virtually indestructible. Some of them are works of art, with makers name and contents cast into the glass. Wonder if they'll dig our bottles up in years to come?

    Sounds like you got progress despite the gales, back-filling's got to be easier than excavating, especially with a gifted son who can make and adapt machinery.

    Gales blown themselves out here, a bright sunny afternoon but cold. Not a lot of damage here, but there seems to have been some in other areas.

    Raggy cat survived OK, it's a good survivor, currently toasting itself in front of fire.

  11. A lot of the farmers here make 'pit silage' covered in a huge black plastic tarpaulin and hundreds of tyres. Then they get the shear grab and cut themselves a slice of silage for the cattle. I prefer round bales and I pick them up with my tractor and spike.

    Yes you would need your 4 quarts of cider or real ale when you were piking hay on to an horse and cart.

    I used to collect old bottles. Used have a vintage 'R' Whites lemonade botter complete with metal screw stopper, lots of OXO bottles (just like Bovril) and a myriad of of broken clay pipes...?

    JS says the landfill sites will be the mines of the future. All that methane and oil and metals.

    Hope you are OK after the gales? Saw Whitehaven on the news. You think there would be evacuation shelters made for everybody when there is a state of emergency.

    Nice mild day here.


  12. They used to do that method here, a good way to use a few hundred old tyres, I've only made it in a barn, and cut it out with a silage knife, a spade-like instrument of torture on a cold morning, then led it in to the milkers, often covered with molasses to make it a bit more palatable, sometimes it didn't smell too sweet.

    Yes, Whitehaven got a bit of a hammering, I've fished from that pier many times, and never seen seas like that. It's a big solid pier, look at the 2-storey building in the right-hand foreground to put some scale into the size. The pier's a massive structure is about 40' thick of huge sandstone blocks, and the sea level at high tide is about 30' down from the seaward side.

    Workington seemed relatively unscathed, I've had a run down the harbour and not noticed any damage.

    JS could be right, West Cumbria is riddled with old mine workings, mostly coal, and many of the smaller mines are un-recorded, they're everywhere. A lot of them were filled with rubbish, and methane is now seeping out in the strangest places as it finds its way through the ground.
    And one local land-fill site had a flue left protruding from it, a metal chimney about 15' high, it burned for years. They finally planted conifers on it.

    Not a bad day, bright and breezy but cold.

    Raggy cat well back into its hedonistic routine, think it's getting a bit too domesticated.

  13. I have an old hay knife somewhere around the smallholding. That must have been a hardsome task cutting with a silage spade knife.

    Sometimes we pour Molasses on straw to make the cattle get use to it. Supposed to be a very good additive to pit silage to give it the right sugars and smell like cider.

    The winter gales seem to be getting worse. Terrible pictures of devastation on the news. Poland and Scandinavia is also getting some terrible weather. The next thing will be snow and ice no doubt.

    In Mexico the make car fuel from the landfill gases.

    Wet start today. Hopefully it will brighten up.


  14. Bulk silage was easier to cut than hay I think, but a lot heavier. I've never though it smelled like cider, it had a distinctive smell when right, and quite bad when off, and there was sometimes pockets of off stuff.

    Gales seem to be missing us, it's been breezy but not too bad, not too cold and not too much rain. This morning was lovely bright sunshiney blue sky, but it's clouded in now.
    The snow and ice I can live without, but it's inevitable I guess, at least we're used with it.

    Watched Countryfile last night, a cheese-making plant with 1300 milkers, powered exclusively on methane from cow-shit with all sorts of bulk stuff added, like spoiled hay chopped fine, to give the bacteria something to boost their appetites. Really good idea, and very efficient it was. The maturing warehouse had something like 7,000 tons of cheese in store, a huge production schedule.
    Some milking job twice a day though.

    Raggy cat asleep on the bed for a change, we're too bloody daft with that animal.

  15. Silage odour seems to stick to your clothes. It's like sweaty socks. You can always tell who a farmer is when they are feeding silage. I believe slurry is even worse.

    We seem to have missed most of the gales. Been busy outside around the farm. Some people have even been cutting their lawns. Incredible for December.

    Yeah I watched Country File. Saw the cheese making plant - incredible ingenuity. They buy slurry from the farmers in Denmark and make it into electricity. They also use all the waste from the slaughter works. We seem to waste much methane.

    Domino started sitting in my part of the couch. Sounds like our pets are putting up for the boss!


  16. Not noticed anybody cutting grass, winter seems to with us now. Not freezing but very cold winds and damp makes it feel colder. All the trees completely bare, leaves everywhere. Still a few rose hips clinging on, all the other berries have gone though, hedgerows looking bare, the tractors are out hedging with those flail things, they make a lot of mess and leave the hedge looking trimmed but tatty somehow. Haven't seen a properly-laid hedge for years, another skill that seems to have fallen into disuse, taken over by the big machines.

    Another cold damp windy day, everything looking grim and grey, a few anglers braving the weather at Maryport pier, they looked cold and windswept but not catching anything other than seaweed. Used to love fishing on a frosty winters night, but I leave it to the bravehearts now, the cod don't seem to come in any numbers any more and lugworms are getting harder to find. No 2 son used to go a bit, I'd occasionally be the recipient of a cod or two, but he seems too busy nowadays, he and all his fishing buddies are married with their own families, so the late night fishing trips have ceased.

    Raggy cat settled into its routine, it's developed a real liking for chicken bones.

  17. The big machines with the round blades can often rip and tear the ancient hedges. Not many youngsters will know what a billhook is for laying hedges and making them stock and fox proof with out the need for stakes and sheep wire and barbed wire. I suppose it's labour efficiency and cheaper than paying a couple of men? So few permanent rural jobs these days.

    The fishing trips must have been legendary. I used to do a lot of Coarse fishing when I was younger. Would love to own a lake with lily pads and full of Crucian Carp and Tench.

    Gave terrier her Christmas bath yesterday. No chance of attempting to give Domino a bath. It would be easier to tame lions.

  18. Labour efficient and fast, it took a time to prepare and lay a hedge, but it didn't need doing every year or put a post and wire stock fence on the inside of it. As you say a billhook and slasher are just 2 more hand tools destined for the agricultural museum, there must be thousands in the back f old farm buildings along with the Lister diesels and rusty scythes.

    Fishing trips were part of life for a long time, used to love a weekend away fishing with a handful of like-minded lads, hire a boat out into the North Sea from the Eastern ports, to catch the really big cod and haddock; bloody hard work pulling them up, the North Sea gets deep where the charter boats go and the big fish don't want to come up.

    Even went to Kilmore Quay for a week once, beach casting at a place called Rossdoonstoon, (It's just round the corner, you can't miss it) when we finally found it. Interesting week that was, stayed at a place called Bastardstown (I believe they were trying to get it re-named at the time) and caught the only bass of my life there. Also acquired a taste for the real Guinness, but even then it was quite expensive.

    Lovely day here today, difficult to think it's December, I even washed the windows it was that mild, bright sun in a blue sky, light breeze and quite warm even. Lots of blackbirds and robins to be seen on my morning walk, really tame some of them, they must be used with people and dogs passing, it's a popular walk.

    Raggy cat spent quite a long time outside today, must be good hunting or something.

  19. Your fishing trips sound amazing, Cumbrian. Never caught any really big Coarse fish. But had a few good fights with Tench, Perch, Jack Pike and Trout and Carp. The Crucian are like pocket battleships. Fishermen are the watchdogs in the fight against pollution in the seas and rivers, canals, lakes and ponds. Would love to own a little lake and stock it with fish and open it to the public. Seen quite a few great campsite/fishing lakes in France on television.

    The Porter is still expensive here in Ireland. I prefer Murphy's to Guinness these days. Paid Four Euros and Ninety last year in Cork city for a pint - ouch!

    Been some very strong gusts here. Rained last night. Local dairy farmers have cows out by day. Incredibly mild!

  20. Hi John. Been mad busy around the smallholding last week or so. Normal blog service will resume today. Thanks for your comment.

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Dining Time For The Cat And The Dog.

 Keen eyed viewers will have noticed this picture on Tuesdays post. It's a photo we took last year or so and it's been put on a tile...