Friday 26 December 2014

Christmas Eve And A Peaceful Christmas Day On The Smallholding.

Christmas Eve was a beautiful dry day.  So we drove over to Durrus to put the wreaths on the graves.  It never gets any easier and it's nearly three years since my mum died and two years tomorrow for my dad.  Christmas will never be the same again and it's an awful thought that we will never see our parents again.

Whilst I was in a contemplative thought, stood at the grave side.  A scruffy looking terrier stood on top of the churchyard wall and gave us right thorough telling off:  He or she made me smile and I thought that my dad would have gone over to the dog and told it what to do or even try to stroke it.

We drove back to our little farm and a kind neighbour had dropped off eight cans of Newcastle Brown for a Christmas present.  What a lovely kind gesture.

Christmas day was a typical get up, get dressed and see to the livestock.  I gave them extra portions because it was Christmas day.  Then I (me. myself and I) made the Chilli Con Carne and helped set the table for a 'help yourself' buffet.  Then we watched the television for the rest of the day.  Rock and pop music programmes, 'Escape  To the Country' (wonder what that's about?), Sky News telling us about the Christmas Day truce in the trenches and that the tale of the soldiers having a foot ball match in 'No man's' land is probably a legend.   Who are they kidding?  Did you see that Germany spent 1 million quid for their 'training' camp in Brazil?  No the Germans would have built their own 'Vembley' in the trenches, no problem!  Then it was American and English car restoration programmes for the rest of the day.  Not my idea of entertainment, but it keeps the lads quiet.

We watched Miranda and it was brilliant.  I laughed out loud when she went to the door and exposed herself to Stevie.  Plus it ended with some good old 'tear jerking' pathos - brilliant telly.

I quickly turned over before 'Call The Midwife' started and we watched ancient 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' for the rest of the night.

It was a lovely peaceful day on the smallholding.  We didn't see a soul.  Glad it's over and I am going to watch the Footity ball this afternoon.  Come on United!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas And Have A Great 2015.

Hope you all have a great Christmas Day tomorrow and a wonderful 2015.   Many many thanks for your comments and for reading the blog.  I look forward to reading your blogs and hope your vegetables are massive and the sunshines every day, even when it rains!  God bless you all.  From all of us (cattle, pigs, dog and cat, and the humans..) at Northsider Towers!

Fido wearing her bow.  She's looking forward to 'Dogs' Christmas'.

Monday 22 December 2014

Mexican Christmas Dinner Update.

Just a very very short post today.

I posted a blog the other day telling you about us planning a Mexican Christmas Dinner. Well I watched Country File on Sunday night and they said that the Turkey actually originates in Mexico. So therefore everybody who eats Turkey on Christmas day. Will actually be eating a Mexican dinner just like us! Isn't it a small world?

Sunday 21 December 2014

Christmas Pressies From Across The Water And Some Rural Christmas Memories.

I remember back in the late nineteen sixties.  My grandmother would send us a very big and lumpy brown parcel tied up with parcel string.  All the way from Ireland.  It was always so exciting and such a joy watching my mother cut the parcel strings.  My mum knew what was in it but me and my brother never guessed that it was a freshly killed Turkey, an headscarf for my mother, some socks ("the stockings" for my dad) and a pair of leather boots a piece for my brother and me.  There would also be a long handwritten letter of about four or more pages.  Telling us all about the happenings on the farm in West Cork and how she was looking so forward to seeing us all at 'hay making' time next July.  

One Christmas my dad decided to visit his parents at Christmas.  He would go down town and pick up some train and ferry tickets and come home and say to my mum:

"Come on pack the suitcases we are going home tonight."  

He always called Ireland "home" although he lived fifty five years in England.  

My mother would not be an happy bunny and we would hear her say:

"But I have not got any clothes ready."  

A couple of hours later and we were on the boat train to Holyhead in Angle-sea.  You could be pretty certain that the sea would be very rough and it would be packed full of people going "home" for Christmas.  Perhaps Chris Rea was on the journey?  Any road.  The sea got rougher and rougher and people were being thrown about and being sick and nuns started kneeling down and praying like mad...  There was black and white nuns and blue nuns but I didn't see any drinking bottles of German wine...  

We lived to tell the tale and we spent Christmas with no telly (just the wireless) for the news and my granddad bought a plastic baby bath and put a blanket in it and made me a cot.  Lovely memories of a time gone forever.

Friday 19 December 2014

Planning A Mexican Christmas Dinner On The Smallholding.

It's been gale season here all week on our smallholding in the countryside next to the sea.  The only ones who are getting wet and the cobwebs blown away are us humans.  The cattle are either chewing their cud or eating nuts and oats or tucking into the hay.  The pigs are inside their house either sleeping in the straw or eating vegetable and pig ration and oats.

We have been tidying and swearing at the state of the work sheds.  Nuts and bolts and washers all over the floor, old drink cans ("pop" not beer), old oily rags and all manner of farm flotsam and jetsam and detritus.  I found quite a lot of rubbish too!

Any road.  Since my parents went to heaven for their eternal rest and meet up with all their friends and family.  Christmas just isn't Christmas any more. My mother use to say:

"If I end up in Hell or Heaven.  I am sure to know somebody."

Christmas is no longer the same especially when your kids become teenagers.  You don't even see Mary Chipperfield or Billy Smarts Circus on the television any more.  So we decided the other year to change the Christmas dinner menu a bit.

Last year we had a beef curry and a buffet with pizza, onion bhajis, sausage rolls, cheese cake ("my favourite") and what ever else anybody wanted.  There's no eating a turkey and all the trimmings and the wife gets a rest instead of waiting on her men folk.  Best of all there is none of the left overs on boxing day and for the next week.   You know the usual:

"Turkey sandwiches, turkey curry, cold turkey (when the beer runs out) turkey and turkey.."

This is sounding like the Monty Python 'Spam' sketch.

"Spam and Chips, Spam egg and chips..."

We have decided we are going to have a Mexican Christmas.

Chilli Con Carne , Chicken Wraps, Nachos, dips...   What ever Aldi have in their Mexican range.  I just need some ponchos and some sombreros and make a Mexican cocktail.  I will be able to say to the wife;

"Hey Gringo."

Do you have a different Christmas menu?  I mean you have never had turkey and sprouts and all the trimmings before have you?  Do you  do anything different?  One year I went for an hike.  If I could just press my hibernation button and wake up in Spring.  Or at least when it's all over.  

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Weren't The Smallholders Small Years A Go? Part 2.

"Didn't we almost have it small?"  

I could have wrote those lyrics for a famous Whitney Houston song, couldn't I?  

Any road.  The NEW hen house (no longer used for hens) door is now installed and it's even been given a coat of red oxide paint.  Number one son cannibalized (cut down and welded) a door and fixed it into place.  We were 6 inches (15 centimetres in new gas meters) short.  So he sent me to look round the smallholding for another piece of corrugated iron.  I remembered (light bulb moment) using one for part of a compost heap. 

So I set off to the plot (it's about fifty feet away) with my trusty English shovel, (the long handled Celtic shovel was having a day off) and did dig like a terrier looking for a rat and did push and shove and extracted the still intact corrugated sheet.  Then number one cut it to the right size and text screwed it into place.  Then I painted the sheets red and looked back at our work.  

Not bad for under a tenner and it will (should do) last me out.  We just need to attach a piece of rubber (piece of a car tyre) on the bottom of the door to stop Tom getting in.  Many many footsteps have worn the floor down.  Did I tell you about Tom?  I met him in the summer when we were making one of the gate entrances to the fields with the digger.  Silage contractors tractors and machinery are getting bigger (like the round bales) every year.  Soon they will be bringing the Ark Royal on wheels to cut your hay or silage.  

The door is complete.  Lets hope Tom doesn't get in.  Can you guess who Tom is?

Sunday 14 December 2014

Weren't The Smallholders Small Years A Go? Part One.

We finally decided to raise the height of the old hen house yesterday.  I am five foot eleven and number one son is 6 foot 2.  The number of times I (we) have banged our heads on that piece of wood above the door.  I have nearly knocked myself out a few times.  The air would often be blue with swear words.  Words that you would never hear on the Archers.   Words like:



"Oh heck."...

Me and number one son thinking about getting to work.  The poor brush gave up the ghost and we will have to buy a new one this week.

 Number two son towers over the wooden lintel.
Some time later.  We have removed an old flag stone lintel and lots of rubble stone.  We also found an old rats nest behind one of the stones.  Thankfully the rat wasn't at home.  Number one son attempts to wrestle with a cable going to an outbuilding.

We replaced the wooden and flag lintels and raised up the new metal lintels and built blocks on them.

No longer will we need to bang our heads.  Number one son just needs to cannibalize and weld a new metal door and we will use the old hen house for storing tools and farm stuff.

Next time I will (hopefully) show you the new door.
 New raised lintels made from galvanized pipes.

The new door space for the hen house.  All it needs is the door.  The cost of the smallholding hen house door alteration was 10 Euros.  That was for two bags of cement.  We had all the other materials lying around the smallholding.  Just shows you shouldn't throw anything away, you might need it?

Friday 12 December 2014

Northside Of The Sheeps Head Peninsula.

Thought I would show you some pictures of the landscape here where we live on the Sheeps Head Peninsula in Ireland.  We often go for walks on the beaches belonging to Bantry Bay.  It's a beautiful and isolated place.  I think there are only about 500 people on the whole of the peninsula.  On the other side of the peninsula there is Dunmanus Bay.

My mother's brother was in the British Navy during the Second World War.  He worked on the mine sweepers clearing the German mines surrounding neutral Ireland.  Ironically my father was growing up just a stones throw on my grandparents farm.  In 1958 my father married my mother who's brother was mine sweeping Bantry Bay during the war.  Isn't it a small world?
A pebbly sandy beach on our side of the peninsula.  We often go for a walk there and look at what the sea washed up.  There's always lots of glass that's been honed and shaped by the sea.  Perhaps one day I will meet a mermaid?

I went for a six mile hike today.  I woke up in the night and it was amazing not to hear the wind roaring outside and it wasn't raining.  So I put on two pairs of socks and trek suit bottoms and put on my sleeveless jacket with all the pockets.  I didn't put my anorak on though before we set off.  I wouldn't have felt the benefit, would I?

Why did old people use to say that to you?  Or why did your mum say:

"What's that on your face?"

Then she would spit on a paper handkerchief that had turned into a cross between sandpaper and and a Brillo pad nay road sweeper.  Which she would then to proceed to rub your cheek like an industrial sander.  Whilst at the same time having a conversation with one of the neighbours - happy days!

 An old ruined farmstead dwelling.  It had two rooms and was probably thatched.  Now nature is slowly retrieving the stones and soon the bracken will encroach and cover it for ever.
 Looking across Bantry Bay to the Beara Peninsula.

 One of the many yellow oak finger posts along the Sheeps Head Way.  It's very isolated but there are some stunning views of Bantry Bay and Dunmanus Bay.

An old overgrown lake.  Years ago my ancestors dug peat ("turf") from here and carried it back down to the farm in baskets tied to donkeys.  You can see Dunmanus Bay in the distance.  

It was a good walk and my legs ached a bit.  I will post a blog of another one of my walks some time.  Are you going for a walk this weekend or over Christmas?  

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Oh What A Night and Shopping For Wreaths.

Did you sleep last night?  The wind played ship wrecks and sea serpents yesterday, last night and still today.  The house felt like it was at sea for many hours.  You worry about what damage the wind will have done to people and to buildings.  I only read the small print on our insurance policy last year and realised the out buildings weren't covered for storm damage.  We paid an extra tenner and it gave us peace of mind.  I hate gale season, living next to the sea!

Got up this morning and miraculously I couldn't see any damage done to the dwellings or the out buildings and  livestock housing.  Just a few beef nut bags were blowing about in the haggard.  

We went to Aldi the other day and bought two heart shaped wreaths for the graves of my parents, my dad's parents, great grandparents and my father's brother's and sisters and his aunt who emigrated to America to work in a big house and retired back in Ireland..  My grandmother had 3 miscarriages, 7 children and 3 survived.  That was back in the 1930's when life was really tough.  

I like the wreaths because they are heart shaped.  The word wreath comes form the old English word : Wraeth.  It means to twist.  Wreaths are a band of foliage or flowers intertwined into a ring and placed on a grave or memorial.  Soon we will go and crucify ourselves and visit the graves and place the wreaths on the graves nearer to Christmas.  Might even go Christmas day.  Life is short and Christmas is never the same when you lose your loved one's, is it?

At least United are on the box on Boxing/Stephens Day.  

Do you know why it's called Boxing Day?

Sunday 7 December 2014

Smallholding Menu For The Week.

"What do you want for your tea tonight?"

"I have not had my breakfast yet?"

That's a typical every day conversation in our smalholding dwelling in the countryside next to the sea.  So we decided to make a menu for the following week:

Sunday:  Spaghetti Bolognese.  Number 2 son likes Italian.  We have beef mince (one of our heifers) in the fridge and the other ingredients are in the cupboard.  They call them presses in Ireland.  Do you know what an hot press is?  You probably call it the 'airing' cupboard?  We do.

Monday:  Meat and potato pie and red cabbage cooked in the range.

Tuesday:  All Day Brunch: bacon, sausage, egg, beans (Heinz!) and chips - oven type.

Wednesday:  Bacon hotpot cooked in range.  This consists of layers of potatoes, onions and bacon.

Thursday:  Jacket potatoes with filling of one's choice.  I will have tinned chilli con carne in mine, bought from Aldi.

Friday:  Steak pudding, chips, peas and gravy.

Saturday:  Steak and Chips.

We worked it out that it will only cost 35 Euros to feed us for the week.  Saying that we did have some of the ingredients already.  Do you have a menu?


Friday 5 December 2014

Smallholding Pies For Tea.

Perhaps Brotherhood Of Man could put my blog in their chorus instead of "Save all your kisses for me"?  They must be tired of singing the same old lyrics.  I know Robert Plant (see yesterdays blog) said he got bored singing Stairway To Heaven, after the ten thousandth time.  He could have changed the lyrics to Stairway To Devon?  May be not!

What do I know?  We have been making pies for tea.  One thing I miss about England is the pies and the proper chippies.  They call them chippers over here.  The chip-shops/chippers don't sell pies.  A typical menu would be:  Burger and Chips, Fish and Chips, Battered sausage and chips...  This is starting to sound like the Monty Python 'Spam' sketch.

Any road it's very difficult to get proper pies like they have in dear old Blighty.  In recent years we have been able to purchase Tetley tea bags, Vimto (if you travel to Cork or Killarney for it) and Newcastle Brown Ale.  We can sometimes get pork pies if we go to Tesco in Killarney or Cork.  Sixty miles for a pork pie is a bit far, isn't it?

Yesterday I got the wife to make some pies for us tea.  Why I have gone all Yorkshire?  We (she) made two pork mince pies for the lads and two Chilli con carne pies for us.  The Chilli con carne came from out of a tin bought in Aldi.  They tasted very nice.

Do you make your own pies?  What's your favourite?  Hope it's not mackerel and rhubarb.  Not had a good spud pie for a while. Wonder where she is?  

Thursday 4 December 2014

"If There's a Bustle In Your Hedgerow."

Followers of classic rock music will know that lyric is from the magnificent Led Zeppelin rock track:  "Stairway To Heaven."    No not that cheeky chat up line line that a lad says to a young lady wearing fishnet stockings:

"Is that an hole in your stocking or is it the stairway to heaven?"

Yes a very old one.

Apparently Stairway to Heaven only made it to number 37 in the  UK charts?  How could one of the greatest rock and roll classic tracks of all time only make it to number 37?

I never got to see Led Zeppelin.  Although I have been to Knebworth.  Charles Dickens visited it too.  But not when Zeppelin played there.  Did you see Led Zeppelin at Knebworth?  I once saw Jimmy Page at the 'Monsters Of Rock Festival' at Castle Donington in 1990 appearing with Aerosmith.  If that's any good?

So what's it all about ("Alfie")?  The song I mean.  Some say it's about the Occult.  Others say it's about a dying woman rejecting materialism.  Some say the title of the blog is about a girl becoming a woman?  I dunno?  But it is a fabulous song.  Here it is:

Did I see you shaking your head or tapping your feet then?  

Monday 1 December 2014

"How Can You Be Organic And Use A Tractor?" (Last Night's Telly!)

We watched Country File last night.  There was a feature about pesticides and insecticides and weed killers being banned.  Conventional arable farmers were saying that this will mean a smaller harvest, weed and pest problems for the future.  One of the solutions would be to make the weeding more human labour intensive and this would mean more expensive fruit and veg.  It would also create a lot of rural jobs.  The countryside needs thousands of those.

Later on they featured an organic farmer with  a weeding attachment that uproots the weeds.  It made me thinking of the horse scufflers from years a go.  Back in the days (I can remember it) in rural Ireland (pre -EEC) when everybody set a field of vegetables.  Number two son piped up:

"How can you be organic and use a tractor?"

Good question.  I suppose he had a point.  Tractors and cars use diesel and petrol and pollute the environment.  But surely it's better than using pesticides and insecticides?

Later on we watched Roger Barton's World's Greatest Food Markets.  He's a  Billingsgate market trader who went to New Dehli and attempts to sell vegetables and fruit to the the discerning Indian people.  Roger wore a distinctive straw boater and he seemed like the a guy who could be really kind, a gentleman and a character, but you wouldn't sour him.  He showed how to buy and sell, give free credit to strangers and even how to make a loss.  Even when he was losing money, he was still taking money home.  The market seemed to work on a free tier system were everybody involved selling could make some profit.  In India there is no food wasted.  So different to the land fills and the European markets.  

Sunday 30 November 2014

A Make Shift Smallholding Hospital.

I haven't been sleeping very well the last couple of nights.  So I woke up yesterday morning about five thirty and couldn't get back to sleep.  So I decided to take a couple of Paracetamol with a glass of water and the next thing I know, it's 9.30!  That is so unlike me.

So I got dressed and made a quick brew (ground coffee in the cafetiere) and looked at the blogs and emails and made my way to the cowshed.  One of the heifer calves was lying down on the slats and the others were mooing for their barley and calf nuts.  The calf didn't get up and one of them stood on her.  I suspected there was something wrong with her.

I don't know why the cow slats don't have grips on them.  Perhaps it's because it would make it difficult to clean them? A lot of farmers buy rubber mats to go over the slats to stop cattle slipping.  It's 40 Euro for a good rubber mat.  So it would cost me 400 Euros to cover our slats.  Apparently slips and broken legs are very common in slatted houses.  You try to make life easier, not mucking out.  But there is also the animals welfare to think about.

By this time the missus had walked in the cowshed and I told her to get number one son to help me try to stand up.  We deduced she had slipped on the concrete slats and banged her leg.  Her cloven hooves wouldn't allow her to get a grip.  We rang a farmer up the road who told us to drag her outside and she will be able to stick her hooves into the grass paddock.  We also gave her an injection of antibiotics and put the calves out with her for the day.

Every twenty minutes or so we would check her.  Sure enough.  She got up and had the pick of grass.  Then lay down for a few hours and got up again.  We decided to make her a pen in the cowshed with a straw covering over the solid concrete and we tied a farm gate to make the pen.  Then we put in a feeding trough, gave her some hay and a tub of water to drink.

This morning she got up to eat the nuts in the trough and she seems to be limping a bit.  But she's had four plops (experts say they leave twelve cow pats a day) and she's chewing her cud.  You can't afford to call for the vet every day.  I am pleased to say I think she will be OK.  Do you try and cure your animals when they are ill or get hurt?

Friday 28 November 2014

An Interloper In The Silage Bale.

If my old literary hero Thomas Hardy was still writing tales about his magical and fictional Wessex.  He may of used the title of this blog for one of his compositions.  May be not?

Number one son got a  mobile phone call yesterday from a farmer up the road.  He had collected three round bales from our haggard (where the moo cows  and the tractors and silage live) and we duly loaded them with the Ford 4000 and thought no more about them.

It appears though that he had taken a creature belonging to us with him.  Not one of the lads and lasses with the ear tags.  No it was one of those creatures with the long tail - rattus norvegicus, to be precise.  Apparently it had tunnelled under the silage bales,, chewed through the plastic and tunnelled up into the silage.  Making a 'des res' for it'self for the winter.  The bar steward!

The farmer had noticed the rat jump out when he picked it up to feed his cattle.  The rat disappeared over the hill and the bale was completely rotten.  Lets hope the rat makes a new home somewhere else.  The silage contractor told me in the summer to place old silage plastic and lorry tarps under the bales.  Then when it rains.  There will be smallholding PUDDLES.  Yes we are talking about them again.  Apparently rats don't have wellingtons or "the rubber boots" and they won't make homes in your silage bales.

It's the same old adage isn't it?  "Never throw anything away".  Unless it's a rat of course and you can send it on it's holidays to another farm.  We will replace the bale with a fresh rat free bale - hopefully!

Do you get unwanted rodent visitors?

UB40 had a number 12 (I looked it up!) with "Rat In The Kitchen.."  I wonder if I could get an hit with "Rat In My Silage"?"

Thursday 27 November 2014

The Naming Of A Rural Puddle.

It's about ten feet long and three feet wide
It's not very deep but I may have lied

It's only been there for seven long years
A drinking stop for heifers and steers?

I am talking of our puddle. It's not somewhere to cuddle,  
It will leave you in a muddle.  The county council won't fix our puddle!  

I have not got sunshine on a cloudy day, I have nothing else to say....

Repeat 700 times and sing to the tune of "My Girl": The Temptations..

Do you think it will make it to the number one in the charts?  You didn't know I could write poem/songs did you?  What are your roads like - lots of potholes?  The joys of rural living hey!

Monday 24 November 2014

Views From Our Smallholding Kitchen Window.

 Hedge man came today with his New Holland tractor and hedge cutting attachment.  He spent a couple of hours knocking the roadside hedges (Blackthorn & Fuchsia) into shape.  The agricultural labourer with his bill hook is no more.  I use to cut the roadside hedges but it's too dangerous on the main road with cars hurtling past at 80 KPH.  Never understood the need for such high speeds in the countryside.  People could be walking on the roads (no pavements or street lights) or cattle could be on the road.
 A picture of a cruiser that came into Bantry Bay in the summer.  They usually dock in Glengarriff and launches take them to the mainland to visit Garnish Island, Glengarriff and coaches take the tourists to Bantry and Killarney.  Glengarriff use to be the holiday destination for literary luminaries including, Thackery, Wordsworth, Shaw and Virginia Woolfe.
 Here's a tall ship that came in recently.  She was like something out of the Onedin Line when she sailed out of the bay with her sails up.  Some times we see oil tankers and other times we look at the fishing boats, yachts and the life boat.  Even the Queen Mary sailed into Bantry bay.  I believe it use to take five days to sail  Ireland or Blighty to America.  Then the jets were invented and the liners are no more. Sad isn't it really?

There you are.  A few pictures of our smallholding and the bay.  Hope you enjoyed them?

Sunday 23 November 2014

Christmas Shopping And The Hibernating Cat.

We went up to Kerry for some turf (peat) and our 'half an hour' Christmas shopping.  Yep half an hour.  There is nothing like going shopping when you know what you are looking for,  is there?  The number of times I have been queuing up with biblical multitudes for a jumper, Catherine Cookson book or a bottle of whisky on Christmas eve?   The presents are bought and number one and number two son's are getting money for the January sales.  Things are always so much cheaper then!

All we need to do now is start our 'Christmas Cupboard'.  We started this years a go when we rented a little house, had little money and kept seeing adverts on the television for Christmas Hampers.  So we decided to make our own.  All you need is an empty cupboard or a big cardboard box.  Then start collecting extra food tins and jam and sauce bottles and Christmas puddings, sugar, bottles of wine, cans of beer... Before you know it you will have your own Christmas Hamper/Cupboard.

There won't be any of that "lets buy everything in the supermarket" on Christmas Eve.  How do people manage with the supermarkets being shut for ONE day?

You can raid it if you get bad weather and can't get to town.  Especially if you live in a rural area and they don't grit the roads.  Like they say:

"How do the salt gritter people get to work?"

Saw this sign yesterday.  I had to buy it for the blog and the kitchen.  None Irish residents if you don't get it, I will try to explain.  Just ask!  

Domino copies the sign.  

Friday 21 November 2014

"Electricity, Electricity, EEEE..."

Woke up this morning.  I should write country and western Songs.  They call it "Country and Irish" over here.  Any way.  I thought I would check the blogs, emails and see how the "Nasty Nigel" (The tory SDP)  party had done in the by election.  The electricity goes off and I begin to curse.

Everything seems to be dependent on electricity on our farm.  The pump from the well.  The pump from the solid fuel range.  The computer and television.  The electric cooker.  The hair dryer. The microwave...?    I have heard years a go that people told the electricity companies that they didn't want electricity because they didn't want a bill. Dairy farmers hand milked cows or they used diesel Lister engines to run their milking machines.

It must have been wonderful years a go with no electricity.  Just a paraffin or oil Tilley lamp or candles and a "nice cup of tea" to look forward to.  Maybe even a game of "monsters in the dark" with the wife if it was your birthday?  Perhaps she could darn some socks and you could chew tobacco and spit in the fire and get told off.  There must have been lots of cabin fever in the days without electricity and television.  You might have even got somebody calling and hoping you would get the beer and whisky out?

Any road the electricity is back on and I am an happy bunny again.  Thanks to electricity and that clever English invention -T'web and t internet.  We have communication with the outside world.  I wish I had my own wind turbine.  Does anybody make their own electricity.  No not the static kind.  I mean proper electricity.

Remember this song from the Eighties?

Thursday 20 November 2014

Video Of An Allotment Artist.

Thanks for the comments about allotments on my blog yesterday.  I really believe they are exhibitions of working class art.  The tools are the paintbrushes and the soil is the canvas.

I have been interested in Chris Cyprus and his paintings for a few years now after I first saw him on Gardeners World.  He reminds me of a modern day LS Lowry.  Quite a few of his paintings subjects are allotments.

Any way.  Enough about what I think.  Have a watch of his video I found on You Tube.  If this doesn't inspire you then nothing will.  

Wednesday 19 November 2014

I Miss My Allotment.

About twenty years or so. I told my work mates that I was going to get my name down for an allotment.  One lad piped up:

"When are you getting your purple rinse Dave?"

I laughed.  It was great to have banter and a laugh and a joke.  Things have changed so much since then.  For one thing I believe there are waiting lists for allotments now in dear old Blighty.  I suppose wonderful ideas like GIY, Landshare and the National trust have made people able to grown their own and, build their allotment shed - "escape from the missus" - castle.  Also councils selling them off to build houses that are nothing more than designer rabbit hutches.  Not every body wants to buy their vegetables from Aldi for 39p.

No I miss my allotment.  You would always meet people to talk to, tell you what you are doing wrong, extract the urine and it was even somewhere to grow your vegetables.  Today I have a smallholding in County Cork, Ireland.  We have a vegetable plot and we keep some cattle and a couple pigs.  We can do what we want and grow what we want and there is nobody telling us what we can or can't do.  But some how it's too isolated and you never see anybody to put the world to rights and have a laugh and a joke.

I have even toyed with ploughing a field and making a few allotments for rent for people who wanted one.  But we are several miles from town and there is no public transport.  Plus they would probably use weekiller or use it for their own private tip and top soil collection service.  I dunno?

I am starting to think smallholding is too isolated. I need to talk to people not just cattle.  Do you think smallholding life is far too isolated?  Do you have allotment waiting lists near you?

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Polishing Our Copper And Brasses During The Long Dark Nights.

Here's one of our myriad of brass and copper ornaments that we have collected over the last twenty years.  That's my brass Spitfire model.  It's six inches long by six inches wide and mounted on a brass plinth.  These were sold to commemorate the Battle Of Britain.

I have always been a collector: old bottles, matchboxes, copper kettles, brass bells, cattle and even vintage tractors.  Trouble with brass is it always needs cleaning.  So I have decided to clean something every night while I am watching the television.  I am not very keen on Brasso.  It's smelly and I get covered in it.  Do you know of an home-made metal polisher?  Somebody suggested tomato ketchup, coke or even rubbing it with fur.  Where can I find some fur?  Hmm..

Somebody suggested that we should lacquer them after we have cleaned them.  Apparently you just paint the clear lacquer on them with a brush.  It's also said to be very easy to remove it if you want to do so?

You can tell your middle age when your night involves sitting down and cleaning the brasses.  Well we do live five miles from the nearest beer token exchange and we have no street lamps so we can't walk to town or catch a bus.  We haven't got a net big enough for one thing and there aren't any round here.

Altogether now:

"Shine your buttons with Brasso.."

Monday 17 November 2014

"I Looked Out This Morning And The Sun Was Gone"....

I don't know why the clocks have changed.  I looked out this morning and it was pitch black outside.  The days are getting shorter and then it will be the shortest (December 21st) day.  Then the days start stretching and we look forward to the spring and summer.

Time for another of my classic rock tracks.  Today it's Boston: "More Than a Feeling."  It reached number 22 in the UK pop charts.  There must have been some good music around to knock this track off the top spot.

I remember going to parties around 1980 when I was about 17 or 18.  This track was always played.  People still wore cheese cloths, drank lager and blackcurrant, Watney's Party Seven, smelled of  Brut or Patchouli oil and there was always a cheese cake to eat - happy days!  Well at least it was better music than today, wasn't it?

You can imagine it in say twenty years time and I go to the Old Age Pensioner's club and they start playing and putting some music on and I'll be shouting:

"Put 'Paranoid' on by Black Sabbath".

Do you remember this?

Sunday 16 November 2014

Garlic Planting And Lifting Beetroot In The Poly-tunnel.

 Been clearing some of the vegetables from the poly-tunnel this morning.  Here's me holding a stainless steel bowl of beetroot.  We also pulled some carrots.  Some of the beetroot's are being roasted with some beef (our heifer) and some of our garlic cloves.  The tougher and bigger beets are going to be boiled on top of the range and then they will be left to go cold and they will be fed to the weanling heifers and pigs in the morning.  I gave the pigs and heifers the carrot thinning's and leaves before. We never give them beetroot leaves though.  Nor do we ever feed them rhubarb leaves.  They are both poisonous and contain oxalic acid.

Pulling beetroot and parsnips always makes me feel down these days.  It's because we use to grow them for my mother and father.   Think I might stop growing them now my parents are no longer in the land of the living.  No I won't.  It's strange how vegetables can make you feel sad.

It's like that joke (very old!) about two women talking over the garden fence:

"Oh I am sorry to hear about your Bert dying.  What ever happened!"

"He went down the garden to pick a cabbage and dropped dead on top of it."

"What ever did you do?"

Well I had to open a tin of peas instead!"

Quickly moving on.
Here's some garlic cloves in my old Ford 3000 and Ford 4000 tractor wheel rims and the blue tractor wheel hub.  They were growing carrots in them earlier this morning.  So we pulled the carrots and topped them up with compost and planted some of this years garlic cloves in them.  See the snail trails on the polythene?

Saturday 15 November 2014

"Once Every Thousand Years Or So..."

That's a line from the Tenacious D song: "The Best Song In The World."  I thought today I would start an occasional series of some of the best rock songs in the world.  I don't want my blog to look like I am a one trick pony that only talks about Smallholdings and growing vegetables.

No pop pickers - remember that famous phrase?  There are rumours a foot for some absolutely barn storming concerts in 2015.  Have you heard the rumours for Glastonbury 2015:  KATE BUSH, ACDC, MORRISSEY and FLEETWOOD MAC!  No wonder it sold out already.  It's a lot better than that stuff called the X Factor - that I have to endure every Saturday night.  Why don't they have classic rock bands instead of cheap Karaoke music?  I think we need a new vaudeville show for Saturday nights.

Fear not though.  Fleetwood Mac and ACDC are also touring places near you - even Ireland!

Yesterday I found out Lynyrd Skynyrd are touring next year.  They are playing Blighty.  I am planning seeing them in an Eastern European city.  Toying with Warsaw or Pilsen in the Czech Republic.

Any road.  Here's one of their (it's 13 minutes long) songs which I think is probably one of the "best songs in the world."  Do you agree?  It's called "Free-bird"  The lyrics are superb.  Oh to be a bird and just fly away to somewhere warmer hey?

Thanks to the people who post these great concerts.  Special thanks to You Tube for making bands tour again instead of just living off their record sales.  

Friday 14 November 2014

Domino The Smallholding Cat Prepares For Winter.

Our Domino decided to start wearing his hat now it's coming to Winter.  It says: X treme HP.  Think it means : Horse Power not the 'Houses of Parliament' sauce.  Suppose he should be wearing a CAT hat?  You know the one's who make the diggers and plant machinery.
 We even have pot farm animals in the cabinet behind Domino.  There are sheep, pigs and cattle.  They cost a lot less to keep and you never need to muck them out.   You have to dust them though.
Here's a blurry picture of Domino sat on the dumper wheel in the barn.  He's not waiting for a bus (we don't have them) though, he's probably waiting for a mouse!  He caught one yesterday.  He's doing a good job around the smallholding.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

New Arrivals And A New Hotel For The Smallholding.

A more cheerful post today.  Number one son decided to buy 2 pigs with some of his birthday money.  So we finally finished the pig shed.  We have been using the pig shed for storing tools and tractor parts.  We went to see the pig man who we usually buy them from he.  He sold us 2 bigger pigs than we usually get.  He also sold us a nipple drinker.

 New pigs arrive in the pick up.  Guess who got covered in the proverbial picking them up?
 Exploring the new home/hotel/  We made a slatted house for them and they have a sleeping quarters with straw.  The piece of timber (hopefully) stops them dragging their bedding into the slats.  The slat tank is only three foot deep.  I bought the pig slats second hand.  Half of them were used for paths on the veg plot.
 "Which side of the bed do you want?"
The nipple drinker.  They just suck and the water flows.  Do you like their UPVC door with window?

The pigs are "Large Whites" and we are feeding them oats and vegetables.  Anybody else thinking of getting pigs?

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Three Meanings For November The Eleventh.

Firstly today is Armistice Day.  It's the day that marked the end of the great war: 1914-1918.  It was the war to end all wars.  Sadly this was not true.  Even today wars are being fought.  It's a day to reflect and thank those people who gave their lives for freedom.

Secondly:  Today is Martin Mass.  This is the saint day of St Martin of Tours.  Traditionally animals were slaughtered on this day.  I suppose mainly because they wouldn't have the hay and feeding for the long Winter a head.   In Ireland no wheels were to be turned on this day, because St Martin was killed by a wheel when he fell into a river.

Thirdly:  It's 'Number one' son's 18th birthday today.  I honestly don't know where the time goes.  I remember watching the television the night he was born in the hospital while my wife was giving birth.  Five minutes after he was born.  I rang my mother and greeted her with:

"Hello grandma!"

She was over the moon.

My mother always vowed that she would live long enough to be the first one to buy him a pint on his 18Th birthday.  Sadly, she died nearly three years ago.  We'll raise a glass and toast our missing loved one's tonight.  Let's all raise a glass tonight for those who gave us our freedom.

I found it cathartic writing this post.
Here's a song by the great and much missed Sandy Denny:  "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?"

The lyrics say it all.

Do you like Sandy Denny?

Monday 10 November 2014

Domino The Smallholding Cat. Is He Hunting Or Composing Poetry?

It's a busy time being a smallholding cat at the moment.  The field mice and rats are heading to the nearest buildings to keep warm and feed.  They ("who are they?") say that rats and mice will eat ANYTHING that is organic.  Domino is worth his weight in gold keeping the vermin away.  He keeps leaving me dead presents around the house.  Guess who gets the job of disposing of the headless mice and horrible rats?  Yes.  It's yours truly, me!

There's a robin red breast that helps me in the vegetable garden.  It perches on my four prong pike and pinches the odd juicy worm or two.  I have noticed Domino eyeing up the Robin.  I hope he doesn't get it?  The terrier also does her bit diving into the hay when I shout:


And when I make hissing sounds.

We always give them a good meal and praise them when they catch a rat.  I have only seen one DEAD one this year.  So they must be doing their job.  I don't like poison or traps.  You can't beat a good cat and a terrier on a smallholding.

How do you get rid of rats and mice?

Sunday 9 November 2014

A Nice Single Malt For The Long Winter Nights On The Smallholding. "Am I going Through A Smallholding Middle Age Crisis?"

A kind friend phoned the wife saying they had just returned from an holiday in Scotland and they had picked up a 15 year old bottle of Dalwhinnie ("my favourite") whisky.  We could have it for x amount of Euros if we wanted it? Wanted it?  Was George Best called Best because he was the best?  Of course he was.  Does anybody else have a favourite tipple?  We are supposed to be saving it for Christmas.  Unfortunately the bottle is now half empty.

At least we can get Newcastle Brown Ale and bottles of Vimto in Ireland, these days.  Perhaps some one will open an English pub serving regional grub and pints of real ale?  I have been in plenty of "Oirish " pubs in France and Portugal.  So why not a few English pubs in Ireland?  I read somewhere that Wetherspoons were supposed to be opening a few pubs in Dublin and Cork.

I would also like a Ox red Chesterfield three piece suite to go with the whisky.  Perhaps I could get one of those Basil Rathbone "Smoking" jackets too?  Not that I smoke any more.  I haven't smoked for over twenty years and I still miss them.  Do you?  The amount of people I have got talking to just because somebody said:

"Have you got a light?"

Perhaps I should get a pipe?  Do smallholders go through middle age crisis in the countryside?  If you lived in another country what English/British food or drink would you miss the most?  Bill Wyman missed Piccalilli when he lived in France.  I miss real ales and public transport!  I haven't mentioned that for a few weeks, have I?

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Spicy Parsnip And Onion Soup. Gas Mask Wanted For Peeling Onions On Smallholding..

I decided to harvest one of my Parsnips today.  So I pulled it and peeled and chopped it up.  Then I got a Spanish onion (purchased in Lidl) and attempted to peel and chop it and the onion got me.  I wrote few posts a go that I wanted an Anderson shelter for the gales.  Now I could do with a gas mask.  I tried putting the onion under running water, but they still got me.  You would have thought I was a member of RADA.  The way the tears were running down my cheeks.

Any road.  If you want to make some Spicy Onion And Parsnip soup.  Just peel and chop them into centimetres squares.  Then throw them into a pan and add a vegetable stock cube and some water. I threw in a teaspoon of chopped red chillies.  Then we let it cook on the range until the veg was soft.

Then we liquidized the soup and ate it with some home cooked bread.  It was different and very filling.
Me attempting to pull my parsnip out of an old ride on mower grass box in the polytunnel.  

In the end I stood in the box and pulled the Parsnip out.

Oh what a beauty.  If you want big Parsnips or Carrots.  Grow them like this.  

My poor parsnip being peeled and chopped for the soup.

The soup looked like a cross between rice pudding and custard.

Monday 3 November 2014

In Memory Of A Great Poet.

Today is the 4th of November.  It's the day that the great First World War poet Wilfred Owen was killed.  Just a week before the Armistice on the 11th.  I have been interested in Wilfred Owen  since I was at school.  We once went to his home town of Oswestry and visited his memorial and a tourist lady told us where his house was.  Plas Wilmot is a grand old house and I felt honoured to have found the place where one of my poetry heroes grew up.

'What Passing Bells' - a BBC drama is being shown every night on BBC1, this week.  The title is taken from Wilfred Owen's poem: Anthem For Doomed Youth'.  Last night showed the outbreak of the First World War and two young lads (one German, one English) joining up.   They believed the war would be over by Christmas and it would be the war to end all wars.  The characters are just ordinary lads who believe they are doing their bit for their country.

Anthem For Doomed Youth.

The Green Shoots Of Recovery On The Smallholding. "Well I don't know. I saw some grass growing through the pavements today."

I made some Cotoneaster cuttings about a month a go.  We just cut made a few dozen cuttings.  Dipped half of the cuttings in hormone powder and stuck them into the soil in one of the raised beds in the old vegetable plot.  I decided to check them this morning to see if they had got roots.  Guess what?  The one's which didn't get the rooting powder treatment have roots too?  Isn't mother nature brilliant?

Time for a song.  One of my rock albums is 'Songs From The Woods' by Jethro Tull.  Not the seed drill inventor - the band.  I have seen them four times.  One of my favourite tracks on the album is 'Jack In The Green'.  It's about the spirit in the woods that makes green life.  It's really talking about Spring.  It's good to know that Spring isn't too far away.  Last night seemed to last for ever.  Anybody got any hibernation tips?

Jack In The Green.

Saturday 1 November 2014

A Wet Day And A CookedBreakfast In Bed For The Smallholders Wife.

I woke up this morning at five.  Couldn't sleep and it was raining cats and dogs outside Northsider Towers.  So I got up and turned on the computer and checked me emails and the blogs.  Heron had put a comment about the people from Somerset eating snails.  So I replied and started looking for an E card for the wife's birthday.

The trouble with these amazingly free cards. Is that you have to play them out loud to see if you like them.  So I picked this funny cartoon about this cat using the toilet to wash its hair.  All of sudden the cat starts screaming and meowing and screaming and meowing again.  Next minute the light goes on in the hall and the wife storms into the room and screams:

"What's all the bloody noise about at half passed five in the morning?"

I didn't have the heart to explain I was sending her an E birthday card.  I just turned off the computer and crawled back into bed.  I got up again and quickly made her a 'cooked' breakfast.  Well it wasn't actually cooked.  The black coffe was 'real' coffee 'cooked' in the cafetiere and I woke her and said:

"Happy birthday.  I have made you a cooked breakfast."

What's wrong with a cup of black coffee and a chocolate Wagon Wheel for your birthday breakfast?

You can't say romance is dead, can you?  Is it me or have Wagon Wheels got smaller?

Thursday 30 October 2014

An Interesting Stock Proof Fence On The West Cork Rural Roads. Snails in me Tunnel.

We came home from Kerry via one of the many meandering rural roads down to Bantry, this afternoon.  We had been buying net curtains up in Tralee.  Gosh don't I have an interesting life?  Somewhere near Ballingeary we stopped to check the load.  No we weren't carrying a load of net curtains.  Although they were incredibly cheap - 36 Euros to be exact for 7 windows.  I ("I, me, Myself and I") found them for sale on ye old T'web and Tinternet..  It was a 'proper' shop, not my usual car boot bargains.   The staff wore uniforms and they even had a  clothing section for extra large folk.  And here's me having a complex that I am over fourteen stone.  The woman behind the counter asked us what pattern of net curtain we wanted?  We both said:

"The cheapest".

So she gave us the 'Toronto' pattern.

Any road.  We stopped to check the cement mixer (eh?) hadn't moved on the back of  the pick up.  When we noticed the concrete fence in front of the rock face.  There must of been a gap of between 6 inches and the fence and the rock face.  What creatures are they trying to keep in?  The Furze bushes on the left and right and old mother nature are busy camouflaging the concrete fence.  Do you think the fence is a good job or was it carried out by over zealous county council workers making a 'proper' job out of it?  Well it made me smile!
A 'proper' job.

When we got home.  I checked the poly-tunnel and a family of snails had taken up refuge on the inside of the plastic cover.  So we spent ten minutes hand picking them into a plant pot and I threw them (and the pot) into an hedge.  No doubt they will be back in the poly-tunnel tomorrow.  Any ideas how to get shut of them?

Monday 27 October 2014

A New Life For A Drawer In The Smallholding "Utility" - "Boot Room".

There was a gap between the dishwasher and the fridge.  The wife decided she wanted a 'thingamajig jig' to keep the washing powder and cleaning stuff and dishwasher tablets on.  We looked in the Argos catalogue and on the T'web and Tinter'net.  But there was nothing the right size or cheap enough.  Call for "number one" son:"Caractus Potts" to come to the rescue.

He went out to the garage and pulled out a drawer from an old 'self assembly' chest of drawers.  You know one of those with more wobble than a jelly and that should have a sticker on it saying "made to break".  He placed some screws in the joints and found some old castors and fixed it to the bottom of the drawer, which was now standing vertical instead of horizontal.

Here's the "washing powder tidy".
Do you like the fridge magnets?

It works brilliant and fits the gap like a glove.  My only suggestion for anybody thinking of making one for themselves.  Don't store cleaning materials or washing powder where children might find them.

The "tidy" cost nothing.  Perhaps he will make us "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, next?  Ian Fleming wrote it you know!  Couldn't imagine Dick Van Dyke playing James Bond.  Could you?

Saturday 25 October 2014

Haircut For The Swedes On Our Smallholding. Mechanical Mini Digger or Luddite Smallholder?

I gave part of  the veg plot a good tidy up the other day.  The remaining Swedes were given an haircut to tidy up their leaves and remove any dead ones.  Apparently you can eat their leaves unlike Rhubarb and Potato stalks.  So you can make yourselves Swede leaf soup if you wish.  I feed them to the cattle.  They love them and there coat always seems to shine after all those vitamins.  Then I dug it over and found hidden treasure - more potatoes and weed roots.

Swedes after their haircut.  I made the paths from old concrete pig slats.  Number one son made the gate and the logs need cutting and splitting.  Yours truly stacked them!
The plot looks a bit bare now.  So I will probably transfer some Leeks there.  Leeks are very good at being moved to a new home.  Just dig an hole and 'heel' them in.  Then I'll start the weeding and digging the muck in for next years early potatoes.  The last couple of years I have been spreading rotten farm yard manure on the surface and letting the worms and Winter rains take it down.  This year I plan to dig it over and dig trenches and fill it with well rotten manure, old straw and home made compost.  I find cow muck to be a 'cold' manure and it's full of weed seeds.  Perhaps I should get some well rotted horse muck?

Number one son wants to spread and dig the plot with the mini digger.  It doesn't leave a compacted pan under the soil and it saves my poor back a lot of work.  The other day he cleared a lot of encroaching shrubs, brambles and a big pile of compost that had nettles growing on it.

What would you do?  Use the mini digger or dig it over with a shovel, fork or a four prong pike?

A Bus man's Holiday To See Some Pigs At Balmoral Show.

You know what a bus man's holiday is don't you?  It means going on holiday and doing the same thing that you do at work.  Or on the ...