Monday 31 March 2014

Rain Barrels To Collect Water And A Quick Look In The New Polytunnel.

 I bought a secondhand rain barrel last week  and I bought a bigger one from my favourite German (Aldi) garden centre yesterday.  I just thought it would make life easier if we had water close to the polytunnel and to the productive vegetable garden.  A lot of people are getting mains water meters installed in their houses.  So perhaps it's time to start conservingwater?  We have a well but I still don't like water being wasted.  Rainwater is supposed to contain lots of nitrogen to make the plants grow.
This is the bigger version.   It cost us forty Euro and came complete with fittings.  I am going to make some garden teas for the veg and flowers in the water barrel.  I will get an old hessian sack or pillowcase and fill it with either sea weed (I live next to the sea), nettles or some Comrey ("Knit bone") leaves and suspend it with a piece of string.  Then it's dilute your tea to ten parts to one.  Just so we don't kill our plants with kindness.  Does anybody else make a garden tea or liquid feed?
 Here's the latest pictures from the polytunnel.  You can see the garlic growing in the bath.  We just used some that we bought from the vegetable section in the supermarket.  I am watering it twice a day at the moment.
 Cabbages growing in the other bath.
 Beetroot and there's peas in the pots.
Strawberry plants, Lettuces and more peas.
 Banana shallots that we bought in ye olde supermarket.
Think these are leeks.  We decided to grow everything in trays and pots so that we get a good crop rotation and (hopefully) less chance of plant disease building up in the soil like Clubroot ("Finger and Toe") and white onion rot.....?

What are you growing at the moment?

Thursday 27 March 2014

A Smallholding Vet For Under A Tenner. (Time for the Cows disco.)

The bullocks and heifers must be ready to go out to the Spring pasture. It's my favourite time of the farming year when they run out of the cowshed, down the boreen and down the hill into the field. Then its time for that football song ("let'go effin mental, na, na, na, We are all having a disco...") that you you often hear sung at football grounds up and down the land in Blighty. The cows and bullocks run one way and then the other and generally chase each other and jump and dance. I often think:

"I wouldn't mind having a pint of what they have had.
The bigger cattle get their first taste of Spring grass.  Bantry Bay in the background.

'Archie' the bullock is at the back of the picture.  He soon forgot about it when put them him out to pasture.

Iodine spray sat on top of silage bale.
 Any road. Archie the Jersey cross/Friesian bullock managed to take the skin off one of his horn stumps yesterday. No doubt he had been fighting or scratching his head a bit too well. Rather like the rather un pc (ancient joke)story about a consultant visitng a lunatic asylum and he notices an inmate banging his head against the wall. The consultant asked the man why he banged his head against the wall? The man replied:

"Because it feels so good when I stop."

Well it made me laugh any way.

 Anyroad (again). We noticed that Archie was bleeding and so we got the Iodine spray and sprayed his horn whilst he was eating his silage. The Iodine soon stopped the bleeding and Archie looks like the wounded soldier but he's happy and the skin around his horn stump is healing. The Iodine spray only cost a fiver and we have used it lots of times on the livestock and ourselves.

You can't be calling the vet out every time an animal hurts itself.  Vets are far too busy and they aren't always cheap.  Saying that.  My vets have often only charged me for the drugs.  Especially if we collect them from the vets.

 Barbed wire and brambles, briars and Blackthorn  often leave us with cuts and scratches.  The people long ago here in Ireland use to plant Gorse ("Furze") and Blackthorn for stockproof hedging. Especially in landscapes where there was no stone or boulders for dry stone walling. There's even a 'Barbed Wire' museum in Texas. Wouldn't mind going there. I have visited the Imperial War Museum in London and seen First World War battlefield barbed wire. Awful stuff.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Home Made Smallholding Dumper Trailer. ("I love it when a plan comes together.")

My brother bought a secondhand small compact tractor last week.  He decided that the wanted a trailer for it.  We looked on the web for trailers and they were either plastic or three hundred Euro plus.  Number one son decided he could make a far stronger one out of scrap metal for less than Fifty Euros.  I had the scrap steel and it only cost us 25 Euro for a few grinder discs and some welding rods.
Number one son duly tested it by filling it with the mechanical digger buckets of 2 inch stone.  Once again he had made something far too strong and it took 3 of us to lift the dumper tipper.  I wish I'd had got it when I use to muck out the cattle when he had the loose house system.  Now we have a slatted tank and it's such a doddle.  The tractor brings in the silage bale.  I cut off the black plastic and netting and pike it in front of the head-feeder.  Next month I will pay my neighbour to agitate the dung and suck it up into his slurry tanker and then he will empty it on our silage fields.  Lots of good fertilizer and country smells and  hopefully lots of good strong grass for hay for silage.

Number one son rang his tractor mechanic friend this morning.  He wants a tail lift or an hydraulic ram to fit on to the dumper trailer.  Tractor mechanic friend told him to ring back tonight.  He thinks he's got just the thing.  Perhaps they should be the new A Team (hay team, get it!) and to quote John 'Hannibal' Smith:

"I love it when a plan comes together."

Have you made anything for your smallholding or allotment for next to nothing?  I once saw an allotment corrugated shed roof held down with old stones and lumps of concrete.   The mind boggles.

Thursday 20 March 2014

More Hard Surface Paving And A Newly Sowed Lawn For The Smallholding. (Downsizing the veg plot).

We have been busy bees again on our smallholding.  I  pulled my back (again) moving the concrete slats to make paving.  The bath in the background is to collect rainwater and a home for any frogs if they want to use it.  We also sowed a new lawn on part of the vegetable plot.  I think Monty Don would like our recent vegetable garden tasks.  Who is your favourite television gardener?   Mine would be Geoff Hamilton and Geoffrey Smith, Monty Don and Carol Klien.  I had to choose 4, didn't I?

There's still plenty of room for vegetables in the new polytunnel and around it.  I will dig up the lawn in a few years time and make a lawn where the veg plot is now.  Just to give it a rest and to make things easier on the smallholding.  An old allotment friend once told me it's better to have a well managed and tidy medium sized plot than a large overgrown one that you never get on top of.  He was right.  I use to give quite a bit of my vegetable produce to my parents.  But now they are no longer in the land of the living.  We don't need so much space. Is your vegetable plot too big or too small?

Monday 17 March 2014

Our New Polytunnel Is Constructed In Less Than A Day.

 We achieved a lot on the vegetable plot this weekend.  The new polytunnel frame was constructed on the area we dug over with the Smalley mechanical digger last week.  I dug out the trenches with my trusty Azada and long handled shovel and number one son constructed the frame.
 A farm neighbour from down the road turned up early on Saturday morning and taped the metal tubing to stop the plastic rubbing against the tubing.  He had experience building his own poly tunnel.  So there was 5 of us involved in offering the plastic, pulling the plastic and shoveling the soil over the plastic to make it tight and solid.
 Here's a picture of the soil covered plastic in the half full trenches.
 Yesterday we planted 6 rows of early potatoes.  Again I used my Azada to open up the trenches.  Then I forked a barrow of well rotted fym into the trench with my four prong pike.  The missus placed in her Aldi bought seed potatoes which we chitted for a few weeks in our front room.  Then we covered up the potatoes and placed sticks at both ends to know where we had planted our little spudatoes.  Solanum Tuberosum if you're posh.
 Here's the finished tunnel in all it's glory.  My Azada is in the front of the photograph.  It's called the 'Crocodile' and manufactured by Chillington tools.  They are fantastic for digging up soil and vegetation without bending your back.  I noticed quite a few smallholders on our holiday in the Algarve last year using them.  The tunnel is 12 foot x 20 foot and it cost us 500 Euro.  Plus I gave my neighbour a few beer tokens for helping us construct it.
Inside the tunnel.  Notice the vintage tractor rims and a modern plastic bath (drilled with drainage holes) for planters.  The path is Mypex landscape fabric.  I need to get some 6 inch nails to hold it down.  The green-windbreak on the back gives the tunnel great ventilation.
Organic poultry manure pellets are in the green bucket.  Again these came from my Aldi garden centre.  The door is made of polythene and wooden battens.  I am going to make an inside windbreak door to give more ventilation and keep out the cabbage white butterflies, Domino our cat and birds.  
The seed potatoes just about to get covered with soil.

What's your next project on your allotment or smallholding?

Saturday 15 March 2014


I went on the old Tinternet and T'web the other day and ordered a brand new poly-tunnel.  It's our second one.  The first one was destroyed by a mighty gale one winters day, a few year a go.  People asked me if  I shut both doors or whether I'd left them open.  In the same way that old farmers use to leave the front door and back door of their houses open to let the lightning in and out.  Any road.  We decided to get a new poly-tunnel and site it in different and more sheltered location.

The poly-tunnel duly arrived a few days later and we asked the delivery man if he had any written instructions (preferably not written in German or Mandarin Chinese)

"No it's on the web."

He then told us in great detail how to rake the soil, dig the trenches and how to assemble the polytunnel.  At the end of each sentence.  Delivery man said:

"It's on the web."

I don't know what site he was talking about.  But:

"It's on the web."

It was a bit like a scene from one of my favourite English films:The Railway Children.  You know the one with Jennifer Agutter in?  No not  when she plays that fit nurse and her American boyfriend/patient goes on his holidays to Yorkshire, goes for a pint in the 'Slaughtered Lamb' "Stay on road,Keep clear of moors") in ,  and turns into a Werewolf.  An American Werewolf in London is the film in question. Both films both feature Yorkshire and Jennifer Aggutter.  So what's this got to do with putting up polytunnels, Dave?  Nothing.  It's just that there's a scene in the film (The Railway Children) when they have just moved OOP North and the cart driver is taking Mrs (posh) Waterbury and her children and her belongings via horse and cart to their new humble abode.  You must remember the scene when Mrs Waterbury says:

"May I borrow your lamp please?

Cart man:  I dare say.

Mrs Waterbury:  If you say: "I dare say" once more.  I shall have hysterics, "I dare say,"

The man's instructions seemed to be correct and number one son showed his Mecca-no skills yet again.  Whilst me, myself and I dug the trenches.  Luckily number one had dug the site over thoroughly with our Smalley digger last week.

We are going to attempt to offer the plastic to the poly tunnel today (Saturday) and then it's sowing time.  I also hope to get my fist early new potatoes in this weekend.  Potatoes are traditionally planted around St Patrick's day.  It's also time to put the cattle to pasture.  I am not though.  Give them another few bales of silage and see if the grass grows.

March is a strange month and it is said to: "come in like a lamb and go like a lion".  We could still get snow yet.  Are you working on your vegetable plot this weekend?  How do I protect my tunnel against gales?  Are you growing anything different this year?  Will post latest pictures tomorrow.  Enjoy your weekend.

New frame and trenches dug with my long handled shovel and trusty Azada.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Recycling Slats To Make Smallholding Paths.

Been busy making hard surfaces for ye old veg plot yesterday.  A kind Bantry farmer sold me a trailer's worth of old  concrete pig slats.  I asked him how much he wanted for the slats stood up against his farm outbuildings:

"Give me forty Euros".

I said:

"I'll give you fifty for them.  They are worth it to me."

Then I noticed some more slats and asked what he wanted for the them:"

"I wants nothing for them.  You give me more than I wanted.  So you can have them for free."

What a kind man.

I persuaded my brother and number one son to go and collect the slats the next with the trailer and Jeep.  My brother and Number one son heaved and humped them and brought them back to our smallholding by the sea (Bantry Bay) and I had to give him 20 Euros for Diesel.  I think it was very cheap for some more smallholding projects, don't you?

We made a slatted pig tank (for 2 pigs) and a hard path for the vegetable plot.  Thinking of sprinkling some grass seed in the gaps to disguise them a bit.  Now even on the wettest days.  I will be able to get about on the veg plot with my trusty wheelbarrow and spread farmyard manure and compost from the paths without leaving giant ruts in the soil.  Who invented the wheelbarrow?  Is there anything more ingenious than a wheelbarrow?  What do you use for paths on your vegetable plot?

Monday 3 March 2014

Smallholding Garden Makeover. "Time For A Change".

We have been busy changing the look of our herbaceous cottage garden.  It's the third garden design in the last twelve years.  First I made the gardens whilst the house was being built.   The builders weren't impressed that they couldn't empty their cement mixer any where they wanted.  I sowed a lawn here at the back of the house.  But it is North facing and it wasn't long before the Moss decided to make my lawn its home.  So then I (we) made a traditional Cottage garden and filled it with lots of herbaceous perennials ("pretty flowers") and lots of wheelbarrows of well rotted farm yard manure.  Farm yard manure is a cold manure and this means it's full of weed seeds and lovely nettles and "Twitch" (Couch grass)...?
Any road.  We live in between silage fields and when they grow they they deposit every weed seed and grass into our garden.  So I have got tired of weeding it and decided to give it another make over.  This involved a day (full one) digging out the old weeds and saving what plants we could.  Then we opted for Mypex landscape fabric.  It turned out a lot cheaper than my Astro Turf/ plastic grass idea.  So we cut holes in the fabric and planted some plants through it.  Then we wheel barrowed and raked 2 tons of red pea gravel and placed some second hand stepping stones on it complete with some stepping stones.  
Finished garden.  Complete with Greek lady statue.  Spot the white plastic sheep?  

Is your garden due a make over?  What's your plans for this year?  Have you got your potatoes chitted yet?  Must get those paving stones power washed.  Is that what God sends the rain for?  Well he gives us puddles to wash our shoes in!  May be not!

Two Charity Shop Vases Full Of Feverfew.

"The 18th Century Aspirin Plant." I have this plant growing in my veg garden at the moment.  It is supposed to be brilliant for al...