Wednesday 30 April 2014

Searching For Treasure At The Car Boot Sales. (More clutter for the smallholding house).

We went to a car boot sale the other day.  I always go look looking for old copper kettles, brass, heavy rock records, gardening books and tools and anything else that catches my fancy.  It's bit like going in one of those cheap supermarkets.  You pay 27p for a can of 'al cheapo' baked beans.  Then you walk down the middle aisle and pick up up a 50 inch colour television and pay 500 quid.  Not quite but you know what I mean?

I found these 2 murky looking Victorian brass candlesticks.   They soon polished up well (see the one on the right) with some 'Brasso' and some good old elbow grease.  Anybody know a good home made brass and copper cleaner?

I asked the lady car boot seller what she wanted for them?


"I want fifteen Euro for them."

"They are Victorian, you know".

"Yeah I know."

Says me.

I didn't bother haggling.  They were worth 15 Euros.  That's about 12. 50 in Sterling.  Brass isn't worth a lot at the moment.  You can pick up some really old Victorian brass on Ebay very cheaply.  I won't be selling them though.  They can go with my other 4 brass candlesticks.  That's more clutter for our little house on the smallholding.  Said it before we should have lived in the past.  Preferably on a large country estate with a farm and walled kitchen garden.

What's your best find on a car boot sale?

Friday 25 April 2014

Oriental Bridesmaids Of An Irish Summer. (Visit To Muckross Gardens In Killarney)

The magnificent Rhododendrons of Muckross House, Killarney, County Kerrry, Ireland.
There are two Orientals plant that shows me that summer is finally on its way: the Rhododendron and the Azalea.  They were originally brought back from Asia for their amazing architectural features and shelter for game on large country estates.  They thrive in the acidic peaty soils of Ireland.  In some parts of  the Killarney park they have become a nuisance.  Millions of pounds are spent around the world trying to control these invasive species.  I have read that a lot of the Japanese Knot-weed came with the import of these plants.  

 I think they are incredibly beautiful and remind me of  plump bridesmaids in their show off, blousy dresses.
Here's a picture of some of the deer grazing in the Muckross house estate.  Queen Victoria once stayed here in her visit to Ireland.  There's a farm, the big house, Abbey, Lakes and gardens to visit.  Car parking is free and a good day is guaranteed for all.  What's your favourite country estate?

I use to love visiting Cholmondley Castle gardens in Cheshire.  It's quintessentially English with magnificent gardens (check out the Italian sunken garden), a great cafeteria with home made produce and Charles and Diana got engaged there.  Not many people know that. 

Monday 21 April 2014

Day Trip To A Vintage Tractor Show.

We had an early start yesterday morning.  Six thirty to be precise.  We headed over to Kerry (Ardfert) to see a vintage tractor show: The Maurice Collins Memorial Vintage Day.  All money raised goes to local charities.  We saw lots of vintage tractors, cars, motorbikes, ex army lorries a threshing machine, stationary Lister engines? .

It was wonderful to see people from all walks of life united in their love of these pieces of agricultural machinery.  These tractors provided the farmer and his family and their animals with food and to make physical work so much easier on the farm/smallholding.  A lot of us still use them and preserve them for future smallholders to work the land.
We spotted this very unusual 4 wheel drive 'Grey Fergie' 20.  A very clever owner converted her from a 2 wheel drive to four wheel drive.  The tractor is now longer than the traditional 2 wheel drive tractor.

Ford 3000.  We have one of those.  I love the Ford 3000 because she uses hardly any fuel and she will turn on a sixpence.  

The blue tractor is a Fordson Super Dexta.   She was a fore runner to the Ford 3000 and the Ford 4000.  We also have one of those and a Ford 4000.  This Vintage tractor renovation and collecting is becoming something of an obsession.  

All the tractors in all their vintage glory.  It's Fordson, Ford, Ferguson, Fordson, Ferguson, Massey  Ferguson, David Brown, Massey Ferguson,  Bulldog Lanz, Deutz....  All the way.  Fair credit to the organizers, stewards, exhibitors, and glorious weather for making such a nostalgic day.

Do you have an old vintage tractor?  I would love to go to Dorset Steam Fair in August.  Must find some more vintage tractor shows to visit.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Fighting With The Ever Encroaching Brambles On The Smallholding. (Weedkiller or Sheer Brute Force?)

We spent a couple of days last week clearing the ever encroaching bramble, furze, blackthorn and briars from around the edges of one of the fields.  The brambles and other members of the weed family had pulled down quite a few rotten fence posts.  We used loppers, strimmer and blade and the trusty 4 prong pike and the digger and dumper to clear the weeds.  I think we filled at least eight dumpers in the process.  Here's me thinking that manual labour was the name of a Spaniard.
Nearly done.  you can see the brambles next to the Smalley digger and the new fence posts lying  on the ground waiting for us to knock them in the ground.

Finished clearing.  The brambles must have taken over ten foot of the field in places.  It could do with a run of a rotovator and setting some grass seed and fertilizer.  There's always something needs doing on a smallholding.  
I suppose the next job would be to rotovate the brambles out and set it with grass seed and fertilizer.  Or I take the lazy farmer method and leave it for the grass and weed seeds to grow back?  This time I will make sure we cut the edges of the field with the tractor and topper and they won't grow back.

I am going looking at an old tractor rotovator today at a tractor breakers today.  The spades are OKish and it needs sandblasting and spraying and pulling apart and oiling and putting together again.  The scrap man says I can have it very cheap.  Number one son reckons we will fix it up very cheap.  I am very tempted and it will be a good blog subject.  Shall I buy the rotovator or should I not?

How do you deal with weed problems on your smallholding or allotment?  My cattle nibble at the blackberry leaves now and again and Ivy is said to be a great tonic for them.  Wish they weren't so choosy and ate the brambles back.  I could get a man with a quad and weed licker/sprayer to kill them for me. Or I could do it my self with a knapsack.  Or I could hack away like we have done above?  Do you use weedkiller for brambles and rushes or do you live with them?  Soft rushes are a curse on most farms these days.  Didn't see one clump when we went to Portugal last year.  Suppose they wouldn't grow if we had good weather all year.  Fantastic weather here at the moment.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Drainage Problems On The Smallholding (Optimistic Or Pessimistic Smallholder?)

This is a picture of the Kale field after the cattle have grazed it down to nothing.  You become very pragmatic and stoic ("what's that mean?") when you have been a smallholder for a few years.  Every field seems to have some sort of problem.  Either it needs reseeding, drains fixing, it's too hilly, fences need replacing, it's too small, it's too stony, it's not enough sheltered from the weather...?

 If you had half a pint glass full of real ale.  Would it be half full or half empty?

 I'd say it's half empty.  You could spend hundreds/ thousands on your fields.  But you will always find problems.  Some of us buy diggers and try to do what an Irish farmer once said:

"Trying to put right what God couldn't do."

So yesterday morning we noticed we had a wet patch in the field.  We had a broken drain.  Time to get number one son in with the digger.  In the past it's was either me break my back with shovel and pick or phone for a digger man.  He will eventually turn up and say:

"I can't do it in a week or two."

So we eventually bought a secondhand digger (pray we don't hit rock) and try to do things for ourselves. Well that's the idea, anyway.

See the nice clean trench going to the stream.  Notice that we fence the stream off to stop the cattle leaving country pancake presents and also drinking the dirty water.  We like to gave them clean water straight from our well.  The picture on the right shows the problem.  Approximately about ten years ago we had a broken drain (what a coincidence) and we did pay for the digger man to come and dig us a trench and we filled it with clean washed stone and some of that yellow plastic pipe which I said all those years a go:

"It's no bloody good.

It only blocks up with sand, soil and peat (no swearing) ".

Guess what?  It filled up with....?

Above is an old flag drain where the stones are.  My ancestors will have dug them by hand and placed them on end to make perfectly good flag drains.  Then somebody invented massive tractors in the late 20th century. The tractors squeezed the drains and our drainage problems are for ever with us.  

So blog readers what do I do to solve my drainage problem?  Will I order twenty ton of  2 inch (washed) stone chippings, place a good layer (leaving a nice fall) in the bottom of trench, place some (thick) 6 inch black corrugated plastic (much stronger than the yellow plastic) and stone it up with clean stone then put the soil (and the clay) back?  Or should I just fill the trench with stone chippings and not bother with any plastic pipe?  

What do you think?  Have you got drains to fix on your smallholding?

Friday 4 April 2014

Our Smallholding Cattle Eating Kale.

 Six of the big cattle pictured eating the Kale we sowed last summer.  There's an electric fence in front of the cattle to stop them eating too much in one go.
When they have ate it down and churned up the soil.  I will let it dry out and get it rotovated and put it down to grass again.  It's good to give the cattle a varied diet and the field a break from grass.  I'm hoping cattle prices pick up and we can sell them.  The other smaller cattle are still inside the slatted house eating the round silage bales.

Two of the bigger heifers are fit to sell to the butcher or send them to mart.  I never bother calving them.  We could kill one ourselves but we still have half a freezer full.  So we will slaughter one of the smaller one's when they are big enough.  I always say you should keep the best for your self.  Why wouldn't you eat your own when you know what drugs and food it's had?  I often talk to farmers who buy milk, vegetables and meat from the supermarket.  We will never be self sufficient but we always have a small amount of meat and vegetables from our smallholding for ourselves.  Do you?

Thursday 3 April 2014

Slugs And Snails. (More Polytunnel Tales)

 Something's been eating our cabbage plants in the bath in the new polytunnel.  They are slugs and snails to be precise.  We decided to take a drastic plan of action and travel to Bantry to get some kind of deterrent.  We found a new product called: 'Sluggo'.  That's the container perched on the edge of the bath.  It contains ferric phosphate granules.  You just sprinkle them round your plants and the snails and slugs eat them and become constipated and die.  They then disappear underground without leaving any slime or dead bodies.    The pellets are said to be natural and harmless to birds and pets.
I reckon the varmints came in the soil and manure that I put in the bath when I was filling it and then I topped it up with some bought compost.  Can't see any more chewed leaves any where else so it must of been in the soil.

Hats off to the German company Neudorff if it works.  Have any readers ever used 'Sluggo'?  What methods do you use to kill slugs and snails?

I try to be organic in the vegetable garden and use chemicals (fertilizer, spray for rushes) around the smallholding.  Are you organic or chemical?  Or are you like me and be organic where it comes to vegetable production and chemical around the farm to dose cattle, kill rushes and buy nitrogen to make the grass grow?

Thanks for all those people who read my blog yesterday about the Wild Atlantic Way.  I had over 200 hits and I thank you all for reading my blog.  I realize that people read my blog even if they don't comment.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Wild Atlantic Way (What Do You Think About Rural Public Transport?)

The Irish government is currently spending 10 Million Euro on sign posts for the new Wild Atlantic Way.  This stretches 2.500 kilometres from Donegal to West Cork.  The route takes in some staggeringly beautiful scenery.   It's aimed at car drivers, cyclists and hikers.  Yet I don't see any talk of money being spent on public transport.  The public transport infrastructure is there in terms of private hackney minibuses that are used every day to transport schoolchildren.  Why can't these same companies be used for public transport for tourists and locals to sight see and do their shopping or visit the nearest town for a night out?

I went to the Algarve and Warsaw last last year.  I was knocked out with the incredible public transport systems in Poland and Portugal.  Why do so many of our rural areas lack public transport?  Is it the car that's made the countryside so accessible and property so unaffordable for so many?

We live on an incredible beautiful island called Ireland.  Rural Ireland is slowly dying with it's none existant public transport, rural isolation, smoking ban, closing pubs, post offices, emigration caused by unemployment, and police stations.  Mainly because the recent governments seem to spend all the house hold (property tax) charge on the the big cities and so little on the rural areas.

So blog readers (especially those who are rural dwellers) will you please tell me about the rural public transport in your area.   Do you use it, is it expensive and would you get rid of your car if you had public transport?  

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...