Thursday 31 July 2014

Trip To Warsaw, Vienna, Bratislava (Kansas Concert And Rural Dwellings On the Outskirts Of Warsaw) Part 2.

Last Tuesday my old friend and me caught the tram and bus out to the outskirts of Warsaw to look at some of the rural Polish country dwellings.  On the way I was twice asked for directions by Polish people.  I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head and quickly passed them on to my friend.  He spoke to them in Polish and explained that I only spoke English and we all smiled.

I took this photograph of an old lady gathering pine cones.  I think these must have been for the fire.  I bet they give off a wonderful aroma when they are burning.


The building below had been re-constructed with modern materials in the traditional style instead of using wood.  I think a lot of these houses are 'holiday' homes and they had high fences and alarm systems.

On the Tuesday night we went to the Klub Progresja  (great venue) to see the American progressive rock band : Kansas.  I have wanted to see them for over thirty years and they didn't disappoint me.  In fact I had a rather surreal experience watching them.  Tears ran down my face.  Perhaps it was the seven percent Czech beer, the 30 degrees temperature outside or my subconscious.  But there I was watching one of my favourite bands with tears running down my cheeks.

My friend took these fantastic  pictures and this one captures the lead singer and amazing keyboard player Steve Walsh in all his glory.  Steve is leaving the band in August.  But like the true pro that he is.  He still fulfills his contract and puts one hundred and ten percent in every performance.  You will be truly missed Steve.  Not bad for a band that's celebrating it's fortieth anniversary.  I feel honoured and privileged to say I have seen Kansas.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Trip To Warsaw, Vienna And Bratislava And A couple of Concerts. Part One.

Hi everybody.  I got back late Sunday from a very hectic week in Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Bratislava in Slovakia.   Will try to catch up with my other blogs that I follow and some I read but don't follow all the time.  I flew on my own on the 20th (Sunday) from Shannon to Warsaw Modlin and was met by an old friend  from childhood who now lives and works in Warsaw.

On the Monday we rode the underground and tram to Wola to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum.  Sorry about the photographs displaying the 2008 date.  My digital camera is acting daft again.  Here's a few photographs from the museum.

Warsaw Uprising Museum tower.
Found this delightful picture of a cow taken during the Warsaw Uprising among the barricades.  She was kept in the war zone for her milk, cheese and no doubt because she is beautiful.

Poster of a Polish woman taking up arms.

There is even a statue in Warsaw for the child soldiers who took up arms against Germany.  I found the museum very emotive and very disturbing.  I read that between fifty and sixty thousand people were exterminated in the Wola district.  Hitler gave the order to take no prisoners and they didn't.  The museum showed displays of weapons,  grave constructions and a film of bombs destroying Warsaw.   There were also little light boxes that you looked down into and saw gruesome pictures of dead bodies.  I found it very disturbing but incredibly moving and much though had gone into the exhibitions.  My only suggestion would be to include English translations to the Polish writing on each display.  I noticed a few English and American tourists visiting the museum.

A photograph of the Warsaw Spire which is currently being constructed behind the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
 The Spire will be the second largest building in Warsaw when it's constructed this year.  One thing you notice about Warsaw is the many enormous office buildings.

A photograph from the Jewish cemetery.  A lot of the graves seem to be no longer tended by their loved one's.  So many who lost their lives them selves during the Second World War.  I found the experience very sad but incredibly peaceful.  

Warsaw is a very modern and vibrant European city with great parks, museums, public transport and leaves fine tributes to it's dead and to all those who fought to save their country from Fascism.  Yesterday I switched on the news to see conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza.  When will we learn to live a life in peace and harmony with each other? It's a crazy world.  But a very beautiful one.  

Friday 18 July 2014

New Glasses For The Small Farmer.

We went for a car ride over to Kerry the other day.  I got my eyes tested because I can no longer read the cricket scores and subtitles on the John Logie Baird machine -television!  I was told that my eyes are in perfect health but my eye sight is deteriorating because I am over 45.   Oh what delight I will have reading about those Saga holidays and getting my free Parker pen. I ended up purchasing two pairs of glasses.  One for reading and one for watching the old goggle box.  The helpful Spec Savers lady asked me which frames I wanted and I said:

"I am not bothered."

Which I wasn't.  She laughed and I asked her when they will be ready for me to pick them up.  She said next Tuesday.  I said.

"But I am on my holidays in Poland and Austria next week."


Says she.

Then I find myself telling her how I have waited thirty years or more, to see the American rock band Kansas and my friend lives in Warsaw and he married a Polish girl.  She told me that there's a Polish girl who works with her.  I told her that we have been to Poland before and it's very cheap and the public transport is superb.

So no posts for a week unless I can get on Tweb and Internet in Poland or Austria?  Wish me luck flying on my Jack Jones and I will post some photos when I get back.  I am especially interested in the public transport in Vienna.  They don't know what a bus is here in rural West Cork.  See you later.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

The Police Car In The Bay.

I was stood in the back garden looking at the young calve-ens (West Cork term for calves) last night.  I could see the light flashing in the bay.  It looks like the flashing light is coming from beneath Bantry Bay.  In fact it's a guiding light for the tankers and boats to navigate the bay.  It must be very rocky there because Bantry bay is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world.  I believe that it's sixty fathoms on one side.  So when we look at the mountains we are only really looking at half of them.

Back to the lights.  When my son was three or four he asked me:

"What were those lights in Bantry Bay?"

I told him that it must be a sunken police car and it's lights are still flashing.

A couple of years later.  Number one  son (too many Charlie Chan films) said:

"There can't be a police car under Bantry Bay dad.  The batteries would have run out by now."

I smiled and said:

"Perhaps they are Duracell one's!"

Sunday 13 July 2014

A Bucket Of Fresh Peas And A Great Book About The Potato.

We picked a full bucket of peas yesterday from the vegetable plot.  A good half hour was spent shelling peas and blanching three and a quarter pounds and throwing them in the freezer.  I don't mind freezing them if they are frozen when they are fresh.

Did you know that our humble pea originates in the Middle East?  Yet again we discover that the ingredients of our favourite meals originate from over seas.  Remember years a go if you said to elderly people you had ate a kebab or a pizza?  They would probably say:

"I don't know how you can eat all that foreign muck."

Little did they know that the vegetables on their Sunday dinner plate originated in South America (potatoes) and the Middle (Peas..) East.

Time for a good book recommendation : the Potato: Larry Zuckerman.  I first came across this potato bible of a book a few years a go in a second hand furniture shop in West Cork.  I saw it on a shelf of a Welsh dresser looking at me.  The title just grabbed my eyes.  It was like it was saying:


Any road.  Larry Zuckerman says:

"the potato has revolutionized Western civilization as much as the car and the railway - it has been a delicacy, a fast food, and a hedge against famine."

The author takes the reader from the Andes to Dickens London and its' fried fish shops, the Industrial Revolution and even the humble chip shops's beginning in Oldham. The chip shops sprang up to feed the shift workers from the cotton mills.   Steam vessels brought back the cod from Iceland and were distributed in land via the railways and canals.  I never realised how important the potato was in increasing the population and becoming such an important part of our staple diet.

I have read the book from cover to cover several times and I am always dipping in it for snippets of potato information.  If you grow potatoes or just eat them.  I think you will enjoy : the Potato.  

Thursday 10 July 2014

Worming Time On The Smallholding And A Ratter With Hay Fever.

We have been having trouble with worms (not the the humans) on the smallholding the last couple of weeks.  First of all the Fido the Jack Russell (West Cork ratting contractor) started coughing like a duck.  So we took her to the v.e.t (Remember the Billy Connolly song?) and he examined Fido and told us that we took Fido to see him the very same time last year.  He diagnosed that Fido had (wait for it) HAY FEVER!  Well knock me down with a feather..
Yes dear readers.  Dogs can get hay fever.  The vet blamed it on all the hay and silage making going on around us.

Then the vet also asked us if we had foxes on our little farm.  We told him that we do get them on the land and we are always finding their presents (number two's) on the pasture.  I think foxes are incredibly beautiful and I love watching the young cubs playing every spring on ours and our neighbours land.  I once saw a fox carrying a big RAT (with a long tail) in its mouth.  So they are not completely evil and if they kill rats I like them. Not sure about them eating earth worms though.

Any road.  The veterinary (I sound like I am in a James Herriot book) told us that foxes carry lung worm and other internal parasites and they contaminate the pasture and the cattle pick up the worms.  So he gave Fido some worming medicine just in case she had picked up any on her travels around the smallholding.

Yesterday I noticed that some of our new calves had the 'scutters'.  That's an Irish time for diarrhea or a 'flock of starlings' if you have ever had a pint of ten of dodgy beer and (too much information) gone to bathroom ("jacks") first thing in the morning.  Myself and the one who must be obeyed decided that the calves had picked up worms either from their mothers or from the pasture they have been grazing on.

Oh what fun we had catching six young heifer calves in the back of the cow box in the field and opening their mouths and squirting the wormer down their throats.  One calf decided to bite my fingers.  I thought she was going to eat them.  Somehow I managed to retrieve my fingers and my rubber glove (not Marigolds) from the annals of the bovines mouth.  You could just imagine the newspaper headlines couldn't you:

"Calf  Bites Off Smallholders Fingers."

Any road again.  I lived to tell the tale and pleased to say it looks like the wormer worked.  How do you worm your animals?  Does any one ever used garlic or some other herbal remedy?

Monday 7 July 2014

Photos Of A Sunflower and Making New Plants.

 If Van Gogh had lived in Ireland and owned a digital camera.  He would probably of taken the following picture.  I told you before when I went in Argos in Killarney and purchased a digital camera.  The helpful lady serving us asked us if we wanted batteries.  I heard my self ask her:

"What film does the camera take?"

Never mind.

Any road.  The missus took this picture of a sunflower growing between the new potatoes.

 I have started dividing and making more plants that we lost during 2010.  It was the worst Winter to hit Ireland in fifty years.  A lot of my perennials like Osteospermums ("Cape Daisies") and Hebes shrubs died because of the frost.  Like so many of our fruit and vegetables.  These plants are not native to Europe and Ireland.  We live on the Gulf Stream and normally we get very mild winters.  Not that I have ever got use to 'Gale' season from November to March.  I brought most of my plants with me in dustbin when we 'emigrated' from Blighty in 2001.  We even contacted the (wait for it) Plant Passport Office (I'd like a licence for my cat please") and they sent us a list of plants that we could and could not take to Ireland.

Regular readers will know the story of us pulling up at Fishguard Docks at three in the morning and the Welsh police ("Heddlu") asking us if we had any "lawn mowers" in the back of the Luton van.  It was the 'Foot and Mouth' crisis and the powers that be believed that 'powdered babies milk' and lawnmowers could spread it.  Never mind the international terrorists and drug smugglers.  Somebody could be smuggling a lawnmower.   You couldn't make it up!

There's an old gardening joke/conundrum:  "The simplest method of multiplication is division."


But yes it's true.  I  made twenty new plants the other morning.  Most people divide their perennials during Spring and Autumn.  They are getting watered twice a day and they don't seem to be taking any harm.  I will probably sell some in a month at a car boot sale to make some money.

I won't be selling my Osteospermum plants though.  I rescued two bedraggled plants from the garden and now I have ten.  The tunnel temperatures seem to be dropping at the moment.  It's quite common for the tunnel temperature to reach forty degrees.  It won't be long before we start taking lots of cuttings and 'rooting' them with hormone rooting powder.  Griselinia and Fuchsia hedge clippings is dead easy and they will get planted out in the vegetable plot to overwinter.  Then I will plant another hedge and probably sell a few hundred of them 'bare rooted' on the old carboot sale in Spring.  I suppose this is how plant nurseries start?  I'll probably put the plants outside in the veg plot now that it's showery weather.     Do you make regular division of your plants?

Saturday 5 July 2014

Latest Pictures Of The New Girls Settling In.

 The new calf's are looking healthy and have soon settled in on the smallholding.   The black lass on the right with the white socks is called 'Wellingtons'.
We put the cattle box in the field for a makeshift field shelter.  The calf's pick at their straw bed and me thinks they need to learn how to go to the bathroom in the field.  Instead of leaving me a saturated straw covered cattle box floor in the morning.
We leave the cow box gates and ramp open so they can come in if they want.
The milk and calf pencils, straw, grass, sunshine and hay seems to be bringing them on really well.  I will post more photographs of them in a few weeks.  

Wednesday 2 July 2014

"Colcannon For Tea. Save All Your Cabbages And Potatoes For Me". Apologies To Brotherhood Of Man.

We made Colcannon and roast ham for Tea ("Dinner, Supper"....) last night.  Cal ceannan is Irish for white cabbage", apparently.  The potatoes are in abundance in the vegetable plot at the moment.  We are eating them every night and we try to find new and more interesting recipes for them.

 Here's a bowl (old Kenwood Chef mixer bowl bought for a pound from a car boot sale in England) of newly dug and washed 'new' potatoes.
Spring onions grown in the poly tunnel from seed.
A cabbage grown from seed in the poly-tunnel and raised in the veg plot.  
  Get  eight ounces of diced potatoes and a diced leek.  We used spring onions.  Pour five table spoons of milk into the saucepan  Throw them in a saucepan and bring them to the boil.  Remove from full heat and let them simmer until they are soft enough for you to stick a fork in them.  Shred and remove the spine of 8 ounces of cabbage.  Or if you are like me. Two journeys backwards and forwards to the veg plot because I didn't pick enough cabbage leaves.    Cook the cabbage for 7 minutes in sea salt and water and strain it.

Mash the potatoes, leek (spring onions) and stir in the cabbage together and add a pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg.   Then serve immediately.   Here it is served with roast ham and a port and orange sauce.

The meal went down very well  (clean plates)and it was really different to just bacon, cabbage and potatoes.  My grandparents use to eat this meal every day (or so it seemed) when we use to visit them on holiday in Ireland during the nineteen sixties and early seventies.  Back in the days when we piked hay by hand onto the hay cart and my grandmother  and my mother would bring us currant cakes (no sheep or rabbits provided the ingredients , think about it!) and we would drink cold tea (incredibly refreshing) from a bottle kept in a sock.  

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 ...