Friday 29 August 2014

Time For Some Peace Songs.

We have some wonderful sunsets looking over Bantry Bay.   I recently saw Suzanne Vega in Warsaw.  I had spent the day visiting second world monuments, the Soviet (Red Army) and the Jewish cemetery and the Warsaw Uprising museum.  Suzanne Vega sang a song that got the goose pimples, hairs on the spine moving.  She wrote the song Horizon: "There is a road." about her old friend and writer Vaclav Havel.  When the former Czech leader was in prison he would look through the bars in the window and look for the horizon.  He believed when he saw the horizon, he saw God.

The world seems in a such an awful state at the moment with all the conflicts and hatred.  I could never be an atheist. I haven't got that much faith to believe that God doesn't exist.  Hope this song inspires and moves you.

What's your favourite peace songs?  I have quite a few.  Every so often I will play a few for you.

Monday 25 August 2014

Changing Scenery On The Smallholding.

 The Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta) butterfly's were busy working on Saturday in our smallholding garden.  They love nettles and Buddliea davidii (was it named after me: Dave?) and they go to Portugal and Africa for the Winter.  I make cuttings of the buddliea's every Autumn. It's really technical.  Cut yourself a cutting about six inches (or longer) and stick it in the soil in ye oldie veg plot.  Come next Spring it will start sprouting leaves and (hopefully) it will have roots.  Fuchsia and all manner of hedging plants can be replaced in the same way.  Your only worry is if old Jack Frost pays a visit and paints them one night.  They are pretty hardy though and if you leave them long enough they will recover.  The good thing about making Autumn cuttings is that the soil is still warm and you get plenty of rain so you don't need to worry about watering them.
 Somewhere in that photograph is a honey beer getting rather inebriated on the old Fuchsia pollen.  'Fuchsia beer' that's got a ring to it, hasn't it?  Perhaps I should start my own micro real ale brewery here in Ireland?

 My Rosa Rugosa shrub is making some lovely rose hips at the moment.  The Rosa Rugosa makes a great seaside hedge and is very salt tolerant.
Beautiful Bantry Bay.  Immortalized in song and not a boat to be seen.  That's the Beara Peninsula in the distance.  I wish there was a boat to take us around to Kenmare.  People always comment on the amazing view when they visit our farm.  I give them my grandmother's quote:

"The view won't feed you."

It is rather beautiful though.  God must have sent his artists and sculptors when he made Bantry Bay.

Saturday 23 August 2014

What's Wrong With Eating Some Red Meat?

I watched the end of  a tv programme on Monday night about how safe it is eating meat.  I tuned in at half time of the Burnley - Chelsea match.  Oh why didn't the 'Special One' and Mr Fabregas choose the Theatre of Dreams instead of Stamford Bridge?  I was mightily impressed with the slickness and wonderful attacking football played by Chelsea.

Any road.  According to the BBC programme.  Every time you eat a bacon sandwich you are taking an hour off your life.

 I remember what John Seymour once wrote in his classic: "Self Sufficiency" book:

...Animal fat only gives seizures and coronary thrombosis to people who do not get enough exercise.  When this nation was fed on bacon and fat beef and mutton the disease was unknown.  Now, as meat gets leaner and leaner until it nearly fades away, thrombosis is increasing faster than any other disease except lung cancer.  It is idleness that causes diseases of the heart.  True manual workers never get coronary thrombosis, and nor do self-supporters...

Don't shoot the messenger.  That's what the great self sufficiency guru John Seymour said.  I

Think he does have a point though.  Most of us live in a post industrial society these days.  How many people do you know who actually make a physical product?  Britain and Ireland seems to no longer manufacture the majority of its products and imports goods from China and overseas.  The emphasis on education is to become an academic and go for a white collar job.  What ever happened to technical schools and apprenticeships and the ancient Guilds system that worked in every town and village in England in feudal times?

I am a smallholder living in West Cork with 11 cattle and cattle seem prices are very depressing at the moment.  Cattle have been back 100 Euros an head compared to this time last year.  The horse meat crisis, the world recession (will it ever end, 10 years now!) and this paranoia about red meat doesn't help.  Some of us farm for sentiment (ancestors farm) and only make ("that's a good one") a couple of hundred Euro per animal if we are lucky.

Please can I ask you readers a very interesting question?  How many times a week do you eat red meat?  I eat it every day.  There's nothing wrong with roast beef and home grown vegetables or a good T bone steak is there?


Tuesday 19 August 2014

A Hay Manger/ Wheel Barrow For Nothing.

Thought I would show you latest pictures of our new calves we bought a couple of months a go.  I was going to buy them a hay manger to hang on to their field gate.  Instead of spending any money.  I just filled my old wheelbarrow (It's writing a memoir: "the life and times of a poor  smallholding wheelbarrow") which is full of holes, full of hay.  And pushed it into the field and the calves just helped themselves.  Who was it who said: "Necessity is the mother of invention?"  I bet they had a wheelbarrow when they thought that up?

Saturday 16 August 2014

Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila Elpenor) Caterpillar Sunbathing On Our Smallholding Patio.

Spotted this creature sunbathing on our patio the other day.  It looks like a cross between one of those old moquette couches ('settee') from the 1970's and a cartoon character.  It's also got a sting in it's tail or should I say spike.  Apparently they like Fuchsia and Willow Herb.  Ireland is full of Fuchsia hedges.  Some say they arrived in the last Ice Age.  Others say the Spanish Consquistadors brought them back along with the potatoes and the Montbretia  (South Africa) that seems to plague seaside gardens here in West Cork.  We don't see much Rosebay Willow Herb here in Ireland.  I remember it everywhere when I lived in England.

Any road.  I didn't kill the caterpillar and it's free to help me trim the hedges.  I have cut my Griselinia hedge 5 times this year. You know the definition of an hedge:

"Man's statement of arrogance against nature."

I once knew somebody who use to leave food out every night for a brown rat.  He reckoned it was the same rat that visited every night.   I often get A Robin perching on my garden spade or fork looking for worms, watching me like some old farmer who is thinking:

"He's not doing that right."

I'd like to think it's my late dad or one of my ancestor's watching over us.  I hope there is a God with all this worry of war in Iraq, Gaza and the Ukraine.

Do you have any unusual creatures visiting your smallholding or vegetable plot?

It's been a great Summer here in Ireland.


Wednesday 13 August 2014

Large Parsnips Grown In A Grass Box From An Old Ride On Lawnmower.

According to that English band Bucks Fizz: "My Camera Never Lies."
The Parsnip is approximately twelve inches long - honest!.  It's not had any special ingredients except half a grass box full of garden soil (all stones) removed and filled up with a cheap bag of compost from Aldi.  Then we placed about 6 Parsnips seeds in the compost and waited about 28 days for them to germinate.  Then I turned on the polytunnel irrigation hose twice a day and gave the Parsnips a handful of chicken pellets and a few months later I have show Parsnips.

It's so easy to grow large Carrots and Parsnips if you give them plenty of room to stick their tap root down.  If they find manure or stones the roots fork.  I am going to sow some Spring Cabbage seed and sow some Autumn King Carrots this week.  Think I will make some ridges to get a good depth of soil.

What veg plants are you planting and sowing at the moment? picked when they are small.  I often see people in the supermarkets picking a large Swede and I think:

"That will be so tough and bland."

You can't beat homegrown vegetables , fruit and meat.  

Sunday 10 August 2014

Tagine Dream In The Kitchen?

I bought a Tagine last week and I brought it home and was asked:

"What's that for?"

Here's a Beef and Veg Tagine recipe for you:

Beef  (our own heifer) cooked in our Tagine.  They originate in North Africa and the meal could be said to be stew like and you could even use an electric slow cooker.  But I don't think it would taste the same.

Place a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of the Tagine.  Add a sliced (homegrown) onion.  Place the meat on top of the onion. Then add four (homegrown) chopped and peeled potatoes, a couple of tomatoes and what ever vegetables you have at hand.  Then we sprinkled Paprika on the top of the ingredients.  We place 150 millilitres of water over it.  Put the lid on leave it to simmer on a very low heat (we cooked on the ring of our Stanley range with wood for fuel) and cook it for three hours or until meat is nice and tender.  We really enjoyed the meal and couldn't believe how little energy it took to cook the meal.

Thursday 7 August 2014

A Visit To Vienna Zoo.

Photograph  (sorry the date says 2008 - silly camera!) of the new Giant Panda which was born recently in Vienna Zoo.  It was heart wrenching to hear little children point out the Panda to their parents and say:

"Aw Mama, Papa."

I think they thought the Panda was a teddy bear.  It wouldn't pose for a photograph though for me.  It was more interested in tearing and eating Bamboo shoots.  Vienna zoo is the only zoo in Europe that successfully managed to breed Panda's in a zoo.  Some people think zoo's are cruel.   They are very successful in breeding and preserving endangered species that probably wouldn't survive in their natural habitat due to predators like humans.

Giraffes eating their breakfast.  I had a a Frankfurter and a small can of beer at 10.15 on a Saturday morning.  You wouldn't get a drink of beer in Britain or Ireland at that time of day or at a zoo.  Even our supermarket here in West Cork doesn't sell alcohol until 10.30 weekdays and 12.30 on a Sunday.  

Hippos eating a trailer load of grass.  There was no "mud glorious mud" to wallow in.  But they did have their very own swimming pool.  Notice their glistening backs from their recent morning dip.

Elephants.  Why do Elephants not ride bicycles?  Their thumbs are too big to ring the bell.  

Exotic birds.   Are they Pink Flamingoes?

Vienna zoo is the oldest zoo in the world.  It gets over 1 million visitors a year.  My son emailed me that very morning to ask him to bring him something back from Vienna zoo.  So I bought him a furry Meercat from the zoo shop.  I asked the shop keeper for a bag and he said:

"Ja.  Of course."

When I got back to Shannon airport (Ireland) on the Sunday.  I was met by my wife and two sons.  I told number 2 son to:

"Look in my bag there's some inside there for you.  I had an awful time getting it through quarantine."

He rather nervously searched my bag and found his Meerkat and smiling he said.

"I don't know with you.  It could have been real."

His face was a picture.  

Tuesday 5 August 2014

No Need For A Balaclava When I Went To Visit Bratislava. Trip To Poland, Czech Republic, Vienna and Slovakia Part 4.

Hey I'm a poet and I know it!  We paid fourteen Euro each return for the one hour train ticket from Vienna to Bratislava.  To those of you who didn't do metal work at school.  It's in Slovakia.  The ticket is valid for 4 days and you can use it on any of the public transport.

The one hour train journey passed over the Danube and through many fertile fields full of abundant crops for humans and livestock.  I noticed quite a few windmills, artesian well type pumping stations for irrigation and fields (about an acre) of solar panels.  I was quite quite excited looking forward to visiting a former communist country.  Here's some photographs for you:

I captured this picture of a Storks nest.  It looks like it's a bar.  perhaps they should call it 'The Storks' rest'?

A rather blurred Welcome To Slovakia sign at the railway station.  Nobody asked for our passports.

A wonderful statue display in a park in Bratislava.

The same park.  I liked the way the gardeners wore similar uniforms complete with hats.  

The Presidents Palace.    Notice the guards in traditional costumes?

The unbelievably cheap prices in Bratislava.  We went in this bar and ordered two drinks.  One was Dunkles and the other a lager that reminded me of  snake bite.  The drinks cost a Euro each and my friend bought a cake for fifty cents. 

Noticed a few of these posters.  The striptease starts at 8 until 5 in the morning.  Noticed a few English stag parties and groups of lads drinking outside the bars.  Wouldn't like to have been about when they were all drunk.  Don't think the Slovakian police would have any messing though.

Noticed this gardener cutting the verges with a scythe and gathering it up by hand.  I think health and safety wouldn't have liked his foot wear?  

One of the cafe bars advertising it's food.
I thought Bratislava was a very historical place with lots of Hungarian inspired architecture.  The beer prices are incredibly cheap and the natives welcome you.  It was great to go in a Slovakian bar and watch the natives playing chess, having a drink and not really taking any notice that you are there.  I think I like Bratislava!  A Euro for a pint and some of it is 14 percent!  How do they make any money?  They seem happy though.  Next time it's Vienna Zoo pictures.    

Sunday 3 August 2014

Smallholders Trip To See Suzanne Vega And Vienna. Part 3.

We went to see Suzanne Vega on the Wednesday night (23 July) at the Stodola in Warsaw.  I preferred the Progresja the night before when we watched Kansas.  The Stodola had big bouncers (for a folk concert - please!), it was an all seater affair.  I think the venue makes the concert don't you?  When we watched the Kansas gig the night before.  There were no seats and people took photographs and freely walked about to the bar, toilet and different parts of the venue.

The Suzanne Vega Stodola concert  was over by nine O'clock and photographs were strictly forbidden. Not forgetting the pedantic punters who insisted we were sitting in their seat (was she called Goldilocks?) and we moved along the bus/seats and we had an even better viewer of Suzanne Vega in her Marlene Dietrich style collapsible top hat.    It reminded my friend of one of his friends visiting a museum and taking some photographs and a chorus of German tourists told him:

"It is forbidden."

Any way Suzanne Vega I enjoyed your concert.  Especially the old classics and the Horizon ("There is a road")off your new album and your drummer reminded me of a classic progressive rock musician.  It was a bit different to last time I saw you when I was half drunk at Glastonbury in 1989.  Sorry there is no photograph of Suzanne Vega:

"It is forbidden."

Next morning we got up at 3.30 AM and we had a breakfast of bananas and peaches and turned off the gas and water and set off on our epic adventure to Austria via Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria.  We caught the 6.15 train to Vienna.  This was a very long journey (nine hours) and we traveled through many miles of flat countryside.  I was surprised that we only saw 3 cows grazing in the whole of Poland.  We were accompanied in our compartment for the majority of the journey by an elderly Polish man who spoke to us in German and Polish. My friend told him I was an expert in malt whiskies and I attempted to tell him that Dalwhinnie is of course the best and his favourite Jamesons wasn't bad.

We crossed over the border into the Czech Republic and two soldiers asked for our passports.  They smiled when they saw we had English passports and wished us a good journey.

We finally got into Vienna something passed two and negotiated the underground to our accommodation.  I was knackered, blistered feet from wearing synthetic leather boots and just wanted a pint or two of Dunkel.  My friend had other ideas.  We dropped off our rucksacks and travelling bag and went on a sightseeing tour of Vienna.  Here's some photographs:

Picture of the famous Danube river.

Photo of a Dunkle beer tap.  It was like drinking a really good pint of home brew.  Not that I can make it like that.  

The famous Wiener Riesensad ferris wheel.  Constructed in 1897.  It's 200 feet high and it's at the entrance of the Prater amusement park.  The wheel is featured in the films. 'The Third Man', Scorpio and the James Bond film The Living daylights'.  

How the othe half live.  Private berths on the river Danube.    Once again readers I am sorry for my silly digital camera displaying the wrong dates.  I can assure you all photographs were taken this year.

Next time I will show my photographs of my day trip to Bratislava.  

Carboot Sale Plants Selling.

We drove over to nearby West Cork  town to a carboot sale on Sunday morning. The online info said we could set up from nine.  I am one of th...