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.  

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...