Tuesday 31 March 2015

Farmer's Crystal Ball.

From 12 tonight,  milk quotas will be no more.  Dairy farmers will be able to produce as much as they want.  Agricultural grazing and silage land will be at a premium.  But what will happen to the little farmers and cereal and crop growers?

What if China says they don't want imported baby milk any more?  Will all our vegetables be imported like our apples and most of our chip potatoes?

Mark Twain famously said:

"Buy land they are not making it anymore."

Will all the small farms disappear and the countryside will be just factory farms?  I suppose small farmers will get good money if they rent out their grazing.  But what if you don't want to rent the farm that your ancestors have farmed for the last 200 years at least that we know, like us?

Perhaps dairy farming will be boom and bust or perhaps farmers won't get greedy?  I got these fascinating statistics from a brilliant article in the Irish Independent last Saturday:

1.1 million.  That's how many dairy cows there are in Ireland now.  They are predicting 1.4m in 5 years.  That's a cow for every person in Dublin.

It costs 4000 Euros to keep a cow.

NINETY percent of Irish milk is exported.

30 Cents is the average price per litre paid to farmers for a litre of milk.

The list goes on.  Wish I had a crystal ball to predict what the farming landscape will be like in 5 years.  What's your prediction?

A song from yesteryear.  Styx are one of those classic rock bands I always wanted to see.  I have seen some greats like Rush, ELP, Jethro Tull, Kiss, Marillion, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Magnum, All About Eve..?  I finally saw Kansas last year.  Here's: Crystal Ball.  I think the chorus lyrics are very appropriate for today.

Sunday 29 March 2015

Making Kindling On Our Irish Smallholding.

 My brother gave me a trailer load of an Escallonia hedge yesterday.  He had dug it out for somebody and I decided it would make kindling.
Yes folks.  If anybodies got a Sisyphus complex it's me.  You know that Greek bloke who was damned to carry huge stones up hills for eternity.  What could be better than getting your trusty loppers and making foot long pieces of kindling for the range?  I just do 4 wheelbarrows a day and then go off and do something else.  I do the same when I am spreading muck.

It's a bit like Karl Marx said: "to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle, in the evening, criticize after dinner."  Not forgetting to stagger home drunk along the Tottenham Court Road.

Call me a tight wad.  But there's something satisfying about making your own kindling.  Do you make kindling and do you do a bit and then do something else?  If I had my own smallholding and allotments party.  Everybody would work 3 days a week and the rest of the time could be spent on the allotment and smallholding.  Don't see why everybody can't have a job.  Do you?

Friday 27 March 2015

A Mellow Yellow Walk In The Irish Countryside.

"They called it mellow yellow".

The old mental jukebox started to play when we went on our 4 mile walk for the second time this week.  I happened to see a discarded yellow Coca Cola can lying in some grass.  I don't think there was a yellow Coca Cola, was there?  It must have changed colour almost camouflage.

A mellow yellow Coca cola tin.

I really hate litter.  One thing I notice on my walks there are no litter bins.  Course people shouldn't drop litter.  But Surely ("don't call me Shirley") the councils should provide bins?  I would gladly go around picking up the litter and emptying the bins.  There are so few rural jobs and I think this would be a good reason to create a few.  Can you think of any ways of creating some rural jobs?

Any road.  The song started playing in my head.  Here it is for your enjoyment.  I once saw Donovan at Glastonbury festival in 1989.  Then he walked passed me a few years a go in Bantry town centre.  I felt like letting on but of course I was too shy.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Smallholding Kitchen Wheelbarrow Log Delivery.

I attempted to get into our dwelling with the wheelbarrow the other week via the front door and the freezers in the hall prevented me getting passed them.  Today I decided to come in via the back door, through the'utility'/ 'boot' room and managed to get to the range and the log box.

Do you like our kitchen/diner?  We eat and drink and cook and read and watch the television in here.  We have a dining table in the front room.  But it's not often we off it.  We eat off two coffee tables.  It's not very formal but it's comfortable and relaxing.

We often comment that some people would drive around the supermarket if they could.  Today I drove around the kitchen with my wheelbarrow!

One of my comedy/singer heroes is Mike Harding.  He once said that God invented belly buttons so we can peel potatoes when we are in bed!  Think he could have had a point there.

Would you be allowed to take your wheelbarrow into your kitchen?  

Saturday 21 March 2015

Time To Move On.

We have been fencing, weeding, dividing perennials, weeding, sowing a lawn in the 5 tree orchard, mowing the lawns and more weeding again.  The place looks it belongs to some one again.  The next job is painting the rest of the outside of the farmhouse.  That's my great weekend!

Not forgetting the small matter of the Old Trafford heroes going along the East Lancs road to play Liverpool.  I love this derby more than other derby.  It's so intense and it's a clash between the biggest giants in English football.  Some say the rivalry goes back to the building of the Manchester Ship canal and diverting the cotton trade to Manchester.  I thinks it's so important because Liverpool and United have won it all.  They are the most decorated clubs in English football history.  Liverpool and United fans want the bragging rights!

I digress.  This dry weather really lifts the depression and I think we are finally getting round to getting the farmhouse occupied again.  My uncle died in 2008 and we have hated looking at the empty house that my father was born in.  We built our bungalow in 2003 and it's only twenty feet from the old farm house.  We are pleased we own the 2 houses and one day both lads will have their own house, but not yet.

The farm house gets rarely used apart from occasional relatives or friends visits.  I hate seeing that empty building.  I have some wonderful memories of my dad's parents and his brother living there.  Now it's time to move on and make our own new memories.  Life is for the living isn't it?

We have thought of doing holiday lets for walkers on the Sheeps Head Way or even long let.  It's just that it's next to the farmyard and I don't think it would be really suitable for families with kids.  We would have to fence it off seperately.  Plus we don't want to be tiptoeing around in the haggard when we are seeing to the farm animals or fixing things.  I think the house would be good for anybody who wants to live in the country but wants to sample country living before they commit themselves to buying a property in the countryside next to the sea.

What would you do if you had an empty property in the countryside?  Would you rent it out long term or just for holiday lets?  We could even rent the tenant a field or two and they would have their own smallholding?  All thoughts gladly appreciated! 

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Potato Planting on A Bank Holiday Tuesday.

Happy St Patrick's Day.  It's a bank holiday here in Ireland.  The weather is fantastic at the moment and we have got a lot done around the farm and on the vegetable garden.

The orchard.  Planted 2 more apple trees yesterday.  Then I cleared the weeds with a bucket and my trusty Azada digging hoe.  Today I forked it over with the four prong pike and the old long handled Celtic shovel.  I always have one or 2 tools to work with me.  I fluctuate from the pike too the shovel and any roots like nettles and couch grass get picked up and dumped over the hedgerow.  I also split some Phormiums (Newzealand Flax) and made new plants.  They are great for wrapping the leaves around the petrol strimmer.  I am going to rake the soil out and sow some grass seed in a week or so.  I will wait for Lidl or Aldi to get some in.  Last yearI made my Lidl lawn for 12 Euros.
The rest of the potatoes got planted today.  Well it is St Parick's day and it's traditional to plant them on this day in Ireland.
 Tne 'new' orchard from a different angle.

 Seed potatoes waiting to be covered up.  Being the tight wad that I am.  I cut the seed potatoes in half and planted them.  It saved me having to buy another bag.  Hopefully they won't rot.  It will be intersting to see how fruitful the cut seed potatoes will be against the not cut seed potatoes?  I once knew somebody who grew his potatoes from potato skins - honest!
One of the blogs I follow: An English Homestead:  Kev shows us his latest veg plot gate today.  Here's one number one son made for me.  He bought the galvanized tube from the local farm centre and welded it together, flattening the weldd joints withe sledge hammer.  It should last a long time!  

Saturday 14 March 2015

A Walk Over The Hill.

Woke up to frosty fields this morning.  It soon disappeared (grass frost) and we put the 6 heifers out to grazing.  Cleaned the slats (more dung for the compost heap) and the Shetland pony left us a couple of wheel barrows of his presents too.  Not forgetting spoilt hay that he's pulled through the head feeder to lie on.  He went out to grass too.

Watered the poly-tunnel and then I set off on another walk.  It's been very wet the last couple of days.   I decided to go over to the graveyard at Durrus.  My dad would have been eighty today and we would have gave him a bottle of his Famous Grouse whisky and shared a glass or two with him.  It's also Mother's Day on Sunday.  So we decided to kill 2 bird with the one stone  (so to speak) and take some flowers to the grave.  

My other half drove to town to get some flowers and do her shopping and I walked the 3 or four miles over the hill.  I never saw a soul on the walk. If ever you want some fresh air and to get away from it all: walk some of the Sheeps Head Way and the peninsula. 

I digress.  There was just some sheep with sucking lambs, my heifers in the field down below me and a oil tanker pumping oil to Whiddy Island.  The only noise I heard was the gurgling streams and the squelch of my footsteps, almost like a percussion accompanying me on the saturated grass and moss covered stone path down to the tarmac road.  

I thought of my granddad and his son's digging the turf (Peat) all those years ago in the Forties.  Filling the Donkey's baskets and walking them back to the farm.  Here on the same path that I am walking on today.  The same path that me and my dad walked with me over to Durrus and we visited his parents grave and then we sat outside the pub and he bought me half a Guinness and he a pint.  There we where.  Me and me dad drinking Porter outside the pub on the main road and I was only 15!

I stood at the 2 family graves and took off my cap and had a few silent words.  Then the other half arrived with a bowl of Spring bulbs and I placed them on the grave and felt my eyes welling up like that gurgling stream up on the hill.  I said to my wife:

"It always gets to me when you're with me.  I am OK on my own."  

"You wouldn't be human if it didn't get to you Dave."

Thank God we live in such a beautiful place and thank God for our parents!  Have a great weekend.  Take your parents somewhere nice.  You can't replace them when they are gone!   Go for a walk even?  

Monday 9 March 2015

A Day Of The Triffids On Another Walk Along The Sheepshead Peninsula.

We went for another walk today.  Four miles this morning and three miles this afternoon.  The countryside seems so quiet at the moment.  An occasional car or van (once every five minutes or so) passed us whilst we walked along the tarmac main road  road towards Gearhies.  I saw one man with his dog walking on the pebbly beach at the bottom of Fahane.  But we didn't see any body else.  Most people seem to have to leave the peninsula to find any meaningful employment.  Don't think many folk make a living in the countryside these days.

We noticed some giant rhubarb (Gunnera Tinctoria) growing at the side of the road near one of the beaches.  Apparently it's said to be an invasive species and was probably washed up during a storm.  The seeds are said to have come from Brazil and Chile.

Yesterday I blogged about potato planting.  The potato is another South American native along with the Fuchsia hedgerows that are so familiar on the West coast of Ireland.  I bet a lot of gardeners would like the Gunnera for ornamental features in their gardens.

New shoots peeping through after the long Autumn and Winter.  It dies right back and then grows enormous rhubarb like foliage in the summer.  I think it's incredible how nature can establish itself thousands of miles away from it's home.

Do you have any none native species growing near you?  Most vegetables originate from all over the world.  I suppose most of the plants and tree are from foreign shores?

Sunday 8 March 2015

"The Grand Old Duke Of York". Planting Early Potatoes. Blog number 400.

It's a glorious sunny Sunday morning here in West Cork.  I noticed the buttercups and the Docks are starting to push through the soil I prepared for the spudatoes last month.  So we decided to plant our Duke of York 'First Earlie's today.  We bought a bag of seed potatoes from Lidl a month ago and chitted them in the front room in an old baking tray.  We planted a few of them in the polytunnel a few weeks ago and I noticed today they are just pushing through the soil today.

 Weird shadows?  Me leaning on the rake and the photographer taking the picture.  Bantry Bay in the background.

 Me raking the soil back.  We are only having 3 or 4 twenty five foot long rows of early potatoes this year.  Last year we cut the plot down by thirty percent.  A medium sized plot that's easily to maintain is a lot easier than a large plot full of weeds.  They involve work though and we are in our fifties.  My mum and dad aren't around here any more to have a share of the harvest.  So we just grow enough for the four of us.

If you go in Aldi you can buy vegetables for 39 Cents.  I see they are 39 Pence on the English television adverts.  I always thoughts Sterling was stronger than the Euro?  At that price it hardly makes them worth growing des it?  But you can't beat your own  fresh grown vegetables.
 The first greeen potato stalk sprouting in the poly-tunnel.
Onion sets planted next to the path to make easier weeding.
 Onions and shallots growing in old plastic baths.  Notice my straw path next to the poly-tunnel?  It's got a cardboard mulch under it and it stops me from strimming the plastic on the poly-tunnel.
Have you planted your seed potatoes yet?  Traditionally the potatoes are planted in Ireland on St Patrick's day.  The cows also go out to summer pasture.  We just go off the weeds growing and the weather.  If we get any frosts we can soon cover the potatoes up with old straw or soil.

Friday 6 March 2015

Spicing Up The Pork On The Smallholding.

I should be given the Bunty prize (remember the comic?) for pork and bacon.  Let me explain dear readers.  We always buy a couple of weaners for our smallholding.  Pigs are only allowed to be kept in pairs or more.  They like company and they don't like to be on their own - who does?  

Any way I found after quite of few years of keeping pigs.  We don't need to have half bacon and half pork, if you follow my drift?  We could have had just "all" bacon or "all"pork for the same price.  We aren't really fond of a lot of pork or lamb or fish for that matter.  Bacon, ham and beef seem to be the main ingredients for most of our meals at Northsider Towers.  

You will remember that we had a Mexican themed Christmas dinner.  So I had a look on the old T'web and Tinternet and found a recipe for Mexican Pork Chops.  It's on: all recipes.com.  You mix tomatoes, corn, kidney beans, rice and chilies and put the chops on the top.  Then bake it in the old oven for 30 mins.  It was a nice meal with a bit of umpth!  I really enjoyed it!  

I have just been informed in my ear: 

"There is a bit more to it than that". 

 Actually.  You brown your chops (look it up on the web!), then mix all your other ingredients and bring to the boil!  Add more H20 ("Adam's Ale", "Corporation Pop") if need be.  Then arrange the chops on the top and bake in the oven until the pork and rice is cooked.  Then serve and pour yourself a can of Newcastle Brown Ale.  The drink was my idea!

Anybody else got any disguising pork recipes to share?

Did I tell you about the strange phone call I once got (could only happen to me) one merry morning?  It went something like this?

"A fine day".  


"I am calling to telling ye I have got the bucket of blood."


The bucket of blood ye ordered."  


"Oh sorry.  I thought it was ye who ordered the fresh blood for the puddings"  

It was the local butcher and we had just dropped our pigs off a few days earlier and he though we were somebody else!

Wednesday 4 March 2015

A Wheelbarrow Friendly Smallholding?

It was throwing it down on Monday afternoon.  I had been asked to cut some logs up with the chainsaw.  Number one son ended up operating the saw and I took upon my usual smallholding farm labourer role.  I rushed to our dwelling with the loaded wheelbarrow and decided that I would wheel them into the range in the kitchen,  Instead of filling the plastic crate with logs and carrying them backwards and forwards to the log box.  Trouble is the freezer in the corridor blocked my way.

Somebody then chastised me for leaving muddy tyre prints on the tiles.  Well it's a change from muddy boots isn't it?  That's why we put down the tiles because we live on a farm.  The terrier and cat also Christen the tiles with their paw prints.  At least we have a mop and carpets in the bedrooms!  The mop doesn't live in the bedroom though.  We keep that with the coal in the bath!  I am joking!  

Sunday 1 March 2015

Ageism In The Farmyard And The Unfairness Of C.A.P. (Feel Like Selling Up.)

There are 4000 farmers who get no farm payments in Ireland.  There are farmers who get king ransoms  in payments, smallholders who get nothing and small farmers who get ("little old me") their payments in hundreds rather than thousands.  Some people will argue that farmers shouldn't get any entitlements at all.

Any road.  Like thousands of other farmers I got a letter this week:  GUIDE TO BASIC PAYMENT SCHEME (BPS) ENTITLEMENTS 2015-2019.  Like a lot of smallholders and farmers.  We thought that there was going to be a uniform even payment and we would get a minimum of 5000 Euros.   Instead we are going to be thirty Euros better off a year.  THIRTY Euros for 5 years! A new fencer battery and a bag of beef nuts whoopee!

To put the tin hat on it.  The Irish Agricultural  Department is launching a "Young Farmer's" scheme.  Farmer's have to be under 40 to join the scheme and be allocated free entitlements and payments from the 'National Reserve'.  Good luck to the young farmer's but why is it only for people under forty years of age?  Surely this is ageist and should not be allowed?  A lot of farmer's like my self are in their forties or fifties when the farm is transferred into their name.

I have said it before on this blog.  We farm for sentiment.  My dad's family have been on this land for at least two hundred years.  Will we be the last?  Should we rent out the farm for 200 Euros an acre and just live in the house?  Or should we just sell up and go and live somewhere else?

I personally think the EEC want to make it impossible for smallholders or "hobby farmers" to make a living in the countryside.  Here in rural Ireland the countryside is eerily quiet most days apart from silage making and the spreading of slurry.  Most people have to travel miles to find work or rely on welfare benefits.  The countryside is changing but not for the better.  I don't like ageism or inequality for farmers.  Do you?

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 ...