Sunday 31 May 2015

"Well I'll Go To The Foot Of Our (Tractor) Stairs!"

I love idioms especially English and Irish one's.   Any road.  That's another one.  I found out on Friday there is a fungus like bacteria that lives in diesel engines.  It's called Diesel Bug.  It's great at disguising itself and clogging up diesel engines, especially tractors and boats.  It's said to live in water and does a great job at ceasing engines and making them difficult to start.  

A diesel injector fixer informed us that there is a product on the market that kills the diesel bug.  You empty your diesel tank and fill it with clean diesel then add a bottle of the magic stuff and it sets to work killing the diesel bug.

 I have been growing vegetables over twenty years and every year there is some crop that fails or gets attacked by something, be it slugs, aphids or blight.  I read somewhere recently that the rust that attacks leeks is the same rust that attacks metal.

When we went to the Algarve in April. We noticed how so many of the older cars still looked like new with no rust.  They still get covered by the Atlantic salt rain.  But they don't rust like cars do in the British Isles.  Perhaps it's the heat that keeps the rust away?

It's a typical mixed bank holiday weekend here in Ireland.  My potatoes are flowering so I might get my shovel and have a look for some hidden buried treasure today.


Wednesday 27 May 2015

Topping Time On The Smallholding.

We have been topping the fields with 'Maggie' the Ford 4000 and the Perfect topper.  She does a good job and  cuts the thistles at the same time.  I usually walk around the fields cutting the thistles with hedge shears or my jungle slasher.  The mixed weather makes the grass grow like mad and get in front of the cattle.

I bought the topper a couple of years a go and it's probably the best 650 Euros I have ever spent.  I still cut some of the thistles in awkward places that the tractor can't get.  Especially on high lockers only suited to four wheel drive tractors.  We are saving some of the fields for hay, haylage or silage if it becomes too wet for small square bales of hay.

I remember when we use to come here on holidays and we would help my granddad and uncle and neighbour farmer make the hay with pikes and horse and cart.  My mum and grandmother would walk down to the fields with small bottles of bass bitter or Guinness, currant cakes and a bottle of cold tea in a old sock.  There's nothing more refreshing on an hot summers day.  Those were the days, sadly gone for ever!

Anybody else doing any topping with their tractor?  Have you got a vintage tractor?  What's it called?

Sunday 24 May 2015

Making Pubs For The Locals (Slugs!).

Blimey the slugs and snails have been acting like locusts in the poly-tunnel and veg plot lately.  I blame it on the showery weather.  I have been going out at night hand picking the slugs and snails.  But they seem to be winning the battle at the moment.  Oh my poor brassica's and beans!

Yesterday I decided to make some 'slug pubs'.  We filled trays and dishes with some cheap beer 'el crappo' from one of the cheap German supermarkets.  I have an habit of picking up a can of some unknown beer and saying:

"I will just get one to see if it's any good."  

Of course it very rarely is.  That's probably why it's so cheap.  Any way here's a couple of photographs of the slug 'pubs'.   The slugs have a last drink and drown.  Poor slugs what?

At least they have a local pub.  I am not bothered really.  I find it's far cheaper to sit at home in your scruffs and have a few cans of Newcastle Brown or other English bitter.  Only thing is you don't have a social life or ever meet people to talk with.

How do you fight slugs and snails?  We bought some organic slug pellets last year and our own slug pubs.  You don't even need to use beer. Pop or cordial will entice them - anything sweet!

Thursday 21 May 2015

The Girls On Their Grazing Holiday Next To The Sea.

I haven't  shown you any pictures of the girls for a while.  They are just over 12 months and they should be fit for bulling when they are sixteen month old.  I will probably sell them soon and replace them with some dropped calves.  Our work rearing them is done and it's nearly time for them to become milking cows.  The ever turning circle of life on the smallholding.

 Queuing up for a cow brew.  You can see Bantry bay in the background.
 The grass is getting well in front of the cattle.  We have topped one of the fields this week.  Then the water pump died on the tractor.  Luckily we have an apprentice plant mechanic to fix it for us for a few cans of cider.  We are hoping for a big crop of hay and hopefully sell some.  Anybody else planning on making small square bales of hay?
 'Wellies' the heifer posing for a photograph.  She's called 'Wellies' because she's got four white legs that resemble wellington boots.
I made this Heath Robinson adaption with a bath and a pipe from an underground stream.  We also have piped water in the other fields.  This comes from the well on the farm about quarter of a mile away.  It's amazing what gravity can do.  

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Smallholders Pork Pie.

One thing I really miss from England is a pork pie.  You can get them if we travel the 60 miles to Cork or Kilarney (45 miles in a straight line).

So I got the wife to make us a loaf tin sized pork pie.   Here are the pictures.

The pastry is shortcrust and the filling is pork mince.  We ate it with spuds and vegetables.  The mince was our own though.  People often call British food bland.  I think if it's cooked right with good ingredients, it's right up there with the best.  You can't beat home made food can you?

I washed it down with a few cans of Newcastle Brown Ale.  That's another thing I miss Britain for.  A good pint of bitter with an head on it. 

There is a beer festival in Killarney next month. I am tempted to go.  Do you live near a real ale (CAMRA) pub?  Tell me about it and make me Jealous and drool.  Wetherspoons are opening a pub in Cork soon.  Things are looking up.  Guinness and Murphy's stout are good.  But you can't beat some real ales can you?

Thursday 14 May 2015

Plastic Rubbish On The Beach. Time For More Rural Jobs.

We have been actively walking 3 to 4 four miles a day lately.  You notice so much more when you walk around the peninsula where we live in south west Ireland.  One thing what really annoys me is litter, especially plastic.  In the picture below you can see empty plastic containers and plastic water bottles.  No doubt this rubbish is local and international rubbish.  Plastic takes about 500 years to start decomposing.

The great thing about the tide is it cleans a lot of the beaches itself and moves the rubbish miles away probably to other beaches.  I think county councils don't provide any where near enough rubbish bins.  They could also create a lot of rural jobs picking up litter from the roadsides and the beaches.

I walk along the peninsula roads every day and notice it is so empty of people apart from the occasional passing cars.  Most people seem to travel miles to work or they own holiday homes that are empty most of the year.  I would gladly like a part-time job picking up the litter and strimming the brambles on the verges so you have somewhere to stand while the motorists speed passed you.  It shouldn't be down to volunteers to pick up the rubbish.  Why can't local companies sponsor litter bins and benches even a bus service?

Do you think it's possible to make a living in the countryside?  Most people I know have to travel miles to work.

Sunday 10 May 2015

First Early Potatoes From The Poly-tunnel.

 It's been a miserable week here on the smallholding in Ireland.  We seem to be getting April showers in May.  We decided to cheer ourselves up on Friday after the election results in the UK and Chelsea winning the title.  So we picked the potatoes growing in the poly-tunnel.  Some people would say:

"Let them grow a bit bigger."

Small is beautiful and absolutely delicious.  So we steamed them on top of the range.  The month of May and the range is lit and I am still chain sawing logs for hot water, cooking and heat from the radiators.
A plant pot full of new potatoes.  We got three/ four (I gave some to my brother) meals from our early potato crop.  I also hand picked 11 snails in the poly-tunnel this morning.  The hedges are growing mad too.  We heard our first cuckoo yesterday.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Bramble Problem On The Smallholding.

We must have had a good year last year.  You can see 2 new fence posts in the photograph.  Seriously.  I have noticed there is a bit of a bramble problem developing on the smallholding.  I think it's because we have been a bit under stocked and so the land is undergrazed.

It's true that the countryside we see is there because it's been grazed and fertilized by livestock for thousand of years.  My dad used to say it only takes 3 months for a vegetable garden to become fully overgrown with weeds.  Likewise pasture would soon become overgrown with scrub and brambles and other weeds if it wasn't grazed.

When we were young ("Shine on you crazy diamond") the Irish farmers would grow ("set") a field of vegetables and grow hay the following year. So the fields never got the chance to go wild.  Last year I bought six heifer calves and they never did much grazing.  We made silage in some of the fields.  But a lot of seem to be getting invaded with rushes (always a problem), Furze (Gorse) and brambles.

The cattle like to eat the blackberry leaves.  It's supposed to be a fine tonic for them.  I am going to top some of the brambles with the tractor and topper if the fields become dry again.  Last year myself and number one son cleared around 3 of the fields with the mini digger and I piked the brambles and grass and other weeds into the dumper.  There are a lot of high banks("lockers") that are too dangerous to remove them this way.

So I have come up with a few options:

1.  Get a couple of nanny goats again.  They do a fine job browse grazing and eating the leaves.  But you have to tether them and they are always getting tangled around the brambles.

2.  Pay somebody with a sprayer and quad to kill the brambles with a weedkiller like "roundup".  I don't like using weedkillers because you don't know what it does to to the soil.  I don't like the idea of paying either.  I have heard they charge around 25 Euros an hour plus weedkiller.

3.  Get some hand shears from Lidl and cut them back and use the Azada to dig their roots out.

4.  Get the petrol strimmer and put the brush cutter blade on it and spend hours cutting them back.

5:  Buy more cattle to graze more tightly.  Calf prices are lightning at the moment.  I will probably make good money when I sell my heifers in late summer.  But they will cost me a king's ransom to replace them.  I have heard of Friesian heifer calves being sold for 400 Euros.  Two week old at that.  I only paid 200 a piece last year for mine.  So I don't think I will be increasing my herd size.

6.  Get some farm volunteers to come and stay in the old farmhouse for a working holiday clearing the brambles?  We would give 2 of them free board and lodgings and a few cans of Newcastle Brown ale at the end of the day.?  Free (working) holiday on the Sheeps Head Peninsula in Ireland?

What do you do to combat brambles?  If you have and suggestions please let me know.  Preferably organic methods.  Thanks.  

Friday 1 May 2015

Cuckoo Flower Time On The Smallholding.

We have had a really abundant crop of Cuckoo flowers in the pasture this Spring.  I wonder if it's because we don't hammer our fields with granulated "bag manure" fertilizer?  This year we haven't bought any.  We haven't paid any one to put the slurry yet.  I noticed there are quite a few docks growing where we spread slurry last year.  Cow dung/slurry is a "cold" manure and weed seeds don't get killed like they do in rotting dung heaps.  If you want nettles and docks spread cow slurry

The cuckoo flower is a member of the Brassicacea family: Cardamine Pratensis is it's Sunday name.  It thrives in damp meadows.  Apparently in ancient folklore this flower was sacred to the faeries and it was considered very unlucky if you picked it and brought it indoors.  My mother used to tell me the same about the Hawthorn flower which was called "mother death" in northern English counties.

My Irish grandmother believed in the 'little people' and the Irish won't step on or near any of the 10000 forts found here in Ireland.

I have not heard a cuckoo yet this year.  Apparently it only makes a noise to call a mate and then it shuts up.  Perhaps it's found a mate already?

Talking of the cuckoo season.  We watched Question Time last night and noticed only Dave was given a chair to sit on?  The privileges of office me thinks!

It looks like it's going to be a close call.  Do you think there will be a Labour/Conservative coalition?  Now that would be different wouldn't it?  Well there going to go into government with some one aren't they?  

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...