Friday 29 September 2017

Turning Compost. "Put It On Your CV."

The veg plots and flower garden are not very happy bunnies at the moment.  We have had far too much rain this week and farmers are starting to house their livestock, already.  

I have been turning my compost heap this morning with my trusty four prong pike.  It didn't take long and there are some lovely juicy worms living in the friable compost underneath the decaying vegetation.  

I came inside and my eldest son asked me what I had been doing on the veg plot.  I said:

"Turning my home made compost with my long handled pike.  

He shook his head and said:

"Put compost turning on your CV."  

Then he asked me why didn't I turn it with the mini digger?

I don't think he will be a slave of the soil, I mean gardener, will he?

Sunday 24 September 2017

More Car Boot Sale Smallholding Treasure.

We went car-booting this morning in the rain.  The missus found me a John Seymour paperbook version of his Self Sufficiency bible.  I have two versions already.  I think I paid twenty eight Euros for the hardback version.  Its been worth every penny though.   I think John Seymour inspired me more than any other author.  I rented my first allotment after reading his book, many moons a go.  Which author inspired you more than anybody else to do do something?

 The missus bought herself a large Mrs Beeton's Cookery In Colour.  Both books cost a Euro each.  The next time I talk to somebody about the great JS I will let them read the paperback version instead of my hardback version.  We have a small paperback copy of Mrs Beeton's Cookery Book but there are no pictures and its a very poor font.  Hopefully we will get inspired for some great meals?  We went in Lidl in Clonakilty the other day and I showed her some baking tins.  She said to me:

"Are you hinting at something?"  

I also purchased this rubber garden trug for three Euros at the car boot sale.  Its got a broken handle but number one son said he will fix it with a pot rivet for me.   I usually use old paint buckets or large coleslaw buckets for weeding.  What do you use?  That path needs weeding, yet again!  I won't use weedkiller.

Have you found any  carboot smallholding bargains recently?  I think they are great for finding cheap books and tools.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Making Cuttings And Dividing Perennials In My Polytunnel.

For the last couple of weeks I have been making plant cuttings and dividing herbaceous ("pretty flowers") perennials in my polytunnel.   Even on wet days, you can garden if you have a polytunnel.  Do you make cuttings from your plants and shrubs?  September is a good time to make new plants.  Its very easy and very inexpensive.    

I don't buy expensive potting composts.  This last batch of plants were potted up with my own mixture of a bucket of grit sand I had left over from my recent paving project and a grow bag (one Euro) from my German garden centres (Lidl or Aldi).  You just mix the sand and grow bag together and you have your very own potting compost.  The grow bags are bit peaty and the sand makes good drainage.   There aren't many nutrients in the potting compost but it will do until you pot on your rooted new plants next spring.

One more very important thing you will need (not always) is a tub of hormone rooting powder.  Just get out your secateurs and cut yourself some cuttings.  I strip off most of their leaves and dip them in the rooting powder and place them in the pots filled with your homemade potting compost.  Then they go outside and get watered every morning.  But they won't be being watered today, its raining!  Just for a change.  

Perennials are even easy to make.  Just pull a plant in to pieces with the roots still attached and pot them on in the same way.  Do you make cuttings?  What's your potting compost recipe? 

 A myriad of cuttings: Hydrangea, Rugosa rose (great seaside hedge), Gristelina, Cornus (dogwood), Hebe, Hypericum (you will never get witches, if you plant one of them), Osteospernum....  I plant some cuttings in old baths and leave them to overwinter.  You can see the pallet side of my compost heap in the background.  
More cuttings and my cheap hose pipe that is always kinking on me.  The path is made of old concrete pig slats.  I should have put plastic bags or membrane under them to stop the weeds, but I never did and I hand weed it  every year.  I am off to water my polytunnel.

Monday 11 September 2017

All From The Smallholding (well, except for the carrots!)

Boiled bacon, potatoes and cabbage is (was) the staple Irish meal.  Well it was when I use to visit  (go on holiday)my grandparents when I was so much younger than today.  This is starting to sound like a Carpenters song.  I have said it before.  I think they ate bacon and cabbage every single day of the week.  You use to see it served in pubs too.  Its quite rare to see it in our part of Ireland these days.

Once I remember one red hot summers day and there was a whale of a salmon on my diner plate along with the potatoes and cabbage and the 'nice cup' of Barry's tea.  This was before the EEC and every farm (yes every!) seemed to grow a field full of vegetables for themselves and the giant cow cabbages for the cattle and mangels for the horse.  

My late father use to tell me how his parents would kill the pig at home and it would be salted and put in a wooden barrel in ye olde kitchen.  There wasn't a need for a fridge in those days.  We have two freezers full of pork and bacon at the moment.  

Today I dug some potatoes and cut a cabbage and my wife boiled some of our newly butchered Tamworth cross pigs.  You boil it on top of the Stanley range (solid fuel) for twenty minutes to the pound.  So our was boiled for two and half hours.  Twenty minutes before the cooking is finished.  The boiled bacon is removed and the cabbage is thrown in the bacon water in the pan.  

You can see our tea in the picture.  Verdict the potatoes and cabbage was very - especially the salty bacon.  We thought the rare breed cross meat is a bit fatty.  Perhaps its because they are free range?  Our butcher told us to stick to Large Whites in future.  I think he is right.   Do you prefer rare breeds to the Large Whites?

When you weigh up the cost of purchasing, feeding and butchering the pigs.  Its a very costly exercise.  Isn't that the story of any smallholding? But you can't beat homegrown and home cooked food.  At least the freezers are full.  

I am sure my self sufficient hero: John Seymour would of approved of our meal being produced on the smallholding.  The supermarket bought carrots were nothing to write home about though.   Still it was a pretty wholesome meal for a Monday night.  

No microwaves pinged in the making of the above meal!

What traditional food do you not see much of these days?

Saturday 9 September 2017

Weeding, Green Manures And Transplanting My Leeks.

I have been a busy bee this week weeding the old veg plot and transplanting my leeks.  

 Me weeding.  A wheelbarrow full of weeds and my trusty Azada having a rest.  Its an amazing tool.  It blades away the weeds unlike spades and shovels that bring the topsoil with them.  

I once weeded an old ladies garden and she stood over me telling me to shake the soil from every weed I removed.  The weeds all get composted.  Do you compost your weeds?  The nettle, couch grass   and dock roots get disgarded.  Some people burn them or compost them under black plastic

Do you like my nettle hedge?

Leeks transplanted and feeling a bit forlorn and sorry for them selves.  Most of the plot is weeded now and I have ordered some Winter Tares for a green manure.  I will sow it on the vacant patches and then strim it and dig it in next Spring.  We have grown Mustard in the past.  Its a member of the Brassica family.  So you can't (shouldn't)plant Brassicas after it.  Have you ever grown green manures?   

Mustard is good for clearing wire-worm in  veg plots made from of old pasture.  I bought a plastic wheel barrow because my old metal one was full of iron worm.  The old ones are the best!

Saturday 2 September 2017

I Thought I Saw The Amish Shopping At An Irish Farm Store.

We noticed this unusual sight at our local Drinagh store the other day.  We usually go there for lamb nuts and coal... The coal is for us, the sheep have fur coats to keep warm.  

You don't see many horses and carts these days, sadly.  When I use to come to West Cork on my holidays in the sixties and early seventies.  You still saw the carts carrying churns and loose hay..  My grandfather had an horse and cart with rubber car wheels.  It was wonderful to go down the fields on the horse and cart and along the roads dropping the milk churns off at the concrete churn stands.  

When we emigrated (moved from England) to Ireland in 2001.  There was still a local farmer who still went to town with his horse and cart.  One day he had the sow sat beside him on the cart going up the Cork road from Bantry.  My four year old son noticed this incredible sight while we travelled in the car.  He said to his mum:  

"Where is the farmer taking the sow?"  

My wife replied:

"For a ride out."  

The farmer was taking it to see the boar!  

When was the last time you saw an horse and cart?  I think we all have a bit of cowboy or cow girl in our blood.  It must have been all those Western films from childhood.  I use to sit on the back of the couch and watch the Virginians and Champion The Wonder Horse.."  Happy Days!

Here's a video by my favourite Irish band, good old Thin Lizzy.  I was lucky enough to see them way back in 1981 at Manchester Apollo on their Renegade Tour.  I saw one of their members Snowy White, again in 2013.  He played guitar on Roger Waters The Wall tour in Warsaw.  Enjoy the song.

I think Live And Dangerous is probably the greatest live album ever.  Did you ever see Thin Lizzy?

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...