Friday, 20 October 2017

Another Day Out To More Places In Ireland.

I noticed this place when we went to Limerick to visit St John's Castle.  So last Saturday we decided to check out Askeaton.  It's a small town in county Limerick.  Here's some shots for you.
An old Saddlers' shop.  On a further inspection by  looking in the shop window, it was empty, sadly! 
 An impressive looking forged gate to and impressive Georgian style house.  Probably a mill owners house me thinks?

 A weir next to the ruined Friary.

Mass  Dial.
The grave yard overlooking the Friary.

 Old  derelict Corn store at Abbey Mills.  It never ceases to amaze me the amount of derelict buildings there are in Ireland.  Surely ("don't call me Shirley" Airplane  film joke) the building could me made into apartments?
 This looks like the monks and nuns productive kitchen garden.  No doubt they would have grown food, made beer and Mead and grew medicinal herbs and flowers to cure the sick.  It was a Franciscan Friary so they would have been very kind and offered rest and comfort for the weary traveler and sanctuary to heal the body and the soul.  Even today the Franciscans have soup kitchens in big cities like Dublin.  I believe the ruin is part of an old church.
 They were obviously incredibly skilled stonemasons in the 13th century.  


Swans on the river Deel overlooking Desmond castle.  

Its free to visit the Friary and good way to explore the many fascinating old places in Ireland.   It reminded me of our visit many moons a go to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.  

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

After The Hurricane.

Two brushes resting in town after sweeping some leaves.  Notice the ingenious home made handle.

I went to inspect my poly-tunnel and noticed our winter Japanese onion had shoots pushing through the earth.  My tunnel survived Storm Darwin and now Ophelia.  I think its storm Brian next to look forward too at the weekend.

Monday night in our front room.  No electricity, candles, cider punch and a pizza cooking on the stove.  It reminded me of one of my mother's sayings she use to say:  " It's like Christmas Day in the Workhouse."

How did the people long a go.  Cope without electricity to pump water in the well, watch the television, light the house, cook your tea, work the broadband...?

Here's an appropriate theme by the great Neil Young.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Flipping Heck. Here Comes Storm Ophelia.

One thing I never get use to living in the countryside next to the sea, is the gales.  Especially when they come at night and you curl in a ball praying to God that everything will be OK.  Hurrican Ophelia is said to be hitting Ireland and dear old Blighty tomorrow.  Its supposed to have been graded to category three.   The school bus is not running and we always think of people sleeping rough or travelling on planes, trains, over land and sea.  

We will probably have no ESB (electricity) because nobody ever gets around to burying the electricity cables underground.  Fences posts will need replacing and old corrugated roofs and old sheds will need replacing.  Trees will block roads and tides will flood towns.  Sheep and donkeys and cattle will find shelter behind an hedge or in a dip and sit on the grass to keep it dry for their dinner tomorrow.  

All you can do is batten down the hatches and reach for a bottle from the top shelf and try to read and pray and hope no animals or humans are killed.  At least we know these days when a storm is coming.  If I don't answer any comments or put any on your blog its because we have no electricity due to the storm and not because somebody is too tight to put ten bob in the leccy meter.   I will go and get the candles ready and check the torch is working. Keep safe and don't go outside.  Try and read a book. Speak soon.

Here's a good poem that's very appropiate for the wind.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Gardening Inspiration On A Day Out In The City.

We went back to Cork yesterday for another hospital appointment for my brother.  We dropped him off for his treatment and spent a few hours wandering round the streets of Cork city.

It was the usual looking at the architecture, people watching and shopping.  I saw my first Christmas pudding yesterday and this curious sign.
What are Winter Wishes?

 Then we chanced to walk past an old derelict site that's been transformed and made into a garden.

 A beacon of light and hope for all who have mental health issues.    The community garden has been made on derelict land.  I noticed  the land is sold.  I hope they find a new site for another community garden in the city.  Mental Health Awareness is represented by a green ribbon.  In the 19th century green was used to label people who were considered "insane".  It was also the symbol of the Levellers in the English Civil war.

 Nasturtiums growing happily and a bench made from old pallets.  
Exotic looking plants and the green ribbon symbol.   

If there was such a garden down in West Cork.  I would gladly volunteer and do some gardening for them and give them some of my plants.  Do you know of any other gardening projects worth supporting?  I know the RHS always want garden volunteers and they rent allotments.  

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Strawberries For Sale In October And An Electric Shredder For The Smallholding.

We went To Cork on Monday with my brother for an hospital appointment and we killed two birds with one stone and did some shopping as well.

I was amazed to see strawberries for sale in October!  I bet they are from somewhere foreign like Dunmanway.  That's my attempt at humour.  Dunmanway is a West Cork town.  
 We drove to Mahon Point  shopping centre and we had a look round B & Q.  I have been doing quite a bit of shrub pruning over the last few days.  We get ten months growth here next to the Gulf Stream.  Plus it rains a lot too.  Not forgetting the copious amounts of farm yard manure that gets placed around our plants.  So I saw this  elctric 2500W impact shredder (that's what it says on the box)  for the kings ransom of 77 Euros.  Which converts back to 68 Pounds Sterling.  Or a night on the lash for one self.
A wheelbarrow full of shrub shreddings waiting to be added to my compost heap.  I found it very good when I worked the shredder for 4 hours yesterday.  It shreds up to 44 mm no trouble.  Which is about one and a half inches.  Anything bigger jams the shredder.  So I cut the thicker lengths and use them for pea sticks and for markers for my potato rows before I earth them up in early summer.  

I think the shredder is a bargain and I reckon that its half paid for already.  Especially if we had taken the branches to a recycling centre and paid to get rid of them.  You can't use them when its raining or your prunings are wet.

Do you have a garden shredder?  Please tell us about it.  How long should I leave the shreddings in my compost heap before I can mulch with them?  

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Poly-tunnel Raised Bed Made For Absolutely Nothing.

I made a raised bed for my polytunnel on Sunday.  It cost me the grand sum of nothing.  Yes folks, nowt!

Seeing that its you.  I will tell you how I did maketh this wonderful construction.  Get one door frame from a skip or if you're Blue Peter: "Here's one I made earlier."  I got ours from the farmhouse renovations we had done this summer.  

Then I did carry it to the poly-tunnel and lay it prostrate on the ground.  Then I filled it with fym (cow poo) with my trusty wheel barrow and four prong pike.  The great thing about it being open at one end.  I could drive (push) my wheelbarrow into the raised bed area.  Then I looked around the smallholding and found two lonesome standard concrete building blocks.  So I carried them one at a time and lay them at the opening.  The gap in the middle will be good for drainage and we can place weeding buckets etc...  

I am very pleased with my efforts and once again it goes to show you don't need to spend much (or even any) money to grow things...  Perhaps I should get my raised bed patented?  Maybe I will be awarded an OBE or a CDM (Cadbury's Dairy Milk) for my services to horticulture?  Seriously. Do you have any cheap ways to grow your vegetables?  See you soon.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Planting Broad Beans With A Dylan Thomas Poem In My Head

That's me planting my broad bean plants the other day.  Its amazing to see what a rootball they have when you plant the bean in compost.  

The Dylan Thomas poem: "The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives The Flower"' started to play in my head.  I think if you studied your plants in your garden you would never stop being amazed of the force of nature.  How does a little seed or bean know how to germinate and produce roots and shoots and food for us all?

I watched Gardener's World last night and they show the predacious fungi and soil eating creatures in garden soil under a microscope.  Its incredible what creatures live in our soil.  I have been spreading fym this morning and thinking that you should feed the soil and feed the plants.  Do your plants never cease to amaze you.  

Here's the Dylan Thomas poem.  

Monday, 2 October 2017

On Line Shopping For The Veg Plot And Farmhouse Garden..

Its been horrible wet and raining and the veg plot is saturated.  You wouldn't put a milk bottle out in this weather.   

We have been doing some online shopping for the veg plot.  They arrived today via a courier man in a white van.  Do you buy things for your garden online?  He brought me:  Winter Vetch (Tares), Japanese onions (winter onions that you plant now) and Tulips (often felt like one) for the new borders at the back of the farmhouse.

What we ordered and a complimentary bag of sweets!

The Tares are a green manure and I am going to broadcast them on the area where next years potatoes are going to grow.  I have grown Mustard before.  Anybody else grow green manures?  Do No Dig gardeners use them?  You grow them to suppress weeds and then chop them them down with garden shears or my organic nettle fuelled( petrol)strimmer and dig them in.  I think Tares are a Legume?  So they extract Nitrogen from the air and release them through their root nodules into the soil.  They feed soil for free.  

I have grown Japs (Senshuy Onions) every autumn for over the last twenty years or so.  They grow through the snow, rain and even sunshine.  They aren't good storers?  Is there such a word?  But they fill up the plot and are ready before the summer onions.  

Never grown Elephant Garlic before.  Think its related to the Leek.  Yes I know they are all members of the Allium family.  But this is said to be a cross between the Leek and Garlic.  I believe you only need to buy a few cloves once.  

Do you grow them in ridges?  Our land is saturated at the moment.  You can never have enough paving slab paths can you?  The slugs like to live under them too?  They also love plastic?  Do you use slug pellets?  I think they are only man made chemical we have ever used on our veg plot.  Sometimes I have been very bored and gone outside with a torch looking for the naughty creatures.  You should hear what Anglo Saxon Expletives I call the Cabbage whites.  Must invest in a net  for my Brassica's next year Dave?  

What are you planting in your veg plot at the moment?  

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?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Reaping Oats.

We took these photographs the other day.  The Combine Harvester cut a circuit round a field of Oats.  To allow for a David Brown Tractor and Reaper to come into the field and reap the Oats.

Its a two man operation.  One to drive the tractor and one to release the sheaves.  They will be threshed later.  These threshing events show people how crops were harvested before the Leviathian machines of today were invented.  The threshing events also raise money for charities.  Do you have any vintage threshing events near you?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Gardening Help With A Farm Ratter and A Mouser.

I often talk about rural isolation on my blog.  Two white furred helpers decided to help me with new garden today.

 Domino attacking the Nepeta (Catmint).  Apparently there is a chemical in the scent of the plants that make cats high and say"Groovy man."

Domino and Fido watching the sheep.  I had to put the fence up because the sheep kept climbing up the small cliff into the garden. 

New solar lights and a solar lighthouse.  The lighhouse light spins around at night and the bats fly around the lights.  
Domino decides to use my new lawn for his outdoor cat litter tray.