Friday, November 14, 2014

Almost finished.

After over three months, at last the front porch is almost done. The windows are in,
the glass painting completed, all that remains is for our builder to put in the ceiling ,plaster, and to lay the tiles, this he is doing tomorrow. This is all work that Simon would normally have done but as we have such a gem of a builder we decided to let him do it.
The cats have inspected this new 'room' and have given it their seal of approval, it faces south west so gets the afternoon and evening sun, just right for a cats sun bathing spot.
 This is the last thing we can do to make our cottage as energy efficient as possible. The roof space is insulated up to the hilt, cavity walls filled with insulation granules, solid walls insulated externally with four inches of polystyrene block. The Stanley range provides us with all the hot water we can ever use, it also does the radiators and the cooking  and is fuelled by wood. We are still debating producing our own electricity.
 It always surprises me that in new houses  little attention is paid to  insulation. Last year when we were out driving after snow so many of the new houses were devoid of any snow on their  roofs,  a sure sign that roof insulation was missing or insufficient.
Yesterday we received the  last wholefood  order for the year, we are now well stocked up with various herbs and spices, bulk buying saves a lot of money on most things and it is almost impossible to buy a reasonable size pack at a  reasonable price from health food stores, supermarkets just don't stock organic herbs and spices, just small jars of Schwartz at silly prices.
 Our order comes through a friend, a long time organic farmer who is now giving up farming and putting most of the farm into forestry. She lost her husband suddenly five years ago, the first thing to go were the pigs as they were too much work for her and her daughter, she continued with the sheep, but  there is very little money in lamb production ,a  lot of hard work for an animal who main objective in life is to try to find new ways of dying. We would agree with her, we used to keep sheep, but they really are more bother than they are worth.
 Her daughter is a fully qualified permaculture designer, and has tried very hard to get some community based enterprise started but has been unsuccessful, so yet another well establish organic farm is going, along with the wealth of knowledge that they both have. It seems that to have a community spirit and to want to grow your own food you have to live in a town or a city where land is at a premium. It wasn't always like this, up until sixteen years ago we had a very active organic growers group, we met once a month formally, but would meet up in between times, we swapped produce, plants, ideas and marketing leads. We were all smallholders, some with a few acres and some with considerably  more, all earning a living from the land. Then the new boy arrived, fresh back from the  U.S to take over his fathers farm, he decided to 'go' Organic, not through any belief  in the movement but he thought it would make him money. Well it has, through grants he set up a co-operative, he is very well paid, through grants, yet there is no one that we know that has gained  any benefit from this except him.  Our happy little group disbanded. I think our friend was the last remaining member to still be farming as a certified farm.
This month is proving to be very wet, we live two hundred metres from a river and normally we cant see it from the cottage, the last two days we can, maybe we should build an ark, just in case. The hens are not impressed with this weather, the ducks love it. Me, I just want to hibernate, but I still have loads of bulbs to plant when the land has dried out a bit.


  1. Hi Anne. I like your porch. Did you see the Scottish bothy with veranda on the George Clarke 'small spaces' programme last night?

    Sad story about your friend planting trees on her farm. I have looked into it myself. I would have been left with hardly anything to farm. Sadly, I think 200 Euros an acre, tax free, will be an option for many farmers. Especially if they don't get a decent single farm payment or none at all.

    The weather can get you down. We love our Stanley range too.

  2. Is that 200 euro per year Dave? If you have an organic horticulture operation the payment is 200 euro per year for up to six ha, How can they justify higher payments for forestry than for a farm producing food? Completely crazy.

  3. Yes 200 euro per year, Anne - tax free. The EEC is stopping (or stopped) paying area aid and single farm payments to smallholder farmers under 4 acres. Says it costs too much to administer it. Apparently there are 4000 farmers in Ireland who don't receive any single farm payments at all. I have also heard of people moving to the countryside, buying a smallholding (less than 20 acres) and being unable to get an herd number. Next year the dairy quotas end. Will this mean that dairy farmers will buy up every available piece of pasture so they can have more cattle? I could easily turn my smallholding to forestry and make more than I would keeping cattle.

  4. Personally I think that what Ireland needs is more native trees and less cattle. There are plenty of native species which can be turned into a cash crop take a look at

  5. I would agree with you Heron's View, we are the least forested country in Europe. For some reason in this area when land goes to forestry it is Sitka spruce although broadleaf has a higher premium, I can only assume it is because it is quick growing and the saplings are far cheaper than broadleaf, I can think of nothing nicer than wandering through a broadleaf forest, especially at this time of year.

  6. Most forestry payments are for 25 years Anne. I looked into it but they wanted it to be the minimum of a six acres block parcel. Most broadleaf forests take too long to mature.

  7. Im not getting this conversation. Its very sad that your friends were not able to keep their farms. Is this a Govt incentive to turn farms into forests. Is it for timber production? I think you need to give me a link.

    Im loving the new porch, just like the cats. It will surely be a great for passive heat in cooler months. That is such a lovely photo at the end. Very peaceful and rural.

  8. It's complicated Lynda, the EU gives grants to farmers, (as does the US) I do not know how the new system works. There was a scheme which run for years called REPS. Rural Environment Protection Scheme, under this scheme farmers received money per ha of land farmed, you had to have so many live stock units per ha or be producing arable crops, added to this there were supplementary measure's such as Organic farming, under the REPS schemes you were tied under contract for five years, this has now been replaced by single farm payment, which from what I understand is NOT linked to production. In the case of my friend by putting her land or most of it into forestry she will receive payment of nearly 5000 euro a year if she plants broad leaf and just over 4000 for Sitka spruce. She has worked out that it is better to give her land over to forestry rather than to continue farming it. I think Sitka is only used for pulping ,with thinning's going for fire logs.
    We ourselves have a big problem with the grant culture but unfortunately it seems to be the only way for farmers to continue farming in the EU.
    Perhaps Northsider Dave will come back on and explain better the single farm payment.
    The front porch is great, we are leaving the front door open and the porch is warming the hallway which is great, the cats love it out there.

  9. I think you explained it very well Anne. I have only been farming (nearly) 14 years in Ireland. In 2004 an historical animal census was taken on how many (livestock) you had on your farm on the 15th of May. The number of livestock you had on this day. Determines your single farm payment. You can have less or more livestock now. But you still get paid for the animals you had on that census date in 2004. So this means the big farmers/cattle dealers filled their farms and sheds with livestock for that date. Little farmers couldn't afford to do this.

    The forestry payments are 208 Euro per acre. It's tax free. You get paid (or at least a share) of the thinnings and the harvest in 25 years time.

    I was interested in this but the forestry people would only plant 6 acre blocks on my smallholding. Not shelter belts or where you want to plant them.

    How ever you would still keep any payments, its tax free and they fence and maintain and nurture the trees for free. Sad to say. But it looks a very good option for a lot of struggling farmers. It also makes a lot of natural habitats for wildlife like foxes. That's my understanding any way. I am not an expert at all.

    1. Thanks for explaining it Dave, all we can say is what a cock up! I though the whole point of EU subsidies was for food security within the EU, add to that the TTIP agreements being negotiated and the EU will find that they have no food sovereignty left at all, we will be forced to take the US hormone GM laden food, our farmers wont get a look in, and if any country refuses to take a product then the company producing that product can sue the whole country! What an agreement.

    2. Goodness, that's a cockup indeed. Ive just tried to explain to my 17yr old Aspie son how good we have things in Oz but he gets on his soapbox about things he doesnt understand and we get no-where. Its not perfect but there isnt an EU telling us what to do. I read a lot of permaculture magazines and it would appear that there is a growing swell of farmers looking at alternative farming methods than the traditional methods that have only depleted the soil. Since none of what you are talking about is reported in the media here, it is very interesting.

  10. Love the porch, Anne; and love the pic of the cats exploring and enjoying it. Too tru on roof insulation. I have always been a bit confused about the 'design' on this. Our is completely blocked out , as you know, with those foam blocks but the water tank ends up OUTSIDE this enclosure, so is vulnerable to freezing. If there is a risk of hard frost we actually open the loft hatch to let a drift of warm air up into the void to protect the tank which seems counter-productive to me. Shouldn't the tank somehow be inside the insulation?

    As to sheep - smiling a bit here as you know we are about to embark on just that suicide mission - year round ewes and our own lambing! Lambs to the slaughter, maybe? Maybe we'll rue the day and come round, older and wiser to your viewpoint! :-)

    1. You have a very good point about water tanks in the attic, as you probably remember we had a bad leak from ours and we had to have the kitchen ceiling plastered, the damage was actually done before we bought the cottage during the two cold winters that Ireland had and the cottage was empty, there was no insulation at all here but the cause of the flood was a split ballcock, the water tank must have frozen completely this caused the ballcock to split.
      As to sheep, good luck, there have been five sheep around here for the last ten days, just wandering from field to field, where we first saw them they were about four miles away, in your direction! No one so far has come to claim them.
      So normal things that go wrong with sheep. They are great at breaking out, constant supervision needed at lambing, lambs can drown in just a puddle of water is they are so minded, they get brambled, they overeat, they eat things which are poison, they get fluke, foot rot, flystrike, maggots, orf, (live vaccine needed to prevent this, humans can also catch it) pulpy kidney, caused by too good grazing or too much bottle feed, need de- dagging, shearing, get caught up in barbed wire, lambs can be attacked by foxes , larger birds of prey, dogs. On the plus side they are good to eat and fun to watch. The best way that we have ever seen them kept was in Spain where there was a shepherd with them at all times.

      Good luck with them Matt.
      Been there, done that, got the tshirt.

  11. Great porch, it looksfab, glad the cats are enjoying it! Interesting blog post...and comment thread!