Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A sign of the times.

Over the weekend we were invited to friends for dinner, during the evening the conversation turned to the usual topic, growing food. The property that our friend have is rented and when they moved in the garden was for want of a better description, a junk yard. Gradually they got it cleaned up but realised that what little soil remained was rubbish, in fact it was mainly stones with no invertebrate activity at all so they built raised beds and filled them with whatever they could get, farmyard manure, turf (peat) mould, old bales of straw.
 They have now been there for three years, within two years they were self-sufficient in vegetables, eggs, chicken and pork, all from a plot of less than a quarter of an acre. They started with no soil, and now have a productive garden, but soil needs feeding by means of more compost. We told them the best places to get washed up seaweed, invaluable for the garden, this got added, and we took them to the mushroom farm for spent mushroom compost that we had used for many years. This farm was a smallish concern with a dozen or so mushroom tunnels, a family run business that provided employment for several local people in an area where the only local employment would be at the coal depot.
The day before our meal with them they had phoned the farm to arrange to pick up a load of spent compost only to find that this farm was now out of business. I don't know how many years they had been there, I do know that for the past quarter of a century we had got our compost from them, but small is now no longer beautiful, they could not compete with the big farms.
 I spent  most of yesterday afternoon trying to find a mushroom farm within our province, there is just one left, they have forty tunnels, but do not allow people on site to collect it, instead they have contracted out the collection to one person.
 Every one was very helpful, including the contractor and he would deliver a load, a load being seven tons, that's one hell of a lot of shovelling and for us not an option, we can however go to the contractor's place and he will leave a load out by his gate but it will be loose, not in bags.
For us this is doable, for our friend I doubt it as he suffered a series of strokes just over a year ago and now has limited mobility. Some how we will both get it sorted, it will just take some time to work out the logistics of it all, even with our hens, rabbits and donkeys we always need more compost.
Incidentally, the meal was superb, all home produced and the company was excellent. Many thanks guys.
Corkscrew Willow.
The last week has been very snowy, only a couple of inches at a time but it has proved very revealing. We have a pair of foxes that do the rounds of our driveway, and fields. They have inspected the hen fence boundary all round, they have however made no attempt to go over the electric fence to get closer to the poultry. Now I don't know why foxes don't jump over what we have, having been assured is an easily clearable height for the foxes that live in this part of Ireland, our fence is 1.2m high, but someone we know has had foxes jumping cleanly over a sheep fence 1.25m so in theory our foxes would be able to get into our run. We have used this type of fencing for years, in fact when we had the farm  we had five acres of hen paddocks fenced this way and never lost a bird inside the runs to a fox. I suppose there is always a first time, and maybe I'm tempting providence by believing that our hens are protected from Mr and Mrs fox,
Felix footprints, the only cat that wants to venture out .
Fox footprints.
but the foot prints show that the fence has not been breached, the snow has also shown us that no other mink has so far taken up the vacant territory left by the previous killer, long may it continue.
Fox and crow footprints.
The snow is very pretty,
it shows off the trees wonderfully but it rather curtails any out door activity. The seed box has been sorted and whatever new seeds are required have been ordered. This year we will cut down on the amount that we plant, we could easily feed a family of four and there is only the two of us, we will grow the same number of varieties, just less of them. We should have  a reasonable crop of asparagus, and the only other new thing is watercress. I don't particularly like salad, (the lettuce type) but a salad with watercress as it's base is different, plus it's high in iron and makes lovely soup. Every year I plant various lettuce as Simon does like his salads but well over 95% ends up as hen or rabbit food so I feel as though it a waste of my time planting a crop that only one of us enjoys.
Meg is now well established, she gives poor Tess hell, pulling at her tail and her thick hair, Tess however is a very laid back dog and takes it without complaint. The cats on the other hand are finding her a pain in the proverbial, and are mainly staying clear.
How am I expected to relax?
They can't even enjoy a box without her trying to annoy them, but they are good at giving her lessons in respect, and she is learning.    


  1. Is that the Keadew mushroom farm that's closed, Anne? What a shame.

    1. Yes Matt, there is now only one place left in Connaught the one with forty tunnels.

  2. Now there is one advantage to snow. Such evidence of all who pass by. How convenient. I saw snow maybe 16 years ago and then 20 before that for a day. Its so beautiful (especially on trees) but im not sure of about living with it day to day. Hubby is from Yorkshire and typically (aka Monty Python sketch) it was awful and he had to dig his way out to lick road clean with tongue! You know what i love? Home-cooked dinner parties with friends. It doesn't happen anymore. Meg is so so cute. I have access to friends of friends with manure and mushroom compost. Its just a matter of organising it and like you, i only need small quantities,preferably bagged. So much easier. I wish i was your neighbor.

    1. I think it would be fun to be your neighbour! Incidentally I agree with your latest post, our prime minister I understand earns more than the President of the USA a piddley little country like ours, population of 4.25 mil and we pay the waste of spaces that govern us more than the US pay their lot.
      When we lived in Spain there were lots of dinner parties amongst the ex pats and everyone was excellent cooks and it was always home reared or grown food, unfortunately I cant say the same here, far too much super market dependency and trying to prove that they are great cooks.
      I have never been to Yorkshire but it looks beautiful, as no doubt your husband will tell you there is the great North South divide, I come from the south, anything the other side London is 'UP North'.
      The footprints in the snow were very revealing.

  3. Sorry about the mushroom grower. I still have to find sources of compost and manure.

    Do you need runnng water to grow cress?

    1. Hi Coco, no you don't need running water to grow water cress just keep it damp, apparently it will grow even if temperatures are 30c but it does need shade, you will have to get the seeds online Amazon sell them both UK and US.
      Regarding compost and manure that was always a real pain in Spain, we did find one mushroom farm on the main road a few miles outside of Lugo on the left headed your way, you will see the tunnels from the road, worth asking there. Other than that, do you know of any beaches where there is seaweed that gets washed up? Maybe V's family might know such beaches, I think the law there is the same as here, you can't cut it only collect what is washed up. For manure you could try some of the intensive pig or poultry farms, plenty of those around but remember than any manure from these will be full of GMO's so you probably wont want to use it, I know I wouldn't. The other thing you can use is straw, if you can get the small bales and train V to use them to pee on, this makes great compost.

  4. I give my self targets when I am digging my veg plot, Anne. I will spread and dig four wheelbarrow of fym in. Sometimes it's ten. Can't work the ground at the moment because it's too wet. Cleaning out the polytunnel today. I am going to sow some peas. What do you sow in January?

    1. Apart from the potato plot Dave we are no dig but the garden is being re-arranged this year, eight raised beds 2 are 16X 4 and 6 8X4 so as we are behind with the work we will have to dig a certain amount in. The only FYM that we have is from the hens and that has to be composted, the donkey manure will go straight on the potato plot.
      You can plant broad beans either in the garden or tunnel in January, and carrots in the tunnel if you are into salad you could plant mixed salad leaves in the tunnel.

  5. Thanks for the planting advice. Will get some carrot seeds tomorrow!

  6. Beautiful photos of the snow, we don't get it very often here but it is cold and wet. I'm looking forward to getting out in the garden.

  7. It is pretty to look at as long as it's not around too long, it's all gone now, hopefully that will be the last of it this year.

  8. The same thing happens here smaller farms being closed Big farms getting gigantic. Many people are now turning their small house lots into gardens of veggies, herbs, flowers and fruit trees. People are now seeing the goodness in buying from local farmers or growing their own. I think that if more people make choices with their purses and buy local things will improve for the small farmer. Its so sad to see that mushroom farmer go but glad you were able to find someone else. My best to you

  9. I do not understand why people insist in buying imported out of season fruit and veg and also meat, can't they see that not only would they be keeping money in the local economy, it creates local jobs, keeps young people on the farms instead of moving to the cities and the food it's self is fresh and contains far more nutrients than stuff that has been trucked from who knows where. Even though it might be slightly more expensive you are getting far better value.