Monday, May 23, 2016

Return on labour investment.

The Laburnum just coming into flower.
Many people dream of living a self- sufficient life style but in reality in this day and age I doubt if it is possible unless you are working as a collective. However it is possible to produce most of your own food if you don't mind a bit, well really, a lot of hard graft. We do manage to produce almost all of our vegetables, in the past year all we have needed to buy has been ten kg. of potatoes, one kg of onions and three bags of spinach. The spinach was not so much a need as a want by me, I love spinach and although we have chard and perpetual spinach all year round, by the time winter is over I get a longing for fresh spinach. We buy some fruit, I don't think it's possible to grow bananas in Ireland and I will buy things like pears when on offer to bottle for the winter months. If we were not dedicated seasonal eaters no doubt we would be buying much more, but we don't feel that we need tomatoes or cucumber in the middle of winter, neither do we need Strawberries at Christmas. So we grow our own and battle against all the bugs and wildlife that try to beat us in the growing and harvesting.
 It gets a bit disheartening to find that the onions you have planted have been pulled out by Jackdaws, this year we defeated them, we planted all the outside onions into modules and planted them out when they had a good root system.
 Most of our veg. is started off in modules, the exception being carrots and parsnips, even  swede is started off in modules, it seems to give the plants a better start in life, a chance to develop a good root system before they take their chances with the wildlife.  We wage war on slugs, normally by night time vigils, cutting up any slug that has dared to come near the brassicas. Carrots are protected by an enviromesh netting barrier against the carrots root fly. Stinging nettles are fermented, ready to strike against any aphid attack. In reality, once a garden is established it probably takes no more than  two hundred hours a year, which might sound a lot but breaks down to just an hour a day over a six months period. I feel sure that if we had to buy our food it would work out to far more hours than that to shop in a supermarket.
Besides growing our vegetables and most of our fruit we also raise both ducks and chickens for our own consumption, plus some quail and rabbits. We used to raise lambs, but to be truthful they really are more bother than they are worth, besides them waking up each day and trying to find some new novel way to commit suicide, they have to be fed unless you have the best of land and they can graze on grass alone, added to that all the different ailments that they can suffer from. Pigs are well worth doing, however you have to keep at least two at any given time and two pigs is far too much for us, there is also the problem of getting them loaded up and taken for slaughter. So it looks as though we will be sticking to just the smaller animals, and buy the occasional beef and pork from the larger organic farmers in the area.
Apple blossom time.
We are hopeful of a decent apple harvest this year, all of the trees have been covered in blossom and the bees have been very busy, even the cherry trees have bloomed well, maybe if we cover the trees with netting we might get a few instead of the wild birds getting the lot. The soft fruit is looking very good, we had covered the whole area with a netting tunnel as wild birds had a wonderful time last year with our gooseberries in particular, this years the bushes are loaded. We continue to pick a pound a day of tunnel strawberries, and have had the first of the mange tout peas
First of the broad beans.
and broad beans
Spinach fresh from the garden.
and the garden spinach is producing very well.
Newly arrived just a few hours old.
Last week we picked up twenty four day old Hubbard chicks, these will be the first of our table birds although we do have quite a few birds ordered, we will do a second batch towards the end of August. Hubbards although a slow growing strain develop quickly,
Four days old and their first pin feathers have appeared.
after four days they have developed their first pin feathers on their wings, they will remain on heat for around three weeks before being moved into their outside run.
Sunday we went to a plant sale held at Strokestown house, we were impressed with the stalls that were there, some of the nursery's that were there had travelled long distances to attend, one from Dublin another from Clare, the one from Clare we were very impressed with, not only was it an extremely well laid out display, with good photos of the plants, she also did a special offer of six plants for only twenty euro, all of her plants being herbaceous plants, I only wish the nursery was nearer, I would willing spend my money with her. It total we bought fourteen good plants for just forty five euro, that's what I call good value.
Finally a few pictures of our local lough taken just as the sun was setting.
Beautiful reflections as the sun sets on another lovely day.

Full moon over Lough O'Flynn.


  1. To many town-dwellers the rural idyll of self-sufficiency sounds attractive, but in reality it is very hard work, isn't it? And you need a fair bit of ground to be self-sufficient. It makes more sense to grow a large quantity of something that does well in your garden / farm and then sell or barter it for other stuff that you can/t grow or raise.

    1. It's hard work setting up Mark, but this year will be year five so the garden is now well set up, raised beds for a lot of the crops the main exception being potatoes, it really is quite easy to produce fruit and veg, however growing grain crops would be a whole new ball game.

  2. Oh how i wish i had to opportunity and land to do all that hard graft. It would be so fulfilling to be able to feed yourself.

    1. It is very fulfilling Lynda, what can be nicer than picking or digging what is in season and eating it within a couple of hours?

  3. I think you have to really love what you're doing to be self sufficient, it can be seen as an idylic lifestyle but in reality there's a lot of hard work involved. I think you've done the right thing, finding out what works for you and what doesn't and then making your decisions on what you'll grow or rear based on that. Those photos at the end of your post are really lovely.

    1. We are just too old now to be loading pigs or chasing sheep, poultry is easy to do and now the gardens are well set up it's quite easy growing the fruit and veg.

  4. What a well written post...sounds like something to be read in a magazine...waging a war against slugs and battling the elements to succeed in self-sufficiency! Always inspiring. That snap of the Laburnam...something else I helped myself to in the garden and was violently ill from...amazing I made it as an adult really! xxx