reflection on peeling spuds

Our lives are so busy and ambitious that we often look down on the menial tasks such a peeling potatoes. Often peeling spuds is beneath us, something from the soil that doesn’t really engage our brain and creativity, just a dirty ball of carbohydrate that needs work done to make it useful. I don’t have time for this, I’ve places to go and more important things to do than peeling some potatoes on. Will I stick on some pasta instead?

While peeling potato number 4 I was reflecting on how much work would be involved in peeling and preparing potatoes.
I had Wee Gran in mind, a lady of over 80 who would have much of her life preparing potatoes for the 11 children she raised and my grandfather.
Saying gran took 10mins for potato preparation and had potatoes 6 times a week that would be an hour in potato preparation per week.

That would be 52hrs of potato preparation a year. Gran has been peeling spuds for well over 50 years. Someone like my gran could easily have spent a working year of her life just peeling potatoes.

I guess that while I’m peeling these potatoes I’m wondering on whether our generation has undervalued the dignity and work in household chores or if our lives are just too speedy to even consider such things.

total road coverage?

So I was out for a dander around the boreens and side streets of Hilden and Harmony Hill when the question popped into my head – if we gathered all the roads in the UK and Ireland into one giant car park, how big would that car park be?

Well I’ll be honest – I only wanted to calculate the roads here in Northern Ireland but think it will be easier to calculate it for both the UK and Ireland.

For the roads I’m just going to take it that each road is only 3metres wide, which is roughly single lane I reckon. That means that any size we get is much smaller than the actual figure.

*disclaimer. This could be completely wrong.

From this website I make it 397403 km in total for the UK and from Wikipedia 101456 km for Ireland.

So the total area of road should be 0.003km x (397403 + 101456) = 1497 sq km or a square 38.7km x 38.7km at the very least, but in reality it would be bigger.


I got round to thinking what with the harvest and all, and a blooming love for porridge and oats how much land would we roughly need to sow with oats to keep us in porridge for a year?

To make a bowl of porridge I take 40g of oats.
That equals 40g x 2 of us X 365 days in year = 29.2 kg

29.2kg of oats per year.

But what kind of yield should we be looking for in oats per acre or backyard?
There seems to be great variation depending on weather conditions, artificial fertiliser use (which I’d like to avoid), this or that etc etc

After some searching around I found one place that gave a guestimate – anywhere from a disappointing 2.25t/acre to the more normal 3.2t/acre (according to the farmer)

I’ll just take the disappointing figure of 2.25t/acre = 2250 kg per acre and play it safe,remembering that this was for farmers planting hundreds of acres of oats.

2250 kg /29.2 kg = ~ 77 i.e one 77th of an acre to grow the 29.2 kg we use per year.

1 acre = ~4046 sq m’s

4046 /77 = 52 sq metres

However that can’t be right(not that it was going to be anyway)

The oats we eat in our porridge have been processed and had the husk removed for starters, and the only figure I can see (though it’s for fodder oats in the USA) is 25% of the weight of the oat grain.

So we should increase that 52 square metres by at least another 25% i.e 65 squares metres.I think the oat grains have probably been dried as well but its late and this probably isn’t a calculation for a laptop.

But if we roughly say 65 square metres.
Say a patch of land 8 metres X 8 metres?

beetroot/church calculation

how much land would we need to grow enough beetroot to provide a church with 200 families with a bunch every 2weeks for 6 months of the year?Beetroot might not be overly popular and grows quite close together so we might not need to use much of the farm to supply enough beetroot.

A bunch =  ~ big 4 beetroot
Beetroot spaced every 4in = 1 bunch per ft

Number of bunches needed = 26weeks (half a year) / 2 = 13 bunch per family

13 x 200 = 2600 bunch of beetroot

Area needed = very roughly 3000 square ft

beef/church calculation

How many cows and how much land would we need to roughly supply a church of 200 families with their average beef needs for a year?

From this table  in 1998 the Irish ate 17.1kg of meat per person per year while in the UK they ate 19.7kg.  So if we roughly say 20kg  per person now in 2010, which would be 40kg for two people, say 50kg per family per year would that be alright?

That would work out at just under a 1kg of beef per week per family. Helen and I don’t really eat much beef, so that seems like a lot to me but maybe it isn’t to you. If you make mince one night that would be 500g of minced beef for example.

It seems hard to get random internet figures on how much meat you can get from one cow but this one suggested it is very roughly about 50% of the total weight of a cow. Or this one gives an average of ~370kg for a dressed carcass.

So if we take 370kg and assume that all that meat will be somehow used (which is unlikely considering how we only like certain cuts of meat) that would give us a VERY ROUGH figure of a 370kg/50kg = 7.4 families per cow

200 families / 7.4 families per cow = 27 cows

So if we wanted to supply each family in a church of 200 families with 1kg of beef we would be talking about 27 cows, perhaps I’ll round it up to a herd of 30 cows.

If we take the stocking density we used for the dairy calculation (i.e. 2.5 cows per 6.2 acres)  that would be a figure of 12 x 6.2 acres = 74.4 acres.

So from a VERY ROUGH calculation we would need about 30 cattle and 75acres of farmland.

(I’m not sure if the land calculation included the area we would need to grow silage and hay for feeding the livestock over the winter.)

cows/church calculation

How much land would we need to supply a church that has 200 families with all their milk for a year?If we say that each family drinks 5L per week that would that each family drinks 260L (5L x 52) per year.
For the church as a whole it would be approx 200 x 260L = 52000L of milk per year.
I found an a figure that each cow in Northern Ireland in 2003 produced 6,290L of milk.
So say 52000/6290 = 8 cows working all the time.

Lets go mad and round it up to 12 cows for the church (you can use the excess milk for cheese, cream etc).

One website recommends a stocking density of 2.5 cows per 6.2 acres so to provide all the dairy we’re very roughly looking at 5 x 6.2acres = 31 acres of farmland.

kale/church calculation

what size would of  field (very roughly) would we need to grow one kale plant per week per family from Sept to May in a church with 200 families?
approx 8ft x 24ft for one family = 192 sq. ft

for 200 families = 192 sq. ft x 200
= 38400 sq. ft
= 0.88 acre

So we’re probably looking at a field well under an acre in size.