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Daffodil days.

21 Mar

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I love Daffodils!  For me they are a sign that Winter is gone…the sap is rising…and the garden is springing into life again. The power of the Sun is growing daily and soon we shall have longer evenings. The joy of a new season is upon us.

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Historically the Daffodil has been associated with bad luck…especially in matters of poultry rearing. It was said that if a single flower was picked and brought indoors…then only a single chick would emerge from a clutch of eggs.

Narcissus…another  name for Daffodils…meaning “narcissism” which comes from “narke”…the Ancient Greek word for deep sleep, stupor or numbness. Narke is of course also the root of the word “narcotic. The name is a reference to a toxic paralyzing alkaloid contained within the bulbs.

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“Daffodils that come before the Swallow dares, and takes the winds of March with beauty.”   William Shakespeare

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Under Hunter’s Moon.

18 Oct

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As full Moon approaches the weather is still very mild for October and of course the impending full Moon…which in October is called Hunter’s Moon…means that the nights are just fabulously bright. Well they were until last night but today was a wet day so tonight will more than likely be cloudy. Not much chance of seeing the eclipse then!

During the dry days of last week I decided to try out something I’ve been reading about for some time. Vinegar makes an eco-friendly weed killer. Newsflash: it doesn’t work! We wanted to get rid of some of this perennial Geranium as there’s far too much of it. Our usual method would be mulching but that can’t be done here as the area is planted with Spring bulbs. Looks like we’ll have to get digging!!

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Indoors work continues processing the fruit harvested and frozen during the Summer…this is Blackcurrant wine. The sourdough starter which used the grapes to get it going is now active.

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Autumn fruits are so plentiful this year. The hedgerows are dripping with Elderberries…Ireland’s Echinacea…excellent for the prevention and treatment of colds and flus and building up one’s immune system.

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I used some of this lot to make a tincture and the rest…along with Rosehips and Crab Apples to make a Hedgerow Jelly. As I write more are simmering on the stove to make into Elderberry Cordial tomorrow.

The tincture is very easy to make. Just fill a large glass jar two thirds full with berries then cover with good quality vodka. Leave for at least a month then strain off the liquid.

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Store in dark bottles or jars. Ten drops a day is a good preventative medicine…up to 30 drops if you have a cold or flu. If you look closely you can see I got the date a bit wrong on my label here. Ready in 2313! Must change that!

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Lots of garden produce at the moment too. This meal is completely local grown. The Potatoes are Ratte which I grew in pots outdoors. One pot to eat the other to keep for seed if we liked them. Boy do we like them…they are delicious!  The leftovers were used for potato salad next day. Best spuds ever for potato salad. Shall certainly be growing more of these next year. The Kale and Cucumber we grew ourselves while the Red Cabbage was from a friend’s garden. We ate that raw mixed with Apple as a coleslaw.

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Andy has been busy too. Grass is still growing strong…that’s his department. He also makes sure theres lots of logs cut to keep the stove ticking over. In between those and all his other jobs he took advantage of a few spare hours earlier in the week to paint this lovely artwork for the glass in the door leading from the kitchen to the utility room. Surrounded by his trademark brightly coloured flowers…

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with a lovely Sun in the centre…I love it!

Garden news and cottage progress.

10 Oct

006   Up to a few days ago the weather was fabulous…in fact it’s still nice…even if it’s not so warm. Today was only 12 celsius but it was beautifully bright and sunny all day long. The last few weeks have been so warm that the Peas that are being saved for seed have started to flower again… 007   and the Strawberries are still giving a few ripe berries occasionally. 015   In the cottage renovations are finished. It’s so nice to have the house to ourselves again. As nice as our builder and plumber are I just don’t like someone in my space all the time.  Just today we put the table and chairs in here in the conservatory.  Be lovely to sit here over breakfast on a nice morning. On the not so nice mornings the stove will be lit to keep things cosy. lurgan 009   Bit of a difference to when we moved here back in February!  Apart from getting rid of lots of clutter the new roof has made the biggest difference here. Much brighter and of course much better heat retention from the polycarbonate. 018   The plants that have been brought in from outside should flower here for some time. 017   The last few Squashes are ripening on the windowsill. Small but perfectly formed they will be used for Winter soups or roasted…one of my favourite ways to eat Squash…accompanied by Beetroot and Carrots just delicious served on a bed of Quinoa. 019 Andy has given our big old American fridge of new coat of spray paint. It was meant to be chrome paint but it actually turned out like brushed steel. It will have to live here as it doesn’t fit in the kitchen or utility. We bought this old fridge about 16 years ago in a second hand shop. It is a Hotpoint manufactured in 1957 in USA. I much prefer it to the new fridges…so much more spacious. 032   In the kitchen all is finished too… civilised living is back! It’s so nice to get the last of our stuff out of boxes.  The sink will have to go though…this round sink is just so impractical…and no draining board…doesn’t work for us. 031   After initially deciding against it we ended up getting the splashback for the range.  The bookshelves on either side set it off  nicely and create a focal point for the room. With lots of timber from the forest behind the cottage we should be nice and cosy for the Winter here at Flynn’s Cottage.

At Terra Nova.

15 Sep

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Our builder finished on Friday…yippee! To celebrate we decided to have a day out on Saturday. Nine thirty saw us heading off to Kilmallock in Co. Limerick to visit Terra Nova…the wonderful garden designed and created by husband and wife team Deborah and Martin Begley. We were in the local village of Bruff by one o’clock where we dined at The Old Bake House Restaurant. Then a short drive to check out the town of Kilmallock. By two o’clock we were at our real destination just as the gates opened. We were’nt the only ones…

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This really is a magical garden. It is only half an acre but due the way the garden is divided into several small gardens it appears so much bigger.

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Even the small front garden is sub-divided into two smaller gardens. Each sub-division is totally different but the whole thing flows like a dream.

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Every space is filled…even the gable end is furnished with lusciouscly filled pots of beautifully healthy looking plants.

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Love this little pond which is totally covered in by trees and shrubs which creates the beautiful  dappled shade. Until you enter that little area there is no hint of what lies there. Love this!

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The other gable end is also filled with potted plants. A little gift shop is nearby plus complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits.

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We are now in the back garden at the Thai Tea House. So lovely to just sit here and sign the visitors book. A very serene spot…surrounded by plants with the sound of trickling water nearby.

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Looking out to the garden from the tea house. Could sit here for some time but so much more to see…

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Another gorgeous water feature…leading on to

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beautiful Birches.

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This meditating Sprite sits quietly among the plants…

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whilst another plays a flute by the pond in the woodland garden.

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A lovely sample of Martin’s  stained glass work in the Fairy House.

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There’s so many more pictures I could show and so much more I could say about the amazing work of art this garden is but I will leave it there. If you ever get the chance go for a visit…it  will be worth it. I think it’s our fave garden…ever. Closed now for 2013 put it in your diary for next year. We intend to go back to see the garden in it’s full Summer splendour in 2014.

Monsanto vs. Mother Earth.

10 Aug

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A few nights ago I watched a documentary on TG4…Ireland’s Irish language channel…about the effect Monsanto has had on agriculture in India.  I had read something of this but this programme really spelled out just how evil this company is and has been in it’s attempt to murder India’s agriculture. The main GM crops grown in India are cotton and rice.  Cotton is a very important crop for Indian’s farmers. Actually most of the world’s cotton comes from India. The farmers were promised higher yields and better quality cotton. However…the seed are much more expensive than indigenious varieties and they will not perform without copious amounts of extra pesticides and extra water. Farmers were not told this at the beginning. They end up in a spiral of debt from which they can not escape. Gm cotton growers have 80% more debt. Many thousands of farmers have committed suicide leaving their families in dire straits.

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Of course these are terminator technology seeds so new seed must be purchased every year. Monsanto has bought up many of the Indian seed companies so there is little option left if farmers wish to return to using native seeds. Often the seed packets remain the same except for the little Monsanto logo in the bottom corner. A distinct disadvantage as most of the farmers are illiterate.

The remnants of these crops go on to do further damage to the farmers animals. The straw left over from rice and cotton is fed to animals. There have been many animal deaths after eating this GM straw. It is thought the animals can’t digest this food and it kills the bacteria in the rumen.

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Rice production has also been contaminated by GM seeds. In a country that boasted over 30,000 varieties of rice it is now reduced to around 150 varieties.  Golden Rice was supposed to be the new magic crop that provided Vitamin A which is deficient in the Indian diet. What the growers were not told was that 9kg of rice would have to be eaten daily to get your daily allowance of the vitamin.

There is however some fightback. Vandana Shiva the renowned environmentalist has set up Navdanya…a network of seed keepers and organic growers spread across 17  Indian states.

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Here in Europe we also need to be on our guard. Monsanto have been saying that they are going to withdraw from selling GM seeds in Europe….however….and this is very worrying…Monsanto are now using loopholes in European law to seek patents on common fruits and veg that exist naturally in Nature. It seems Monsanto is no longer content with with manipulating, patenting and selling it’s own GM seeds… it has as it’s goal the ownership of every plant in existence.   Please inform yourself and join over 2 million others in signing this petition:                                                  http://www.avaaz.org/en/monsanto_vs_mother_earth_nm/?bigwYcb&v=26065

Sadly here in Ireland we are not GM free either. GM potatoes are being trailed in Carlow this year and all non-organic animal feeds have a percentage of GM maize…this is not stated on the labels in the supermarket.  Make no mistake every country on the Planet is under assault from this powerful corporation. Sadly our governments are working with them.  In America this is blatantly obvious. The Deputy Commissioner of the FDA…Michael Taylor…is a former vice president of Monsanto. Does’nt seem right to me!!

What can we do? We can let the supermarkets know we do not want produce that has GM residues. Ask them about GM labelling.  Grow as much as we can ourselves from organic seeds. Save the seeds of crops that do well…they will be acclimatised to your area.

Be vigilant…the assault on Mother Earth is ongoing…we must do what we can to help her.

Flowers and sunshine in an Irish cottage garden.

8 Jul

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It’s hot in Ireland today. The heatwave is here. Hottest place in the country today is Listowel, Co. Kerry…29 degrees celsius. Too hot for us fair skinned Irish. I love to see the Sun and feel it’s heat but that just stops me in my tracks. I’ve been hoeing in the yard today…it’s a great time for that as the weeds just burn up in the sun. A few minutes hoeing and a few minutes in the shade…that’s me today.

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The garden is looking good right now. So many Bees and other insects about. They especially like this tall Valerian. There’s a loud hum everytime I pass here as they complain about being disturbed from their ecstasy.

It’s a plant I  like too…I love it’s height and the fact that you can see through it to the rest of the garden. I think Verbena bonariensis would look nice amongst the Valerian here…a nice contrasting colour and similar habit.  What do you think?

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A plant which was here in the garden is this Cephalaria gigantea. I wasn’t familiar with it before now but I do like it.

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It’s almost 6ft tall with creamy yellow Scabious like flowers. Apparently it grows easily from seed. I shall certainly save some and grow some more of this lovely.

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Lady’s Mantle…Alchemilla mollis is at it’s peak right now. It contrasts lovely with this pink perennial Geranium at the base of the Apple tree….but then it would be hard to find something that didn’t look good alongside the wonderful zingy green flowers of Lady’s Mantle. I know some people dislike it but for me it’s a star in any border.

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Another pretty one growing in the Orchard area. I don’t know it’s name…anyone out there know? Someone said to me recently to pull it out as it spreads like mad. I hadn’t the heart to pull it…if it spreads so be it.

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The first Dahlia flowered today. The dark foliage sets off the orange flower brilliantly. I keep all the Dahlias in pots as I find they die over the Winter otherwise. The pots are useful to use as fillers where any gaps occur.

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Hypericum has just started to bloom under the Alder tree. It seems to like the semi-shade here.

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I planted this Primula vialii here a few weeks ago not knowing that the little leaves growing beside it would turn out to be a lovely little native Orchid. Nature does it best…what a good pairing they make.

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Another recent purchase was this Primula florindae “Kellour hybrid”…I do love the taller growing Primulas. This one is scented and smells just like cinnamon.

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A few flowers in the polytunnel too. These are Purple Teepee beans…

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and this Bush Tomato is showing the promise of fruits to come.

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In a corner of the polytunnel this Thunbergia is flashing it’s eye catching blooms. Commonly known as Black Eyed Susan it needs a sheltered sunny spot. It can grow up to 10ft tall and flowers from July right up to October.

So there you have it…flowers and sunshine in an Irish cottage garden.

As Solstice approaches…

17 Jun

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As the longest day approaches everything in Nature is full of vitality and bursting with energy. The weather is good… not as hot as our recent heatwave which suits me…and probably most Irish people better. I don’t think we are genetically disposed to very hot weather…most of us wilt when it gets above 23 or 24c.

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Cherries are starting to swell on the trees. It’s looking good for Apple and Plum harvests too…and of course the Blackcurrants never let us down. Even in the recent bad Summers the Blackcurrants came up trumps. The seem to like the conditions here in the north-west. Lots of freezing, jamming and chutney making to be done later it seems.

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In the polytunnel the first bed is made.

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The first thing to be planted was a Mexican Midget tomato. It already has flowers so shouldn’t be too long before we get lovely little sweet Tomatoes here. Several varieties of Lettuce, Basil, Rocket, Chervil and Dill were planted plus 3 more Tomato plants. That’s that bed full…time to get another one constructed.

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In the front garden Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)  is in flower beside the pond. Not one of my favourite shrubs but I can’t see us taking it out either…but then again maybe we will. Andy isn’t a big fan of it either.

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Within the pond the Water Lily has been teasing us for days with it’s semi-open blooms.

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Under the shelter of the verandah  the Clematis has burst into flower.  Not the dark purple I’d like but still quite pretty. It’s one of the plants the previous owners planted here. Maybe I will replace it in the Winter with Clematis jackmanii my absolute favourite Clematis.

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On the lane the Hawthorn flowers are just going over. Soon they will make little Haws which will light up the hedgerows with their vibrant red come Autumn.  The cycle of the year continues…as it always does.

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