Archive | self sufficiency RSS feed for this section

A tour round the production garden.

8 Jun

veg garden 023

The tunnel is chocabloc right now and the good weather is ensuring rampant growth.

veg garden 002

Lettuces I like to have lots of as we eat salad most days. There’s red ones…

veg garden 003

and green ones. Full Moon is coming up next Friday so it’s a good time to plant new seeds. I don’t follow the Moon calendar religiously but plants do seem to germinate more quickly and be somewhat stronger. If nothing else it’s a good way to divide up the work. Thursday is a leaf day so the new Lettuces and other leaf crops will go in then.

veg garden 015

These oriental salad leaves have gone crazy. Interplanted between the garlic I think I planted them a little too thickly. Still lots of pickings though to spice up our salads. I think I’ll plant some fresh supplies of this too.

veg garden 016

Strawberries have started to ripen.

veg garden 017

There’s great joy in heading to the house with that first precious handful. Slugs are a big problem this year. I’ve already used as much of the organic slug pellets as I used in the whole of last year’s growing season. Whole trays of seedlings have been devoured overnight. I was particularly peeved at the Icelandic Poppies which I’d overwintered in the conservatory. I potted them on, quite big plants at this point, only to discover the whole lot devoured next morning.

veg garden 006

Courgettes will be fruiting soon too. When we went out for my birthday meal Andy had raw courgette pasta with a pesto sauce. It was delicious. The pasta is made with a tool called a spiraliser and I am going to get one. The place we went to was in Westport, County Mayo. Called the Purple Root Cafe it is a raw, vegan cafe and the food is yummy. Highly recommend it if you’re going that way.

veg garden 005

Broad Beans are cropping now. Don’t think I’ll plant them in the tunnel again though. They are in the ground such a long time and become so gangly that they need staking. Outdoors for these next year.

veg garden 010

Outside the potatoes which were planted in pots in April are doing very well. These are Ratte, a French variety that has a lovely nutty flavour.

veg garden 011

The main crop of Setanta are now above ground. These are said to be a floury potato and are also blight resistant.

veg garden 008

Red Cabbage is starting to heart up nicely

veg garden 009

and the Tuscan Kale is doing well.

veg garden 012

It’s looking like a good fruit year. Apples and Plums have set lots of fruit. Home grown Plums are so different to what one buys in the shops, juicy and delicious. Actually I never buy shop Plums anymore as they are mostly inedible. I freeze a lot of Plums when we have them. Just split them, take out the stones, bag them up and into the freezer. Lovely for preserves and baking.

veg garden 013

There’s even a chance of Cherries this year. The big challenge here is to get them before the birds. Netting will be required I think.

veg garden 021

In the conservatory the Grapes are doing really well this year. This grape was here when we bought the place. It was much overgrown and produced little fruit. It has responded well to being severely pruned last year.

veg garden 022

So it’s looking like a good productive year here at Flynn’s Cottage. Hope your garden is doing well too.

Advertisements

These Springlike Winter days.

25 Nov

019

 

Just a month to Christmas and the Winter Solstice and the weather is just amazing. The misty mornings open out to nice mild days…ideal for working out of doors. It gets cold and dark early but then it is meant to be Winter!

020

 

Periwinkle is still blooming in sheltered spots.

Hazelwood 010

 

We have been busy with various outdoor jobs. Mulching to clear the beds for planting anew next Spring is ongoing.

Hazelwood 027

 

Lots of cardboard covered with ample amounts of mushroom compost should clear the ground nicely.

 

Hazelwood 028

 

This might seem like a very thick mulch but the compost settles a lot. By Spring this will be ideal for planting into…nice black heat retaining compost…hopefully weed excluding too!

036

 

Andy has been busy coppicing the boundary hedges. They had’nt been cut for years so were long and gangly and bare at the bottom. We will interplant with more plants to make a good thick hedge here. The lower height allows us to borrow from the landscape of the Ash forest behind.

034

 

All the plants in the hedgerow are Ash and Hawthorn…both suitable for burning green. They both burn very hot too. Andy has been chopping it all into fire sized logs on his new log splitter. He insists on making those funny faces…beyond my control!!  In the shed behind you can see the new shredder.

038

 

This will be used to turn this lot into mulch for beds and for making pathways.  There’s still about another hundred feet of hedging to be done so lots to keep us busy for some time.

022

 

After a day’s work it’s nice to retreat to the cosiness of the kitchen where the stove is kept ticking over all day. The kettle is always full and on the point of boiling for cuppas for ourselves and anyone who may drop in. Visitors are always a good excuse to retreat into the warmth of the house.

Looking forward to many more of these Spring like Winter days…they may make for a very short Winter. Fingers crossed!

 

Under Hunter’s Moon.

18 Oct

008

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!!

003

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.

Botanic Gardens 007

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.

001

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.

004

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!

Botanic Gardens 001

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.

Botanic Gardens 078

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…

Botanic Gardens 079

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

How many Planet’s do you need?

21 Aug

002

Apparently yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity exhausts Nature’s budget for the year. From this day forward, the Planet will be operating under an ecological deficit, using more resources than the Planet  can produce and emitting more carbon dioxide than the Planet can filter out.

003

Originally developed by the New Economics Foundation…who I admit I’d never heard of…Earth Overshoot Day has been falling by a few days earlier each year…an indication of ever-increasing patterns of consumption. In 1993 Earth Overshoot Day fell on October 21st. In 2003, it fell on September 22nd.

Secret Village Festival 011

For us to continue consuming resources as we are 1.5 Earth’s are needed. The US, China and Qatar are among the worst offenders. If everyone lived like your typical suburban American it would take four Earth’s to support the population. To live a lifestyle like the residents of Qatar 6.5 Earth’s would be required.

005ica

If you go to the site where I got all this info http://www.earthday.org/blog/2013/08/20/earth-overshoot-day-2013 you can calculate your ecological footprint.  I was shocked to find that even though we don’t eat meat or fish…recycle all that we can…grow a lot of our own veg…it would still take 2 planets per year for us to continue as we are. The questions were obviously set for the typical American lifestyle as there was no option for solid fuel heating…no option for alternative energy systems…no option for buying from charity shops or farmer’s markets.  So I don’t really buy the 2 Planets result but still it provided food for thought. I’m sure we could all do more in our everyday lives to ease the pressure on our Planet.  Food for thought indeed…

Go on… do the survey…I dare you.

As Autumn berries ripen…

16 Aug

017

As the berries on the Guelder Rose and other trees and shrubs redden we have a growing awareness of Autumn in the air. I can’t really explain it but it’s tangible that we are between seasons. It’s the slight chill in the air morning and evening, the ripening of seeds and berries, the drawing in of the evenings, the need to light a fire at night once again. Yes…Summer is slipping from our grasp…reluctant as we are to let her go…it is beyond our control.

007

Here in Lurgan work has been continuing on the house. The new solid fuel stove which will provide hot water and heat the radiators is fitted. Actually all the plumbing is done…finished last Thursday…we lit the stove on that day to check that everything was working ok. Apart from one airlock everything was fine. It will be lovely on cold Winter days to have this cranking out the heat. Nice as the Rayburn was we didn’t want to have an oil cooker. Not for us.

008

New windows bring extra light into the north side of the house. This one looks out onto the pond.

As I work away finishing things off ready for painting I listen to the radio. Such turmoil in the world…over 400 people killed in Egypt…car bombs in Iraq…robberies and killings here in Ireland. Test fracking going on in southern England. Sometimes I despair of what’s going on on our Planet.  Gmo’s infiltrating our food supply. Where will it all end. I read the other day that Monsanto only serves organic food in it’s worker’s cafes. Confidence in your products? They still have to come outside and breathe the polluted air they and their like have created.  Maybe I’ll turn that radio off…some music instead I think.

009

In the garden there is still lots of colour. I love Fuschias…apparently there are over 2 thousand varieties…so easy to propagate too. Just take a hardwood cutting in Autumn and leave in the polytunnel or coldframe to overwinter…viola!…a new plant next Spring.

016

Lots of Shasta Daisies too. They have been somewhat  battered by the heavy rains. These will have to be divided over Winter as they have formed into a huge clump.

012

Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Kale are well established now. The kale will be used over Winter and the PSB will be a welcome vegetable next Spring.

013

Leeks are also coming on nicely.  These beds are very fertile as they were made using soil from the old chicken run.

015

In the polytunnel we now have lots of crops. Courgettes…salad crops…Beetroot…Beans and lots of  Basil and other herbs means we have something from the garden for nearly every meal.

014

We’re really pleased with how crops have done as the polytunnel was only erected June 9th. Of course the polytunnel is sited where the chicken run was so plenty of manure incorporated into the soil here.  I just can’t imagine not having a polytunnel or not growing vegetables or flowers.  It’s a huge part of my life going out there and getting my hands in the soil. Eating something I’ve  grown just fills me with a sense of achievement. No high powered job for me…this will do fine.

As the night’s begin to draw in…

7 Aug

005

After almost a week away it’s great to be back working in the garden again. I do love to get away but getting back home is the best. I had a lovely time down in Tipperary where I attended a family wedding. It was a lovely day out and the food at the County Arms Hotel in Birr was just amazing. Imagine my surprise to be handed a totally veggie menu. We stayed overnight in the hotel and the whole experience was really great. A highly recommended hotel in my view.

024

It’s amazing how much growth occurred in the time I was away. Suddenly there’s lots of veg and salads. Beans are ready for picking and the Basil seems to have trebled in size.

028

Courgettes are coming thick and fast now.

025

My fave thing about having a polytunnel is growing our own salads. I just could not bear to eat those sad looking presentations from the supermarket. I’m quite pleased with this lot as the polytunnel is only up a short time. Summer Purslane, cut and come again Lettuces, rocket and Basil make for a lovely salad mix. With a nice dressing…a salad for me…is the basis of any good meal.

019

Flowers in the polytunnel too. This strange looking plant is Cock’s Comb Amaranth. It was a gift from my friend Saffron who has a fondness for rare and unusual plants.

018

The seeds are forming along the edge of the comb. Will certainly try and save seed from this beauty.

029

In the garden one always has to be thinking ahead to the next season. August is a good time to plant winter salad crops as they will be well established by the time the colder weather comes. Of course day length is also a big factor in plant growth and already the nights have started to draw in a little. The Purple Sprouting Broccoli has come on well outside…this is a plant that does’nt need to be indoors…this will be very useful in the ” hungry gap”  next March and April. One of my fave vegetables.

017

There is a real feel of Autumn in the air and of course seeds are setting everywhere. This Cotoneaster will be red before too long. Good picking for the birds when the weather gets colder. Hopefully that will not be for a while yet.

Blackcurrant season is here.

21 Jul

011

 

As the good weather continues the Blackcurrants are ready for picking. Usually I would cut off the branches and then pick the fruit from them en masse. This year however despite all the sunshine the fruit is ripening in stages. I suspect this is something to do with the garden being shaded for part of the day by the many trees. It makes the job a bit easier anyway as all the fruit doesn’t have to be harvested together.

013

 

The tree shade made it easier to pick in the scorching temperatures we’ve had all week. I moved as the sun moved…always seeking the shade. Thankfully rain is forecast for the week ahead. The garden needs it as the ground is already cracking.

014

 

These Blackcurrants need a good prune as I suspect they hadn’t been pruned for about 2 years. Lots of them planted here by the previous owners. My neighbour tells me the were all grown from cuttings taken from her garden. No clue as to the varieties but who cares so long as they produce a crop.

012

I find harvesting a relaxing pastime. What could be nicer…sitting in the shade picking your Vitamin C supply for the Winter ahead. Actually Blackcurrants are just as much a superfood as the much lauded Blueberry. They are full of antioxidants and are good for problems with joint inflammation, eyestrain and urinary tract infections.

017

 

 

As always Lettie is nearby when I’m in the garden. She too was seeking shade but not quite getting it right. Freddie doesn’t seem to like the Sun…he retreats to his bed when it’s very hot.

019

 

All the Blackcurrants are frozen…one kilo in each bag. This is enough to make 7 or 8 12oz pots of jam or 3 bottles of cordial. Time for all that when the harvesting is done. I sell my jams and chutneys to a few local shops and also at occasional markets I attend. I am sharing with you my recipe or Blackcurrant Jam. It uses less water than usual…just a pint…but this helps to give a stronger flavour jam that sets easily.

Blackcurrant Jam.

2lbs 4ozs Blackcurrants

1 pint water

3lbs 6ozs sugar

Place the Blackcurrants and water together in a large thick bottomed pan. Bring to the boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the fruit is softened. The contents of the pan should be reduced by half . Add the sugar. Stir well whilst bringing all to a full rolling boil. Boil hard until a set is obtained. Pot and seal whilst still hot.

Happy jamming.

Bridget

%d bloggers like this: