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These Springlike Winter days.

25 Nov

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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!

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Periwinkle is still blooming in sheltered spots.

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

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

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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Busy Autumn days.

1 Oct

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So far Autumn has been very pleasant. Mild days and nights with little rain or wind. Fuschias are still producing lots of flowers. If you like them now is a very good time to take cuttings. Just take shoots about six inches long…take off the flowers and lower leaves and insert cuttings into a gritty compost.

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On the lane the colours have started to change. Vibrant greens give way to light greens and yellow as the plants start the process of entering dormancy. Hawthorn is the first to lose it’s leaves…they are already turning the ground brown. These will be collected and left in plastic bags to rot down over the Winter. They make a great soil improver.

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In the garden Kaffir Lilies or Schizostylis add a splash of late colour.

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After observing the garden over the course of the Summer we have decided to have a major revamp of the beds. As you can see there is very little colour now. We like lots of flowers and vibrant colours in the borders. To achieve this next year we have decided to strim everything in the beds back to ground level…after removing and potting up anything useful…then mulch heavily with cardboard and newspaper followed by mushroom compost. With this job in mind we borrowed our friends Anne and Simon’s van on Monday and collected 2 loads of mushroom compost from the tunnels in Keadue.  Do check out Anne and Simon’s blog http://www.anirishalternative.blogspot.com …they are up to allsorts over there including building a small version of the straw bale house they lived in 15 years ago. Lots of veg production over there too.

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During the beautiful weather of the last days of September we got the outside of the house painted. White of course…I think that is the best colour and the traditional one for Irish cottages.  Dark blue for the windows creates a nice balance.

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In the kitchen…in between decorating…I have been preserving the produce from the Earth. Blackberries were fab this year…I’ve frozen about 10 kilos. These will be used to make jams, cordial and crumbles over the Winter. I’ve also harvested all the Basil…it tends to go mouldy from now on…and made it into pesto. I don’t use cheese in this as Parmesan is not veggie friendly so it freezes very well. I use Walnuts instead of Pine Nuts.  There’s still Elderberries and Haws to be collected so busy days ahead.

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I’ve also made a sourdough starter using some of the Grapes as they have a natural coating of yeast when ripe. My old sourdough starter died when we left our old house. I add the starter to everything I bake. It is great for pancakes and I add a good scoop to cakes too. Great for one’s digestion.

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Along with everything else to be harvested it is also Mushroom season. This giant Boletus served us both for breakfast. Delicious it was too! I really want to find some Chanterelles this year. Be careful if you are out there collecting as there are also False Chanterelles…the proper ones smell of Apricot…the fakes don’t.

Blackcurrant Cordial.

30 Jul

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With all those delicious vitamin C and antioxidant filled Blackcurrants almost all harvested and frozen it’s time to think what to do with them. I will as usual make lots of Blackcurrant Jam. This sells well at local shops and markets. I also want to make a Blackcurrant Chutney this year. Anyone out there ever made a chutney from Blackcurrants? Do you have a good recipe to share?

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Blackcurrant cordial is another definite to make. It’s a great way to get your Vitamin c throughout the Winter. It makes a lovely hot drink too, just add hot water to your cordial and a little honey if desired.   So without further ado here is the recipe:

Blackcurrant Cordial

500g blackcurrants

275g sugar

250ml water

half a teaspoon of citric acid

In a heavy based saucepan simmer everything together for 5 minutes. Using a potato masher, break up the fruit to release all the juice. Add the citric acid and simmer for another 2 minutes. Strain through a double layer of muslin, Pour into sterilised bottles while still hot.

If you would like to fortify your cordial with brandy just let the cordial cool and add brandy before bottling.

Blackcurrant season is here.

21 Jul

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

What’s wrong with daisies in the lawn?

4 Jul

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This is our lawn…just before cutting…full of daisies. I quite like them actually. We don’t spray our lawn with anything…never fertilise it…I think it makes a grand lawn.

Recently I started following a blog called http://www.naturegirlireland.blogspot.ie . It’s the blog of Mary Reynolds gold medal winning Chelsea gardener.

Mary did a post recently about lawns http://www.naturegirlireland.blogspot.ie/2013/03/glowing-green-fingers.html…I was shocked at some of the statistics quoted. No offence to American people who visit here but all of the stats are from America.

1. America has 40 million acres of lawn which use 238 gallons per person per day to keep.

2.American research (University of California, Irvine) demonstrated that carbon emissions would be far lower if lawnmowers were       eradicated.

3. The EPA in the USA reckons that Americans use 800 million gallons of oil per year in lawnmowers.

4. Pesticide use is 20 times higher in residential gardens than on farms.

Now I’m sure if similar research was carried out in Ireland the stats would be just as bad. All the big supermarkets now carry all sorts of garden chemicals which people carry out in the same bags as their groceries. Weeds are not hoed on a sunny day anymore they are sprayed with weedkillers. The giveaway brown strip of grass along the road is a the telltale sign of  such activity.

On a recent sunny Sunday I was shocked to see a guy with a knapsack sprayer spraying his yard. Shocked because he was wearing no mask or protective clothing …and must shocking of all…a child of about 4 years was walking along beside him as he sprayed. No protection either of course.

Have people lost touch with Nature altogether I wonder? Do people not realise they are poisoning their land…themselves and their families and of course our struggling insects too.

The Earth cannot continue to tolerate what we are doing. It is starting to fight back.   Floods…melting ice caps…dying bees…all a result of human stupidity.

We must wake up and smell the flowers…before it’s too late.

It’s such a joy to go into our garden and hear the buzz of the bees…the song of the birds…the sight of insects flitting about.

Yes! We have daisies in the lawn. I love them!

 

Garden work on hot Summer days.

8 Jun

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Hi folks! The big news is that we have a polytunnel. Yippee! We bought it from the Galway based Polytunnels Ireland. They arrived yesterday morning at 10.15. Started work at 10.30 and had the whole job done by 1.30. Yeah…that’s right…all done from scratch in 3 hours. Hardest working guys in seen in ages. They only stopped to drink water and an occasional few minutes in the shade. It was a really hot day… 27 celsius…so the plastic is really tight.

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Today was also very hot but I couldn’t resist starting to mulch in there. We will use the no-dig method to make the beds. First a good thick mulch of cardboard and newspapers…then the manure will go on…and lastly compost on top and it’s ready for planting.

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We now have 3 hugelkultur beds made. One with Onions…one with Black Tuscan Kale and the last one planted today with Peas. There’s nothing to beat home-grown Peas. These are Daniel O’Rourke… an old Irish variety. I shall also save seeds from these at the end of the season.

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Andy was feeling the effects of the sun today so he chose a job under shade. He sorted out all the wood from the Poplar tree we had felled some weeks ago. The big logs were put in a big pile to season and all the small branches he sawed up and put in the fuel shed. In the country one always has to think ahead to Winter fuel supplies. This lot should be ready to use by September.

Temperatures are set to return to 19 celsius by Monday.A  better temperature for tunnel work.

As Spring slides gently into Summer.

29 May

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It was a beautiful day today, warm and sunny, an ideal day for working outdoors. I’m not a very early riser but I was up at 7.30 today, woken by the feeling that is was going to be one of those perfect days.

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The garden is green and fresh and feels so vibrant right now. One can almost see things growing. The old cottage garden favourite Granny’s Bonnet or Columbine has burst into bloom. It all over the garden in shades of blues, pinks and creams. Luckily I like it very much.

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The Tulips are still giving some colour too. These are late partly because of the cold Spring but also because they were planted late,  a bargain buy in the January sales.

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Most of the day was spent working on this bed. I planted about 30 plants in here, all grown from cuttings from my old garden. The exception being the Maple planted at the top, the dogs are admiring it here, this was a birthday present from my Mother.

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This is the same bed about a month ago. A good transformation I think. After everything was planted, I mulched the bed with wilted grass clippings. These will keep the weeds down, hold the moisture and feed the plants as it rots down. I watered everything when the Sun went down, first with water and then with a manure tea. That will feed everything and also get the soil microbes active.

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As I was planting I hit rock a few times. Further investigation revealed some lovely flat stones. These will be used in another part of the garden as stepping stones.

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Sitting on the verandah in the cool of the evening and I’m still enchanted by the day and the lovely way the long Spring is sliding nicely into Summer. Hopefully there will be many more days like this one.

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