Hi lads! On the couch attacking a few chocolates after a hectic day. All 16 guests have departed, well fed and well oiled.hope you are all on the couch, recovering from the day.happy Christmas!
Monday, 17 December 2012
Thursday, 29 November 2012
|into the bowels of the city|
I decided to grace the people of Cork with a visit a few weekends ago. With my husband and two mothers in tow we headed for the pretty village of Blarney where my poor brother lives surrounded on all sides by crazy cork people.Mind you he does seem to really love them and finds them extremely witty and amusing. My favourite Cork person is Frances from Kanturk who rears my organic Christmas Turkeys. She is universally cheerful and addresses everyone as "dotee" in her sweet Cork accent. Even her turkeys adore her, following her around the field and pecking at her coat to get her attention! She loves them back -O how she ever manages to take them for slaughtering I will never know. Luckily by the time I get them they are plucked and ready for the oven, I don't think I could look a turkey in the eye before cooking it-even if it is dead!
|a delectable assortment of fresh breads|
|feast your eyes jams and jellies galore|
So on a cold but fine sunny Saturday we took the two Marys down Cork city and into the depths of the English Market. Most hilariously my mother in law (veteran "Hello!" reader) wanted to meet the fishmonger that had amused the queen with a joke about some ugly fish called the "mother in law fish". Most likely the Queen was laughing out of politeness being quite unable to deschiper a word the Corkonian was saying. I had a similar experience in Wales where three attempts to get information from a welsh man at a train station resulted in me being no wiser in the end than at the beginning, just considerably embarrassed(and I think the welsh train man was too). Maybe he couldn't understand a word I said either! Anyway the fishmonger man himself was no-where to be seen but the fishmongers stall he owns was doing a roaring trade and the walls behind the counter had huge pictures of .....yes you guessed it, the fishmonger and the queen sharing a joke (or laughing politely but not having a clue what the other was saying). They are not called cute Cork hoors for nothing- what a brilliant marketing strategy! That satisfied the two Marys, and on we went.
|wonderful displays of delicious veg|
|Charming stall holders pry cash from Mary & Mary|
|Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...|
|all you have to do is look and you feel yourself getting fatter!|
Cork city is a funny place and it's history is a complex mix of old English settlement after the Norman invasion layed down over a Christian founded town and a viking port. Over the centuries it has attracted an eclectic bunch making for a nice blend of people and a geography that is not unlike San Francisco with all is ridiculous hills. Even Lance Armstrong ( a man who knew how to get turbo charged) refused to go up one of the cities famous steep hills during an Irish leg of a Tour de France!
|the farmgate cafe looks down on the quirky fountain|
|out on the street Christmas is in full swing (the goats belong to Bothar)|
It's a very pleasant afternoon if you have the time and can afford to wander around aimlessly for a while. The market building dates from 1862 ( the original market charter from 1610) and was called the English Market to differentiate it from an Irish Market called St Peters Market. Since St Peter is long gone and is now replaced by the beautiful Bodega (pub, cafe, restaurant and nightclub all in one!) on Cornmarket Street that seemed a fitting place to finish the day.
|The sun sets over the city after a wonderful day out|
check out the English Market here www.englishmarket.ie
|Eileen explains how the wormery works to the lads in Ardagh|
The most amazing part of this class for me is when I see light bulbs going on in peoples faces as they realise why things went wrong before. The simple act of balancing out all the kitchen waste and garden clippings with equal or greater amounts of carbon in the form of newspapers, cardboard or straw is the single reason why so many people get armies of flies in their faces when they open the lid to view a stinking mass of wet gloop that seems to be going nowhere. The best part of the day is when we do the practical in the afternoon and we build a compost heap from scratch, putting in our green and brown layers and occasional activators to get the whole thing going. Afterwards when we are de-booting and getting ready to go home someone always says "that was great, I learnt so much today!". And I feel incredibly satisfied, BEST CLASS EVER.
|Layering on cardboard with a shovel of old compost as an activator|
|Stole the image from amazon.co.uk, great little book bought it for a fiver in cork|
Mick gardens near Birmingham and collects 13 separate ingredients to make his perfect compost. In the AG article he explains that he gave up digging after digging up a whole allotment put him in bed for days. While he was lying down he read an old booklet on the no dig method and was hooked so he got into making compost instead. He uses bins like the ones the council sell you to make regular compost with but instead of using regular composting methods he uses worms and turns the bins into high production wormeries.The worms in turn are spread out on his beds when the compost is matured and covered over. Protected from the cold and heat the worms do the digging for Mick, taking the compost down into his veg beds.
|A barrow load of comfrey leaves for the heap|
It's a great article and really well worth the read. If you know anyone who reads Amateur Gardening magazine it featured in the October 13 edition. I looked on line at www.amateurgardening.com but I couldn't find it on the magazines on line pages so it may only be available in the print form. The original pamphlet Mick read was sent out with Marshall's seed catalogues and dated from 1949. A very interesting gentleman called Dr A Guest wrote the pamphlet after experimenting himself in his own garden, I found this short snippet about him on a comment thread on Amazon. com;
"Mr A Guest lived in Middlecliffe Near Barnsley Yorkshire England when he wrote his book in 1946. I too lived in this small mining village and as a small boy, I would see him preparing his Garden Parties for the many visitors who were intrigued by his 'new' worm based gardening techniques that he employed."
|the slowest part is shredding the cardboard|
His grandson is living in America and has had the original book republished here www.gardeningwithoutdigging.com if you are looking to find the original source of inspiration. If you subscribe to the websites newsletter you can download 6 books free. I'm not sure the worth of these books as the author as far as I can tell is an American writing for American gardeners and American geographic and climatic conditions. But I will have a read of them anyway. You always learn something ! By the way it looks like the reprint of the original pamphlet will cost you 7USD from the grandsons website but as my pay pal has expired I will have to wait to see what it actually costs with postage and shipping. On Amazon.co.uk the only copy of the book (second hand and dated from the 70s)was costing £8.50 plus almost half again in postage costs!!!
|the lads open a finished heap to retrieve finished compost|
Anyway back to the basic recipe for good compost;
- equal amounts of brown stuff (cardboard, newspaper, straw, wood shavings) to equal amounts of green stuff ( raw kitchen waste, garden waste, spent tea bags and coffee grinds. The smaller you shred both browns and greens the more surface area you have for bacteria to work on breaking it down faster and resulting in a more finished compost.
Add a sprinkling of activators (comfrey leaves, nettle leaves, urine!, a spade from a finished compost heap)
and turn every two weeks if you can. No cooked food, cat or dog or human excrement. No china tea cups, cutlery, take away cartons, plastic containers (all of which I have found in compost heaps). Happy composting!
|Catherine, Joan, Annmarie and Chrissy check out Eileen's pea seedlings sown in her finished compost|
|A hazel leaf immortalised by frost|
|Joey following me out of McDaids pub in Dublin city on Sat night.|
While there have been discreet enquiries about my health, (maybe even a few visits to www.rip.ie) I am alive and well, (walking like a crab though thanks to an over zealous pilates teacher).Yes there has been serious radio silence for weeks now but I'm only HIBERNATING, and I will come back out when the weather looks up or sowing season begins, whichever happens first! Although the gardening classes have been busy doing lots of stuff like making veg gardens with paths and raised beds, learning how to make compost, sowing green manures and overwintering crops I have been doing sod all at home. In fact for the last few weekends I have run off to Blarney and Malahide to visit all and sundry. That's the upside of winter,less gardening time equals more socialising time, and helps you apologise for becoming a virtual gardening recluse in the Summer months I suppose. I console myself with the fact that on a day like today there is nothing you can do anyway except order seed catalogues and look at glasshouse porn on line. There is a lot be said for winter after all!
|chard looks more beautiful covered in frost this morning|
Friday, 2 November 2012
Was I wrong? yes indeed, two chapters in and I can tell this is pure gold. Not only indepth profiles of very interesting and varied "grow your own people" spread over the length and breath of the country but a good look at what they grow, what they have learnt from experience, what they find invaluable to help (tools, seeds, websites etc). Our old buddy Klaus is the first featured and today I am reading about Peggy, a famous Irish grandmother who became an allotment blogger a few years ago and has a massive following. She has a lovely gardening bunch in Blarney in Cork that includes her fellow allotmenteers, own children and grandchildren! Fascinating stuff. Anyway I priced it on Amazon at £19 sterling and on Easons for around €24.99. It's in hardback and is a really beautiful as well as practical book, Finnoula's husband who is a photographer collaborated with her on it.
So if you are writing to Santa it may be worth the mention, but if like me you want to look before you leap check it out in your local library, a building with bricks and mortar, not a virtual one on d'internet!
Peggys blog is here www.organicgrowingpains.blogspot.ie and when I get a moment I will tag it on to my own.
Thursday, 25 October 2012
|A bit of a mixed bag-some god, some not so good|
|be still my growling stomach|
|What a tough job! Chrissy, Catherine & Kathleen|
|Quick! stop chewing! Greg and Pat caught red handed!|
"Autumn Bliss" is the variety Eileen grows for jam making but there are lots more to choose from. We are heading into bare root season when you can buy bundles of raspberries quite cheaply to plant for next summer but if you know someone who has them you can probably get them for free. They are the type of plants that like to invade the garden by means of their intrepid root systems so be warned if you put them in -you will always be giving some rogue ones away.
|the foragers breakfast, our own raspberries and hazelnuts|
My own Autumn raspberries are not great this year, highly disappointing after a great harvest last year. The summer ones grew and fruited well on the heavy clay soil, as did logan berries and all the other hybrid cane fruit but I feel that I must add some manures or compost to this area to really get the crop going for next year.
|Spindle turns blood red before the leaves drop off|
|Michelmas daisies light up the eastern garden|
Not everyone sees it that way. I called in to see Tom just before lunch time. He had that look of work about him, wellies on, wheelbarrow out and the rake in his hand.I stood up talking to him and admiring his flower borders still spilling out clouds of white asslysum and blue lobelia with red salvias and pretty snap dragons in the background (we both agreed it was odd this year how late the snapdragons came).
I admired his window boxes too,still in great condition with the ever generous begonias blooming in profusion. He hadn't realised he could keep them from year to year, so he was delighted with the information that by cutting off the stalks after the first frosts and storing the tubers they would live to grow next year. Frost is on the horizon -as early as tomorrow night. Minus 2 is what we have been promised and Tom's not looking forward to it. "I hate the cold" he said, "give me wind and rain any day, and days like this when it's a crime to be indoors when it's so perfect for working outside". I looked up at the grey sky. The same grey sky that has been overhead for days. That is depressing me beyond belief. That I would swap in the morning for clear sunshine and biting cold but never for wind or rain.I said what I was thinking; "I hope we never get stuck on an island together Tom". He laughed(and I finished the sentence in my own head" because you'll be the first one to die!").
Aren't some people mad? I'm glad I'm not one of them.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
|pretty cool use of puny pumpkins and autumn leaves|
Anyway. Trying to calm down. I thought of sleepy hollow when I saw this. Nice idea for Halloween, especially if you have a few midget pumpkins in the garden that never made it to size. For a brief how-to click here.
This time of the year, before the real cold arrives the Autumn months become an incubation chamber for every type of virus, flu, cold and stomach upset going the road. Every fecker who coughs, brushes off or even looks at you seems determined to make you ill.Any of you in a GP's office know that "a virus" is just what doctors call anything they can't cure or put a name on. I don't know if this fecking thing is a "virus" but it's annoying. It cost me a chunk of last week, including a fine Saturday when I couldn't lift my head off the couch or look at food-even though it was a gorgeous sunny day and I had a million outdoor plans. Aaaragh!! At least next Saturday will be fine, if I get my energy back to put it to good use.
|good sized parsnips this year|
Sorting! what a pain in the arse that is. But it has to be done if you want to get the best from your bed of carrots/parsnips. Remember you just spent months growing them from seeds, weeding and minding them through the Summer so yes it is worth the hassle of sorting through them to get the best from the crop, no matter what size it is. Waste not want not people-especially so in a bad year! Has anyone noticed the price of spuds?-already! we are in for an expensive winter I think so be as sharp as you can with whatever you have.
|sorting; a two person + one cat job|
Pile no1 is made up of the perfect carrots/parsnips, free of damage of any kind including holes from tunnelling slugs or root flies.
These perfect carrots/parsnips are the only ones that can be stored long term in a bucket/container of sand in layers. Just make sure that each individual carrot/parsnip are not touching off each other in that container.The container can be left outside or left in a shed. You get to use them when you have used up all the other grades of carrot first,(or the in laws come for dinner and offer to help with the veg prep and you want to show off).
Pile no 2 is made up of your second best carrots/parsnips. These are not quite perfect, they have an odd hole or some slight damage. You can't store them long term but you can keep them short term, maybe in a hessian sack in a cold shed. But the plan is to use them in the coming weeks, as much as you can.
|Top grade carrots and parsnips; even with extra legs!|
Pile no 4 our last pile is made up of the totally unusable carrots/parsnips. Ones with so much bad bits you have trouble locating any good bits! These is only one place for these and that's the compost heap.
|the empty carrot bed|
Thursday, 11 October 2012
|bright and cheery for 2013|
PS; West Limerick people bought it in D&M Garden Centre in Croagh
Monday, 8 October 2012
|Spiders web made visible by the mist frames the first rays of sun|
|Be still my beating heart!! Onion sets!|
|the last stragglers in the bed-wild rocket and weeds|
|scutch grass roots|
|Layer of sand added but not dug in -yet|
Next came some serious digging. It was exhausting, and incredibly sweaty. I stood up at one stage, leaned on my fork (in my best co council workers pose) and felt the sweat run down the back of my neck. Outstanding stuff in the month of October!! Why was I exerting myself in the first place you ask? I had two reasons to really thoroughly dig the bed. The first was scutch grass making a small colony in one corner, the other was the fast forward plan of growing carrots with these onions in late spring/early summer next year.
|Leaf mould delivery|
|Snowball sets in|
|Jack and his enormous tunnel sunflower|
To balance out the craziness he is undeniably generous too. I left laden down with black hamburg grapes and cherry tomatoes not to mention all the multiple hugs and kisses! And he was of course his usual entertaining self, telling me an outrageous story about eircom, a €5 bill and a hope to be published in Stub's Gazette!
Really, how could you not visit?
|One man and his tunnel-spot the look of pride!|
|Still fruiting, still ripening and still being fed-tomatoes gone feral!|
Thursday, 4 October 2012
|Excuse the upside down photo-again. This fecking blogger tool does something weird to my photos when it uploads them from the computer though for the life of me I can't figure out why!|
|Tigerella truss ripening through the glass|
There was one exception to the tomato purge a Tigerella that Mary gave me. (thanks Mary!)It turned out to be the healthiest of all the tomato varieties I grew this year. It's leaves are still largely untouched by blight(unlike the rest that were riddled with it) and more to the point it has the best crop of the lot with a number of fine abundant trusses still ripening well on the plant. So the Tigerella was allowed to stay, along with chillies, peppers and aubergines that are still cropping well and an amazing little plant called a pepino melon pear that has fab tasting Chinese gooseberries.
|Eileen explains about tomatoes to some of this years students|
This week at Eileen's I was delighted to see that Eileen shared the idea and has stripped her tunnels of all but the last few plants to make way for winter crops. She is ripening the green ones in batches with bananas. If any of you have never heard of this trick the banana ripens other fruit because it produces lots of ethylene gas-a reason to keep it far away from the other fruit in your kitchen but to keep it cosy with green tomatoes in a drawer or brown bag if you want them to ripen within a week.
|Eileen's tunnel collection basket for green tomatoes and cucumbers|
If you find yourself stuck with a glut of green tomatoes that are refusing to ripen you can make a fantastic chutney out of them. There are lots of recipe's but I have made and really love this one by the great Hugh FW. It also calls for some other things you may have in abundance, courgettes, apples and onions.
Hugh's very funny piece on courgettes and what to do with them