HAILSTONES BUT SPRING FLOWERS

Tomorrow the official spring time is starting for Ireland, it is also the celebration of St.Brigid and a traditional St.Brigid cross is woven out of reeds. I did not make one this year as I did not get it together to go and search for reeds. A day or two ago (I was without internet) there was a big hail shower, it has been the closest we got to snow-like appearance this past winter, a few quick photos to mark the occasion.
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LITTLE TREE IS DOING FINE

The Korean Fir that we bought at Christmas and decorated for the celebrations has been very busy ever since, we kept it inside so that it would survive the cold outside, so it is in the conservatory/dining room. Some weeks ago we noticed that cones started to grow in the top branches (see photos), then at the tip of some of the branches there came buds which soon opened up and are now new needles. Every morning we check out the newest growth, it is a great pleasure in our lives. I water and feed it regularly and soon it is going into a slightly larger pot. When the weather becomes just a little more stable we will put it outside. It is a great project giving great satisfaction.
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First the cones appeared.

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Then buds started to appear all over the branches, we were wondering what that would bring.

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Then the buds started to open up into more needles.

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New needles and hence branches on the tree, all still very tender and young, we shall see what happens next.  I have never seen a fir tree at such close quarters and especially seen what happens at the crown high up in the tree.  It’s real good.

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LOVE IN THE GARDEN – IT MUST BE SPRING!

Today I was sorting through all last summers harvested seeds, and check when I should start sowing. My hands are itchy, and I have already put down some seeds of sweet peas which are such a delightful scented flower that I grow it among my vegetables just for the scent. While I was working at the table overlooking the garden, two doves, those that frequent our bird table daily, were letting nature get the better of themselves, but I did not see the male’s mating ritual of a vertical flight, with long circular flight down while holding it’s wings below it’s body in a Vshape. They then started to prune each other and themselves, they sat there for over an hour just close together, maybe soon they will be building their nest. I learnt today that they typically nest close to human habitation, as long as there is plenty of food available. The female will lay two white eggs. It is said that they remain loyal to their mates. We have six of these guys around the place and they are lovely.
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Also today our little Wren which delighted me as I love it’s song.  And another great Tit visiting the bird table.

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Sorting through the seeds and making notes, and a variety of containers where I keep my seeds.  Last year I saved some seeds of wild herbal plants such as Plantain, Hypericum, Yarrow, Evening Primrose etc. soon they can be sown as in nature they are also in the ground during the winter.  Exciting.  Can’t wait to see everything get started.

HINT OF SPRING & GARDEN COMING ALIVE

Today was a lovely spring-like day, sunshine and about 6 degrees Celsius. I found daffodils up and budding to flower, also crocuses, primroses, and the borage, lemon balm and comfrey plants are sprouting and showing young new fresh green shoots – lovely. I did some mulching, and my partner started to take down a branch of the chestnut tree. I am also starting a few seeds inside, at this time it will just be sweet peas, but soon vegetables will follow. Then I picked some more produce from the garden to cook dinner. All in all it was a lovely day with a definite ‘spring’ feeling about it, putting a big smile on our faces.
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HYDRANGEAS FEAST

I thought it a good idea to just flood today’s blog entry with brightly coloured Hydrangeas. The weather is dismal, and I am so fighting a chest infection, without much success, that I just want to share beautiful flowers, it’s uplifting.
So I wish that everyone else enjoy them too. Hydrangeas are a lovely shrub that is more and more being used in Ireland as a road side plant, this is good or at least it is very beautiful, and in urban areas this can make a lot of difference to the landscape and the beauty of the area. The colours are amazing, from deep blue to deep red, or some pastel colours too. Flowering all summer and well into autumn.
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NEW LIFE IN MY KITCHEN

Intentional and unintentional growth in my kitchen this late winter. I cut a turnip for soup the other day and left the other half on the worktop, a day or so later the turnip had sprouted beautifully and I found it a pity to cut it up, so let me just enjoy the freshness of the foliage.
But intentional are the other sprouts, they are ginger and turmeric and they are sprouted every year again in my kitchen. Some years ago they had grown into large plants but when I went travelling I gave them away. It is great to see these shoots coming up, and this year I am looking forward to harvest some of the ginger and turmeric, though I think that to have a good crop you need to wait for longer than a year. I usually let them sprout before I pot them off, seems to work better.
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Turmeric shoot

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Ginger shoot with and without soil

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FEEDING AT THE BIRD TABLE

Every winter it’s bird feeding time, but especially when it gets very cold, and the months early in the year when a lot of the berries have been eaten, and food might be scarce. So it is an every morning pleasant shore to put seeds out for a variety of birds. New this year are several Great Tits, they mainly feed from the peanut feeder. We also have Blue Tits and sometimes have seen a Coal Tit. Robins at the last count was only two, it seems they might be a pair. First birds on the bird table are mostly the Collared Doves, we have up to six of them. Then come the Rooks, the Jackdows, The Hooded Crows, and the Starlings, last year there were very many Starlings, but this year so far I have only counted one! Sparrows and Dunnocks are also plentiful, and a variety of finches of course. I sometimes see a little Wren and it makes my day as they sing so beautifully and we hope that they will nest in the hedgerows. We don’t have pets like cats or dogs, but the wild birds are taken very seriously and enjoyed greatly.
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GORSE SYRUP & THE BOOK “WILD FOOD”

Recently I have had a book out from the library called “Wild Food” written by Biddy White Lennon, and Evan Doyle, a brilliant little book (256pages) and I have found it very interesting and useful. It features many recipes of wild foods, and great recipes on preserving wild berries and other fruits. I received copyright (for one month) to copy one of its more intriguing recipes, which I am certainly going to try out soon.
The plant Gorse (Ulex Europaeus,Linn) which grows abundantly here in West Cork, has a lovely scent and bright yellow coloured flowers, and it is shown to have more uses than one. In the above mentioned book it has a recipe for Gorse syrup made of the flowers. But the plant is also known for it’s bright yellow dye also made from the flowers, I personally have also heard of it’s use in soap making and for making tea.

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The Gorse flower

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