YOUNG ROBIN AND PLANTING OUT FOR WINTER

For some weeks now we have a new friend, and she is becoming more and more familiar with us, coming inside and exploring, hovering up any crumbs under the table. When I am in the garden she comes very close. Nice to see wildlife in the garden, it’s such a joy.

This morning it was already 20C in the sun and the day has not disappointed, if we get an Indian summer this will be very much appreciated by both humans and plants!

In between some showers during the afternoon I found some energy to plant out 10 salad plants for the winter months, and some rocket also. Hopefully the slugs will only take one or two. The garden is very full up with all sorts of vegetables and it is a pleasure to see it all grow so well. Ireland is never sort of rain water and even while we get much less sunshine than everywhere else, there is still good enough growth. The winters are mild also. Several vegetables, herbs or flowers will give a second crop during the long growing season. For example, my lemon balm, nettles, dandelions and comfrey plants are on to there second show of lush leaves. Flowering broccoli also is giving a second show, and the marigolds are flowering fully again too. I put lots of my dried leaves into jars today and labelled them with name and date. Used up last years dried nettle in the soup too today.

It is reassuring to see the profuse harvest of all sorts of foods coming in from such a small garden.
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TREES SO MAJESTIC

Trees are among the more beautiful, majestic and interesting wonders of nature. I have always had a good relationship with trees. My first memory ever was of walking or being pushed in a pram along a wall, and what I could see were trees, it was winter so the branches were stark, and I heard the bark of a dog. It is a good memory. While going to kindergarten I remember running across a yard lined with trees, it was a little scary at that time. After that our family moved into a street that was lined with wild chestnut and poplar trees, this was wonderful, we kids would use the leaves in our daily play, not only leaves were used but any pine cones or conkers we would find too, these were lovely natural items to use for play, I’m happy we had those. Another scare happened when a huge branch of a poplar tree fell through the roof of our bungalow during one winter’s storm, I was shaking with fright. Quite a few years later my sister and I went to school in Antwerp city, again a strong connection with trees was made in the inner yard of the convent school, beautiful trees. And it is in autumn that trees seem to come into their own, the scents of the leaves, the colours, the wind blowing through the branches and the leaves falling and falling. After coming to Ireland eventually, I got to know the awesome ancient oak trees in Glengarriff forest. I would not walk in that forest on my own then as I felt such a strong presence of the trees, too powerful.

During my life so far, trees have enthralled me, scared me, fascinated me, given me much joy, and I have loved them always.

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EARLY AUTUMN PLANTING AND GARDEN JOBS

What a beautiful sunny day it was here in West Cork. A great day for the market and for buying some more plants for the winter plot. I have found that reddish salad leaves are less prone to slug attack, and they are hardy too, so got some of these, together with beet leaf and rocket.  Realising that it was high time that I made the cold frames ready to withstand high winds, I purchased twine and screws and made a start at securing the frames, the plastic is to follow.

I also bought some seeds of the round black radish.  I have never grown these black radishes before.  I do remember making hutsepot long time ago in Belgium, but in that stew we would have used round white radishes with a slightly sharp taste. While checking out the black radish I read that they need a well manured soil and should not go short of water (never a problem in Ireland), they are fast growing and should be used while young and tender.  I just checked Pinterest for more uses and recipes of these radishes, and there are many, they can be used raw or cooked.  One recipe talks of a creamy black radish soup with rice cream, sounds good enough to me.  It is a good vegetable to explore as it can be grown here right through the winter, and that is my main interest at the moment with my garden, how to fill it with food for the winter months. It will be another one of my experiments.
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A FEELING OF AUTUMN

These last few days have been very autumn-like around here, high winds, rain, cool evenings, but also quite a bit of sunshine in-between, a real feeling of autumn in the air.
While checking over the garden there is a lot to be seen that is going well. I even found a French bean plant in flower that I had all forgotten about, it has been growing in-between the profusely flowering sweet peas. The winter vegetables I planted out weeks ago are growing fast with all the rain they are getting, good to see this happening as I take the supplying of vegetables during the winter very seriously (and it’s fun).

And in-between the leeks there is yet another crop of young dandelions growing, the third crop this year so far!

The courgettes though, have not been doing so well, finally I will be able to harvest one, all the others rotted while still small.  Then there is the rhubarb, this is a young plant, started off during the summer, and now being covered with the leaves of the silver birch tree that is towering above it.  It promises to be a good rhubarb producer for next year, so the making of rhubarb jam will be on the agenda.  During this summer there was very little fruit for sale at the market, probably due to the lack of sunshine there was little fruit around, but having said that, my sister-in-law had kilos upon kilos of strawberries in her garden, so I could be wrong.  I do not have enough space to grow a lot of fruit that is why I like to buy it from organic local producers.  Last year I made a lot of jam, we are still eating from it, this summer I made none.

The few flowering broccoli plants that were left over, once I got a handle on my slug control, did rather well, we ate some already.  Today I found some caterpillars on one of the plants and removed them.  No harm done.

The sprouts are starting to get too large to grow under the netting so I will have to remove that this week.  I will also be harvesting beans and peas to dry for seeds.  Then to mulch the soil with the leaves and branches that are left over as good for the soil.

There is other work to do too before the weather really gets bad (but I am actually expecting an Indian summer soon).  I need to tie down the cold frame before I put the plastic back on, wind can get very high here and I don’t want to lose the frame.  On Saturday market I will buy some more plants to go in there for the winter.  I have plants ready, beetroots, to plant out too in another week or two.

And so the early autumn time is still busy, much is happening, love this time of the year too.  Schools starting next week, my grandchildren are all getting ready for that.  Almost unused garden furniture is about to be stored for another winter.  A few checks have to be made to secure and maintain other things in the garden, and birdhouses have to come out.

And I have a project inside the house to do and am slowly but surely getting ready for that (next real rainy day).  Trying my hand on a bit of DIY.  I like to be really self sufficient, but I have a good adviser in my partner, thank goodness for that.
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Round courgette doing well first one after many flowers rotted from the rain.

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Discovery of a French bean plant I thought had died, and seeds of the sweet peas appearing

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Kale and more kale for this winter, and the rhubarb plant covered in birch leaves already falling.

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Flowering broccoli and little visitors which I caught today, before too much damage was done.

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Sprouts and leeks for the winter months doing well.

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More kale growing fast at this stage, and the garden how it is beginning of autumn 2015

WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BITTER GOURD?

This evening while having a bite to eat in the conservatory, Ian all of a sudden noticed something about the bitter gourd. The other day I had taken away the four other gourd plants that had done nothing all summer and were obviously not going to produce any gourds. Because I have been busy with other stuff today I had not noticed that something was happening with the gourd, and happening it was! First thing we noticed was the change in colour, from green to yellow, this had happened very fast, then the fact that the bottom of the gourd had split open, and red seeds were to be seen. Amazed, I had never expected the gourd to act in this way, I was planning to harvest it some day soon, maybe I waited too long. What a surprise it was. I better make a note of this for my next year’s management of growing gourds. Well it was my first time growing them, and I only got one female flower which in turn became this particular gourd. I’m very glad to have been able to follow it’s development even despite this surprising end 🙂
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MEDITATIONS

“Your nature is absolute peace. You are not the mind. Silence your mind through concentration and meditation, and you will discover the peace of the Spirit that you are, and have always been.”
Anonymous

I’ve been walking the garden now every night to check on the slugs.  This has turned into a real meditation which I now look forward to.  Taking my time, I go out rain or not with my torch and a jar, I check all the vegetation for the little night creatures, the garden at that time of night is usually still, so still that I can hear the slugs move, or chew on a leaf.  The scents come out too, the sweetpeas, privet, and other more earthy scents, or just the fresh air give pleasure.  In the light of the torch things become more intensely focussed, things like plants or parts of plants that are normally barely noticed, strange that.

I treasure that time now, a good ending to the day.  I guess I owe a thank you to my slugs, by creating a problem for me they gave me a gift, and that sure is very much appreciated.
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LATE SUMMER COLOURS

It’s amazing how much colour and produce the garden has at this time of the year. Around here it is considered late summer and some days might really have the feel of autumn about them.
But that is not to say that there is less growth, lately we have had a few warm days, temperatures going up a high as 20C, delightful of course and naturally resulting in good growth. The leeks, kale and other winter vegetables that I planted out over the last few weeks have established themselves really well. I am also drying very many herbs and wild plants for winter use, and it gives me great satisfaction to do this.
Among the vegetables are the flowers which give plenty of variety in colour and beauty. Plenty of bumblebees visit especially the oregano and the wall flowers.
I’ve been infusing oils lately, the latest now is the hypericum perforatum, started that today, more flowers need to open over the next few days so I get enough to make a good infusion.
It is an interesting time of the year what with so much harvesting going on, granted in my garden it’s mainly herbs and wild foods this time due to having had a bad season, but that is also interesting in itself.
The slug and snail hunt is still on every night and it is helping to keep my vegetables safe, so worth the effort.
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Kale, onions, and some type of marrow – lovely patterns and colours.

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Bumblebee on a wallflower

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Two very favourite herbs, the St.John’s worth (hypericum perforatum), and the tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)  I seem to remember that my dad used to make us a pancake every spring time adding the leaves of the tansy, it was to protect us kids from worms.  Not sure if this was a regular herbal remedy, I think it was rather a traditional thing to do in the town where my dad is from (Diest in Belgium).  I remember the very peculiar taste, and enjoyed it.  (not saying it is safe to do this by the way, do your own research please.)

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Some sort of fly on the calendula flower, nice to have come across this today.

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My sprouts are growing very well, can’t wait to see the sprouts coming on the plants.  And a bumblebee on the oregano flowers.  Real nice to get them come into flower and so the insects can enjoy them too.

SELF HEAL – A LITTLE HERB

Deep among the strawberry and raspberry plants I have discovered a little herb, one that I have actually known about for years, that is I knew about it’s beautiful appearance, but I knew nothing about it’s uses, and it is amazing how useful this plant really is.
So I did some research and came up with quite a bit of information on the self heal (Prunella vulgaris). I learnt that modern Western herbalists had almost forgotten about it. But in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine it has been used extensively to date. I was very surprised to hear that this plant belongs to the mint family. It appears that we can use the young shoots and leaves in salads, or we could add some of them when making soup. It apparently makes a nice cup of tea too, and the taste is said to be a little like rosemary. I don’t know yet as I did not acutally taste or made tea with the herb. But I will.  And I like getting to know more and more plants that I can brew tea with, there is something fascinating about picking and drying your own teas, and then using some nice porcelain cups and teapot to drink in this health giving liquid, and serve them to friends or family.

Medicinally it appears that the plant is a real good wound healer. What also interested me very much about self heal is that in traditional Chinese medicine, self-heal is looked upon as a cooling herb, making it useful against fevers and liver and kidney disorders, and it mentions that it is often used as a tonic. It is also said to be good for throat infections, and historically it was used for just such ailment.

Importantly;    I must add though that I am not a herbalist and I am only repeating what I read in articles found on Google, so please let anyone do their own research, and check interactions etc…
I found information at these links, but also I learnt facts about self heal at my herbal course (HerbMentor.com).
I am sure that you will fine a lot more interesting information on self heal.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunella_vulgaris
http://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/an-herb-to-know-7.aspx?PageId=2
http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/plant_detail.php?id_flower=237
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/selfhe40.html
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DRYING – STORING – SOWING… FOR WINTER STORAGE AND GROWTH

It is this time of summer again when thoughts turn to harvest, saving seeds, drying herbs, sowing winter vegetables, and pruning some of the soft fruits. It is also time to make a note of what to, and what not to do next year, and where to grow what. Every season I learn more and so the garden is ever changing as I try to make it all better and more productive for us and also for the rest of nature, so incorporating plants, flowers, and berries for the birds, the bees and for any other creatures in the ecosystem that this urban garden is.
So the last few days I collected different leaves, among them dandelion (leaf and roots), mint, lemon balm, hawthorn, and nettle. I am working towards having a good store to see us through the winter months, and as these plants contain lots of valuable minerals and vitamins I think that it will be a valuable addition to our soups and stews. Some I will also use as teas.
Last week I sowed some winter vegetables, kale, salad leaves, and beetroot mainly, they are coming up well and some I potted off in order to become stronger so they can go into the soil outside. I will make use of the cold frames this winter. The temperatures drop to around -0C or just below it during the night, and daytime temperatures mainly around +5C so it is an ideal climate to grow winter produce. Leeks do very well here in my garden and I have planted out dozen of them during the past few days.
This morning, being Saturday and time to take a stock of what I have been doing and looking for ideas and information, I went to the library and again got a great selection of books, among them, two that I want to mention, one is about Winter vegetable growing by Linda Gray,  and the other one is a book to relax with at night, it’s another memoir of a gardener, (Just Vegetating by Linda Larcom),  I have read some good memoirs lately and enjoyed.  Great inspiration can be got in books, it is a never ending pleasure.
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Mint, delightful scent!

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Nettle, and lemon balm, great for teas, and or soups, broths etc…         And more seedlings, I am looking forward to winter growth.  Making meticulous plans right now, find it exciting and motivating.  Taking the providing role very seriously, that is, providing or rather enabling mother nature to provide us with lots of lovely foods.  So enjoyable, and good for the soul.

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Garlic, and dandelion leaves, very fond of both.  A huge crop of dandelion leaves this year, due to the rains.

2015 HARVEST

Peas and broad beans, it was not a great harvest this summer and so I will need to change the type I am actually growing, though I think that this year’s bad summer had something to do with it too.