HIDDEN PLACES IN THE GARDEN

After emptying some organic matter into the compost bin at the end of the garden, I discovered some blackberries there and decided to pick them, might make some jam tomorrow adding them to apples. I also discovered some hidden gems while there, even though the garden is small, there is a definite wild part to it at the back, behind the compost heap and fence. There is an old Christmas tree growing there in its own pot, and an hydrangea bush. The whole area is wild and disorganised. I found a lettuce plant growing there in the middle of twigs. There are some old stumps of trees there too and wood that is going to be used for winter fuel. I found lovely flowering bright orange montbretia, and some Fuchsia over the gate, immediately beside a very healthy looking elderberry shrub which I planted there in spring, and another lovely little shrub growing there is a quince which some years ago gave me fruit, but not the past year.  An old hidden water pump is hidden between ferns.  I like to sometimes go there and discover what is going on, apparently there are a lot of hedgehogs in the neighbourhood and I guess I’m hoping to see one some day.
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GOATS CHEESE TARTLETS AND MORE HERBAL HARVESTING

Almost coming to the end of September now, and there is already a colourful display of autumn shades to be seen in trees and shrubbery. My grandchildren were collecting some of these bright red and yellow leaves from the front garden yesterday.
And the harvesting in the garden is never ending, it is just amazing what keeps turning up. The leek and scallion seed heads were finally ready for picking and drying, as was the coriander. Also the seeds of the sweet pea, and poppy, all of them are hanging around the place, what an abundance it is.
This morning, after some years of inactivity, I attended my new yoga class, we did a chakra balancing, lovely stretches and relaxation, as well as some meditation, afterward we met up for soups or coffee, I met new people, was warmly welcomed by a group of nice women. Already looking forward to next weeks session. And I felt energised enough to cook up some goats cheese tartlets this evening which is a bit of a miracle in my kitchen! 🙂
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Goats cheese tartlets,  and fresh coriander seeds

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A variety of seeds to be dried, and a close up of the leek seeds.

“WHILE I AM SHAPING MY GARDEN, MY GARDEN IS SHAPING ME”

Yes, while I am shaping my garden, my garden is shaping me. Yesterday morning I started to realise that this is true for me in my life right now. Next Sunday I will be 66, a mile-stone in Ireland at the moment because it is when you retire. Well as it happens I already had to retire two years ago due to ill health, and while I got used to not working with books every day, it has taken me a while longer to get used to not having the energy that I used to have.

My garden has helped me to return to balance. I have been out there even if I had to drag myself, and it has worked. In the beginning I could barely do 10 minutes after which I would be floored for the rest of the day, but slowly I worked up the length of time. I still need frequent rest periods but it is better than it was. My enthusiasm for growing herbs and vegetables, drying some of them, collecting seeds, infusing oils, propagating from cuttings, planning layout, and improving soils, making compost, and much more is so satisfying and interesting. I’ve gone from working with people and books, to working with plants, soils, and compost, and it’s all good. I find it inspiring the more so as I am learning every single day, reading up a lot on it, attending workshops, online courses on herbs and permaculture, and meeting other vegetable growers.

And now my partner and I are deep into discussions and making plans to turn his 3 acre land into a viable off grid Eco farm, hoping to invite some serious permaculture practitioners to take part in this model of sustainable living in rural West Cork.
So in some way all my permaculture shaping of my garden has opened my eyes and senses to be able to take on larger challenges, though we ourselves will not be living on the farm, we will be very involved and it’s this inspiration, the inspiration that I get from my garden that can be a good motivating and inspiring energy for the project we are embarking upon. In a small way that is what I am hoping to contribute to this endeavour.

And so, yes, while I engage day after day in shaping my garden, it is true that my garden is also shaping me, opening me to new ventures and a different form of happiness and contentment in my life.
What an adventure!

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Chives flowers drying

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A variety of herbs drying for adding to teas and soups, and jars full of dried herbs

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Seeds of plantain for winter storage, and seeds of shallots

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Flowers of the feverfew plant, and self heal flowers already dried

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My fragrant geranium cuttings, and some produce for soup today.

BEARA A RUGGED BEAUTY

A few days ago saw us driving over the Healy Pass towards Lauragh in the Beara Peninsula, a most beautiful journey.  Leon Urus’ term, “a terrible beauty” certainly applies to this region. More and more rugged the higher you go, interesting rock formations, some quartz and crystals shining bright among the otherwise grey rocks. Insect eating plants, mosses, ferns, and very much lovely scented camomile flowers. Amazing views of bare rocky heights and lush green valleys.  Right at the highest point Glanmore lake can be seen and further down along the road plenty of Fuchsia, heathers, golden rod, and other wild flowers are still in bloom, and make for a lush tapestry of colour.
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BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE GARDEN

Today, a most beautiful, sunny, and warm autumn day, generously watered by a few heavy showers saw me getting a lot done, and also saw me discovering yet again the abundance and beauty of nature. To my delight I was able to capture some of this once again on camera in order to share. So enjoy and take delight.  Tomorrow more on what is happening garden work wise, and on the propagation that I was doing today.
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A house fly on the dandelion

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A hoover fly on a poppy

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Lady’s mantel, lavender and rain drops and the sun playing with it all.

AUTUMN LEAVES

“A moral character is attached to autumnal scenes; the leaves falling like our years, the flowers fading like our hours, the clouds fleeting like our illusions, the light diminishing like our intelligence, the sun growing colder like our affections, the rivers becoming frozen like our lives–all bear secret relations to our destinies.”
François-René de Chateaubriand

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COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND FOOD FAIRS

This past week has been very busy for the people and businesses of Skibbereen. The yearly food fare has been in full swing. The Taste of West Cork festival, which is a week during which Artisan foods produced in West Cork are highlighted. Today’s event was a street market, closing off the main street of the town, lots of food stalls, among which locals and tourists were alike were enjoying the ambience, the more so as the sun was shining over us all. Some of the stalls would be quite familiar to those attending the local market on Saturday mornings at the Fair Green, but there were other stalls too and one could get quite a good oversight of what is available food wise locally, and what West Cork in particular is known for. It was lovely to see so many children and adults enjoying themselves. We were listening to the music and enjoying the dancing provided by the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, an organisation which promotes Irish music and culture. We enjoyed some excellent songs and among others, a brush dance by a young lad which I found very entertaining.

This morning over our usual breakfast conversations, my partner and I were, once again, discussing rural development, it is a subject close to my heart. We do live rural, on the outskirts of a town with a population of about 2000. In recent years many people, especially young people have had to emigrate due to lack of work. Many businesses have closed, but the town is still surviving and with the recent addition of a larger Art Centre, there is a lot going on in this town. Cultural events, different courses being run, societies and organisations, theatre groups, concerts, festivals, local colleges, library activities, a splendid voluntary Tidy Towns group, sport clubs, a fantastic river, a community garden, and much more.  Despite all this  I can still see room for improvements in and around the town. I can see pedestrian areas, better parking so as to clear the cluttered streets and make the town more people friendly. I could go on. It is up to us all to do something about our towns and areas, and develop our communities.
Small towns in rural Ireland are very healthy places to live in and around, rather than see them go down. Many of us are now not even bothering to go to the larger cities to do our Christmas or other shopping as we like to support our local shops.
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Looking towards the new Art Centre, and area that would be very suited to pedestrian walk way.  A little tributary of the Illen river, it’s called the Caol Stream.

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Irish dancing by the members of the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.  And a Garlic food stall.

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More music by members of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.  And something for the children to enjoy too.

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Artisan cheeses produced in several places in West Cork, and very tasty too.

WORKSHOP ON SAVING VEGETABLE SEEDS

I spent a very interesting hour or two this morning at a seed saving workshop here close to the town where I live, it was held at the Brown Envelope Seeds farm, (which lies close to the Roaring water bay), in West Cork.
About a dozen of us listened intently as Madeline McKeever, the owner of the farm, explained how we could go about saving our own seeds. Giving an oversight of pollination, cross pollination, inbreeding, outbreeding, and F1 Hybrids, how to choose best varieties for seed saving, time taken to germinate, and seed coat dormancy.  She demonstrated how to save tomato seeds, and explained how best to store seeds, to store them cool and especially dry which is in this climate not so easy, or at least needs special attention. I was interested to learn that the seeds of one particular type of lettuce are so easy to obtain, just letting the plant go to flower and seed, but that they need cold to start germinating, that is something to remember.

It was great to take a walk on Madeline’s farm and to see what she is growing. I liked the black dwarf beans, so easy to get at, low to the ground. I also noticed some different ways of trailing the peas, and beans, and even the courgettes, helpful for my own vegetable growing. Madeline is growing, among others, several types of beetroot in order to choose varieties for seed saving. Everywhere were piles of plant material drying out in order to harvest the seeds.  Also interesting was it to see the corn grown here, according to Madeline, it has become smaller over the few years she has grown it, it has acclimatised to the West Cork climate we were told, makes sense too.  So Madeline introduced a good heirloom American corn and sowed it among her local corn, this corn grows much larger, and the hope is that it will cross pollinate with the local corn and in doing so producing a good better local corn.  Exciting when you think of it, all experiments.
Several of the attendants agreed that if something does not grow well for you, not to bother with it in future. So for example, growing tomatoes outside is just a total no-no around here, I have tried it and it did not work out, Madeleine agrees, the climate is not suited to it, no matter what tomato type you try.  We were told that vegetables typically grown in South American thrive really well in West Cork’s climate, an interesting bit of information.  It is the first time that I am growing oca, a Peruvian vegetable as far as I know, and I am really looking forward to see my harvest later in the year.
I bought two packets of seeds to take home and try out, one is Red Orache, a mildly flavoured spinach type, and the other is winter purslane, also known as Miners lettuce or Claytonia, I have been wanting to grow this, I will still sow these this autumn, for winter harvest.
It has been a very interesting morning, been well worth putting in the time and effort, and I know that I for one have a lot to learn yet.
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Continuing instructions in one of the greenhouses.

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Showing us different types of grains growing in Ireland, and types of tomatoes currently popular around here.

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Coriander and lettuce seed heads.

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Different types of beetroot.

AUTUMN JOBS IN THE GARDEN

Today was tidy up day in the garden, among other things. I finished planting out the salad leaves, and beetroot. Then I sowed, also in the cold frame, curled parsley, and some winter lettuce, seeds that I had over from last year, we shall see what comes up. I followed this with tidying the garden, putting away a lot of summer things into the potting shed, also took measurements as need to get a light tar paper to attach to some of the outside of the shed. It is one of the jobs that I have had on the list for over a year but did not get around to. I finished outside with putting some stray pots of herbs like basil into the cold frame to overwinter. The table and chairs which we only used once or twice during the bad summer remain on the patio for the moment, not that I expect to use them to eat outside, but because there is a container of sweet peas on top and some other plants.
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I am reading this brilliant memoir by Joy Larkcom, it’s a large work, so interesting.  She fills the pages with so much information about the history of vegetable growing in Europe.  She also talks about the year she and her young family spent travelling around Europe in the seventies, exploring what vegetables were being grown and used and writing about this, also collecting seeds and much more.  I have now nearly read half of the book and am still enthralled and learning some bits.  It is also interesting to see how the author discovered growing organically.  At the moment, every night I go to sleep with my head full of these stories, it is a great ‘down to earth’ sort of thing to read after the long discussions with my partner about the current state of the world.

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Soup being cooked, vegetables copped and heaped up with dandelion, nettles, garlic, cumin and other herbs and spices.  Next the resulting goodness, very tasty, this is food I really like.

DSCF9958   A calm moment after work outside.  The poppies have almost all finished flowering and the seed heads are very decorative inside the house.