THE HEDGE GOT CUT TODAY

Well, believe it or not but today the hedge got cut, and it wasn’t me that did it ūüôā I tried, and did not manage it, so I got someone else to do it, he was a nice and precise guy and he worked real hard. My little helper was here too, and he had so much fun watching and even trying to help a bit with clearing up.

I just had to do something about the height and thickness of that hedge, as discussed in an earlier blog post. Half of the height was cut down, this means that we can see some of the neighbour houses, and some of the town below, but it does not matter, around here all the people are real nice, and down the little town there is no industry at all. All we can see are things such as warehouses and building suppliers, or hardware stores and some other residential areas. Further along we see a wooded hill (the Atlantic Ocean is beyond that), and flowing pastoral scenes sometimes with sheep in the fields, how much better can it get if you live urban. Now that the hedges are lower the sun today was illuminating and warming the soggy, wooden, raised beds, all is wet and sad enough looking, all the raised beds badly need attention. I am hoping that the garden will become dryer now that the wind can reach everything better, yes it is more exposed now so I will have to take that into account during the winter months.

A brilliant day had by all, and much work done, now I feel more motivated to work on my raised beds again.
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A hole in the hedge waiting for tender loving care (new plants in other words)  And my elderberry sapling.

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My little helper having fun, and afterwards inside we were preparing garlic for planting.

AUTUMN MIRTH

“To-day I think
Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.”

From a poem called DIGGING.‚ÄĚ
Edward Thomas, Collected Poems

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HERBAL MEDICINE WORKSHOP

Today at the Hollies I attended a workshop which taught me more about how to make some medicinal herbal teas, tinctures, syrups, creams, and ointments for regular use, for small ailments. We learnt to identify the plants first on a walk through the land, as I have an interest in herbs for a long time, I had no difficulty recognising them all. What I was hoping to get out of the workshop was a bit more knowledge on how to make a cream or an ointment from infused oils, compresses, poultices, and I found it not only interesting, I also found it inspiring. We went through so much information, took notes, took photos, chatted, and listened, and of course we tasted and tried stuff we made, and we smelled every plant we used, and what a variety; Mullein, echinacea, hypericum, fennel, plantain, hawthorn, periwinkle, rosehip, sage, marsh mallow, calendula, rosemary, comfrey, yarrow, and elderberry. After a few hours of identifying and picking plants, we went inside and enjoyed a nice lunch of nettle soup, homemade bread and hummus, after that we got stuck into brewing up our stuff, first we chopped up some rosemary and also some comfrey root, we made a tea of the rosemary leaves, and cooked up the comfrey root in hot oil (au bain marie), we strained it, and added it to the beeswax which we had cut up and melted (au bain marie) also. Finally we mixed all the ingredients together and poured into little jars. This ointment is said to be good for sprains.

For the cream we made we used calendula flowers, and rosemary leaves, the method was straight forward enough, as was the method to make a tincture, or a syrup.

I think that I finally have found the motivation to use more of the herbs I am growing, and some of the oils that have been waiting to be turned into creams and ointments.

So much to look forward to.
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A great group of interested people gathered around so many herbs.

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Making the cream was of even more interest to me, we made it of calendula flowers and rosemary, the result was great.

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Stirring the cream before pouring it into the little jars, labelling is also very important.  Creams would usually last for about a year.  And of course we got good recommendation of books, some of which I might look out for.

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Digging up the comfrey root, and washing it before taking the peel off and cutting it up for use.

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Cutting the comfrey root, and pouring the finished product into little jars.

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Comfrey used in a poultice, and students listening and taking notes in the gardens.

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Picking off the elderberries to make a syrup, and getting the hawthorn berries ready to make a tincture.

GRANDPA SCRATCHY

What a mellow, mild, and wind still autumn day it was, so nice to spend time outside in the garden today. And Ruben came, and Ian felt like splitting some of the larger logs, so a lot of activity was happening in the garden. At first Ruben and I were pruning soft fruits, Ruben was collecting the leaves and twigs, then we went and dug out a forgotten potato plant, Ruben got one big potato and some babies which he was very happy about, then there were broad beans to pick and gather. After that I lost my little helper to Ian who came out to split his logs. Ruben takes such an interest and is learning all the time, he gathered up the logs as they fell, with the biggest of smiles on his face, he just loves helping Ian. He even had a little go at letting the hammer fall on the axe, under the eagle eyed supervision from amma (that’s me) of course, and grandpa scratchy too. Grandpa scratchy got his name from his little grandson, (because of his beard), and now he’s grandpa scratchy for my grandson too. We are both very fond of Ruben and love to see him grow and do so well with everything he learns about.
To end the day we all sat down for the usual cup of tea, a worker deserves their break isn’t it, it is a ‘thing’ between Ruben and us, the cup of tea while having a rest from working in the garden. A good feeling.

These beautiful mild autumn days are just what we need here in West Cork after a wet and cool summer. How blessed we really are.

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Sorting the garlic for planting,    And playing with his block, trucks, and grandpa scratchy!

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THE LONG STRAND AND SEAWEED

A very refreshing walk on the beach at Long Strand this Sunday held a pleasant surprise for us, apart from being just wonderful as it was a mild, wind still day. The beach had just a few people and dogs walking on it, and there were some surfers playing on the waves, it was relaxing and very tranquil. And to our surprise we found a lot of loose seaweed lying around, the tide was coming in so we took some of it over to the car, to use in the garden, when it is well rotted and the salt is removed. So I have now got it soaking in the bath. I am really happy about finding the seaweed as it is priceless for use as compost. Nature is so bountiful, everywhere you turn it gives us rich pickings for use to improve our soil. The other day I gathered the brown leaves from the front garden to make it into leaf mould which is extraordinary stuff to use.

This new week is going to be a busy one in the garden, planting garlic, dealing with the seaweed, some pruning (got a book out from the library), taking down the last of the bean plants, taking out old strawberry plants, and much more… hopefully the weather stays calm and dry. This is a most beautiful time of the year, full of beautiful and vibrant colours and earthy scents, I love it so much.
A time to celebrate harvests of all sorts, and to be thankful for so many blessings.

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AUTUMN GARDEN

The Indian summer looks as if it has come to an end for the time being, that does not mean that October cannot be a great month though. We have had showers which are really welcome in the garden. There is more wind and the leaves, now in browns and yellows are flying all over the place, yes it is autumn – big time – and I love it, though not so much the dark days without any sun at all.

The garden birds have come back, plenty of sparrows this year, but I am delighted to say that we have a variety of tits, including blue tits, coal tits and the great tit, and this morning I saw a gold crest, these are the little birds in the pine and the birch tree that I had difficulty identifying, that is because I could only hear them, not see them properly, but this morning one was feeding at the bird table, what a lovely sight, I hope to catch them on camera one of these days. I’ve also seen gold finches, and we are planning to plant some thistles next year especially to see these lovely creatures feeding. It was the garden next door where it was full of thistles that attracted the gold finches into the area last year, this year though our neighbour cut all his grass, and also the thistles, a pity that is for the birds. Our robin is still around too, and the collared doves have returned, of course we always have the rooks and jackdaws, and so far I have noticed quite a few starlings too. Finches always abound in our garden, they are great users of the bird table. Other than that there is the resident wren, some blackbirds and the occasional song thrush. So delighted all over as we both enjoy these birds very much.

And this morning I planted out some round black radish among the leeks, looking forward to cooking with them later in the winter. I picked another generous bunch of sweet peas, they are still flowering profusely, and beautifully scented. The roses too are in full bloom. I was surprised to find an evening primrose plant flowering among other herbs this week, I sowed these during spring and then forgot about them, a lovely yellow flower and medicinal herb.  Some of the other produce still in the garden is the broccoli and some of that is for dinner tonight, lovely freshly picked.

Still seedlings are coming up and these plants will go into the cold frames later on, it are winter salad leaves mostly. Though I was out of action for a whole week, it is always great to spend time in the garden no matter what the weather.
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CENTRE FOR PRACTICAL SUSTAINABILITY

Last Sunday we visited the Hollies, not very far from where we live, this is a centre for practical sustainability. There was an open day, which we enjoyed very much and learnt quite a few things. We walked the gardens and I noticed how much flowers grew bordering the vegetables which were laid out in narrow plots to minimize compacting the soil.

This community offers a variety of courses, I have booked one of them for later in the month. Gardening skills are taught, managing poly tunnels, growing food for the family, wild food foraging, building a baking oven, and how to create a bio-diverse garden to name a few.
What I found most interesting, and new to me is the amount of cob houses that are on the land (around 30acres), some of them half built which gave us an idea what goes on in building them, all the different steps were explained to us on the walk. It is fascinating how a beautiful house can be build just using earth, some lime, clay, pebbles, and straw (I hope that I got that right). But building by this method takes a long time, as layer upon layer has to dry out before one can proceed.
This is what I picked up from going there for a few hours, it was a first introduction to this community but we will go there again and learn more.
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Discussing manure in one of the poly tunnels, and lots of leeks growing for the winter.

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Some features of a cob house, and one half built.

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Dry-lining is not required, this is foundation under wall.  And the chimney in middle of room in this case.

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A living roof, and some of the clay and straw ready for use.

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A roof from the inside of a cob house, beautifully made, and other part of the room.