UPCYCLING THE AGING GARDENSHED

Long in the planning, a planning that I enjoyed as much as I now enjoy doing the work. However, the work has caused me some challenges along the way. The plan was to make a start back in January 2020, but before the work got underway a lockdown was called, and the most important section of my clearing out, the moving of the stuff to the dump, was thwarted. Without being able to get rid of all the old stuff, which happened to be the key to making progress with the shed, I had to shelve my plans until the lockdown would be over. But the lockdown took longer than I thought it would and before I knew it the weather was deteriorating and nothing had been done. However later in 2020 we came to know Brendan, and Brendan made a start with repairing the sheds. Again another level 5 lockdown was called and Brendan had to stop his work, but by then, it was just after Christmas, he had a good part of the repair work done, and when the restrictions were eased last week Brendan came back and got going again. Meanwhile I had made great work of almost emptying the sheds and pilling all the stuff up for Brendan to take away. The first load went last week and the next load is ready to go this week. As well as that I started to clear the back of the garden, the old wooden fence was rotting and I took that all away. My plan is to use the bit of land that I am freeing up to plant one or two small apple trees, a lilac tree and some extra raspberries bushes. It is a work in progress. Below is a photo taken before the work was done.

And here is a photo taken after the work was done

And now it is on to a new vision of the inside of the potting shed (read SHE-shed)

The following photo below is a picture of what I have had in my mind for our shed, that is, I am just using this beautiful illustration to work on my imagination and not to copy it exactly. I will probably use some of the colours eventually on the shed walls, and certainly will use the idea of the flowers. I’ve kept this image in my mind as an aim to achieve what I want to achieve, like an encouragement ~ and it works!

(Picture borrowed from (ideastand.com) on Pinterest)

And here a look at the very unfinished work at the back of garden after I took away the old fence. The oak tree is doing very well after my son-in-law, who is a tree surgeon, did some work on it. Now it is my turn to cut the ivy that is growing on it away. There is an old tree trunk which we cannot move so I will grow some flowering plants in its nooks and crannies. I need to organise a new compost heap too. Another two planned projects are making a potting bench (dead easy if you follow YouTube advice), and repairing and painting the old bench. Enough work to keep anyone busy and out of mischief for a while (and sane during Covid times).

Watch this space my dear friends and followers, in another few weeks I will let you catch up with my achievements. Meanwhile I hope that you are all well and even enjoying some of the new freedoms that are now being allowed. I am sorry though for all those suffering bereavement, I am thinking of India in particular having such a difficult time. May you be strong!

HUMBLE WINTER VEGETABLES TELL A STORY

Kale, or to use its botanical name Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala, belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It is considered closest to the wild brassica plants. Wandering Celtic tribes most probably brought knowledge of its use to Northern Europe from the Mediterranean regions where it was cultivated even before the middle ages or long before that. These days it is a popular autumn and winter vegetable for the kitchen garden. It grows easy and is a pick and come back plant, it does not crop and leaves can be taken as needed. The Kale plant is full of vitamins, minerals like calcium or potassium, and it is said to be very beneficial, all though people with certain medical conditions should only eat it in moderation. Kale is also high in oxalic acid but that can be reduced during cooking.

A traditional dish in Ireland is called ‘Colcannon’, it is a mixture of mashed potatoes and kale. At Halloween it is served with sausages. I cannot remember ever having had kale in Belgium, not the present day kale as we know it here, but we did have ‘boerenkoolstampot’, this was a dish made using a very large dark green type of curly cabbage which was used in a similar way to Colcannon. It was mixed with mashed potatoes and served with fried bacon or worst. It was consumed when it was very cold. I remember seeing these dark green cabbages in our garden, covered in snow.

Beat leaf, or chard as it is known (Beta vulgaris) is a plant belonging to the family Amaranthaceae. I find that interesting, to think that chard belongs to the same family as the Amaranth. It is also full of vitamins and minerals, Iron being one of them. Chard was already grown 2500 years ago in the Middle East and spread from there all over the Europe and America. Again Chard is said to be high in Oxalate, the older leaves having a higher content than the younger leaves.

This season I have grown a Russian red kale, but decades ago we used to grow curly kale and ate from it all winter long. I’m also growing swiss chard in smaller numbers (only three plants).

This type of kale grew extremely well and so easily. It took very little attention or looking after. At some stage during the summer though I had to take off many caterpillars, and they did eat a good bit of the leaves but I had grown extra plants just for that reason.

Kale and chard is not only easy to grow, it’s very easy to cook and delicious too. Full of vitamins and minerals and adds a lovely fresh dimension to any dish. Today I made meatballs and mashed potatoes to go with this great greenery, it was a success with Ian. While washing these greens I had to rescue two earwigs and three shield bugs! Thank goodness I discovered those before cooking! They continue to live happily in the garden 🙂

EARLY IN THE MORNING ~ LENTICULAR CLOUDS

It was very early in the morning about a week ago that upon opening the curtains I saw this surreal sky out of my bedroom window. I had been hoping to see Lenticular clouds for a long time and I still don’t know what woke me that morning and gave me this amazing spectacle, because everywhere I looked I saw that the sky was dotted with these shaped clouds, I am not sure why Salvador Dali came to mind.

And so I walked out in the early morning air to check over the garden. Lots of lush growth has been happening since the rains started some weeks ago, the more delicate flowers and the lavender have been affected, but there are plenty of new flowers opening.

Some of the landscape around the lovely little town of Skibbereen, how beautiful it really is.

And so the summer is passing quite fast. We are not cocooning anymore but life is not yet back to normal. Nicest of all is that our grandchildren have been allowed to visit us again, and as we just heard that schools are to start again next month we are making the most of our times together.

At the moment I am working on an inventory of everything that grows in our garden, firstly because parts of it is very overgrown and I want an overview in order to plan better for next season. And secondly I like doing stuff like that. I find creating a word document with added photos works well, and I print out a page per raised bed and some pages besides for the rest of the garden. It’s a nice little project. I plan to grow at least some more flowering shrubs and right now I am checking out which ones would be most suitable for our smallish garden. I’m reading up on pruning too to look after the shrubs that I set last year. It’s such an absorbing activity. When I think of it my garden is my gym, it gives me a cardiac workout, it gives me fresh air, sunshine (sometimes), it de-stresses me and gives me plenty of possibility to meditate and enjoy its beauty and it even gives us organic and delicious vegetables.

What a fantastic blessing.

THE GARDEN ~ LUSH AFTER THE RAINS

During the afternoon I found the cool air in the garden conducive to looking over my notes. I’m doing the second part of ‘Fundamentals of Plant biology’ course and am finding it absolutely fascinating, if a little challenging too! Keep the old brain working 🙂

So the solstice came and went and we are enjoying midsummer weather, it is all good, and life is feeling a little more like normal again. At least I hope it is for everyone else too.

THE GARDEN IS A BLESSING

Yes it is great to be able to get out into the garden and see all the young growth, as well as the insects that are about already. So far I’ve seen two butterflies, small tortoiseshells, a bumblebee, a bee and some small fly types. The photo above is of an hoverfly if I am right. It is great to see the return of the insects. It gives us hope during these surreal days.

I actually spent time in the garden to plant out my 14 broad bean plants, and as today we had a lull in the stormy and very wet weather of recent times, it was ideal to do my work. Two broad bean plants the only ones left of what I sowed in the autumn are in flower.

We have been self isolating for a week as a precaution against the corona virus because of our age. For us it is not a problem as we are both retired and we can shop online for food. Of course as this whole situation is developing sometimes it feels to me like a surreal film that I am watching. Stay safe all my friends and followers. Much love to everyone.

SEASONAL ACTIVITIES IN NATURE

Look at this most beautiful Blackcap which has been visiting our bird feeder for the last few weeks and finally I got a good shot of it. This is the male Blackcap, we also had the female feeding for a while, see: https://gaiainaction.blog/2020/01/19/blackcap-female-bird/ but one day it fell off the feeder, I picked it up and brought it inside and after less than a minute it started to move again and I let it fly off, we never saw it again! The male visits every day. I so hope that the female is still around, maybe the male is feeding the female if she is sitting on eggs? No, I just read that their nesting season is April to mid-June, so it would be too early for that.
I saw my first hoverfly yesterday on a dandelion, a few days ago I also saw my first bee of the season on the grape hyacinths.
These are some foraged vegetables from the garden, and some that I grew. They will be incorporated into some of our dinners. There is plenty of three cornered leeks, fine young nettles, some delicate sorrel leaves, some sprouting broccoli, and tender young spinach, it is all for the taking and so fresh, a delight to the palate.
And last but not least, I have started to seriously work on one of our sheds. It was so full of stuff that I could not even walk into it. Well yesterday I just started and after a few hours I was very pleased with the outcome. There’s nothing like a good day’s work in the open air and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I think spring is in the air, the birds know it, the flowers show it, and we certainly feel it! I am excited and really happy at the start of another season.

I hope that everyone stays clear of the Covid-19. Take care dear friends and followers.

THE WINTER GARDEN

Gathered in the garden ready for cooking chicken broth is wild three cornered leek, cut and come back celery (a plant that is two years old and doing great) and oca which I have been growing for some years and which is a Peruvian root vegetable.

Due to all the rough weather we have been experiencing lately, and also due to the indoor work which we were completing I had not been much in our garden to check on things and certainly did not do any work in it. But between the two latest storms I did go out and took stock of what needs doing and what is growing right now and it seems that we have quite a bit going for us, there is more food to be found there than at first one would think. And so I have become encouraged and excited to get going. I plan to grow as much as I can fit, because my plan is to preserve some surplus harvest and to that end I bought some Kilner jars today. When I was growing up every housewife used to preserve a variety of foods in those jars. My mother did this until she was well in her eighties.

I am chitting our potatoes, last summer my grandchildren and I dug up the potatoes that I had grown, the excitement this caused was so much fun that I decided to grow some more this season!

BLACKCAP FEMALE BIRD

New to our bird feeder is the blackcap bird, a female. She has been visiting the garden now for several days running. The first thing that took my notice was the hump on her back, I thought oh what an unusual bird, maybe it is deformed, but then I also noticed the sharp beak and the chestnut brown cap on its head, and I immediately knew that we had a bird not seen on our feeders before. I have not yet heard it and am curious how its song will sound as people tell me that the Blackcap has a nice song, and the guidebook describes it as a series of melodious warbling notes.

Yes she does like the seedcake and I see her more on that than on the peanut feeder. I read that she will have one or two broods per year, laying four to six eggs at a time. What I found interesting is that this little bird would be a summer visitor from Africa and that over the last 25 years Blackcaps have been overwintering in Ireland in increasing numbers, but apparently they come here not to overwinter from Africa but from other colder European countries, meaning that they are a different breeding population. These Blackcaps from the population that breeds in Central Europe migrate here to Ireland to spend the winter.

Even here in this country they will breed in mature hedging which is exactly what surrounds our garden, so I hope that they will indeed breed. Blackcaps are found where there are a lot of Ivy berries and indeed in our Boreen close by there is a wealth of Ivy and the berries are plentiful this winter.

Actually I just came across this YouTube video and was delighted to hear their song. Reference: Blackcap ~ Eurasian Blackcap ~ Bird Call ~ Bird Song ESL and Popular Culture

Birdwatch Ireland also tells me that the majority of the Irish Blackcap population migrate south to winter in Iberia and North Africa. But that there is a small wintering population, mainly in the east and south of Ireland, and it appears that this is what our female Blackcap is a part of.

January is a good month around here for birdwatching and as we are feeding them we see a lot of them in the garden. We have residential Collared Doves, many Finch, many Blue Tits, Dunnocks, Sparrows, Robins, usually at least one wren, Blackbirds, Jackdaws and Starlings. Overhead are flying Seagulls, rooks and hooded Crows. It is amazing the diversity found in an urban garden. One type of bird that I would love to see more of are Thrushes, but they sadly disappeared from our gardens years ago.

BEAUTY OF FUNGI

These brown and white false turkey tail fungi are presently growing on the cut off but very much alive trunk of our chestnut tree. They surprised me this Sunday morning while taking a stroll around the garden, and I thought they looked beautiful. The garden at present is very wet, but to my delight tender new growth is appearing everywhere.