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.

2015-10-11

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! ūüôā
20150924_171025     DSCF0211

Goats cheese tartlets,  and fresh coriander seeds

DSCF0207     DSCF0210

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!

DSCF9998

Chives flowers drying

DSCF9988    DSCF0062

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

DSCF0043    DSCF0194

Seeds of plantain for winter storage, and seeds of shallots

DSCF0012     DSCF9991

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

DSCF0067    DSCF0193

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

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.
20150807_164137

Mint, delightful scent!

20150807_162032    DSCF9375

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.

20150808_174523    20150808_174436

2015 GARLIC EARLY HARVEST     20150807_162019

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.

PERMACULTURE – A LEARNING CURVE

Two weeks ago I used this wheelbarrow. Today I found it totally overgrown with cleavers, or goosegrass like we call it. And so it is with quite a few other areas of the garden. During the last week or two growth has been fierce due to weather conditions, it has been very damp with temperatures between 15 and 17 degrees.
Last year I started to try and apply permaculture principles in the garden. My main reason was that I am very interested in foraging, in wild plants. I noticed that these plants, such as dandelions, nettles, or goosegrass would grow really well, while some vegetables were having difficulties. I thought that maybe mixing them all, letting them grow together so to say, would help keep pests at bay. So I read up on permaculture and found that it is all about getting a balance in the garden, or rather getting the ecosystem balanced. Therefore when during the early months of this year the dandelions started to grow well, I used a lot of them in our foods, same with nettles, and even goosegrass. But then I made a mistake, for which I am now paying, I let all these wild plants grow without disturbing them at all.  The goosegrass has totally taken over, I guess I did not use enough of it.  I now realise that I should have kept the upper hand and at least tamed the wild plants a little.
So today I made a start at clearing.
The other motivation to clearing up around the raised beds is the problem with the slugs and snails. Everyday now I gather them, but the supply keeps coming, and my plants are being attacked and eaten faster than I can replant them. This morning I discovered two mature broccoli plants, and one kale plant with leaves full of holes. In desperation I started to cut the hedges around the raised beds, and cleared away any leaves lying around, sure enough I filled a jar with the culprits in no time.
I went and googled permaculture and slug control and learnt a lot. It said in the article that it was no good transporting the slugs to another area, this only un-balances that ecosystem there, so I got to stop doing that. It gave quite a few good ideas to deal with this plague, one I liked is the use of beer, and tomorrow I will purchase a six pack and hope to have a lot of drunken slugs! Not sure which type of beer to use though¬†ūüôā so will get the light beers I think. Some of the other options mentioned in the article, such as frogs, hedgehogs, nematodes, toads, or ducks etc… did not appeal to me, one other option though I liked, it is the encouragement of the carob beetle, a predator of slugs. It explained how to build a nest for these creatures, something I might try out at some stage as I quite like beetles.

One of the principles of permaculture is that one should just observe the garden, see what goes on, and take note.  I do that on a daily basis and have found that the beds that have herbs, such as oregano, lemon balm, rosemary, calendula, sage, and mint growing in them, have much less damage from said slugs and snails.  There is also one type of lettuce that survives every time, so that is the one that I should definitely sow next time round.  The broad beans remain untouched, they are also growing on the bed with garlic.

Its a learning curve, exciting and challenging Рit can be very discouraging when so much of what you sow or plant gets eaten, but there has got to be a way around it.  I am sure to be getting on top of this particular problem.

DSCF8934

DSCF8930   DSCF8938

Goosegrass taking over part of the garden!

DSCF8940  DSCF8924

Snail and slug, two culprits which while I love them, I must rebalance the eco system of my garden.

DSCF8922   DSCF8920 - Copy

DSCF8917 - Copy

Some of the damage in the above photos, damage of mature plants!

DSCF8916 - Copy  DSCF8923

The type of lettuce the slugs don’t touch.¬† And around the beds clearing up is being done seriously now!

HOW BEAUTIFUL IS NATURE

Spent some time in the garden today, the sun was out and there was some heat even during the afternoon. Some of the plant are doing well and flowering beautifully. I only noticed three insects, two bumblebees and on sort of a fly, very beautiful and I took a shot of it. Some other plants, especially the green beans and the sweet peas are not growing at all, they have been transplanted a month or so ago and still no growth, perhaps not enough heat or sun. But the lady’s mantel, the chives and the nasturtiums are flowering fully now, a lovely lush display. The other vegetable that is thriving is the flowering broccoli, which is telling me something, if the brassicas are going to do well, then brassicas I will grow. Today I also read in a newsletter of the GIY (Grow it yourself) organisation that this season best to grow things in the poly tunnels. So today I cleared one of the mini tunnels so that I can put them to better use. Gardening is a constant improving and learning isn’t it, challenging but rewarding too.

“Beauty is the purest feeling of the soul. Beauty arises when soul is satisfied.‚ÄĚ
Amit Ray
DSCF7669

Unidentified fly

DSCF7660   DSCF7653

Chives and strawberry flowers

DSCF7649

My comfrey flowers

DSCF7623  DSCF7626

Red currants and raspberries

DSCF7618   DSCF7637

The flowering broccoli and the struggling sweet peas

ABUNDANCE

Yesterday was a most beautiful and warm day, about 25C which is rather warm for these parts, absolutely delighted! I got a lot done in the garden which at this stage is so abundant with blossoms and flowers,¬†flourishing vegetables and ripening tender berries, that it is just a delight to be among it all. And I’m never on my own either as the resident robin and wren keep me company, often singing a little tune. There is also a stray cat lurking about with whom I am not well pleased as she/he did her business among the vegetables which I find intolerable though I guess to her it is normal. Anyway, there was lots going on yesterday and a delightful day it was. I planted out leeks, parsley, coriander, basil, sweetpeas, lettuce, and more French beans hoping that the slugs will leave us some to grow to maturity (which I am sure they will).¬† Hawthorn is abundantly in flower, and not only in our own garden but also in the surrounding area, which adds to our abundance.

We live here in an old terraced house in a very quiet street just above the town of Skibbereen in West Cork, South West of Ireland.¬† The part of our street has a lovely view towards the forested Knockomagh Hill, and towards Lick Hill which separates the town and surrounding area from the sea.¬† The landscape is green, flowing and pastoral.¬† The small town lies below, and at night especially this can be very pretty. ¬†Though the houses and gardens are not very large, there is a lot that can be achieved and enjoyed about living here.¬† Certainly there is enough space to at least provide a good enough¬†supply of vegetables during the year, and some space for flowers, compost bin, sheds, and if wanted chickens too.¬† It is all a matter of organisation.¬† I am learning to sow vegetables in succession so that the beans and peas last for longer than one picking season.¬† Of herbs there are plenty and more than we can use ourselves.¬† There is also space for experiments like the South American Oka which I am growing this year for the first time.¬† And there is space for table and chairs to enjoy eating outside on the patio.¬† There is even a small piece of grass for the moment and space to dry the washing ūüôā What I am trying to say is that one does not need to have acres of land to be able to make a go of things and totally enjoy the experience.¬† But I guess that it is different for everyone, and this place certainly would never be large enough to do a smallholding, that is for sure.¬† I am also very lucky in that, because I am retired, ¬†I can totally devote my time to growing things.

I had an interesting experience yesterday too, after posting one of my photos of the bitter gourds which¬†I am growing (an experiment), on the ‘Organic Terrace Growing’ Facebook group, one of¬†it’s members pointed out to me that she could see a greenfly on one of the leafs, I had not seen it all, so I took my magnifying glass and went checking, and indeed I found five more of the creatures.¬† Thank goodness she spotted it otherwise my delicate gourd plants may have been in trouble and I treasure them.

DSCF7445

DSCF7448  DSCF7440

DSCF7474DSCF7461DSCF7465

The peas doing well, and a lone foxglove plant coming into flower.  The elder berry tree I planted out yesterday.

DSCF7471DSCF7469DSCF7479

A chunk of wild chestnut tree which was cut down last winter has started to sprout again, too nice to use as firewood.  The young little plant is my okra seedling, it is now doing ok, it is also an experiment as never grown it before and only saw these plants in India and Mauritius.

DSCF7464DSCF7455

The sweet peas will flower soon I think.  And dandelion roots cut up and ready to be stir-fried, delicious.

DSCF7442DSCF7428

The trellis belongs to my bitter gourd plant, quite impressed with it’s art work.

DSCF7429

Here you can spot my invader, the greenfly!  I had not spotted it myself at all.

THE BEAUTY OF AN EARLY MORNING WALK

This morning I was up early and seeing that the sun¬†was shining¬†I decided to take a walk around the garden. I love these early morning walks, it gets light now just after four o’clock, and the birds start their singing. The sun rising throws a rich yellow light, diffused through the hedges into the garden. When I say that I take a ‘walk’ it might make you laugh as the garden is only thirty three feet long and not that wide either, but it is amazing what goes on in there, it’s buzzing with insects, birds, and new plants coming up or changing every day. This morning I discovered that the Jerusalem artichokes I planted way back in March have finally come up and are doing well, what a lovely surprise.¬†¬†Lately in a talk on organic gardening I was told that if one cannot grow Jerusalem artichokes one should give up gardening, I was starting to wonder!

Flowers are everywhere at the moment, I find them growing among the vegetables, herb Robert, dandelions, buttercups (I know the latter ones I should pull up), wild onions, and many more. I picked a nice bunch which is now making my kitchen look cheerful.

Looking at the very back of the garden there is a wild patch where the compost bin is kept, this patch is full of the wild onions, flowering so white, and also with goosegrass which grows all over everything else. I picked quite a bit of it to put into the mashed potatoes for dinner tonight, it was delicious. So great to not only have vegetables growing which require a little work, but also to have and abundance of wild greens coming to grow in the garden without any effort, doing superby well, and providing us with valuable vitamins and minerals.

It’s after nine now and the sun is still shining! It was a warm and humid day, so very welcome after all the cold. I finished decorating a room upstairs and have now got time in the next week¬†to do more work in the garden, lots needs to be done, apart from clearing out the sheds, there are lots of leeks to plant out, and lettuces. The bean and peas plants are absolutely packed with flowers. The berry bushes have little unripe fruits on them already, red currants and goose berries.

It’s also time that I start to gather flowers and leaves for my tea, the hawthorn tree is just about to start flowering, the best time to harvest some of these young buds to make a nice tea. Last week I was able to dry some red clover, also for my tea chest.

There is so much free food to be found all around us, and so much scope for making teas, and herbal remedies, salves, soaps, all very nice to be occupied with, but I am only a learner and I am still only trying to source beeswax which I need to make a salve out of the calendula oil I made last year. Slowly but surely!

It is a very nice way to start the day, to take some fresh air and see the beauty and abundance in nature. It is good to be appreciate for our life on this beautiful earth, despite all the sad things that happen and all the suffering of so many people.

I am humbled.
DSCF7417

A lovely little corner in the garden

DSCF7401

Early morning is so nice and peaceful, a meditative walk.

DSCF7397   DSCF7410

Oeps a spider among the vegetables, better put him outside.  And the Jerusalem artichokes starting to grow!

DSCF7422

A lovely bunch of flowers – a beauty to enjoy.

RAIN, COOL TEMPERATURES, AND TOADSTOOLS GROWING AMONG THE VEGETABLES

Well, we are more than halfway through the month of May, and temperatures have been very cool the last few weeks, a mere 9 to 12 degrees Celsius, with lots of icy wind and rain, so wet has it been that there are toadstools growing among the vegetables. But all the same, flowers are blooming and giving a lovely show, and the beans and pea flowers especially are abundant, so looking forward to a good harvest. I was minding my grandchildren over the weekend, so the last two days I am trying to catch up with jobs in garden and home, in another two weeks my older sister is coming to stay and I am so looking forward to her visit. Together we will be visiting our siblings who live around here, and we cannot wait to see the results of their garden designs and produce. Lots of work is going on between all of us. Growing your own vegetables and herbs is becoming a real ‘family’ thing with us all. (I am second eldest of a family of eleven). Plants will be swopped and stories about the latest experiment in growing too. One of us, my brother who lives in the beautiful Caha mountains in Glengarriff, is living off grid and he and his wife practice permaculture too, they have a lovely place going there. And my three sisters have gardens to be proud of, always improving, improvising, and trying out new ideas¬†and plants.
DSCF7357

DSCF7370

DSCF7362   DSCF7368

DSCF7350

DSCF7361  DSCF7360