Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, New Life

Today, New Year's Eve Ed and myself went out to the allotment for an hour as it was dry though cold in a biting easterly wind.I took out the veg peelings etc which I had saved over the holidays and spread it over the 'no dig' patch. We then covered it over with black polythene and weighted it down with rocks. The snails in theory now get to work and 'work' the soil!I forgot to take a photo of the finished section. The rhubarb was poking through the mulch of horse manure, the first of the new growth on the plot!
I got more well rotted manure and piled it up around the crown to protect it. We have a huge supply of horse manure on the allotment. This is well rotted and black as the digger was out recently and exposed the centre of the pile.Fresh manure is not good as there may be too much acid or something and it can burn new growth or plants.
I upturned the biggest pot I had out there, over the rhubarb as we will get some severe frost before the winter is over.
So the promise of things to come and new life beginning the cycle all over again gives us hope and a sense of anticipation for the year ahead.
May I take this opportunity to wish friends and visitors alike all the best for 2009 may we have a productive and fulfilling year in all that we do.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In the Bag.

I had finished my attempt at quilting and patchwork a few weeks ago but as it was a 'Secret Santa' gift it had to remain a secret for a while!Reading Latane's blog and looking at the lovely handiwork with which she created some beautifull quilts I decided to give it a 'go' albeit on a much smaller scale.This side is simple small squares stitched, I must confess on the sewing machine.I did not have a 'stash' to work from so had to buy some fabric in what I thought were complementary colours.For the first time I understood that quilting and patchwork are not the same thing! When I had the squares joined and backed with wadding I thought it looked a bit 'flat', I sewed criss cross lines with the sewing machine and it gave some body to the piece.
I did not have any pattern to go by so I had to work out each step, a bag may sound simple but to add pockets, handles and line it, while not hard work did take some time.I had looked at various knitting bags on sale and they all looked (a)too small, (b) not enough pockets to put all the bits and pieces in to.This side has quite a large pocket to keep patterns in and the long pockets on both sides are for knitting needles. There are smaller pockets inside for needles,tape etc.
Now that I have started and having some fabrics left over to begin a stash I may try another small item.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dried flowers

Some of you may remember the teasels growing on the allotment earlier in the year ,if not you can read about them here The last day I was out there before Christmas, some of them were still standing ,stark and withered ,so I remembered they can be used in dried flower arrangements I cut down some and brought them home.
They have a very prickly stem, while not quite thorns, are sharp enough. I left them stand indoors for a couple of days to dry out and gave the stems a rub with sandpaper to make them easier to handle. I laid them out in the back yard on a sheet of plastic and sprayed them silver.They took a few applications to cover them completely.It was a dry breezy day so that did not take too long.
Here they have been put in with a dried hazel branch to give it a bit of festive cheer.
In front of the fire added to another dried flower arrangement, the photo does not do them justice. I will see how long they last and give an update.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas baking

I found a recipe for boozy mince pies on Lynda's blog I decided to give them a try as she recommends putting brandy in to the mince fruit mix.!My daughter Linda had made fruit mince last year and I had still one jar left, well matured by now so I added the brandy to it. I also used Lynda's pastry recipe and believe me it is melt in the mouth!
My own Linda had also made cranberry sauce from scratch and it was delicious( she also peels chestnuts for stuffing)! I have tried bought cranberry sauce in the past and thought it was vile,so on seeing cranberries for sale in the supermarket this morning I thought Why Not? Followed the recipe and it turned out OK, phoned Linda and she said put some Christmassy spices in to it. I added nutmeg, cinnamon and as I had the brandy to hand I threw in a lash of that too.A point of information a'lash' of anything is an Irish measurement of indeterminate or indiscriminate proportions!This stuff is seriously finger licking good and may not last as far as the Christmas turkey.
I have made a few batches of the mince pies now and as I am posting this blog I have in a batch with a lash of whiskey added. The kitchen is smelling like a distillery at the moment so I suppose I had better hold off on the mulled wine for a day or two!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Solstice

I was going to do this post tomorrow for the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, but by the time I would have it up, it would be too late to view the solstice on the web on.
For only the second year this can be viewed through an official web cam from inside the chamber at Newgrange showing between 8.30 am and 9.30 am GMT. You can see the recorded web cam at any time on the site, if you miss the actual sunrise tomorrow.
Newgrange is an ancient site in the Boyne valley in Co Meath and is one of the country's landmarks.It was built more than 500 years before the great pyramids of Egypt and 1000 years before Stonehenge in England.
Shortly before 9.00am as the sun penetrates the roof box ( an opening above the entrance) of what was originally thought of as a tomb,but now known as a much more important site .A narrow beam of light will travel through and illuminate the chamber. Crowds will gather in the cold before dawn to wait for the end of the longest night of the year as people did 5000 thousand years ago.The chamber itself is very narrow and only those lucky enough to win a lottery will watch the annual phenomenon from the inside of the chamber.Of course in Ireland the amount of sunshine we get at this time of year is minimal and often the solstice is not as spectacular as it could be!
Log on to the official site at NewgrangeThere is lots of information about the site and follow the links for the winter solstice for the web cam.
In Ireland we have a lot of megalithic tombs and sites scattered around the countryside.Here in Co Cork there is an important and almost complete stone circle at Drombeg in Glandore, an incredible feat of engineering almost 3000 years ago.To the west of the circle there is a V shaped hollow between two hills, at sunset on the shortest day of the year, the sun sets in this hollow which is in alignment with the entrance stones of the circle.
Even though the shortest day seems to occur in mid winter it gives hope for the coming of Spring as the days will begin to lengthen from now on.In Ireland we have a saying that by the 6Th of January we will notice the day getting longer by a 'cock's step'.Even without calenders or timepieces our ancestors knew the changing seasons and when to plan and plant.This was looked on as a pagan festival but it just underlines the fact there is a God looking after us, because even with modern engineering these structures are looked on as truly amazing even by to days standards.

Parsnips and pests

I pulled up the row of parsnips, they had lots of frost and I may not be out to the plot on a regular basis to pick them. The leaves had withered back from the frosts so I had to dig them out. There was a huge variation in size, due probably to sowing as seeds a little too late. I went back in the blog to the first post mentioning parsnips and the seeds went in on 23rd may.That is the great benefit of keeping the blog I can keep track of when and how we put things in.
A close up of the size variation! They were all a good length as the ground was well dug, the longest one measured 15ins from top to tail end.The photo shows a normal sized one and 2 smallees one even looks a little like a tadpole!Seeds will be in fine and early next year.
The garlic has come up and I think is now just marking time until the ground heats up a little in Spring ,when hopefully they take off growing.
The winter onions came up OK and were making good growth but something seems to be eating or pulling the tops off of them! Have rabbits or pigeons a taste for onion tops?!
I think it may be rabbits as the most damage seems to be at the end of the bed next to the path.This end of the bed has hardly anything left,it is not just the tops missing the onion set has gone too.I covered this side of the bed with some spare netting to deter them from going in. I hope we can set some more onions in spring to replace them, even though they will be a different type.Do rabbits hibernate in winter? if they do we might get some relief from them!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spotty Sprouts

I finally made it out to the plot on Wed morning!It was sunny and mild(ish).The leeks are growing fine and I pulled these 3, there is a nice length of white flesh on them.The parsnips will get a post of their own and also the celery, this is the saga of the Sprouts.
This is how I left them after clearing all the damaged leaves and spotted sprouts, and re netting them as some rabbits had found a way under the net!
The sprouts on the end of the plants were nibbled and had opened as they should have been picked some time ago!I pulled off all the end ones and added them to the compost in the no dig patch.I pulled any sprouts suitable to pick to give the upper ones a chance to develop in time for the Christmas dinner,which is the whole point of growing our own sprouts.
This is the black spot close up. It did not look pretty,a lot of leaves were yellowed which I think is normal, but a lot of them were covered with black spots. Some of the sprouts had black spots on them. Once the outer leaves were taken off it had not worked into the inside of the sprout, and they were usable.
I thought some hideous pest had taken over, but having discovered the problem, I also discovered the answer quite by chance!On the way home I picked up a gardening paper I had never seen before called Garden News. There on the garden Question page was a query about Black spot on Brussels Sprouts!This is the answer given:This is a fungal disease known as 'Brassica dark leaf spot'It is caused by Alternaria brassicola and is associated with wet, rainy conditions and with sites sheltered from the wind.If there are lots of densely planted brassicas, the disease is likely to continue spreading.There is no fungicide available to private growers but increasing the spacing between plants will help to prevent the problem.Soft over fed crops are more susceptible than ones grown a little harder.Avoid using too much high nitrogen fertiliser and watering plants from overhead as the spores get washed down in the water splashes.A lot of disease problems relate to the cold wet summer and hopefully will be less prevalent next is also very important to clear away all brassica debris.Our sprouts are very close together. ( a major fault on our part this year, the plants never look as if they will ever need 5 ft between each plant),and the cold wet summer was a factor here also.I have to say when I cooked them they were delicious, and cooked in half the time. I am still amazed at the difference in taste in homegrown and shop bought.Picking and eating as soon as possible is the key I think.
On a lighter note our strawberries moved in to the unheated greenhouse,I think they should have enough frost by now, we will wait to see the result of this idea.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The knitivity!

A lovely seasonal group of knits. Daughter linda knit these last year,again from a Jean Greenhowe pattern book,Christmas Special .Check out the Amazon Books on side bar.Her handy husband then made the crib from some plywood.daughter Aisling's contribution was to name it 'The Knitivity'!
This is a close up of some of the intricate working on the figures.
On a lighter note, something the kids may enjoy knitting! These are Spaghetti Dolls,so called because they have long dangly limbs.Their clothes are really fashionable and they look really cute teens!This pattern is in a Claire Garland book, again it can be got from Amazon.There are lots of books of cute knit bits, especially to get kids interested in knitting or just for using up oddments of wool and maybe donating the finished items to a sale of work or a charity event!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Handmade Dolls

When posting about knitting last time I began thinking of some of the knitted items which the girls had made.These ones are Linda's, the mother of two boys aged 12 and 6 who makes dolls for the nieces!The first is the rag doll, reminiscent of 'Holly Hobby' which Linda had growing up and loved,until someone who shall remain nameless pulled the arm off of her!!?She found a pattern online for the body but did not like the head, hair or features,so this one is an amalgamation of various other ones.The nude one waiting to be dressed is for one of her sisters.
This is the completed version which Linda also knit the pink frilly dress for.
Another daughter Kathryn,found this pattern in a magazine at one time and knit it for her daughter.Linda then came across it in a book by Jean Greenhowe (see Books from Amazon on sidebar)and has knit this one. This is Cinderella in her ragged dress
When you flip the doll over here is Cinderella all dressed up for the ball!

This photo shows the two sides of the doll, also known as a combination doll. There is also one available of red riding Hood who flips over to become the Grandma!It takes a lot of work knitting some very small pieces but the finished result is really for the family heirlooms.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

family Christening

Baby Scott was baptised on Sat last and thoroughly enjoyed being the centre of attention!He was 18 weeks old and sat up to chat to everyone,even upstaging the priest on the altar. The allotment is not getting too much attention this weather and the Christmas get together was on Sat also but I had to miss it. I will get the news from it soon and hopefully someone took some photos!
Parents, Godparents and big brother Kevin getting a birds eye view of Scott getting the baptismal water poured over him. he did not mind at all and even though it was a bitterly cold evening he did not even whimper.
Scott's other Nanny also knits and made this beautifull blanket out of intricately patterned squares.This is one for the family heirlooms as an awfull lot of time and love went into making it.
One of my other daughters knitted this for Kevin when he was baptised and it is now Scott's turn to wear it.She hand knitted the gown, bonnet and bootees in very fine wool in a very detailed pattern.Scott was all kitted out in handmade Christening clothes which will be put away for the next recipient!
This is myself and Scott having a Nanny moment!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Some thumb twiddling

Hi to everyone who has dropped by while I have been 'off'.Its been 9 days since I did a post!I did log on from time to time and read some of my friends posts to cheer me up. We have had a few days of very hard frosts, something which we have not had at this time of the year for quite a while.It is more seasonal now than in February so maybe we might get summer next year if the seasons move back in to sync!I have not been out to the allotment either but I am sure everything is getting on fine without me.I have been saving all my kitchen waste for the composting and hopefully I will get out there before the end of the week.I have not been twiddling my thumbs at home, well in a manner of speaking I have, as I have as I taken out the wool and knitting needles once again.I was reading the down to earth blog and was inspired!
I started with a neckscarf, nothing too complicated and quickly finished as I did not want to run out of steam halfway through.Not only did I finish one but started another and put in a large buttonhole opening to slot one end of the scarf through. They are just large enough to circle the neck inside a coat collar.Then I got adventurous and started a waiscoat type thing.If my back and shoulders are warm then I am warm, and my arms have free movement in this,it also fits snugly inside a coat or jacket.
I did a lot of knitting years ago when the children were young, knitting all of their winter sweaters and cardigans and also knitted aran sweaters for a company who sold them in shops.I worked for a number of years in a company call Tivoli Spinners who manufactured and dyed knitting wool and designed knitwear patterns.They still operate but on a much smaller scale.I can remember all dept. stores having a wool section about 20 years ago but now I think in a city the size of Cork there are 2 small wool shops. Knitting is making a comeback though and if it is good enough for Julia Roberts it is good enough for me!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I have changed the look of the blog,the cutest blog on the block has lots of backgrounds etc;and it is so easy to try them all out. A bit like window shopping without the expense!I spent ages changing it to 3 columns and succeeded but when I changed the background it reverted back to 2 columns so I am just going to leave it for now.I probably did not save when I should have so anyone contemplating doing the same ,be warned!
I changed the header picture to what the allotment looked like the first week we were there. This is Stephen and Kevin getting to grips with it.
I have been nursing a dose of flu or something equally uncomfortable and have been inside all day, it is cold and wet outside anyway so I have whiled away a couple of hours doing this.I also visited a few blogs to see what you have been up to over the past couple of days.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meter Reading

It may look like a strange name for a gardening post, but with winter setting in I will post on other hopefully worthwhile pastimes.I have been following Rhonda on the Down to earth blog Frugal living, homesteading, etc all have huge followings in America and Australia and across the world.Watching what we pay on gas and electricty etc is one key way of cutting down on bills and saving money. Thankfully we in Ireland do not have to pay for our water...yet!Rhonda covers all of this on her blog. In Ireland our meters are locked inside boxes or inaccessible, but if you can take an ESB reading,do so, then carry on as normal for 2 days, then take the reading again so you have an idea of what power you use. Then for the next 2 days cut down on unneccessary usage ie; unplug all appliances like microwave, TV, computer etc at night, turn off all lights if the room is not being used and don't close the curtains until needed therefore turning on those lights later. Take shorter showers the list goes on and on.Change the bulbs to energy saving,after 2 days take the meter reading again and see how much you have cut down and saved.Penny pinching has got a bad name but it should become a way of life. Why should we be paying the fat bonuses of the utility companies and also more importantly we have to cut down on energy usage and shrink our carbon footprints where possible.Log on to Down to earth blog for some eye opening reading from Rhonda and her blogging friends.If anyone has any ideas on energy or money saving let us know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Other People's Plots

I paid a quick visit to the allotment on Sunday afternoon. It was a lovely day,more like Spring than Autumn, temperatures were actually hitting 14% in some areas. Almost tropical!I just did some tidying up around but had a quick look around some of the other plots
Everything looking orderly and shipshape here, plants tidied up for the winter or mulched for the Spring.
Its amazing the amount of plants still growing or starting growth for next year.Last year the allotment was deserted come October, here we are this year and everybody is getting a head start for the next growing season.I read somewhere the motto 'gardening is what shows you believe in tomorrow'
Another well ordered plot. I think this winter we have all got in our winter sown onions and garlic thanks to Mike's advice earlier in the year.That is the great benefit of growing on the allotments, lots of well tried advice is passed on.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I have not been out to the allotment since we came back from holidays ,so I am putting up some photos of Lanzarote.The canary islands were formed many thousands of years ago by volcanic activity.About 300 years ago the volcanoes erupted and spewed out lava and burning ash over a period of 6 years.The whole vista of the island changed dramatically from one of lush green to vast areas of black tortured rock formations where nothing grows. Mother nature may be relenting a little for the devastation she caused as lichen,the first sign of vegetation to appear is visible in some areas in the lava fields and little bushes are clinging on precariously to what they can. Around the coastal areas the people have adapted and have vegetable gardens and use the volcanic ash as a mulch.It holds any dew that falls and passes it down to the soil beneath.The volcanoes erupted around the south west of the island the northern area has some areas where vegetables are grown.
This is just one view of the extent of the lava field and the volcanoes that were thrown up. I don't know how many there are in total but they stretch away in the distance on all sides.
This huge area is a national park now with tiny roads hewn through the lava.Cars are not allowed only the tour buses, parts of the drive are pretty hair raising as we skirted some of the craters and looked down in to the bowels of the earth!This is one of them, the area is not all black, there are some amazing colours depending on what was thrown up ie iron or sulphate etc.
There are 2 hot spots still on the island and this is one of them in the national park.When a bucket of water is poured into one these metal pipes inserted about 3 metres down in to the ground, count to 3 and it shoots up as steam!
In the same area, when dry brushwood is held to the side of the opening it catches fire in seconds!
They said that when Columbus was on the way to America (as we know now)he could see the mountains on fire.Timanfaya is the name given to this area, as the people who remained on the island thought the Devil was coming up through the earth and he is the symbol of the national park.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Golden Spider Awards

The Golden Spider Awards are an annual event honouring Irish individuals and organisations for their outstanding achievements online and celebrating the successes of the Irish Internet and digital media.

The awards not only reward Irish businesses and community organisations but also individuals for their creativity and innovation. The Golden Spiders provide an important opportunity to recognise and showcase online excellence and are considered an important benchmark for distinction and merit in web-based business strategies.

This is my last post before going on holidays and most of you are probably wondering what it is about?!A few weeks ago I was on the Eircom webpage, (Eircom are the biggest telephone and Internet providers in Ireland). I saw the Golden Spiders and clicked into it for a read. They had the various categories for the awards and I saw that there was one for blogs,thought 'what the hell, why not? I filled in the online form and clicked.
Imagine my surprise when I was contacted to say my blog was on the shortlist!!
There is a shortlist of 8 in each of the categories.
The awards night is a big occasion, held in Dublin. I am afraid my budget would not stretch to travel, overnight stay and a posh frock for the event.
But,hey, I have been shortlisted which is an honour in itself.
You can log on to the site here for full information on the categories and the awards themselves.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Uber Amazing Blog Award

I am delighted to receive this award from Lynda, you can read her always informative and interesting blog here
The rules of this award are:

*Put the award logo on your blog or post
* Nominate at least 5 blogs (can be more or less) that you consider to be Uber Amazing!
* Let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog
* Share the love and link to this post and to the person you received your award from

I am nominating the following blogs for this Uber Amazing Blog Award -:
Stewart who takes a wry look at life from down under while gardening.
The tile lady always informative with great photos ( I never knew peanuts grew underground until I read it on her blog)!
Pam a blog about living a simple life and doing everything for themselves, while maintaining a great sense of humour
Clara I have only recently started following Clara's blog and it is so restful with thought provoking poetry and posts
and last but not least a fellow Irish allotment grower, Anna

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Planning for next year.

We spent some time on the allotment this afternoon as it was dry and sunny. Some jobs to be tackled before we head off on holidays on thurs for a week in the sun in lanzarote.Honey came down to have a look sporting this seasons must have colour on her blanket.
This end of our plot has never been dug so we are trialing the no dig method here!We spent ages drawing wheelbarrows of manure down to completely cover the area.The next step is compost or if you have a friendly grocer or supermarket who will donate any wilted or rotten fruit and veg, to cover as much as possible.Then cover the area again with cardboard and finally cover it with the black plastic to stop the nutrients leaching away in the rain.The worms get to work drawing everything down in to the soil and breaking it up. The plan then is to remove the plastic early next year and set the seed potatoes in to this heaving mass!Years ago in Ireland potatoes were grown in lazy beds done much the same way.A bed was covered in manure and the soil from the edges put on top. The pops were set in to it and as you were earthing up the pops and then digging out them you were actually digging out the section.We Irish knew a thing or two about labour saving gardening.
Trench Composting. I pulled up the remains of the broccoli plants and a couple of slug ridden cabbages from here.I dug it over, not too hard to do as it was well dug and plenty of manure added last year. I then dug the trench and started filling it with the cabbage leaves and any of the yellowing leaves from the sprouts etc.Again a friendly grocer or supermarket might help out.The idea is to add any composting material through the winter and fill in with soil as you are going on.This method is great if you do not have a compost bin or if you think you don't have enough composting material to fill one.This bed is for beans next year, while they do not like fresh animal manure they are hungry feeders. The bed will be ready made to plant out the beans when ready. I read about this method in Jane Perrone's book, The allotment Keepers Handbook and it was also recommended by Susan Taylor when she visited us a few months ago.