Monday, June 30, 2008

Arte y Pico Award

I would like to say a big 'thank you ' to Lynda for giving this online award to my blog.Especially as I am new to this 'art form' and still learning the basics!
If you’d like to read more about the Arte Y Pico Award, you can do so by visiting the website here. (In a nutshell, it is an award given to creative blogs with interesting material and design who’s writers contribute to the blogging community.)
These are the rules and regulations, followed by my nominees for the next five deserving winners of the Arte Y Pico Award:
1) Pick five (5) blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award (
I am passing this award on to the following 5 inspiring bloggers (in no particular order) -:

Pam: Georgia, USA Pam writes about her life and daily doings on the farm, where herself and husband Billy do anything that needs doing!

Richard: UK. All about growing on an allotment in England with friendly advice, great photos that show how veg and plots should look.

Fiftyoverlife: South Africa Daily blog about life in SA. great photos and stories

Catherine: Ireland & USA The first blog I actually read on a regular basis from where I scrolled into other blogs and realised bloggers are actually quite normal people! An account of backpacking in Central America , some hair raising tales and photos! This blog is currently ended but who knows? It still makes great reading!

MTP : Bath UK great advice, photos and especially recipes if what you try to grow actually makes it to the table!


My own mother Catherine ( Nana Percy) R.I.P. 25/04/2008 with her Yorkshire terrier Percy.

My mother in law Alice ( Nana Mopsy) R.I.P. 3/04/2008 with her boxer Mopsy

Nana Sam! Myself with Sam, a cavalier King Charles spaniel.

When My grandchildren Stephen and Gemma were small they were lucky enough to have all of their grandparents and great grandparents alive. This caused some confusion especially in my own case as my children had called my mother in law Nana Murray, but now to their children I was Nana Murray! So... to distinguish which Nana they were talking about my mother in law became known as Nana Mopsy after her dog and my mother became Nana Percy after her dog, I was still Nana Murray as I had no dog!
I recently acquired H.R.H Cavalier King Charles Sammy. He used to live with my daughter Kathryn, then the kids had got another dog, a Golden Retriever called Shila. Sam and Shila got on fine but then Shila had puppies ( 7)! They were Retriever/Labrador cross and all went to good homes, mainly family. The girls wanted to keep one of the puppies, so Sylvester stayed. Sammy is now around 10 years old, deaf and not up to Sylvester's antics so Sammy moved in to live in solitary state with his Nana! Daughter Aisling happened to remark one day " Mam, you do realise you have now become Nana Sam!
That's when I decided to put the photos together and let the younger grandchildren know who their great grandmothers were and why they were called Nana Percy and Nana Mopsy! They died within weeks of each other in 2006, my own mother was suffering from cancer for some time when my mother in law died suddenly 3 weeks before her. The dogs have long since passed on, but their names will be remembered with love and affection just as the Nanas they will always be associated with.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Globe Artichokes

The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are eaten, along with the bottom part of the flower. It makes a delicious starter or lunch ,simply boiled whole and served with melted butter, or a vinaigrette for dipping the leaves into. Break off each leaf and draw the soft fleshy base through your teeth.

I knew it had to be related to something nasty! I think it is the armadillo of the vegetable world, almost daring you to eat it. We have them growing around some of the allotments, I don't, as they have never appealed to me as a vegetable. There is one big violet tipped one on the patch next to ours and most of the others are 'babies' off of this! They seem to take root and grow at a tremendous rate.
The lady who has that patch told me to take one and try it out,which I did! I used a very basic recipe, just boiled in water with lemon juice for about 20 minutes. I also bought the real butter...Kerrygold.. as it is salted and melted some of this. When the artichoke was cooked I just pulled off the leaves and dipped them in the butter. The outer ones did not have much flesh but the inner ones were actually very tasty! It seemed like a lot of work for a light lunch but I would certainly try them again.
So I will be on the lookout for recipes. They need not be just for the vegetable patch either as they could be an eyecatching specimen in any garden! In the photo it is to the left and is quite a big plant (around 4 feet high) as can be seen in comparison to the scarecrow embryo! It dies back in winter and then grows at a great rate in Spring and early summer. This one is producing a lot of artichokes, as the mature ones are cut off more are coming on. It is also growing and producing without any human interference as this allotment was idle for a couple of years and the plant survived. I read somewhere that the artchokes cannot be used for the first year, all the flowers should be removed before anything develops otherwise the artichokes will be small and hard and inedible.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random Photos of our Open Day and Scarecrow

Aisling said the photo on the left reminds her of the old joke " how many does it take to change a light bulb"?!

Kevin and Ben showing off their work. Kathryn naming out whats planted in this bed. She put in Beetroot, Radishes,and seeds of Leeks and Brussels Sprouts,which are up already! By accident more than design we may have the Leeks in at the right time as they are a winter vegetable. Parsnips were late going in as seed but they are up, and they can be left in the ground for the first frosts. Kathryn also has Pepper plants in the small green house.

Kevin and his BF and cousin, Ben. They love getting down and dirty! I dont think they know they have made earwig traps or else they have been watching gardening programmes on their own! Ben lost his snazzy headgear to the scarecrow.

This is daughter Kathryn, who is my allotment partner. I am showing her the fronds of our Asparagus which we are leaving to die back again this year. Stephen came up to see how we were coping without him this year.The girls just come to brighten up the place!

Our near neighbours on the allotment, they are usually in the field next to us, but they were probably safer in the stables on the Open day.

Yes, Scarecrow making is a spectator sport!! Michelle and Aisling

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Potato Blight!

The weather recently has been warm and humid (some days)! This can lead to blight on potatoes and tomatoes. We were told that blight had been seen on some allotments ...not ours, at the end of May. I have been told by more experienced gardeners that the 15 th of June is the time to be on the look out for blight.

We have two beds of potatoes, one of second earlies and one of main crop. The main crop are to the left of the embryo scarecrow in the photo. I had hot footed to the garden centre to get the Bordeaux Mixture which is recommended for organic spraying and sprayed the early bed two weeks ago as these were in flower. I was told the flowers are a sign that the potatoes have set in the ground when the flowers develop on the plant, they are not just decorative!

We had our open day on Sunday and we had a great turn out of very interested gardeners. Some were interested in growing and a few had land which they were thinking of setting up in allotments. It was very informative both for the visitors and ourselves as a lot of them were very knowledgeable and passed on lots of tips. One man I was speaking to had a look at our allotment and thought there were signs of blight on one or two the main crop of potatoes!! I got the spray on Monday morning and I sprayed them ( 16th June) and did the early bed today 19th June. The spray has to be reapplied every two weeks so it will be done religiously from now on! We should be digging the earlies the beginning of July and hopefully have a good crop. I am looking forward to freshly dug spuds for dinner!!
The red onions to the right of the embryo scarecrow are another story! I knew the red onions had bolted by Sunday. They started off just one here and there ,but by Sunday they had all bolted. I was told to bend them down to the ground and the bulbs would continue to grow a little. I mentioned this to the same man who had spotted the blight and he advised to pull them all and just use them as salad onions, as they were not going to improve and to utilise the bed for something else while there was time.
He advised setting seed of white turnips which would grow and crop within 10 weeks. I pulled all the onions on Monday, redug the bed and set 3 rows of seeds.
I also mentioned our garlic problem to him, he said we did not have a problem! The garlic was doing what garlic does at this time of the year stops growing because it is a winter vegetable! It should be planted in September, it grows through Winter and Spring and the leaves die back and turn yellow now because it is ready to harvest.
I also bought a tray of Celery plants and put them in on Monday.
This Blog will be handy for ourselves to keep track of what and when we plant in the ground.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our scarecrow day!

I have been trying for ages to get the captions next to the relevant photo, but they do not publish in the correct order!
From the Top
1: Myself, weeding while waiting for someone to turn up who can hopefully turn the post next to me into a passable scarecrow! Ed secured the post on Sat evening.
2:Grandson, trapper Ben meditating, while I wonder if a leather football..( soft )..( the football, not me) would make a suitable head for our scarecrow?
3:Grandson Ryan has taken control of the hose so Kevin starts the long trek to the next hosepipe with his trusty watering can.
4: Son in law Rob gets to grips with the 'head'.
5: Daughter Linda giving hubby Rob a helping hand, while Ryan demonstrates the overhand method of watering!

More of our scarecrow day!

6: Rob trying desperately to look as if he knows exactly what he is doing.
7: Our friend looks slightly 'disjointed'!
8: Linda trying out her chat up lines...he does not seem to be responding!
9: Me, watching Linda giving him some final 'tweaks'.
10: Me, with the new man in my life! He looks far too cute and cuddly to scare anything away!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Strawberry Success!

Had put hay underneath the plants the last day we were out to keep the fruit up off the ground.I had also left the plastic tunnels over them. all of the plants had ripe fruit and a lot more to ripen! They looked and smelled lovely!
I weeded around the plants and picked the ripest fruit ,watered them and put the plastic tunnels back over them as we are having a cool spell of weather again.
I brought home the strawberries and weighed them, there was half a pound, 230 grms, not a lot but all our own!
I read somewhere not to put them in the fridge as it kills the taste ,and do they taste sweet !! Some runners for new plants are shooting out,but I dont know if we should cut them off or plant them. We have not bought any plants, so we do not know the name of them or how old they are. Do strawberry plants have a dig up by date? How often should they be renewed?

Garlic Disaster!

Choose a site with well drained soil which has been previously treated with a general purpose fertiliser.
Plant; Sept to Oct is the best time to plant garlic but it is possible to plant Feb to March.
Split the bulb into separate cloves and plant 2” deep and 9” apart.
Garlic needs little attention only weeding or hoeing to aerate the soil and watering in dry weather.

Lift when foliage turns yellow and allow to dry before storing in a frost free place in trays or nets.
Sounds Simple? Foolproof even? Read on !

Planted bulbs Sunday 24th Feb.
Used Unwin’s garlic bulbs, bought in Ravensdale in tower.
The site is sunny and well drained but according to the instructions it should have been previously treated with a general purpose fertilizer. There was manure dug into this bed last June but that is all that has been put into it.

Ed and I went out to allotment on 17th March ( St Patrick's day)! did a lot of clearing and tidying, planted more garlic bulbs and the first lot are coming on well.

Fri 13th June.

Have to admit the garlic is a non runner this year! After a very promising start it just seemed to slow down and die off. I have watered it each time we went out to the allotment but one by one they have died. There are 2 very yellow specimens left now. The onions on each side seem to be doing OK still. Will have to look into the garlic question before planting it again. I had heard it was hard to grow,but it seemed to make such a good start I thought it was OK.
To the top of the photo, main crop potatoes on the left, red onions to the right and the empty space in front of them is where the Garlic SHOULD be! The girls have put in 4 baby scarecrows which can be seen here, must take better close ups for them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mahon Point Farmer's Market

Mahon Point Farmer's market update!
This market takes place every Thursday morning from 10.00am to 2.00pm in the Plaza in front of the lower entrance to the shopping centre. We were there just after 11.00 am and it was just getting busy, by the time we left it was packed and I would think some of the stalls would be sold out before 2.00pm!
There is about 36 stalls listed in the Spring brochure which I picked up, from organic vegetables to cheeses, free range chickens/eggs, plants and all things homemade and/or handmade. The main benefit of all of the markets is that nearly all of the producers have samples of their foods available. So if you have ever wanted to just taste something these are the places to go.
I did just that myself when I spied the jars of Goats Cheese and samples laid out on crackers at the Magpie Cottage stall. Their cheese is produced in east Cork from their prize winning herd of anglo nubian goats .I had a preconceived idea it would be smelly and strong but it is anything but! I asked the nice gentleman on the stall ,the producer Mr Phil Rhodes (bottom photo ) if that was all you could do with it. He laughed and gave me some recipes his wife uses it for. I usually do stuffed chicken breasts but I am going to try the Magpie Cottage Version .

Take one chicken breast fillet, make a pocket down one side.
Put 1 ball of Goats Cheese in the cavity
wrap the whole breast in a streaky rasher of bacon ( I am doing it in Prosciutto which is a nicer flavour)
Use one fillet per person depending on size
Line them in a lightly oiled roasting dish and cover with tinfoil
Cook in a medium oven ( I use gas mark 5) for about 45 mins
Remove tinfoil for last 15 mins to allow fillets to brown
Cooking time is approximate depending on size of chicken breasts

Cheesy Pork Chops;

Grill the pork chops; just before serving, put some goats cheese on top and return to the grill to melt the cheese, serve immediately.

Cheese on Toast;
Instead of just grating cheese on the toast put one ball of Goats cheese on and grill as usual!
If there is any of the oil left in the jar it can be used for roasting potatoes or chicken.

Any of the stall holders will be only too happy to talk to you about their products and give advice on using them.
Chicken Breast & Goats cheese stuffing Update!
Tried these for dinner this evening and they taste fantastic! They got the thumbs up ( their mouths were full,they could not speak)! from my 2 foreign students, one French and one German,my grand daughter Gemma, Ed and myself. I was a bit wary at first but was pleasantly surprised and will definitely do them again.

Scarecrow Day!

Sunday 15th June has been designated Scarecrow day! We had arranged a family day out in the allotment to construct our scarecrow ,now we are also having an Allotment Open Day from 3pm. We will have to go out early to get a head start and at least look as if we know what we are doing before anyone arrives. We also need to clean up the beds as with the recent sun and showers the weeds are flying! All the allotmenteers will be present and everyone is bringing donations for tea.
We are expecting visitors from the Castlemartyr Allotments and the Cork free choice consumer group also.It is also open to anyone who just wants to see what allotment are all about, they dont have to be a member of any organization. It should be a good day, weather permitting.
I will have lots of photos up by Mon. hopefully.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group

I have taken the following information about the markets from the Cork free choice Consumer Group website. We attended the May meeting which covered Allotments and community gardens and were astounded to know these meetings had been going on for years! Their website is full of relevant information and links to other websites.

They have meetings on the last Thursday of every month - except June, July, August and December

Meetings are held at the Crawford Gallery Cafe at Emmet Place, Cork at 7.30 pm.Producers and experts talk on each topic.They have produced a Cork local producers booklet which is available here.Check the website to see whats coming up and read up on past meetings to get an idea of what is discussed.

Admission: €5.00 including tea, coffee and tastings.

Farmer's markets

Farmers Markets First established by the Cork Free Choice Consumer Group in 1996. Since then they have spread throughout the county. They are held outdoors. Markets are held during the morning, usually starting by 9am. Get there as early as possible.
Bantry, Friday, Main Square.
Blackwater Valley, 6 miles from Mallow on Fermoy Rd. at Nano Nagle Centre at Ballygriffen, near Killavullen. Open every second Saturday. Dates for June 5, 19; July 3, 17, 31; Aug 14, 28; Sep 11, 25; Oct 9, 23; Nov 6, 20; Dec 4, 18; Contact: Nora Foley - T. 022 26177
Castletownbere First Thursday, (monthly).
Clonakilty, Thursday, Old Market Hall, McCurtain St. opposite Church.
Cornmarket St., Cork Saturday, Cornmarket St. in Cork .
Inchigeela, Last Saturday 2pm, (monthly), Creedons Hotel
Macroom, Tuesday, Main Square.
Midleton, Saturday, Hospital Rd. Behind the courthouse by the roundabout on Main Street.

Mitchelstown, Thursday, Main Square.
Schull, Sunday 11am - 3pm, June to Sept, Pier Rd. Carpark.
Skibbereen, Saturday, in the car park almost opposite AIB bank, Bridge St.

As far as I know there is also a Farmer's Market in Mahon Point shopping centre Plaza, but I am not sure which day or if it is still operating and one was also started in Blackpool Shopping centre , if anyone has any information if these are still ongoing, Please let me know.
Farmer's Markets are held all over the country in towns,villages and even in the cities but Skibbereen is the only local one that I could find which has a dedicated website (see Link)

Country Markets

Country Markets Established by the Irish Countrywomens Association in 1946 for the sale of home produced food and handcrafts.

Markets are held in many small country towns. They are very popular and sell out very quickly.

They are held indoors.

Ballincollig, Community Centre, 9.30am - 11am, Fridays DIrections - Signposted on Main St. near traffic lights.

Bandon, South Main Street, 10am - 1pm Fridays and Saturdays Directions - In Weir St. opposite Garda Station.

Carrigaline, GAA Hall, 9.30am - 10.30am Fridays Directions - From the Cork Road, take 1st exit on roundabout just outside village, signed for Crosshaven. Continue on the Crosshaven road for about 5 minutes, the G.A.A. grounds are on the right.

Fermoy, Youth Centre, 2.00pm Fridays Directions - From the Cork Road, proceed to The Square in centre of town. Turn left onto quay, before the bridge. The market is held in a pink building at the end of the quay.

Macroom, Castle Arch, 11am Tuesdays Directions - Beside archway, just beyond The Square.

Mallow, Saint Jamesf Hall, 2.30 Fridays Directions - Saint Jamesf C. of I. Hall on bypass north of town near Tesco. Also accessable from Main St.

Midleton, Old School, 10.30 Fridays Directions - In Church Lane, off Main St., opposite Church of Ireland.

Millstreet, G.A.A. Hall, 11am Fridays Directions - G.A.A. Hall on Main St.

Riverstown, New GAA Hall, 9.15 Fridays Sallybrook and Riverstown GAA.

Skibbereen, Abbeystrewry Hall, 12.00 Fridays Directions - Beside car park.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Scarecrow Construction!

Kevin wanted to make a scarecrow last year to keep the birds from our fruit. We did not get around to it but this year we are organising a family day to do it.My son in law Rob is in charge of planning,the kids are in charge of getting the stuffing and 'bits' together. We still were not sure of how to actually put one together so Kevin's Mom, Aisling volunteered to go online and 'Google' scarecrow! I might add Aisling is 8 months pregnant so this her contribution. Lo and behold she found Scarecrow instructions on a New Zealand website!
I have been on the site and even though it is mainly for the climate in New Zealand there is a wealth of general information which can be used by any gardener ie;

A Caffeine Fix for Slugs and Snails In one of the best pieces of gardening news in recent years scientists have discovered that slugs and snails detest caffeine. Pouring the dregs of your morning coffee on the ground will drive them away. Even better, add coffee grounds to your mulch or potting mix. Ask your local coffee shop if you can recycle their leftovers and mulch your hostas, lettuce seedlings and more. That morning cuppa will never be the same again!

Aphids can be eliminated with Rhubarb spray. Boil 5 rhubarb leaves in a large pot of water for approximately 10 mins. When cooled add a squirt of dishwashing detergent to fix the spray to the leaves. Set to and spray. Note that rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid and should not be eaten.

Just 2 relevant pieces of information which can be applied anywhere. They have the most comprehensive advice on Asparagus I have seen yet! I will be adding this site to my favourites and visiting on a regulare basis.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Just sand and water, what more does a girl need? Aoife mixing it!

Robert's Cove, 2 pubs and a restuarant!

Kevin and Aoife, action snap!

Its not all work and no play!

This is Robert's Cove, a small beach about 30 minutes drive from Cork city. I have a mobile home which we use during the summer. It is in a park up on the cliffs to the left,but not visible here. This is Kevin, Sinead and Aoife trying to 'surf ' outside the seaweed! This little sandy bay is covered in seaweed for most of the summer for some reason.Sometimes it is worse than others. The tide was fully in here so it looks bad. We have to collect a bag of the stuff to put on the Asparagus out in the allotment, I dont know who is going to take it home?!
We were the only ones on the beach that day. It is near enough to go to if the sun comes out unexpectedly, which happens here regularly! Kevin and his Mom Aisling spent the weekend down there and had beautifull weather. It is safe for children and they love the rock pools and the stream that runs down the beach at low tide. They collect crabs (dead) and various shells.