Friday, October 31, 2008

I went out to the allotment this morning in glorious sunshine but it was freezing cold.There has been snow as far south as the Wicklow mountains and it is still only October!It is definitely glove wearing weather out there from now on.The remains of the sunflower left in situ to feed the birds for the winter, it is growing on the plot next to ours which is used by Liam and William
The last rose of summer left blooming alone! Also on the plot next door, there is not a leaf left on the tree just this single bloom glowing in the frosty sunshine.
Our winter produce did not look very colourful until I added our pumpkin, which weighs in at 8 lb. Two kids up the country in Co Leitrim I think, grew a 550 lb One!!!We also have the first of the sprouts from one plant and the swiss chard which is still going strong.
The celery under fleece to protect from frosts. I was a bit late as we had quite a severe frost last night. Although if the head I pulled up today is anything to go by they are not very big. They can be used for flavouring soups and stews.Further investigation needed before growing celery next year.
The asparagus under its winter blanket of seaweed.Zwena said as it is originally a seaside plant seaweed is a good mulch for it. I know farmers along the western seaboard use quite alot of seaweed as manure,and seaweed extract is commercially available.I am lucky I can be at the beach in less than 30 mins, on Sunday Ed gathered it and got his shoes wet as the tide was coming in and one wave ran right up and over his shoes. I was directing operations from a safe distance!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tags and paintings



I was tagged from Annas paints a few days ago.I needed time to figure out this link business for once and for all!I have typed in this line about 10 times so far...But...by George, I think I've got it!!
Being tagged has rules
1/ create a link back to the person who has tagged you
2/Tag at least 3 other people, with links to their blogs
3/ Leave a comment on their blogs so that they know they have been tagged
4/ Post the rules on your blog
5/write 6 things about yourself ( another hard part)!

I am tagging:
Jo ,who blogs from South Africa
Margaret another allotment lady in the UK
Latane writing about her life and looking after her husband who has Alzheimers

I enjoy all my favourite blogs,just because your name is not here does not mean I don't enjoy yours!I think tagging helps to highlight new blogs on the block.

6 Things about me:

1/ I have always loved crafts ie; knitting/sewing/painting, anything creative
2/ I would have loved to do Art after I left school but it was not an option in a working class family
3/ I did start water colour painting classes last year!The 2 pictures at the top are 2 of my efforts so far
4/ I sell Irish music Cds online on www.ceolcds.com
5/ I love music and dancing and have taken ballroom dancing classes (basic)!
6/ I love travelling when I can, that's why I love reading all of your blogs and learning about other countries

I have previewed and checked...all of my links WORK!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pickle Day!



Our pickle day was a great success, thanks mainly to Chris and Maeve who did most of the pickling and brought lots of goodies! Zwena also produced some delicious calorie laden cakes as usual but nobody complained about the calories! Chris had brought some lovely potato and leek soup with savoury cheese scones, there was apple and treacle tart , festive queen cakes and a deadly but delicious chocolate gateaux.There were dips of various chutnies and jams also.Not a feast for the faint hearted! All served in Zwena's farmhouse kitchen as it was too cold and wet to venture outside.
















Some of the jams and pickles laid out, Plum & Star Anise jam,onion marmalade,Rhubarb& Ginger jam,Apple& lemon curd,Plum jam,Basil mayonnaise to name a few!






Chris and Maeve are still harvesting radishes and white turnips and salad leaves.
A close up of the lovely finish Chris had given to the jars. We all save our jars so they have various produce lids on them, Chris bought some hessian fabric and raffia in a craft shop and covered them and then made the labels also, a lovely idea if anyone was selling their produce at a farmer's market . Liam had brought lots of recipes printed out for us by his daughter who is a chef.Another day has been planned for December when everything will be winding down and more allotmenteers will be able to attend.













Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Waiting Room

We had put the new strawberry plants into the now cleared out greenhouse to shelter for the winter.I read an article in Kitchen Garden (UK)magazine which said they should be left out to get a couple of frosts and then put in, it is recommended to get strawberries going early next year. So out they have come to await jack frost!











The garlic is just peeping above ground and it looks as if it has all germinated! Garlic is supposed to be winter sown so we will have to wait and see the results.Last year we put it in, in late Spring and while it grew to about this height that was it, then it just died back



The overwintering onions have also taken off. They are a special winter sown onion,we got them in Atkins seeds in Cork but I'm sure most garden centres will have them but they disappear fast! The birds take a fancy to them and pull them out of the ground but they can be pushed back in again. I only found 2 or 3 pulled up. It gives the onions a head start for next year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Plethora of Pumpkins 1

This is actually two posts to cover the final chapter in our pumpkin saga.
This is the biggest of the bunch by far, weighing in at 30 KGS and measuring 61 ins in circumference! If we had had a good summer and the compost heap got heat and sunshine it would probably have been even bigger as Zwena has had a 40 kg one in the past!







All of the pumpkins gathered in for today, some have been left on the plants to continue growing as there are still lots of small ones and the plants have not started to die back yet.The seeds were just scattered on the top of the compost heap ( horse manure) and left grow away without any further care or interference.














Zwena is not just posing ,she did push the wheelbarrow up from the allotment !














A photo shoot of the produce!Ours is the one on the extreme right there are also some lovely gourds which the photos don't do justice to as they are all so colourful !














A close up view, the big one is going into the English market to the Good Food Stall if anyone is in the area tomorrow,call in and have a look. Zwena said the big one that was sent in last year was bought up immediately!

A Plethora of Pumpkins 2

This is a close up of them still lurking in the undergrowth, before the harvesting operation.






Smaller ones further up the bank











Another Monster that was not visible until now!













Zwena ceremoniously taking the knife to the star of the show















Action snap of Zwena unhitching another pumpkin

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Feng Shuiing the Blueberries




The title is the comment daughter Aisling made when she phoned me at the allotment this afternoon. Our Blueberries were not performing because they were in the wrong soil! They like acid (Ericacious) soil , I got this advice on http://www.irishgardeners.com/ There is an excellent thread on blueberries for anyone wishing to grow them. I dug over the end of the fruit bed and added the patch where Kathryn dug out the peas so now they have an L shaped des. res.


I priced the largest pots around, some shops were charging up to 11e for them but good old B&Q (Homebase in the US) had them for 6.45e. They are 30 cms, which is the largest I have seen. I filled the bases with about 2ins of gravel for drainage, dug out a big hole and added some more gravel for the base of the pots to rest on. Blueberries don't like their feet wet!













One of the pots in the ground.








The Blueberries in their new bed.They were easy enough to dig out of their original positions as the root balls were not very big, they had hardly left their comfort zone of the ericacious compost they had come in.I backfilled the pots and firmed them in with plenty of compost around the tops about 5 feet apart, I think we have learned our lesson about putting plants in too close together. One plant still had a label so I know it is a Northland , hopefully the other two are a different variety. We will have to check the blossoms next year to compare them and then we will know if they are different. Blueberries are supposed to crop better with mixed varieties.So they have been thoroughly feng shuiid and should have Zen plus Ying and Yang after all that work between the showers this afternoon.


We have to wait months to find out!!

Right Hand Man

I found this photo of Kevin, my right hand man and gardener in chief. He is about 8 months old and is showing a keen interest in plant pots already!









Kevin with the very first head of lettuce we grew on the allotment the first year, I think it was all that was growing there at the time













With his own set of gardening tools at last, trying to make a straight line for sowing.


Fully kitted out for the Irish summer, rain never deterred him from coming out!

Beetroot Pickle

I have been missing from the blog for a few days, I have not been out to the allotment either. With the nice autumn weather we have been having there were lots of things to catch up on at home.I did get around to making the beetroot pickle though.
I got a simple recipe on vegboxrecipes.co.uk
Up to 2kg of fresh beetroot
1&1/2 litrs vinegar
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1tbsp whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
100grm sugar (optional)
What I liked about this method is the beetroot is baked in tinfoil in the oven so any juices that escape can be poured from the foil back into the pickle.
Scrub the beetroot wrap in foil ans bake at 180 c for 2 hours until tender
While they are baking make up the pickle as follows
Put vinegar, coriander,cloves, peppercorns and bayleaf in a large pan,Bring to the boil for about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and cover the pan.Leave the flavours to infuse for about 2 hours.Strain before using.If you would like a sweeter pickle add 250 grms sugar before boiling .Stir well to make sure sugar has dissolved.
Baby beets can be left whole and larger ones cut into slices.
Wear rubber gloves or else your hands and nails will look like something from a Hammer horror film!
Put beets into warm jars , bring the pickle mixture to the boil and fill the jars
Seal the jars with a plastic coated lid ( metal would corrode and ruin the pickle)
leave for a few weeks before using and gently shake the jars every week or so to allow flavours to develop.
If this turns out OK and I can eat it,we will sow more beetroot next year and also Coriander as I had some trouble getting whole seeds, as we did not have enough from our 1 plant.I eventually found them and a whole range of other organic foods in the Quay Co Op. See www.quaycoop.com
Guess who got a jar to try first...?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Apple & Tomato Chutney


We are having a 'Pickle day' on the allotment at the end of Oct. Chris is organising it. It is going to be a swop day for produce and/or advice. I have to admit I have never pickled anything before and can only remember tasting a glutinous brown goo once and have never tried it again! I thought I should try something for the pickle day and so what I brought home from the allotment the other day was sitting there and I thought what the hell....! Chris had left me a recipe ( pinned up in the greenhouse) for beetroot pickle but Angela had tried tomato chutney using the red and green tomatoes. i went online and found a simple recipe on www.sausagelinks.co.uk ( lots of lovely easy recipes) The one I used is:
1kg Cooking apples,peeled and cored
1kg Tomatoes (red or green or a mix)
I also added the small green peppers I had
500ml vinegar
500g onions
250 grm dried fruit
500grm soft brown sugar
half teaspoon: cayenne pepper, mustard powder, ground ginger or other spices
Or you can cheat and use a pickling bag of mixed spices (bought)
Finely chop apple, tomato and onion, can be done in a food processor, use half of the vinegar and put everything in a large saucepan.
Simmer uncovered for 2 hours adding remains of vinegar as it cooks.
The chutney is done when a spoon drawn across leaves a clear trail with no traces of liquid.
Pour in to hot clean jars and store in a cool dark place for at least 1 month before eating.
This made 6 jars, it smelled devine ,looked nice as I had left some chunky bits instead of processing all of the ingredients, it did taste Ok too. I gave son in law Rob a jar to try when ready so if he suffers no ill effects..... Now to try the beetroot pickle

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Winter veg

Last year once we had picked the final lettuce we had nothing in the allotment for the winter. I think we had put so much work in to clearing the plot we needed a rest from it. This year even though all the summer veg has now been cleared away there is quite a good crop coming on through the winter months. The purple sprouting broccoli under its netting is doing well but we have to keep checking the netting is secure on the ground to keep the rabbits out.




The leeks, earthed up again. they are growing fine but I am not sure when they should be ready?

The Celery also earthed up is doing OK. It must be covered with fleece in case of an early frost.








The parsnips now have the bed to themselves since the beetroot was taken up.












And last but not least our Sprouts. They are under netting too and I cleared the ground around them of yellowing leaves etc to stop any slugs etc from overwintering on them. I did have to pick off a few snails again but not as many as last time. So...there is still quite a lot of interest for the winter, especially as we have not grown any of these before.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Autumn clearing

A lovely autumn harvest.The last of the summer? grown veg from the allotment.Kathryn and the 2 girls were out on Sunday and got peas ( the ones the rabbits had left)!The rabbits got under the netting and chewed a lot of them again. She also got the last of the cucumbers.I cleared the rest of what we had in the greenhouse. Tomatoes,some still green, small oddly shaped peppers, one had gone red, I pulled all of the beetroot, going to try my hand at pickling them.I also got some Swiss chard , pulled after the photo was taken.





Another cauliflower, small but perfectly formed but they turn in to this....














The florets just grow up in to long stalks!














After clearing the greenhouse I moved in our strawberry plants in their pots as we do not have a bed for them at present. The permanent fruit bed is undergoing major restructuring. The remains of the greenhouse plants were put on the communal compost heap and I added the compost to the now defunct carrot barrels. Kathryn has late carrots in a bed and she is going to try replanting them in the barrels for winter, away from the clutches of the rabbits. The barley fields have now been harvested so the rabbits are back up in the allotments foraging! It is just an idea so we will see how they do in the barrels as we had a great crop of carrots from them during the summer when the carrot fly was the pest to deter.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Tale of two Pumpkins

The pumpkins growing on the bank!They are spreading out thick and fast in all directions.There are quite a lot, I could not count all of them but there are two HUGE ones.














This is the biggest one skulking in the undergrowth! It measures approx 54 ins around the 'equator'! I could not even give an estimation of the weight, but I could not move it a fraction, it is heavy!!














This is our little pumpkin, the leaves have all died back and we are not sure why, maybe the cold weather or could it be pumpkin blight?! The pumpkin itself appears OK and is ripening slowly. I measured it and it is only a trifling 25 ins compared to its bigger cousin. It is being fed but the position obviously does not suit it, maybe too exposed ? I think pumpkins are ideal candidates to grow on a compost heap,as the compost sits there doing nothing while breaking down so the pumpkins would act as a cover.The bigger ones on the bank for anyone who has not been following their progress are growing on top of a heap of horse manure and do they love it!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cobh,QE2

This is actually 3 posts! I went to Cobh this morning to see the QE2 which is visiting there. Cobh has a great maritime history, it was the last port of call for the ill fated Titanic before she sailed to her doom and in to the history books.
A pub bearing the name of one of the big liners of the last century 'The Mauretania'.












This is the statue of 16 years old Annie Moore with her 2 brothers, (I cut her head off )! She left from Queenstown to find a better life in America.Books have been written about Annie's life in the new world.


















Titanic memorabilia on sale in one of the shops.














I visited New York last year with my son and we went to Ellis island, it was where emigrants from all over the world were processed for entry to the US. It is now a huge heritage site, I have to say it is an eerie place ,even now.This is me standing next to the Annie Moore statue there, Annie was the very first person to be processed through Ellis Island.



















This is how Barry and myself may have looked back then if we were emigrating. I think we would have been quite well off! We had our photos taken and they were matched up to a suitable background photo taken from the Ellis Island archives. Thousands of Irish among other nationalities looked to the new world for a better life. So many left never to return to their homelands, in a time when there were no phones or means of communication. Many were illiterate and even if they could write the people at home may have been illiterate.They worked and sent money home for another family member to follow them out, or sent money to their parents to help them to survive in very hard times.