Saturday, January 31, 2009

1st February, La le Bride, St Bridgets Day,Imbolg

The first of February has many names mainly because it was such an important date for farmers and people growing crops to survive, as it was the first day of Spring and it was very important to gain favours with the Gods and Goddesses and Saints to help with the new crops and therefore a good harvest.
In ancient Ireland we had many pagan festivals which with the coming of Christianity were changed to saints feast days.
St Brigid is one such saint, she is reputed to be the daughter of a slave girl and a wealthy chieftain, she was fostered by a druid (ancient Irish priests)she became wise in all things and her advice and counselling was much sought after.
On her feast day butter was always freshly churned and bread baked for supper. After supper the family made St Brigid's crosses out of rushes gathered for this purpose.The crosses were then hung over the doors in the house, the dairy and the cow byre to gain her protection in the year ahead.
This is a close up of the simple cross made from the rushes, the ends would have been woven in with more rushes but nowadays an elastic band has been used. I bought this in the street in town the other day.It is an old craft and it is nice to support it.
There is an old saying that every second day from St Brigid's day will be fine,a wet February is supposed to herald a fine summer!The days lengthening slowly is also noticed after the dark evenings of January.
All over Ireland there are holy wells dedicated to St Brigid, people brought home the water and sprinkled it around the house and out buildings, the livestock and fields to invoke the saints protection.
There are many old customs and stories about St Brigid that would take books to cover. She was a very wise and practical lady who loved a 'drop' and is reputed to have made the best mead ( drink made from Honey)in the country as she also kept bees.
A formidable lady who is still honoured today.

Friday, January 30, 2009


It is a great honour to receive an award for blogging from fellow bloggers.I love reading all my favourite blogs as often as I can and would love to award each and every one of you because you have all given me such enjoyment and friendship from all over the world. I have learned of customs and crafts and seen beautiful photos of neighbourhoods I would never have known about. Passing on awards and tags is time consuming especially if you are as slow as me!I know many of you have opted out of passing these on for the same reason so as the new gardening and growing season will be starting soon as of now this will also be an award and tag free zone.

My blog has received this award from Lynda on foodfunfarm in East Africa. Thanks Lynda, as I know you keep up with lots of blogs all over the world ,so to be singled out for one by you is a great honour. Lynda writes daily on farm life and shares some delicious recipes, I know as I have tried a few of them!

The following explains what this particular award is about;

“This blog invests and believes the proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are extremely charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly written text into the body of their award.

When you get your first award it is always a thrill as you know someone out there is taking time to read what you write ( or ramble on about as I do)!
Time constraints do not allow me to single out 8 blogs so I am passing it on to 3 fairly new blogs which I enjoy catching up on.

Clara (US)for her charming and uplifting blog in living life to the full and finding something beautiful in each day

Tracy (US)making a life and home on 3 acres, where everything is a DIY challenge to overcome

Fiona (Tasmania) A blog on family friends and crafting

Thursday, January 29, 2009


While on Irish gardeners Forum on Tuesday night I followed a link for buying seeds and discovered I could buy seeds on Ebay!I browsed and found this Seedaholic ebay store with a huge amount of flower and vegetable seeds at very reasonable prices and they are based in Co Mayo in Ireland. What really took my attention was the amount of detail they gave about sowing, looking after the plants, harvesting and uses of the various plants.
I ordered 4 varieties at 1.00am on Wed morning and they arrived in the post this morning!! Beautifully packed with all their information typed out plus a separate sheet on how to look after and store seeds.
They have their own website which I will be visiting for seeds and information!This is the info that came with the Coriander seeds, all the seeds came with similiar detailed info!

Coriandrum sativum "Leisure"
Coriander, Cilantro, Chinese Parsley
Packet containing 2 grams,
Average contents 200 Seeds.
Hardy Annual, Herb

Flowers: Pale Mauve / white in July to August
Height: 45-60cm (18-24 ins)
Spacing: 22-30cm (9-12ins)
Position: Full Sun
Soil type: Well drained/light, Chalky, Alkaline,sandy

Coriander "Leisure" has been bred for large, flavoursome leaf production. This variety is extra slow bolting and is great for hot
weather regions. .
It is a particularly fine coriander variety of superb quality, the leaves are excellent in chopped in curries and chutneys, or as a garnish. Also grown for it's spicy seeds that are used crushed in curries.
It is also referred to as Cilantro although Cilantro is actually the leaves of the plant. All parts of the plant are edible, the leaves taste very different than the seeds, similar to parsley but juicier & with a hint of citrus.
An excellent herb for slightly shaded areas, it also makes a good window box herb and a very easy herb to grow.

Planting Position:
Herbs do best in a hot, sunny spot. In these conditions they'll make the highest level of the aromatic oils that give them their taste and aroma. They also prefer well-drained soil, and are perfect for growing in pots near the kitchen door or in hanging baskets. Like all plants they enjoy regular feeding throughout the growing season.
Sowing: Plant from March, every 3 to 4 weeks for continuous supply.
Coriander plants go to seed quickly, so if you want to use the young leaves at the time that tomatoes and peppers are ripe, you will need to plant some more in early or mid summer.
Indoors March to May
Sow the seeds 1 cm (%") deep into 7cm (3") pots containing normal potting compost. Make sure that the compost remains moist. The seedlings will appear a week to ten days later. Transfer them outside a month after sowing, space 20cm (8in) between each plant
Outdoors: April to June
Sow the seeds 1 cm deep in rows 30cm (12") apart in ordinary garden soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Make sure that the compost remains moist. The seedlings will appear a week to ten days later. Thin out the seedlings to 20-25cm (8¬10") apart.
Harvesting Leaves:
Leisure will be ready to harvest in about 47 days. Harvest the young green leaves sparingly once the seedlings are 15cm (6in) tall. Cut the leaves with scissors when required, starting with the outside leaves (those nearest the edge of the plant) and working your way inwards.
Harvesting Seeds:
The seeds are ready to harvest when they begin to turn brown. Under ripe coriander seeds have an unpleasant flavour. Too ripe and they shatter. The process is progressive and you should harvest when between half and two thirds of the seeds are ripe. Don't leave them too long on the plant or they will disperse themselves. You may need to cut off the tops of the plants and take them indoors to ripen if you want to harvest as many seeds as possible, but this is usually not necessary. Harvest during early morning or late in the evening. The seed will have a very strong odour at first, but this will soften and become more lemony when the seed is thoroughly dry
Leaves do not freeze well, the best way to keep them is in oil or vinegar for winter use.
Companion Plants:
Coriander is excellent planted near to vegetable beds as they deter aphids.

Baile an tsleibhe ''village of the mourntain"
Ballintleva Seeds, Ashburner's Cottage, Ballintleva, Clogher, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland.

Back to my rodent problem.This is the third morning all of the bait has been taken!The directions for use says to put 3 of these, (they are quite substantial) in a plastic container. I have put out 4 of these containers each night and each morning they are empty! This morning I did not notice any further movement of the potato seeds which I have left as is, for the time being. I have got new seed but I am not putting them out until all danger of damage has passed.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I went down to the shed today to open the door as it was sunny and bright. This is the sight that met me. I stared in disbelief trying to think what had happened to the trays of seed potatoes.Some trays had been pushed aside and others had chunks nibbled out of them. I can only think mice or worse , rats?! I have never had any type of foodstuff in the shed so how did they suddenly realise the seed potatoes were there for the taking?

A close up of some of the damage done. On closer inspection I would have to think a rat ( I am hoping singular)! I will have to replace the seeds so I went back to the Ravens Court garden centre and told them my tale of woe. It seems rats have been known to cause this type of damage to any type of stored crop. I was told the seed potatoes can be rescued by cutting off the damaged parts as long as there is an 'eye' in the remaining part.The thought of even handling them is not pretty. I bought more seeds but before I put them out I was advised to set poison as otherwise I am just giving them second helpings!

I had to go to a CO-OP store to get this tub of bait and from the size of stock of this small size up to huge buckets of the stuff I am not the only one with a problem.
It has to be used carefully in containers away from where domestic animals or even birds can get at it.
So before it gets dark I am off to don my armour (read rubber gloves) to do battle with the local rodent population.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Busy Hands

While blog surfing a couple of weeks ago I came across Rosehip who had a pattern for crochet flowers.I have been able to do basic crochet but have never followed a pattern. These looked so colourful I had a go and ended up making this buggy blanket for baby Callum.
This is a close up of the three colour flowers,there are plain squares in between and I also found a brilliant basic crochet tutorial on the purlbee.While waiting in the car to pick up the two girls after school I had my crochet with me. I would make up about 6 white centres and then do all the green sections and then the blue on them, so it meant I only needed to take one needle and one ball of wool.
I had lots of the fabric left over since I made the knitting bag for Linda, I got the idea to make a needle roll for my knitting needles.Since I went back to knitting, my needles are all over the place so now I just need to gather them all in to my patchwork needle roll.
There are two rows of elastic sewn in to slip the needles through, I backed it with strong hessian as the elastic would eventually pull the material.
The finished knitting roll with patchwork squares and I used red binding to keep all the layers together securely.
So in between seed sowing I have been sewing.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Seed potatoes

This morning dawned sunny and bright and more importantly DRY!I got my seed potatoes, they had just been delivered to the garden centre so are freshly packed.These are British Queens, a second early. We decided last year not to grow main crop this year, firstly because they have a chance of getting blight and secondly we don't have enough space to be taken up with them,at least when the second earlys are taken up there is still time for another crop to go in.
I need to track down an organic early too, I was looking for 'Coleen' but it is hard to get at the moment.
I have been saving egg boxes all winter for chitting the pops. Here they are sitting all nice and cosy in their nests! Chitting means encouraging them to sprout, they are put in with the most 'eyes'facing up, in a few weeks they should be sending up green shoots. Some say to rub off all but 2 or 3 of the biggest shoots before planting.
This is the recycling end of the shed, to the left of the photo are my recycled seed trays and on the right the start of the plastic bottle cache. The bottles have to be saved with their caps intact as they will be filled with water to 'drip feed' plants for the long hot summer we hope to have.On the subject of watering today it dawned on me that since I got a water butt 2 years ago we have had 2 of the wettest summers and it was not needed, oh well maybe this is the year.
My jam jar collection is on the shelf.

My previous post on tomato seeds was on the ones I got in B&Q and set in B&Q own brand compost.they were 4.30e for 5 varieties.
These ones are the two I got from the Organic Seed Company.They are Incas F1 which contained 5 seeds for 2.70e.They are described as a modern hybrid with very high yields of thick walled fruits. Matures early and can be grown inside or out.
The second one is Berner Rose 25 seeds for 2.30e. A new salad tomato with pink skin.Sturdy plants which are very easy to grow again inside or out.
I got westland compost with added John Innes and also used vermiculite in the trays. So it remains to be seen which variety, the cheap and cheerful or cosseted organic works out the best.
Weather update, the day that started off with so much promise, by mid afternoon was wet and windy and supposed to get worse during the night!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seed Success!

Yesterday there was just a hint of something in the seed trays , this morning they are definitely there!They were sown on 12th January and have been on a bedroom windowsill.That is 10 days from sowing to growing. Not all of the tomatoes have germinated fully as yet, maybe they will, maybe they won't.The tally so far is, 16 Marmand,8 Tigerella, 17 Gardener's delight, Golden Sunrise 3, the surprise is only 1 Moneymaker has appeared.
I am also very pleased with my Lupin seeds, this is the first time I have saved any seeds and was a bit dubious about whether they would come up or not.There are 9 of them in the tray. These are seeds from a lovely deep red Lupin I have for a number of years I don't know if they will come true to that or what, oh well another learning curve!

I saw this in B&Q the other day and invested 34.40e in it. It looks lovely in the picture!

Well I am pleased to say it does exactly as it says on the box!I have it in a back bedroom at the moment where it gets plenty of light and heat. I put the seed trays off the window sill in to it, with 4 shelves it is quite large so I now have lots of room to put in my seeds from the Organic Seed company as well.
It is not a very sturdy item as in I don't think I will be putting it outside, it could end up in the next parish on a windy day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Look Who is here

Saturday 17th January we braced ourselves for the worst storms for years.The west coast suffered the brunt of the Atlantic gales,there was lightening damage and wind gusts of up to 170 miles an hour were recorded off the north west of the country. Since then we have had snow, frost, icy roads and torrential rain and flooding.its not weather for being outside unless it is absolutely necessary!
Then Saturday morning at 9.35am baby Callum William decided he would bring a little sunshine into our dismal day.He weighed in at 7lb 1 oz, a baby brother for Alex and grandchild no 14.He came home on Monday and has almost succeeded in organising the entire household to his routine!
There are 2 more grandchildren on the way (that I know about) the next one is due in 5 weeks and another in July, please God.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Auspicious Root day

Yesterday was a root day by the Biodynamic Calender as Heavenly Healer advised, it dawned bright and sunny though cold.We get these mild days which lull us into a false sense of Spring but it was bucketing rain by 2 pm! I took myself out to the allotment which was deserted but plots have been dug and tidied so other hardy souls have been visiting also.
I had to replace the onion sets which had either failed or been dug up, there were quite a lot, I reckon I replaced about 30 sets.The photo is of the garlic which is growing and is a welcome sight of new green on the plot

Buds have formed on the blackcurrant bush already ( photo)and also on the 3 blueberry bushes but their photo was a bit blurred so I didn't upload it.

The polythene cover had either blown partially off the potato bed or been shifted by small animals trying to get at the decomposing fruit and veg underneath. I brought out more compostables from home and more cardboard to completely cover the area, I also wet it and recovered the whole area using the biggest rocks I could find to anchor down the polythene.
I was reading Nick Hamilton's book,Organic Gardening Techniques ( available on Amazon)and he says the seed potatoes can be sown through the polythene sheet and it keeps the light off the pops and it seems they do not have to earthed up. Anyone any ideas on that?
On the subject of potatoes I have enquired about first and second early seeds but they are not available yet. I was on the Simple frugal green blog and there is a post on setting potatoes, even though this is set down under a lot of it is relevant to us. One thing I found interesting was a comment advising against setting potatoes in rubber tyres which I see a lot on gardening mags, the amount of chemicals ie; cadmium and heavy metals, which can leach from the rubber into the compost.
PS Spring weather forecast for Ireland tomorrow Saturday:
Southerly gales of 60 to 80 miles an hour with gusts of up to 120 to 140 miles an hour.
Rainfall 23 to 30 mls of rainfall
Local flooding
All this is forecast between 9.00am and midnight

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More Seeds

First something totally unrelated to seed sowing.I just had to take this photo of Sam yesterday sitting on the fire hearth. It was the only sliver of sunlight coming into the room and he was taking full advantage of it!
The seeds which I ordered from the Organic Seed company arrived this morning! I ordered them online on Sunday evening, that is fast delivery. I have two more tomato varieties,
Berner Rose :Salad tomato with a pink skin, for indoors or outdoors 2.30e
IncasF1,early maturing plum tomato 2.70e

Parsnip: Halblange White 2.30e
Carrot: Nantes 11 early carrot 2.30e
Salad onion: red salad onion again unusual, can be left bulk up for pickling 2.60e
Peas Karina: Second early peas giving up to 10 peas per pod. 2.80e
The Organic centre supply unusual and heritage varieties and ones which are not commercially available. All of their seeds are certified organic.
I am looking forward to sowing and as soon as I get my trays sorted out for the indoor sowing. The parsnips will be going in early too, as last year we didn't sow them until May which I have since discovered is very late for Parsnips. They should be the first seeds into the ground. Ours did grow last year but there was a huge variation in size.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seed Sowing!!

This is the collection of seeds I bought in B&Q today, Tomato Collection,Herb Collection, Parsley and Beetroot.I was on Irish gardeners forum and there were posts about sowing tomatoes already!I have sown them in individual trays which were saved over the winter.Don't forget to put drainage holes in them, one method on Scarecrows Blog here The method I used is here small trays are great for small amounts of seeds as I know from experience?, setting them in a large tray and even though marked the names always became lost or mixed up!
The seed trays are now on a bedroom window, the covers are ones bought in previous years but because they don't fit tightly they will allow some air to circulate.There were packets of Tigerella, Marmande,Gardener's Delight,Moneymaker and Golden Sunrise, so it is a good selection of various types so if they all germinate we will have fun trying them out.
The trays lined up on the window, notice the rain running down outside!The plant labels are the cover of a butter container cut into strips. The only thing that wrote easily on them was a marker for CDs/Dvds.
Sweet Peas residing on the kitchen windowsill again in recycled pots saved over the winter, deeper ones as they have a long root system.These were planted back in late Oct. They were in the shed since, where they grew long and spindly as there is only one small window and they grew upwards to the light.There was also a visitor ( mouse)? in there as some of them had been broken or pulled out of the soil.I had pinched out the growing tips to hopefully make them bushy.
A Mammy spider plant with her young! This was a tiny plantlet which I rescued off of the floor when visiting a house some months back and put it in to my handbag. I put it in water when I found it in there about 2 days later,then into compost when it had developed some roots.It has been watered on a very hit and miss basis, but has grown and produced these babies which I have repotted.
Spider plants were very popular some years back but were forgotten in favour for the more exotic house plants that became fashionable. Spider plants are tough and easy to grow and keep and there is nothing like them to brighten up a corner, especially during winter.
I also set some Lupin seeds I had saved last year from a big red Lupin I have for a number of years. This was my first time trying to save seeds so again it is a case of wait and see what happens.
I set all of these seeds and plants on a day which is not considered favourable by the biodynamic moon planting method!It does advise stay out of the garden but as it is raining (again) I was not really doing anything in the garden...was I?
So it is definitely a case of wait and see what happens!
B&Q also had Asparagus, horseradish and Jerusalem artichokes on sale. There seemed to be one crown/tuber in a pack for 3.20e. I bought our asparagus plants as one year old crowns in Dunsland Garden centre 2 years ago. They were really strong crowns and this year we will be able to harvest Them!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cactus and Cochineal

I decided to do a post on Lanzarote today just to remind me what sunshine looks like! Needless to say it is windy ( galeforce) and wet here in Ireland.The photos are of the Cactus garden in Gautiza in Lanzarote and the surrounding cactus growing area.The cactus garden was designed by Cesar Manrique, the artist and architect who was born on Lanzarote. He helped to protect the island from the ravages in the name of tourism through which other islands and parts of mainland Spain became high rise horrors during the 70's and 80's as they catered for the mass market tourism boom.
A view of the inside of the cactus garden which was designed from an old quarry, Cesar believed in working with the landscape and using what was there.There are about 1,000 species of cactus here, all shapes and sizes from flowery to furry!
The planting was done by Estanislao Gonzales Ferrer, an eminent botanist who collected species from the Canary Islands, America and Madagascar.There is a huge metal cactus at the entrance to the garden which is situated in an area where the cactus has been traditionally grown in gardens and farms which stretch away to the base of the volcanoes.
What has all this to do with Cochineal which is a cookery colouring?
The cactus is grown for no other purpose than to provide a home for the Tunera beetle,which when their crushed larvae is collected from the plants becomes the red food colouring known as Cochineal!
There was a thriving local industry here until a chemical substitute was developed.The industry faded away and then it was discovered that the chemically produced colour did not produce the rich long lasting colour that the Tunera beetle did.
There is now about 300 acres devoted to the cactus and it is still being used in products like Campari, quality artist paints and expensive designer lipsticks!
This photo is just for me! It is a view of the old harbour in Puerto del Carmen, we sat out on a beautifull sunny day at a waterside restaurant and watched the boats and the world go by.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Miscellaneous Meanderings

It is too cold to spend any length of time outside and I am still feeling the after effects of the flu which by the way is supposed to have come our way from Brisbane, Australia!
Speaking of down under I visited Stewart's blog today ( see side bar link to My veggie patch)He has a number of comments some children answered when they were asked " what does love mean" , it makes some hilarious reading and this is my favourite
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love" Rebecca, age 8.
So if your day needs a smile pay Stewart a visit to read the other equally funny but very thoughtful comments.
Reading up on Scarecrows blog last year she had been saving plastic containers for seed sowing and had a gadget to make drainage holes in them.I have stockpiled over the winter and mentioned to Ed I needed something to make holes with and he arrived with this gadget( first photo)It is a small hand held gas flame and makes holes in plastic a simple operation without splitting the plastic. I should explain Ed is a bit of a gadget freak and can spend hours in places just browsing.Some of my stockpile of plastic containers, now with drainage holes ready for sowing ( 2nd photo)
Daughter K. taught the girls to knit before Christmas and they actually like it. This is Sinead with a circular scarf she made very quickly on the knitting machine which Santa brought her for Christmas!
The two girls engrossed with their knitting ,Sinead with the knitting machine and Aoife following the traditional method.
This is one of my bird feeders which I am refilling almost on a daily basis, I was wondering why the birds were ignoring the other ones until I realised the vent for the gas heating is behind this one and a steady stream of warm air is blowing out!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sunny Sunday on the plot

We were out on the plot on Sunday which was a lovely Spring like day but now the temperatures have plummeted, some parts of the country are 4 or 5% below freezing which is very unusual for Ireland.The no dig method is being tried out on the very end of the plot where we have had nothing growing for the 2 years we have had the allotment. First photo shows the stages recommended. First the ground was covered with well rotted manure.I had to leave that over Christmas for no other reason than I could not get out there.I saved all the left over veg, peelings and also put on the remains ( leaves)of the sprout plants,the stalks of the beans and any yellowing leaves from the broccoli. Then covered it with cardboard and finally black plastic all held down with rocks.
It will be left like this until it is time to set the potatoes. In theory when the plastic is lifted off the very nice worms will have mixed in all the rotted compost and cardboard. I need to read up a bit more on it so watch this space!
These are what was supposed to be the celery plants. The stalks are very thin probably less than finger thick, with a very funny root ball. They are down since July and have not grown any bigger for ages.I bought these as plants which looked and smelled like celery and earthed them up as advised for celery but I am wondering could they be celeriac???!!
They will be of some use in the trench for composting, which is coming along nicely. I am filling in the trench as material is going in. There will be more for this now that the no dig area is sorted.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Springing up all over

Fame! remember the leg warmers? Well they are alive and still in vogue, this is one of the horses near the allotment.I had to take a photo of them, I asked the girl who was grooming him why he was wearing them and she said they kick their shins so these were to protect them. Most of them wear dull grey ones but these are really cute!
My cavalier king charles spaniel Sam, looking very cold and bored wondering why I was out in the front garden taking photos on a cold windy day!He hates anyone pointing a camera at him and keeps looking away.
This is what I was taking photos of, tiny catkins on the contorted hazel tree.
Daffodils and crocus peeping above ground in the flower bed at the back
daffodils appearing in the flower bed at the front of the house. It is really a sign that Spring is on the way and this cold dismal winter will be over. It has not been too bad so far, we have not had any rain for weeks1