Sunday, January 31, 2010

Heigh ho heigh ho its off to work.....

I went out to the plot yesterday but had forgotten to charge the drill battery so the scarecrows arms could not be put on. I charged the battery overnight and today myself and Kevin set off. This is another birthday present getting an airing, its a canvas bag with pockets and tools around the outside and room for the essentials inside.We have no water on the allotments as the pipes were affected by the recent cold spell so the flask is an essential on a cold morning.
It was sunny but very cold after frost , even Kevin opted for a warming cup of tea!We fixed up the scarecrow and left after about an hour. Kevin was going swimming with his Dad so we had to be home early and it was so cold I could feel it coming up through the soles of my boots!
The potatoes chitting on a windowsill, I have not put them out to the shed yet.These are Colleen an organic first early.There were 30 seed potatoes of varying sizes in the bag. I will also put in a second early and leave it at that.
The potato is put into the box with the rose end up, this is the end with most 'eyes'where the shoots will grow up from.The first year we chitted them I was not too sure which end was the business end!
Our scarecrow will need some more work to freshen him up, today his arms were re attached and his head remade with a pillow case stuffed with straw.Its a bit on the big side but a hat will sort that out. Kevin grew the fierce face on him with a marker.
There were a couple of other hardy souls out today, William was busy digging and another lady just came out to walk her plot to get in the mood for later in the week!I had spent about an hour digging yesterday, the Golden Wonder potatoes which had to be left in the ground due to the rain and then cold weather which followed meant they were frozen into the soil. They had grown to a nice size but were riddled with wire worm holes. I gathered more sprouts which we have enjoyed for todays lunch.
I read on the comments of the previous post that Sharonl on Plot 103 was flooded out in Co Wicklow, I have to sympathise because they have to go in and salvage what they can before starting this year. They are a group of young people who made such great progress last year which was their first year taking on an allotment.
I gather from all of the comments everyone is dying to get out in gardens and flower beds to check what is left from the big freeze and begin the new growing season.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sowing the seeds of (Success)?!

The first seed sowing of 2010 has taken place.We are being more cautious about the amount of seeds we are sowing early as I am sure there is too early especially if the weather does not suit young plants being put out when they should due to late frost as we had last year.Most seed packets have a little piece which tells how long from sowing to harvesting for the particular seed and I think if this is extended too far then the best crop is not obtained from the veg.
This morning I sowed Greyhound cabbage which can be sown Spring and Autumn for fairly continuous harvesting.We like cabbage but not a glut of it in a few weeks. The Cos lettuce is a winter variety which can be sown now until it is time for the summer varieties. Cauliflower All year Round is self explanatory again something we like in moderation for as long as possible.
I have made a record of the sowings and will make a repeat sowing the end of Feb
I had compost in the shed since last year when I bought an offer of buy 3 or 4 together but it froze solid during the big freeze! I want to give my seeds the best start so I bought a good quality compost for seeds which promises 25% extra germination....who can argue with that?!
Every year we plant seeds and think we will remember when and how but now know that does not work so this year we are keeping a record of our labours. This journal was a birthday gift last year but has no specific year just 4 weeks to a month with advice on what to grow and harvest with a few recipes thrown in. I like Carol Klein and she was one of my favourite presenters on the now defunct Gardener's World.
Of course I have only opened the book now on week 4 of January!Carol's advice for week 1 was to make early sowings of Spinach, lettuce,broad beans and summer cabbage!
Week 2 onions and leeks could have been sown.(Not on our frozen soil)
Week 3 is a recipe for Colcannon, this is a traditional Irish dish of cooked potatoes and cabbage mashed together with butter.
Week 4 is about chitting potatoes in old egg boxes, I have mine all ready to go but will hold off for another week to be certain we are not going to get another really hard frost, I am also going to put out rat poison after last years episode!
I put the seed packets of todays seeds in a separate envelope to remind me to make those repeat sowings in a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rhubarb and Robins on the plot

This morning was bright and sunny with a definite hint of Spring in the air so I paid a quick visit to the allotment to check how we had fared over the cold weather, I must say not bad at all!I pulled aside some dead foliage from the rhubarb bed to find nice fat red shoots about to burst forth. The severe frost was supposed to be up to 36cms deep but it has not checked the growth of these. I am surprised as they had not been covered with any manure over the Winter, we had extremely wet weather in Autumn when we should have been doing the last of the digging and covering so the rhubarb has been uncovered in the coldest spell we have had for years.
I am going to pay a visit on Friday morning with suitable work wear to cover it with manure now, as we are forecast another severe frost over the weekend.
I picked up a fork and stuck it into the ground expecting to hit frozen soil and I nearly tumbled forward, the ground is so soft!The frost has broken up the sub soil I think and the thaw has extended down making the soil soft.I stayed on the path as I am sure walking on it now would only do untold damage. This little Robin popped over to keep and eye on me in case I uncovered anything interesting!
The French garlic is looking OK a bit of frost burn on the ends of some leaves
The Irish organic garlic has nearly caught up despite a much slower start.
The lupin near the fence has put out new growth, the old stalks are still too wet and soft to break off. I will cut them back when I remember to bring out my tools.
I was pleasantly surprised by the new growth and I am now looking forward to getting down to beginning a new season on the plot.
There were tiny buds on the blackcurrants and blueberry bushes, some sprouts are still to be picked and leeks are growing.
I dismantled the scarecrow in readiness for his makeover and recovered the plots with black plastic where it had blown off.
The bright days are probably helping all this new growth as usually our January is dark and wet,because of all the frost, we have had mainly sunny bright days and there is a big stretch in the evenings already something we don't normally remark on this early in the new year.
Lynda's custard biscuits, I read this recipe on Lynda's blog from Tanzania and had to try them, they are soft and buttery I think a grown up biscuit.The fork pattern on most of them is not in the recipe, Lynda says to flatten them slightly with a fork before putting them in the oven but mine were in a few minutes by the time I thought of doing it. It made no difference to the taste!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spring is Here!!

We are back to severe frosts but this morning dawned bright and sunny so I decided to check the front flower bed.I think I just needed to get out to the garden anyway and breathe in some 'green' air!Lots of daffodil bulbs around and under the shrubs,I think some grape hyacinth are appearing under the willow. I have heard it mentioned that the frost has been so severe this year it has gone down to 36cms which I think is what they can get in Canada with their prolonged cold winter! Our daffs are a hardy plant to pop up through that. Maybe they knew we were getting a big freeze as they have been up by the end of November early December for the last few years but narry a sign of them this year until well into January?!
This strange looking tree is a miniature tree called a Kilmarnock Willow,
I tie the branches like this each Spring to help it keep its shape as I found the branches are inclined to grow straight up after a couple of years.The string is not visible once the leaves grow. It is covered in tiny buds which may be just visible in the photo.
Catkins developing on the contorted Hazel, so the shrubs have just shaken off the effects of one of our worst winters in 60 years and are just getting on with things as usual.
I am lucky in that I don't have any shrubs or trees like banana or tree ferns which I have heard are destroyed from the frost, some Cordylines too have just become mush and may never recover.
I suppose we did become complacent over the last number of years having milder and milder winters we thought we were in the tropics!
My poor Lillies, my frost victims but I am hoping they will recover, this is the plant of mushy unrecognisable foliage before I pulled it all away and I have covered the whole area around them with new compost. It may be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has gone but gardening is always hoping for miracles at least!
I must ask everyone to pop over to allotment2kitchen blog to read the devastation on their plot, not from snow or frost but sheer vandalism. Give a word of encouragement and support.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Varied Week

The week kicked off with Callum's first birthday party which he enjoyed with extended family, his hands are being held away from the cake but he did manage to get a handful of fresh cream!
Jack got his first tooth!
Scott has been walking for a while but I never got a photo of him in action, I think he just stopped here to pose for the camera.
The weather has not been conducive to outside gardening so I have been finishing off items I had started and which can be done beside the fire!These are two grown up sweaters for Scott.The turquoise wool was part of my stash but a little to girly for a boy so I teamed it with cream for one (with the V neck) and with navy for the second one (with a shawl collar). They are double knitting yarns but I knit it doubled as Aran weight on 5mm needles to make them nice and chunky.
My crochet is very basic and I find it impossible to follow a pattern so it can be slow ripping until I get what I want. The two hats were done like that, I did the blue one first with the pink flower for myself and Aisling decided she would like one in pink.The flowers I found online and was able to follow the instructions easily enough.I cannot find the website but when I do I will acknowledge it.
The buttons will be a source of another post as they were bought in Cork Button Company. This is a small Cork Company which has been in existence for many years,they used to make and dye buttons for specific orders ie: knitwear designers etc.I am not sure if they still do that but they have literally thousands of buttons lining the walls and is a treasure trove of colour and shapes.
I had blackcurrants in the freezer since last year so I took some of them and made jam during the week. The smell of jam making brought back memories of summer short as it was!I used the easy method by Darina Allen and it works a treat for blackcurrants as well.
That was my week in words and pictures I am getting impatient now to get out to the allotment there are so many jobs to be tackled and the gardening year needs to be kick started.
I have my seeds picked out and will be sowing these soon I also got Colleen seed potatoes and onion sets which are languishing in their packs until the weather improves a tiny bit.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hard Drive....Slow as a Snail




I have had some computer problems for a couple of days hopefully now sorted by very patient SIL Rob! It took me about 2 hours to get the previous post done as Blogger was loading so slowly.I published the blog and had to turn off the computer after about an hour of waiting for it to load as I had to go out for a few hours.I thought it had published but I could not work on the computer for nearly 2 days to find out. I could turn it on but Windows was not opening.
It was still in draft form when I finally got back online last night!
I have answered every ones comments on the relevant posts until I can visit everyone again.
Thank you for visiting and leaving comments while I have been incommunicado, they are all appreciated.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gardening Friends Project

I said in my previous post that I had received my gardening by letter package yesterday.Anna over on Flowergardengirl blog organized this mammoth task. There was one recipient for each month we all sent our cards to Anna who then undertook to send all of them to that months lucky participant.It was my turn for this month and what a lovely bundle of gardening related cards etc I have received. My daughter remarked yesterday on seeing the contents of the package it is lovely to receive 'nice' post, no bills ,circulars, junk etc.We have lost the art of letter writing in this age of text and computers.
I received such a myriad of beautiful gifts, the rule being they should fit in an envelope!Handmade bookmark in cross stitch,coffee and cookies, magazines and material.Music, lots of seeds, bought and some saved from the writers own gardens, some of which I have already seen in flower on their blogs! The yard long beans I will have to Google!
Crafty stuff ,scented soap & handmade cards. I was amazed to see such lovely cards made from the bloggers own photos taken in their gardens.What a lovely way to show relatives and friends some of your treasures!Most of them also included postcards of their own areas which spread from Wiltshire in the UK to Nova Scotia, Canada and various parts of the U.S.
I will visit each of the blogs over the next few days and thank each and every one of you personally.A big thank you to Anna who is the next and last recipient.The bloggers who took part are listed below and as the weather continues cold and unsuitable for gardening maybe you would like to visit them and do some virtual gardening!

Anna Flowergardengirl @ Decorate a garden
Jan @ Muddy Boot Dreams
Jodi @ Blooming Writer
Jared @ Pleasant Hill
Ramblings

Catherine @ A gardener in Progress
Phillip @ Gardens of a Golden Afternoon
Jan @ Thanks for 2Day
VP @ Veg Plotting
Kylee @ Our Little Acre
Ann @ Northeast Gardener
Kathleen @ Kasey's Korner

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fog & Frosty Weather

First of all I am so excited by today's post! My gardening by Letter project package arrived from Anna of Flowergardengirl blog. I will do a post about it tomorrow as it deserves a complete post to show and tell!
The Met office said we were in for a thaw and the weather would improve so the Minister for Education said the schools could go back today....but we had freezing fog last night and woke today to treacherous roads with black ice, visibility was down for most of the day as fog lifted and then came down again in a blanket as dusk fell.
High tides yesterday evening meant a lot of localised flooding (again!)Some areas in West Cork were impassable between icy roads and floods. Today at lunch time as I drove out to pick up the girls I found myself looking down on the Lee Valley bathed in fog!It was like being in an aircraft looking out at the clouds.
Top pic could pass for the legendary Scottish village Brigadoon appearing out of the fog once every hundred years!It was a musical back in the '50's starring Gene Kelly.My apologies to my Scottish readers but we have to endure 'The Quiet Man'as a typically Irish story!



The valley is covered in fog, the black outline to the top is the other side of the valley, down there somewhere in the centre is Cork City!The river Lee flows through the valley and the fog had stayed anywhere there was water.

Son Kevin took Lauryn and Aaron out to the Lough to see it frozen over also, readers abroad may not understand our fascination with snow and ice but we normally do not get this kind of weather!The City Council sent in a digger to break up the ice around the edge of the Lough after a fool hardy youth fell through thin ice.Snow fun...

Kevin has his camera set on small pics for email!Snowmen of all shapes and sizes populated our housing estates and the children were kept busy building for the two days the snow was with us.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wet,Wet,Wet!

Son Billy showing Callum his first snowfall!The pristine white landscape of the past few days has changed suddenly to wet and windy!The rain beating on the bedroom window woke me this morning around 6.30am.Yes rain..it was forecast yesterday that the south would be hit with gale force wind and heavy rain which would fall as snow on high ground and farther up the country.I drove out to Blarney to pick up the two girls who are off school today, the roads are flooded and we have a few waterfalls which appeared overnight, one in particular across from the Commons Inn is pouring down on to the roadway in torrents.
DIL Janice with Callum and puppy Rocco getting in on the act!Rocco is partial to carrots and ran away with the snowman's nose when nobody was looking!
The ground is frozen solid which is why we have water now flowing across roads etc.A lot of houses around the city and country are without water,mainly due to frozen pipes but also because the water level in some of the reservoirs is very low?! I cannot understand this as we were under water a few weeks ago?!
Last night I decided to get out my stash of seeds to see what we had.I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of seeds we have. They are all usable apart from the parsnip seeds which are recommended to be bought fresh each year.This year we are going to concentrate on making the 2 plots pay as we are paying 200e for each plot this year.It is still very reasonable when I hear what other allotments are charging. We have running water on stand pipes between all of the plots, a tool shed and tea room, plenty of parking and toilets on site.
WE did not grow enough of the staple foods last year like carrots,cabbage and salad leaves.We had runner beans coming out our ears which are still in the freezer. Nothing wrong with that but we could have been wiser with what we did plant, ie:vegetables we use on a daily basis all year round.

We won't be digging out on the plot anytime soon but I checked to see what could go in ASAP.
Mr Fothergill Contained garden: Carrots Amsterdam 3
Baby carrots with good colour and texture,fast growing with sweet flavour and good yields.Can be sown directly from Jan to June and harvested from April to Oct.These are suitable for growing in containers and small gardens too
Greyhound Cabbage
WE only planted summer cabbage last year, Derby day which was tasty and well worth growing but this year we will plant a few different types to stagger the harvest period more.Can be grown on a windowsill or propagator from Jan and outside when the weather improves.
Cos Lettuce
You can never have enough lettuce, this cos can be grown all year round outdoors or in a fairly cool greenhouse.
It is nice to have something to look forward to in the garden, this weather has to improve sometime!WE have heavy rain at the moment which is cold as temps are only about 5%C.Gale force winds which have just whipped the centre strip of felt from my shed roof here at home. I had to go out to bring my hedge cutter and drill indoors and cover the pressure washer with a black bag as that is too big to bring inside.Everything else is just going to have to cope with being wet for a while until I figure out what to do with it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow White

The snow arrived as forecast this morning, small dry flakes falling on very cold ground means it stayed and is accumulating.Forecasters said we in the south would get 3-5 cms of snow....eh I think we have that now, would somebody please make it stop!
There is nothing like the imminent threat of being snowed in to focus our minds on warmth and food.Last night I made a pot of Leek & Potato soup, I had to buy 2 leeks to make it as ours are frozen out on the plot.I also made 2 brown wheaten loaves, now I have always made brown bread from scratch as it is simplicity itself but I had seen a bread mix in Aldi and I have been meaning to try it out so yesterday I did. One pack makes 3 loaves which for 1.49e and a litre of milk is about as good value as you can get.The mix packet would make a good store cupboard standby, the bread tastes as good as anything I have made or tasted so I will be using it again. I would use buttermilk when making brown bread but it is getting more and more difficult to purchase locally.
I had a crust left at the end of a sliced loaf which was over an inch in thickness, I thought that is waste and cut it into cubes to try out croutons.When the bread was baked in quite a hot oven,I put the croutons on a tray and put them into the oven with the heat turned off for about 45 minutes.They dried out nice and crisply but did not colour, the time would probably vary depending on the freshness of the bread.I must look up adding flavour to them as they could be frozen to use as needed.
The snow is coming from the north east and only that side of the tree has been covered with snow,it looks quite a monochrome and clean landscape!The child's red jacket stands out, she is there not photo shopped in for effect!
The shrubs in the front garden covered with snow and taking on weird shapes.
My Buddha in the back garden is slowly disappearing
My table and chairs covered in snow, it covered everything fairly quickly.We would usually get a couple of hours of wet snow if at all and it rarely stays on the ground for very long. The sky is grey and heavy with lots of snow, it is now late afternoon and it has not stopped since it began around 11.30 this morning.The children have been out making snowmen and throwing snowballs and with no school until next Thursday they are looking forward to the snow lasting until then.
The trouble will start tomorrow morning when workers have to begin the task of getting into their jobs. I know from listening to the radio today most events which were on tonight have been cancelled and some bus routes are impassable.We are running out of salt based grit to keep our roads clear, another black mark against this government who were on holidays when the cold snap began on Christmas week and they are only now getting to grips with the problems.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Big Freeze

The big freeze is set to continue for another 10 days it seems.Snow is forecast for tomorrow in the south, listening to the radio this morning I heard that the ground is frozen up to a depth of 30cms!This is having tremendous effects on any crop which is still in the ground and will seriously delay spring crops being put in.I took photos at home this morning of the bird feeder and bird bath (water in a flower pot tray). I think this black bird was hogging the bird bath, the thrush was hopping impatiently on the gate post.
One of the bird feeders by the door and the black bird is still hogging the bird bath.
I took Kevin and Scott out to the Lough today as Kevin had never seen it frozen over. Yesterday afternoon some one fell through the ice and the City Council broke all of the ice around the perimeter with a JCB. Crowds of people assembled around the Lough yesterday when schools which had not closed due to the weather left their pupils out. The girls were lucky to get out there during the morning while the snow was still on it and they were able to skate for a while.
The sign in the background says Danger Ice! I would think some wag put it out there before the break up of the ice and now it will have to remain
Scott swinging in the playground at the Lough
Kevin loves the swing also
This series of photos shows seagulls moving in and taking food which people have brought out to feed the ducks and swans
Seagulls circling in the background as someone to the right throws in some bread.
Seagulls diving in...
Swans look on bewildered as seagulls grab their food...
Up and away....
We left the Lough to see if there was still ice on the Lee fields, there were hundreds of people out enjoying this unexpected freeze up, they may as well get some enjoyment from it as water pipes are bursting and a lot of homes are now without water for the second time in a few weeks.
All sorts of items were pressed into service to glide on the ice, baby booster seats, milk crates even pieces of timber, young and old alike tried staying upright on the icy surface.
Kevin had a go..OK I'm upright...
Ooops...
Baby Jack stayed at home with his Mom and was toasty warm!