Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Soap and Swans

I got a beautifully scented package in the post yesterday, Anna who had asked to me to do the guest post sent me some of her handmade soap. Anna is a very talented lady who does evening classes in gardening and crafts in Mullingar in Co Westmeath.Anna has another blog and the soap making is included in that.Last year when I had so much dried lavender I would have loved to make soap or bath bombs but could not find any similar classes down here, I may have to book a weekend in Mulligar for next season!
The soap on the left is seaweed soap, seaweed has amazing properties and for an island nation like ours surrounded by sea and coastline we do not utilise it enough.
The soap on the right is Gardeners soap, a handmade castille soap with Olive oil,coconut oil,rain water,calendula and orange peel.
The children are off school for the Easter break and today we went to visit one of my daughters in Castlemartyr in East Cork. We passed Loughderra lake and I had to stop to take some photos of the swans, this cheeky fellow was giving me the Bums rush!He kept diving underwater for quite long perods of time.
When my children were younger they called it swan lake due to the amount of swans on it. It is a lovely amenity in East Cork as it is also used for fishing and boats can usually be seen out on the water. The local residents have made a walk way all around the lake for walkers and families to enjoy with picnic tables along the roadside. It is a popular stop for travellers as there is a small snack truck permanently parked up here.
There were gale force winds so these swans were sheltering near the wall and most of them had climbed out to a nearby field which runs down to the lake, no bird brains here!
The weather has really taken a turn for the worst with heavy snowfalls in some parts of the country and rain and hail showers.It is not outdoor weather so gardening has taken a back seat until the week end at least.
My plastic greenhouse has withstood the gales, it is anchored down with bags of compost around the sides and I had also cable tied the shelves to the frame for added stability.
One of the Moneymaker tomato seedlings has finally put in an appearance but still no sign of the red peppers.Heated propagator space is at a premium (the bedroom windowsill),they may have a longer germination period so I will give them until the weekend to show.Hopefully we will be back to gardening by the weekend

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dinosaur Days and Tomatoes

I uploaded my pics in reverse order! Calendulla seedlings ,these are seeds I saved myself from last year, so I was delighted to see them coming up
I sowed a few of each tomato, these are 100's and 1000's a tiny cherry tomato they were the first up, I have taken off the lid now to stop them from getting spindly
Gardener's delight coming through. The Moneymaker and red peppers are the only ones not to show anything so far, I will give them another few days before resowing
I will have anthirriniums coming out my ears! These will have to be pricked out hopefully before the weekend.They will have to stay indoors even then as the weather is gone back to cold with snow showers around the country
I baked an apple sponge today, I bake every few days but forget to take a pic!This is a pastry base, with apples sliced and softened slightly in a saucepan,with a sponge top.The top is a basic queen cake mix of 4ozs marge,4ozs sugar, 2 eggs and 6 ozs flour.It has to be cooked at a slow oven temp (gas 4) to make sure the topping is cooked right through.A good dollop of whipped cream and that's 'afters' sorted!
Out and about with the camera, the trees are stubbornly brown and bare only the evergreens and furze bushes providing any hint that spring is here
Remember our dinosaur? Here he is with a carpet of daffodils around his feet, still a lot of surface water after the recent heavy rains
The dinosaur back in January during the big freeze surrounded by ice.
Himself back in November during our horrendous floods surrounded by water on all sides.
It is amazing the daffodils still came through after those extremes of weather conditions!
Remember tha told adage ; March, in like a lion and out like a lamb Listening to the wind howling outside I don't think so, March is going out with all guns blazing!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Winners and....winners


I cannot upload a photo not even one! Blogger uploads and says click done and then the photo disappears into cyber space!
Update I have just uploaded one so I am now publishing in case it disappears again!
The Irish blog awards were announced on Sat night, the category I was short listed in was won by bicycletic an excellent blog and worthy winner. I also feel a winner as my blog was considered good enough to be nominated by Catherine and was short listed from hundreds!I have also visited the shortlisted blogs which were all excellent and Marie's
Beyond Breast Cancer is uplifting and reaches out to so many people.I was also honoured to be asked to write my very first guest post by Anna

My niece Catherine has just self published her first book and it is available to buy as of today.
Congratulations and well done Catherine! Catherine has set up a blog detailing the trials and tribulations and gives very sound advice to anyone considering going the same route,she has also set up a web page for the book, anyone who buys the book can log on and see the photos and videos she took while working in Florida which is what the book is about. The public can buy the book through various methods,it can even be bought as an Ebook, this young lady has been busy! The cheapest way to get the book into your hands is to buy from Catherine for 12.99e ( on the book web page) that includes postage to anywhere in the world and you can request a signed copy for no extra charge!
We have had torrential rain since yesterday which has now thankfully left us to dry out.I had intended taking broad beans and onions out to the allotment to plant out but I will now leave them until the week end as we are getting another cold snap over the next few days, snow even in the northern half of the country!
Another winner is our ferry MV Julia sailing between Cork and Swansea, it is booked out for the Easter crossings! The ferry organizers are thrilled as it proves they were right when they insisted it would be fully utilised on this particular crossing bringing tourists to the West Cork and Kerry region.
I had taken lots of photos of daffodils in bloom around the city, we are surrounded by golden blooms, a bit wet and bedraggled but still glorious thanks to the foresight of our City Council!I will try uploading them tomorrow when Blogger may be in better humour!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guest Post


I was delighted to accept an invitation from Anna to do a guest post for her blog as they are starting work on new allotments for this season.It was my first guest post and I accepted with more than a little trepidation!
There is so much that could be said but not in one post so I stuck to the recycling and frugal approach! Anna has now posted it on her blog at The Urban Farmer,so pop over and read it Please.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Housekeeping on the Plot

Some photos of the plot, I remembered to take the camera today!The rhubarb bed was extended last week and I bought 3 new plants.They are Timberly Early, 6 plants might seem like a lot but we all use rhubarb and love rhubarb crumbles with cream! The one I moved a couple of feet suffered no ill effects and is growing nicely
The work in the greenhouse, instead of pots which dry out quickly we are putting the tomato plants directly into the soil.I pulled back the membrane and gravel and the soil underneath was in very good condition. I cut down a scaffolding board and piled up a load of manure to top up, all it needs now is some compost and it is ready to grow. I will put in some spinach and lettuce while waiting for the tomatoes to go out.
I bought a new gooseberry bush to replace the one the sawfly decimated 2 years ago. We missed having gooseberries last year.
hard to see but this blueberry bush is covered in buds, the other two have some but are not as healthy looking as this one.The whole fruit bed got a dressing of potash and heavy rain has it well soaked in.
The garlic is perking up with the milder weather they got a light feed of blood,fish & bone as a little pick me up after the long winter.
I sowed two rows of carrots and one of parsnips between the onions to confuse the carrot fly.The fleece has seen better days but it helps.
Some colour to round off the post, this is the Spirea in the back garden at home it is the first shrub to shake off the winter bareness and burst into colour.
Anna from The Urban farmer asked me to do a guest post on her blog, I was delighted to be asked and have sent it to her,when it is published I will put a link and you can read my first attempt at a gardening article!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Home Front Seed Update

Kevin and myself have spent hours on the plot over the weekend but I had forgotten my camera so no pics as yet, I am doing an update on all of the seeds growing at home.There are seeds on the bedroom windowsill, the plastic greenhouse and some which are hardening off. I am not planting any seeds too far ahead as they will be late if anything going out this year.It is reckoned growth is up to 4 weeks behind and having seedlings in pots too long is not a good idea unless they are meant to stay in pots and have ample room as such.First pic is Winter gem a cos lettuce, these will probably grow on in this tub and are doing well so far.
Hardening off onions,mange tout and dwarf green beans, I will keep an eye on the root systems and if they begin getting pot bound I will put them out on the plot with a fleece covering as we can have frost for a few weeks yet.
In the greenhouse Spring onions planted in bunches,cabbage and cauliflower seedlings. I watered them with a very weak solution of seaweed extract on sat.
Spinach in a tub, I may leave them here or put them out to the greenhouse on the plot as I have a bed ready there now, pics of that in a few days.
Spring onions, one is Purplette a red salad onion which can be pulled small or left grow on.
The leeks are looking thin and wan but then they take off in their own time!
Flowers on the windowsill, french marigold,calendula and anthirrinum.The French marigold were only set on Sat the others have been growing for a while.The anthirrinum seedlings are tiny!
Seeds set on sat were, Gardener's Delight,Moneymaker,100's & 1000's,red peppers and Calabrese.They are set in plastic tubs I had been saving over winter, these are fruit tubs from Aldi or the local supermarket.They are nice and deep with drainage holes already in and a lid which makes the whole thing a ready made mini propagator. Three of them without lids fit neatly in a seed tray and the cover fits over the three together.
A close up of one of the tubs, they are ideal for planting a few seeds at a time.I am not planting all of the seeds in a packet anymore, learned my lesson when faced with all those seedlings needing repotting!Better to sow a few every 4 or 5 weeks than to have a glut of the same veg at the same time.Six of any tomato plant is loads and we will probably just grow on two of the strongest of each variety at the most.
Lots of house keeping done on the plot but will update on that in a few days.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Irish Blog Awards Finalist!!


I could not believe my eyes reading Catherine's comment on my previous post,Catherine had nominated my blog in the Specialist category of the Irish Blog Awards.I had linked to the site and after reading some of the nominated blogs I did not think mine would feature anywhere in the running.
I am stunned and excited to be one of the six finalists in this category!
There are 22 categories covering every topic under the sun, they are funny, informed and thought provoking.I don't know how the panel of judges can whittle them down or decide between them, not an easy task!
None of these awards would be possible without very generous sponsors and
the Specialist category is sponsored by IQ content
IQ Content have sponsored the Best Specialist Blog category again this year. iQ Content is an Irish company, based in Dublin, working for clients from across Europe. We are passionate about helping to create better websites. We do this in four ways:

1. Expertise: we provide expert advice in the key areas of web usability, accessibility, content and strategy
2. Knowledge: we help create and share knowledge by conducting original research, and collating the best internet resources we can find
3. Outsourcing: we help address client resource constraints by providing expert development and content creation services
4. Training: we share and transfer our knowledge through public and in-house training events.

To see all of the categories and some very interesting blogs log onto Irish Blog awards
The finalists in my category are a very varied mix as follows

Ronan Lyons
bicyclistic
Beyond Breast Cancer
Etsy Ireland
Stan Carey
I am in very illustrious company and may I wish everyone the best of luck in Galway on 27th March.
I cannot attend but have checked the ticket prices and they are a very reasonable 15e not the 300e asked by another award who shall be nameless!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day on the plot

Today was warm and dry after a wet night ,everyone who took part in our parades were delighted with the weather. I did not attend the parade in Cork where over 60,000 attended one of our biggest parades yet. The theme this year was our maritime history as Cork has been a major port for hundreds of years.There were pirates and strange creatures in abundance and our Grand Marshal was Lisa Cummins a local lady who swam the English Channel both ways!It also celebrated our diverse cultures with participants from all over the globe.
I went out to the plot at 12 and came home at 5 tired and sore but pleased with my days endeavours.
The rabbits are checking out the allotments already ,2 of them hopped across the path as I was leaving, this one just turned his back I think he thought if he could not see me I could not see him!
I set 4 rows of centurion onions, 2 at each edge of the bed with room in the centre for carrots and parsnips which will be going in by the week end.The idea is to confuse the carrot fly with the smell of the onions. I remembered to net them to stop the birds from pulling them out.
This bed has been covered with manure and a covering of black plastic since last year. I dug it over today ,the soil was black and rich looking. I put in 2 drills of second earlies, Wilja which is a strange name for a spud and made me think wilja grow or wontja!The second drill is Maris Peer a salad potato.I lined the drills with a layer of manure and scattered pellets over them.The pellets are from Aldi, Christy gave me a bag of them the last day I was out,he had bought a big bucket of them but he said they are selling out quickly as everyone had great reports of them last year.I did not mound up the drills,I will wait for the shoots to come through and then earth them up into drills.
I widened the paths on both sides and moved the plastic down to the next bed ,its a bit tatty after over wintering for 2 years on various beds so it needs replacing soon.
I dug out a new rhubarb bed along the top of the new plot, there were 3 plants in already since last year but it is something we will use a lot of so I must get 4 more crowns to fill the row.I moved one crown from the centre as they were too close together, I dug a deep hole put in a layer of manure and put in the crown,hopefully it will never know it has been moved!
Back to St Patrick's Day, there was an awful lot of green plastic and multi coloured wigs around both on TV and around the city.I remember growing up, we went out looking for shamrock a couple of days before the big day,buying it was not an option!We always came home with sprays of it and this was worn going to Mass on the morning,the hymns sung in Mass were all very stirring and patriotic ie: Faith of our fathers Holy faith and Hail glorious St Patrick dear Saint of our Isle. The girls also wore green ribbons in our hair and all the children wore badges.The parades back then did not have fancy floats but legions of marching men from the army, gardai and various organizations with lots of bands.
Now it is a day of celebration all over the world and I hope where ever you are you had a great day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day

A secret woodland location? No, this is on the corner of a busy roadway in Ballincollig, it was once a village but is now a satellite town to Cork city.This was a corner of waste ground traversed by pathways from people taking shortcuts across it.I noticed the crocus last year and made a mental note to watch out for the flowers this year.i am not sure who is responsible for the transformation maybe the Tidy Towns committee or the Council, whoever it is should be praised and commended for creating this woodland garden.The hundreds of daffodils in the background are slow opening this year
Houses can be seen in the background, the plot is quite small and the phrase 'small but perfectly formed' comes to mind
One of the busy roads that border two sides of the woodland area.
Some of it is bounded by this natural fencing which stops people from walking across but does not take from the over all simplicity of the area
A close up of a crocus. These will naturalise and increase each year and this little corner will be a carpet of spring colour.
(Click on the photos to enlarge)
Happy St Patrick's Day to everyone

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day here in Ireland, we share the date with the UK as other countries have it on the first Sunday in May.Flowers,cards and chocs will be sold out in most stores before closing time this evening.My first daffodils have obliged me by blooming for the day!The really cold spring has slowed up the blooms on the daffodils this year.
Some catkins on the contorted willow in the front garden at home
This clump of daffs is also in the front garden and have been like this for over a week, refusing to leave the cover of their buds to come out in the cold!
The mange tout is growing strongly and getting bushy, putting them out in the greenhouse has worked wonders as they were getting too spindly indoors.
The white onions are coming on and a space is reserved for them on the allotment in the next week or so
The cauliflower and cabbages have also come on since I transplanted the seedlings into 3" pots.
The dwarf beans are just up on the bedroom windowsill and the purplette salad onions are putting in an appearance at long last in the greenhouse
Tomorrow I am invited out for lunch so there will be no gardening or blogging done for the day.
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers everywhere.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Fruitful Day

I went out to the allotment to spend a couple of hours before I picked the girls up from school.It was a beautiful sunny day and the temps must have been a balmy 12%!I had read Blackvillage blog about covering the strawberry bed with weed block fabric so set to work. I had planted a row of strawberries last week but dug them up and covered the bed, I cut crosses in the fabric for planting through, one row are second year plants and I also planted a row of the new runners which had over wintered in the greenhouse.We will know the age of our plants at least as 3 years is the optimum for harvesting a good crop.
A view across to the end row of plots, which are all being readied for the new season
The day was so nice I collected the girls from school and we went back to the plot to continue on the fruit bed. I had this thornless blackberry languishing in the greenhouse over winter but it does not seem to have done it any harm!
Two Autumn fruiting raspberries were also in the greenhouse but new growth is visible and they were planted out on the newly dug and mulched fruit bed.
The fruit bed after its spring clean,I dug it over, moved one of the blueberries as there is more room now it is extended.The blueberries are in deep pots of ericacious compost so moving one was easy.It took 4 wheel barrow loads of manure to completely mulch the bed.
The herb bed got a makeover as well, the lupin was cut back and old growth pulled away to let the new shoots through.
New neighbours on the plot,a toddler was digging energetically but moved behind his Mom as I took the photo.
A couple of hours turned into 4 but I was pleased with the results.The ground is quite dry and believe it or not I had to water in the strawberry plants!