Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kevin & The Giant Parsnip!

I went out to the allotment yesterday for my first visit in over a week, Kathryn had been up a few times to keep things in order and continue harvesting.I noticed a clump of large leaves and decided to pull a parsnip.
Pulling made no impact so I loosened some of the surrounding earth with my fingers, thought this is more like a turnip size than a parsnip and got a small hand trowel. This proved as useless but I did see that this was no ordinary parsnip!
The large digging fork was brought into loosen more earth and finally the spade, by this time I had a fairly large hole excavated but there was no move from the parsnip!Short of bringing in a mechanical digger and disturbing the remainder of the plants,I pulled and tugged and eventually it broke off leaving I would think a fairly sizable chunk in the hole. The parsnip won the tussle as I ended up on my bum on the ground.
I did take some photos of the parsnip in the hole but I must have inadvertently moved the settings on my camera and they were very over exposed.
I weighed the monster minus the leaves and it is 4 1/2 lbs weight!it remains to be seen if it is edible.
The only good photo in the camera since yesterday is of the entrance to our allotments,nasturtiums cascading over a plot.
I cleared all of the sweetcorn, another 12 cobs which makes nearly 30 in all so it was one of the success stories this year.
I had about 6 more quite large strawberries eaten in situ.
More tomatoes were ripe,there was about 4 lbs and there are still some on the vines. I did clear the grow bag of 3 plants and will put in some winter salad instead rather than discarding it completely.
Carrots and a few normal sized parsnips, plus some cooking apples from Zwena and I had a nice haul coming home!
I finally put the Goji Berry bushes in place beside the shed and did some other general clearing and tidying for the winter.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Culture night in the Masonic Hall

Culture night takes place in various cities and venues around the country and tonight was the night.There are lots of places which would not normally be open to the public on show or places that would normally charge a fee were free, it takes place in the evening to allow people who work during the daytime to partake in the event.
We opted for the Freemason Masonic hall for our venture into culture! Places were limited so it was one of the venues which had to be prebooked.
I did not take my camera not expecting to be allowed to take photographs but there were no restrictions on snap happy sightseers, daughter Aisling had her small camera and took the following photos. First one is a huge mosaic over the door with various symbols the four plaster casts surrounding it depict the 4 Evangelists. The plaster casts came from the rebuilding of our St Finbarre's Cathedral, the figures surround the west window in the present cathedral.
Very Bell,Book and candle!
Aisling enthroned! The only female Freemason was a lady from Cork who overheard a Lodge meeting taking place in her father's house and was admitted to the order,her name was Hon. Elizabeth St.Leger (Aldworth) You can read various accounts of this remarkable story
hereThe house in question was Doneraile House and as far as I know it is now a ruin. Doneraile has another claim to fame ,the first Steeple chase took place there in 1752.A horse race was run from the church steeple in Doneraile to the church steeple in Buttevant a distance of 4 miles, and the Steeplechase was born!
Myself sitting in one of the stalls, there were chairs around the room to listen to the music but it is the first time the seats at the back of the room filled up first!There was an excellent talk first by one of the masons on the history of masonry in Cork and the history of the building itself.
The Lodge Room with banners and candlelight and a bespoke carpet with the symbols of the Masons woven into it.They are a set square, level and plumb line, very ordinary objects which have attained a mystical quality thanks mainly to the Da Vinci code.The Lodge room is breathtaking in the 21st century.All black woodwork on the wall panelling and stalls are over 300 years old and came from the old St Finbarre's Cathedral. The banners which hang over each stall have the Coat of Arms of the prince masons, the ones high up are of deceased members and the one over the stall is of the present incumbent. The whole effect is very Harry Potter!
We left the masonic hall and continued over to the English market which was open late and food and wine were flowing (for a price)!Music was everywhere, here this gentleman is strumming a harp.
A swordfish on display on O'Connolls fish stall, anytime I am in town with one of the grandchildren we always pay a visit to see if there is any weird and wonderful creature after being caught.
This photo is out of sync! Back in the masonic hall one of the masons explained their system of balloting, each mason takes a black or white ball and drops it into the box. To say someone was ''blacked' was derived from this as one black ball meant a resounding 'no'!The balls are now a little discoloured as they are over a hundred years old and I think made of ceramic or marble.The masons were doing the talks and answered any queries which were put to them.
Another view of the English market, there was a lovely atmosphere as there were no crowds pushing ,everyone was strolling through, imbibing or nibbling at some of the food stalls.
So we became culture vultures for the evening and I must say it was most enjoyable and interesting!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

I am back from a few days in Co Clare.The matchmaking festival is in full swing for the month of Sept,as it is every year for generations.It has become a month long dance and music event also with dancing commencing at 12 o'clock every day in various venues and continuing around the town and outside until 3 am. It was my first visit and I had a ball!People come from all over the world and every county in Ireland was represented.A matchmaker is in residence in this famous pub (where else) and for a small fee will match anyone up for a week or for life! Couples come back every year who have met in Lisdoonvarna and since married! I did not avail of his services preferring the dancing !Lots of videos on Youtube, just type in Lisdoonvarna.
The Burren is a few miles from Lisdoonvarna and is a protected area which is now a National Park, what looks at first sight to be barren rock has in fact rare species of plants growing in crevices.It is a breathtaking sight and no single photo could capture the vast rock formations, it is like a lunar landscape.Between the Burren on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other you become very aware of how small and insignificant we humans are in the scheme of creation.
Sculptures in Lisdoonvarna square celebrate the music and dancing which is part and parcel of Co Clare.
Just outside the town is the village of Doolin, a small fishing village renowned for its music sessions in the pubs, where musicians from all over the world take out their instruments and commence playing and before long a full blown session is in full swing at any hour of the day!There is the pier where ferries go out to the Aran Islands which lie just off of the coast and were hidden in mist when I was there.The ferries also visit the Cliffs of Moher which are just down the coast

More of the Burren landscape.Visit the sites I have linked for further info on all of the above as I could write pages and still not give an adequate description of them.
Normal service will resume soon!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tomato & Chorizo Soup

Something else to use up our tomatoes while fresh was this hearty soup.I found the recipe in my folder and it is from The Countryman's Weekly, a publication bought regularly by SiL Nigel who breeds dogs.The recipe page is written by Sally, Baroness De Wint who also has a book of country style recipes.
1 large onion chopped
8oz Chorizo sausage chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped or more if preferred
2tbsps Olive oil
1 pint veg stock
4ozs pasta (small shell shapes cook quicker)
1/2 pint tomato juice /tin of tomatoes ( I used 1 lb fresh chopped tomatoes)
salt & pepper sticks of celery (optional, I did'nt use)

Soften onion & garlic in oil, add chorizo, celery & salt & pepper
Cook for 5 mins
Add tomatoes & stock
Cook for a further 5 mins
Add pasta and bring to the boil
Simmer for 15 mins
Check seasoning and add grated cheese to serve ( I used some chopped basil)

I added more stock as it was very thick. I made a good sized pot of soup which is actually a meal in a bowl and very filling.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Still Harvesting!

I have tried unsuccessfully to load photos a couple of times and even trying to leave comments I have been getting a 'service unavailable' message each time, not sure if it is blogger or my service provider!I remembered to take the camera with me to the plot, these photos are now a few days old and the weather has become wet and much colder.
The strawberry plants were cleaned up a few weeks ago and all old foliage was cut back to allow the new growth some space, I also cut back any runners which were growing. I was surprised to see just how much new growth there was and even blossoms on some of the plants which now have new strawberries on them?!
Look what I found nestling in the foliage,take my word for it ,it was juicy and sweet!

Our big pumpkin rotted on one side and this is the next one which is growing nicely, I turned it over onto a leaf to see will it survive.
More snapdragons!
Our winter leeks, these are Musselburgh. I earthed up the plants slightly to extend the white stalk, I know some growers cover the stalk with plastic piping or cardboard for this purpose.
One of the autumn fruiting raspberry plants, this one has fruit on it every few days.I am not sure what is happening with the earlier raspberries as two of them have sent out suckers or new growth from the base and have begun producing more fruit even though they are all the earlier variety?!
Something strange with the Asparagus plants also, these tiny seed heads/berries began as tiny green pods and now have turned this vibrant red colour. They are only on one plant and I am not sure what they are?
Our tallest sunflower dwarfs our scarecrow which is taller than me and stands at about 5' 6". I must remember to take out the measuring tape to record it before the winds get to it first.

More tomatoes, all of the plants in the plastic greenhouse at home are now finished but the ones out at the plot are still producing. These have now been turned into more spaghetti sauce!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Winter Approaches!

We are officially in the second month of autumn and our weather is still holding apart from a few thunder showers on Sun & Mon.I made pasta sauce last week (previous post) I had appealed to Nic nipitinthebud blog for recipes and she gave me one for Passata. I had said the sauce could be combined with passata for lasagne or spaghetti. I have not used the water bath method of preserving but used Nic's recipe from the River Cottage cook book and I must say it was simple, I only had 3 jars maybe with more it would have been more complicated!
I read matron's comment about roasting tomatoes so I discarded the clear liquid left in the roasting dish.The recipe calls for putting the toms through a sieve but I only have one for sifting flour. I spent a fiddly few minutes skinning the toms and then used my hand blender to make a puree before reheating.Definitely worth the effort as it smells devine.
The sweet corn in the bag are small cobs which I cleared from the plants,leaving only the larger more developed ones on for another few days in the sunshine.Some of the plants had grown side shoots (suckers?) which had these smaller cobs growing. I pulled all of them out and any of the stalks which we had taken cobs from.I am not sure if I should have but the stalks are now only bearing stalks with large cobs to ripen.I must look up any recipe for freezing these now!
These pics are not in any particular order as they were taken on different days, the strawberry plants were cleaned up some time back and lots of new growth resulted and now there are blossoms!Should we leave them grow?
Marrow, Kathryn wanted to grow an actual marrow instead of a courgette gone mad!Kathryn has been stuffing the oversized courgette and wanted to see if the marrow tastes better or worse!
Our brassica bed was not one of our star performers this year in fact it was one of the disaster areas!This is the top of one of the Brussel sprouts which have been invaded with what looks like green fly? We have been blasting them with the hose and pouring the rhubarb mixture over them but I think we are fighting a losing battle.
One of the cabbage plants, which never grew to a decent size is infested with them. Since I took this photo this bed has been cleared of everything except the sprouts.
The sprouts are quite big on one or two of the plants but the lower ones are being nibbled.Since taking these pics all of the lower leaves and any of the damaged lower sprouts have been removed to deter the snails and the top 'head' has been cut off also as this seems to be where the greenfly are nestling.I will update on progress if any.
The turnips which were transplanted are growing, this pic is about a week old and they are much bigger now.The leaves are almost touching each other so I can only hope there are turnips forming underneath!
We have 2 cucumber plants in the greenhouse and despite careful watering and feeding they have only deigned to produce one fruit each!
This one has now been picked and consumed as it was getting way too big and maybe we will get a second one from it?
The tomato plants in the greenhouse, since then I have cut all of the leaves and left only fruit bearing trusses.Most of these toms have now become sauce /passata but there are still loads to ripen.I don't think I will have to worry about making green tomato chutney

Our artichokes are going great guns after a late start, there are about 8 heads on the 2 plants. I cut one nearly every second day it is much faster food than McD's!
Remember those hundreds of Snapdragons? Well they are in bloom all over the plots and at home, all the colours of the rainbow and the bees love the new addition to their quest for nectar.

Friday, September 3, 2010

No Green Tomatoes Here!

Harvest one day during the week,sweet corn, carrots,tomatoes, taking home a net bag of garlic which has been drying in the shed, and some of our autumn fruiting raspberries, enough to sprinkle on the morning cereal!
Our sweetcorn is delicious, put into lightly salted water and simmered for 14 mins once the water boils, melted butter and don't forget to lick your fingers.It is funny carrot time again, I thought this was 2 plants at first but it is one plant probably hit a stone or other hard object divided into 2 and then continued growing in a corkscrew fashion!
We have such a glut of tomatoes I have been looking for recipes to cook and store them for the winter. I had 8 tomato plants at home in the plastic greenhouse, they were in large pots and produced 2 full trusses on each plant.The upper trusses did flower but the flowers did not pollinate and fell off, at least I think that is the reason that they did not produce more but as things have turned out we have more than enough!
I looked for recipes for pasta/spaghetti/tomato sauces but most of them are American quoting cups and referring to canning.Maybe we on this side of the ocean do not normally have to worry about tomato gluts.I read through various recipes and eventually combined a few to fit the amount of ingredients I had, I didn't deseed or skin the tomatoes either. I find the ones we grow ourselves are meatier with less seeds than the ones we have bought in the shops.
4lbs Tomatoes, onion, basil, carrot and yes some cloves of our own garlic, small but perfectly formed!All fresh from the allotment.
I chopped all of the ingredients, added about 2TBSP of Olive Oil and some herbs De Provence which I had in the cupboard.I did not add any seasoning at this stage, that can be done later depending on the dish I will use it for.Everything simmered on a low heat for approx 1 hour.I whizzed it with the hand blender leaving some chunks of veg, returning it to the cooker for about a half an hour to reduce down a little more.The kitchen was filled the with the most gorgeous smell!

This yielded 4 lbs of sauce (according to the print on the sides of the bags) which I packed into these nifty store and pour bags from Aldi, they stand upright while being filled which is much easier when dealing with liquids.There are 8 bags in the pack for 1.49E, once sealed they then lie flat for freezing.
I did think the finished sauce was very yellow not a nice tomato red!It seems to be very concentrated and could be thinned a little depending on what the next stage of cooking is.
Passatta added to this would make a really tasty Lasagne/Spaghetti sauce or add a good stock to make soup. I have never liked Tomato soup but I may try a home made version to see does it taste any better!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Peggy,Peggy Where have you Been? paraphrase a nursery rhyme!Well I did'nt get to London to see the Queen but I did....lots of gardening, such as watering as I cannot remember the last time we had rain here.Tomatoes are being eaten in every way shape and form and still coming, its mostly harvesting now as sweet corn is ripening fast too.No problem eating my 5 a day fruit & veg!

Attended a fund raiser for ARC House which is a cancer charity, it was organized by D.Michelle and her work mates, BBQ chef on the night was S.Billy, the rest of us just enjoyed the craic!
I was set dancing in Mallow to Johnny Reidy's band.Set dancing is a mainly Irish type of formation dancing, danced in sets of 8 people but not as sedate as formation dancing,lots of kicking up heels ansd swinging!This photo was taken at Laharn cross where there is open air dancing every Sun evening during the summer months, it did not have to move indoors once this year!

I was in Robert's Cove, alone and painted the outdoor furniture, picked blackberries and made jam.With the grandchildren on the beach making the best of the late summer sunshine before returning to school which they did on Wed

I have a website selling Irish Cds and soon DVds, I have uploaded lots of photo slides of the various musicians with a musical backing but wanted to upload video clips as some of the musicians have DVDs available.I have a DVD rewriter and copier but this only allows you to burn a copy of a DVD. I wanted to save clips to my hard drive and edit to upload to Youtube. I trawled the internet, I tried different downloads and eventually succeeded in transferring clips and uploading them to Youtube. I have a Youtube channel which is linked from the website so now buyers will be able to see some of the musicians live with a full length piece of music.This particular one is from open air dancing which is gaining in popularity again as it was the only type of dancing available long ago and every village had a platform for music and dancing.
In answer to Kathleen in the comments, the above video is taken from a commercial DVD but I can also take clips from home video if they are on disc as this one below is from

I have been busy while AWOL and have lots of allotment pics which I will upload in another post,hopefully tomorrow!