Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Knitivity

I came across this photo which I had featured on my blog back in 2008, the figures were knitted by D.Linda and sil Rob made the crib which I hope has been finished completely by now!
I may not be on here for a few days ,I would like to wish all my readers, followers, commenters and those who 'pass through' a Very Happy and Peaceful Christmas and Good health and peace for 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Solstice at Newgrange

The 18th was the winter solstice and it dawned bright and (mostly) sunny in Newgrange Co Meath where the spring and winter solstice is witnessed entering a tunnel and illuminating the interior in a tomb whose origins have been lost in the mist of time (thought to predate the pyramids)
The full range of photos can be seen on the website here
You can also buy a DVD now on Amazon (link on the site)
For anyone visiting the Meath/Dublin area there are personally supervised tours of the historic Boyne valley website here
I have never visited it myself and it is on my list of places to see!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Sprouts

I went out to the allotment on Sat evening to gather the sprouts for our Christmas dinner and to send in a photo to matrons Christmas veggie blog
The plot looks cold and dismal now and my fingers nearly froze dislodging the sprouts! The pigeons have decimated the top growth on the stalks, definitely the culprits from the amount of droppings on the leaves and around the ground.The netting had blown off again and left the plants unprotected.
I left them as is so the birds can enjoy the remains!
I also brought home the herbs for cooking, rosemary for the garlic and rosemary roasted spuds
Sage and thyme for the stuffing
Parsley for everything else
I have one jar of the 3 I had made of piccalilli for those cold turkey days!I had made it from a mixture of all the allotment veg using a recipe of matrons
Do visit matrons blog to see the array of Christmas veggies,lots of ideas there for next winters plot!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Country House Christmas Party

We usually have an allotment Christmas get together, when we all dress up like normal people and try to chat about all sorts of things other than crops etc but the conversation invariably turns to the coming season!
Zwena always organizes it in her house but this year her sister Olwen kindly hosted it for us in her beautiful country house which is a guest house during the summer months.It is near the allotments also and about a ten minute walk from picturesque Blarney.
The Victorian figures in front of the amazing Christmas tree.

It was dark when we got there so I took this from a postcard, Maranatha House from the outside in the middle of a beautiful garden, if you would like to see more or even think about Country house living the web site is here
Mostly pictures for the rest of the post!

The conservatory is the breakfast room and these flamingoesque style napkins took my eye!Different coloured napkins to blend with the decor in the room.

The huge Christmas tree

Fire with cosy couches gathered around

The conservatory/breakfast room

The hallway is bigger than rooms in most modern homes!

3 of our plotters and not a welly in sight

Victorian dolls in the red room

The sunken bathroom is off the red room

The red room complete with four poster bed

Cosy twin bedded room with matching four posters

The same room

Honeymoon suite with draped bed

Elegant all cream and ivory room

The Top hat room!
Olwen could not decide on a theme for this room and one night while watching Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers she decided to replicate the bedroom on screen.
Fred is not sitting on the bed that is our Ger complete with top hat which hangs on an old fashioned hat stand inside the door. There is a big black & white print on the wall of Fred and Ginger dancing.
Olwen has made ALL drapes, curtains, canopies etc herself, and decorated the whole house to look as if it has not been changed for decades!

The huge welcoming fireplace where we gathered to chat and have mulled wine and Christmas nibbles
Truly a house meant for Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Cranberries

My cranberry sauce all done up in its Christmas wrapping to give as presents to family.I do not indulge in cranberry sauce although I may be tempted this year to sample.Some years ago I worked as a casual waitress in a hotel,being casual meant we were called in for functions like weddings and dinner dances which were big at the time.
Cranberry sauce was always put out on the tables at Christmas time and more often than not always came back untouched as our tastes were so much simpler then, gravy with everything!
If we did not have cranberry sauce then raspberry jam was put out instead and nobody ever said anything!I had the idea then that cranberry sauce was sweet and could never imagine eating it with my turkey!
The house is finally decorated for the festive season and the weather has even turned seasonal, snow ,frost and gales!This time last year we had the big white out down south, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it is not going to happen this year!
I had a great response to my Christmas card from Ireland post, and I have been receiving beautiful cards from far flung destinations too.Everybody asked for my address to return a card, this was never my intention but it was a lovely exchange.
One of the cards went to Galilee of all places, where the Christmas message began!I thought it was such a privilege to be able to send a card to little Aled whose Mom
Cathy sent on their address for him.
Cathy lives in a Kibbutz in Galilee and has a blog cathy@home.
I will keep the list and send you all a St Patrick's day card also, anyone else who would like to be on the list just send on your address to my email.The last Christmas postal dates for the UK and Ireland are fast approaching.
Almond icing the two Christmas cakes is the task in hand for tonight.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Still Growing?!

I paid a quick visit to the plot today, mainly to take a photo of anything which would be edible for our Christmas dinner for inclusion on Matron's Christmas Food blog.
I took the top pic of our brussel sprouts which are to grace our plates on the big day, only when I got home and uploaded the pic did I see the the tell tale marks of poachers who are trying to deprive us of our dinner!It entails another trip to the plot to 'save the sprouts'!

Our herbs are waiting to be picked, the rosemary bush has really taken off and is putting on good growth. If we get severe frosts like last year I will have to remember to cover it as a lot of rosemary became frost victims last year.
Thyme and parsley for the stuffing behind the parsley, the parsley is also being nibbled I think!

I cut back all of the stalks on the rhubarb a few weeks ago and covered the crowns with plenty of manure, I was very surprised to see new growth springing up today. I recovered the crowns after taking the photo.
Something we won't be having not alone for Christmas dinner but for some time after are our leeks which, while growing are not nearly as strong or large as they should be.Maybe leek and new potato soup sometime in June?!
One bed of the green manure is covering the ground nicely, this is the landsberger winter mix. The manure on the other beds is sparse and looks as if it did not germinate properly.
I forgot to take a pick of the over wintering onions which are about 3ins high, hopefully they are frost resistant or I may cover them just to be sure as they are a little small to withstand a severe frost.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas is in the Air!

Christmas preparations are underway, I don't put up the tree or decorations for another week at least but so far I have one cake made (awaiting decoration).
I mixed 2 plum puddings this evening, well I put the ingredients together and D. Michelle did the time honoured chore of mixing the puddings and making a wish , she mixed with serious intent so I wonder what she was wishing for?!
I used a Rachel Allen recipe which I had saved from a magazine at some stage, lashings of Guinness and whiskey!
The mixed puddings are 'standing' in the bowl and will be divided into 2 smaller bowls and steamed tomorrow.
I also made 7 small jars of Cranberry sauce, bought the cranberries and added brandy,orange juice and cinnamon to the mix, the smell around the kitchen was divine.I will post a photo when I get suitable seasonal labels and covers for the jars.
Photo is of my open fire burning turf and logs, smelling beautifully too while throwing out heat!
I had a gas fire in place for years but after our arctic weather last year and spending nearly 3 weeks without heat I had it taken out and reverted back to an open fire as I realised having the option of an independent heat source was more important than the convenience of so called 'clean instant heat'
Some Christmas cards are on display on the mantelpiece which brings me to the reason I took the photo.
Lots of blogs do giveaways etc, I thought it would be nice to send Christmas cards from Ireland to any bloggers out there who would like one for their mantelpiece this Christmas.
In the spirit of Christmas you don't have to subscribe or follow my blog, there are absolutely no conditions other than send me your full postal address.Leave a comment if you wish but DON'T put your address in the comments unless you want more junk mail than you get already, just email me at
Last postal dates for places other than Europe are coming up soon so the sooner you contact me the sooner I can have your card in the post
Last Tues evening I attended a garden talk given by Kitty Scully who graced our screens during spring and autumn with Peter Dowdall when they designed gardens in Fota in Cork.Peter did the shrubs and flowers and Kitty did the veg garden.
The topic was making preparations for next year other than glancing through seed catalogues!
It took place in the Blarney garden centre where we were treated to tea and home made scones and got a lovely goody bag of magazines etc to bring home.Elke who organised the evening is a member of Cork Slow Food and was taking photos during the talk.
Slow Food is one of the blogs I follow and I was surprised to see the photos on it this evening . I am in there, see if you can spot me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Self Published (Niece not me)!

Gardening has come to a full stop thanks to the weather, reading is the new spare time occupation. My niece Catherine Ryan Howard who I have mentioned before when she self published her first book Mousetrapped, which was about her work experience in Walt Disney World in Florida.
Catherine has now published her first novel Results Not Typical.It would not be my usual choice of reading material but I got hooked on it fairly quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the plot and sub plots, well done Catherine!
I am surprised the various slimming companies who sell motivation and of course their own 'slimming products' allowed it !!

Backpacked is also self published and is Catherine's account of a very reluctant back packing trip across Central America, not fiction she really did do it!

Catherine researched her self publishing and made her books as good to look at and handle as any books available through the major publishers.The pitfalls and problems overcome plus advice were then self published in to this book. It is available to buy on Amazon as are all of the others, just put catherine ryan howard in the Amazon search box.They are also available on Kindle
Self Published has gotten rave reviews on Amazon and Catherine has been invited to speak at various seminars etc on the subject.
Catherine also has a blog which has a link on my sidebar, see

Monday, November 21, 2011

CEJA, European Council of Young Farmers

Matteo Bartolini from CEJA on Vimeo.

You never know who is reading blogs! I am sure many of you have been approached from time to time to feature various items/companies/products etc. I don't as a rule get involved with these requests but this one definitely appealed to me.
I received an email from John Mortell ,communications officer with CEJA...whose them you might ask?!
The European Council of Young farmers in Brussels.
They are trying to encourage and help young farmers across Europe to stay on the land, not to just eke out a living but to increase the value of their farms and produce.
They have a Vimeo video channel,there are just 3 videos at the moment, this young farmer is Italian and there is a French and Belgian farmer also featured.
This appealed to me because he is growing truffles of all things, watch and learn!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Miscellany

I have spent a couple of hours browsing through my favourite blogs, something I have not had too much time to do recently. It was nice to catch up on everyones news and doings!
My computer slows down considerably in the afternoons and evenings which may be attributable to my internet provider so Sunday mornings when I can, seems to be the best time to be online it is slowing down now even as I type!
I am also having trouble yet again with leaving comments on blogs. I know by not staying logged on to Google seems to correct this but I now have my email on my phone and I am always 'on' so this may be the cause this time around. I have to go through the various options on each blog to leave a comment if Google does not recognise me?!

Anyway, enough moaning!
The photo was taken through my kitchen window earlier today when the birds were nearly pushing each other off the feeder, usually as soon as I go to the window they fly off but thankfully not today.
I had got up early intending to go the the beach to gather seaweed for the allotment but thanks to the wonders of internet technology I thought of checking the tides on our local shores and and it would have been high tide when I planned to go so it would have been a fruitless journey.The best time to gather it is supposed to be when the tide has just gone out leaving clean seaweed on the rocks.Gathering it from the beach could mean bringing home the debris and sand which accumulates in it.

I had intended to go to Garretstown which is a beautiful wide beach on the coast near Kinsale about 35 minutes drive away, there are much nearer places to gather seaweed but our harbour area is polluted and I don't think it would be good to bring that back to our plot.
The seaweed is for the asparagus bed which I had cleared of foliage and weeds during the week, asparagus is a seaside plant originally and seaweed is recommended for a winter mulch.I will have to wait until next weekend now as the evenings are dark at 5pm now, so much for daylight saving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vive Le France!

Bonjour! I have just returned from a short holiday to France, I did not think it was safe to advertise the fact before going as you never know who reads blogs!
My eldest daughter Deirdre,partner and daughter Niamh have lived in the S.W of France in the Carcassonne area for the last 3 years and this is the first time I have visited.

Flying out from Dublin over the bay,I am not sure exactly what the beach is called but it looks beautiful basking in the autumn sunshine.

Outside my daughter's house grapevines in the field next door, the grapes have been harvested and the autumn colour is visible everywhere.Its a big wine making region, Limoux is the nearest big town and Blanquette is the regional wine,it is a sparkling wine and they say the forerunner of Champagne!

The small village where they live, there is not even a shop there just quaint houses and winding narrow streets.Not much in the way of flowers at this time of year, but I saw kiwis growing over an archway into a house, orange trees and walnut trees. I must admit I had never really thought where walnuts come from and was amazed to see them.Needless to say there were olive trees everywhere and in summer there are fields of sunflowers as making sunflower oil is also another local industry.
This scary fellow holding up a church holy water font is the god Asmodeaus, keeper of secrets, guardian of hidden treasure and reputed to be the builder of Soloman's temple.
Rennes-le-Chateau is just a short drive away, the hilltop village which spawned the Da Vinci Code and hundreds of books etc on the Knights Templar,Cathars and other mysterious stories.The story of a small village Abbe (priest)coming into untold wealth began coming out of France in the sixties and unleashed an avalanche of interest in the tiny village.

The abbe Sauniere only died in 1917 so it is not in the dim distant past by any means.When he came into wealth he began refurbishing the tiny church in a most garish style.Asmodeaus was one of the them and the inscription over the church door in latin translates to 'this is a terrible place'?!

Rennes-le-Bain is also involved in the mystery but was also a famed Roman baths, again beautiful during the summer months with cascading flowers etc.
There are lots of videos on Youtube if you wish to see and hear more of these two places, just type in the name of one of them.

No visit to Carcassonne is complete without a visit to the walled medieval fortress which rises over the modern city.There has been a fortress on this site for centuries and renovations began back in the 19th century.The narrow streets are cobbled and it is all pedestrianised, it is a fascinating place to see.We were lucky in Nov as it is mobbed by tourists in summer.

Even the smallest village has its war memorial to the villagers who lost their lives in the conflicts which were fought each time on french soil.
Remembrance day 11th Nov, all of the villagers walked up to the mayors office and gathered behind the mayor,a small band and the french flag and we all walked the few hundred yards to the war memorial

At the memorial the Mayor read a speech which this year came from President Nickolas Sarkozy as it was a unique date being 11th minute of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th year of the new century.
The two elderly men in front are World War 2 survivors, as I looked at them I wondered what was going through their minds as they gazed at the memorial to their fallen comrades.A rousing version of the French national anthem was played after the speech then we all walked to the local hall where wine,minerals and snacks were served courtesy of the Mayor's office.
Home now to grey bleak Nov skies and rain!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hen Party!

A post all about the hens and the ravages they have wrought in the garden!
Pic of them congregated on the windowsill, they are inclined to gather here or at the patio door if they want to be fed.Sometimes they turn over the feed bin and I don't refill it fast enough for them so they draw my attention like this!
A couple of times one of them has actually turned it over on top of herself getting trapped in the process and the other 3 come down to the window or patio door and keep pecking until I go out and free the luckless hen that is under the bin!

Pic taken in April when the first 2 hens arrived, note the lovely sward of green grass and the precise edging of bark mulch?

Pic taken today!
They have turned the whole area into a quagmire of mud and matter.I had to move the coop down the garden, note the sorry looking tin tub and the small brown window trough.
With 20/20 hindsight I should have had normal grass well rooted before getting the hens as I put down rolls of grass which had no root system and they scraped it up within a matter of weeks!

My stone flowerbed last year with campanula cascading over the side, there were lots of flowers that come up every year and it was also the resting place for trays of plants waiting to go out to the allotment.

Same flower bed today!

The tin tub early in the year, there were hyacinths, lillies and daffodills which came up in their season so there was always something in bloom in it.

The small brown window trough early this year,the hens ignored it for quite a while but then developed a taste for pansies and it became the sorry sight in the earlier pic!

The centre bed taken today, I had to move the coop down and it was the only place level enough for it.They had already cleared a space for it!

The same centre bed last year.

The old fashioned peony rose and the lupins last year in the centre bed.
The 4 ladies have dug up every bulb in the garden and any pots they can get up to or into.They can shift earth and gravel in a most determined manner if they think there is anything under it.
Even if they are out of sight of the patio door they can hear it opening and come flying down the garden to see if they are getting any tidbits handed out.Dinner left overs such as potato skins etc are devoured in seconds and they chase each other around to get the last little bit.
I was speaking to a lady on the allotments recently about them and she said they kept hens at home when she was young, her mother never kept hens over the winter months as they usually laid less in the shorter ,darker days.The hens were killed for the table and they got a new batch of chicks in the new year to replace them.
I cannot see myself sitting down to eat the girls?!
They provide hours of interest and amusement with their antics and continue to lay 4 eggs every day.

Pumpkin Update
The largest pumpkin weighed in at 55 kgs!