Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Irish Legends and Folklore

Last weekend we had beautiful weather and I spent a couple of days in North Tipperary.While driving around I came across a tomb which dates back at least 2000 years BC.It is known as Leaba (bed)Duirmuid (Dermot)& Ghrainne (Grace)star crossed lovers of Gaelic Mythology.There are various sites giving the story online, all basically the same, I have used Squidoo and the drawing is from that site,the armies in the background were pursuing the lovers across the country and I think that is how there are various sites related to the lovers.
Did they rest here and hide from their pursuers?

This is not a tourist site and you may not find it on any map, I saw the sign post and knew of the legend so followed the directions. It is not a place for designer footwear as you have to trek about 400 metres up a boggy hillside.
If anyone is touring around Ireland and comes across these blue signs they are worth following if you have time as they usually lead to interesting sites such as this.

Once we got to the site there was no further signage just this huge marker stone at the side of a lonely road,the grave is visible from the road but unless you have some idea what it is you may not stop!

The wedge tomb set into the hillside.If it was used as a hiding place they had a clear view of the surrounding countryside but then the area may have been covered in dense forest that long ago.

The tomb is surrounded by small standing stones.The locals have always been aware of its existence and the story attached to it which was probably handed down by word of mouth through the generations.

The other side of the tomb, the surrounding hill sides can be seen in the background

This is one of the stones within the circle and the water collected in the top of the stone is supposed to be a cure for warts!We were not sure if it was to be used daily or just once. These old cures usually entail walking around the stones a requisite number of times etc.
I enjoyed finding this part of our mythical heritage as we all learned these stories going to school.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

All Systems Go!

Beautiful Spring day today, I was able to spend most of the day on the allotment, I even persuaded youngest S.Barry to come out and paint the shed. He is just starting here but got it all done in double quick time. The two plastic bags are protecting the 2 Goji berry bushes which are covered in leaves and I did not want any mishaps with them!
I sowed carrots in the barrel in the greenhouse, again Amsterdam 3 Sprint. I am hoping to have an early crop of carrots before the outdoor ones are ready?!I filled the lower half of the barrel with spent compost from last year and just put new compost on the top layer with a handful of Fish,blood & bone.
Kathryn spent Sunday turning over and picking stones off last years squash & pumpkin bed as this year it is going to house roots ie: carrots & parsnips.
I spent today making a new bed (on left of scarecrow).This was a potato bed last year but had not been boxed in. I did that today and dug it over thoroughly because the idea of raised beds is to eventually not have to dig them just turn them over lightly.There were loads of scutch grass roots to pull out and I cleaned it as much as possible.
This will house another onion bed, with a row of red onions and space for a row of leeks later on in the season.
back home in the plastic greenhouse:
Beetroot planted 2 seeds to a peat pot is up.
Lettuce has been transplanted from seed tray to pots, these will go into the greenhouse on the allotment before the tomatoes go in.

Incas tomatoes which were repotted a few days ago. They were covered up to the bottom set of leaves and are now well clear of the compost again.
The pot of salad leaves are putting in an appearance.These are to have some salad pickings before the lettuce are ready.
Cabbage needs to be transplanted from the seed tray ASAP!

Hen House finally put together awaiting its first residents!The ground has been raked over and composted. I was waiting for milder weather to put down grass seed but while blog surfing in search of hen facts I came across Allotment #65 who has just taken 4 hens on board. The henhouse over there is enviable but I was delighted to find turf rolls had been used with bark mulch which will shorten the waiting time considerably for me.I will be getting rolls of turf on friday and we should be in business much sooner than anticipated!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day Parade

Our allotment group walking behind our colourful 'float' in the village of Blarney for the St Patrick's Day parade AND it won the 2nd of 3 prizes!!
Blarney held its first parade last year after a lapse of about 25 years and this was our first time taking part. I was amazed at the huge turnout along the main street, there must have been a few thousand people clapping and cheering.There was a farmer's & craft market set up in the village square with bouncy castles etc for the children. The weather was bright and dry despite a mixed weather forecast.

This morning early in the Hydro farm barn it was all hands on deck to get the float prepared.As it was representing a garden most of the produce had to be bought fresh and only arranged at the last minute.I say bought because at this time of year we don't have fresh produce ourselves, but the idea was to show people what can be grown locally either at home or on an allotment
Zwena had lots of photos of produce and events which have taken place on the allotments over the past year, she had them blown up and laminated to fix to the 'rustic' structure over the square raised bed.We had 2 scarecrows, a Mr & Mrs!

The final touches were put in place once the 'float' was lined up at the start of the parade.
Sinead,Aoife & Kevin lined up waiting for the 'off'

Zwena still doing some final 'tweaking'! There were garden implements, a wheelbarrow, a watering can and even a horse collar since the days of horse powered farming.A cloche tunnel,gloves,sowing guides and in fact anything that would be used on a plot.
In keeping with tradition I felt we should have some potatoes in today, so 3 drills of Home Guard went in before we left for the parade.In the background the tidied up lavender plants can be seen in front of the greenhouse and Kevin having his break after his mornings work in the barn.
Waiting in line in front of us were some modes of transport, a beautifully restored horse drawn caravan and 2 gleaming vintage cars.
A happy group of plotters suitably decked out in gardening gear.
Walking past the reviewing stand, the huge crowds in the background and on the back of the trailer a colourful 'rustic' garden gate with bucket hanging which Zwena sourced for the float.

Something I look out for in Blarney every year.The private entrance to the castle is lined with hordes of daffodils which my photograph does not do justice to.
I hope where ever you are you had a great St Patrick's

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tomatoes & Broad Beans

The tomato seedlings looked slightly spindly and as soon as I espied the first true leaves (hardly visible to the naked eye!) I decided to pot them on. When potting on tomato plants they should be replanted up to first set of leaves so that the leaves are just sitting on the soil. The hairs on the stems grow new roots and as tomatoes become quite top heavy when producing fruit they need a strong root system.
These are the Incas, there are 9 plants at the moment but I won't need all of these so only about 2 or 3 really strong plants will be finally planted out in the greenhouse.
I left the Yellow Perfection in their seed tray for another few days.
The sweet peppers are finally up!
The repotted seedlings are still on the windowsill, they were repotted into 3inch pots and will be potted on as the roots show through the bottom of the pot, not very scientific I know but it works for me!
The Broad Beans are sitting out in the sunshine each day for a few hours to get accustomed to being outside, I have to remember to bring them into the greenhouse each evening as we are having quite severe frosts each night.

Daffodils in the bed in the back garden to add a touch of Spring.
Zwena is entering an allotment 'float' in the parade in Blarney for St Patrick's Day!
Photos of that tomorrow, and......
Happy St Patrick's Day to everyone.
La Feile Padraig Shona Duit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Eggs to Hatch!!

Great eggsitement (excuse the pun)at the Hydro Farm, the newly acquired Ducks & Geese have started laying.The eggs have been removed for safety until they have finished laying so they won't be damaged.Zwena has them cushioned in sawdust in this box for a few days to protect them.The large white eggs are the goose eggs and the beautiful pale blue ones are the duck eggs.Once the goose has finished laying, the eggs will be returned to her to hatch out. I must confess I know absolutely nothing about them so we are all dying to see what happens next.
Never a dull moment at the Hydro Farm!
We did have some snow on Sat morning but it did not stay on the ground. Our days have been sunny if not warm, as yet.The ground is warming up and is easy to dig over.
I began cleaning out the herb bed and ended up completely revamping it!It is now longer and our solitary apple tree which has lots of buds is now included inside the bed. Sage, thyme & chives have survived since last year and our lupin has new shoots.I am going to put in a Rosemary bush,parsley and mint and that will complete the bed, maybe add some grit as herbs are used to Mediterranean soil which can be poor.They don't need an over rich compost to thrive.
Our rhubarb is flying,at least 3 stools are as 2 of them are quite puny looking despite getting the same treatment as the others.
Our apple tree and a close up of the herb bed.The wind break needs to be tightened up but will have to wait until our digging and planting are done its not an urgent job!The wind caught it over the winter and the wire snapped, I think the wire I used was unsuitable for the job.

The digging finished , this section of the new plot is going to have potatoes only. Today I began digging out the drills to have them ready for planting.
Some say St Patrick's day is D day for planting and more say Good Friday?!
I suppose it depends on which end of the country you are living in too. Easter is very late this year and if we wait for Good Friday we will be at the end of April so I think ours will be going in as soon as the sprouted shoots look good enough.
At home, tomato seedlings are up and also sweet peppers.
In the plastic greenhouse,cabbage & lettuce seedlings are OK.
Broad Beans are hardening off and becoming strong plants to plant out in a few weeks.
Salad leaves in the pot are just over the soil but no sign of the spring onions as yet.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Getting Under Way!

We have had a lovely week weather wise, sunny days but cold & frosty nights.These photos have been taken over a few days both on the plot and at home and are not in any particular order.
Today on the allotment the onions went in, these are Sturion and there are 2 rows of shallots which we have not grown before. I paid 2.45e a lb for the onion sets in a garden centre and there are 2 lbs of them in this bed. One of my fellow plotters told me Lidl are doing a lot of garden items next week and one of them is onion sets for 1e.He got them last year and said he had great onions from them.We are doing a second onion bed so Lidl will go in there and we will be able to compare the two.
The cover is the enviromesh that covered the carrots last year, I thought it may as well earn its keep protecting the onion sets from the birds and frost.There was not enough to cover the whole bed so it will be interesting to see what if any difference it makes to cover the onions.
Some people are very organised and wash all of their pots etc in early Spring I must confess to washing only as I need them!
I have to give even more credit to Garden News here,apart from the pages of gardening information there are little snippets which I usually spot on my second or even third browsing.I had found this pot in the garden with little green shoots around the edge...looks like mint but it was not around the edge maybe they are weeds?
Said snippet,mint begins in the centre of the pot but the following year it comes up around the sides as the plant is sending out new shoots. These can be separated into single plants and repotted!
Sunday afternoon the horses in the stables are looking decidedly bored
Zwena's ducks & geese; the geese have started laying eggs amid much excitement. I had taken a photo of the first egg last Tues, I did not have my camera with me so took one with my phone and I have to confess to not having a clue about uploading from my phone!Zwena told me there were 2 more eggs and to go in and take as many photos as I wanted.
Who needs guard dogs with hissing geese & ganders?!! I stayed outside the gate, maybe they were coming over thinking they were getting food but I was taking no chances!
At home the hen area is taking shape, this is it during the week, cleared of membrane and gravel and the water butt moved around to the front.
Today, it has been extended slightly and this sleeper style timber put down to separate the hen area from the garden more to keep children out than hens in!I threw some compost and grass seed down to make it more hen friendly?!
The water butt is now ready for any rain as the gutter and piping has been extended too.
The broad beans were brought down from the windowsill during the week to harden off in the greenhouse.
Left side of the green house this evening, I had to use the flash at 5.30 pm as the light was nearly gone. From the left in the big pot are salad leaves.Next is a tray of carrots according to Terry Walton in GN.They are planted in peat pots with the bottoms cut off (quite a fiddly job)as carrots do not like root disturbance.Terry recommended and used Maestro which are resistant to carrot fly, I did not have this particular variety so I used Mr Fothergill's Amsterdam 3 Sprint which can be sown from Jan to July and harvested from April to Oct.
Next to them are Bolthardy beetroot again in peat pots but with ends intact, there are 2 seeds in each pot.

Broad beans potted on today, there are 19 plants here some quite strong some a little smaller but all had good root systems going.
Underneath in the 3 big pots are Spring onions, Terry Walton begins now and plants up 3 pots every 3 weeks to have a continuous supply of spring onions.
The spring onion and Beetroot seeds are freebees with Garden News.
I still have not got around to planting Sweet Peas or the parsnips which should really have been the first seeds sown!
On the bedroom windowsill are tomato seeds which are just showing if I look closely and peppers not showing yet but which can take up to 3 weeks.
Things are definitely getting under way!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On the Plot Today

We have had frost for the past few nights, I was lucky I did not take a chance and insulated the plastic greenhouse the day I put it up.The bonus is the sunshine each day, not a lot of heat but when I started digging today I had to discard the jacket after a while and then the body warmer went the same way!
I went over to the asparagus bed to clean it up a little as some weeds are making their presence known already, like the creeping buttercup and dandelions.I was removing some of the old dead foliage and could not believe my eyes but there they were, 3 asparagus spears! It was the only plant that had them, these were some of the 7 new plants bought last year in Dunsland Garden Centre. They were 2 year old plants so we can have a light harvest from them this year.The spears are quite thick too, I covered them again with soil as they are a bit tender to leave uncovered for frost to bite.

Friend or Foe? I disturbed a few of these while digging today, I am totally ignorant of what is underground but know we will have to become familiar with what is good and bad for our plants.These look like pieces of orange thread with myriad legs.
We are the proud possessors of our own wheelbarrow!
When children get married here it is the custom to give both Mothers a keepsake/token of the day, usually at the reception.S.Billy and Janice got married last year and said they were giving us a voucher as it would be more useful. They asked us which store/shopping centre I wanted it for, I asked for B&Q (Home Depot in US)so I could get a wheelbarrow!
I duly got my wheelbarrow and paint for my sitting room with my voucher. The wheelbarrow has been over wintering in Kathryn's garden but it is now up in the allotment and had its inaugural outing today.
Our rhubarb is growing apace, the cold winter seems to be spurring it on again this year.I have covered it up with manure twice so far this year to protect it from frost but in the 2 weeks since I last did it ,it seems to have taken off.
Note:Fence & wind break need repairing!The 'new plots' near the car park have been getting a make over and complete transformation since I was last out! Plots have been dug over,laid out in beds and fenced in. We have lost a few of our plotters but there are lots of enthusiastic new faces around.
Close up of one of the plots,willow fencing to deter the rabbits and some new beds with seed in already!

Another plot, this time on our side. It has been taken over by new people also and this wonderful rustic fence put up.
I was speaking to one of our plotters today and he has first earlies in the ground already, unchitted!This will be a good opportunity to compare the 'to chit' or not results.
Lettuce & cabbage seeds have germinated on the windowsill ,I have left off the clear cover now by day as they can get too leggy in the heat.Another bonus of the frosty nights and sunny days is the light,no grey dull days to slow down germination!
Broad beans are about 2 ins high and I collected and washed the larger pots for them today .I will begin transplanting them hopefully tomorrow.
Tomatoes and peppers are still no show.