Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mutant French Beans!

Terry Walton on his grow your own veg articles in Garden News advised starting seeds in plastic bags in the airing cupboard and keeping a close eye on them.
This is what happens when you take your eye off the ball or beans in this case!
I put the seeds in last week, 4 to 5 days is the max to see germination and they should then be removed and potted up.
Sat or Sun were the optimum days for these poor babies but we had Kevin's Holy Communion on Sat and a family BBQ on Sunday ,I just forgot their existence yesterday and today I revealed a tangled mass of roots when I cut open the bag.
I had to gently prise the roots and leggy shoots apart like untangling knitting wool they were so closely entwined.

I eventually separated 19 seedlings and repotted them carefully, they are standing ? at crazy angles but will hopefully straighten up and turn green instead of the mutant shade of white they are at the moment.
I put them into trays and will water from the bottom keeping fingers crossed the roots will go down and the plant up?!
These are Blue Lake French beans which were a freebie in Garden News recently.

Grandson Kevin and head gardener all dressed up for his First Holy Communion.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Artichokes to Go

I cut 2 of the Globe artichokes today, the bottom leaves were beginning to open from the heads.
I cooked one for supper tonight.My method of cooking them is fast and simple, fast tasty food in minutes!
I put it into cold salted water ,brought the water to the boil and put the lid on. The water came about half way up the head.Turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Some people use vinaigrette or a sauce, me... a knob of butter (our butter here is salted)I put some on top to melt down through the leaves.
This is not for polite eating in public and needs a finger bowl or lots of tissue.Tear off the leaves one by one, holding the leaf by the tip dip the end (the part nearest the heart)into the butter.Still holding the tip (there is not a polite or easy way to describe it)scrape the flesh with the bottom teeth!
The outside leaves do not have a lot of flesh but as you get nearer the heart the leaves get paler in colour and more fleshy.Then you reach the centre 'choke' which can be eaten whole or sliced still dipping it in the butter.

The remains, not a pretty sight but provided a scrumptious feast!
There are lots of recipes online for artichokes but I find my method suitable if you only have one or two hearts at a time.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hands on Hens!

Keeping Hens Course.

Hydro Farm presents a one day course on keeping hens. The course will cover, how to choose a hen, where to buy hens, different breeds, where to keep your hen, feeding, drinking water, bedding, laying boxes, collecting eggs, broody hens, breeding chickens and what to do with your chicken manure.

The course will be run by Zwena McCullough who has kept free range hens for over 30 years.

This is a hands on course where we will look at the free range hens kept here on the farm and their housing.

The course will be on saturday the 25th. June
Time 10am till 5pm. & will include a light lunch.

Cost €50.00 places limited and will be, on a first come first served basis.

Please email to happyzwena@hotmail.com to book your place and get details of payment.

The course will be run on the Hydro Farm, Tower, Blarney, Co. Cork. If the weather is good we will be outside and if it is wet we will have the course inside in our conference centre.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Artichokes & Fried Egg!

Blogger is still causing problems with me signing in to my blog!Going through the dashboard is the only way I can access it as 'sign in' is constantly at the top of the page no matter how many times I sign in!
I can leave comments on some blogs but not on others?!
The globe artichokes took me by surprise at the weekend , they kind of snuck up! I am not complaining just counting the days and watching until I can take one home for lunch!These are off shoots of one which was on the plot when we took it over 4 years ago and had gone wild.
Fried Egg plant.Last year they were small plants in the tyre in the courtyard of the allotments.The children asked me why they were called fried egg plants, I said the colour and they spread out, last year they were very well behaved and stayed within the tyre.
This year I asked them what does an egg do when you crack it into the pan? it spreads out!The plants have escaped from the tyre and despite having been pulled out have grown again through the gravel.I think it looks great with flowers and colour just spilling over.
Flowers on the snap dragons on the plot, these are just 6 which I bought in a tray recently, behind under the fleece cloche are Pak Choi which the slugs decimated at first but seem to be leaving alone lately.
Flowers on the Duke of York 1st earlies.Home Guard were the first 1st earlies put in and I expected them to flower first so it was a nice surprise to see these today.
We have gale force winds and it gets quite cold in the evenings and at night but I see some Blight warnings being issued already?!
I have Bordeaux mixture and hopefully a day over the weekend when it is not too windy I will spray just to be on the safe side.
Beans are developing on the Broad beans but the wind has knocked over a couple, I have tied the others to the wire with raffia and can only hope it holds them.
Second problem is the holes in the leaves, worm or slug damage?

Another victim of the gales, these begonias were growing beautifully in my hanging basket when I left this morning. They were on the ground when I returned this evening. I floated them on a plate with water,I just could not bear to leave them on the lying on the ground.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hitchcock Hens!

Some photos of the hens taken over the past couple of weeks, they have settled in and seem to be intent on taking over!
D.Aisling has christened them the Hitchcock hens.
One of them always hangs around outside long after the other 3 have bedded down for the night. A bit of a rebel at heart. Here she is investigating the high hedge, if she can't fly over it maybe she can go through it?!

No, I am not going to bed its too early and I am not afraid of the dark!

One evening as I was working on the computer I got the eerie feeling I was being watched.I checked the patio door ,no sign of anyone.
Then I turned to the window and here were 2 of my lassies gazing in!They had flown up onto the windowsill and one was looking over at me on the computer.
The other was watching the TV, hoping 'Chicken Run' or 'Over the Hedge' was showing?!

The girls lay 4 eggs most days now, last Sunday was very wet & windy and for some reason only 2 eggs were laid.
On Monday I went to check and found 3 eggs and 1 monster one which looked as big as a duck egg.
I felt sorry for the poor hen which had produced it!
I had a double yolk for my poached egg on toast. It is years since I saw one of these and it was a surprise to say the least.

Blogger Yesterday and today I am having problems with Blogger (again)!
I sign in and as usual I am taken to my Dashboard but when I click 'view Blog' I am not signed in so I cannot leave comments on other blogs!
I thought I would not be able to post but today I discovered I can access this through the dashboard .
It is very annoying to say the least, hopefully it will be corrected soon.

Gale force winds are still with us and are causing delays getting plants out on the plot, everything is just being torn apart with the wind.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bloom 2011

We are on the countdown for Bloom in the Park ,Ireland's biggest garden show which takes place over 5 days of the June Bank holiday week end from thurs 2nd to mon 6th June.
I have been to the previous 2 with my sister Kathleen who is also an avid gardener,she is the flower child while I am the veggie.Its a great day out for all the family especially as children under 16 go free and there is a dedicated children's Zone to keep them occupied for hours!
Its not just about flowers and veggies, it encompasses all to do with them from growing to cooking and all things in between.
The Bord Bia Food village is new this year ,previously there was a food market and a marquee for cookery demos, these are now all centralised in to a village for easy access.
There will be cookery demos each day by celebrity chefs, we need to get the timetables and plan our itinerary.
The artisan food market is second to none and we can graze our way through it!

Kathleen admiring one of the show gardens last year.
There are 27 Show gardens large and small and there has been a competition on TV for the past few months where garden designers vied for the honour of designing the Super garden, they will be on hand to answer questions.
The show gardens are all fabulous and there are always some ideas to take home and apply to a smaller garden.
There is also a craft Garden this year where demos and workshops will take place, all types of ceramics etc will be on display.
The walled garden which is being renovated by the OPW is always worth a visit to see what has changed/improved since last year.I got the idea to cover our carrots last year with enviromesh from there.
Bord Bia who organize the event have the recession in mind and there are various ways of cutting the cost of tickets by buying online and also I see in the Post office if you pay 2 bills through their Billpay you can buy 2 tickets for the price of one.
Woodies, one of our biggest Home & Garden stores has the Garden Expert stage as usual where expert gardeners will be on hand to answer any garden related queries.
We will be travelling up by train as we have done previously and there is a free shuttle bus all day to and from the station to the Phoenix Park where the show is held.
Youtube have lots of videos etc and the Bord Bia website has all the news for this year here
There is also a competition on the website via Facebook with a prize of a 500e voucher to spend at Woodies!

We have had an exciting week as the Queen visited us, which lifted us out of our sense of depression and recession!
HRH asked especially to visit the English market in Cork and the place was on Fete for the occasion,on leaving the market HRH took everyone by surprise and went on a walk about to meet school children who had been picked to line the Grand Parade, our Gemma among them!
Grandson Ben received his First Holy Communion this morning on a wet and windy day,he remarked the Queen got all the nice days and left us with the rain!
Barack Obama is visiting the country next week and I have to fit in some gardening in the midst of all this celebrity watching!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strawberries to take Home!

Strawberries are slowly beginning to ripen, we have not had much heat or sunshine this last few days mainly a relentless wind which is drying out the soil, maybe I should have left the cloches over them ?!
The slugs are diving in and had just started nibbling on a couple of them, I was amazed to see one of the nibbled berries full of ants!I had heard somebody saying they had ants in their house lately.I watered each plant which will probably get rid of the ants but makes the bed more inviting for the slugs...grrhh!
We have spent quite a lot of time on the plot, mainly tidying and making new beds. The Open Day looms in June!
Inside the greenhouse, while the borders are waiting for the tomato plants to move out I put in lettuce and spinach to make use of the space.Outside the glass the 2 artichokes at the end can be seen and along the side the lavender plants are forging ahead, even to brush against the plants releases the most beautiful smell of lavender even though there are no flowers out yet.
Spinach,asparagus and strawberries which accompanied me home!We also have regular pickings of our rhubarb from the plants on the allotment.We are delighted to bring anything home at this time of year.
I went to the Midleton Farmer's market on Sat morning, this was the first market here and continues to be popular and has a lovely selection of organic produce on offer.My 'hen man' operates there and I needed more feed for my hens.
D.Linda met me there with her d.Katie and we spent a pleasant morning.My oldest S.Kevin was also in the area as it turned out, with his son Aaron playing hurling.Aaron is 6 years old and has taken to the game of hurling like a star,he scored 2 of the goals which won the match for his team.
I think we will see him wearing the Cork jersey in Croke park some day!
The hens are laying an egg each every day now which adds up to 4 eggs a day which adds up to 28 eggs a week!Family are delighted to take the eggsess from me!My little egg safe was purchased in a garden centre which had a lot of hen related items on sale, which proves the enormous interest in having hens now, even 2 hens could be reared in any urban setting and provide enough eggs for a family plus highly charged chicken poo to add to the compost bin to produce super compost for the garden!
My salad pot in the plastic greenhouse at home is still producing enough leaves for a few salads and sandwiches, I had planned to sow another one but the lettuce will be ready to pick on the allotment soon and then hopefully with summer on the way outdoor sowings can go ahead.

Sinead received the Sacrement of Confirmation last week, or 'made her confer' to use the vernacular!
Most schools here now use these white 'albs' to wear for the actual Church ceremony as during the Celtic Tiger years some of the clothes worn were totally unsuitable for either the ceremony or the child to wear in Church.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Strawberries & Pets on the Farm

Gale force winds have battered us for the past few days and show no sign of abating as yet.I have been out to the plots but have forgotten the camera most days.
Photo op for the new pet cage which Zwena has put out in the field next to the plots. The lambs and ducklings are in there now and the hens have a big new area near the tea rooms to make it easier for everyone to see all of the animals,needless to say there are usually lots of volunteers to feed the lambs!
Bottle feeding over and they bury their heads in the bucket of feed regardless of who is looking at them!
In the next pen are the ducks and ducklings, I think the Silkie helped in hatching so has come out with her foster babies.
It has not been all fun and games however! I had planted out the Mange Tout on Thurs, nice strong plants about 5 to 6 ins high. I covered them with branches, netting and used an organic slug blocker but this is what met me on Sat!Some have literally disappeared completely and these little stumps are what is left of others.
Mange Tout woz here!
The strawberry bed was covered with fleece cloches since it got its cleaning a few weeks ago, I also gave the bed a dressing of potash at the time.
We had weeks of dry weather and I removed the cloches last week and watered each plant individually through the opening in the weed membrane, needless to say it started raining that day and has continued almost every day since!
I was amazed at the amount of fruit which had set on the plants and it looks like we are in for a bumper harvest.
I used the slug blocker around the bed,netting to keep the birds off and we can just keep our fingers crossed now that the predators leave enough for us.
The raised bed is too high for the usual cloche hoops, I used my trusty flexible plumbing pipes.I broke some bamboo canes and hammered them into the ground, the pipes then fitted down over them to make quite large hoops for the netting.

Close up of the fruit, I think there is a definite red tint to one berry!
Calabrese plants have been moved out to their bed complete with cabbage collars, I did not have the collars the day I put them out and got them the next day. I hope the cabbage root fly did not strike in the meantime!
Only leeks and sweet peppers left on bedroom windowsill now, 6 different varieties of tomatos all potted on and moved down to the plastic greenhouse which I am keeping my fingers crossed will stay standing in these gale force winds!
3 hens are laying daily now and are the source of endless amusement!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Circle of Life

Its been over a week since I blogged, but a lot has happened in that short space of time.
Sinead and Aoife lost their other Nanna on Easter Monday and the week was taken up with the various funeral services. Here in Ireland we bury the deceased within 3 days usually unless family have to get home from abroad to the funeral.The first evening is usually very quiet with the Rosary taking place ,sometimes this is confined to family and very close friends, the second evening is the removal from the funeral home to the Church.
The final service is on the third day with Mass being celebrated in the Church and then the deceased is taken to their final resting place.
Cremation is slowly becoming accepted here but they are still few and far between.
Sinead is due to make her Confirmation next Tues and will miss her Nanna Kathleen on the day.
Gardening and some potting on was done during the week while we had the good weather which came to an abrupt halt on Sat and the south of the country had a deluge of biblical proportions!
The ground needed some rain as it had got very dry and no amount of watering could wet it sufficiently, this morning everything is up looking healthy and strong.
Photos of the bluebell wood on the way up to the plots, I mean to take photos each year but this is the first year I have actualy stopped on the way down and taken out the camera.
Blue and white bells are carpeting the floor under the trees, ferns are uncurling from the fallen debris and brown leaves and the woods are coming to life once again.