Sunday, January 29, 2012

Basket Making

This weekend we attended a basket making course run by basket maker Tom Brown at his workshop. In all there were seven of us ranging in age from the bright young ones to the golden oldies, it was so nice to do something creative with a great tutor and good like minded company.
Although we were all working with the same materials it is great to see how individual each basket turned out. It was a good weekend to be working indoors as it rained continuously and we would not have been able to do any work on the garden.
It was so nice to be able to chat and listen to people with their ideas and swapping gardening tips, and making contacts for cuttings of plants and willows. We will probably attend any further courses that Tom runs as we both had such a good time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


So maybe I was a little complacent about the weather. Yesterday we awoke to snow, admittedly it was not much and was clear by midday but given how mild it has been so far it was unexpected .
We are in the process of having the cottage externally insulated , in the new part we had cavity wall insulation done but the original part is stone so no cavities to fill. The job seems to be taking for ever having been started three weeks before Christmas, the company then shut down for three weeks for the holidays, we find it quite stressful having builders around all the time, especially when they speak no English, our team are from Poland. Although the job is not yet completed we are already finding a difference, our aim is to be as energy efficient as is possible.
The broad beans in the tunnel are looking good and the peas which I pre-germinated are already up in the tunnel. Lots of seeds are now in the electric propagator that we treated ourselves to.
We have set some eggs in the incubator hoping that we might have some table birds later in the year, we are also hoping that the rabbit is pregnant, she's due the 9th Feb. We were a bit worried that our buck was in fact a doe as we had lent him to friends for their doe but she has failed to produce, but a quick check today has reassured us that he is a he, so we will wait and see what happens.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Planting time

Yet another spring like day, dry warm and sunny, yet I'm told by friends in Galicia that there, it's cold with heavy frost and fog and they have not started planting yet. People always seem surprised when we say that we were living in Spain for nearly eight years that we would move back to Ireland, people have this idea that Spain is always hot and sunny, well maybe in the south and the Canary Islands, but many parts of Spain get very cold weather and snow. It is nice to be able to go into the garden or the tunnel and not to find that crops have been destroyed by moles, voles or mice. We never did find out the main culprits but it is so disconcerting to find that your beautiful looking carrots or parsnips are just foliage and the roots have all been eaten , what ever the pest was it had strong teeth, it devoured roots of two of our Kiwis and also the roots of an eighteen foot Mimosa, this tree was well established but just as it was coming into bloom we noticed the leaves and flower buds were shrivelling and dying, further investigation showed that the roots had been eaten. Here, if my memory serves me correctly the worst we have to cope with are leather jackets, the crane fly loves newly turned soil to lay her eggs in, in turn these hatch into the plant eating grubs, I would always plant extra seeds to allow for this, treating the eaten ones as a sacrifice crop. If I spot a plant wilting, a quick dig around it will normally expose a pair of these pests. Hens are not that keen on them but the ducks seem to like them. Today I managed to clear one bed in the tunnel of weeds for an early planting of mange-tout peas. The second igloo has now been made and the ducks have given it their seal of approval. Unfortunately our Jersey Giants and our Buff Orpington's have all turned out to be cockerels, so in desperation we have now got two Light Sussex and two, definitely, female Jersey Giants, we have put one of the Buffs in with them after-all keeping them pure bred at the moment does not matter, we just want to raise some birds for the table.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What is it?

I like unusual plants, if I spot one in a garden centre or market I buy it, it can be quite frustrating when it comes without a label, or the seller doesn't know what it is. In the photo is a plant bought in the farmers market in Lugo several years ago, the seller didn't know it's name, neither did a friend who was a landscape gardener. It has never failed to bloom for us, this year it has six blooms, although it appears to be bursting out of it's pot, this is what it seems to like, the plant itself grows from surface rhizomes and has suffered no ill effects from being split by our afore mentioned friend when he moved us here from Spain. I wonder if his part of the plant has bloomed, I must ask. In the meantime, if anyone out there know what it is please let me know.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Creative Willow

I have wanted to work with living willow for some time now. I have done a couple of basket making courses in the past which I enjoyed but I felt that creating something from living willow that was useful as well as decorative would be fun. So we have been out and about on the sally hunt, we have found three different colours so hopefully we should have a colourful creation as well as a useful one. My first attempt was to make a willow igloo for the hens, this should give them some interest as well as providing shelter for them. Although willows are deciduous, the frame work should still provide wind cover for them in the winter months. It's a fairly quick job to create an igloo, the time is taken up in finding suitable canes. The local councils do a very good job now days of keeping hedgerows trimmed back, making it far harder to find long canes. We will go for a further forage this week as I wish do also make domes for the ducks, the sap is now rising in the willows as it has been such a mild winter, Xmas day was 14c. The daffodils that we have planted are well in leaf now and quite a few are already showing flower buds, lets hope we don't get any sudden hard frosts.
This mild weather prompted me to get our seed potatoes ordered, I found an online catalogue with both Jersey Royal and pink Fir apple seed, these will be planted in the tunnel, for the main crop I have again ordered Sarpo, these are a totally blight resistant variety, good as a new potato and keep very well, in fact we never got round to lifting the ones we planted last year and they are still fine despite all the rain we have had.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Old year wimper, New year roar.

The last few months have been mild although quite damp, possibly this is my euphemism for wet, yes it has rained, a lot . New years eve was a brightly star lit night, this however did not stop the rain, coming back from the pub the rain was so heavy it was impossible to see the road. Yesterday and today we are having hurricane force winds, 140k an hour. Not much damage has been reported, a few trees down but that seems to be all.
This weather gives us plenty of time to plan outside work but not much work is getting done. We have managed to complete all the spring bulb planting, and we have managed to plant half a new hedgerow, about 25m so far, this is a mixture of beech, spindle, red dog wood and viburnum, we are hopeful that this will provide some shelter for the veg garden and also attract more wild life to the garden.These plantings are protected by wind break fencing so at least they should have half a chance.
The cats are unimpressed with the weather and have taking up their bird watching activities from the kitchen table or our bed, that of course is when they are not sleeping. The few that do venture out do so with their ears flat against their heads.
It is nice to remember that we have now had the longest night and spring will soon be here, in fact today I bought some tulips, just to remind myself that spring is coming.