Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bumble Bees

The local wildlife seem to think spring is here, the blackbirds are awaking us with their song and at dusk the forest is alive with birdsong, even the pheasants are now calling, we have even seen a couple of hares.
Bumble bees are feasting on the pollen of the crocus, and our female rabbit seems to think she is pregnant and has started building her nest, pulling up mouthfuls of grass to make a nice warm haven.
We still have to pick up five more fruit trees which we need to do soon as the buds of the trees are now swelling. So far we have planted over two hundred trees, bushes and shrubs, hopefully this will encourage plenty of wildlife to the garden.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Spring is here, last week we had a trip up to Donegal to buy another hen house . We made a detour on the way back to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, the place is full of daffodils and we found celandine's as well. Whilst photographing the cliffs, a German lady started chatting to us, apparently the daffs there had started blooming in November!

Mullaghmore used to be one of our favourite places when we lived in Sligo, not least because it had a fantastic restaurant, this now however is sadly no more, no doubt a sign of the downturn of the economy and the fact that people now have to pay for the bankers bonuses and don't have to money to go for slap-up meals, after all, the bankers can't be allowed to go without, can they? I, in my ignorance thought that bonuses were paid for a job well done, this apparently does not apply to the bankers.

All the lanes around us now have primroses blossoming and the trees are showing real signs of awaking from their winter slumber. The peach tree that we had planted in the tunnel is also coming into bloom.

Although I was brought up on the coast I've never had a yearning to live with sea views, however, whenever an opportunity arises to make a trip to the coast I can never resist. I love to see the force of the waves crashing onto the rocks.
The coast line in the West of Ireland is very similar to Galicia even to the types of plants to be found, helped by the Gulf stream, but instead of the rias that are found in Galicia we have salt marshes, wonderful habitats for birds. This year there seems to be a huge number of swans, every lough or turlough [winter lakes] seem to have vast flocks of them, also lots of coots and morehens and even teal.

We now have more chicks, hatched yesterday, this hatch was not as good as the last one, we had set six Buff Orpington eggs that we had bought on line, and four ? the four ? came from the farm that we had bought our buff hens from all have hatched, it remains to be seen what breed they are, however only two of the six buffs hatched, they are all doing well, and all is not lost , we have six more buff eggs in the incubator, obtained locally. With all these chicks we hope to have nice size flock to breed from.

At last the company who was doing our insulation has finished, all the painting has been done and all that remains is for the guttering company to replace all our old guttering with seamless guttering.

Simon has been very busy making large wooden planters and heavy duty trellises so we can have climbing roses and honeysuckle climbing up the front of the cottage, it was not possible to make soil beds close to the house as there is a concrete walk way all round the cottage, it certainly cuts done on mud ect being brought into the house, but I do like my plants, so the planters seemed the best way to go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hen housing

Over the last decade huge strides have been made in small scale poultry housing. Ten years ago it was a mater of making a house yourself or getting a handy man to do so for you. Now the range available on line is fantastic and at prices that you could not hopr to build one yourself. All this housing appears to be imported from China and many of the houses have built in runs with covered roofs which is great if you want to go out for the day and leave your hens in total security. All the houseing we have bought is contained within an electric perimeter fence, so unless we are out for a long time the hens have the full run to roam in.
The new chicks are all growing well and love their Organic chick crumb, Organic poultry feed is easy to get here so we no longer have to travel 140k to get supplies.
Growing time is now upon us and we have a propagator full of various veg seeds as well as the tunnel, so we hopefully will have all the veg we need for the forthcoming season.
A friend kindly gave us loads of cuttings of shrubs from her permaculture garden, she also has masses of bamboo growing. When we have time to go over to her again we will be armed with a spade and a hatchet. Another friend has given us lots of herbaceous plants, including five papaver's , my favourite flower, they are always so colourful and a lovely flower to both photograph and paint. With luck later this year our garden will look like a garden and not just a field.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The last week has seen an increase in our animals. We now have a beautiful Light Sussex cock to go with the two girls, and hopefully we now have two Buff Orpington hens to go with one of our four B.O cocks, certainly the cockerel we have put them with seems to think they are hens so here's hoping. This boy has already proved he is up to the job and our first chicks have now hatched, the eggs came from Light Sussex and Jersey Giants but it seems that only one of the chick will be black, six are yellow and the other one is a light red so we are not sure if there might be a colour link on the sex of these chicks, although they are hybrid chicks it would be handy to be able to sort cocks from hens at an early age as the cocks are destined for a Sunday roast one day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It's always fun for us when we have to go to a new area, by that I mean one who's roads we have not travelled before. Today was no exception, we had to drive out of our area to pick up a Light Sussex cockerel for our two L.S girls, this took us to pastures new.
A great thing about Ireland is the names of places, if a place has the prefix Abbey or Temple you will almost certainly come across an old Abbey or a Knights Templar site, it's also quite likely that you will also stumble upon a castle ruin on route. In fact in Co. Galway it would be hard not to see a castle ruin, it boasts ninety two castles, some just a couple of walls remain, but many are restored and some are lived in. Our discovery's today were a castle ruin dating back to the 13 century at Moylough, an example of a Hall House, confiscated by Cromwell, a small portion was restored in 1676 but now just two walls remain, it must have been quite a beautiful place at one time covering three floors and built to a hight of 45ft. This ruin we just stumbled on.
The second discovery was an old Abbey. On route to our destination I had noticed a sign to a place with Abbey as the prefix, so on our way back home we took a detour. The Abbey is a beautiful example perpendicular architecture, consecrated in 1180 this was a Cistercian monastery, it has the remains of medieval wall paintings decorating the presbytery. Unfortunately we could not find out when it fell into disuse, although a Abbot was accused of trying to burn it down in 1483. This building is being maintained and the presbytery has been re-roofed to protect the wall paintings.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Retirement compensations

A couple of days ago we received a phone call from our elderly neighbour, would we like to come to a party at the local school Sunday afternoon? We were delighted as it would be an opportunity to meet other neighbours, here in Ireland a neighbour can mean someone living some twenty miles away, so most of the people who were there were unknown to us.
It turns out that once a year a luncheon is arranged for the older people in the Parish, we had no idea what to expect, certainly not a full Sunday roast followed by trifle or apple pie, mince pies, wine, Baileys, beer tea or coffee. Every thing was beautifully cooked and presented. Also in attendance were three priests, the old retired priest from the parish, his replacement , who appears to be the life and soul of a party, and the priest from the local town.
After we had finished the meal we were then entertained by a Ceili band, lots of people joined in the dancing and singing, we were then joined by a young lad, just sixteen. He danced several traditional dances, he is also a fantastic accordion player , and has won many competitions for his dancing, possibly helped by his mother being a teacher of Irish dance.
We found out that every Tuesday there is a Ceili in a nearby village pub, something for us to check out soon.
We also found something of the history of our parish. The original school was built in 1875 when there were 252 children on the register, although not all attended regularly, now there are just eighteen children who are registered, just two above the crucial number. It is a lovely school, bright clean and modern but with a declining population, it's days would seem numbered.
We also found that at the back of the school there is a Pagan Burial site, which of course has been Christianised with an altar and a mass held there once a year. There is also a standing stone close by, two more things for us to visit.
All in all it was a very nice afternoon out and interesting.
Things are progressing on the gardening front, with leeks, tomatoes and peppers now in seed trays, the tomatoes and peppers are in the propagator. I have had to remove strawberries from the plants as to leave them on would only weaken the plants and there is little hope of them ripening until later in the year, we are also now prepared to plant early potatoes in the tunnel, this is going to be an experiment on our part, the potato bed has been dug out to a depth of nine inches, then a four inch layer of donkey manure was added then back filled with the soil that we had taken out, this is a variation of a hot bed, the theory being that the manure will heat up and give the potatoes a head start. Of course, when the potatoes are lifted we will have a beautiful rich bed to transplant tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers into. I am also working on a plan for a manure compost heap to be made in the tunnel on a spare bed around November time, if this heats up well it should give of heat for the next four months and keep the tunnel more or less frost free. It will be interesting to see how this all works out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

White and shiny

Today we awoke to a white landscape, the temperatures plummeted to -5c and the outside water froze, it is still frozen as I write at 14.30. The hens and donkeys were somewhat mystified to find the grass white.
The up side is that ice crystals are so pretty.
One of our plans is to disconect from the mains water, this is mainly because we want neither chloride or fluoride in our drinking water so we hope to just use collected rain water, we already use the rain water for our tea making, we found when we first moved here that the tap water made a lousy cup of tea. When we lived in Catalonia we had no water on the land and had to collect it from the local village some 6kms away, this made us very water conscious and made sure we never wasted water, 1000ltrs was a ten day supply for us. I'm sure we will have no problem in keeping the water cube topped up here in Ireland. If we should have a drought we do have a well in one of our fields, but this has yet to be investigated.
There is nothing like having no water to focus your mind on plans that had been put on the long finger, and as our new guttering is due to be done in the next couple of weeks, now is the time to plan where to place the collection cube and how to re- route the water pipes.