Monday, March 31, 2014

Natural crafts.

One thing that grows very well in Ireland is Willow, there are around four hundred different types, some more useful than others. Osiers, Salix viminalis is the one normally used for basket making as it grows very long straight stems.
End of the first day.
This weekend we attended another basket making course, we had done one last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, I have done a couple of others throughout the years. This one was slightly different as it was the traditional Irish way of basket making.
Day two, working with fresh Willow.
Instead of working from the bottom up, this way you work from the top up, finishing on the bottom which is in fact at the top of your work. If this sound a bit Irish to you it is! But it works, I'm not sure if it is easier, weaving in the bottom is very hard on the fingers. This way of working allows larger baskets to be made and would have originated from making Coracles, small boats used in Ireland and Wales, the ribs of the boats would have been pushed into the ground, the basket worked from the rim to the base, the structure was then covered with a skin. There were six of us on the course, none ambitious enough to want to make a Coracle, just baskets that would be useful. Day one was making smallish baskets out of dried willow, day two, making larger baskets from fresh willow,
Final results, minus two.
I opted to make a conical plant support for the sweet peas, we have enough baskets now. It was great fun with a nice group of people. Our tutor was the head gardener from the Knockvicar  Organic gardens, he was a very patient man, and very thorough with his instructions. We all came away with two pieces of work finished and cuttings of different coloured willows for planting.
The pig house with end door.
The pig house is now done and in position, the fencing has to be finished and then we will apply for our pig keeping licence.
First entrance.
Looking through the 'for sale pig' advertisements we realise it might not be too easy to get the type of pigs that we want, we want pigs that will forage and thrive well on vegetables and straight grains, not pigs that will require pellets to put on weight. Conventional pellets are full of GMO's in the form of 'Soya' not a natural diet for pigs, and something we will not use. The organic pellets are quite expensive but we will use them towards the end if we feel the pigs are not gaining the right weight, but only if we have to.
Meanwhile we have a egg glut, just far too many to keep up with, we keep coming up with ways to use all these eggs,
Managed to use nineteen eggs on this lot.
but the most we managed to use in a baking day was nineteen eggs and we can't do that every day. We have made pounds of lemon curd and keep on making it, we even have lemon curd frozen, we won't run out for the next year. Cakes, bread and ice-cream all take plenty of eggs, but there is only so much you can eat or store. It will soon be time to set eggs in the incubator, that will take care of a couple of dozen. Daffy duck, our favourite Muskovy has now taken to removing herself from the duck run and coming into our garden, a sign that she is wanting to lay a clutch of eggs for her to brood.
There is now lots of colour in the garden, spring is here.
Daffodils, snowdrops and crocus are all giving a lovely display, wallflowers add perfume although they have rather taken over the beds, primroses and polyanthus all give added colour.
Double blossomed Hellebore.
The Hellebores are giving a lovely splash of colour, they do very well here,
I will have to increase the numbers and varieties of these lovey long blooming flowers, there are so many beautiful ones to chose from.
The ground is now dry enough to work , hopefully the main crop potatoes will be planted by next weekend. The garden has continued to produce for us throughout the winter, carrots, parsnips, leeks,  curly kale and artichokes. Onions and potatoes stored from last year, and now the purple sprouting broccoli has formed it's spears. Rhubarb  continues to give forth it's lovely stems, the strawberries are blooming. We don't go hungry, neither do we need to buy veg.
Time to take it easy, it's hard work watching dad work.
The cats love to supervise what ever is being done in the garden, they then flop in a warm sunny spot to recover from their hard work.
I'm so handsome.


  1. Love the basket weaving! We saw some nice 'trad' stuff in the Museum of Country Life including a video of the coracle being made and some part/complete examples. I fell in love with some straw-woven chicken nest boxes, I wonder could you make same out of basket willow? Maybe it would be a bit drafty and not dark enough for the chooks to use it. (Mind you, doesn't sound like your girls need any encouragement at the moment!).

    1. The last course we went on had chicken nest boxes, they look lovely but from a cleaning point of view I would think they are very hard to clean, they would probably rot quite quickly as well.

  2. Love the baskets, have done obelisks but not baskets and would love to try

    I didn't know you could freeze lemon curd is your recipe somewhere on the blog, i generally use Delias as it uses whole eggs but always keen to find another

  3. We use the BBC recipe, that also uses whole eggs, lemon curd is very forgiving and we use a couple more eggs than called for, have to use them somehow!
    You can freeze lemon curd in freezer proof plastic containers, it will keep for a year, to use from frozen remove from freezer and defrost for 24 hours in the fridge, keep in the fridge and use within ten days of de-frosting. I'm sure you already know but always use Organic lemons or un-waxed lemons as the zest of conventional is full of nasties.

  4. There´s always tortilla espaƱola. A very handsome looking crew and a lovely pig shelter too! I´d love to take a basket-weaving class. I have my heart set on wattle fences.

  5. Yes we are happy with the pig shelter, warmer and more comfortable than tin. We found a lot of people in Galicia still make baskets, some from willow and some from split chestnut, chestnut might work well for wattle fences, longer lasting than hazel.

  6. Oh you are so lucky to have willow basket making classes so close. I planted willow and Its doing okay, it would do better if I had a tree cut, which I may do this year. Is it easier to make a basket from the top down? It sounds as though it might be. The daffs look lovely, ground still frozen with spots of snow left. We have had spring weather and the water is drying in the barn. I want to know more about the baskets, they look so great. Hope the kitties get the cat toys soon. My best to you.

    1. Hi Carole, the cat toys arrived today, the cats have already drooled over them! Thank you very much,
      I think that working from the bottom up on the baskets is easier, I found it very hard doing the bottom, it's hard to pull the willow through a small gap, working with seasoned willow is much easier than working with green, (freshly cut) especially if the sap is already rising. In Spain they also use sweet chestnut which is split just as the sap starts to rise in the springtime, so you are weaving with ribbons of green wood about 1 inch wide.

  7. The baskets look great. I always found basket weaving hard on the hands. Your pig shelter looks good too. As for the cake....Yum yum!!

    1. We enjoyed the course, Alvin was very painstaking with everyone. I don't find it too hard except doing the bottom of the basket the Irish way, I think working from the bottom up is easier. We are pleased the way the pig house turned out, they should be warm and comfortable in it. Will make coffee cake for you the next time you come over.

  8. The baskets look brilliant, great action shot of Simon! I remember seeing lots of baskets at a market we went to in Galicia. Spring photos are lovely. I miss seeing those flowers in bloom! Although we saw lots of lovely wisteria in Seville at the weekend. The cake looks fab too! x