Friday, June 27, 2014

Cheap Food.

I have long maintained that the food we buy is far too cheap and does not reflect the true cost of production,   the environmental damage caused by intensive farming,
All that waste!
plastic packaging and air miles.
And yet more waste.
Many workers that work on these farms are little more than slaves, work in appalling conditions, many live in shanty towns. This applies to some European intensive farms as well as third world counties. If the true cost was applied food would be far more expensive than it is, supermarkets would not be able dump perfectly good food, neither would the householder be so keen to dump food. The amount of waste from households is astounding, as is the amount that we collect from our shops.
Our pigs are certainly enjoying their very varied diet,
Strawberries from Wexford, OK, no air miles there but these strawberries were perfect, no mould and still had a day to go on the best before date.
 Mixed leaf salads from Spain, clearly we cant grow salad crops in Ireland, Mange tout peas, French beans from Kenya, both of which grow extremely well here, Raspberries, Bananas Blueberries, Passion fruit from Colombia, ready prepared fruit salads, bags of apples, amongst other things, far too numerous to name, all imported, and just about everything in plastic containers.
Perfectly good food, still in date.
 There was also perfect Garlic and Ginger, not suitable for pigs, we will pass the garlic onto friends, the ginger I have processed and we now have a lovely jar of ginger in syrup.
The fact that these shops can afford to dump perfectly good food and still keep their shareholders happy rather shows just how cheap these things are bought for, after all, supermarkets are there to make money. I just wonder how much the producers receive, barely a living wage, maybe enough to feed their family's, and for us to waste it is in my opinion a crime, but many people do not care where the food has come from or  how it is produced as long as it's cheap, yet I often hear comments of how expensive food is now, clearly not enough thought is given to where all these goodies have come from and just who has produced them, and under what conditions.
Years ago I was given a tour of an intensive vegetable farm in Morocco, this was a flagship farm, where conditions were considered good, I guess this term was used relatively in comparison to other farms.
Garlic success.
We have now harvested our Garlic, they are all big bulbs, forty eight in total, as long as we dry them properly we have enough for the next year.
A good harvest.
The tunnel grown onions have also been harvested, again they have to be dried properly before we string them, a good crop, with more to come from the outside grown ones which are looking very good this year.
The Strawberries just keep on coming, I have made as much jam as we need and am now bottling them. They keep their flavour very well this way, lovely with yoghurt during the winter months. Blackcurrants and raspberries are almost ready, as are the gooseberries, we wont have a shortage of soft fruit this year.
Life is not all work for us, although sometimes it does feel that way, we have had several trips out to interesting places,
Entrance to the ringfort.
one to a Ringfort which is very impressive,
The walls form a perfect circle.
with twelve foot walls

Another souterrian.
and several souterrians, we had tried to find this a couple of weeks ago when we had a friend staying with us,
Steps up to the defensive platform.
another few steps and we would have been there, still we have found it now.
Another trip was to the ruins of a castle that we had seen signposted a few days before hand, again, very impressive, but we have been unable to find out much information about it, other than it was a
It would have been a very impressive fortification.
Medieval fortress castle owned by the O'Garas who had the Lordship of Coolavin, in Co Sligo.
Remains of the entrance arch.
We both love exploring old ruins, imagining what  the people and their lives were like, most of the ancient ruins have a peace about them
Firing embrasure.
yet they would have been used against conflict, but some that we have visited still have a feeling of disharmony.
The rockery is a blaze of colour in just one year.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Solstice.

Sweet Rocket.
Where has the year gone, already we are at the halfway mark, the longest day is past. The garden is looking very colourful and the air is filled with the perfume of roses.
Somehow we have managed to collect  at least twenty six different varieties of roses, many of these I have done from cuttings.
Albertine Rose
We often spot old roses growing around  deserted farms and cottages, we normally have a pair of secateurs in the car so if we see a nice rose we can take a couple of cuttings from it, now is the ideal time to take half ripe cuttings from roses, dianthus, and clematis. I'm sure there are plenty of other plants as well that do at this time of year, but these are the ones that we go for.
The soft fruit is doing well, we have already picked some blackcurrants and gooseberries, lightly cooked together to be served over
Crema  Catalana, this is more or less the same a Crème Brulee, which is a posh way of saying egg custard. What ever you call it is  delicious, especially served with summer fruits. It is so nice having your own fruit and veg,
Fresh from the garden.
it cant come any fresher than tonight's meal and only the milk was not home produced coming from a farm just twenty miles away. Not a plastic container in sight, even the milk comes in glass bottles which are returned to be reused.
Pippa and Poppy.
The donkeys are enjoying the fresh grass growth and the sunshine, they had their six monthly pedicure last week, although they always feel better afterwards this is not something that they enjoy having done although Paddy the German farrier is great with them.
Over a decade ago Ireland became the first European country to introduce the plastic bag tax, this was supposed to cut down on the use of plastic. It has failed, OK, so you have to pay for plastic bags, and most people now have shopping bags, but this is a futile exercise given that almost all fruit and veg from a super market comes in plastic containers.
 We have two shops, one a fruit and veg shop and one supermarket that give us their green waste for the pigs, and we are very grateful for it but the plastic that comes with it is astounding. We always separate our waste, we have very little, one black plastic bin liner takes us six weeks to fill, since collecting green waste for the pigs we have a sack full every week. 
It is twenty one years since we last had pigs, once a week we collected green waste from an importer, there was no plastic in sight.
 Given the amount of fruit and veg that we get each week from our two shops clearly the use of containers or plastic wrapped fruit and veg is not to save on wasting food, so I wonder what purpose it does serve.
We are now holding our breath that the weather forecast might be correct, we need rain! Again!!
 Unfortunately we have to replant some of the veg crops, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, turnips and swede, our young male rabbits managed to escape and had a feast, but there is little point in replanting until we can be sure of some rain, promised for Wednesday, I wonder if it will come. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Early harvesting.

Although it is still only the middle of June we already have crops for winter storage.
Another 3lb of Strawberries.
We have had a bumper crop of strawberries and they are  continuing to produce,
                                      I have made the first lot of strawberry jam.
8lb of rhubarb, ready for chopping up and freezing.
The rhubarb has been superb this year and I have frozen twelve bags ready for winter desserts, there will probably be more to come. The first early potatoes are just beginning to bloom so we should start harvesting them next week, for some reason the main crop is well in bloom, this could possible be because it was our own seed potatoes, saved from last years crop so acclimatised to our area. We also have an excellent crop of onions and garlic.
Success in growing Garlic at last.
Garlic is one of those things that we have struggled with in the past, even in Spain we failed to grow a good crop. this year I took advice from Michael the organic veg man in the farmers market, success! They look great.
We had already had a good crop of cauliflower although they all came at once, a lot of them got frozen for use later on in the year. Broad beans and spinach are cropping well.  The Blackcurrant and Redcurrant bushes are laden, the blackcurrants already showing colour. Another success are the Gooseberries, again this is a crop that we had had little success with in the past, but here our bushes are full of fruit. Clearly this is a very good growing area.
The pigs are growing well, they love having visitors and know how to play to an audience, they are still clearing the bramble patch for us. They love their food,  mornings they have their cooked breakfast consisting mainly of root veg , potatoes, carrots, beetroot, sometimes there is celery which adds flavour for them, and on occasions asparagus! a handful of rolled barley and a couple of handfuls of pig nuts and they are set for the day. Tea time is probably their favourite meal, normally consisting of lots of fruit plus their nuts and barley. Apples are their favourite closely followed by peaches, grapes and bananas.
Todays donation, plus two sacks of potatoes.
 All this fruit and veg is donated to us by our local fruit and veg shop and a couple of supermarkets, we collect this daily, it is amazing to us just how much fruit and veg is destined for dumping, but our pigs are very grateful. So far they have proved to be very economical to feed.
The Geums give a lovely splash of colour along with the Lupins.
The flower garden is blooming,
the roses are now all out, and once again the air is perfumed.
Plants that I had forgotten I had planted spring up daily, always a nice surprise.
Sweet Rocket, beautiful perfume.
Last week we lost our beautiful cat Sparky. he was run down and killed in our lane by the inconsiderate farmer who owns land at the end of our lane. He uses this lane as a race track, he had already smashed into us last year, writing off our car, he didn't even have the decency to come and tell us that he had run our lovely boy down. Sparky was just a year old and so much fun, the other cats are lost without him, we are heartbroken.
Viburnum, the snowball bush.