Saturday, May 31, 2014

Slugging it out.

For the last two weeks or so we have waged war. Slugs,  now I'm sure that in the greater scheme of things these slimy pests have a purpose, what it might be I have yet to discover, all I know is that the other half disappears every night come midnight to reappear some half an hour later with a satisfied look on his face. He's been waging war on these veg eating menaces nighty, most nights killing well in excess of one hundred of the beasts. They totally eradicated our first sowing of carrots, devoured just about all of the French beans, likewise the peas and Spinach. It gets rather tedious having to re- sow everything again, especially as the weather is so dry. What ever happened to the guaranteed rain that Ireland is so famous for? We  use salt barriers, but normally after the beasts have had their fill of our precious seedlings, beer traps would help, but I begrudge paying two euros for a can of beer when we don't drink it ourselves, plus we never have any suitable containers to put the beer into, we don't have plastic bottles. We have started to use some 'Organic' slug pellets, these pellets are not harmful to other animals and are approved for use in an Organic system, they have helped. But nothing works as well as a hands on killing of these beggars. We will win, but I do hate slugs.
The gardeners friend, the common frog.
What we need is more frogs, like this beauty found today under a bag of compost, sheltering from the sun, yes, yet another really warm day.
With all this lovely weather we have been having the flower garden is now in full swing, every day something else bursts into bloom.
Delphiniums tower above the Rosa Rugosa
The Delphiniums are looking wonderful, and it is very surprising that the slugs left them alone, normally it's one of the first things they head for.
The Poppies are a blaze of colour , they are the show offs of the flower world,
                                Clematis covers a dull fence,
and the Water Irises are blooming, the Roses are emerging with their wonderful perfume,  it  is very colourful.
The last of last years onions.
We have come to the last of our stored onions, this seasons will be ready in a couple of weeks, we do have some shallots ready so these can be used in place of onions.
Two weeks ago, quite by chance I discovered that we can get real milk, via the Farmers Market. By real milk I mean milk that has not had a percentage of cream removed and then subjected to all manner of high temperature treatments to make is 'safe'.
This milk comes from Jersey cows and we get it the same day that it was taken from the cow, so it is also 'fresh', the amount of cream is amazing, almost 50% as you can see from the photo, I have marked the cream level. Taste wise there is no comparison, I have started drinking milk again, something I gave up when we gave up keeping goats. For anyone who has never tasted real milk  you don't know what you're missing, a real treat.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

New season .

For the last year we have had something to eat from the garden every day, this is excluding potatoes, onions which we still have, stored from last year, and carrots which are still in the ground, but it's always nice when the new season starts. We have had the first perpetual spinach, true spinach will be ready for picking in a couple of days, today's offering was
Today's offering from the garden.
the first cauliflower and the first real picking of strawberries, we had had the first ones last week but there was only a small handful of them, today there was a bowl full. I thought they were late this year, but looking back I find that we are three days earlier than last year, although three weeks later than the year before that. Maybe the plants and crop of 2012 was still thinking it was in Spain, which is where we brought the plants from. I have no doubt that in a week or so we will be sick of cauliflower, they always seem to come at once, they do however freeze quite well.
Growing well.
The piglets are growing very well, they are making a wonderful job of plowing the ground up, although sisters they are totally different characters, the slightly smaller one being quite shy, she still does not allow herself to be scratched , whereas her sister goes into ecstasy.
Unfortunately it seems that we are not meant to have geese, we lost all three of the goslings, the first two due to cats, although they did not appear to be injured they died  after the cats had got into to the incubator and batted them around. The third one, the first to hatch although not in contact with the cats  just gave up without it's siblings.
The Hubbard chicks are all growing well, we hope to get them in their outside housing and run later in the week when it's not so cold at night, they are still only eighteen days old, we will still give them heat in the outside house though.
Our first broody hen failed to hatch any eggs, on examination we found that the embryos had either died early on or the eggs were infertile. As we had just hatched out three chicks in a small incubator we decided to give Betty Bo Two the chicks to foster. She  proved to be a great mum from the moment the chicks were slipped under her. This hen has been so named after another Buff  Orpington  hen that we had in Spain, she was our favorite hen and when we moved we gave her to friends where she went on to produce many chicks. A hen like that should have a name.
An alpine Aquilegia.
The early summer flowers are now looking good,
                              we have several types of Aquilegia,
one of my favorite cottage garden plants, now in full bloom,
                                     also  Dicentra,
with it's lovely lovely delicate foliage, and heart shaped flowers of pink and white.
The rockery, one year on.

During a trip out we discovered this lovely
Early Purple Orchid, except this one's white.
White Early Purple Orchid, neither of us had seen this before although we have been involved in plant identification for many years, Simon and his sisters when growing up collected wild flowers for the illustrator Barbara Nicholson for Oxford University press, they even received acknowledgement in the books for their contributions.   I, as a child, used to win first prize each year at the local agricultural show for the most different species of wild flowers which all had to be named. Plant hunting is a lovely hobby, although now they can only be photographed, it is always a thrill when you spot something rare. When we lived on Anglesea we never went out walking without finding something rare, including Bee Orchids, Burnett Rose, Marsh Helleborine, and Wintergreen.  Many happy hours have been spent getting the correct identification.
I love to have fresh flowers in the house, more often than not they will be from the garden but I also buy flowers. One of my favorites are Freesias, I always grow these in the sun-room, but I also like to have a vase of them when in season.
Fly killing flowers. Not good me thinks!
Last weekend I bought a bunch from a local store, beautiful yellow with a strong perfume, however this bunch of flowers have been a cause for concern, flies have been attracted to them, have descended on them and within a few minutes have dropped dead. The first couple of days we thought nothing of it, but a week later the flowers still seem fresh, the flies are still coming to them and are still dropping dead. Clearly these flowers have been sprayed with something very toxic, I think they probably are a real cause for concern especially if use for a dining table display where they might come into contact with food. It's doubtful if I will be buying shop freesias again.
The runner beans are now at the planting out stage, we had made one support a few weeks back but we had very good germination, too many plants for the one support so
Bean support, mark two.
Simon has made a second one. I think it looks very good and hopefully will stand up to the strong winds that we get and last for a few years. I am so looking forward to the first runner beans of the season.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

It was never in our plans to keep geese again, not because we don't like them, we do, geese along with Turkeys make wonderful pets, but when we were offered some geese eggs we said yes, if any hatch that's Christmas dinner sorted. Out of the nine eggs we were given two have hatched and one is on it way.
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
Within a very short time the two hatchlings had a name, you just cant eat anything with a name, it remains to be seen if the third one makes it OK and the two first hatch survive OK, but it looks as though we will have geese again.
Hubbard chicks, now eight days old.
We have no problem in raising poultry for the table, but something that imprints on you and responds to your voice is never going to make it to the table. We had already made a new brooder, just in case we had goslings hatch,
An instant brooder, more or less.
this one was made from two hula hoops, some bamboo canes and wire netting, total cost, less than five euros and took half an hour to construct.
As Simon was feeding and letting out the hens and ducks over the weekend he disturbed a mink, it was in the duck run and ran under one of the houses, luckily the birds were still locked up, Simon had a stout stick on hand and managed to dispatch the mink.
A good mink.
Mink are vermin, they have no place even in the wild in Ireland and if it were not for the fur farms that went bust they would not be here at all. We don't like killing wildlife, but mink are a menace and are not indigenous. The only stock we have lost here is to mink, although we have plenty of foxes around the electric fences seem so far to have kept them at bay, but this run is the one place that does not have electric fencing and the stock that we have lost also did not have this protection, maybe we need to invest in more electric fencing but it's not cheap.
Avens in a hedgerow.
The woodland and banks are now full of early summer flowers, the Primroses are still blooming along with Violets, lots of Bluebells and
One for the garden.
                                   Avens, this is a very pretty little plant so often overlooked.
Early Purple Orchid.

                            Early Purple Orchids bloom alongside the Violets,
Wild Arum, Cuckoo pint, Lords and Ladys, etc..
                         and the wild Arum ( Arum maculatum) is now giving a good display.
 Garlic mustard, white flowers, and Hedge mustard, yellow flowers, adorn the hedgerows. The only thing missing are Wood Anemones and Garlic Ransoms they don't seem to grow in our nearby woods.
A local wood, just down the road from us.
                                               It is a colourful time of year.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Seal of approval.

We had a visit from a friend today bringing with her a female rabbit for mating with Peter Rabbit our buck, he did his duty, so in thirty days or so he will be a father, again. We should have kept count as to how many young he has now sired. He always gives a good result, he is a lovely rabbit and very friendly towards humans.
We haven't seen much of this friend over the last couple of months as she has been busy lambing, having been widowed at a young age four years ago she carries on, but life is not easy for her and she is now feeling the strain. She and her husband originally were Organic pig farmers although they also had sheep, when Ted died the pigs had to go, she thought the sheep would be easier for her to manage. Her opinion on the sheep is much the same as ours, more bother than they are worth and always thinking of new ways to commit suicide.
Keeping an eye open, just in case there's more food.
 She would love to have pigs again, like ourselves she will not buy commercial pork, so we were very pleased when she asked if we would do a extra pig next year for her to buy. She was impressed with our set up and feeding regime, but has suggested that we need a third run to make sure there is no build up of parasites,  we will take her advice on this, but  it's nice to be given a seal of approval from an expert.
Supper time again.
                                       The piglets are growing well
Perimeter after twelve hours work.
and making a wonderful job of ploughing the paddock,
Perimeter, seven days on.
it is amazing how much they have cleared in just over a week. They like people, over the last few days we have had several visitors and the pigs have greeted them all, maybe they see a human and think food, but maybe it is just that they like humans. However, they still do not like Tess, she is a little put out about this as everything loves her, even Daffy duck.
Bramley apple in full bloom.
We are very hopeful for a reasonable fruit crop this year, the blackcurrants , redcurrants and gooseberries are a mass of bloom  and being fertilised by wasps! as well as bumble bees.
The fruit trees are also full of blossom, we are hopeful for the  plums, apples, cherries , damsons and even the quince, all are full of blossom.
We have had our first picking of Spinach beet, and the Purple Sprouting broccoli  is still going strong.
Six months storage and still fresh and juicy.
We had stored beetroot last year and had forgotten about it, today we re-discovered it, cut it open and it was fine, this we fed to the piglets who really enjoyed it, they also love celery, swede and potatoes, it's a good job we planted so much last year, so far the piglets have cost us little to feed.
Bluebell time again.
At last we have had some rain, this has brought out all the Bluebells in the local woods, such a lovely sight and perfume.