Monday, May 18, 2015

A walk in the woods.

Last week we managed to play hooky again, away from the daily work load of maintaining our life style.
This time it was a trip to the Bluebell Woods in Knockvicar. The correct name for this woodland is Derreen Woods but is always referred to as the Bluebell Woods, reputed to be the most photographed woods in the area.
Although it was midweek there were over a dozen cars parked up, all with local registrations.
A convenient natural seat.
 It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and dry which is somewhat a miracle, this month we seemed to have rain just about every day so far.
The woodlands covers a large area which leads down to a lake. It was a carpet of blue, and the perfume was fantastic.
Ferns are beginning to unfurl.
Ferns were just coming into leaf and the forest floor is covered with Beech seedlings, enough to start a dozen new woodlands. There were also primroses which seem to be having an extended season, violets
Wild Arum.
and wild Arum was just making an appearance.
Garlic Ramsons.
It is also a good place to see wild garlic and earlier in the spring, wood anemones.
We had hoped that we might see Red Squirrels as we have in the past, this area has a good population of them, but we failed on this occasion. The only sound was that of bird song and the fresh green leafs rustling in a light breeze. It was a lovely afternoons trip, people clearly respect this woodland, they keep to the forest pathways, they do not pick the flowers and leave no litter behind them. Everyone we met was armed with a camera.
One of our lemons, so juicy and sweet. 
Despite the unseasonable weather the garden and tunnel are producing well,
Todays pickings.
dinner seems to be based around what ever is ready for picking. We are now harvesting a pound of Strawberries every other day, the rhubarb is growing like a weed and the spinach keeps on coming, along with masses of lettuce and watercress.
Polemonium, bees love this plant
The first Papaver.
The early summer flowers are just starting to bloom, soon the garden will be full of colour again, even the roses are trying to bloom.
A double flowered Campion.
Euphorbia, Fireglow.
Hardy Geranium, Mourning Widow.
An Alpine Aquilegia.
Japanese Quince. 
Calendula, this has been blooming outside all winter.
The Hubbard  chicks are now nearly four weeks old and are now outside in a safe run.
They have grown well and now weigh 1.5 lb average. When they are six weeks they will have a large ranging area and will no longer require heat at night, at the moment they still need a little heat, this is provided by a  60watt bulb in their house. Hubbard birds are a slow growing table bird, they will reach the desired weight at around eighty four days, unlike the quick grown birds which fill the supermarkets, these birds are slaughtered at less than forty days old, fed exclusively on high protein ration and never see the light of day, never mind having a chance to graze on grass. No wonder they taste of nothing, but they are cheap and that is what the supermarkets demand, the profit does not go to the farmer, they are lucky to see a return of 8cents a bird, this seems totally wrong to me when they take all the risks and if something does go wrong and they lose a flock they receive not a cent in compensation.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Unexpected bloom.

At Christmas we had a lovely Amaryllis in bloom despite having been rather neglected, we had 'rescued' it the previous year from Lidl, rather dried up but still trying to make leaves. We gave it some TLC and it blossomed for us. We then forgot about it, until we spotted some green, it was still on a window ledge, we re-potted it, watered it and again it bloomed, just in time for Christmas. This time however I did get round to taking it from it's spot in the sitting room, meaning to dry the bulb off in the greenhouse. I never got round to it, it sat in the sunroom, last week I spotted a flash of red from under the Passion flower leaves, it was the Amaryllis.
Five months later and it's in bloom again.
It seems that this is one plant that thrives on total neglect.
So far May is proving to be a tad wet, in fact it's very wet, in just the first nine days we have had half of last years rainfall for May. In one of todays deluges Simon rescued a moth, he came in warning me not to go into the front porch which is where he had placed it, I peaked through the front door to see this creature,
it turned out to be an Emperor moth, even I had to admit it was beautiful, but big!
Even I had to admire it's beauty.
It's wings were three and a half inches across. Anything bigger than a cloths moth has me running for cover. Moths  along with snakes the one thing I don't 'do'.
Plenty of salad and our first watercress.
   Everything is growing at a pace in the garden including the weeds.

Super colour.
Lovely contrast .
The Tulips are still putting on a good display,
Ornamental flowering cherry.
apple trees and cherries are in bloom, maybe we might get a few cherries this year if the birds don't get them first.
First of our Clematis in flower. 
Rainy days means I get round to cooking more,
Simple but time consuming.
we had a hankering for Eccles cakes which although easy to make take time, lots of resting of the flaky pastry which has to be rolled three times, but they were certainly worth the effort.
Thank you useful hubby, just what I wanted.
The trellis has almost been finished, just one more section for Simon to do, he ran out of wood so we have to wait until tomorrow to get more to complete the job, but sufficient of the trellis was done to install it and plant the climbers which were desperate to be released from their pots.
Freddy, one of the kittens dreaming a wet day away.
The cats and Meg the puppy are fed up with the weather, they seems to be blaming us for it.
Tommy our eldest cat doing likewise.
The cats spend most of the time sleeping
Zara wanting more food.
or complaining that they want out, the pup just gets into mischief. She is a sweet little thing but has no conscience about anything, and the word NO does not apply to her.
And Meg being cute but disobedient, she is NOT allowed on the table.
Simon reckons that there is more in a vacuum than in her head, he might well be right.
Still my favourite tulip this year.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A trip to the coast.

Although we are retired and in theory our time is our own, the reality is rather different, we always seem to have some on going project, normally connected to another project that needs the second project to be done before the first one can be completed. The current job is trellis making, the reason, more shelter belt and various climbing plants waiting to be planted out. OK, so we could go out and buy trellising, but most of it is made from rather weak wood and by making it ourselves we get the exact length we need, and it's more fun to make your own.
Knocknarea with Maeve's Howe on top.
However, this week we got our day off and a trip to the coast. We never really need an excuse to visit Co. Sligo, we lived there for many years and to us it is the most beautiful County in Ireland, it has an energy about it as well as a fantastic coast line,
Interesting, but we don't know what it was.
wonderful countryside and many interesting ruins, added to that we can collect  washed up seaweed and fresh mussels for a free lunch the next day, the mussels are for me, Simon no longer eats them after having pigged out on them when we lived close to the coast.
3 Dozen of the finest Sligo mussels.
It put him off for life, but I will eat as many as we collect, on this occasion three dozen. Cooked with white wine, cream and bouquet garni they are simple and quick to cook, I could have eaten another dozen with ease. We collected eight sacks of seaweed which will be added to the compost heap or possible used around the potatoes.
There was a big sea running which made the coastline even more spectacular.
I was very surprised to find Garlic Ransoms growing in the hedgerows, I have never associated them with the coast,
Pink and Bluebells.
there were lots of Spanish bluebells as well, no doubt dumped when they became too invasive in peoples gardens.
Remains of a castle possibly.
We also spotted at couple of ruins which we had not seen before, one was probably a castle or stately home, the other one remains a mystery.
The first Early Purple Orchids were just appearing,
and closer to home we saw a wonderful verge full of  Cowslips.
Strawberries are now ripening daily, the mange tout peas are in full bloom, the first pods have formed, there should be a picking by Sunday, and the asparagus has recovered from the cold spell that we had.
In the past week a further six trees have been planted,
Lough Key Crab.
two beautiful Crab apples which we bought from Knockvicar  Organic gardens, these trees are believed to have originated in the area and were propagated by Seed Savers in Co. Clare. We have  also planted an eight food high Horse chestnut, a red Hawthorne, another crab apple and one weeping silver birch, with all the other trees that we have planted in the past four years we should have created our mini woodland, mainly with indigenous Irish trees.

Next stop, Iceland.
A headland, Sligo

Friday, May 1, 2015

Beltaine greetings.

Today is supposed to be the start of summer, after the weather that we have had for the past week this is very hard to believe. Last week, the temperatures were in the mid 20's c, then Thursday it all changed, hard frost every night for a week. We had been lulled into a  false optimism, courgettes, French beans and sweet corn had all been planted out, only to die of frost bite, potatoes have all been burnt, even the ones in the tunnel, this will set them back but not kill them, however the courgettes and French beans are beyond the kiss of the sun, they are dead. Even the Kiwi vines in the tunnel have been affected, but they will survive. Things that we would have expected to have suffered are fine,
the first two strawberries were picked today and were very sweet, with lots more to come in a few days time.
Carrots that had been doing so well have suffered  from slug attack, this included a heritage variety which was rather pricy, unfortunately there were very few seeds in the packet so we will have to make do with Autumn King. Slug traps have now been laid, better late than never I suppose.
Bluebells in the woods are now in bloom and
we have a lovely bank of violets in flower, the primroses continue to brighten up the banks.
Daffy duck, our favourite Muscovy duck is sitting well on her clutch of eggs, she has taken her sitting very seriously this year, hopefully she will hatch her eggs OK, last  year she failed.
We now have two incubators full of eggs, one contains hen eggs, the other one duck and  half a dozen goose eggs. The young quail continue to thrive as do the Hubbard chicks which have now double their size in just ten days.
With the change in the weather it enabled us to catch up on a few craft projects,
Simon has carved me a primitive wooden statue for the garden, so far we have not named her, I'm hoping for another couple of these when he can find suitable wood.
I have painted another couple of signs on the slates that I had got from the local charity shop, and we also picked up a stone statue last week at a car boot sale,
the guy selling her called her Mother and Child.
The forecast for the weekend is rain, at least we seem to be free of the frosts now, so maybe we can chance replanting the vegetables that we lost.