Friday, July 31, 2015

A tad damp.

Sea holly, Eryngium maritimum
July has been damp, (this is an euphemism for wet.) We have had over double the rainfall of last July and the wettest July for five years, it's not been too warm either, down by 2.5c on last year and the coolest July for five years. Still we have had some good days and we have managed to time our day outs on these days, more luck than judgment I should add.
Our last trip was to the wilds of Connemara in Co. Galway. This is a stunningly beautiful part of Ireland , rugged, mountainous, with loughs,
Lough Corrib, the 2nd largest in Ireland with 365 islands.
Killary Fjord
Fjords, rivers and moorland  making up a scenic topography.
Beautiful setting.
Our destination was Kylemore Abbey , in particular to see the walled garden which is the largest one in Ireland covering six acres.
The house was built in 1867 to 1871 by Mitchell Henry for his wife, who sadly died three years later from dysentery in Egypt, she would never have seen the wonderful gardens that her husband created from what was essentially bog land. Mitchell Henry eventually sold the 15.000 acre estate in 1903, much of what he created was lost including 23 heated glass houses, heated by a lime kiln and an under ground network of  hot water pipes. He also generated his own electricity , developing a hydro electricity plant, cutting his running costs from £400 a year to just £10 a year, he had this plant up and running in just four months.
wish our veg garden was so ordered.
The house was taken over by nuns in 1920 where they ran it as a boarding school until 2010.
 The gardens were rediscovered and reinstated, they reopened in 2000, and the hydro power plant is currently undergoing renovations and again the estate will be run by 'Green Power'.
We did not visit the Abbey, we were there to see the gardens, there are so few large gardens open to the public in this part of Ireland and the gardens are magnificent,
even the formal gardens are superb and lovingly tended by a team of gardeners,
Six under gardeners would have shared this bothy, the head gardeners house was far grander, with eight rooms.
The fernery with a mountain stream meandering through it.
The herbaceous beds were glorious.

Angels fishing rod, Dierama.
plus some of the nuns who remain in residence, but we will visit again to see the Abbey, the setting is so beautiful and a great place to spend on a day out.
At last I have finished processing the black currants, around sixty pounds of them, converted into jam or bottled, I don't want to see another black currant for a long time, the black birds are welcome to them, in fact the blackbirds are probably feeling the same way about them as I am, they have gorged their selves so much that they have found it hard to fly away when disturbed.
This weeks flowers.
We have so far had six pounds of Redcurrants, these I have made into Redcurrant jelly, unlike Blackcurrants they don't require destalking, just a quick wash, much easier.
Once again the tunnel resembles a jungle so we are trying to install some order into it.
The taste made up for lack of production.
I had planted a couple of spare Ratte seed potatoes in there, the haulm's were smothering the French beans, the potatoes gave us just three pounds of spuds, but the flavour is well worth the lack of production, we are hopeful the  ones planted outside will give a better return.
Cocks comb. Amaranth.
This Amaryllis has been flowering for six months. 
The Oleander has lots of flowers this year, it seems to have acclimatized.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dunes and Tombs.

Once again Sligo called us. This time to the dunes at Strandhill which is a renowned area for Orchids and other plants as well as
Six spot Burnet moth.
        a habitat for butterflies, lizards and apparently Natterjack toads.
Home made southern fried chicken.
After first having our picnic of  Southern fried chicken and collecting the next days dinner( mussels) at our usual place, we then proceeded to the dunes.
Marsh Helleborine.
We were not disappointed, although we have seen most of the Orchids that these dunes are the habitat for, we had not seen them before in Ireland. We did  however see two Orchid that we had never seen before,
                                                        the Pyramidal Orchid
Frog Orchid.
and the Frog Orchid.
Harebells with Pyramidal Orchid
The dunes are teaming with flora as well as moths ,
Marsh Fritillary
                     butterflies and birds.
We  failed to see any lizards, or the debateable Natterjack toad.
Spotted was a lovely red fungi, but without spore counts it is impossible to be sure exactly what it is, and yellow tailed bumble bees.
The larger dolman.
From the dunes we decided it was time to visit the nearby Carrowmore tombs,
these are definitely worth making the effort to see,
Stone circles marking grave sites.
dating back 5-5800 years they are believed to be the first of the passage tombs to have been built in Ireland and is the largest site of megalithic tombs in Ireland, they are one of the four major sites here.
There are over sixty tombs, thirty of which are visible,

10m high Cairn.
 arranged facing one  central  Cairn. We didn't spend nearly enough time there as we had the pressing need to get home to pick fruit before the wild birds ate the lot,
The birds did leave us some.
unfortunately they have beaten us to it with the gooseberries, they kindly left us just a couple of pounds.

The raspberries and redcurrants are well covered with netting, the blackcurrants, which the birds could have real feast on have largely been left alone,
Too many blackcurrants again.
thankfully a friend visited us the day after picking and was grateful for a bucket full of currants, the birds have eaten most of hers.
 So far I have bottled ten jars full, with another ten pounds waiting to be processed and twice that amount waiting to be picked.
We are also having a bumper crop of raspberries, they however need little in the way of preparation, just a quick wash and then frozen, we have frozen well over ten pounds with plenty more to come plus we also have an Autumn variety which crops later.
Moules mariniere, fresh from the sea.
The garlic has done very well again, it has been  dug up and is now drying out. We wont have to buy any garlic  this year. The first onions have also been harvested and are also drying out before I string them.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A mystery revealed.

A deep red Penstemon, I love it.
Although our garden is less than four years old it still manages to deliver surprises to us. Plants appear that we know nothing about, where they came form how they got there and what might it be. Last autumn a new bed was created to make room for divisions coming from a local friendly plant nursery. We had placed our order and knew what was coming, Delphiniums, Bergamot( two different colours) Phlox, deep purple double blossomed Aquilegia and Rudbeckia.  Apart from bulbs and Dianthus cuttings nothing else was planted. Several weeks ago we noticed three clumps of something appearing, the leaves were not particularly attractive but as we didn't recognise them we let them be, to see what they turned into. They grew, and grew, they are about three foot high now,
I love this woven basket effect.
then large brown woven balls started appearing, about two inches across, we were still none the wiser.
Then one day last week a tuft of yellow appeared from the tops of the woven balls,
two days later and all was revealed.
Nearly three inches across, if it stops raining the butterflies will love it.
Yellow Knapweed, Centaurea macrocephala. We think they are stunning, the flower pods before the revelation are fascinating, and the flowers are a true lemon yellow, bees and butterflies love them. They are a welcome addition to the garden, but we still do not know where they came from! We have been assured by the nursery owner that they were not from her, but we wonder, as another friend also has them and he swears that his came from this nursery. I guess we will never be sure, but they are a keeper as far as we are concerned. I love things that just seem to turn up in a garden, especially if it's something we are not familiar with.
We also love spotting wild plants,
Agrimoney, once so common.
at one time Agrimony would have been a common sight in the country side, we spotted these growing along a verge a few days ago, we have never seen them in Ireland before, although they should be common,
Scarlet Pimpernel, such a pretty little plant.
another what used to be common plant is Scarlet Pimpernel, again, something we seldom have seen here. Too much scorched earth, it's killing all the common wild flowers, people use Glyphosate like Henry Cooper used to use 'Brut' the man's 'after shave', splash it all over, never mind the biodiversity. Now if you want wild flowers you have to buy a packet of wild flower mix and plant your own patch, yet things that should be controlled if not eradicated are left, things like Japanese knot weed which are taking over vast areas of the country side, Gunnera, which is a real menace in Connemara
Giant Hog Weed, something you don't want to touch.
and Giant Hog weed which we also spotted along the road side.
It promises to be a good broad bean harvest.
The broad beans are coming fast now, this week they will have to be harvested and frozen.
Quite a weight range, I wonder how supermarkets manage to have theirs all the same weight?
 The table birds are now all in the freezer, there was quite a difference in weight, ranging from 2.02 to 3.16kg, the larger ones have all been portioned for midweek meals, the smaller ones we have left whole for our Sunday roasts, and we have sold two, in fact we could have sold the whole lot, but the aim is to provide our own food. We might however do extra next year for people who want  genuine Organic free range chicken and not the things that purport to be, that are sold in supermarkets.
All legs and neck, but so cute.
The Llamas that we saw earlier in the year are now starting to give birth, this little one is just a day old, so cute, all legs, but grazing already.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Harvest, one week on.

I grew this lovely rose from a cutting from a neighbour in Spain, it has a lovely perfume.
                    The season is moving on far too quickly,
First two pounds of blackcurrants.
the blackcurrants are earlier than last year although it wont be so big a harvest ,  that's fine, as we  have 20lb of currants still in the freezer,
It might be raining but the fruit still gets picked.
however they will still be picked and processed into jam or blackcurrant cordial.
The rhubarb is still producing new good stems, they are also picked and then frozen for pies during the dark winter days. Strawberries we just eat as they come, only if I get a glut do I make jam with them. What is nicer than  strawberries, fresh from the garden with a good helping of cream?
First of the raspberries.
The raspberries are cropping well this year, we are now picking 1.5lb a day, some we eat on the day, the rest I freeze, lovely in the middle of winter, just the smell  brings back summer.
Crème Brulee with a difference,  strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant topping.
The broad beans are also doing very well this year, planted out as small plants in February we will have plenty to freeze, the Runner beans have started climbing and producing flower but nowhere near as many as last year, the  French beans are slower however, they really do prefer more warmth, but the garden peas are fine.
The Hubbard birds.
The table birds that we had have now gone for processing, normally we would do this ourselves, however the prospect of slaughtering and plucking twenty birds was a bit daunting and I had heard of someone who had set up a small 'on farm' enterprise where he can slaughter and process birds for other people.
'The Friendly Farmer' has a smallish Free Range enterprise where he farms chickens, ducks and turkeys, he sells his produce in Farmers markets and selected restaurants.
 Having decided what he was going to farm he found that the processing of birds for sale was likely to create a problem so he did the sensible thing, he opened up his own processing unit with the help of a grant from the Galway enterprise scheme. There are so few small processing units around so we consider ourselves lucky that there is one not too far away and who will do the whole job at a very reasonable price. We will pick up the birds tomorrow all cleaned and ready for the freezer.
Isn't he beautiful? He keeps the poultry safe.
He seems to have a very good setup, and we loved his predator protection, three huge Pyrenean Mountain dogs, they live in the field with the birds! From a distance they looked like small ponies. Apparently he has not lost a bird to foxes, nor to the dogs, so his method seems to work.
Battered Delphiniums.
We have had strong winds again in the last few days although it has been mild, but the wind did a fair bit of damage to our lovely Delphiniums even though we thought they were well staked.
Lots of buds to open on this one.
Last Christmas we were given two Orchids by friends,
Back in bloom again.
I have never been very successful with Orchids, however taking advice from another friend these two plants have now come back into bloom. So, many thanks to Richard who told me how to care for Orchids.
View from the kitchen window.