Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Summer's late arrival.

At last summer is here, the last few days have been warmer than the rest of the summer and today it made 21c, it felt positively hot.
Sunday was also a beautiful day, just right for the Harvest Festival and Annual Apple day at the Organic centre in Rossinver. It attracted a huge crowd, with workshops going on for most of the day. We were particularly interested in the apple pruning demonstration. Pruning has always been a weak point for me with the exception of blackcurrant pruning, I never prune my roses as much as I know I should, and larger fruit trees have largely remained a mystery to me, but now I've got it! and I now know how to identity a leaf bud from a flower bud. The apples will get pruned when winter arrives, the plums will be done next summer.
Juicing the apples.
I had hoped that there would be apples for sale but like most of the apple trees in this part of Ireland it has been a very  poor harvest, however the juicing apples were ready for the day, not only was there a demonstration of apple pressing we could buy fresh apple juice, it was beautiful, and very different from the stuff that you buy in shops.
Michaelmas Daisy with a resting Tortoiseshell butterfly. 
The flower gardens around the centre are now if full autumn colour,
but it was frustrating to see Watsonia happily growing away.
Shades of yellow.
I bought several plants of this when we first moved here but they failed to thrive. I assumed that we were just too cold or wet for them to grow. Well it is a lot colder and wetter in Co. Leitrim.
Watsonia at the coast.
To add insult to injury, on our trip to the coast on Monday we found that Watsonia was growing in abundance on the NW coast.
 There were quite a few stalls, selling all types of great Organic goodies.
Trevor, with a wonderful selection of cheeses as ever.
 An old customer of ours was also there selling a wonderful selection of cheeses, one in particular took our fancy, Castlebellingham blue cheese, it is very similar to my all time favourite cheese, Dorset Blue Vinny.
Mary from Bluebell Organic farm with her eggs, jams and pickles.
There were of course plants for sale, but I was good, I only bought two, but I made up for that on seeds for next years flowers.
It was a great day out and very well organised, and it was good to see so many people there.
Yet another ruined castle.
One the way back we had a quick look at the castle in Manorhamilton, we have past it many times but never had to time to have a look round. It is another short lived castle, built in 1634/38 by a Scott Frederick Hamilton, it was destroyed in 1652.
It would have been a beautiful place in it heyday.
Monday was another lovely summers day, so we combined taking Zara our Persian cat to the vet,( she needed dental work done under anaesthetic,) with a trip to the coast.
This trip in fact had been planned as I wanted wool and a good Aran pattern to knit a jumper for my O.H's Christmas present. It is hard to buy pure wool in this part of Ireland, or to even find a shop that sells patterns and knitting needles so a trip to 'The Crafters Basket' was called for. What a wonderful shop, everything from knitting and rug making to edible food dyes. I could have spent hours there, and a lot of money but we wanted to get seaweed for the garden and we knew the tide was right.
I got the pure Aran wool and pattern that I wanted.
Continuing down to the coast we got eight large sacks of seaweed,
Harbour slipway and the mountains of Sligo.
a nice lunch in Mullaghmore , and a very happy cat now that her teeth have been dealt with.
Tiger Flowers, you can eat the bulbs if you are so minded, I'd rather have the flowers.
I had a pleasant surprise from some of the plants that I bought from the local online nursery, on offer were Tiger flowers, reduced to 99 cents as they had already flowered this year, this warm weather has clearly confused them as they have now decided to bloom again.

 I had left them in their pots as they are not fully hardy, with the intention of moving them into the greenhouse for the winter, I'm glad I left them outside, another lovey splash of colour.
Kissing carrots. This is what happens if you don't thin them out enough.
Fishing boat at Mullaghmore.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Feasting off natures abundence.

Tonight's veg.
This year despite the weather has been a good year for most of the vegetables, and they keep on coming. All the brassicas have done very well,
Lots of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, with plenty more to come. 
even if the purple spouting broccoli has produced rather earlier than we had hoped, maybe we planted it out too early or maybe it is an autumn variety, it's a shame that it has began producing so early when there is still so much else to eat, however it hasn't gone to waste.
Our new toy, should keep the veg nice and fresh.
A few weeks back we bought a vacuum sealer specifically for freezing fruit and veg in airtight bags, unfortunately we didn't have it in time for all the soft fruit,
Beans and tomatoes keep on coming.
but it is coming in very handy for the P.S.B, the glut of French beans
                                                     and a lot of cauliflowers.
 It seems to make no difference how well you stagger your plantings, they all are ready for harvesting at the same time.
Last of the rhubarb, it's done very well.
We have now had the last picking of rhubarb until March, but it has done very well this year. We should have a few more strawberries in a couple of weeks
Physalis (cape gooseberry) are now ripening.
and now the Physalis plants are giving a good supply of fruits, these plants are now in their fourth year and have produced each year. I was surprised when friends came over in the week to find they had never tasted Cape Gooseberries before and had never grown them. They are now on a promise of plants for their tunnels as they both found that they loved them. Cape gooseberries are easy to grow from seed and the plants can be cut back in early spring to start all over again, the fruits are higher in vitamin C than oranges, they also can be stored for a few weeks providing the paper husks are intact.
Our apples harvest was zilch, just one small apple and one crab apple but we have been given a large box of apples from a friend 'down country,' they didn't suffer the late frosts that we had.
One of our favourite's, spiced Dorset apple cake.
So it's back to making spiced Dorset Apple cake, apple crumbles and pies. I won't bottle or freeze any as we are almost out of space in the freezer and out of storage for bottled stuff, but they will all get used one way or another.
The garden peas are now over, we have saved some pods for next years seed, and the curly kale has been planted in the bed that the peas have vacated.
 We don't normally grow spring onions, instead we use young shallots, however for the coming year we are giving the spring onions a shot, now is the time to get them started so we will hopefully pick up some seed tomorrow, we both like spring onions and lots of recipes call for them, I think we just got so used to growing the shallots which are so much quicker to crop.
Better late than never.
The seasons seem to be well muddled this year, we have seen Elderflower still in bloom,
Love the colour of this one.
                                     and our Dahlias have only just started to flower,
Soapwort, two months late.
likewise the soapwort which would normally be in flower in July.
We are supposed to be in for a mild winter according to Ken Ring the New Zealand weather forecaster, he was certainly right about May being very wet, it was the wettest one in five years, only time will tell if his prediction is right for the winter, here's hoping.
This weeks flowers, the sweet peas keep on coming.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Imitation is the greatest form of Flattery.

Rudbeckia, Bergamot, Echinacea, Tansy and Dianthus. This weeks flowers.
A month ago we paid a visit to the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim, we were very impressed with how much the centre had improved since our last visit,
Garden seat at the Organic centre.
we were also smitten by a rustic seat in one of the poly tunnels, definitely something for a new project, the only problem was where to obtain suitable wood. A visit to a friends place at the weekend solved the problem, she and her son had been very busy maintaining their ash hedgerows and were only too willing to let us have five pieces of ash two to four inches in width. To cut up small diameter pieces of wood takes quite a lot of time in relation to the heat that it would have provided. So we came away with the basic materials to make the seat. I, in exchange, will provided her with cuttings from my garden as she is trying to develop a flower garden.
Our new garden seat.
The seat has worked out beautifully at a cost of fourteen euros, and four hours work. The seat part is made from split posts at a cost of six euros and the screws were eight euros, why are screws so expensive? All we have to do now is a coat of wood preservative and  decide where we want it.
It seems just a few weeks ago that we were harvesting the garlic and onions and already the time is approaching for planting next years crops. I don't think we will  bother with onions outside this coming year, they all suffered badly with thick neck and I ended up having to slice and freeze them, plus we seem to have every crow and jackdaw living on our land, they have removed every one of the leeks and feasted on the young spinach and turnips. The leaks and seedlings have now got cloches over them until they are established. The new plants that I had ordered arrive the day after ordering them and I duly planted them, complete with labels, ( I often forget what a plant is called). Every day since planting  I have found the labels removed, every day I have replanted them, I had blamed one of our cats, then I discovered the culprits, dam jackdaws! No doubt by now the label's are well muddled, so I still won't know what's where, never mind, the plants have all taken and the new bed should look good next year.  To date a further one hundred and twenty spring bulbs have been planted in this new bed, just another sixty to plant and it will then be complete.
Pansy's are such jolly flowers.
The garden seems to be more colourful now than it was in July,
Perpetual sweet pea, we have waited all summer for it to flower.
so many things have bloomed late or have just continued to flower.
This rose grows in one of our hedgerows, this year it has tried to reach for the sky, and is now ten feet high.
The pansy's have been flowering for eleven months without stopping,
It keeps on flowering.
and one of the clematis has been blooming for over two months.
They keep on coming.
The sweet peas are the best we have every grown, with very long stems and they just keep on coming.
It has been a good year for most of the vegetables, and for hatching, we have finished hatching now until next year, the last hatch was yesterday,  ten quail, we had set twelve fertile eggs, so ten out of twelve is not bad.
Another duck with attitude.
 The duckling that hatched with our goslings has now been named, Jemima  Puddle duck, she does show a little independence now, and loves to sit on top of one of the hen houses, fortunately the geese have not followed her lead.
Three boys? Three girls? or a mix? I don't know,can anyone tell me?
We are still not sure as to the sex of the goslings though, maybe someone will be able to tell me?
The weather has been mixed, but by and large not too bad, we manage to get washing dry on the line so it can't be that wet, and there is always something to do on wet days, making jam from fruit that was frozen is a good way to spend a rainy afternoon,
More jam for the store cupboard.
the last lot I made was raspberry, and I still have some Seville oranges waiting to be made into marmalade.
Very late to start blooming even though it had spent the winter in the green house.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Indian Summer.

The last few days have been warm and sunny, a mini Indian Summer, the warmer weather has brought a few surprises,
at last our Passion Flower has flowered,
and the Chinese lanterns are turning red,
also the Lily's which seemed to be at a stand still for months have at last flowered,
the perfume is beautiful. We had wondered what we should do about the bulbs once they had stopped flowering, but a friend put us right, just leave them. He has a garden full of lily's and does nothing to them, so we will do the same, nothing.
The Sweet peas show no sign of slowing down even though they had a very slow start, there is a big bunch to be picked every other day. This year we followed the advice of Monty Don and pinched out the growing tips when they were about six inches high, this has resulted in very long stems, the longest we have ever grown.
The tomatoes are abundant, we did grow one plant of an old variety, 'Money Maker', these are ripening now but the flavour compared to 'Sun Gold' is very disappointing, so we will stick the 'Sun Gold' unless we can get seed of a variety called 'Butchers Blood' which comes highly recommended by another blogger.
The late planting of French Beans seems to have worked as they are now in bloom so we should be picking them in a few weeks, the peas are also looking good but not in bloom yet.
We had forgotten to plant any turnips this year so we did a late sowing, these have germinated well
as has the second sowing of perpetual spinach and true spinach,  if it gets a little chilly we can pop the cloche over them.
The autumn cauliflowers are now curding up, the first one should be ready to eat by the weekend. All the potatoes have now been lifted and stored around 150lb in total, I don't think we will run out before next years first earlies are ready.
The new bed is now finished and the new plants installed, some of the herbaceous plants have also been split and re-homed, but as everything has been so slow this year there are still a lot that require splitting, the  Rudbeckia's  and Echinacea   are just blooming now, at least a month later than they should be.
There have been a few disappointments this year, the asparagus which was doing well got set back with late frosts so we only had three feeds from it, the runner beans are so late so far just the one meal and the peach tree which showed such promise in early spring with lots of bloom has failed to produce one single fruit, maybe we didn't water it enough now it's in the tunnel. Note to self, must water the peach tree regularly next year. Apart from that everything has done well.
With decent weather the last week has been spent in the garden, we have not had time for a day out other than our weekly trip to the farmers market.
This week we treated ourselves to a rib of beef joint from the new Organic butchers, Dexter beef hung for twenty eight days tastes as beef used to taste, served with Yorkshire puddings and veg straight from the garden it was superb, we don't often buy meat as we produce most of our own, but every so often it is nice to have something other than poultry or pork.