Sunday, October 25, 2015

Autumn Colour.

Once the leafs start changing colour you know that Autumn has arrived and winter is just around the corner.
I love this time of year and we do get some lovely colour foliage on the trees but nothing like the autumnal colours of New England or Canada, it must be a fantastic sight especially with all the wonderful reds that they get. Our colours are rather more subdued, but beautiful none the less.
We had a walk through woodlands near Portumna earlier in the week, mainly beech, it was lovely and we were surprised how many butterflies there were around still.
As we drove around we spotted a 'Workhouse Centre'. Unfortunately we didn't have time to go into the centre but it is on our list to visit next year. The workhouse buildings look very formidable, definitely a place of last resort. Built in 1852 to house six hundred residents, it finally closed as a workhouse in the early twentieth century.

We also came across a very small village called Abbey where there is indeed a Abbey. This abbey was a Carthusian abbey.

The Carthusians were founded in 1084 by St Bruno and their annals place them in Kilnalahan sometime between the foundation of a priory at Hinton, Somerset, England in 1227 and in Beauvale, Nottinghamshire in 1343.
The Carthusians were an enclosed order, living solitary, austere, contemplative lives and they derived sustenance from the lands.
This was Ireland’s only Carthusian priory and was occupied until 1321 when an order from the General Chapter of the Grande Chartreuse was made to suppress the priory and move its monks to various other houses of the order.
Abbey is a very pretty little village,
and I love the retake of the 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' mantra.
 This week we also popped into our local forest, near Boyle, aptly called Forest Park,
again lots of lovely Autumn colour,
although the leafs are starting to fall we should keep the colours until the gales come, forecasted for later this week.
The upside to gales is seaweed, it's always a good time to go collecting seaweed after a good storm. Every cloud has a silver lining!
A perfect rose and beautifully perfumed.
We still have lots of colour in the garden and flowers to pick for the house but the sweet peas are just about over so they will now be pulled up and composted, it has been the best year we have every had for them even though they had a very slow start, but they have rather swamped the leeks.
Our late crop of mange tout peas have given us our first few peas, I'm hoping these will go on for a few weeks to make up for the lack of cabbages, for some unknown reason to either of us we seemed to have grown only half a dozen cabbages, already we have eaten two, and we both love cabbage. I suspect we had intended to do a second planting but forgot.
The carrots have done very well this year and we have plenty of them, some are huge,
one weighing in at nearly twelve ounces,
 I used that monster to make a carrot cake, one of our favourite cakes.
Ginger nuts.
We are also back to making biscuits, not something that we would normally buy, it's only in the colder months that we seem to like a biscuit with a nice cup of tea. They are so quick and easy to make, trouble is we eat them too fast.
Our young quail have now stared laying,
This large quail egg weighed 22gms
this was a second egg from one of them weighing twice the weight of a normal quail egg. Being short of hens eggs for our customers we have started using quail eggs in cakes, they make a much light cake than when we use hens eggs, I wonder why that should be?

Friday, October 16, 2015

First Frosts.

The weather has remained bright dry and sunny although we have had a couple of frosts the sweet peas have not been affected but the courgettes have had it,
Tonight's dinner.
but the winter veg are now coming into their own, just right for a nice warming stew.
The freezers are once again full, as the ducks have now been harvested, once again we used the Friendly Farmer to slaughter and process. It is so much better to get all the birds done at the same time instead of doing a couple each week.
A dozen duckling oven ready. Plus the livers for duck pate'
Next year we will probably buy in our ducklings as day olds rather than hatching our own. This way we can guarantee the numbers that we will have . We have found this is also the best way to produce our chickens for eating. They are cheap enough to buy at day olds and takes out all the guessing as to whether we will have enough for the year.
We will still hatch the quail and laying hens, we enjoy raising the chicks and they require very little work.
 On our trip down to the Friendly farmer we spotted this pile of rubbish dumped, not exactly what you want to see decorating the country side. If  these mindless morons had taken the rubbish to the tip it would have cost at most  a fiver. The tips are still quite cheap here and there are plenty of them around.
Poultry drop off point? Dog at the ready!

It is so nice to find 'Small Farm' enterprises that are really working, the Friendly Farmer is one such farm, not only does he provide a service to other small producers in the way of poultry processing, he also farms small flocks of free range chickens that really are 'free range'
he also rears nearly a thousand bronze turkeys for the Christmas market.

None of his produce will end up in supermarkets, he sells directly to farmers markets and selected restaurants who know a good product when they see it.
Then there is Drumanilra Farm,, a small mixed farm that got it's full Organic licence in May, they specialise in rare breeds such as  Dexter cattle , Jacob sheep and rare breed pigs. They now have a butchers shop in Boyle and also a great little cafĂ©, where they sell their award winning burgers amongst other things. We have our lunch there every week after the farmers market and the place is always busy. Their prices are very good and you can eat there knowing exactly where your food has come from and how it was produced. They have created seven full time jobs as well as networking with other local organic farmers from whom they back up their supply of meats. Most importantly, Justina has a good rapport with her customers remembering from week to week who likes what with what!

Next years veg plantings have already been decided, I have also made a start on flower seed planting. As we drive around we keep seeing gardens ablaze with Kniphofia, we do have some but they have all bloomed very early in the year and what I want is lots of colour this time of year. I had been told of a small Irish cottage industry who sell seeds.  they have a great range of seeds and give detailed profiles and planting instructions with all their seeds, far better information than any of the big companies. Their delivery is quick, I ordered my seeds on Monday night and they were here on Wednesday. The seeds are now planted and hopefully I will also have a blaze of colour next year.
Not that I should complain, the garden is still full of colour,
I was given trays of nasturtiums plus other plants for containers from a friend who does the Farmers Market, it was end of season for her so they would have been thrown out.
One of the nasturtiums plants has almost black flowers, I have never seen such a darkly coloured flower before, I just hope that I can save seed from this one, there is only one plant of it and it was later to bloom than the rest of the plants.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gathering Fertility.

A calm day, just gentle waves.
No excuse needed to take a trip to the coast again, second trip in a week, the change of air is supposed to be good for you, but we were there to get more seaweed.
We can never get enough compost, even though we have two large cu.m. Dutch compost bins we just do not provide enough for the gardens needs, we used to be able to get spent mushroom compost, but the mushroom farm shut down, squeezed out by one of the big boys. We have the poultry, donkeys and  rabbits manure plus all the weeds and what little veg trimmings we have, but it doesn't go far.
Another load of seaweed.
In the last week we have returned from the coast with twenty two sacks of seaweed, times that by five and we might have enough compost for next years vegetables.
Sea weed is one of the best fertilisers there is, with fifty eight trace elements ,and for some reason worms love it, we also used seaweed meal, and liquid seaweed. Most of our nettles  get composted as well as  comfrey . Nettles are great to increase the organic matter and comfrey is high in potassium, also as the leafs are not fibrous it breaks down easily in the compost bins, comfrey and nettles also make great liquid feeds.
All the potatoes have now been lifted and that bed has been 'put to bed' for the winter, potatoes take a lot out of the soil so the bed was covered with compost, including seaweed and then covered with black polythene, the  worms will do the rest for us and come the spring we will have soft friable soil which hopefully will not contain too many weeds. Most of the remaining vegetable garden is raised beds which are so easy to cope with.
The last of the Autumn cauliflower's have now been harvested, some frozen and some used fresh,
the courgettes are still producing, just enough for us not to be sick of them, and the tomatoes are still producing well, although this has been a non summer,
the Physalis is still doing well, we are getting over a quarter of a pound every other day, lovely to just munch on,
and we are still picking sweet peas.
The late sown mange tout peas and French beans are now giving us pods, so summer veg is not off the menu yet.
I'm trying again with Watsonias.
At the market last week I spotted some pots of Watsonia, so I have decided to have another go at growing them, this time they have been planted in a very free draining soil and I will cover them to protect them from frost,
I should have asked what it is. No, it's not a Dahlia.
I have also found another plant which I am totally unfamiliar with, so unfamiliar that I don't know what it is, I should have asked in the garden centre, I do know that it will also need some frost protection, why did I not ask for it's name?
I think they look great together and next to the right colour Berberis.
I have planted it next to one of the Watsonias  so they can share the covering, they look quite stunning next to each other.
Now the nights are longer the cats are practising the art of total relaxation,
Suzy having pleasant dreams. 
they head for the lounge before we do, normally occupying the most comfortable seats,
A relaxed Freddy.
once they are turfed off they still manage to relax as only cats do, stretched out full length they take up a lot of floor space.
They like to stretch out.
The dogs like some comfort as well, Tess and Meg enjoy the fire.
The Autumn colours are slow this year,
Some colour on a Spindle tree.
I love to see the richness of the colours in the trees but I shall have to wait a little longer, I just hope we don't get any strong winds that take the leaves before they have had time to take on their Autumn hues.
There are still plenty of bees around, in fact there seems to be more now than there was earlier in the year, they are certainly enjoying the poached egg flowers.
The year is moving on, but do supermarkets  have to move it on so quickly, Lidl had the first of the Christmas  Luxury food items on sale before Septembers end, totally unnecessary, and most of it is junk in any case. Can't we go back to how it was, Christmas in December? Now there's a thought.
Toad lily, why should it be called that I wonder?