Monday, November 23, 2015

Last of the summer crop.

It has been a very strange year weather wise however the veg have mostly  done well.
The last three pounds of tomatoes. 22.11.2015.
The tomatoes have been exceptional, we have never picked tomatoes right into November not even when we lived in Spain, the cape gooseberries also keep on coming.
The garlic which was planted a couple of weeks ago is now up an inch, hopefully we will have another good crop but the onions are still waiting to go in.
My side of the table.
Yesterday I attended the first of the local Christmas craft fairs,
Bridget's side.
it was much quieter than last year although there were far more stalls including one that I shared with a friend.
The whole table. (Bridget looking happy.)
The only stall that did good trade was the sticky bun stall, it seems that people coming out of mass do so with an appetite. It was worth while doing but only just. The next one that I am doing isn't until the 5th of Dec, maybe by then people will realise that Christmas is just round the corner. There is always quite a bit of work involved to do any of these fairs,
First mix everything together.
first off was the Christmas puddings, this is a two day job, the first day mixing up all the fruit and breadcrumbs mixed with Guinness and the whole thing is left to infuse overnight,
Divide into individual bowls, cover the bowls and boil for a long time!
the mixture then gets spooned into bowls, well covered and boiled for seven hours, thanks goodness for a range, it would work out very expensive if you were using gas or electricity. Once they have had their first cooking I then package them.  Nowadays you have to list all the ingredients, highlighting any ingredient that people might be allergic to.
 I know when I first did my training allergies were virtually unheard of, eggs, shellfish and peanuts appeared to be the only things that a very few number of people would react to, now there is a list half a mile long, OK maybe not quite that long, but you get the idea, one I find very strange is mustard, this is one of the longest used spice known to man, when did it become an allergen?
I also made two different types of Marmalade, one straight forward one
and one with whiskey. The glass painting gets done throughout the year, when ever I have a moment or feel the urge.     
A storm approaching.
Like the UK we have also been having some wet and very windy weather with a couple of light frosts
Late rose.
but the roses have carried on blooming,
even the hydrangeas are still looking quite good,
A splash of colour.
and the Mahonia is now in flower, it smells lovely.
I have now picked up the two bowls that I did on the first pottery course, they had to be fired,
I am please with them for a first attempt and will look forward to doing the full course when the tutor returns from her trip to New Zealand.
I love my wonky veg, warts and all, it gives then character.
Judging by the amount of blogs talking about food waste and the comments it would seem that Hugh F.W has managed to get through to quite a lot of people, maybe the supermarkets will for once listen to what their customers are saying, but I wont hold my breath on that one, even though Morrisons have now said that they will donate what would normally be classed as waste food to charities. Being a rather cynical person I suspect that will only be for as long as they think people are watching what they are doing.
A wonderful sunset on our way back from a friends.
The same sunset over a lough.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rising Awareness.

It is high time that supermarkets have their wings severely clipped, they have had far too much power for far too long. A quarter of crops grown, never make it to the supermarkets because of their unrealistic standards, a carrot with a curve tastes every bit as good as a straight one. Maybe the bosses of Morrison's and the rest of the supermarkets bosses  need to take a look at what is happening else where in the world of marketing, and take a leaf out of the Australians book.

It seems as though Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has stirred up some public awareness about waste, with the  two programs that have been aired on BBC One in the last couple of weeks. In the latest program Morrison's supermarket eventually gave an interview to H.F.W, in terms of PR they did themselves no favours, they came over as arrogant and cavalier. However, I'm am sure that had the interview been with any of the other supermarkets the end result would have been the same.
 It seems that the supermarkets in the UK and Ireland consider that their customers are different from
Marketing down under style.
Thank you Lynda ,
 Living In The Land of 
 for the use of these photos.
people who live in Australia. There it appears that the supermarkets are prepared to sell misshaped fruit and veg.
UK supermarkets are also prepared to sell misshapes when it suits them, as happened when there was a shortage of potatoes a few years ago, they were happy enough to sell what the farmers gave them, and guess what? the customers bought them. The supermarkets tell us that people only want perfect looking produce, is this really true? Surely taste is more important but that is something you don't get with supermarket bought fruit, picked before it's ripe so it looks perfect in the store, you bring it home and try to ripen it , you seldom succeed, it's rotten before it ripens, and it's probably come from half way around the world, produced in a country where people are starving. Kenya is a very good example, exporting green beans and peas out of season to the EU markets, yet over fifty per cent of the population suffer from food poverty.
Yesterday, even our local radio station mentioned the hold that supermarkets have over the farmers, and apparently the I.F.U (Irish Farmers Union) are calling on Irish supermarkets to relax their rigid cosmetic standards. As this statement was made in the last couple of days, I can only assume that someone within the I.F.U was watching H.F.W's programs
I suppose supermarkets do have their uses, we were told that a micro brewery had stated up just four miles away from us, the last place that I would look for a local beer would be a supermarket but someone mentioned that they had found this beer in an Irish owned supermarket, so we went looking and found that they have a good selection of Irish craft beers as well as my favourite, Speckled Hen.
Sheep stealer and Buck It, the very local craft beer, Galway Hooker is always a favourite, but you cant beat Old Speckled Hen. 
We have now tried the first of the local beer, they make three different types, it is good, similar to Worthington White shield, it has yeast sediment in the bottom, so a steady hand is required. We  seldom drink but it is nice to have some beer around just on the off chance that we fancy one.
They still keep coming.
This has been a very extended growing season, we are still picking tomatoes and there's still more to come, the French beans have finished though, so the garlic has been planted where the beans were, the mange tout are still producing and also the Physalis. It is forecasted for colder weather this weekend, so that might end the last of the summer crops, then we can concentrate on onion planting.
First lot of marmalade done.
As Christmas approaches the craft fairs start up, I have been busy making marmalade for the first of these fairs, we will also make some Christmas puddings, I'm not sure how many fairs we will do, but I guess it helps to get into the Christmas spirit.
In the latest edition of the Permaculture Magazine, Ben Law, the well known woodsman has shared his plans for a rustic seat, we both liked the design.  Simon went missing for a hour, he had gone wood hunting, five hours later, hey presto, one chair, Ben Law style. Total cost 1.25 euros. and five hours work. If you buy one of these chairs from Ben you will have to pay £225. Ours might not be quite as good as Bens, he's been doing wood craft for years and he has access to good coppiced wood, but I'm very please with ours, all we need now is some decent weather, to sit in the garden and try it out for comfort, ( says she, looking out of the window to rain lashing down, driven by high winds.)
Basic frame work done.
Getting there.
Finished chair.
Finally I have found someone local who gives pottery classes, unfortunately she is off to New Zealand for the next two months,
so I have managed to get just one lesson before her departure, hopefully I will be able to have a full course when she gets back.
I wonder what it will look like after firing?
The one small bowl that I made has yet to be fired in the kiln so I don't know exactly what it will look like, I will have it back from her before she leaves for her Xmas break.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Seasonal Confusion.

The art of relaxation/
It has been a very confused season temperature wise this year, just as things got growing we had late frosts which set everything back, the summer months remained cooler with a lot of overcast days, despite that it has been a very good year for the vegetables with the exception of runner beans, we managed just three meals from them. Now as we head towards winter it is mild, in fact on Sunday it was hot, 25c in the afternoon, probably the highest temperature we have had all year. Plants are confused,
Todays harvest.
we are still picking tomatoes, and the Physalis shows no sign of slowing down,
Second picking of the late French beans.

Irish grown grapes, a gift from a friend.
the second sowing of French beans paid off and we are now picking beans again as well as late peas.
Flowers are also confused,
the first of the Hellebores are in bloom, which is about right for this time of year
Wrong season.
but there is also Aquilegia in bloom, and that's not right.
Somewhat early for spring.
Better late than never.
The pampas grass has also decided to put up flower spikes, a few months later than it should.
We also have nasturtiums still happily flowering away,
I love this rose and the perfume is great.
the roses will keep on flowering until we get a heavy frost.
Love the colour of this sedum and the bees will love it as well.
It is amazing how much is still in bloom this late in the year,
Spindle, such a pretty bush and a native.
Lime. ( Tilia)
Red stemmed dogwood.
there is also a lot of colour from the trees and hedges that we planted,
Young red oaks, we have planted five of them.
we are very pleased with the colour on the red oaks, they have grown well this year and have given a wonderful flash of red with their leaves.
I wonder how long these will take to compost?
We have collected several large bags of fallen leaves from a local woodland, these are being composted on their own, hopefully to become our seed compost for next years sowings.
Sligo coast.
We have taken advantage of the mild weather and took another trip to the coast for yet more seaweed,
the day has started out dull but by the time we reached the coast is was sunny and warm,
Even on a very calm day you can still find big waves.
we explored several small bays that we had not seen previously and met just one person, he was busy collecting mussels.
We didn't collect any this time as I'm the only one who eats them and I couldn't be bothered to prepare them just for myself, maybe on our next visit, when I'm not thinking about knitting or completing O.U courses. The courses that I'm doing are all interconnected to the Global Food Crisis, which in reality doesn't exist, and Global food Security, which is an oxymoron.
 There was a good program on BBC One last night, Hugh's War on Waste, in which he highlighted the criminal waste of food  in the UK, although it applies to all developed nations.
 It is often highlighted that the average home wastes one third of all the food that they buy, but for some reason what is not often mentioned is the part the supermarkets play in the waste of food with their unrealistic demands for produce to conform to their dictated size and or colour. The program clearly demonstrated just how much control the supermarkets have over their producers, and how they manipulate their consumers.
 I can't see that people are going to change their wasteful habits until they have to pay the real cost of food production, and supermarkets won't change until government steps in, which it won't, the lobbyists have far too much control over governments.
We will continue to grow our own fruit and veg plus poultry, what little we buy in the way of meat comes from the producer. Supermarkets can have our business for utility items, there we have no choice, but we do have choice over what we eat.