Monday, May 30, 2016

No pleaseing some people.

A queen wasps nest, a work of art in micro engineering.
Seven pm and it's still 21c. It's been a very hot day, I didn't sign up for hot weather in Ireland, we moved back from Spain because it was too hot for me, the only consolation is I know it wont last too long. The other half is loving it, as are most of the country.
The up side is that plants are now growing like crazy.
The early summer flowers are looking lovely,
even the Delphiniums are blooming,
the lupin has doubled in size, this will have to be split in the autumn before it takes over the whole bed,
 there are lots of Aquilegia,
all different colours,
Astrantia with double flowered campion
the Astrantia is looking great
and the arum lily has at last started to flower, it got badly set back with the late frosts we had in April.
Irises are just starting to flower,
one of them was a pot I bought from a table sale last year for just two euros, the pot was so crowded I was able to split the plant and it's made two beautiful clumps.
 Rosa rugosa are flowering , the main roses are not far behind, hopefully the rose garden will be in full bloom an a few days time.
Chives with a blue aquilegia and geums.
The vegetables are all growing well,
just about all of the carrots germinated so they will have to be thinned out,
the garden early potatoes have been earthed up once,
and we are now having new potatoes from the tunnel, there are still plenty of strawberries coming from the tunnel,
Cambridge favourite strawberries.
next to be cropped will be the Cambridge favourite, they have now set their fruit, it looks as though the strawberries in the barrel will be the latter cropping ones.
We are also set for a bumper harvest of gooseberries, last year the wild birds got most of them, this year all the soft fruit has been protected by a netting tunnel.
roast chicken, peas, broad beans and new potatoes, rhubarb to follow.
It's great to be able to sit down for a meal and know that it was all produced by us, no air miles or boosting super markets profits. We have a choice of veg, peas, broad beans, spinach, chard or asparagus. Soon it will be cauliflowers and calabrese, it's just a shame that all the plants are ready at the same time, it can get boring having cauliflower every day.
Tradascantia in flower.
The early onions in the tunnel are now ready to be removed and stored, the garlic is not far behind, that will then give us two spare beds for something else, we have a couple of butternut squashes waiting for a place, these can go where the tunnel potatoes were, and we still have one courgette looking for a bed.
Dodecatheon or shooting stars.
A couple of years back I bought two Amaryllis looking very sorry for their selves, they had been reduced to 99cents, they flowered twice the first year I had them, they then got moved into the sunroom, this year they have reward us with a mass of bloom, not bad for a few cents. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Return on labour investment.

The Laburnum just coming into flower.
Many people dream of living a self- sufficient life style but in reality in this day and age I doubt if it is possible unless you are working as a collective. However it is possible to produce most of your own food if you don't mind a bit, well really, a lot of hard graft. We do manage to produce almost all of our vegetables, in the past year all we have needed to buy has been ten kg. of potatoes, one kg of onions and three bags of spinach. The spinach was not so much a need as a want by me, I love spinach and although we have chard and perpetual spinach all year round, by the time winter is over I get a longing for fresh spinach. We buy some fruit, I don't think it's possible to grow bananas in Ireland and I will buy things like pears when on offer to bottle for the winter months. If we were not dedicated seasonal eaters no doubt we would be buying much more, but we don't feel that we need tomatoes or cucumber in the middle of winter, neither do we need Strawberries at Christmas. So we grow our own and battle against all the bugs and wildlife that try to beat us in the growing and harvesting.
 It gets a bit disheartening to find that the onions you have planted have been pulled out by Jackdaws, this year we defeated them, we planted all the outside onions into modules and planted them out when they had a good root system.
 Most of our veg. is started off in modules, the exception being carrots and parsnips, even  swede is started off in modules, it seems to give the plants a better start in life, a chance to develop a good root system before they take their chances with the wildlife.  We wage war on slugs, normally by night time vigils, cutting up any slug that has dared to come near the brassicas. Carrots are protected by an enviromesh netting barrier against the carrots root fly. Stinging nettles are fermented, ready to strike against any aphid attack. In reality, once a garden is established it probably takes no more than  two hundred hours a year, which might sound a lot but breaks down to just an hour a day over a six months period. I feel sure that if we had to buy our food it would work out to far more hours than that to shop in a supermarket.
Besides growing our vegetables and most of our fruit we also raise both ducks and chickens for our own consumption, plus some quail and rabbits. We used to raise lambs, but to be truthful they really are more bother than they are worth, besides them waking up each day and trying to find some new novel way to commit suicide, they have to be fed unless you have the best of land and they can graze on grass alone, added to that all the different ailments that they can suffer from. Pigs are well worth doing, however you have to keep at least two at any given time and two pigs is far too much for us, there is also the problem of getting them loaded up and taken for slaughter. So it looks as though we will be sticking to just the smaller animals, and buy the occasional beef and pork from the larger organic farmers in the area.
Apple blossom time.
We are hopeful of a decent apple harvest this year, all of the trees have been covered in blossom and the bees have been very busy, even the cherry trees have bloomed well, maybe if we cover the trees with netting we might get a few instead of the wild birds getting the lot. The soft fruit is looking very good, we had covered the whole area with a netting tunnel as wild birds had a wonderful time last year with our gooseberries in particular, this years the bushes are loaded. We continue to pick a pound a day of tunnel strawberries, and have had the first of the mange tout peas
First of the broad beans.
and broad beans
Spinach fresh from the garden.
and the garden spinach is producing very well.
Newly arrived just a few hours old.
Last week we picked up twenty four day old Hubbard chicks, these will be the first of our table birds although we do have quite a few birds ordered, we will do a second batch towards the end of August. Hubbards although a slow growing strain develop quickly,
Four days old and their first pin feathers have appeared.
after four days they have developed their first pin feathers on their wings, they will remain on heat for around three weeks before being moved into their outside run.
Sunday we went to a plant sale held at Strokestown house, we were impressed with the stalls that were there, some of the nursery's that were there had travelled long distances to attend, one from Dublin another from Clare, the one from Clare we were very impressed with, not only was it an extremely well laid out display, with good photos of the plants, she also did a special offer of six plants for only twenty euro, all of her plants being herbaceous plants, I only wish the nursery was nearer, I would willing spend my money with her. It total we bought fourteen good plants for just forty five euro, that's what I call good value.
Finally a few pictures of our local lough taken just as the sun was setting.
Beautiful reflections as the sun sets on another lovely day.

Full moon over Lough O'Flynn.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Moving into summer.

Flowering cherry. 
The spring flowers are just about at the end but it has been a very good season for all the spring bulbs,
we still have some lovely tulips flowering and the last of the narcissus have just started flowering,
I think this one is a Pheasant Eye, it smells wonderful.
Now the early summer flowers are starting to bloom,
I love all the different colours.
one of the earliest seems to be the Aquilegia which look lovely next to late flowering tulips.
The forget-me-nots are also looking lovely, such a vivid blue.
Strawberries are fruiting well, we are picking around a pound a day, these are the ones in the tunnel, soon the outside plants will be producing,
I'm very pleased with the strawberry barrel, the plants are doing very well in it, far better than last years experiment with straw bale gardening which for us did not work. The asparagus is producing well for us this year,
and the outside spinach is also giving us plenty.
Potatoes in the tunnel are flowering so we will try some at the weekend by which time there will also be some
mange tout peas

I love the smell of Broad bean flowers.
and broad beans to pick.
The over wintered onions have done well and we can pull them now as needed, the main crop is outside in the veg garden,
also ready is the garlic, I do not understand why Ireland imports most if not all of it's garlic from China, it grows very well here.
Felix relaxing by the pond.
The cats have been enjoying the good weather, but Felix has complained that it been too hot for him, he also complains if it's raining, blaming us, he also complains if it's cold. The other cats just accept whatever the weather throws at them.
Waiting for supper.
The hens have also enjoyed the warmer weather and are laying too many eggs, we are awash with them so a lot of freezing has to be done, we will be pleased to have this frozen supply in the winter.
I have now packed away all my craft work for the summer, the last things I did were the decorated goose eggs, they have turned out quite well, I will return to them come the colder weather.
However I will continue with the pottery classes, they are such fun and I think I'm learning quite a lot, especially about the Vikings. Jacqui our teacher is part of the Viking re- enactment movement, she specialises in Viking pottery, it's great to learn about a people that I had little if any knowledge of.
The dark tulips are Queen of the night.
Chives, good to eat as well as very pretty.
The weather has now changed back to what we are familiar with, showers and cooler than it has been, I'm not complaining though, for me the last few days has been far too hot. I think that the sun might have affected the OH's memory, or maybe it was just a senior moment, he put the electric kettle on the gas ring, not a good idea. I was quite fond of our old kettle, it also whistled when it was boiled, it's replacement has no whistle, but it does have a bright led light to tell you when it's on, I think the whistle was of more use.
I love this orange tulip.
This one is a beauty.
First of the Papavers
Kingcups in the pond.
Sweet little pansy.