Thursday, September 29, 2016

Out and about.

Organic Centre contemplation tunnel.
Now there's not quite so much to do in the garden we have been able to make a couple of trips out. The first one was to Ballina, a bustling small estuary town in Mayo.
The river Moy runs through it, and it is one of the very few places that has a wet fish shop, in fact Ballina has two of them but the second one sells things other than fish so we stick to the specialist shop. We make this trip once every month or so to stock up on good fish. Also in the area are several ruins of ancient Abbeys or Friaries.
The one we visited last week was Rosserk  Abbey, some describe it as a Friary,
I'm not too sure what the difference is, this was built around 1440 by the Joyce family, and was the home to Franciscan monks until around 1590 when it is reportedly burnt down by Sir Richard Bingham, 1st governor of Connacht under the reign of Elizabeth the 1st, no doubt trying to curry favour with the English court.
Like most of these buildings it sits in a prime location on the banks of the river Moy, it is doubtful if monks of this period ever suffered hardship given the positioning of so many of these wonderful old monuments. Good land, and plenty of fish from the river.
Possibly an old harbour?
In an adjoining field you can just make out the remains of walls which would probally have been part of the Abby, possible a small harbour, as it is a tidal river at this point. We sat and enjoyed our picnic,
watching curlews foraging for food, 
and then  were joined by a friendly Robin waiting for tit bits.

The next trip out was to the 'Organic Centre' in Rossinver Co. Leitrim for the annual Apple Day. The weather could have been better, and the service or rather lack of it in the cafĂ© left a lot to be desired. After waiting almost an hour for our food order to arrive we gave up and asked for our money back. By this time we were hungry, so decided we would have a barbequed burger, the barbeque was well advertised on the web site for the Organic Centre so naturally we assumed that the burgers would be organic beef, especially at a fiver a throw, it was only when I spotted cheese slices that I asked the question! I don't care if the meat came from the local butcher and from his own cows, this is the Organic Centre, supposedly a flagship for the 'Organic Movement', I for one do not expect to be served anything other than organic food in such an establishment.
Nice pumpkins.
Tomato tunnel.
We did a tour of the tunnels,
Such lovely colours.
even these were not as good as usual, they should have been overflowing with produce at this time of year, ours is.
Lots of grapes, and they are very tasty.
 Maybe they have had a change of management or the centre is now being run by committee,  whatever, it is not as good as it was just a year ago. Very disappointing. We did however come away with two bottles of freshly pressed apple juice, which was yummy, and a large bag of organic apples. Who would has guessed that the humble apple when grown non organically is subjected  up to thirty five times spraying with fifteen different chemicals being used, and 'they' wonder why there are so many people suffering from allergies etc. just look at what is added to so called whole food.
Now that summer is over the pottery classes are back to weekly, I haven't planned my next project yet, and the next class is tomorrow, possibly playing around with different colours and effects,
Before firing.
 you never know how an item will turn out once it's been fired, the colours change completely.
after firing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Keeping the colour going.

Summer colour is now fading,
we still have roses and rudbeckia flowering as well as dahlias
and hydrangeas, but the summer flowering plants in the containers are nearly over. The geraniums will keep going for a while yet, until the first frosts so they are now being potted up to go into the greenhouse for over wintering.
 I have been replacing the summer plantings with cyclamens and winter pansy's, four have been done, only another eight to go and that job will be done.
The two pots either side of the wooden planter were made by Simon, they are concrete and weigh a ton.
All the planters have spring bulbs in them and I have increased the amount of anemones. Anemones seem to be very reliable, coming up year after year.
The spring bulbs that I ordered have now arrived,
four hundred and sixty five in total, add on the seventy five anemones waiting to be planted and I realise that I have a lot of planting to do over the next couple of weeks. Each year I say I wont get more bulbs, but then the catalogue arrives, and once again I get tempted. Once these are planted that will be the lot, I have run out of places to plant unless we make another bed, but that would mean encroaching into the vegetable area, so what I have is it!
The swallows are now gathering, ready for their flight back to warmer climes, we are always sorry to see them go, it really does mark the start autumn.
The late season vegetables are now producing well,
lots of cauliflowers, and
the calabrese is doing great, the ones in the photo are not the main heads, they are the side shoots.
This is the first year that we have grown celeriac, well that's not quite true, we did try once before when we lived in Spain, they came to nothing, but these have grown very well, easier than celery which always seems to be badly attacked by slugs, I guess the skins on the celeriac are too tough for slugs to get their teeth into.
Our potato harvest was as bad as we had feared, most of the spuds have been eaten by slugs, next year we are going to try growing them all in containers and one new raised bed. This bed will be sixteen feet by four, with the containers this should, hopefully give us enough potatoes for the year, we know that this year we will have to buy potatoes, a first for us for the last twenty odd years, it will be hard to find a spud that is worth eating, even the imported organic ones leave a lot to be desired, mainly flavour.
At last our front gate has had it's long awaited coat of wood preservative, it looks very nice, and it only took us five years to do it.
Misty, Freddie's sister.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hints of Autumn.

Less than two weeks into September and we have already had over half the rainfall of last years Sept, making up for August which was the driest since 2013. We have also had very high winds which have blown down the  runner beans support twice and also the Sweet peas, the beans have been righted without too much damage but the sweet peas support is beyond saving. We will have to do a total rethink on bean and pea support next year.
Early Autumn colour.
Colour is now showing on the trees and the hedgerows are full of blackberries, it's a good year for this free fruit, already we have had six blackberry and apple crumbles,
Last of our apples.
made with our own apples, this is the first year that we have been able to say we have apples! Needless to say we have lost the labels from the trees, but one of them is a russet of some type.
Three weeks old.
The Hubbard chicks are now four weeks old and have been in an outside run for a week, we gave them heat for the first couple of days but as the night time temperatures has remained quite high they now no longer need additional heat. They will be moved into a bigger house and run in a couple of weeks.
The Charlotte seed potatoes that have been planted into large pots have already been earthed up twice, we planted up  four pots and hopefully we should have some new potatoes for Christmas. One thing that didn't get planted this year were turnips, so a late sowing has been made in the tunnel, according to gardening forums we should have turnips ready for use in a couple of months.
We are once again spoilt for  choice vegetable wise,
the late cauliflowers have now formed their curds, French beans are at last producing, as well as the runner beans, and the calabrese has formed side shoots nearly as large as the main heads were.
We have had a couple of trips out in the last week.
Elecampane. (Inula.)
The first one was to Strokestown House walled garden,
A superb crocosmia.
on our last visit we were pleasantly surprised, the garden was full of colour and there were several people, volunteers mainly, restoring the gardens,
Plenty of white phlox.

White Japanese anemone.
this trip however was very disappointing, very little colour, mainly white phlox, lots of bare earth, and piles of weeds just left on the beds.
Bumble bee, robbing nectar from the base of a phlox.

A fine aspersa specimen.
Acanthus mollis
 Just one butterfly in the whole garden, there has been a real lack of them this year.
Just one Tortoiseshell butterfly.
We are quite happy to pay to see well kept gardens, preferably ones with colour, but to pay eighteen euros for gardens that seem once again to be neglected is a rip off.
Our second trip was again into Sligo, we never need an excuse to go to Co. Sligo, it is one of the loveliest counties and the people are full of energy, something that we also find in North Leitrim, yet is sadly lacking in the county in which we now live. This time it was another trip to the 'Crafters Basket', in Cliffoney. To get to Cliffoney you have to pass through Rathcormac, the supposed burial place of W.B Yeats. Also in Rathcormac they have a Craft Village, although we have passed it many times we had never stopped before. What a treat, the very highest standard of crafts that you are likely to find anywhere, and all , in our eyes reasonably priced. Pure Merino wool Aran jumpers for sixty euros, it cost me that much to knit Simons jumper last year. Wonderful hand loomed throws, hand made jewellery, a wonderful wood turner and a superb potter who specialises in Racu work, using moss peat and horse hair, every one of his peices are one offs and very reasonably priced. We have decided that we must go back to buy one of these lovely works of art. For anyone who is into pottery check out his website.  
A trip to the coast always calls for a couple of photos,
one of Classiebawn Castle, built by Lord Palmerston,
and another view of Mullaghmore bay.
We also spotted a very unusual crop growing in a field, a field of blue flax and oats, apparently this is a scheme to provide winter food for the wild birds,
I might be a bit cynical but I would make a bet that there is grant money available for this scheme, unless there is additional money to be had farmers don't do anything voluntarily.
The flower garden is still full of colour, the main gardens full of different colour phlox and heleniums ,
the back garden is mainly pink at this time of year, nice to look out at from the utility room and our bedroom.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wild colour.

Rowan berries. (Native).
The summer is slowly fading, what summer you might ask, in fact it hasn't been too bad, and far dryer in July and August than last year.
Bell heather.(ling)(Native)

Wild Golden rod.(Native)
Purple loosestrife.( Native)
Wild fuchsia.
Mountain Ash (Rowan)
Reed mace. (Native)
The hedgerows are filling with late summer flowers and of course blackberries.

In the last week we have found an excuse to visit Co. Sligo not once but twice,the first time to collect seaweed for next year fertility and the second visit was to one of Sligo's open gardens. This was a garden that we had missed last year and is the far side of Sligo on the Leitrim boarder. However, although well set out the garden has an air of neglect about it, it felt as though it's owner had lost interest, at this time of year when gardens are full of colour this garden was sadly lacking. However it was not a wasted visit, the gardens was close to 'The Crafters Basket' a great craft shop that caters for most needle crafts, it even stock pure wool, something that's hard to find nowadays. I had planned on re-doing an antique chair seat in tapestry or cross stitch but got somewhat side-lined by one of the shops owners, she introduced me to Bargello or Florentine stitch, so I have now decided to make a cushion cover using the Bargello method. It should keep me occupied for a few weeks during the winter.

Sligo has several ranges of mountains,
our first trip took us across the Ox Mountains, always a lovely trip,
the second trip took us close to the Dartry mountains
which run through the boarders of Leitrim and Sligo.
Apart from our two days of playing hooky from the holding  the usual work has been done, grass mowed and strimmed, some fruit bushes pruned, and most importantly the summer fruiting raspberries have been dealt with, all the old canes have been removed leaving just the new canes for next years fruit.
Chop up the marrow into sugar cube size
A couple of courgettes had pretensions of becoming marrows so I have made some marrow and ginger jam.
Chop up 100gms of blanched and peeled ginger. Put in pan with marrow and sugar, equal amount of sugar to marrow, juice and zest of two lemons for every two pounds of marrow. leave overnight, then cook as normal jam.
This is a jam that is one of our favourites, we both are ginger fans.
Seven pots of various sizes marrow and ginger jam.
It's not the easiest of jams to get a good set, but it is possible. The secret I think is letting the cubed marrow soak overnight in the sugar, this releases all the moisture that you have to boil off, and the cubes of marrow retain their texture. Lovely on toast as a change from marmalade.
Butterflies love the Phlox.
The butterflies have been very late this year, but at last we are seeing them daily providing it's not raining.

Heleniums and Japanese Anemones.

Echinacea and Bergamot.

Cardoon, butterflies love this as well.

Leycesteria Formosa.
Our late summer flowers seem to attract them, especially the Phlox and the Buddleias, and the bees seem to love the Obedient flowers ( Physostegia virginiana).
My experiment with the runner beans did very little to improve them, so I have given up any idea of preserving them. Fortunately a couple of our egg customers like runner beans and don't grow them so we are able to more or less keep up with the glut, we have also found that our rabbits like them so not too many will be wasted.
The Calabreese is giving us lots of heads, the plants should develop side spears which we will have for the winter,
Just a handful of French beans.
and at last we have had the first picking of French beans, why they got planted outside can only be out down to a senior moment.
The Cape Gooseberries are now ripening, we have had our first taste, and they should keep us going through to January.
Finally a couple of shots of contented sheep and cattle, who wouldn't be content with lovely views and the beach just a few feet away.
She looks content.
The sheep were very curious, but posed for a photo shoot.