Sunday, October 30, 2016

Out and about in Autumn.

This afternoon there was this beautiful rainbow.
We need little excuse to take day trips out, especially if it's around the West Coast of Ireland. Simon's  sister was over from Canada so it was a good enough excuse to stop work in the garden and take some time out.
Walled remains of a domestic enclosure.
 One of the trips was to the Ceide fields in North Mayo.
Wall excavation.

Bog pine, carbon dated to 4thousand 3hundred years old.
Believed to be the oldest known field system in the world, the site covers around two hundred ha. and dates back  three thousand five hundred years. Each homestead was around two ha. comprising of small stoned enclosures.
View from the top of the Ceide fields.

The climate was around two degrees warmer than it is now, which made farming possible in such and exposed area.
One of the other trips was to beautiful Sligo,
taking in Mullaghmore 
and Classiebawn Castle, once owned by Lord Palmerston.
Raghly harbour.
Then on to Raghly harbour, which once was as important as Killebegs for fishing. We know all the places well but always manage to see something new, this time we spotted another castle,
Ard Tarmon Castle, not the best view.
Ard Tarmon castle was built in 1648 by the Gore family, it burnt down in the early eighteenth century so the moved just up the road to another of their properties, Lissadell.  Ard Tarmon  remained a burnt out shell until the 1980's when it was bought by a German family who have restored it to it's former glory. It is now luxury self catering apartments.
Things are now back to normal so work continues. The new tunnel is finished, there are eight raised beds, one I'm hoping will be for flower growing, and one is earmarked  for fruit.
Garlic is up.

Onions are shooting.
The garlic and onions that were planted little over a week ago are all showing growth, so are weeds!
Not much remains to be done in that tunnel, but the older one needs a good sort out, I have made a start with the strawberry plants, removing suckers and  this years leaves.
In a weeks time the Hubbard birds will be ready for slaughter.   We had been taking our birds to a processer who did a great job at a reasonable price, unfortunately he has decided he has quite enough work to do with his own birds. We know of another processor  just a few miles down the road from us  but he is charging far too much so we are  back to doing our own processing.
Plucking machine, hopefully it will make life a little easier.
Plucking a bird is quite  hard work, doing eighteen is very hard work so we have invested in a plucking machine and a Baby Burco for scalding the birds before plucking, hopefully this will make the work a little easier.
The  Autumn colours have been brilliant this year,
one of our beech trees has all different colours
and the Mahonia also has some great colour coming, it will soon be in flower,  there are lots of flower spikes waiting to burst out.
Freddie relaxing.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Up and Running.

Another beautiful sunset.
The new tunnel beds are just about completed, just two pathways to finish.
Both of the longer beds are now planted up, one with spinach and spring cabbage,
Onion and garlic bed.
the other long bed is home to forty garlics and one hundred and fifty onions, these onions should be ready by the end of May.
Lough Key Crab Apple flowering 
This month has been very mild and very dry, the garden is not sure whether it's Spring or Autumn,
we have a crab apple tree that has decided to flower again
Oct, and still Delphiniums bloom.
and we have a Delphinium in flower. The roses are still blooming, and one of the Clematis hasn't stop blooming since May  it's still got lots of buds, the  dahlias also continue to flower giving me plenty of flowers for the house.
Latest project.
With the shorter nights I have started a tapestry, this is for a cushion cover, I had intended to redo a seat of an inherited chair, but changed my mind, there is nothing wrong with the chair seat, it just need to be removed and cleaned, then put back again.
Trees are now getting lovely colour, it's a shame that once they change colour they don't hang on to the leafs for long. I love to see the Autumn colour.
Wagtails are back.
We now have lots of Wagtails around, they returned in large numbers earlier this week. Of all the birds we get visiting us Wagtails are the biggest tease to the cats, they sit just out of range and time it perfectly to jump away just at the moment a cat is going to spring, we have never seen a Wagtail caught, they are quicker than the cats.
Robbie. 1999-2016 R.I.P. Old Chap.
Earlier this week we had to say goodbye to Robbie, our seventeen year old Jack Russell. He had arthritis for several years and was also loosing his sight, he was also wetting his bed. It's never fair to keep an animal if it has lost it's dignity. He was the sweetest chap, never chased the cats or poultry, and was an excellent house dog. We will miss him he was part of out life for so long.
Still plenty of flowers for the house.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Extending the season.

With the weather being so unpredictable we decided that we would put more land under cover, there seems to be little in the way of normal weather nowadays, it can be quite disheartening to plant out seedlings or plants at what should be the correct time and then lose them due to unseasonable weather.
This was this years potato patch, ideal for the new tunnel.
The new tunnel is the same size as the other one, 18X20 ft.
Hoops all in place.
The company who supplied and installed it were very professional,
Up with the cover.
they arrived on time and on the right day, (maybe a first for Ireland) and had the whole job completed in just four hours despite there being quite a wind.
Four hours latter, the finished job.
The tunnel is a tight as a drum.
We had not got  the timbers for the raised beds as we didn't want to litter up the site with unnecessary obstructions, but as soon as they had finished yesterday we were off to get the first ten scaffold boards, today we have picked up the second load. Second-hand scaffold boards are a good way of making raised beds without spending a fortune, under cover they last very well, and even the ones in the veg garden are showing no signs of rotting after five years. The new tunnel will have seven raised beds in total, one will be for permanent planting, such as our fig tree which does not like being outside, we are also getting a second peach tree, they do very well in a tunnel. That will leave us six beds so we can have a good rotation with the first tunnel. It will be good having two uncover areas when it's raining cats and dogs outside.
Another giant cauliflower.
The veg garden is still producing well, for some reason our late cauliflowers are huge, weighing in at at least three pounds after trimming and eight inches across. The Calabrese is also still giving us lots of heads.
A three legged carrot.
Carrots always do well for us but I have no idea why this one should have produced three  forks, the bed has received no manure or compost for at least two years.
 We are getting a few Autumn raspberries but for us they don't do as well as the summer varieties. Physalis is another thing that always does well for us, the vines are now four years old and still producing well.
Red oak.
Blue berry.
My favourite shrub, Spindle, masses of berries this year.
There is now a lot of colour from the trees and bushes,
More blueberry colour.
but the flower gardens are still giving us lots of flowers for the house, so many things have giving us a second blooming.
The overflow bed, for all the herbaceous plants that need splitting. 
The O.H has also created another flower bed for me to take the overflow. I have so many plants crying out to be divided this bed will be full before I know it. I still have masses of bulbs to be planted as well, due to sciatica I haven't been able to do much in the garden, but it is slowly getting better.
Half a free range pig, butchered by Matt who did a great job. 
Having decided to not keep pigs anymore has given us a problem in obtaining good pork. Organic pork is very hard to get and in fact we are on a waiting list with the farmer who supplies us with beautiful beef, but it will be six months or more before he has any. Free range pork just does not exist in the shops, so it is a case of knowing someone who 'does pigs'. Fortunately we do know someone like this, we know the pigs were well looked after and enjoyed their outside life, we meet them a couple of times and they were happy pigs, so we managed to buy half a pig, free range, and very local, they were reared just eight miles away, we will be having local free range pork chops for dinner tonight.
Freddie likes a bird eye view. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumn harvests.

A beautiful sunset.
The weather is being very kind at the moment, sunny dry days, making working outside very pleasant. The area where the potatoes were grown has been completely cleared along with the runner beans and a couple of raised beds in preparation for the installation of a second tunnel, this  is the same size as our other tunnel, 18X 20 ft and will be arranged with seven raised beds. Unlike all our previous tunnels this one we are having installed by the company supplying it, we are getting too old and suffering from creaky bones to go through the hard graft of tunnel installation. It will be pure heaven watching other people doing the graft for us. having the second tunnel will make it easier to rotate the beds. First to be planted will be garlic and onions, we have some cauliflower seedlings coming along so they will also go into the new tunnel. We have decided that we need a second peach tree, the fruit that we get from the existing tree are the best peaches we have ever tasted, that includes any that we had in Spain, we also have a fig tree which so far has only fruited once for us outside and we love fresh figs, hopefully this will produce some fruit for us.
Sulphur Tuft, not edible.
Last Sunday was the 'Fungi Hunt' organised by the Organic Gardens at Knockvicar, we had both hoped to go however I am suffering from sciatica so had to give it a miss.
Ripe puff balls, not edible.

Unripe puff balls, edible.
By all accounts it was a good day  out with around thirty different fungi found, three of which are worth eating, several others although not poisonous were edible but not particularly pleasant.
Birch bracket fungus, not edible.
 Simon had hoped that by going on a fungi hunt with someone 'who knows' about fungi might have brought out some hidden gems that we have been missing,
Cortinarius ? not edible.
however Simons knowledge of fungi was about the same as the 'one who knows' so apart from a lovely walk not much was gained.
Back to the centre to identify all the finds.
In total there were fifteen people on the walk, including several children.
 One thing we miss about Spain is the fungi, forests and fields are full of beautiful edible fungi especially at this time of year, and the Spanish are well into foraging, so much so that the law is that fungi must be cut, not pulled. Anyone found mushroom foraging without a knife is fined.
There is still lots of colour in the garden, several things have come back into bloom,
Aster amellus, Michaelmas daisy. 
Albertine having a second flush/

even the Albertine rose has given a second flush
as well as lupines, there's even a delphinium that will be in flower by the weekend.
Thalictrum still flowering.
We have several different types of Aconite one which comes into flower very late, it's  giving a lovely splash of colour now.
One big surprise is the Amaryllis, this has decided to flower yet again, the third time this year, the second bulb also looks as though it might also flower yet again, we have done nothing to these bulbs except give them a little water when we remember, the bulbs have grown and need larger pots, or do they? as they are doing so well on neglect maybe this is the way to treat them.
Still plenty of French beans.
The French beans are still producing well, and the cauliflowers are the best we've ever had, far better than the earlier ones,
3lb after trimming.
after trimming they are weighing around three pounds each, I think that's a pretty good size, one cauli. lasts us for five meals, there's even bigger ones waiting to be cut, the leaks are also looking very good, we have two beds of these,
the first two we picked are from one of the raised beds that has now been removed, this left twenty leeks so we took a chance and transplanted them, they had two chances, live or die, it appears that they have survived the transplanting no sign of wilting at all, we will have plenty of leeks this winter.
One job that was put on the long finger during the summer was decorating our bedroom. The last time we went up to the  North was to buy paint for the outside of the cottage, at the same time I spotted some beautiful wall paper which I thought would be ideal for our bedroom, just the one wall behind the bed. Wallpaper in the republic requires a second mortgage, heaven only knows why it's so expensive, so we bought a couple of rolls just to give a lift to the room, I am very pleased with how it turned out.
Makes a change from plain painted walls.
We have realised that the last time we did any wallpapering was twenty eight years ago, since then we have lived with painted walls, easy to keep clean and change when you want to but not quite so cosy as wallpaper.