Thursday, June 30, 2016

Preserving Time, again!

Ox mountain, Co. Sligo
The summer Solstice has come and gone, we are now over half way through the year, time is flying and fruit is ripening fast. We have been eating strawberries for the past ten weeks from the tunnel now
Lots of soft fruit.
it's the turn of the Cambridge favourite which are in the garden and the raspberries. We are picking around a pound and a half of strawberries every other day and around a pound of raspberries every other day,
The first strawberries bottled and one jar of juice to use with homemade ice-cream.
too many to eat so Strawberries are being bottled, or canned if you live across the pond. The raspberries are being frozen. Soon it will be the turn of the Gooseberries and this year we will have them instead of the blackbirds as they are now protected by a netting tunnel. Preparing for the Gooseberries I have now made a second batch of Elderflower cordial, some of this has been frozen into ice cube trays, I will then add two cubes to each bag of gooseberries, or two cubes to each jar if I bottle some.  Elderflower gives a different dimension to Gooseberries and also to Rhubarb.
Specially for Donna here is a step by step guide for making Elderflower cordial.
Elder flowers.
Pick your flowers preferably in the morning when it hasn't been raining, allow thirty large heads per batch. Remove all the individual flowers removing as much of the tiny stems as possible, the stems and leafs are mildly toxic.
Flowers detached from the stems.
Place the flowers in a large bowl,
Add zest and juice from four lemons,
add the zest and peel of four Organic lemons (or unwaxed lemons) add two pounds of sugar and three pints of boiling water, stir vigorously to dissolve the sugar, leave overnight. Next day strain the mixture through fine muslin, and bottle in sterilised bottles. I don't add citric acid although many recipes say to use it,  it gives me indigestion, I use plastic bottles which can be frozen. you can also freeze the cordial in ice cube trays to use with gooseberries or Rhubarb. It will keep for a long time if frozen, but if you use citric acid and stored in the fridge it will only keep for a few weeks.
I am also going to try freezing the flowers to make more cordial later on in the year, I don't know if this will work or not, this is the one time Google has let me down.
A few days ago I received a parcel from one of my blogging friends in the US containing a real bees wax candle for me to make furniture polish, a jar of wonderful smelling rose balm which my hands are greatly appreciating,
Freddie made the first inspection.
and six real catnip toys,
One cat on a high.
the cats have had a wonderful time with their toys,
Next came Susy.
I wish we could get the real Nepeta here but we seem to only have the blue flowering type,
Then Misty entered the mix.
not the white which is the one that sends cats into ecstasy. So again, many thanks Carole.
Ducklings at three weeks.

The ducklings are growing well and enjoying being outside, but they do make such a mess. Their drinking water is used as a bath and has to be change four times a day.
Connemara mare and foal. 
It seems that this is the time of year that horses give birth, we have seen several mares with
Our neighbours horses.
very young foals in the last week,
I think foals are so cute, they seem to be all legs.
The gardens are looking very colourful and the roses are now in full bloom,
I love the Albertine rose, and the way it has merged with the purple prunus
and also with the Solanum crispum, ( potato vine), such a shame that the rose is so prickly.
I have a three week holiday from the pottery class, unfortunately my teacher has various shows to attend, Friday is now quite boring,
I did manage to complete a vase based on Troika, it worked out quite well and is great to display flowers in. I have another similar one on the go, and then my next project is a Moorcroft type vase. For this I have to make a mould, so I'm making that out of papier-mâché , whatever you use as a mould has to be porous, the three weeks will probally go quickly, then it will be back to normal.
We are still trying to get our heads around the Brexit vote, and it would appear that we are now stateless persons. Although still British passport holders we were not allowed to vote as we have been out of the country too long, neither can we vote in any Irish referendums, only in local and general elections, when votes really don't count. Despite the Brexit campaign being led by BoJo who was tipped to be the next Tory leader, he has not entered the race, now what in heavens name is that all about? It seems that the pantomime season has come early this year. I wonder where we will all be this time next year, will there even still be a United kingdom although an oxymoron to call it United, let alone an EU. It looks like England is as good at politics as they are at football. Interesting times.
I love the colour of this Delphinium.
They are very tall and have to be staked.
Suzy and Tommy.

Freddie supervising.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

First store havest.

The garlic which we planted last Autumn has now been harvested, again the bulbs are a good size and we should have plenty to last us throughout the next year, we had an added bonus from this bed,
around ten pounds of Ratte potatoes, we didn't grow them last year in this bed but the year before and some potatoes must have been left behind only to make a re-appearance this year. They are a lovely flavoured potato and it's very hard to get hold of the seed potatoes, our original tubers came from a friend, we will make sure that we keep back some of these tubers to replant very early next year. This brings our total of different early  potatoes to seven and one variety of main crop. We will chose our two favourite variety's and stick to them, seven is too many I think but we should be able to decide on the firm favourites.

We have only planted two cucumber plants this year and they seem to be very early, already we have spare cues to give to friends. The courgettes are also forming well and we should have our first ones ready to pick in a few days.
It is also looking as though we will have a good crop of Victoria plums, they are forming well,
but why there should be some late flowers on the tree is anyone's guess.
The ducklings that we bought in have doubled in size in just nine days, they will be ready to put into their outside run later on next week subject to the weather not getting too cold.
The weather forecast is not too good for the next few days, rain for tomorrow and lower temperatures than we had been having. Unfortunately tomorrow is the open day for one of the Secret gardens of Sligo that is a new one for this year, it is a town garden not too far from us and is based on a Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens design, we are both looking forward to seeing it but would prefer to do so without getting wet, lets hope the forecasters are wrong.
Elderflowers are in abundance this year
and we have made the first lot of cordial,
whilst out collecting the flowers we can across yet another abandoned cottage
with a lovely stand of Aconite,
Our Aconite.
I hope that one day our plants will have spread this well, I love the deep blue of the Aconite, such a shame that it is so poisonous. There are so many of these abandoned cottages, yet 'they' keep saying there's a housing shortage, well not in this area there isn't.
Some of our Delphiniums.
One thing that does do very well in our garden are the Delphiniums, we have several different colours and they have spread well, although renowned to be slug food we seem to get no trouble with ours, unlike the Asters that we had grown from seed, as soon as they were planted out the slugs devoured them, fortunately I hadn't planted them all so we have potted the remaining ones on and will plant out when we think they are big enough to sustain slug attack.
Looking down on it.
We now have a nice array of irises, the latest one to flower is this little beauty, almost completely black, I love dark coloured flowers and foliage, it seems to give even more interest to a garden.
Almost black.
Heath spotted orchid.
The wild Orchids are now appearing everywhere,
there are quite a few different varieties, some are not easy to identify such as the Butterfly Orchid,
Greater or lesser? We have to take a closer look at the pollen sacs.
 we will have to return to the site to take a closer look to decide whether this is the Lesser or Greater butterfly Orchid , both of which grow in this area.
Also in bloom is the Butterwort, a carnivorous plant,
           despite this it is a pretty little thing.
Last week I was able to get a nice photo of the Irish Hare,
A very handsome boy.

this week we had a Pheasant who seemed quite happy to watch us, giving me a chance to get a good photo of him, such a colourful fellow.
Centaurea nigre. ( common knapweed)

A beautiful white rose growing in the middle of nowhere.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Pond life.

Zephirine drouhin, a truly thornless rose.
The title of this post refers to a natural eco system rather than to certain politicians either side of the pond.
 One of the first things we made when we first moved here was a small pond, we wanted to encourage frogs  and other wild life into the garden. It takes some time to establish a natural ecosystem but this year we were rewarded with frogs choosing to spawn in our pond. We have three different stage tadpoles, some just very fat but without their legs developed yet, others have their legs and others are now froglets, yet we have never seen an adult frog in or even near the pond.
 Removing some of the duck weed that appears in ponds from nowhere  we found all sorts of interesting pond life, Dragonfly larvae, not the prettiest of things, also a predator of tadpoles,
Rams Horn snails, and fresh water clams, the clams and the snails must have come in on various plants that we have put into the pond.
The clams are tiny but there's a lot of them.
The clams are very small at the moment I wonder just how big they will grow and whether they will ever get big enough to eat!
I am very pleased that a blue water Iris that was a gift from a friend has started to flower this year, much more interesting than the common yellow flag Iris.
Our poultry numbers have increased significantly in the past few days.
We had a good hatch of quail, and at last we have our long ago ordered ducklings,
Just arrived.
they are so cute at this age, and we will do our best to provide them with a good if rather short life before they have to go in the freezer.
Pekin ducklings.
We have timed the ducklings so they will be ready at the same time as the Hubbard chickens so they can all be processed at the same time by 'The Friendly Farmer', meaning just one trip instead of two.
Living in such a rural area means we get to see quite a bit of wild life, we have pheasants, red squirrels, the dreaded Pine Marten , Mink, rabbits and  Hares. There seems to be more hares around here than rabbits,
we followed one down the road yesterday, and for a change I had the camera with me.
At last we have had a little rain,
it has brought out all the roses and other flowers that seemed to be at a stand  still during the very hot and dry month that we have had.
The garden is in full bloom now.
The cats and digs are also happier now it's slightly cooler.
Tess our golden lab doesn't expend too much energy at the best of times,
during the very hot weather she seemed to only wake up if there was food in the offing.
We are still getting strawberries from the tunnel and the first of the Cambridge favourite in the garden are now showing colour, we should have a continues supply for a while longer, then it should be the turn of the gooseberries and raspberries.
Lots of broad beans as well, it seems to be a good year for them.
Elder trees are full of flowers, last year they didn't flower until autumn, we will go gathering in the next few days and I will make some elderflower cordial, lovely on a warm summers day.
Simon liked the mug that I had made for his birthday, we celebrated with a lovely homemade coffee and walnut cake.
They look like roses but they are Ranunculus.
A smug looking cat.
   In a nearby town one of the many empty properties has been beautifully given some life, I love these painting showing what might have been a long time ago.
I wonder if he has a name?
Snowball bush, a cutting we brought with us from Spain, now is a real bush.
The alums are good this year.