Thursday, January 19, 2017

Never ending circle.

It's now time to start planning this years garden. We started by being ruthless when sorting out our seed store, some of the seeds had travelled to Spain with us and back again, I'm not too sure how many packets of partly used seeds we dumped, but it was a lot. Once that job was done we then drew up the list of what we are growing this year, we only needed to order five packets of seeds to replenish our store, in fact it was only four packets but we also ordered Cantaloupe melon to the order, it's called Minnesota Midget and comes highly recommended by another blogger. We both love melon and it seems impossible to buy any that are worth eating so we will have a go at growing them. The seed company that we have ordered from is 'The Real Seed' company, they are a seed saving company who only use open pollination and no F1 hybrids in sight. Reading up on them they appear to be more ethical than any other seed company we have found, we look forward to growing some of their seeds.
In preparation for the growing season we took a trip to the coast to gather more seaweed,
the gods were kind to us and had left neat mounds for us to collect, we came home with fourteen sacksful of instant fertility plus twenty large mussels for my lunch the next day.
We had timed our visit just right, the tide was on it's way out.
We were a little mystified by a pair of perfectly good trainers sat side by side abandoned. There were no other people on the beach, maybe they walked there themselves, but it made a change from seeing then tied together by the laces and then thrown over power lines.
Things are moving in the garden, if this mild weather continues we will be picking rhubarb at the beginning of February.
The calendula has continued flowering all winter,
and we have a miniature daffodil out in flower,
the first crocus are also flowering but there is no sign of our snowdrops, maybe it's been too mild or too dry for them.
January is also the time that the Seville oranges arrive in the shops, we bought four kg of them and froze three kg of them, today I made the first batch of this years  supply  of marmalade. I say I made it today which is not strictly true as I started my marmalade yesterday. This recipe has never let me down and I always get a good set doing it this way.
 The one kg made seven jars of marmalade, which works out to just seven two cents a pot, not bad for a 100% organic fruit preserve..

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Spot the difference.

Last week we learnt the hard way that buying frozen fish is a waste of money and the plastic bag it comes in probally would have more flavour. We  sent an email to 'Donegal Catch' saying how disappointed we were in their product, needless to say, we received no reply. We can only assume  that they are so used to receiving complaints that they no longer bother to respond. This week we took the trip to our real fish man in Ballina,
Fresh cod versus frozen.
fresh cod was on offer at only twelve euro a kg, plaice at two euro a throw and hake at seventeen euro a kg. We now have replenished our stock of fish , this should last us for the next eight weeks.
Third generation.
Although this fishmonger has an overnight courier service, I still like to see what I'm buying, and it makes a nice trip out. This fish shop has been established for over fifty years and our fishmonger is the third generation of the family to run the business. I wonder how long this shop would have lasted if they didn't respond to customers feedback?
There are a few signs that spring is not too far away, bulbs are well up with flower buds on the daffodils,
one of the pulmonarias  is flowering,
Red hellebore.

White hellebore, I also spot a buttercup that needs removing.
likewise the hellebores,
An early Camellia.
there's even a brave camellia with one flower out, many more to come but way behind the first one.
Things are slowly developing in the new tunnel,
the garlic is well up,
broad beans not making too much headway, they are the same size as a couple of weeks ago.
Tiny cauliflower but they will come on.
Tiny cauliflowers have been planted into one of the beds, they look so small but should soon make headway with a few degrees of warmer weather, and increased daylight. Not that it's been cold this winter, so far it's been the warmest and driest for the past four years, although today it has done it's best to deliver a dusting of snow, as long as it stays just that, a dusting I will be quite happy. However, a few days of really cold weather would have been welcomed to kill off some of the nasty's in the soil, slugs in particular.
The apricot, it's got two chances.
The apricot tree gifted to us from a friend has been planted in the new tunnel, whether it survives or not is in the lap of the gods. It seems that we should have moved it late autumn as apricots are so early flowering the sap will already have risen, we are also a bit concerned that there was not enough root on it, still it has two chances, it lives or it dies. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

You must be codding.

Last week we had friends over for a meal, one of them is vegetarian but does eat fish so I decided I would do baked cod with a cream prawn sauce. We normally drive over to Ballina some 60k away to buy our fish from one of the very few wet fish shops still in existence, but still being in the Christmas period we guessed that there would be little in the way of fresh fish available so opted to buy frozen fish from our local supermarket, after all most people buy their fish this way so it must be of reasonable quality. How wrong can I be?
We bought one of the best known 'Irish' brands, 'Donegal Catch'. Unfortunately with frozen stuff you can't see what you are buying but I had a good prod at the bag and decided that I had better play safe and buy two bags to get four evenly sized pieces of cod. So the day arrived and four even peices were selected, we picked out the largest peices which would have been fine if they had not shrunk to almost half their size. Fortunately I had made plenty of prawn sauce with  lots of prawns in it, this compensated a little for the lack of cod. We cooked the cod exactly as instructed on the packet and very surprised to find a good half pint of fluid in the baking dish. We also have doubts as to whether this cod was the correct size, the flakes could barely be called flakes, quite possibly this fish was from undersized fish.
 The following day I had a good look at the packaging,
it stated that there was an 'ice glaze' of 5%, 95% cod fillets.  We then decided just for our own research to bake another piece of fish, weighing it before and after. The before weight was 77grams, the after, 48grams, a weight loss of 38%. This just does not happen when we buy fresh fish. It was not even cheap, it worked out at 15.78 per kg of fish. We buy fresh cod for 17euro a kg, and don't end up needing a magnifying glass to see the fish. We have emailed the company, needless to say we have received no reply. I guess they are well used to getting complaints. I am basing that assumption on another occasion  when I sent a query to a food company about the origin of their Organic bacon, the packaging gave the impression that it was an Irish product, in fact the pork that the bacon was cured from was Danish, but the company replied to my enquiry, by phone, not five minutes after I had sent the email. That's what I call good customer service. Needless to say, we will never be buying frozen fish again, and certainly not 'Donegal Catch'.
Spring is trying to appear, well ahead of time. We have had our first Muscovy duck egg, the willows have their pussy buds bursting, I even have an Anemone in bloom,

and I spotted the first primrose out in the bank of one of the lanes nearby. The broad beans, planted in the new tunnel are up a good three inches and tomorrow our first cauliflower plants will be planted into the tunnel, these plants were planted as seeds early November, they all germinated well and have spent the last two months in the cold frame, they are now three inches high, definitely time to be planted out. The buds on the peach trees are now swelling and there are also tip buds on the fig tree which we relocated to the new tunnel. Our new tunnel seems to becoming the fruit tree tunnel, with a peach fig and kiwi planted in it, this weekend this will be added to with an apricot tree, kindly donated to us by a friend who feels it's too big for her small tunnel . I hope it does as well as our peach tree . 
Mrs. Duck get the bread crust, unwilling to share,
Dilly Duck and hen look on,
Mrs.Duck finding it a little hard then dips it in the pond so soften it, how clever is that.