Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

On the last day of May @ Prospect Cottage.

In arigna, Gardening, sustainable living on May 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm

At last the weather seems to be changing again. The strong winds have abated and rain showers are less frequent. From tomorrow, June 1st, the temperatures are set to increase and lots of sunshine is promised.

Birch is one of my favourite trees. I love how it’s graceful branches and sparse foliage allow the light through creating dappled shade beneath. The one which grows outside our back door has a different habit to the other Birches on our land. They usually grow very straight but this one has a weeping habit. Beautiful.

The leaves of Birch are diutetic, antiseptic and a tonic, an effective remedy for cystitis and other infections of the urinary system, cleansing the body by removing excess water.

In the polytunnels there is an abundance of produce,  salad crops, Spring Onions, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Beetroot plus lots of herbs and edible flowers. I get tremendous joy from harvesting ingredients for our meals each day. The same joy is not to be had from browsing the supermarket shelves, especially as most of the produce is now from far off lands. Keeping the air miles low here in Arigna.

Delighted that Apples have set on this tree, Mrs. Perry, this is it’s first year to set fruit. The fruit is said to be dual-purpose, holding on the tree up to November. Don’t think these will last that long!

Looks like we will have Tayberries this year, this cross between Raspberry and Blackberry is delicious. It is easy to grow, we have it trailing along the fence. The fruit ripens from mid-July .


Growing the Humble Spud @ Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening, sustainable living on May 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

The Potatoes which we planted in the polytunnel in April, covering with rushes instead of soil, (see post of 11th April), have come on well. They are Sarpo Mira, bred by the Sarvani family in Hungary, who have been breeding blight and virus resistant potatoes for over 50 years. In the coming week these will be mulched with more rushes. I had thought the rushes might be a hiding place for slugs but that has’nt happened, the frogs in the polytunnel must be doing their work well!

The potatoes which were planted outside in bags on St. Patrick’s Day, (see post of 21st March), are doing great. They have been topped up with compost a few times and hopefully there will be a good crop. We usually have the first of the earlies at the Summer Solstice. Less than a month to go! Organic seed, growing organically.

While on the topic of the humble Spud I have been reading about Greenpeace’s battle to stop BASF, the biotech giant, from planting the GM potato Amflora in Sweden. This Potato was approved for planting by the EU in 2010 without any independent studies done on it’s safety. There are worries that the Potato contains a gene which produces an enzyme which gives resistance to several antibiotics.  Amflora’s main use is for potato starch which is used in the production of paper, packaging and adhesives. The Potato will not enter the human food chain is the company claim. However, the recycling of the waste from the starch production IS permitted to be used in animal feeds. Surely some of these animals will be part of the food chain for people who consume meat? Worrying indeed!!

Meanwhile in Sweden the police came to the warehouse where the protest was happening and arrested each and every individual there. They were later released and returned to continue the blockade. I find it amazing that police forces all over the World are at the beck and call of these corporations.

Check out the full story on

May flowers @ Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening on May 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Incarvillea, in flower at the moment, looks like something that should be a heated glasshouse. It is however completely hardy, it’s low growing habit protecting it from the recent winds.

 Yellow Flag Iris is just coming into flower right now. A native plant it grows well in water and wet soils. Lots of it growing wild on our laneway.

Geranium Johnson’s Blue flanked on either side by Alchemilla commonly known as Lady’s Mantle, an accidental combination brought about by self-seeders, I love it. In the polytunnel self-seeded Snapdragons provide a striking colour point.

Nasturtiums, one of my faves. Good for insect biodiversity, a good companion plant , leaves and flowers are edible. Sounds like the perfect plant!Thought the recent gales would have destroyed this one as it’s in a fairly exposed spot. It however, looks better than ever, Campion.

Irish Museum of Modern Art Garden.

In Gardening on May 26, 2011 at 11:01 am

Could’nt take pics of the exhibitions, although we did take one sneaky one. This huge sphere made by Romauld Hazoume was in the courtyard.

Also by Hazoume, also made from jerry cans. Sounds from a busy day in Benin are playing continously giving this exhibit an exciting vibrancy.

There is a formal garden at the north side of the main building which could be easily missed if you did’nt know it was there. Well worth a look, there is no admission charge.

Lots of beautiful Roses, mostly scented. They are sheltered by the high walls of the garden.

Box hedging enclosing a bed of Catmint.

Aaaah! I’m outta here, she’s holding some blokes head!!

This one’s a bit more gracious looking!

Love the cherubs!

Hello from Prospect Cottage!

In arigna, Gardening on May 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Hi all, due to computer problems, hard drive I think, we have’nt been able to upload photos for a few days now. Hopefully all will be rectified in the next few days. So, an update since last post. On Sunday we went to Dublin to see the exhibition of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s paintings at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Have been a fan of Frida’s images since I saw them in a book some years ago. There were also fab paintings by Frida’s husband Diego Rivera. They both had a unique style. Her self portraits are particularly captivating. Looking into the eyes of someone who died (1954) before one was born is a bit odd. She was an incredibly beautiful woman with a unique dress sense. The exhibition is on until June 26th. There is also a very nice formal garden open to the public, no cost. We took loads of lovely garden pics but they have to wait until a future date.

There was also an exhibition of works by Romuald Hazoume from the Republic of Benin. Found objects, photography, sound, video, installation and painting are all included in his work. This exhibition was meant to finish on the 15th May but was still running last Sunday 22nd. I particularly liked his found objects sculptures, the fave being a set of musical instruments made from plastic gerry cans.

Here at home we are fed up with this weather. Don’t mind the rain so much but I really hate this wind. We were lucky not to have any damage from yesterday’s storm. The polytunnels stayed closed all day as the gusts were really strong. Today is calmer so the tunnels were opened and some work done. Potted on Basil, Peppers and Chillies. Harvested salad for dinner and watered everything then closed tunnels again as there were some strong gusts of wind. Crazy crazy May weather! Hope it improves soon.

25th May.

Still no joy on uploading pics. Andy is giving up on trying to sort it out and is taking computer to local hi-tech witch doctor today!! Fingers crossed all well be well. What will we do without Twitter etc!! I jest! Will have to do a bit of gardening or something. That could be a problem considering the weather here today. Wind and rain that would do justice to a January day. Ah well, what can we do. Maybe built a giant polytunnel over Ireland. The local weater gurus say that June and July are to be crap. August to bring tempuratures of over 30c! The question is can we handle 2 months of this? The people will be suffering with Summer SAD.

I guess the bubble of euphoria that engulfed the country for the past week was broken for many people last night when O’Bama was heard to declare his English heritage on his Mother’s side. Is this guy for real? Does he think England and Ireland are still one? Does he not know we are proud to be REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. Did he not see the sea that divides the two countries? Geography and history lessons please Mr. O’Bama!!

International Biodiversity Day.

In Animals, arigna, Bees, Gardening, sustainable living on May 22, 2011 at 7:06 am

So we are still here! The World did’nt end! So we continue on. Today is International Biodiversity Day. For those of us to whom that matters let us carry on. Carry on with living as lightly as we can on this Planet. Carry on with growing as much food as possible. Carry on to encourage biodiversity by not using poisons on our land, by leaving wild areas, by planting flowers for bees, butterflies and other insects.

Here in Arigna our animals are enjoying the plentiful grass. Daphne (above) seems to be on a non stop eating marathon. She does’nt even shelter from the rain, but then it is the soft Summer variety. Winter rain is a different matter, harsh and cold, she hates that, but then so do we. Our milking Goat, Enid, is milking well, about 2 litres each day. Lots of paneer and milky puddings plus lots being frozen for Winter.

Walking by Lough Allen yesterday I spotted these wild Deer tracks. Would love to see the deer but they seem to hide in the shrubbery and forest during the day.

There has been an amazing amount of growth this year. The dry Spring followed by lots of rain seems to have been ideal for everything. Fruit supplies look promising, lots of fruit set on Apples, Plums, Blackcurrant and other bush fruits. The Grape in the polytunnel is also heavily laden. Abundant wildlife is also evident, loads of Bumble Bees this year. Spotted lots of Butterflies and even a Ladybird. In the polytunnel we always have lots of Frogs. Too many insects to name and there seems to be loads of Spiders, more than I’ve noticed previously. Even saw a couple of Leeches earlier in the week, can’t say I like them very much but they are here! I think they like the damp ground.

Ladybirds and Garden pics from Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening, sustainable living on May 19, 2011 at 10:01 am

Rhododendron ponticum  is just coming into flower at the moment. Hated by many because it is so invasive one cannot deny the beauty of it’s flowers. Introduced to England and Ireland in the 18th century it has escaped into the wild choking out all in it’s path. Every Summer grows of volunteers work at cutting it back, especially in Kerry where it has become a huge problem. Each plant sets thousands of viable seeds so it’s progress is speedy. It is also poisonous to animals.

Was delighted to see this Ladybird yesterday, first one this year. They are in serious decline because of pesticide use and habitat disturbance. One way to help Ladybirds is to leave a patch of Nettles in your garden. The Nettle Aphid is a fave food of Ladybirds emerging from hibernation, it is’nt a garden pest. Ladybirds are of course a great friend to the gardener, they will consume aphids, scale insects and mealy bugs. Many people consider them lucky and love to see them. My Mother’s name for them is God’s Cows, that’s what they were always called when she was a child.

The old cottage garden favourite Aquilega is in flower at the moment. Also known as Columbine or Granny’s Bonnet it’s flowers are short-lived but so pretty. It is easily grown from seed and self seeds readily.

The Victoria Plum has set lots of fruits again this year. It likes the heavy ground here. We also have a young Opal Plum tree which has set fruit for the first time. Once again it seems that working with Nature will provide abundance here in the Arigna valley.

Bumble Bees & other musings from Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, Herbs on May 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

There seems to be lots of Bumble Bees about this year. Great to see them as worldwide they are in decline mostly because of disturbance to habitats. There are about 250 species living mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, although they are common in New Zealand and Tasmania. They are ground nesting often in tunnels abandoned by other creatures. Living in small colonies of no more than 50 they produce only enough honey to feed their young. Unlike their cousins the Honey Bees they do not die if they use their sting. However, it is rare for them to sting, usually only if they feel threatened. Bumble Bees are important pollinators of crops and wildflowers.

These Alliums are doing really well considering they were planted late, end of January, bargain bulbs in sale. They are holding up well to all the recent rain. I love purple flowers. Actually I really like the colour purple in clothing too.

Silverweed is plentiful on the lane at the moment, it thrives in the moist soil we have. A member of the Potentilla family, in the past the root was cooked and eaten as a vegetable or ground to use in bread and porridge. Geese are said to be partial to the leaves. The plant was also used medicinally. An infusion is said to be useful for gargles to relieve painful gums and toothache.

Tormentil, also a member of the Potentilla family, is in flower at the moment. It has similar properties to Silverweed being of the same family. The Lapps use the juice from the root to stain leather.

A Visit to “The Home Place”.

In Animals, Gardening, Off the beaten track. on May 16, 2011 at 9:59 am

Returned last night from from a weekend trip to Tipperary, the home place, where I was born and all my family still live. It was my niece’s 11th birthday so everyone was gathered together. The first stop is always my Mother’s house, the first greeters are Scooby and Shaggy, the family dogs. The little one, Shaggy, was found abandoned in a ditch, frightened and starving. Now he is cocky, confident and affectionate. A bit of love is all it took.

My Mother and I share a common interest in gardening. She is a great one at delegating, at 75 she’s allowed! One of my jobs over the weekend was to plant out the bedding plants. All grown in the polytunnel from seed, by herself, of course!

The stone wall, built by my Father as his final job before he was taken by “the big C”, so unfair, he was 59. Now covered by Snow in Summer.

So many flower buds, this Rose was propogated from a stem in a bouquet given by my brother to our Mother. Green fingered Mother.

Huge Strawberries, proudly pointed out to all who enter the polytunnel.

A punnet for me to take home, picked by my niece, abundance shared, hopefully skills and instincts being instilled in her, for the future.   Strawberry smoothies for a birthday breakfast today. Happy Days!

A Visit from the Farrier & a few more Strokestown pics.

In Animals, Gardening on May 13, 2011 at 7:19 am

Our pet Donkey, Daphne, had a visit from the Farrier this week. This is an essential part of a Donkey’s care and the oft seen neglect of not having their hooves pared results in their feet growing until they turn up into an Elf’s shoe shape. This leads to tremendous pain and discomfort for the animal and eventually the joints become affected. Daphne seems to enjoy getting her feet done, when Gerry arrives we only have to go to the gate and call and she comes running. The whole procedure only takes 10-15 minutes and needs to be done about every 3 months.

Back in the field and she seems delighted with herself. Donkeys love to roll where there is some bare earth, maybe it’s their way of scratching! Or is she expressing the joy of her new shoes! So cute! I can never understand how people can be cruel to these gentle and docile animals. But then I can’t understand cruelty to any animal or indeed to any of us creatures sharing this Planet together.

Could’nt resist sharing a few more pics from Strokestown (see previous post), I enjoyed the visit there so much.

Patty’s Plum is the name of this Poppy, I think! Is’nt it a beauty!

This massive clump of Shuttlecock Ferns was hiding in the undergrowth. Managed to find a few little ones looking for new homes on the outer of the clump! Naughty, but had to be done.