Bridget

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

As September Ends…

In Gardening, Off the beaten track. on September 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

At last the Hollyhock decides to bloom. Worth waiting for though. I got three of these as a gift last year but alas two were killed in last Winter’s hard frosts. I think it’s fab!

It is growing beneath this Twisted Willow which I grew from a cutting. During the recent winds I tied it to the tree which saved it from being destroyed.

In the polytunnel Salvia Hotlips has decided to flower again. Pretty!

Whilst weeding a flower bed the other day I cam across this Frog. Look at the size of the tum! I wonder if they fill up with food before hibernation or have they eggs already formed in there for next Spring? Beautiful colours! I put her by the pond in the polytunnel. She promptly jumped in and went to the bottom so I presume she will hibernate there  for the Winter.

Cabbage plants have been planted out in the veg garden. These are Savoy, a crinkled leaf variety which is Winter hardy. These will mature next Spring. A barrowload of farmyard manure went into this bed as it is continously planted year round. Onions grew here in the Summer. These are now drying for use throughout the Winter.

 Andy has been building a new shed onto the chalet, it will be used as a fuel and animal feed store. Here he is putting on the tin roof. Shortly after he finished the heaven’s opened and torrential rain fell. Good timing on that one!

And finally a pic of this lovely little church which is opposite the gates to Killegar where we attended the Mushroom Festival on Sunday. Does’nt it look lovely amongst the trees! It is still in regular use.

Ireland’s First Mushroom Festival.

In Foraging., Off the beaten track. on September 26, 2011 at 11:28 am

Weatherwise yesterday was a horrible day, however that did’nt put us off attending Ireland’s 1st Mushroom Festival at Killegar Estate, near Carrigallen, Co Leitrim. This event was,  part of the Save Killegar Campaign which the current owner Sue, Lady Kilbracken, organised as a way of raising awareness and hopefully some funds to save this beautiful old house. Completed in 1813, Killegar is in dire need of reburfishment. Sue and her son Sean live in just a couple of downstairs rooms. The rest of the house is not habitable.

A good crowd turned out for the event which was well organised. We went in groups with knowledgeable Mycologists through the grounds of the estate. We walked about 3 miles and found a range of fungi, edible and poisonous. Ireland has about 2,500 different Mushrooms. A fact I found amazing as we tend to concertrate our focus on 3 or 4 varieties. Can’t remember the name of the ones above but they were edible. However about 20% of the population have a severe allergic reaction to them so they are no longer on the edible list. Apparently they are popular in Italy.

 This bracket fungus on a Beech tree drew many people’s attention. It is unfortunately inedible and is a sign that the tree has started to die.

This person had an innovative way of carrying their bounty! Like it!

There were many other attractions too. This man was giving rides on his Donkey and cart. There were also food stalls, craft  demonstrations, art exhibition plus lectures and information stalls.

At the end of the day all the Mushrooms were identified by the experts and displayed. About 70 varieties were found. A great day out despite the weather!

If you wish to find out more info about Killegar or the Save Killegar Campaign go to www.Killegar.net . Sue, Lady Kilbracken describes Killegar as “a jewel in the heart of Leitrim”. You won’t find many disagreeing with her. Hopefully in the coming years Killegar will be restored to its former glory.

Fave Pics from Summer 2011.

In Off the beaten track. on September 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Took this pic at Serpent’s Rock on the Sligo coast. There are several acres of limestone covered in fossils here, a fascinating spot. I think this one looks like a person wearing a headress.

In May we went to see Freda Kahlo’s paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham, Dublin. Nearby is the beautiful walled garden.

Early June saw a rare event this Summer, blue sky and sun. This pic was taken in our back field. There are a hundred young Ash trees planted here.

Ganesh, remover of obstacles, arrived around Summer Solstice time. A present from our friends Debra and Paul who live in Clare.

The end of June saw a new resident, Freddie, the new puppy. He is now happily ensconsed here and fits in well with our other 2 dogs. He will be a year old next month.

Nasturtiums, regardless of weather, they never fail to produce their jewel like flowers which of course are edible and elevate the appearance of a salad.

Driving back from Sligo I always like to stop by Lough Meelagh where this beautiful folly never ceases to fascinate. It was once part of the Kilronan estate.

Autumn Equinox @ Prospect Cottage.

In Animals, arigna, Foraging., Gardening on September 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

The changing colours of Autumn are upon us, much as we may not like it, changes are afoot. Human beings do not much like change, we like other inhabitants on this Planet are creatures of habit. Although when change is forced upon us we are quick to adapt. At this time the Autumn Equinox is upon us, hard to believe it’s 3 months since Summer Solstice. It’s said time flies when you’re having fun, well time is certainly flying!

The last of the wild berries can be harvested on nice dry days. All sorts of Fungi are to be found in woodland and pasture. Nature’s abundance is still there for the picking. Still to come are the almost ripe Hazlenuts of which there are lots this year. Sloes, which are best after the first frost has softened them. Elderberries will be fully ripe soon too. They are great for jams, chutneys, cordials and wine. A tincture can be made from them which is said to be a wonderful restorative and immune system enhancer.

The animals also benefit for the abundance of the season. Daphne loves apples, not too many together though as they can cause bloat. Peelings left over from making jams and crumbles are always a welcome treat. Last week I collected a big box of windfalls from our neighbour’s orchard. They will provide treats for a few weeks.

The Goats too are fond of Apples. They also watch for falling leaves at this time of year and really enjoy them. Soon their bodies will be preparing for Winter by growing their Winter coats.

For us at this time when day and night are equal we must also adjust our minds to the coming of Winter. Enjoy the first frosts and the sunny days they will surely bring. Gather the last offerings from Nature. The larder is filled with the abundance of Summer, all is well. Who knows, we may be snowed in again this year! Soon we will head to Tipperary for the day and bring back a trailer load of hay and straw to bed and feed the animals over Winter.

May you all enjoy this time of adjustment. Enjoy the longer nights, make it a time for enjoying each other’s company. The frantic activity of the garden is now winding down. Think of some craft projects to work on over the Winter. Walk in the woods and enjoy the Trees as they too make their seasonal changes. Happy Equinox to All!

The Last Hurrah!

In Gardening on September 17, 2011 at 10:28 am

Rosa Rugosa.

Despite the wind and rain there are lots of flowers in the garden at the moment. It’s like they are putting in a final push before the seasonal race is over for this year. The last hurrah!

Japanese Anemone.

Japanese Anemones give a great splash of colour at this time. They still manage to look graceful despite the weather. The only caution with them is they are so hard to eradicate if you decide you don’t like them in a particular position. I’m talking from experience here!

Yellow Rambling Rose planted earlier in the Summer.

I’m hoping this rambler will be well established next year and will take off to be trained along the banister on this verandah.

Phlox.

The Phlox is very late flowering this year. I think it got tired of waiting for sunshine.

???

Anyone know the name of this one?

Coneflower.

Coneflower or to give it it’s proper name Rudbeckia is a great Autumn standby. I really like it’s dark centre.

Devil's-bit Scabious.

 On the laneway this lovely stand of Devil’s-bit Scabious  lifts my heart each time I walk by it. I will be collecting seeds of this later on for a small wildflower area we hope to do next year. That’s the gardener’s life for ya, always thinking and planning ahead.

Abundance.

In Cooking, Foraging., Gardening, sustainable living on September 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

Every year at this time we have a ritual of going to pick Black Plums at our former neighbour’s place. Don’t know the variety of these Plums but they are a cooking variety which the owners brought from their native Germany. In Germany they are known as a Plum for using in Plum Cake.

As yesterday was a nice dry day it was designated the Plum picking day. Other neighbours came along too so it evolved into a little social event. The recent wind had broken some branches which had to be cut out. As these were from the crown of the tree they were laden with lovely ripe fruit. It made the picking easier and quicker, not that we were in any rush!

This lovely big basket of Plums would grace any harvest celebration table. Some were to be used for a big Plum Crumble last night.

In less than an hour this box was full to the brim with Plums. I will destone them and freeze for use in jams, chutneys and crumbles later in the year when the days are shorter and more time is spent indoors. One kilo will be kept to make jam for immediate use. They are high in pectin, very similar to Damsons, so the jam sets easily. I will include the recipe I use for the jam.

Damson or Black Plum Jam.

1kg Damsons       1kg sugar     three quarter pint of water

Method:  Wash fruit, slit and remove stones. I like to have a kilo of fruit after removing stones so allow a few more grams to allow for weight of stones. Place them in a preserving pan with the water. Simmer until fruit is soft. Add sugar and slowly bring to the boil, boil until a set is reached. Stir frequently to avoid burning.  The set will come fairly quickly as the fruits are high in pectin. Pour into heated sterilised jars and seal immediately.

As today is again dry I’m now off to pick Blackberries!

Random Thoughts from Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening, sustainable living on September 13, 2011 at 7:07 am

Cosmos, one of my fave flowers is still doing well here in this tub despite the wind and rain which has been battering us for a few days now.

Sedums are reddening up, Autumn is here!

This purple Sedum which I got earlier in the Summer is already showing it’s dark red flowers. Not too many Butterflies though!

Onions are drying on the bench in the shed. They will be tied in bundles for use through the Winter months. Have you ever noticed how home-grown Onions are much stronger than shop bought?

Red Onions are also drying. These will make a lovely Onion Marmalade or decorate a Winter salad.

In the polytunnel Red Orach is setting seed. I shall plant this outdoors next year as it is very decorative, not so keen on it’s edible leaves.

The Grapes are starting to ripen at last, very late this year. They are surprisingly sweet given the lack of sunshine. I am going to leave some to get really ripe as I plan to make wine this year. The riper they are the higher the natural sugars.

Off Grid Living.

In Gardening, Off the beaten track., permaculture, sustainable living on September 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Our friends Elaine and LJ live on a 7 acre smallholding about 10 miles away from us. Living the good life for about 7 years now their wooden clad house is warm, cosy and welcoming despite having no mains electricity or water, things most people can’t imagine living without.

Electricity for the house comes from solar panels and a wind turbine atop this pole. Sorry, I cut off the wind turbine, crap pic, anyway you get the idea! Water is gravity fed from a well on their own land, some rainwater is also collected.

There are 2 polytunnels for vegetables and also an orchard. Slowly this land which was only ever used as grazing for cows is being converted to a haven for wildlife. No chemicals are used here, nature rules. Elaine and LJ call their philosophy “Permaganics, a combination of organic and permaculture techniques.”

Their 2 donkeys Floyd and Bowie have the run of the land that isn’t being cultivated, about 4 acres. I think the names reveal a little about their owners musical tastes too!

 Willow cuttings planted last year have taken well, they help to divide the land into separate spaces and take up excess moisture from the ground. More will be planted over the coming Winter. Willow grows easily from cuttings planted in frost-free weather in Autumn or Winter. Here they have been formed into overlapping semi-circles to form a “fedge”.

This willow lined pathway leads to a magical woodland area. One can imagine Nymphs, Fairies and maybe even Leprachauns having their abode here. They will not be disturbed.

This pic was taken walking back to the house from the woodland.

In the orchard the Apples are ready for picking.

The Wildflower Meadow.

In Gardening on September 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Back in May as part of the gardening project at a local school I planted a wildflower meadow with the help of the children. A local farmer turned the sod and each child scattered a handful of seeds onto the bare earth. Four months later this is the result. Fab!

                                                                                               Earlier in the week Andy strimmed a path alongside the wildflower area to create a pathway for the children to walk among the flowers which have grown tremendously since the children got their Summer holidays at the end of June.

The kilo of seeds was meant to have 16 varieties of native flowers, as you can see this has’nt materialised, nontheless it makes a great impact. The white flowers are Chamomile, they can be dried and used to make a tea which relieves nausea and indigestion. A decoction can be used as a hair conditioner.

The yellow flowers are Corn Marigold, as far as I know they have no use as a herb. The benefit of wildflower areas like this are enormous for wildlife. On Wednesday evening when Andy did the strimming the flowers were buzzing with insects, Hoverflies, Bees and Bumble Bees the most common.

Among the yellow and whites there are also Poppies and Corn Cockle (above). When seeds form they will be collected and used to extend this wildflower area next Spring. The children will be involved in the seed collecting and drying. The area will then be strimmed and the cuttings taken away so as not to over fertilise the soil. Wildflowers do better on poorer soils.

Back at home and the Tomatoes are ripening at last. It was been such a weird weather year that everything has been slow. Even Lettuce was problematic, it just came up and went straight to seed. These are Moneymaker Tomatoes which a lot of people say have a bland flavour but when grown organically I do not find this to be so.

Spuds and Flowers @ Prospect Cottage.

In Gardening on September 1, 2011 at 6:51 am

Every year we grow some Potatoes in bags. A few inches of compost in the bottom of a sack, holes in bag to allow drainage, pop in 3 or 4 Potatoes per bag, cover with compost and there you have it. The ones above are Sarpo Mira. They were topped up with compost twice as they grew. They were not treated for blight and only now are they getting some spots on leaves.

They were harvested last week and as you can see there were lots of lovely little pink potatoes to be gathered. We emptied the bags into the wheelbarrow for easy access.

This lot is from one bag which contained 3 seed Potatoes. The Potatoes are small but I do find the bags don’t produce big Spuds.

This is the total from the 4 bags, a little over 10 lbs. Not bad for very little effort, delicious little organic Potatoes from our own garden.

The resulting barrowload of compost was used to top up one of the veg beds.  I love little garden experiments like this, it proves you can grow spuds anywhere even without a garden.

In the long border this pink Astible is blooming,

and outside the polytunnel this container of Cosmos continues to provide colour. I love Cosmos and will save seeds from these for next years crop.