Bridget

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

As February Ends…all is well.

In Gardening, sustainable living on February 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm

As February comes to a close the frog orgy in the pond has finished and there is lots of spawn as a result. That’s a huge mass of it at top near where Freddie is. This pond was dug out only 2 years ago so it’s nice that Nature has accepted our efforts. Last year there were frogs too but not as many as this year. In the polytunnel the tiny pond there also has frog spawn. I think the frogs hibernated at the bottom of it over Winter. It’s great to have frogs in the polytunnel as they eat lots of slugs.

This amorous couple were by the back door a few days ago. I almost stepped on them as I went out. They were quiet a way from the pond so I gathered them up and deposited them there. Apparently frogs always come back to the spot where they spawned from so once established one should always have a merry band of slug devourers!

Today was a perfect day for working in the garden. It was a dry, calm, very still day. I spent the afternoon tidying up the long border. It took about 4 hours but I’m glad it’s done.

As I worked the only sound was birdsong and an occasional tinkle from the wind chimes.

My favourite Daffodil, the little Tete a Tete, has just started flowering. It has a beautiful subtle scent. Oh Spring, you are so welcome.

As evening approached we realised that Lettie would need a wash. She had found some badger poo and had a good ol roll in it. I love badgers but their poo stinks. I don’t understand why but Lettie loves to get that scent on herself. Our 2 male dogs never do this. Andy filled the mop bucket with nice tepid water and in she went.

Lettie hates water so she was’nt too impressed. The expression says it all!

If looks could kill! She is happily ensconsed on her fave seat tonight, clean, but not “talking” to either of us!

Weekend musings from a country smallholding.

In Ireland, sustainable living on February 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Bella is looking rather rock-chick with her new studded collar, don’t ya think? The blond stripe down her back is natural, I did’nt bleach it!! Hmm, could gel it and give her a mohican!!

Agghhh! Enid tries to eat the camera strap as I’m taking the pics!

The Strawberries have been transplanted into their new bed in the small polytunnel. Dug in lots of manure so hoping for a good Strawberry harvest.

 In the garden the Blackcurrants are already budding. They always do well regardless of weather, they seem to like the heavy soil here . They are mulched with Comfrey a few times during the year.

There was several hours of sunshine today. I spent some time in the garden, it was bliss just listening to the birds singing in the big Sycamore tree that overlooks the garden.

There’s loads of seed heads on the Kale right now. Delicious raw or steamed. This evening we are having them steamed with Basmati rice and Red Lentil Dhal, accompanied by a good helping of Hot Plum Chutney.

 Walking by Lough Allen in the evening, the cloud is rolling in and everything is so quiet and still. Just how I like it! I never understood people who go about with headphones in. It’s like they can’t cope with their own thoughts, always got to have some distraction going on. Not for me!!

Neighbours, Herbal Lore and Wisdom…on country lanes.

In Folklore, herbal remedies on February 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Walking each day on the lane is great. It exercises myself and the dogs, it gives me a chance to observe the hedgerows and sometimes take pics for the blog, but best of all one has chance encounters with the neighbours. This I really enjoy as you never know where the conversation will lead. Yesterday , Joe, who farms sheep further up the lane was in a great mood for chatting. After the usual pleasantries about the weather and such Joe’s topic of the day was health, so many people taking tablets now and still in ill health. Joe is quiet elderly, one would’nt dare ask his age, but other neighbours say he is near 80. Anyway he is old enough to remember when folk did’nt take so many tablets and relied on herbal cures.

Joe has a great memory and he was happy to tell me of a few cures he remembers. One was for gout: in the Spring when nettles have some nice new growth, take a handful, boil with a couple of cabbage leaves. Strain and retain the juice. Keep the juice in a cool place and drink half a small glass  first thing each morning on an empty stomach. This has to be done for 9 days. The nettle and cabbage can be eaten as a vegetable.

The next cure was for an infected foot resulting from a thorn or walking on a rusty nail. Cut an onion in half and apply the cut side to the affected area. Bandage to keep in place overnight. Next morning the onion will have drawn the poison from the infected foot.

All this talk on herbal lore reminded me of a book given to me by years ago by an old lady when I lived in Tipperary. It is called Mrs Lavenders Herbal Book and as you can see isn’t in great shape. It does have all it’s pages and is an interesting read. Published in 1930 and sold at a cost of 6 old pence it talks of garden and wild plants as cures for all ailments.

On Beetroot Mrs Lavender says: “All who suffer from jaundice or similar liver troubles should eat the ordinary red beetroot freely. Also it is excellent for growing girls and women of all ages, doing much to strenghten them and to cure weakening diseases to which they are liable.”

St. John’s Wort is mentioned as “useful in all lung troubles, particularly if there is any tendency to phythisis. If the flower and leaves are chopped fine and added to melted clarified lard they form an ointment that will heal almost any wound.”

Burdock is recommended for kidney troubles. “Two ounces of burdock root boiled in half a gallon of water till the latter is reduced to a quart makes an excellent medicine for many kidney troubles such as gravel or stone, and also for those who are suffering from dropsy.”

So between Joe and Mrs. lavender’s guidance we should be able to cope with all eventualities in the health department!!

In future chats with Joe I hope to draw more of this wisdom from him. I have started writing it down as this is part of our folklore which needs to be held on to. As with Mrs. Lavender the turns of phrase are different to those used nowadays. I would however be a bit suspicious of some of her cures…especially the use of snails as a cure for consumption!!!!

 

Carrots in the Car Park. Radishes on the Roundabout.

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

Todmorden, a place I’d never heard of until I read this. What an amazing community it must be. This Victorian Mill town in West Yorkshire is now growing most of it’s own fruit and veg in areas that were just waste ground or had useless planting schemes. Inspirational! Do read and share.

In Search of Simplicity

My thanks to Helen Guthrie for printing the following inspiring article in the Far North Organic Networker that I received on Wednesday in the library. Read this. There is plenty of hope for our future as people begin to realize we can do so much more in terms of growing our own food locally than we presently are. It’s as inspiring as the Cuban example oforganoponicos. Enjoy, John

By Vincent Graff

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2072383/Eccentric-town-Todmorden-growing-ALL-veg.html#ixzz1mcxB7bHC

Admittedly, it sounds like the most foolhardy of criminal capers, and one of the cheekiest, too.

Outside the police station in the small Victorian mill town of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, there are three large raised flower beds.

If you’d visited a few months ago, you’d have found them overflowing with curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions — all manner of vegetables and salad leaves.

Today the beds are bare. Why? Because people have been wandering…

View original post 1,736 more words

Musings from a Smallholding…on a wet Irish Day.

In green living, Ireland on February 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Today is one of those days that typify our wet mild climate. Since morning we have had rain… soft rain… the sort I call mizzle, a cross between heavy mist and drizzle.

The mizzle gives the place a misty, mystical look. It would be a great day for filming a spooky movie. What could be lurking in those trees?

All is quiet at this homestead across the river. The only sound is a dog barking in the distance. Maybe he is spooked by the mizzle!

I really wanted to work outdoors today. The soil is too wet for working on the outdoor beds so I weeded and dug over a bed for Strawberries in the polytunnel. After digging I spread over some of this lovely compost. It is about a year in the making and is a lovely dark loam. Tomorrow I will plant the Strawberries. I have given up on planting Strawberries outdoors as the last 2 wet Summers were a disaster. The day was not cold but the mizzle made coat wearing a necessity.

The mild Spring has ensured lots of fresh green grass and fresh growth on all the shrubs. You can see the new growth on the Bay on the left. I really look forward to the trees coming in leaf again. The Birch near the back door is one of my fave trees, especially when it’s got it’s new fresh leaves. In Russia Birch trees are tapped in the Spring. This is done by drilling a small hole in the tree when the sap is rising. A straw is inserted to direct the flow of liquid into a vessel then the hole is plugged again. The resulting clear liquid is drunk as a Spring tonic. It can also be boiled down to make a sweet syrup. Anone out there ever tried this? We are going to do it this year so I’ll keep you posted!

This little Primula is flowering in a pot by the back door. It catches my eye every time I pass it by. Purple is one of my fave colours. It is said to distract the mind from everyday concerns.

The wet day gave me a chance to wear my new wellies. I got them in one of the local charity shops. They were brand spanking new so I was happy to pay the 10 euros asked for them. Oh dear! I’ve got the laces dirty already. Oh well! That’s the joy of a wet Irish day!

In praise of Willow.

In herbal remedies, willow on February 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm

There are 4 native Irish Willows, Goat Willow, Grey Willow, The Eared Willow and the less common Bay Leaved Willow. The Willow pictured above is Twisted Willow a non native that nonetheless grows very well here in Ireland. This one was grown from a cutting about 6 years ago and is 15 feet tall. All the Willows have a liking for damp ground and do well in our wet climate.

The flowers of the Willow which are produced from February-March are called catkins or pussy willows. The pussy willow name comes from the newly opened catkins resemblance to the paws of a fluffy kitten. Seeds can be obtained from the catkins in early Summer, however, cuttings take very easily so that is the usual method of propogation.

These cuttings, which were in a bucket of water have made strong roots in about 2 months. Ten new Willows for free!

The water in which Willows have been soaked in said to aid other plants in rooting. A friend of mine has a Dragon Willow which is really lovely. The bark is dark brown in colour and the branches are flattened, as opposed to round, as they get a bit older. I have taken cuttings from this a few times but none have rooted. Maybe this one only grows from seeds?

In recent years Willow has been much used in the making of fedges and living sculptures. It’s traditional uses would have been in making baskets of various sizes and types and for creels. Creels are a traditional basket for bringing home the turf. One would be placed on each side of a Donkey to carry home the important Winter fuel.

Ten years ago I did a basket making course with Joe Hogan, a brilliant craftsman who makes his living from basketmaking. Joe lives in Galway and a wonderful week was spent there by Loch na Fooey making baskets. The basket above is an Irish potato basket. The potatoes, when cooked would be emptied into the basket, the water escaped and the basket was placed on the table. I made 4 baskets under Joe’s tuition but sadly never made one since. I found that my hands were not strong enough for the work.

Willow is known to have healing properties. It is an old remedy for rheumatism, arthritis, muscular aches and all conditions caused by damp. It is interesting that the Willows grow in dampness but also cure conditions caused by damp. Nature being the cause and the cure!

The bark of Willow contains Salicin, which is made into Salicylic Acid, the origin of Aspirin.

Being of a watery nature Willow is governed by the Moon. In her book, The Sacred Tree, Glennie Kindred  says “The Willow speaks to us of the female side of ourselves, whether we are men or women. Being sacred to the Moon, it will help us keep in touch with our life’s rhythms, our dreams, and deep unconscious thoughts and feelings”.

Musings from a Smallholding…Spring is here!

In Animals, off grid living, vegetable growing on February 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm

As Spring proceeds the animals sense the change in season, they are full of the joys of it. They are playful with each other and us. Bella loves to head-butt but does’nt realise her own strength so one has to be careful.

Once one goat starts friskin about they all join in. Enid, the hornless one, is usually pretty quiet but even she got caught up in the joy of it all.

The dogs get excited when they see the goats jumping about. They bark and chase after them which adds to the general chaos. Enid has her ears back in this pic. She does this when she’s not sure about something. Lettie just stands there barking away until I shout at her. She just loves barking. Right, that’s enough of that!

Time to do some chores. Vegetables to be harvested for the evening meal. The carrots and parsnips, together with onions, garlic and butternut squash will make a tasty, nourishing soup. The Beetroot will be juiced. There’s still quite a bit of beetroot in the polytunnel. It will have to be pulled soon before it starts to grow again. The parsnips are almost finished. They were all doubles this year, don’t know why. Still a good number of carrots growing in the polytunnel. They too need to be harvested soon. We always grow carrots in the polytunnel as they don’t get the carrot root fly in there.

 Walking past the flowerbeds on the way to the house with the produce I notice the little Sedum (sorry, Saxifrage, thanks Alberto,) is ready to burst into flower soon. This has spread to create quite a big patch  so it will make a good impact. Spring is here! Hurrah!!

Back in the house the stove is ticking over. Freddie fells the cold more than the other dogs, probably because he’s so small and has a short coat. He likes to sit as close as possible to the heat. Aw! poor little poochie!

An indoor day in Arigna.

In crafts on February 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm

It’s a really cold day here in the valley today. The animals water buckets are frozen and the ground is hard as a rock. After doing the necessary outdoor chores, I like to work indoors on days like this.  There are always projects to do in any old house so no need to be idle. Today’s project was to tile the concrete plinth which the solid fuel stove in the kitchen stands on. The stove was installed 3 years ago when we got rid of our oil heating so it was time to finish the job off.

The first job was to paint the concrete black. There was some old floor paint in the shed left over from a project in our old house. We are in the present house 10 years this year so the paint was pretty old. It did the job fine and dried quickly as the stove was lighting.

Rather than buy tiles we decided to make our own. There were some old slates lying around so Andy cut them to the required size with an angle grinder. I then cut out some really nice pictures from last year’s Earth Pathways Diary. Using diluted PVA glue I stuck them onto the clean slates. This is a technique called decoupage.

I get a present of the diary every year from my sister-in-law. It always has lovely images, poetry and short essays as well as being a diary. At the end of the year I cut out the pictures and use them for making cards and other projects. I love the picture above showing the cycle of the Celtic year…

and this one of the joyful Sheep. This went on the centre of the plinth. When the glue is dry the slates were varnished with 3 coats of quick-drying water based varnish.  

The finished project looks pretty good and apart from tile adhesive and grout it cost nothing. Another project finished!

 

The Light Returns…Imbolc.

In Garden, Ireland on February 1, 2012 at 12:09 am

Spring is here!  Imbolc, one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar, marks the start of the farming year. Imbolc is a Gaelic word meaning “in the belly”, this indicates the readiness of the Earth “to give birth”. to life again in the Springtime. We are enlivened by the lenghtening days and the stirrings in the land. The welcome return of the life giving forces. It is a time to come out of our Winter hibernation. Leave behind the darkness and our Winter contemplations. The light returns!

The abundance of Summer is not far off. Gardeners are powerless to resist the urge to till the land and plant seeds. These are rituals which are rooted in the ancient ways. Revel in them.

To the Romans this time of year, halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox was known as Lupercalia. It was a celebration of Spring and also partly in honour of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romolus and Remus, the founders of Rome. The focal point of the festival was the Lupercal, the cave in which this nurturing took place. William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caeser begins during Lupercalia.

Here in Ireland February 1st is also the feast of St. Brigid. Brigid was the daughter of a pagan chieftain and the patron saint of cattle and dairy. Cows in her care were said to produce more milk than all others. Brigid had a very generous nature and much to her Father’s displeasure she gave most of the produce away. She is also reputed to have been the best mead and ale maker in Ireland. She is thought to have converted to Christianity and used rushes to make small crosses which carry her name to this day. St. Brigid’s crosses are thought to protect the house from fire. A new one is usually made each year. The tradition of making the crosses is still very much alive and most children in primary schools will make them at this time.

Brigid was also known as the Keeper of the Sacred Flame, signifying once again the return of light, the return of the sun,  hence the practice of lighting candles around this time. Of course when Christianity came the old Pagans festivals were outlawed and given new focus in Church activities. Imbolc became Candlemas. However in recent years people are once again returning to their roots and giving new life to these ancient festival times. Long may it continue!

Happy Imbolc, St. Bridgid’s Day or Candlemas. The light returns!