Bridget

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Kale and Rainbows @ Prospect Cottage.

In Animals, sustainable living, Uncategorized on April 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm

A rainbow fading out over the hill in front of the house a few evening’s ago. I love rainbow’s…they always make me think about my Granny’s stories of how if you caught a Leprechaun, and could hold onto him,   you could force him to lead you to the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow. The Leprechaun’s were very clever and would always think of some way to frighten you into letting go of them. They  would then run off laughing and leaping with joy at fooling a stupid human again.

 Back to present times and today we pulled the last Kale plants to make way for new plantings. Such a great plant, we were provided with green pickings all Winter, then the seed heads for the last few weeks. Today the Goats got to have a meal from them too. Value indeed! I don’t put the stalks in the compost as they take ages to break down.

Some of the plants were huge, this one was 5ft tall. Kale is a very hungry plant so ground where it has grown needs to be well fertilised before the next crop. It is also a very nutritious plant being high in calcium, iron, sodium, vitamin C, carotenes and chlorophyll. Carotenes have anti-cancer properties helping to guard against  the development of cancer if consumed regularly.

Even Daphne, our lovely donkey girlie, came to have some Kale. Smart girl, she knows what’s good for her.

The last of our Kale harvest went into a soup. Together with Leeks, Potatoes and a few Nettle tops it made a delicious nutritious meal.

 

In a shaded part of the garden is this Wild Garlic. I don’t know the proper name of it. I got a clump of it from a friend last year, she did’nt know the name either. Anyone out there know? It can be used in the same way as Ransoms, all parts edible.

On Butterflies and garden progress.

In Garden, herbal remedies, sustainable living on April 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

 

The Peacock Butterflies are out of hibernation now, I saw this one on the lane drinking from a Dandelion. Could’nt get close enough for a better photo, it took several attempts to get this one. It is a bit better if you click on it to enlarge. The favoured place for Peacocks to lay their eggs is on Nettles so if you have a patch of Nettles leave them for the Butterflies. They need to be in a sunny spot though. Do of course have the fresh tops for soup…very nutritious and an old remedy for cleansing the blood in Spring.

 

In the garden the Raspberries are at last starting to spread. They were planted 2 years ago and have’nt done much up to now. Thigs are looking good for this year…lots of flower buds. Fresh Raspberries…bliss!

 

In the polytunnel the beds are filling up with transplants. Growth is slow enough as the night’s are still quite cold.

 

With good planning it is possible to have salad crops all year round. These red Lettuces ready for picking now were planted last August. They don’t make much growth over the Winter as our polytunnel is unheated but once Spring comes they take off again. Having fresh salads is a big priority for us as we eat a lot of salad…in all seasons. I never buy supermarket salads as Lettuce is one of the most sprayed crops grown commmercially. I remember reading once that the average Lettuce is sprayed on average 22 times in it’s short forced-grown life. Washing does not remove these poisons…for that is what they are…and then it is eaten raw.

 

Pot Marigolds or Calendula are flowering early in the polytunnel. I love their cheery faces. The whole plant is edible but I find the leaves a bit coarse so I only use the petals which look lovely decorating a salad. The petals also make a soothing eyewash and a salve can be made can also be made from them. It is very good for cuts, grazes and rashes.

 

 A handful of Lettuce leaves and Parsley to make the evening salad…with a nice dressing to accompany it makes a fitting complement to any meal. Topped off of course with a Spring Onion and a scattering of Marigold petals. Art, happiness and Nature’s Bounty on a plate at the end of the day. Perfect!

Seasonal plants, Water and the craziness of Fracking.

In Foraging., sustainable living on April 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Rhubarb season is in full swing now. Jam has been made, chutney recipes are being searched out and crumbles are on the menu. Last night I made a Strawberry, Rhubarb and Sweet Cicely crumble. Delicious! In our haste to eat it I forgot to take a pic to tease you with.

The Daffodils have lasted such a long time this year. They are starting to lose their vibrancy now but they’ve been flowering for about 6 weeks. Usually the Spring brings lots of rain and wind which flattens them pretty quickly, but this year we have actually had a Spring with proper Spring weather.      Huge areas of England are already in drought conditions with hose bans in force in many areas. I find it crazy that in midst of their water shortage the English government have given the go ahead to the resumption of hydraulic fracturing for gas in Lancanshire. This destructive process using millions of gallons of water each day to fracture the rock which then releases the gas.  This water is then poisoned with chemicals and naturally occuring heavy metals and radioactive elements. So poisoned that it is not reusable by man or beast. It does’nt make sense to me. We need to remember that all the water that will ever be is already on the Planet. It is not a renewable resource. 

In the back field the big Sycamore is in full leaf . I really love this tree and how it’s branches have taken the shape of outstretched arms…reaching to the heavens in it’s daily worship of Mother Nature.

Underneath the kitchen window this little Azalea is about to burst into full bloom. It never fails to give a great display year on year.

On the lane Primroses are giving their annual display. All parts of the plant are edible and a few of the flowers look lovely decorating a salad. An infusion of the fresh plant can be used to make a cough remedy and a mildly sedative tea. It is however protected in the wild so unless you have a profusion of them in your own garden it’s best to admire them and leave them to Nature.

A  plant which you can pick to your heart’s content is Sorrel. It gives a lovely lemony kick to a mixed salad and can be cooked as a vegetable. The succulent leaves are pleasant to eat raw and are a great thirst quencher. It grows in abundance here as it likes the damp, acidic soil. Mother Nature provides.

On Earth Day…Commandments for the Earth.

In green living, nature on April 22, 2012 at 9:59 am

1.  Thou shalt love and honour the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.

 

2.  Thou shalt keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of the seasons.

 

3.  Thou shalt not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.

 

4.  Thou shalt give thanks for thy food, to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.

5.  Thou shalt limit thy offspring for multitudes of people are a burden onto the Earth.

 

6.  Thou shalt not kill, nor waste Earth’s riches upon weapons of war.

 

7.  Thou shalt not pursue profit at the Earth’s expense but strive to restore it’s damaged majesty.

 

8.  Thou shalt not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.

 

9.  Thou shalt not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.

 

10.  Thou shalt consume material goods in moderation so all may share the Earth’s bounty.

 

These commandments were written in 1990 by Ernest Callenbach.

If only we would live by them.

 

Loss…

In Animals on April 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm

It has been a sad few days for us here in Arigna. Earlier in the week our lovely black collie Alice slept his last sleep and said goodbye to us. He (yes, he, a man called Alice) had been with us since January 1997 when we got him as a 4 month old puppy.

Dogs are such great companions, ours are always with us when we are working around the place. As humans it is our nature to become attached so it is so difficult when the shorter life span of dogs and other animals takes them from us. But that is the way of it and so we must cope and carry on.

 I love this pic, the last one taken of the 3 of them, sitting together in the Spring sunshine on April 4 th.  There is a flower bed out the back near the chalet where Alice liked to sit… despite my attempts to get him not to. We buried him there and maybe in another life another place we shall meet again.

Each day it gets a little easier but it is still very fresh and our hearts are heavy and full of sadness…and I wonder how the Sun can shine when our hearts feel so bruised.

But life goes on…and veggies grow…

and flowers bloom.

The Search for the Sacred Well. part 2.

In Ireland, nature on April 17, 2012 at 7:22 am


As the weeds and brambles were removed the old stone that surrounds the well was revealed…



and our  excitement and sense of  achievement was invigorating. Loads of baby frogs in the water here…now they can stretch their legs and swim.



As the well was revealed John was moved to recite a poem….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jtDP4W7ECo&feature=share


The men showed off by trying to move this large stone into it’s previous position. They had partial success! On another day we will return with wellies to rescue the old stone that has fallen into the well.



Being in this seldom visited spot makes me wonder…who were the last people to use this well…when last the last bucket of drinking water taken from here…did people come from far and wide to seek healing here? How long since these beautiful stone walls were built in this sacred place?


According to John’s research the well water here was reputed to be a cure for stress. How fitting in these times that we should seek it out and rejuvenate it.



Oblivious to all else a small child builds a fairy house from moss and twigs…topped by a white feather.



Reluctantly we realise that evening is creeping in…and we must return through the forest…



past the skeleton of a long dead tree…



to where the Bluebells grow.


Click on pics to enlarge.

The search for the Sacred Well.

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on April 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

Anyone know whats going on with WordPress? Anyone else out there having problems with visiting blogs or leaving comments on other WordPress blogs? Last week Blogs I Follow was changed to Reader…not accessible…to me anyway. This means that I can’t access blogs I follow or leave comments. Sorry folks…hopefully WordPress will sort this out soon!

 

To destress after that whinge I will share some pics from our woodland outing yesterday. We went to Deereen Wood, near Knockvicar where the Bluebells are in full bloom  at the moment. My pic does’nt do it justice but you get the idea.

Our quest yesterday was to find Toberdarragh Sacred Well. This required us to go deep into the woods, far off the beaten track. John Willmott, who leads the Poetree Walks had found the well on old ordnance survey maps.

 

After fighting our way through the undergrowth the woods opened out into a much clearer area of lovely mature Beech trees. On we went through the Fairy Ring…

 

stopping to admire the Bluebells which were only within the circle of the ring.

 

On we went past more beautiful Beeches… I do so love Beech trees.

 

Finally, thanks to John’s sense of direction and his trusty compass…we came to a broken down stone wall…over the still merry band went…and there was the well. Much overgrown and long disused we set to work immediately to clear the brambles and weeds choking this long forgetton but once important water source.

 

Fallen branches were cleared…

 

and willing hands remove the tangled mass of weeds. It’s amazing how quickly a few people working together can get a job done.  In the spirit of the  old ways this Poetree Walk had turned into a Meitheal. Meitheal is an Irish word for the once common practise of people working together…usually on farms…to help each other get the work done. Sadly now in Ireland Meitheal seems to be practised only by alternative living people or “hippies” as the locals would say. So be it….

Check in tomorrow for part 2 of the well clearing.

 

 

Another day begins…

In arigna on April 13, 2012 at 9:36 am

 

Such a beautiful morning here today. The sunshine got me out of bed early. In the shade things still had a coating of frost. The Foxgloves looked particularly attractive with their frosted leaves.

Fab to see a bright blue sky to start the day. In the background is Corry Mountain.

 

My Favourite Birch is almost in full leaf now. This part of the house faces west and will be in full sun by afternoon.

 

The goats were enjoying the morning sun underneath the big Sycamore in the back field.

 

Enjoying breakfast…they still get extra food in the mornings. The evening feed has been stopped as the grass becomes more plentiful. By next month they won’t need any supplementary feeding as the grass will be abundant by then.

 

Across the river the smoke rises from this cottage as the stove is lit. Another day begins in the valley.

Fedges and Permaculture beds.

In permaculture, sustainable living on April 12, 2012 at 10:13 am

Having recently been given a bunch of rooted Willow we decided to use it to make a fedge to form the outline for a new permaculture bed. A fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge, usually constructed from Willow. Spring is the best time to do this as the Willow will root easily at this time. If you have plants or rooted Willow it can be done anytime.  We spaced the rods the length of Andy’s foot apart but they can be as little as 6 inches apart if you want a more solid barrier.

 

It was grey and showery when we did the fedge last Sunday but we persevered and got it done.

 

After inserted all the rods we just bent the tops over about a foot from the ground and wove them together. There are many designs you can make, arches, diamonds etc. As this was our first fedge we decided to keep it simple. The whole thing was a bit fragile at first but when all the weaving was done and a few strategically placed bits of string were used the whole thing stabilised. A website with lots of ideas and more comprehensive instructions is www.willowkits.co.uk .

Next step was to make the permaculture bed between the existing path and the edge of the fedge. The sod does’nt need to be turned… on top of the grass just lay down several layers of newspaper and cardboard. Make sure they are overlapped well so no grass or weeds come through. Remove any staples and plastic tape which may be holding the boxes together. On top of this layer we put a good thick mulch of rushes. Straw can also be used.

When the mulching is finished planting holes can be made in the cardboard/paper and plants planted straight in. In other beds we have made this way plants have been planted first, then the cardboard and mulch layers placed around the plants. On this occasion we will let the mulch settle a little before planting. There is already an established Damson here and a small Amelanchier has also been planted. In true permaculture style everything in this bed will be perennial food crops…herbs and fruits plus a few flowers for colour and for the insects. Willow itself is a great plant for biodiversity as it supports over 250 species. Over time this mulch will rot down and provide nutrition for the plants and improve the soil. It will need renewing each year.

On a fresh Spring morning in Arigna…

In Herbs, permaculture, sustainable living on April 10, 2012 at 11:33 am

Everything is so fresh this morning after the rain of the weekend. The Birch is sending forth it’s new soft leaves. This tree, which can be seen from our kitchen window is one of my favourite trees. It is a tree said to have a particular affinity with women. It’s slender white trunk and graceful branches which allow light to filter softly through have earned it the title  “Lady of the Woods.” The leaves are edible… having diuretic and antiseptic properties… they are considered a Spring tonic… as is the sap which needs to be drawn before the buds break.

Honesty or Lunaria is flowering at the moment…like many things this year it is a little early. I love Purple flowers so this is a welcome relief from the predominant yellows of the moment. I often wonder if people see colours differently? I sometimes say to Andy “look at that, I just love that purple,” he will say “that’s not purple, it’s blue.” I know purple and blue are close together in the colour spectrum but to me they are vastly different. I find blue to be a cold colour while purple is, to me, a warm enlivining colour.

Going into the garden it seems the Victoria Plum is having a rest this year. It should be flowering now. It has given around 40 lbs of fruit each year for the last 5 years so it is entitled to a break. As if to compensate both of the Damson trees are flowering for the first time.

There are lots of Comfrey plants all around the garden. Such a useful plant! Mixed with Nettles it makes a wonderful organic fertiliser for all growing things. The smell is rank so leave it in an out of the way spot. Comfrey has a very long taproot so it is a great accululator of minerals from deep in the earth. This are made available in the fast growing leaves which can also be used as a mulch around plants. This is a permaculture technique called “crop and drop.” Four to five cuts a year can be taken. Comfrey also has medicinal uses. The name “knitbone” gives a clue to one of it’s uses. A poultice of the leaves is said to help broken bones heal easier and stimulate cell growth and repair. It can also be used internally, but caution is needed as there are reports of Comfrey causing liver damage.

Jostaberries are promising a good crop this year…if we get them before the blackbirds!

Even the outdoor herbs have put on a lot of growth already this year. The Lovage is a little bit weighed down by all the rain at the moment but it is huge compared to this time in previous years. It is flanked by more Comfrey, Chives, Gooseberry and a young Crab Apple tree in this 3 year old forest garden area. Lovage makes a good substitute for Celery and in my view easier to grow. I’ve not had much success with growing Celery. I much prefer the perennial plant that returns each year. I always have wastage from Celery anyway. I buy a head…use a few stems for cooking… then it gets shoved to the back of the fridge to be discovered a few weeks later as a sad, floppy item destined for the compost. So not totally wasted I suppose but from now on it’s Lovage for me. Fresh and tasty direct from the good Earth.