Bridget

Archive for the ‘sustainable living’ Category

At year’s end.

In Animals, arigna, sustainable living on December 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm

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Well what a year that was!  So many changes for us. Some of you already know our biggest news of the year which is that we are on the move. Prospect Cottage is sold and we are leaving Arigna. We will however still be in Roscommon but that is all I am revealing for now. We move to our new place at the end of January and I will start a new blog shortly after that.

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Changes too as regards animals. We have both become intolerant to goats milk so when we sold the house Bella and Enid, our 2 milking goats,  went to our friends Paul and Deborah in Co. Clare. They have an organic smallholding and the girls are happy there. We know they will be well cared for and we can see them when we visit. Apparently they are both smitten with male goat David who also resides there.

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That left us with Smokie the Goat and Daphne the donkey to accompany us to our new place. They had been companions since we got Daphne 8 years ago. Sadly it was not to be. Smokie passed away rather suddenly in mid November leaving us very sad and poor Daphne alone. Donkeys love company and it really is’nt fair to keep a lone animal. We decided to try and get Daphne into a sanctuary. We were so lucky to find a permanent place for her at Sai Satya Sanctuary for donkeys and ponies in Castlebaldwin. That’s not too far from us so we can visit her there. The sanctuary is run by an amazing woman called Sue Paling. Sue has a genuine love of animals and has devoted her life to them. Daphne is settled in well there. She has made friends with two older ladies, Esmerelda and Bonnie. You can check out the sanctuary at www.donkeys.ie .

016Gardening has always  played a large part in my life. I just love growing flowers and veg and get immense setisfaction from harvesting vegetables and herbs and using them in our meals. Our new place has about an acre of land with an already established fruit, veg and flower garden. At least I won’t be starting from scratch but of course we will make changes and put our own stamp on the place. We are moving at a good time as a full gardening season will be ahead of us in our new abode.

013 All that remains for now is to wish you all a wonderful 2013. May you have love, happiness and abundance in the coming year. Hopefully many of you will continue the journey with us in the new place. Happy New Year! xx

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Autumn time, abundance, independence and saving seeds.

In Gardening, sustainable living on August 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm

 

 

As Autumn makes it’s presence felt we await the ripening of Mother Nature’s offerings. A little more sunshine is needed to sweeten and ripen these Blackberries in the hedgerow. The shorter mornings and darker evenings seem to have descended quickly from the long days of the Summer that was barely evident. Maybe an Indian Summer is around the corner!!

In the garden there is an abundance of produce right now. The freezers are filled with fruits and vegetables which will be used to feed us and make preserves through the Winter. Onions and Garlic are drying in the polytunnel. I feel priviliged to have land that we use to produce so much of our food. Last week I read that Ireland imported 324million euros worth of fruit and veg from Britain last year. Sad that a country which proclaims independence is so dependent on imports from other countries to feed it’s people.  True independence, in my opinion, is only plausible when a country can sustain it’s own food supply. With rising fuel prices affecting the price of groceries worldwide it would seem wise for us to grow, grow, grow.

 

Regardless of weather there is so much that grows well in Ireland. We had fantastic crops this year from berried fruits, alliums did great and beans were incredibly productive. These beans above are being left to produce seed for next year. So easy, just leave some large pods at the end of the season, don’t be too quick to tidy up, and in a few weeks they will have dried out and be ready for harvesting. Remove from pods and store in a dry place and you have next years crop ready to be germinated . With 10 companies now controlling up to 70% of the world’s seed supply I think seed saving is a sensible step to take.

“To see things in the seed, that is genius.–Lao Tzu

Tomatoes are another crop from which seeds can be easily saved. Just soak the seeds to wash off the jelly like coating then dry them out on a piece of kitchen paper and viola! you have next years seeds. Do save from plants of organic origin.

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune into.–Wayne Dyer

I shall be away from here for awhile as I am having a break from blogging and visiting and commenting on other people’s blogs. Happy Autumn days to you all. I will be back in the not too distant future. Bridget xx.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the garden.

In Garden, sustainable living on August 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm

The Lilies have emerged in the last few days. The heat giving them some encouragement. I love their heady scent but find it a bit too strong for in the house…not that I would dream of cutting these beauties. They thrive in this bed which has very good drainage. I really must plant some more.

The shady border beside the chalet has mostly white flowers at the moment…Galega, Yarrow and Shasta Daisies. Soon the Sedum will turn red giving a new focal point.

The pond which is here just over a year is full of life… especially Pond Skaters… loads of them. The Water Lily is producing another couple of blooms. I just love Water Lilies.

Flowering Fennel has the insects in ecstacy…they just adore it. Loads of Hoverflies,  Bees and Bumble Bees  about today. Nice to hear a buzz in the air. For so much of this Summer we did’nt have that…

In the polytunnel Dahlias are in flower. Dahlias don’t do well outside here…the ground is too heavy and wet. I planted tubers in big pots this year and they are doing well. They get an occasional feed with the Comfrey and Nettle liquid feed.

 Purple Teepee Beans are ready for harvesting. They lose their purple colour when cooked but they do look so great when they’re growing. Beans have done well this year. Broad Beans gave a huge crop…then we had the Green Bush Beans. An abundant year…despite the weather.

Grapes are starting to colour too…better clean out them demijohns…soon be wine making time!

Succulents are amongst my fave plants. So easy to grow and propogate. This Sempervivium has produced lots of babies. They can just be broken off, planted in a gritty compost and hey presto you have a new plant!

The return of Summer!

In Animals, Gardening, sustainable living on August 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm

After what seems like months this week saw the welcome return of Summer to Ireland. Even though we are dependent on rain to maintain the lush greener that typifies Ireland it is nice to have Summer sunshine. July was one of the wettest and dullest since records began. But for this week at least the forecast is good…bright sunshine and dry weather all week.

 The Goats love this weather. They hate rain as their coats are not waterproof. If it’s raining they stay in their shed and look miserable. Many times I have seen Goats tied out in fields and they make for a miserable sight. I wonder how their owners would like it to be tied to a post in the rain and cold??

Today I finished picking the last of the Blackcurrants. The harvest went on for a month this year as the fruit ripened very slowly due to lack of sun. Despite that the harvest was fantastic. Actually all the berries produced a good crop this year. Not so good for Apples and Plums but one can’t have it all. Maybe berries are the way to go in our changing climate.  As I harvest the Blackcurrants I prune off the branches which have fruited. This is a good way of pruning. Two jobs in one!

The Goats are rather partial to the prunings. I wonder if the leaves have Vitamin C like the berries? Some prunings will be used as cuttings. I don’t bother with putting them in a trench over Winter etc like all the gardening books will tell you. I just put them in a bucket with some water and roots form in a month or two. They are then planted in their final positions. Cuttings treated this way last year provided fruit this year. Some Willow in the water helps the rooting as Willow has fantastic rooting properties and helps other plants take root. Amazing!!

The Cherry tree which was planted in this old tractor tyre sadly died, Cherries don’t do well here, so it was finally removed this Spring. In March Potatoes were planted here and mulched with garden compost. They have done well and so has all the stuff which germinated from the compost! I don’t have the heart to remove self-seeded plants which sometimes works to my detriment. The dilemna now is how to dig out the Potatoes without losing all my lovely Borage and Marigolds? I suppose I’ll just have to wait until it all dies down. Even Strawberries which I thought were dead have reemerged and fruited.

Another lot of compost used to mulch around the Damson tree has produced a wonderful crop of Marigolds. No Damsons this year though!

Much to my delight the Water Lily planted in the pond in the gravel garden has produced a flower this year. I must do a post on the gravel garden. Planted just over a year ago it has done really well and things are filling out nicely there. But that’s for another day. Off now to catch some evening rays.

Lughnasa.

In Garden, sustainable living on July 31, 2012 at 9:38 am

As we head into August we remember the festival of Lughnasa, one of the great Celtic cross quarter festivals. A time to harvest the offerings from the land and hedgerows. A time to reap the rewards of our work in the garden. A time of abundance, of preserving the bounty and stocking up our larders for the coming Winter.

For as sure as night follows day the seasons are changing too. The wheel of the year continues…the cycle must be completed. Already some plants are starting to show Autumn hues…

 

 while others are still full of colour and vibrancy. But very soon they too will move onto the next phase of their yearly cycle. As all life on this planet must… 

Here in Ireland we awoke this morning to hear of the death of Meave Binchy, a wonderful author and journalist. At just 72 it seems she has been taken too early, but obviously it was her time. Meave was an amazing individual who despite having massive success, she sold 42 million books worldwide, remained a kind and warm hearted person. Always appreciative of her fans she treated each and every one as a cherished friend. She could teach us all a thing or two.  

Here in Arigna we are revelling in the abundance of produce from the garden. The Onions in the bed above will soon be ready for harvesting, hung in braids in the shed for use throughout the Autumn and Winter. The flowers are self seeders from the compost that was dug in here last Spring. I must remember to pull the Poppies out before they spread their multitude of seeds everywhere. There are lots of berries to be harvested this year. This is ongoing as they are ripening slowly  because of lack of sunshine. That makes it easier in a way as there is less urgency about the harvesting. Blackcurrants and Gooseberries have given great harvests. I freeze them in 1 kilo bags which is ideal for making small batches of jam and chutney. This produce, as well as being for our own use, forms part of our income as I sell it at local markets throughout the year. Something to keep me busy during the long dark days of the Winter.

I seem to be focused on the changing seasons this morning. The dull grey, windy day that it is is not helping the mood. What has happened to our Summers? I’m off now to light the stove and warm up the house. No berry picking today as I just can’t bear that wind which is surely going to bring us more rain later.

As July progresses…

In Garden, sustainable living on July 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

everything is looking lush and green and fresh …a definite benefit of all that rain. The fedge we planted back in April has really taken off. Actually all the trees and shrubs have put on lots of growth this year. The weather has’nt been too bad the last couple of days. Grey and overcast still but not so much rain.

  The Mrs Perry apple tree planted almost 4 years ago has produced fruit for the first time. About 15 apples…looking forward to trying them. They are a dual purpose fruit.

At Mrs Perry’s feet Feverfew is in flower. A few leaves eaten every day is said to give relief from migrane. Thankfully I don’t get migranes… I do like it’s little daisy flowers though. It self seeds like mad. The purple leaved plant is Orach…a stray from the compost I think. It is edible and adds colour, if not much flavour, to salads.

By the garden gate Phygelius is in flower. One of my fave shrubs…commonly called Cape Fuschia…it is easily propogated by rooted suckers.

Here’s another one in the long border. There’s also a creamy coloured one which has just finished flowering. I shall be propogating more of these to spread around.

Fuschia is also in flower at the moment. I just love this little shrub which grows wild around here. It is another plant that is easy to propogate from cuttings.

In the hedgerows the Bramble is showing lots of flowers…a good Blackberry harvest looks likely. I just love Blackberries…combined with Granny Smith Apples to make the most delicious jam…lovely in tarts too. The joys of Autumn yet to come.

Don’t know what Freddie could smell as we came back from our walk. He stood like this for several minutes just sniffing the air…eyes closed. Cute!

On the lane…

In nature, Off the beaten track., sustainable living on July 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

July 1st is here and walking on the lane with the dogs this morning it almost had an Autumn feel. All the rain has kept everything lush and green. But then that’s what people love Ireland for…the forty shades of green.  I’ve never met anyone who came here for the good weather.

The lane is a 3 mile long cul-de-sac. We live about 2 miles along. There are lots of other houses on the lane so it’s not as isolated as it would initially seem.

Berries have already set on the Hawthorn, adding to the Autumnal feel. In his book Food for free, Richard Mabey, says : “When fully ripe they taste a little like avacado pear. They make a moderate jelly, but being a dry fruit need long simmering with a few crab apples to bring out all the juices and provide the necessary pectin. Otherwise the jelly will be sticky or rubbery. It is a good accompaniment to cream cheese.”

I think this arrangement of Ferns, Hawthorn, Moss and Foxgloves looks lovely. Nature does it better than any garden designer. A passing Sheep has made a contribution to the scene. Diarmiud Gavin eat your heart out! No multi-coloured monstrosities needed here!

Maybe the wool was from this Mama who thinks she is invisible as she sits quitely in the long grass.

“Hey Mama, I think they can see you.”

Foxgloves are playing a blinder this year…so many of them. Gorgeous!

Lettie likes to drink from the puddles on the lane. In their water bowls in the house we always add Citricidal, which is good for eliminating internal parasites. Given the choice she always goes for the pure unadulterated rain water.

 

The Longest Day.

In Ireland, nature, sustainable living on June 20, 2012 at 10:39 am

Summer Solstice is upon us once again. The high point of the Summer when everything in Nature is lush and abundant. This year the weather has been pretty good since March so it seems like we have had Summer for a long time already. We have also had lots of rain which combined with the warmth has enabled rapid growth of everything.

Now is a good time to propogate shrubs from cuttings. There’s always a place for new plants to be slotted in. Otherwise the abundance of the season can be shared with friends. A free plant always brings a smile to someones face.

A nice bunch of flowers is another welcome gift. This arrangement was collected from the garden yesterday morning. Given to a friend who is retiring from work,  it brought a beaming smile of appreciation. The flowers were placed in a glass which I then covered with this organza bag which was saved from I gift I had recieved. I always save nice packagings, ribbons and gift bags to be reused and recycled.

For me Foxgloves are the flower of Summer Solstice. They self seed everywhere here and most of them are left to reach maturity. It would be an insult to remove these gifts from Mother Nature. Far nicer than anything bought at the garden centre with the added bonus of no air miles attached. No patent attached here!

In the vegetable garden there is lots of produce. We are harvesting Lettuce, Spring Onions, Beetroot, Peas, Broad Beans and Mangetous right now. The Potatoes are just coming into flower. They will be ready for harvesting about 2 weeks after flowering. Of course leaving them longer gives bigger Potatoes but thats not likely to happen. These are Ballydoon which were planted on St. Patrick’s Day.

Summer Solstice is the time when bonfires are lit to celebrate the season here in north-west Ireland. This tradition which has been going on since Pagan times has died out in other parts of the country but alive and well in this area. It is now called St. John’s Night, the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist. Like many other Pagan celebrations it was masked by Christians as the celebration of a saint’s day.

To conclude I wish you all health, happiness and abundance at this special time of the Summer Solstice.  Happy Days!

Bridget x

On a Summer morning.

In nature, sustainable living, vegetable growing on June 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

After a short break when we had lots of much needed rain it seems that Summer is back. Yesterday we had 15 hours of sunshine…unheard of for Ireland. I went out just before 8 this morning to open the polytunnels…already serious heat had built up in there. On the mountain the wind turbines are still. There’s not a breeze of wind to move them. The valley looks so lush at the moment. Grass is plentiful for the animals and they are enjoying the sunshine. I love how the farmers here have left lots of trees. On large intensive farms one often sees all the trees and hedgerows removed to maximise grazing land. Electric fences are used to strip graze the land. This makes for a very boring landscape, no wildlife habitats and of course no shelter for the animals.

The Irises are in full bloom right now…it’s amazing how much these have spread. They were planted only last year. One to watch methinks in case it takes over.

I just love their colour…purple being a fave of mine…and form…the beauty and perfection of Nature. Don’t know the variety of these…the label has long disappeared. On another blog…can’t remember whose…there was a suggestion that rather than sticking the label in the ground by the plant that they were stored in the house or shed. A good idea I think as I can’t remember most of the names…and the labels blow away or disintegrate or the dogs chew them.

 

The perennial Geraniums have also come into flower. Deadheading regularly will keep these flowering for many weeks.

Foxgloves survived the wind and rain remarkably well. I thought they would be flattened. Plants are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for.

Swiss Chard seems to have become huge overnight. I just noticed this morning that this is ready for harvesting. I really love the leaves with the red ribs. Don’t they look fab…tasty too!

All pics taken this morning around 8am.

After the storm.

In flowers, Garden, Ireland, sustainable living on June 9, 2012 at 9:51 am

At last the wind and rain have stopped. For two days we have had strong winds blowing in from the west accompanied by non stop rain. Apparently there has been a month’s rain in the last two days, that’s about 4 inches. The rivers, ditches and lakes are full to capacity and the waterfall, which is usually a Winter feature, is back on the mountain.

 In the garden the worst fatality was the Angelica. It had put on tremendous growth and was standing, rather magnificiently, at about 6 feet tall. It is however battered to the ground this morning. It will,  I’m sure,  rise again.

By the garden gate the Honeysuckle is coming into flower. I’m so glad this was’nt damaged as it has grown well. The scent is lovely and I really like the flowers. I grew this from a cutting.

Now is a very good time to start taking soft wood cuttings.Was watching Gardener’s World last night on the BBC, Carol Klien gave a good tutorial on how to do this. Carol is brill, I love her easy relaxed way of presenting and teaching.

In the micro-climate of the polytunnel all is well. Growth is rapid right now and everything is lush. Produce is in abundance, right now we are harvesting Lettuce, Spring Onions, Beetroot, Herbs and Spinach. Spinach goes to seed quickly but I sow some new every few weeks. There’s nothing to beat your own fresh Spinach. We also grow Swiss Chard which lasts a year before going to seed but proper Spinach is my fave. I love Nasturtiums in the polytunnel. They are of course edible, but they also attract beneficial insects which prey on nasties like greenfly.

These Nicotiana have come into flower in the last few days. Cosied up in a pot in the closed polytunnel, it was’nt opened for 3 days, has encouraged them to bloom. Thanks, whoever invented polytunnels. It certainly makes life easier, at 600 ft above sea level here, it would be impossible to grow fragile things without them.

Every available receptacle has been used to capture rainwater. The way our weather is changing, who knows, we could be back to drought conditions again next week!

Happy gardening!