Bridget

Archive for the ‘sustainable living’ Category

I’m back!

In Garden, sustainable living on May 25, 2012 at 9:29 am

Hi folks, I’m back in blogland again after my break. I have’nt been near the computer in 3 weeks. No blog, email, Facebook, Twitter or checking out all the wonderful and inspiring blogs out there. I have to say I enjoyed the break, the world did’nt end and I had no withdrawal symptoms. But hey, I’m back and the weather here in Ireland is fab. Hurrah!!

The Sun has been shining since daybreak. I took these pictures at about 8.30 when I went to open the polytunnel. There’s no going in there later when it gets to 25c. The fields are filled with golden Buttercups right now…beautiful!

So nice to break fast with a few ripe Strawberries already warm from the morning Sun…

and the promise of many more to come.

Everything in the polytunnel is growing at a great rate,  lots of Lettuce for the salads we have everyday. Nasturtiums in flower as are Pot Marigold. Dual purpose plants as they draw in beneficial insects as well as being edible.

The Peach has set lots of fruit…I really must thin them this year. Thinning ensures you get nice big fruits of better quality. Take out any fruits that are touching each other as they will end up squashing and bruising each other. Bob Flowerdew in his Grow your Own, Eat your Own book says ” Peaches over crop as of right, and really must be ruthlessly thinned so that no 2 fruits will touch each other when they’re full size, leave only a sensible number per tree or you will be processing masses of under-ripe squits. Too many exhaust the tree, fail to reach any size or even ripen. Literally decimate them down to the best one in every ten, leave those and they will get huge!” Don’t know if I can be that ruthless…but I’ll try! Bye for now…off to enjoy some sunshine.

 

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.

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.

As March ends.

In Garden, sustainable living on March 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

The weather has been fab here this week. Lovely and sunny with a high of 24 c on Tuesday. Very unusual for an Irish March. Today has been duller and 14 c. That’s why the Irish weather is called crazy! It is just unpredictable! Work continues on edging the beds with stone from the old building in the back field.  Coming on very nicely.

Dicentra spectablis is in flower in the bed nearest the house. This cottage garden favourite has collected many common names along the way. Dutchman’s Breeches, Venus’s Car, Bleeding Heart, Lyre Flower and Lady in the Bath.

Lady in the Bath is my fave name for it. She is a rather uncomfartable upside down lady in her bath though!

Dicentra likes a sheltered spot and does well in a woodland setting. The only requirement is a mulch each year after flowering. Well drained soil is also needed for this lovely plant to be happy.

Propogation is by seed or division of clumps in Spring or Autumn. The roots are very brittle.

There is also a white flowered variety and a golden leaf one which I’ve only seen in books. The only caution with Dicentra is that some people’s skin can be irritated by contact with it. I never touch it…just admire fondly from my kitchen window where it resides in the shade of the Birch tree.

Lamium or Dead Nettle is also in flower at the moment…somewhat earlier than usual I think. This also grows in the shade of the Birch tree where it is spreading nicely…covering an area where not much else would grow. There are about 50 different Lamiums…very useful plants for shaded areas.

The Spring bulbs are lasting well this year…the weather being a bit kinder than other years.

Loosestrife or Lysmachia to give it it’s proper name is emerging very boldly. The colours are very striking now…later they lose the mad pink. This is the variageted variety and like the more common one it spreads like crazy so be careful where you plant it. Again it is a plant that does well in shade. It also likes damp soil. Clumps can be divided every 3 or so years if you want more of it. Some people consider it a bit of a weed but I really like it. Ah well…they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The stone moving continues @ Prospect Cottage.

In green living, sustainable living on March 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm

 

The moving of big stones from the back field down to the garden continued today. We have decided to leave the remains of the little house and use the stones which are spread around the area. These must have been from an old wall. Same type of squared off cut stones. They were quite clever in the situating of the house. Down in a hollow sheltered from the prevailing winds. Nowadays the new houses are built without any regard to orientation.

 

Mr. Muscles aka Andy was home today, he can lift heavier stones than I. I was bringing 2 or 3 stones to the barrowload…

 

he could bring 5! Showoff!!

 

Taking a little break to enjoy the Spring sunshine…the dogs enjoy a bit of attention. Oops! A bit of intimate sniffing going on there…

 

then a bit of playing.

 

Down in the garden the stone edging looks good. All the boards will have to be gradually replaced as they have been in place for 8 years and are starting to rot. Can you see the hole in the centre of the biggest stone? This stone would have held a metal gatepost in days gone by.

 

 

More stones wait to be given a new lease of life in their new garden home. Repurposing is I think the new word for recycling. Reuse, recycle, upcyle, repurpose. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me.

Musings from a smallholding at Spring Equinox.

In Garden, sustainable living on March 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

As the temperatures rise I like to have a fruit breakfast. I find it hard to eat cold food in the Winter but once Spring comes I change from my tea and toast or porridge to smoothies. May not have one every day but certainly a couple a week.

This morning I had a Banana and Avacado smoothie made with soya milk and a little honey for a bit of extra sweet. I did’nt use all those Bananas…just two. To make:  just put the peeled fruit in the blender. cover with soya milk and whizz. A couple of seconds and it’s done.

Forgot to say I also add Spirulina, hence the green colour. Spiriluna is a microscopic fresh water plant packed with goodness. It contains antioxidants, trace elements and all the essential amino acids. It is available in powdered form from good health food stores. I use half a teaspoon in a pint of smoothie.  That gives me energy for about 6 hours.

After my power breakfast I was ready for some hard work. This old residence in our back field has some lovely cut stone. All the old cottages would have been built from stone. This was inhabitated up to 60 years ago. Hard to believe isn’t it! These lovely stones are ideal for making raised beds. I can carry about 3 in the wheelbarrow…2 if they’re very big. Andy can carry more but he was away today. Thought I’d show off while he was out!

 

After some lighter garden work, pricking out seedlings and training Tayberries my thoughts once again turned to food. What to have for dinner? We still have a few Squashes left so I decided to use one of them to make a soup. These have been stored in the spare room over winter and are still perfectly sound. Last Summer was’nt  great for Pumpkins as it was cold and wet. Only the indoor ones produced anything. That fine Butternut in front was the only one from 5 plants. Don’t know what the grey skinned one is called, I saved seed from a Pumpkin we had in Bulgaria. Over there they grow to 3 times that size.

 

As you can see they are still perfectly sound. The skin does become very hard so a good sharp knife is needed to peel. Together with Carrots and Lentils this will make a delicious soup for our evening meal.

Hope you had a good Spring Equinox day!

 

 

As Spring Equinox approaches.

In nature, sustainable living on March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

As Spring Equinox approaches we are spending lots of time in the garden. It’s that time of year when the green returns and we are enthused by spending time revelling in it. In the polytunnel beds have been dug and manured ready for the plants that are growing in the seed trays. The Peach tree is in full flower. This will need to be hand pollinated as there are few insects about this early. Some seeds are sown direct in the beds: Oriental Salad Mix, Rocket, Spring Onions and Spinach.

All the manure used in the garden is from our own animals. There’s also the compost made from vegetable waste from the garden,  vegetable peelings and teabags from the house. It is full of worms, beautifully dark and crumbly.

Spring Equinox is a day earlier than usual this year because of the leap year. The Equinox ocurs about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day backwards on leap years, hence 20th March this year. The Sun will be rising earlier each day now, 6.o5 tomorrow, and nightfall will be coming later and later.

Strawberries are already flowering in the polytunnel, very early this year. This is an alpine variety, small but very sweet fruits.

At the Vernal Equinox day and night are of almost equal length. The Sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours, then sets exactly in the west. I look forward to the budding trees revealing their beautiful new leaves, the wind becoming less harsh, plants sprouting and everything being seized by the vibrancy of the Spring season. For this is the real beginning of Spring.

Everything in nature is being revived, growth really takes off  and the Sun is gaining height and strength. A great festival of awakening.

Happy days to all. May you and yours revel in the joy and beauty of it all.