In Animals, arigna, sustainable living on December 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm
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.
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.
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 .
Gardening 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
In Animals, Trees on April 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm
When we arise in the morning the first job, after putting the kettle on, is to let the dogs out of their shed. They then come in the house for a while. If it’s sunny they like to lie down and catch a few rays in the sitting room where the couch is appropriately situated.
In the field the animals do the same thing. How clever they are to avail of this solar energy…actually I think they’re a lot cleverer than most people give them credit for. I’ve also noticed many times that the bulk of their bodies will be facing full on towards the sun to expoit it fully.
On Sunday we bought 30 bare root trees at the local garden centre. It’s the end of the bare root season now so they were selling them off at half price. They worked out at an average of 80 cent each. Bargain! The haul included Birch, Alder, Rowan, Poplar, Larch and Acer. A small forest in the making.
After soaking them overnight we planted them up on Monday morning. Working together the job was done quickly. Compost was emptied into the wheelbarrow… Andy held the tree upright in the pot and I backfilled it with compost. Took about an hour to plant the lot.
The bigger trees we placed near this rain water barrel which will be convenient for watering throughout the Summer. In Autumn we intend incorporating our small field…below the polytunnels…into the garden…these will then be planted there. The smaller trees are at the other side of the house near another rain barrel.
In the shade bed these lovely Primulas have started flowering. I have that to confess that this was one I “slipped” from another garden I visited. Naughty but I will share it on as it bulks up. “Slipping” is a word Irish people…especially older people…use for taking a cutting or an offshoot with roots from a plant. Years ago many people had cottage gardens where all the plants would have been grown from “slips.” Does anyone else know of this phrase?
In the polytunnel Parsley and Rocket give lots of green pickings. This is Wild Rocket which has…for me…a nicer flavour than the ordinary Rocket. Parsley and Rocket together make for a really nice pesto which I will make when the current batch of Wild Garlic pesto has run out. Basil is already planted and germinated for the Summer pesto.
And in the polytunnel the dogs are once again strategically placed to catch the rays of the afternoon sunshine.
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!
In Animals, Garden on January 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm
Serves me right! A few days ago I was going on about the lovely Spring weather we were having. Three days later and we’ve had wind, rain, hail and snow. This was the scene this morning, grey skies and a bunch of birds in the Rowan tree at the bottom of the field. Don’t know what they were…I was’nt close enough to tell.
Half an hour later it is bright and sunny. As you can see the wind turbines are turned north to catch the cold wind. It’s only about 4 c here in the valley today.
The animals run into the shed when it rains. Goats hate getting wet, their coats are not waterproof like Sheep. We do not lock them in at night, the shed is left open and they can come and go as they please. The field is well fenced so there’s no danger of them getting into the garden. Theres a saying that “good fences make for happy goatkeepers”. I certainly believe that to be true! Smokie, on the right, is our oldest Goat, she has been with us for 11 years. We bought her when she was 2 so she’s about 13 years old now. Enid is our milker, actually we’ve just let her go dry, she has been milking for 2 years. The one in the middle is Bella, Enid’s daughter. She will be put in kid next Autumn. I have lots of Goat’s milk frozen so we won’t have to buy milk for a good while.
In the garden Carvello de Nero is going to seed. Also known as Tuscan Kale or black cabbage it has given lots of leaves since Autumn. They are delicious steamed, in soups or even shredded and stir-fried. We also eat them raw in salads, shredded finely. They are going to seed earlier than usual but it’s that sort of year. The seed heads are delicious, treat them like Purple Sprouting Broccoli. The more you pick them the more they produce.
Chives are surprisingly advanced for this time of year. I won’t pick any until the promised frost of the next few nights have passed and mild weather has returned. According to the Met Office this has been the mildest Irish Winter for 53 years. Interesting year so far, unpredictable weather, an earthquake in Donegal (2.2 on the Richter scale), Aurora Borealis visible from as far down as Claremorris and a white Blackbird seen in Dublin. It’s going to be an interesting year!
In Animals, Gardening, Off the beaten track., sustainable living on October 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm
Spent the last week in County Clare house-sitting for friends. They own this beautiful thatched cottage plus 5 acres of organically farmed land. The rain did’nt stop for the first 2 days but once the animals were looked after I had lots of time for reading and relaxing. There is no TV so I spent lots of time reading from their extensive library. They have a huge collection of books on homesteading, gardening, ecology, beekeeping, cookery and herbalism. All subjects that I too find interesting.
One of my daily tasks was to feed this little Guinea-Pig with milk from a dropper. He is 2 weeks old and his Mum died a week ago. Funny little dude…I called him Gerry…don’t even know if he’s male but somehow the name suited him. He looks rather Squirrel-like does’nt he! He is eating all the usual Guinea-Pig stuff , carrots, apples, hay and grass too so I think he will survive. First time I ever handled a Guinea-Pig.
On the farm there are also Goats, Hens,Sheep and a Cat. This is Goldie and her 2 female kids who are 4 months old. She did’nt need milking as the kids drink all the milk at the moment. Soon they will only spend part of the day with her, she will then be milked to provide milk for the family too. The kids are already eating hay and grass.
This is Annie, the other female Goat. She did’nt have kids this year. She has a very superior attitude and gives a very dismissive look sometimes!
The drive back home took about 3 hours. I like to take my time and admire the countryside. I avoid motorways and main roads if possible. Yesterday I took a route up the west side of Lough Derg driving through the lovely lakeside village of Mountshannon and on to Portumna. Did’nt have time to stop at the lovely forest walk there…another time. Into County Galway now…stone wall and Sheep country.
Stopped at Creggs which is on the Galway/Roscommon border to take these pics of the stone walls which are such an abiding image of this part of the country. Built with stone from the surrounding land these walls are expertly built and stand strong without any cement or mortar to hold them together. On then up through Roscommon reaching Arigna before darkness fell. Yes…it’s nice to go away now and then…but it’s even nicer to come home again. Home, Sweet, Home.
In Animals, Cooking, Gardening, sustainable living on July 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm
The Blackcurrant harvest continues as more fruit ripens each day. Other years you could cut off branches and pick off the fruit as all would be ripe together. This year however the bushes have to be gone over daily to pick the newly ripened fruit.
As branches are eventually stripped of fruit the goats get a treat, competing with each other to get any remaining currants which they love. I’m sure a vitamin C boost won’t do them any harm!
I freeze the fruit in 1kg lots. This is then enough to make 7 or 8 pots of jam or a few bottles of cordial. Blackcurrants are of course full of health promoting antioxidants and Vitamin C. They are helpful for joint inflamations, eyestrain and urinary tract infections. Research in New Zealand has found a compound which may help some types of asthma.
As I pick the dogs keep me company. Lettie sits on the garden bench, a plank of wood on some concrete blocks, and enjoys the heat of the sun.
Freddie stays closer, dozing under the shade of a Blackcurrant bush. I’ts amazing to think this little guy has only been with us little over a week. He just fitted perfectly into the routine. He hangs out with the other dogs, does’nt run off and is very affectionate. Everyone who visits loves him.
In Animals, Cooking, Gardening, sustainable living on April 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm
Bella, on the left, is one year old today. Her mother Enid is still giving plenty of milk for our needs. There is enough for making paneer, for souring for brown bread instead of buying buttermilk and even enough for an occasional bowl of custard. There is a misconception that goats need to kid every year to produce milk. Not true. We always milk for 2 years. It won’t be as much as the 1st year but we are not into maximum production. We love our animals and look after them well. We keep goats because we like them, but also to free ourselves from involvement in the cruel practices that are part and parcel of the dairy industry, both cows and goats. Enid will milk until Autumn then be dried off and rested for 2 years. Enid will be put in kid in November and hopefully be kidding 5 months later.
We like to start the day with a good breakfast here in Arigna. Today we had sourdough pancakes, really nice! I made the sourdough starter last September using our own grapes as a starter. I use the sourdough in bread and cakes too. Sourdough makes the gluten easier to digest and is good for the intestinal flora. The flavour seems to improve the longer you have the starter.
Yesterday we went to Deereen Wood near Boyle, it is a spectacular sight at the moment as the Bluebells are flowering. Bluebells spread quickly so there are more every year. A sight to lift and lighten anyone’s heart.
We were amazed to come upon this single magenta coloured Bluebell. Have often seen light pink ones but this was a really striking colour. I wonder if this will spread like the blue ones.