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 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.
In Bees, Gardening, herbal remedies on October 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm
Watery sunlight shines through the jars of newly potted honey from our Bees. Less honey this year but it’s been so sunless and wet we are impressed to get anything. We have 14 of these one pound pots which will see us through Winter. Enough honey is left for the Bees food supply for the Winter. Some Beekeepers take all the honey then feed the Bees sugar syrup, but Andy prefers not to do that.
The big Sycamore tree has dropped most of it’s leaves now…
they fall conveniently on the developing Forest Garden area beneath…giving a perfect mulch to the plants.
A Sunflower produces a late bloom. A cheery sight on these drab wet days we have had throughout October.
On the laneway the combination of the Hawthorn berries and the lichen covered branches give a Christmassy look. The lichen seems to get whiter at this time of the year…or maybe I notice it more when the leaves have fallen. Lichens only grow where the air is pure…they are a good sign of an unpolluted environment.
Sedum and Yarrow continue to flower in the shaded bed by the chalet. Yarrow is a medicinal plant…useful for nosebleeds and cuts and wounds. It can be made into a tincture which is useful for high blood pressure, weak digestion and heavy periods. The leaves can be dried and used to make a tea. This tea is particularly useful for reducing fevers.
The Fatsia which is in a big pot near the back door is doing well. Most books tell you this is a houseplant…rubbish…this one has been outside for the last 2 severe Winters and is doing great. It looks like it is going to produce flowers soon.
In Gardening, permaculture, sustainable living on October 10, 2011 at 8:10 am
There is still lots of colour in the long border despite lots of rain and wind. Plants are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for. This bed was planted 2 years ago. Most of the plants were grown from slips and cuttings. Phlox, Sedum and Japenese Anemones give great late season interest. Many of these will be divided yet again next Spring to facilitate further garden expansion. I’m not a big fan of garden centres, plants from hothouses abroad often do not acclimatise well to our soil and climate. Much better to buy Irish grown plants when possible. As my gardening life proceeds I find myself increasingly using Permaculture techniques.
Permaculture aims to create in a self-sustaining and earth-friendly way a system that provides for our human needs while working co-operatively with Nature. No chemicals are used and plants such as the Sedum, which is a great attractant for Butterflies, are planted extensively. Harmony between Humans and Nature is paramount. Native plants are important being hosts to many types of wildlife. Oak and Willow are good examples as they are both host to about 300 species of wildlife while also having importance for Humans. The Forest Garden by Robert Hart is a great Permaculture book as is Masanubo Fukuoka’s book One Straw Revolution. Fukuoka, one of my heroes, was writing and indeed practising Permaculture in the 1930s long before it’s fashionable resurgence in the 1970s in Australia.
Fruits, trees and flowers are planted together, no monoculture. The area above was planted in Spring of this year around an established Twisted Willow. The sod was turned, plants planted then the whole lot was mulched with newspaper and straw. Raspberries, Rosa Rugosa, Blackcurrants, Mallow, Chives and Phygelius are all thriving together. Mulch will be applied again next Spring when the ground warms up. The mulch rots down over time to provide nutrition for the plants whilst keeping down weeds. In the polytunnels crops are also mixed together. Herbs, flowers and vegetables make for an interesting and colourful mix. Pests are not a problem as the mix of plants and various scents confuse them. The only problem we have found is with slugs but a good Permaculture solution to that would be to have ducks, ducks love eating slugs. The problem for us is that there are loads of Foxes in this area. We are considering making a Fox proof (fingers crossed) run over the Winter and getting Chickens and Ducks next Spring. We would as a bonus have eggs, a good source of protien produced on our own smallholding. Permaculture principles at work.
Pets too have a place in the Permaculture system. They provide company for the humans and prevent Rats and Mice from building up. We have 2 terriers who are avid chasers of all intruders. Permaculture Doggies rule!
In arigna, Folklore, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on August 3, 2011 at 9:28 am
Monday last was August 1st, also known as Lammas or Lughnasa. In the not so distant past this was a time of fairs and horse trading in honour of Rhiannon, the horse Goddess of the Underworld. There is still one remaining horse fair held on this day which is I believe held somewhere in Galway. Here in Arigna we like to harvest produce on this day as it is also a celebration of the abundance of the season. A time of gathering and preserving in preperation for the Winter which is just around the corner.
In April we planted Potatoes using a method new to us. Newspaper was placed on the ground, potatoes on top then covered with a thick mulch of rushes (straw could also be used). See post Blueberries, Potatoes & Rushes published on 11th April for more info and pics.
The variety planted was Colleen. Wow, the results far exceeded my expectations, I admit I was dubious. The Potatoes are clean, just pull back the mulch and there they are. Good yield, the amount above is from 2 plants. The size was a bit erratic, some very large Potatoes, some small. All in all we are well pleased and shall definitely use this method again.
In the new gravel garden, see post Elephant Hawk Moth & Gravel Garden published June 8th, everything is filling out nicely. The pots with mostly succulents in are doing particularly well. It is the sunniest spot. Many of the plants have flowered for the first time. Really love the little flower on this one.
In the vegetable garden Oregano is flowering now. The Bees just love it. Some of the flowers will be dried for use in teas. It is useful for colds, headaches and gastro-intestinal disorders. With the addition of a teaspoon of honey it makes a delicious tea. The leaves can also be infused to make a hair conditioner or added to your bath water to promote relaxation.
In Animals, arigna, Gardening, permaculture, sustainable living on June 24, 2011 at 8:37 am
The Forest Garden area is coming on nicely, plants are filling out and more are being planted all the time. Everything here is perennial, a mixture of herbs, fruit bushes and flowers. Comfrey is interplanted throughout, chopped and dropped around the base of the plants to provide fertility. Rushes strimmed from the fields provide the mulching material, eventually rotting down to build up the topsoil. Permaculture techniques at work.
This little pond at the bottom of the polytunnel provides a paddling pool for the many frogs that have made their home in this microclimate. They in turn pay for their keep by gobbling up any slugs and other pests that invade their area. Nature working without any human interference.
I recently bought some plants for this pond as it tended to have a lot of algae. Now that they are becoming established the algae problem has disappeared. The little water Forget -me-not has just started flowering, pretty little thing. There’s also Water Lettuce(bottom left), Water Violet(bottom right) and a Flowering Rush beside the Forget-me-not.
Outside the back door Buddha keeps watch over this little pot of Sedum and Sempervivum slips. These plants grow easily from even the smallest piece.
In the field the animals relish the abundant Summer pasture.
And a curious Donkey comes to check out the camera or maybe see if I have any tasty morsel for her.
In Bees, Gardening, sustainable living on June 14, 2011 at 6:54 am
The polytunnel is getting to the stage I really like now, everything growing like crazy, plants merging into each other. Nasturtiums self-seed profusely here, I love their bright colours and the fact that they are edible. The Peach tree has put on lots of growth, I will prune it once or twice during the Summer. Summer pruning works for Peaches, Plums and Nectarines, Winter pruning can lead to silverleaf and canker.
In the top orchard the Bees are happily working away. Andy checked them recently and the hives are good and healthy, no spare honey yet, the weather has just been too cold and wet. Hopefully the weather picks up and we will get some honey in late Summer. Our main priority is to have happy healthy bees.
Also in the top orchard we have been extending the mulched area. Up to now an area around each tree was mulched. Last week Andy strimmed the grass, we put down lots of newspapers and cardboard, then used the strimmings on top as mulch. When the weather gets better, (fingers crossed) we intend to plant this area with Pumpkins. They are already growing on in pots in the polytunnel. It’s just too cold at night for them so far. They can run rampant here and be pollinated by the Bees.
Foxgloves are in full flower now. I am often reminded of a picture of a painting I once saw in a book, of a gnome like being wearing a Foxglove flower as a hat. The painting was by Walter Thun, husband of Maria Thun who compiles the biodynamic calendar each year. I always have that in my mind’s eye as I gaze upon a Foxglove.
In Gardening, sustainable living on May 2, 2011 at 11:37 am
We went to the local car boot sale in Carrick-on-Shannon yesterday morning, as we often do. It is on every Sunday morning with a good range of stalls. Lots of bric-a-brac, books, plants and even furniture can be found. I bought 3 plants, Solomon’s Seal, a Polygonum with pink flower and a Lysmachia with a variegated leaf which I had’nt seen previously, all for 10 euros. Bargain! My guess these would be 6.99 each at any garden centre. The sellers were all locals who had propogated these plants themselves so the plants are already acclimatised to the local area, no hothouse specimens from foreign lands. By evening they were planted in the new mulched bed we have just made in the fruit garden. The area was grass, it was first mulched with newspaper and cardboard, then planted and given a good thick mulch with rushes.
Also at the car boot we got this small table, I was looking for a table for this little sitting area and this one was ideal. It is a nice heavy one and at a tenner was a good deal. I like the colour so it does’nt even need painting. The seat in the pic I am proud to say I made myself at a woodwork class about 5 years ago. The Willow plant holder was locally made and Andy did the decking. A completely local production!
In the polytunnel growth is phenomenal at the moment. It seems like overnight that full heads of Lettuce have grown from tiny plants, Spinach planted only a few weeks ago is ready for picking. These Strawberries will soon be giving fruit. The pots were outdoors until now. By bringing them into the heat of the polytunnel they will fruit quicker. Strawberries are also planted in the beds in the polytunnels.