Bridget

Posts Tagged ‘smallholding’

Musings from a Smallholding…on a wet Irish Day.

In green living, Ireland on February 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Today is one of those days that typify our wet mild climate. Since morning we have had rain… soft rain… the sort I call mizzle, a cross between heavy mist and drizzle.

The mizzle gives the place a misty, mystical look. It would be a great day for filming a spooky movie. What could be lurking in those trees?

All is quiet at this homestead across the river. The only sound is a dog barking in the distance. Maybe he is spooked by the mizzle!

I really wanted to work outdoors today. The soil is too wet for working on the outdoor beds so I weeded and dug over a bed for Strawberries in the polytunnel. After digging I spread over some of this lovely compost. It is about a year in the making and is a lovely dark loam. Tomorrow I will plant the Strawberries. I have given up on planting Strawberries outdoors as the last 2 wet Summers were a disaster. The day was not cold but the mizzle made coat wearing a necessity.

The mild Spring has ensured lots of fresh green grass and fresh growth on all the shrubs. You can see the new growth on the Bay on the left. I really look forward to the trees coming in leaf again. The Birch near the back door is one of my fave trees, especially when it’s got it’s new fresh leaves. In Russia Birch trees are tapped in the Spring. This is done by drilling a small hole in the tree when the sap is rising. A straw is inserted to direct the flow of liquid into a vessel then the hole is plugged again. The resulting clear liquid is drunk as a Spring tonic. It can also be boiled down to make a sweet syrup. Anone out there ever tried this? We are going to do it this year so I’ll keep you posted!

This little Primula is flowering in a pot by the back door. It catches my eye every time I pass it by. Purple is one of my fave colours. It is said to distract the mind from everyday concerns.

The wet day gave me a chance to wear my new wellies. I got them in one of the local charity shops. They were brand spanking new so I was happy to pay the 10 euros asked for them. Oh dear! I’ve got the laces dirty already. Oh well! That’s the joy of a wet Irish day!

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Musings from a Smallholding…Spring is here!

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!

Musings from a Smallholding.

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!

Permaculture @ Prospect Cottage.

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!