Monday, 31 December 2012

The Garden in Hibernation

Winter is my least favourite season in the Garden.

This is our third Christmas in our home and is definitely the wettest.

The entire garden is waterlogged (have the moss and reeds to prove it too).

This afternoon was nice and mild and I decided I would try and get a last blog post in before the New Year. I stuck on my wellies (I wasn't hopeful about how waterproof my walking shoes would be out there) and grabbed my camera to take note of the 'mess'.

And oh what a mess!!

Our poor Lavenders

Think theres something under there

So much for investing in copper tape!
Grassy wet muddy mess
In need of a wash
Goodbye 2012, looking forward to 2013 and getting more plans finished; the biggest one being drainage!!

Heres to a drier and slug free New Year!!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Something for a Winter's night in

This time two years I was telling a friend over the phone about the little blue berries that I had found growing on a few old gnarled and moss covered bushes, down by the shores of Lough Sillan.
Myself and the boys had been on an 'adventure' walk down a hidden lane not far from the house we were renting at the time.
I didnt know what they were; she thought they may be Sloes and if they were we could make Sloe Gin with them. I had heard of Sloe Gin before but it was one of those obscure things that you hear of but dont really know how it is made and I had no idea what a Sloe was.
So I did a bit of research on Sloes and after the first frost (its recommended to leave them until then)we hit off down the lane again, armed this time with plastic bags to collect these wee blue berries. As it turned out I didnt get much help from my offspring as these wee berries were on very thorny bushes, they are not called Blackthorn for nothing!
Armed with a bag full of them I made over a litre of Sloe Gin.

And that was the start of my love of fruit flavoured Vodka/Gin making. Last year we tried Plum and Sloe vodka (we prefered the vodka to the gin), both delightful liquers to drink and they came in handy as extra wee gifts to family and friends last Christmas.

This year because we have no Plums and there are very little Sloes in the hedgerows I decided to try out other fruits.

I halved our harvest of Blackcurrants (the rest will be made into jam when winter starts) and put them in a sterilised Kilner Jar, added some caster sugar...

Then the vodka..


Closed the lid tight and gave a nice shake from side to side.

Next fruit is Blackberries (idea courtesy of a fellow blogger, @edibleireland, who made Blackberry Whiskey last year ).

Have to give them a shake twice a day until the sugar has completely dissolved, then a quick shake once a week.
I will store them in a dark cupboard for about 6 - 8 weeks. After that I will strain the fruit (using muslin) and put the liquer into sterilised bottles for the Christmas. The wonderful thing about these fruit liquers is they can be left to mature for a year (or more if you can leave them that long).

Cant wait to try them out. I will post an update later on in the year to give my verdict on these particular fruit liquers.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Wooden Gates finished

A couple of posts ago I blogged about making a wooden fence, but without its gate.

Finally getting to blog about the finished product.

After a little bit of research I figured out how to put it together so that it wouldnt fall apart (well heres hoping anyway).

I put the frame together first before adding the fence posts.

Then put the hinges on and stuck it up!

 As you can sorta make out from the photo above I did place the hinges in the wrong place (left gate)on first attempt.

Next thing a latch, a drop bolt and a bolt for locking them.

I have to put another drop bolt on the left gate as there is still a bit of movement when it is very windy out (spotted it yesterday during a torrential downpour).

After that I have to dig out where the dropbolts are entering the ground (just a hole in the gravel at present) and put in a small rectangle of concrete to give the drop bolts a nice new solid home.

And thats it finished! no more goats entering the veg garden this way! and alot more privacy and security this side of the house.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Garden reflection

I love Spring, and the Summer isnt too bad either, both full of colour and growth.

I love all new things regardless of what they are.

But Autumn is different, its about harvesting and easing into the hibernation that is Winter.

Its also a time of reflection, looking back at what I did grow, or tried to grow, how it did and what I might do differently next year.

This year was a bit tough for growing vegetables and not just for us, for all gardeners from what I have read in blogs and on twitter - it has been such a wet year that the slugs took over, they came and destroyed nearly everything in their path.

In our garden they started at the Rhubarb in the Spring, and every evening I went out on 'slug patrol' picking them off the leaves and putting down beer traps.

Thankfully the Rhubarb survived and I have been harvesting it since (and baking plenty of Tarts).
Yummiest in a Tart

Then the slugs turned their attention to the Carrot seedlings.......they ate everything, not a carrot survived.

After that it was the Onions turn, they didnt do so well either. It seems that Onion greenery was this years delicacy in the slug world and so the beer traps and my evenings of 'de-slugging' were needed again. I think I lost that battle.

I do believe the slugs had more beer this year than myself!

We have lovely Onions (albeit small) but because they have no green stems left they wont store very well unfortunately.
Sarpo Mira spuds/wee Onions

The Homeguard potatoes got blight and the slugs helped 'clean up' so the harvest was very small.

But the Sarpo Mira potatoes which are blight resistent did very well (as well as expected considering how wet the soil remained all summer) and I havent found any signs of slug attack either.

We are still harvesting them, but I must harvest them all this week and harden them off in the polytunnel so they store better.
I pulled this mutant one the other day, gorgeous isnt it? not.

Mutant spud (size of tablespoon)
The Parsnips are actually doing very well, (slug free) but I think the soil has been a little too fertile for them so they are all very leggy. I am learning, slowly.

Spindly Parsnips
We also tried growing Beetroot this year but they failed miserabley.

Have to start planning next years crop soon. Think its time to start ordering seeds.

Monday, 24 September 2012

How to be Happy

I know this is completely off track from my usual blog posts but when I came across this again I thought it was something nice enough to share.

In the late '90s  BBC had a documentary called 'How to be Happy' and as a result of the research into the programme a team of 'experts' came up with a '10 point plan'.

I found this '10 point plan' stuck on an old office wall at a time when I needed an extra bit of happiness and couldnt resist taking a copy.

At the very least it makes for interesting reading:

1. Get physical: Take half an hour of exercise three times a week.

2. Count your blessings: At the end of each day reflect on at least five things you are grateful for.

3.Take time to talk: Have an hour-long, uninterupted conversation with your partner or closest friend each week.

4. Plant something: Even if it's just in a window box or pot. Keep it alive!

5. Cut your TV viewing by half.

6.Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once a day.

7. Phone a friend: Make contact with at least one friend or relation whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up.

8. Have a good laugh at least once a day.

9. Give yourself a treat every day and take your time to really enjoy it.

10. Spread some kindness: Do a good turn for someone every day.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Fence making; DIY style

I was going to write a big explanation about this DIY job, but I think I will just let the pictures do the 'talking'. After pricing fence panels etc we decided it was alot cheaper for us to make our own. So we bought all the wood in bulk, storing it in our large shed (a big plus when we were buying this property in 2010).
Our stock of treated wood

Clearing the ditch (view 'up' the garden) '11
Ditch cleared, posts & sheep wire up(view 'down' the garden) '11 

All nice & neat (view 'down' the garden) '11
Posts in; cement filled around them '12

My 'baby'
12' lengths halved & shaped
Bulk painting
Drying out
Putting the fence together
View 'up' the garden
Had a little help turning the corner

All finished, 100ft of fencing. For this part of the garden all I have to do now is to make a gate; but thats another days work methinks.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Boom to Bust, in Plum terms

Seeing as last year was our first year in this garden we were intrigued to find out what the main tree in the wee orchard was.

When the fruit started to appear we had no idea what these wee green things were (having never seen anything like them before).

It turned out to be a Plum tree, which ended up producing nearly 18 kg of Plums. We had Plum jam for months after, and some very yummy Plum Vodka too which we only finished off at the start of the summer.
The branches were laden down with the weight of the fruit this time last year...

We couldnt believe our fortune!

This year its been a completely different story...

How many Plums did I find?

And why? I have no idea.

I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what happens next year (and maybe do a bit of reading about how to take care of Plum trees in the meantime).

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Catch up in the Garden...

Its been a while since my last post but July/Aug with kids seems to fly by. Next thing you know and it will be back to school time!

As for the garden, well I was going to tell a tale of woe, of a garden that hasnt dried out all summer, or of the hundreds of slugs which have eaten all of our carrot seedlings, and the tops of most of our onions, and are slowly eating their way through our cabbage (regardless of beer traps) and I took photos to prove it too.

But why share the woe when most gardeners are all too familiar with my tale.

So instead I'll just share a few photos of what is doing well this year.......our Strawberries and our Tomatoes. And where are they? yep, in the polytunnel, out of the rain.

The strawberries have finished giving their crop so are now concentrating on 'spreading their wings' and producing offspring, in abundance!

I plan on potting up as many of the runners as possible in the coming weeks.

A small snippet

The Tomato plants (Gardeners Delight), all 20 of them, are thriving, I've had to 'top them' before they took over the tunnel though.

I planted them out 2 weeks later this year than last year, so we are still waiting on them to ripen...

We cant wait for a bit of red.....

Ok, just one photo of my woe this year...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Dun a Ri Forest Park

Ladies Lake
I know I have blogged about this park before but seeing as its only 'down the road' I reckon this wont be the last time it comes up here. But I just cannot help myself.
I've been really lucky as an adult to live near great parks, my last abode wasnt too far a drive from Newbridge Park in Donabate,  Ardgillan Park in Skerries and Malahide Castle in North Co. Dublin.
All lovely parks; with playgrounds for the kids (very handy esp when our boys were younger), small cafes, and Newbridge Park has a wee farm too. I have some lovely memories of all three. Time spent in these parks kept me sane through some tough times in my life.

For anyone living in an estate having a public amenity like any of these parks near by is just brilliant.

For those of us living in the countryside having a park near by is equally brilliant. There isnt many roads where I live that one can go for a 'stroll on' without the fear of being run over by a speeding car. And if you visit this park on a good day you will meet plenty of strollers/walkers/joggers.

I count myself blessed to live so near to such a wonderful park, not a playground or cafe in sight though! But the entire park is like a playground, just ask my 10 & 11 year old boys! And if you are looking for a drink there are 2 wells to satisfy your thirst!

The park has 565 acres, with the Cabra river flowing through it. We are still finding new parts to explore, or should I say the boys are always finding new parts to explore, I just follow. Here is a little taste of what its like....

Cabra River Walk

Cabra River Walk

Refreshments available..

Cromwells Bridge

Rabbit Bridge
Horse Chestnut