Schools Out

So much has happened since my last post. I can’t help admire those who are able to blog regularly but I just don’t get the urge that often and what with college work needing to be done, if I had the time to sit and work on my laptop it was used for catching up on various essays, reports and articles for one of our many assignments. However that has all but come to an end! I handed over my whole portfolio yesterday for final assessment. It was a mixture of relief and nervous anticipation as well as a sense of thankfully just getting over the finishing line.

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We have an exhibition of all our work next week and I am looking forward to seeing all that on display. I have been inspired, awed and a little jealous of some of the work my fellow students have created and I hope the show proves to be as interesting as I imagine.

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It will take some time to process the experience of the last 9 months and I feel a bit creatively exhausted. Some of the work was easy, in a sense that exploring the ideas and having a creative flow just came, but on the opposite side, sometimes it was just such a struggle trying to produce pieces in so many different mediums and techniques. The course was varied and that was a plus but there again having to work concurrently on sculpture, abstract painting, life drawing, weaving, photography and printing all at the same time was a bit of a head wreck.

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These last couple of months have been difficult, possibly due to the stress of college, partly due to the time of year and just because I get these periodic episodes, I have been trying to deal with my depression. I try to rationalise the reasons for it but there again it happens and I have to get on with it. It certainly doesn’t make life any easier and this year trying to remain “creative” and “productive” was very much a struggle. I thought about trying to write about it as a therapy but there again who wants to read about negativity, I certainly don’t.

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What I have noticed is that my garden is my best therapist. We have had some reasonable weather recently and I have been able to get out there more. At first it was just a bit of tidying up, nothing too major, but now I am in full swing and just can’t wait to get out amongst the plants and see the new growth and the fruits of last year’s efforts.

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This time last year I had just finished a year of Horticulture and now I have had a year of Art & Design, I am now facing into a year where I hope to combine these skills and that is both exciting and daunting. I think my canvass will be mainly my own garden as well as my inspiration for other work. I have a number of ideas for my embroideries and I will certainly pursue some printing projects but probably during the winter months.

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How the Art & Design will manifest itself in the garden I really don’t know at this stage I have a number of ideas that are bubbling away and there is potential to put these new creative techniques and methodology into practice, so who knows what is in store, hopefully a summer like last year, hours spent listening to the birds, spotting the butterflies and watching the plants do their magic.

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Growing the Community

Over the last couple of weeks I have been asked by a number of people to explain more about the Community Garden Project. I am always delighted to do so, that is one of the purposes of the garden to help start a dialogue about our environment.

I think a catchy way of explaining about the garden is by calling it an All Garden, this is a play on the term All Ireland that is used commonly to denote an Irish National Competition and coming from my sporting background it seemed appropriate. So why an “All” garden? Well the intention of the garden is to provide an Educational, Environmental, Ecological, Cultural and Edible space where All our community can come together.

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I have been an organic small holder for over 30 years and 30 years ago I was collecting black silage plastic from my farming neighbours and along with PET drinking bottles taking trailer loads up to a recycling centre in Cork, as this was the closest place at the time. I know most people thought I was crazy at the time with a barn full of plastic but recycling is hopefully now a very common practice. I was also on a committee that brought one of the first recycling facilities to the village where we can put our bottles and cans. There was quite a bit of opposition to that at the time as people were afraid it would attract rats and be unsightly.

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My children spur me on to walk the walk and not just talk the talk and we go out regularly to clean up beaches and collect the vast amount of plastic that gets washed up on our shores. I am an environmentalist, some may feel that is a dirty word with all our demands for less pollution and how we try and point out where we could improve and create less waste. I know environmentalism is difficult and it makes life inconvenient but I believe I do have a responsibility to make this world a better place and I want my children to have a good life, I maybe deluded but I believe that Global Warming and Climate Change are real, I believe the scientists when they tell us that more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, so what can we do about it?

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As a gardener I know of the importance of pollinating insects. The Irish National Biodiversity Data Centre states “One third of our bee species are threatened with extinction from Ireland. This is because we have drastically reduced the amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites in our landscapes.” Our community garden is now part of the National Pollinator Plan and we have been planting native species to encourage the bees and we agreed to leave a fallow area to provide nesting for hibernating bees. If this was the only reason to have a Community Garden then I think it would be worth it, but that is not all the garden is about.

I also wanted to provide a space where people could come and learn about growing their own food. I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and over 30 years of growing experience, even with all this there is so much I don’t know but I would like to learn. We have had a number of visits by various horticulturalists who have been able to give advice on things from the pH levels of our soil to the best way of composting our organic waste. I think the garden is a great place to come and learn a bit more about growing and we are always up for a chat. One of our volunteers has been teaching me all about beekeeping and another the proper way to make lazy beds.

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I had asked the local Community Council if they would be interested in getting involved in creating a community garden near the community centre. In all honesty the community council is a very busy voluntary organisation and this was not a high priority project but after I said I was willing to manage it and all I required from the CC was a small piece of spare land and I would abide by any appropriate health and safety requirements they generously agreed to let me give it a go.

The small piece of land is the slope beside the polytunnels and leading up to the gate. The soil was only an inch deep laid over rock and rubble that had been moved there when the centre was built. It was covered in grass and had been strimmed a couple of times every year.

The three polytunnels had been used to grow early potatoes for at least 5 years followed by tomatoes. I had expressed some concern over the fact that the tunnels were not being rotated and after testing the pH levels discovered the acidity was around 4 which was also concerning. I agreed to maintain the tunnels for a year and try and provide a variety of veg for the local Social Centre for the elderly. This was however a separate project but as is the nature of things they appeared to dovetail nicely and I was able to propagate some plants not just for the community garden but for the village, growing plants for hanging baskets and tubs. Over 20kg of lettuce was produced along with courgettes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, beans, cabbage, spinach, chard and some unusual veg including Komatsuma, Pak Choi and Kohl Rabi. With all the hot weather we grew watermelons and strawberries, I grew a crop of Xerochrysum bracteatum for dried flowers, Calendula marigolds, Aloe vera and a number of herbs creating a polyculture and by using permaculture methods removing the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides from the tunnels.

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In order to develop the community garden we entered a competition held by Grow It Yourself (GIY) an organisation based in Waterford who promote growing of your own food within the community and sponsored by Energia. We won one of the main prizes and received €1000. We agreed to use this money to provide raised beds and to fence the area. The raised beds were expensive as we wanted to make them last for a long time. I have tried out many different methods but I had not tried using recycled plastic wood. I do use recycled plastic fence posts and they have lasted very well. We had enough grant money to buy 4 beds along with the wood required for the fencing. I was delighted when our local TD and member of the community council Michael Collins decided to sponsor another raised bed and then Mark from the Barleycove Hotel also said he would like to contribute. A couple of other sponsors have also said they will sponsor a bed but we didn’t get the money before we had to order the plastic wood so with their agreement that will have to be used for another project.

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Three of the beds are up in situ and levelled off and are already in use with garlic, onions, cabbage and potatoes planted. The rest of the beds and fencing are still to be finished off and anyone who wants to lend us a hand let me know! We grew Bionica potatoes last year in the patch where the raised beds are now located. This was an interesting project as Bionica are a new type of potato that are blight resistant, so we did not spray the plants and even though the soil was extremely shallow, I did add loads of seaweed, we got a reasonable crop of potatoes, for me not as tasty as Orla’s but there was no sign of blight.

During the summer a local table quiz was arranged with Claire over in Crookhaven. These quizzes are held regularly during the summer months and the funds raised go on many local projects and charities. I was very grateful that the Community Garden was included and I went round collecting prizes from loads of local businesses that were very supportive and generous. We eventually raised €600 towards the garden. There are so many ways to spend money on a garden! But we settled on the materials for a new path, a beautiful handmade garden gate (definitely worth checking out) a bird feeder made from a recycled windmill and a logo design and signs to promote the garden.

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As I’ve said before the soil was so shallow! Surprisingly there are loads of worms I can’t get over how many there are, I think because the soil is so shallow that they all live fairly close to the surface so whenever you dig you get a spade full. I made a central flower bed in using a Celtic Knotwork pattern and filled it with compost and coffee grounds thanks to the local café, Along the Way. We also had an open day at Easter where kids planted loads of sunflower seeds and bulbs, the bulbs suffered a bit in the dry weather but the sunflowers gave a brilliant display during the summer in another bed I dug specifically for them.

Colour is very important in a garden and after seeing some fence pots for sale in the supermarket I came up with an idea to raise some money for compost, seeds and plants for the garden. We started asking local businesses if they would “Adopt A Pot,” basically they give us €20 and we provide a pot with their name on it and plant it up with flowers and maintain it. I wasn’t expecting it to prove so popular and we now have 43 pots up on the fence and we were able to buy not only basic gardening materials but we bought some tools, agricultural fleece and things like organic slug controls, ground limestone and peat free organic compost to try and improve the soil in the garden. Thanks to a local builder and a farmer we have a load of soil and well rotted manure to give the garden a real boost.

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The responsibility of accounting for every penny raised, researching, planning, promoting, updating websites, along with spending hours digging, weeding, cutting grass and propagating plants for many would be hard work and it is, it is also a huge consumer of time, so I can well understand why I am so often asked why do it?

I have been motivated by the great reaction I have had from so many people, strangers have complimented the garden, we even had the RTE Programme Grow Cook Eat ask if they could film the garden as an example of what a small community could achieve which I think should be a source of great pride for the village and district. However I know with success comes the knockers, “who does he think he is!” I should expect it, stick you head up above the parapet you are going to get shot at. There will be those who don’t want to understand, there are those that will think it a crazy idea, there are those that think that climate change might be a good thing, we might get better summers and who wants creepy crawlies messing up the place. I don’t agree with you, I’m not arguing with you or trying to force you to do something you don’t want to. The community garden is probably not for you and anyway we might make very little difference. I do hope when my kids look back when I’m gone and they will think their dad was a little nuts and he was over reacting, for me that would be far better than look at the mess they made of things and our dad didn’t even try and do something about it, we deserved better.

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My kids: Mair & Jasmine

Simply, I do want to make the world a better place. I believe that we need to look after our environment better than we are doing now. I feel a responsibility to leave a place better than when I arrived. I want my children to get the very best out of life. I will go on marches to save the whale and I will try and encourage my children to be concerned over the bee, the beetle, the hoverfly, the ladybird, the chaffinch, the chough, the frogs, the hedgehogs, the plants and we all live and rely on the soil. I believe it is no coincidence that we live on a planet called Earth and we need to treat it better than we are now. So what does a community garden mean to me? A lot.

On a side note on the Saturday 23rd February I am managing another Goleen Cottage Market up at the community centre why not come along and take a moment to have a look at the Community Garden, imagine the possibilities and let me know what more we could do to make it a place that you can be proud of. The Cottage Market is another important initiative alongside the Community Garden trying to support a sustainable community it is not only the natural environment that needs addressing but the local economy is going to change to but I’ll leave that for another day.

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As the years turn

Another year starts to turn and I wonder what my within my life I learnt with this year nearly gone a song of praise or lament of the time I spent, the lessons the facts and all that tracked down, those untrod highways, byways , pathways or rooted and shooted with Latin names of the plant friends I gained.

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Corylus not Hazel now drips with cascading catkins, cobs and other filberts, robbed or lying  upon the dampened sod. A germinated seed freed or a weed ripped by root and branch to stop the ever advance of those unwanted plants.

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This year I dug a new furrow while still pushing my old barrow, aspiring to inspire trying to build my Babel higher and higher Intertwined within the mind, refine and combine, weave and wonder, lay all asunder and pick up the pieces.

I studied the muddy, laughed at the funny, struggled with the money but feel blessed with the rest in my garden bloomed and groomed the hours and hours amongst the flowers, the birds I heard the butterflies and bees, the swish of the trees and all those melodies that sung accompanying me as I trudged, as I took it step by step down the garden path a new route towards creativity.

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For in my own house I’m equanimous, longanimous and as anonymous as my small pet of a mouse, but Carpe Diem my friend.

A frequent lament of creation, imagination asked in indignation plucking a leaf from the poetry living life in the lower arty never giving in to the hierarchy, paying dues to my genealogy,

Giving you a peak behind the mask of me unseen, so right or write on and bleed or read on, do you think I’d be me, to be me I’m green, a blog frog what colour did you expect me to be.

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Take a look, I’m an open Facebook and an Instagram man and a twit of a tweet, if you cut me do I not seed, hey teacher leave those kids alone.

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Weaving, stitching time in rhyme, threading the eyes of ties to try to espy and remind us why we ply and investigate to remonstrate against our fate,

To attempt to recreate that state of mind that binds the time and treads the fine line betwixt insanity and sanctity,

To appreciate, to relate, to wrap hate, relate and remonstrate, shown in what I can create.

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Community binds the collective, mirrors the reflective protects the afflicted, gives need to the bereaved, provides the seed, prevents the greed to grow and feed, to take the lead and bring us hand in hand to provide the promised to land and the sanctuary our place of dreams where we can be All.

Obtaining, attaining without restraining both, ecological, environmental, ethical, theoretical, heretical, philosophical and listen to that small voice inside us call.

Hey you what are you doing?

Why do you deserve?

What do you preserve?

Pull up a chair if you care and take a seat at our table and break our bread as Dylan said let me scream at the dying of the light, let me be blown in the wind, cast no stone of sin in a Bible black night, let us all hold tight and now one more time, with feeling, let the year begin.

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Living the Life

I thought it might be time to do another Blog. Life is full at the moment, possibly even brimming over. I take on far too much, I am aware of this. Things would be far more efficient if I just concentrated on doing one thing well but I have come to the conclusion that I would not enjoy life as much if I wasn’t juggling a number of ideas at the same time and enjoying life is my goal. Being productive, exploring the possibilities as they present themselves and there are always more possibilities out there even living in a small rural community like West Cork.

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I know what has got me thinking about this, it is going to college, as part of my studies they have asked me to come up with a career plan. This is probably a good idea but I have resisted having a career plan as that almost insinuates that I should focus on just one career and that really doesn’t appeal. I think what I have is a lifestyle plan and that has served me well for most of my life.

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When developing a career plan it seems to be about assessing your abilities and qualities and then matching them to a job, with these skills I would be suited to A or B. I feel a bit restricted by that, of course I could do a job that I have the skills for but what I would rather do is develop the skills that I don’t have, to challenge myself to learn new skills and see if I can apply them to my lifestyle.

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I may have understood things wrongly but working out what career you want and then trying to create a lifestyle out of it doesn’t work for me. The most important thing for me is to be able to live the lifestyle I want and consequently work out what I need to do to accomplish that. I think I need to illustrate what I am talking about with an example.

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I have coached table tennis most of my life, as a career I have progressed through coaching local club players, then regional players then national players. I have completed qualifications that have taken me from a Level 1 Coach through to Level 3, as a career I should now be looking to go further and progress to the next level but that would require me to move abroad or at the very least move to a larger town or city but that would take me away from my lifestyle which I simply don’t want to do. My lifestyle is the fundamental principle not my career.

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I want a lifestyle that is not dictated to by my career. So if trying to develop a career plan I first need to understand what I want out of life and I think that is a much bigger question. We are often defined by our careers I’m sure it used to be referred to as having a livelihood a general idiom which as a term appears to be more about quality of life rather than career which seems to be more financially driven.

A livelihood or lifestyle strategy looks at objectives pursued, and the associated opportunities and constraints in regard to the capital of the individual, the physical, the natural, the financial and the social. These strategies often depend upon multiple diverse livelihood activities involving different employment and self employment activities.

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In order to fully pursue a livelihood strategy it is important to be flexible and adaptable and to have a wide set of skills in order to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. The goals and objectives are set by the individual, for me environmental, social and economic sustainability are the main factors. Some might feel that without a career that they are risking financial insecurity but I would contend that the kind of financial security provided for by a single career has changed over the years and that the idea of a job for life is becoming harder to sustain and as for myself the idea of one job for life sounds a bit dull when there are so many new and interesting things to do with one’s life and there is a risk that investing in just one career is a risk in itself especially if that is dependent on an employer.

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The practical aspect of this is that I am constantly busy with different projects moving from one thing to another, some are interlinked while others are just further strings to the bow. This week I am managing the Goleen Cottage Market, attending Art College, growing veg, managing the Community Garden, studying Traditional Chinese Medicine, coaching table tennis and writing my blog, next week I will be….not sure but I will be definitely trying to cut the grass.

C for Community

With all the hecticness of recent events I have had little time to ponder the universe. That is what I normally do when working in my own garden, lost in the sound of the wind, the chatter of the birds and the buzzing of insects, tending the plants and harvesting the spoils of the summer and autumn. As we move inexorably towards winter I often become more introspective, growth slows and the leaves fall, there is less light so less time can be spent attending and caring for the life of the garden.

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It is a perfect time to start new indoor projects and this year I am occupied and absorbed with Art College, a weekly routine of drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and printing has developed and I am loving and living it.

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Over the last couple of weeks due to imminent filming of the Community Garden we have been trying to finish off a few projects. The original intension was to do this gradually, to evolve the garden into a place and space of reflection but with all the attention and the opportunity to promote the purpose of the garden the ball started rolling and I have run along behind trying to keep up with its gathering momentum. Grab the opportunities as they present themselves or just go with the flow.

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I have been asked many times over the last couple of weeks what is a Community Garden, what is its purpose and why spend so much time building a garden when surrounded by so much nature; it is not as if we are living in a concrete jungle down here in West Cork.

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Well the clue is in the name Community. It is a word used so much these days its community this and community that, it is so often used that I think we do not even reflect on what we actually mean by it. We have community alert, community care, care in the community and I have been involved in our local community council since a couple of us sat around in a pub and thought we should have one of them and that was many moons ago.

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I have talked before about the me versus the we and how I originally moved here to get away from the rise of the looking after no.1 philosophy that swept through the UK so I am not going to pull at that thread again. But Community is about the “we” it is about us and how so much more can be achieved by the group over the individual. Communities are often geographical, when a group share a common space the street, the village or the town but we also find communities of like minded people or those that share a common interest being sport, hobbies or ideas such as church, or religion. There are cultural communities, the Irish have strong cultural communities all over the world and this provides a source of identity for those far from their original community a substitute for those deep family roots fostered in the land of their birth or even their ancestors birth.

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The connection with the land is a subject all of its own and I may well come back to that another time. In modern times we also have on line communities, I am aware as I sit and write this that I am participating in one of these every time I write a blog, I am reaching out to my community, those of you who will read this and to those who write their own blogs that I follow with interest, learning about lives from as far afield as America (Hi Judy), Australia (Hi Chris) and everywhere in between.

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I think it is one of the many reasons that social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have proved so popular, it enables people to connect and share their experiences, we are not alone, there are other individuals out there who want to feel part of something bigger than their own lives, who have a natural urge to care and share. My mum once told me that we have two hands, one for the community and one for ourselves and I have learnt that becoming involved in a community is not a totally selfless act, I get far more out of voluntary work that I have ever put in and it is a fair balance as the more you put in the more you get out. However I am not talking about cash, this world so often equates the value of their contribution in Euros or Dollars but there are things that have a much greater value than cash, peace of mind, contentment, feeling appreciated, purpose and being able to make a difference to other people’s lives including our own.

So back to the Community Garden and what is it for? It is a space where you can get involved, a place we can be proud of, the garden is whatever you want it to be and you can contribute however you want, the very act of getting involved of sharing, caring contributing, is its purpose and if I am right you will be surprised just how much you will get in return. The garden is for our whole community and that can include you.

 

Quite please, take one

As you might be aware I don’t usually blog so often but I thought I’d give you a short update on the filming yesterday. It went well I think, not quite what I had expected but is anything ever. The camera man Colin and Siona from GIY arrived around 12, I had told people they were arriving at 11 so there was a lot of “why are they not hear yet?” questions and I was the obvious person to ask. They were travelling down from Waterford so I had not really expected them to arrive early, I have done that trip a few times and it is at least three and a half hours and I usually know where I’m going. Anyway the mist came and went as we waited and caught up on a few jobs. We refreshed the sawdust around the circle bed and top dressed the spiral bed with a mix of compost and coffee grounds.

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The sawdust we get from my brother in law Andrew as he uses my barn as his workshop and the used coffee grounds come from the cafe Along The Way in the village. The coffee grounds have a lovely texture and a dark rich colour which looks well in contrast to the green grass and of course the smell is gorgeous. Coffee grounds are classified as a green manure as they have to break down, they do initially take nitrogen from the soil but once they have broken down they act as a slow release fertiliser. The saw dust does the same but are a more effective mulch, this particular batch had a warm orange tone as Andrew had been working with some particularly nice wood.

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Kate got stuck in to some weeding and cleared the grass around the willow arch a small but necessary job that has been needed to be done for some time. The willows didn’t grow as quickly as I had hoped but the soil is very shallow and there wasn’t really enough rainfall this summer but with a bit of luck they are now established and might make a bit of progress next year.

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Photo by Magda O’Driscoll

I thought the garden was looking really well and the dew on the grass gave a lovely shiny sheen and the colour was perfect. Their sleek black van eventually swept into the community centre and we got to meet Siona and Colin, it had been a long trip into the unknown for them as neither had ever been this far west before.

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While Colin set up his camera equipment I showed Siona around the garden bombarding her with all the stories which accompany the features in our garden, the Adopt A Pot Scheme, the Bird Feeder, the new gate, the yarn bombing, the playschool caterpillar, Foroige’s Bird Boxes, the All Ireland Pollinator plan, the pontoon containers, the recycled raised beds and all the sponsors involved in our small garden. I showed her around the polytunnels and discovered she was a big fan of watermelons, aren’t we all. So I picked one for her and just hope it was fully ripe, I still find it hard to tell.

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There was a bit of paperwork to complete and they seemed keen to have a number of different people to interview, Bob a local farmer who has been a great help already in the garden, Bernard our local Community Council Chairman, Magda a local artist and Maureen and Stephen working in the kitchen up at the Community Centre all agreed to talk on camera. I am not sure why that did not happen as by the end of filming only myself and Magda had faced the camera. I think my interview went well, talking is a hobby of mine, as Kate said they would probably need to shut me up rather than get me to talk. I know I am a chatterbox, have been all my life and especially when talking about something I feel passionate about.

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Photo by Siona Stokes

The weather was very unpredictable, it never fully turned into a downpour but the soft mist embraced us regularly and that presented a challenge to the camera man. The sun did come out and Colin took the opportunity to launch a drone for some aerial shots, I do hope to get to see some of that as it would really put the garden into context with its surroundings.

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A couple of local kids came up after school and we all got into the garden for some “action” shots. It was actually good fun and Ben, who is only 3yrs took delight in finding some nice juicy worms and entertained us with his enthusiasm.

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It did take a few hours but they were keen to get going on their return trip to Waterford. We managed to persuade them to stay for some leek and potato soup Stephen had especially prepared from the veg in the garden and Sarah-Jane from Along The Way sent up some scones. We had laid-out a fine collection of artwork from the Goleen NS on the garden theme which was a colourful addition to our day at the garden.

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After they left I kept remembering things I should have mentioned but we have had such generous support from so many people in the community I have to keep a note on my phone as I simply can’t remember it all. I would love to get the chance to do it again and tomorrow we will get that chance as a larger film crew are coming down to film a piece for the TV series Grow, Cook, Eat. I am really looking forward to that and I hope the weather gives us the chance to show off our garden to its full extent.

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Admiring the view

 

Finding the Energia

Today is the day we have a film crew coming down to film the garden. We won an award from Energia and GIY and got a grant to develop our Community Garden. It was like a start up grant as at the time we had a plot of land donated by the local Community Council but the rest of it was in the imaginings. That now seems like a long time ago and things have moved on. Very little is actually finished in the garden but is that not the nature of a garden. I have been working on my own place for 30 years and it is still a long way from being finished. That might be because I am a slow worker but it is one of the things I like about gardening, it is ever changing, the seasons and the inevitable growth of the plants make it an ever-changing landscape with some successes and some failures and seeing what works and what doesn’t keeps it interesting.

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These last couple of weeks have brought many changes to our Community Garden, having a deadline has concentrated the mind and given us a focus. The fencing is not complete but it has started to go up and I think it will make the place look cosy, hopefully it doesn’t cut the garden off from its surroundings but when the windbreak material goes up it will provide much needed protection for the hawthorn and crab-apple trees we planted earlier in the year.

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We have two of the raised beds in place now and that gives an indication of how they will look once completed. There are another four to go in; there is no real hurry as they won’t be in production until the spring but as some of the grant was initially provided for these we do want the grant people to see we were good on our word. Things have moved on in that department as we were able to get a few of the beds sponsored by the Barleycove Hotel and our local TD Michael Collins. We also got a bed sponsored by Julie Morrison and family who was part of a Trade Delegation from Maine who visited Goleen on their trip to the UK and Ireland. It was great to meet a fellow food enthusiast and someone who really appreciates the way that food is produced and sold at local markets. Another American connection Meurig & Kristie James who are living in California have also provided our local community with a bed so this has meant we have been able to buy enough materials for all 6 beds which I didn’t think would be possible.

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We have made the raised beds out of recycled plastic, it is guaranteed for 40 years, is UV protected and doesn’t leach, it was expensive but we think it is a worthwhile investment and it will make the garden far easier to use and I think it looks well.

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The community have really pulled together on this project and we have had offers of help and donations from all corners. I went to the garden yesterday and found it had been yarn bombed. I know it is supposed to be a secret thing but we all know it was done by a local craft collective “The Crafty Ladies.” They meet every Thursday morning in the hall and they had a table at our last Cottage Market. They yarn bombed the village during the festival and they were out again in force covering wheelbarrows, garden tools and some of the posts, it looks brilliant and adds colour and character to our small plot. We have a couple of painted bird boxes from our local youth group Foroige, a stone caterpillar from the playgroup, a native cherry tree from Goleen Harbour Adventure Centre and some unusual looking planters that were once part of the pontoon across Barleycove Beach provided by Ritchie from West Cork Engineering.

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We have erected a birdfeeder in the main central bed. I came up with a basic design using reinforcement bars and asked our local Head of Coastguard Paddy to weld them together. He came back to me with a suggestion over the base and fixed them on to this large chunk of rusty metal, very industrial looking. This piece of machinery came from a windmill, possibly the first in West Cork that stood overlooking the village when I first arrived built by Henning Voss, it originally attached one of the blades to the central hub. I just love the idea that we have recycled it from an alternative energy source to a central feature in our garden a bit of local history and I just hope the birds appreciate it as much as I do.

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As I sit here and write we haven’t managed to hang the new gate, the posts are in but as it is quite heavy we have to wait for the concrete to set before it is put into position. I think it is a perfect addition, the spiral pattern reflects the design of the garden and it has a little hedgehog in the corner, I love hedgehogs, not sure we will ever attract one into our garden but it would be amazing if we did. The gate was made by Tim Rowe over in Bantry, as I have mentioned previously he is a very interesting man and has a Vlog on Youtube called Way Out West where you can follow his various adventures.

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There are a few jobs that have not been completed, trying to fit in full time college and family life has been a challenge. We have 15 heathers donated from Deelish Garden Centre ready to plant and I have even dug the holes but as yet they are still in the tunnel. We have a couple of trees including a native Spindle Tree ready to be planted into containers, there is compost and mulch lying in bags by the polytunnel to be spread on the garden and a few plant pots that should be put around the garden. I will possibly have an hour or two this morning to sort some of the smaller jobs before filming starts but I am not going to stress myself out about it, the garden is the garden and I hope it will never be finished.

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I am very pleased that we are now a registered garden as part of the National Pollinator Plan and have a little sign to put up. I see the garden as very much an “All” Garden, Ecological, Environmental, Educational and Edible and being part of the Pollinator Plan is a major step in the right direction. The spring and winter flowering heathers, the wild flowers and the natural grass bank along one side of the garden should all contribute to attracting bees, hoverflies and other pollinators into, we need the bees and I hope we can make them feel at home.

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The weather looks overcast and a bit wet today which is a bit of a shame as a spot of sunshine would really bring the garden to life but you can’t have everything. So I am looking forward to the day ahead and getting the chance to show off our garden. Oh and another thing, we have another film crew coming on Friday so we might get a chance to finish off a few more things but I’ll tell you more about that next time.

I am always talking about the narrative when it comes to the garden, storytelling is a major cultural aspect of life in Ireland and I think we have a humdinger of a story in regards to our idea for seating in the garden, which I mentioned in my last blog. The characters include Magda the artist, Judy a fellow blogger from New England, Michael and Ann a local couple and the Mountain of the Pixies, stay tuned.