Reach for the Sky Garden

We had our fist field trip from college today. Sally is a former student and is now in charge of the wall garden at Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen. It was not the best of days as although the rain was soft it was persistent and the grey light was not the best backdrop for viewing gardens but we are hardy horticulturalists and a spot of drizzle wasn’t going to dissuade us, especially after spending most of the morning staring at a computer learning word processing.

lissard01

Sally’s Walled Garden

Liss Ard is a country house surrounded by 163 acres of grounds including a wall garden, forest walk, lakes and the famous Sky Garden. The house was built in 1870 and is a fine example of Victorian architecture totally lost upon us as we gazed up at the tall beech, oak, chestnut and cypress. The wall garden would have once been fully cultivated and supplied the house with food for the table. Sally has almost half of the original garden cultivated which is impressive in only the couple of years she has been working on it and the restaurant makes full use of having their own fresh selection of vegetables available. Like most gardens this time of year the veg supply is on the decline but even so the lettuce, beetroot, kale, cabbage and various other brassicas were still showing green among the immaculately kept square beds

.

lissard02

One of my favourites Verbascum, common name mullein

Sally guided us around and comprehensively answered all our enquiries showing the same level of enthusiasm us plant nerds have and I was delighted to see so much companion planting with marigolds, chives and nasturtium adding colour to the lush green veg. I was also please to hear that it is a chemical free zone, netting protected the leafed veg from the pernicious cabbage white butterfly and Sally hand picks and squishes the caterpillars that make it through to their prize.

lissard03

After the veg tour we headed off through the woods spotting a variety of fine examples of trees including a purple weeping beech, sweet chestnut and a very large Western Red Cedar, ferns and mosses were in profusion as we dropped down to one of the ponds and to the entrance of the Sky Garden. The Sky Garden was designed by James Turrell, I hadn’t heard of him before but I am assured he is considered the greatest American Land Art Artist. Thanks to Wikipedia and Sally’s guided tour I learnt that Turrell obtained a pilot’s license when he was 16 years old and later, registered as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, he ended up flying Buddhist monks out of Chinese-controlled Tibet, for years he restored antique airplanes to support his “art habit.” He was sent to prison in 1966, when he was arrested for coaching young men to avoid the Vietnam draft. As a pacifist I have taken a liking to this man.

lissard04

As an artist Turrell is perhaps best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater. He acquired an extinct cinder volcano located outside Flagstaff, Arizona in 1979. Since then he has spent decades moving tons of dirt and building tunnels and apertures to turn this crater into a massive naked-eye observatory for experiencing celestial phenomena.

lissard05

In 1992 he came to the Liss Ard Estate where he designed and oversaw the giant earth and stonework which has crater at its centre. A visitor enters through a doorway in the perimeter of the rim, walks through a passage and climbs stairs to enter, then lies on the central plinth and looks upwards to experience the sky framed by the rim of the crater. “The most important thing is that inside turns into outside and the other way around, in the sense that relationships between the Irish landscape and sky changes.”

lissard08

Photo courtesy Liss Ard Estate https://www.lissardestate.com/

To be perfectly honest I had no idea what to expect and before going through the stone door way and through the tunnel l felt a huge anticipation and reverence, it reminded me of visiting Newgrange or a similar ancient monument and it gave me the impression of travelling through a birth canal and up into the light.

lissard06

It is impressive but I can’t help feeling I would have been more impressed to have been faced with the crater walls covered in wildflowers, I am a plant nerd and there was only grass. The circle of sky above may also have been more impressive if the sun was out and it was blue or even at night when you could lie down and gaze up at a perfect circle of a star filled heavens. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to visit this almost secret space and I loved the stone gateway at the top of the steps leading down to the crater and having the opportunity to visit Liss Ard was brilliant, an instillation of this nature will appeal more to some than others I may just be one of those others.

lissard07

Advertisements

Man Aging My Gender

I want to go a bit off track with this blog. It is as a result of spending time in my garden but not about gardening. I love spending time outside growing, digging, weeding and planting, I love seeing things grow and develop over time, I’m in no rush and it gives me plenty of time to contemplate the world. I often listen to the radio, mostly talk radio like BBC Radio 4 while I am working and I feel this keeps me in touch with the outside world.

IMG_1146

Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

As I have mentioned before I live in a remote place and I am not the most sociable of people, small talk about inconsequential matters does not come easily and I often feel I am one of those people you meet at parties or gatherings that you are probably best to avoid as my conversation can often get too deep and detailed pretty quickly.

IMG_1154

Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

I hate gossip; it is often based on second-hand information and if I want to know what is going on with someone I will ask them directly, it is not that I don’t care about what is going on with other people, the what’s and why’s of other opinions are fascinating but hearing a second-hand account and someone else’s interpretation of the original opinion is questionable and you never know how accurate they are being.

IMG_1136

Japanese Anemone (Anemone Honorine Jobert) & Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Is it just me or has there recently been considerable discussion in regards to LGBTQ+? This I understand to be the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer and other community. I have many friends that could fit into that community, I don’t know if they are formally members, as in signed up and receiving a newsletter or membership card type of thing, but they describe themselves as one of the categories covered by this community. In order to get a better understanding of what is being discussed I looked up some information on the internet and came across LGBTQQIAP2S, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, and Two Spirit, which seems like a daunting prospect and harder to remember than my password.

IMG_1161

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

I think it is great that people can now discuss things like this in the mainstream media and it appears to me that there have been great strides in acknowledging the rights for those who feel they have been denied the opportunity to express their sexuality however they want to. Here in Ireland there was a definite sense of pride (pardon the pun) when same sex marriage was legalised through a public referendum. There were many claims that is was the first country to legalise it but just to put the record straight, it may have been the first to do it by popular vote but Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain and South Africa all legalised same sex marriage before Ireland. But I digress.

IMG_1170

Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron)

What I really wanted to say is I am a man. I’m not particularly proud or ashamed of the fact, I haven’t had to consider it that much in my life, and it has never really been a major issue for me. It was undoubtedly more significant when I was a teenager. Learning to feel comfortable with who you are and developing your own identity was probably more complicated than I remember and learning how to deal with sexual development was embarrassing to some extent. Looking back I did have some pressures to deal with. There was no problem about being into sport as I loved loads of different sports, testing my skills against others, working in a team environment and competing with myself as to how good I could get at something all came quite naturally. I had to do boxing at primary school and I hated that! It hurt and I found it a bit too scary but unfortunately it was compulsory so I just had to suck it up and I was glad when it was all over.

IMG_1153

Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

There were a few things I kept quiet about as I didn’t want to be ridiculed. I loved and still love to dance and most of my male teenage friends thought dancing was “unmanly,” I found most of my female friends loved the fact I would get up and dance even though I was a bit exuberant.

IMG_1166

Fuchsia magellanica

I also loved musicals, they used to show some on Sundays after lunch on the TV. The style and charisma of Fred Astaire still inspires me, Top Hat with Ginger Rodgers and Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn are two great films. Then there was Gene Kelly with his more contemporary style and films like Singing in the Rain and On the Town with Frank Sinatra. How about High Society? Certainly in my top 10 films of all time starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra and I saw Louis Armstrong for the first time.

IMG_1122

This was all before my time but just as I got into my teenage years Saturday Night Fever and then Grease with the inimitable John Travolta hit the big screen and it was the first and only time I went multiple times to the cinema to watch the same film over and over again. The music, the dance and my first love Olivia Newton John made Grease my first real cinematic experience.

IMG_1129

I looked up the top Gay Female Icons while writing this only to discover I am a fan of most of them! Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli & Cher were all featured.

Just to add to this I am a needlework enthusiast. I am one of three boys and I was the youngest, so my mum taught me the basics, I have examples of needlework from my mum, grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother around the house. Even my dad learnt to stitch while rehabilitating from TB. I make school bags for my kids and I have had a number of exhibitions of my work and have even won a few awards.

owen-pic

A much younger me!

In my late teens I was a new romantic, we wore make up and outrageous clothes, we didn’t call them gender fluid at the time but they would probably be called that now, I back combed and dyed my hair various colours, wore ear rings and nose chains and strutted my stuff down the high street in the park or at various clubs. I don’t remember ever thinking of myself as a “man,” or anything other, I just enjoyed posing, shocking and living in the moment.

IMG_1141

I don’t think I ever felt the need to question my “manhood,” I don’t remember talking about my sexuality or defining myself by it. I still don’t know what it is to be a “man,” I just am. I have no axe to grind over the increased talk in regards to LGBTQ+, maybe it is a good thing that people can freely talk about their sexuality these days, especially if it helps them come to terms with themselves rather than feeling as though they have to hide or be ashamed about who they are.

night

I suppose I am a bit confused by all the focus and importance that appears to be made these days about defining yourself by gender or labelling your sexuality. I am a man but I don’t think that means I have to be or act in a certain way. I think I can be or do what I want unrestricted by gender as long as I am not physically harming or hurting others. Some people seem to get offended as it goes against their religious beliefs, well I have tolerated other’s religious beliefs for years, many religions actually go out of their way to say that loving others for who they are, faults and all is an affirmation of their religious belief. My philosophy is very much live and let live, I don’t like being told what I can and cannot think, I would support the right to freedom of expression but I am not sure I need to know someone’s sexual preference or inclination in order to get on with them and I certainly don’t want someone else telling me what I should do to be a man, I like to think I can just be me.

Fertile Ground

I had an incredible week. My first week of college and my head is swirling with all that I have learnt and what the future has in store. I had my first day of work experience, we fitted in a trip to Dublin (10hrs round trip) and we had to say farewell to our American visitors.

rainbow

 

We covered so much ground (pardon the pun) at college this week, with modules on plant science, plant propagation and plant identification as well as a couple of modules on word processing and communications. I don’t think the computer stuff goes down all that well with our group of horticulturists as we collectively itch to be outside but at this early stage I am happy to do anything! I have used a computer for years and in fact I am due to be delivering courses on using computers to a group of farmers as most of their record keeping, accounting and grant applications are required to be on line these days. Taking part in a course and learning along-side some who have little or no knowledge of computers I think will be of benefit to the delivery of my courses and anyway a refresher will do me no harm. Communications is all about interview techniques, writing a CV and presentations and again it is stuff I have been doing for years as a Table Tennis Tutor delivering Coach Education courses, so it is easy work and breaks up the day.

20170915_125917

College tunnel cleared and ready to go

The real meat takes place in the polytunnel where this week we collected and identified seed, cleared and prepared the beds and yesterday we were taking nodal cuttings of hydrangea, Lemon Scented Verbena which smelt gorgeous and a number of other plants. This again is old ground to me but I was still able to pick up a number of tips which will come in very handy and it was a pleasure to be doing this with a group of like minded fellow students. We are running a number of comparison tests using different planting mediums. We planted some “Electric” Onion sets, which are a red autumn planting variety, a couple of rows of sets covered by seaweed were planted in the tunnel and a large pot, also with seaweed was planted outside. We are running a germination test using Wheatgrass seeds. 100 are planted everyday at the same time under the same conditions and we will be looking at the biodynamic calendar to see if there is any difference in their germination.

20170916_083558

I don’t know much about Biodynamics, which appears to be using an astrological calendar to indicate the best times to plant leaf, root, flowering plants etc. The premise being there are certain days where the influence of the planets has either a positive or negative effect on the growth cycle. It appears to be pretty alternative stuff but I am not going to knock it till I’ve tried it and getting the chance to scientifically test some of the theory seems to be an interesting project.

d

Each week we are looking at different families, trying to get accustomed to the various traits, we started with the Rosaceae family which obviously includes roses but also includes fruits like raspberry and strawberries, trees such as hawthorn and blackthorn, and shrubs potentilla and cotoneaster. We did some specific work on apple species and they grow a medlar which is in fruit, I have heard of medlar fruit way back when we did Chaucer at school but I have never grown or even tasted them and I hope to give it ago when they are bletted.

 

IMG_1110

One of Lea’s tunnels

I had my first day of work experience in Lea’s polytunnels and the wind and rain meant there was little I could do outside. It was pretty basic work weeding lettuce, cleaning up garlic bulbs and taking leaves of the runner beans to provide more light for the pods to develop but I enjoyed the experience, finally getting my teeth into it so to speak. She rewarded me with a great selection of sweet and hot peppers and a few plum tomatoes when she got back from the market as I could help myself to what she didn’t sell that day.

IMG_1109

Purple aubergines

We made the most of it and had an amazing frajita evening with chilli salsa with enough left over for my lunch the next day. I am definitely going to grow chillies next year as apart from the beautiful colours I love the variety of taste you can get. I think I am also converted to aubergines, a vegetable I have never really taken to but I hadn’t realised just how varied they can be.

 

picturehouse

Dave and the family

I can’t spend all my time in the garden (unfortunately) and we had a blast from the past this week as a band I had worked with for some years had their 21st Anniversary of one of their most successful albums “Shinebox” and played a concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. When I bought the tickets I hadn’t really considered that it was a mid week gig and that I would be at college at this stage. Thankfully it was a half day at school for the kids so we could leave early enough to get to Dublin, which is a 5hr drive from us down here.

picturehouse01

The lead singer of the band Picture House is also Godfather to my eldest daughter and the last time she saw them playing she was around 2yrs old! So with the whole family in tow we went for a night out and I loved it, catching up with a few old friends who I hadn’t seen for a long time and being reminded of just how good they are as a band. I don’t think they ever made it as big commercially as I thought they could, due in part, in my opinion to their record company and management but whatever they financial success I still love the music and the concert was really good. We didn’t get home till around 4 in morning and with college the next day it was hard going but in the words of one of my favourite songs by them “it is moments like these you will remember.”

carys

Other moments to remember are those one spent with family and we had a visit from my wife’s brother, wife and new baby girl. They flew over from Philadelphia with their new edition to the clan and met up with “Granny Sarah” and her partner Andy, so along with the rest of my wife’s fairly large contingent we had a week of meals, fishing and family time bringing nephews, nieces, cousins, uncles, aunties, grandparents and friends together. Their little girl was adorable and so smiley, charming us all. I met a man on a beach in Barbados a good few years ago and he came up to me and touched my beard saying “You don’t know what it is to be a man until you have felt the cool breeze of the Caribbean through the hairs on your chin,” well maybe you don’t know what the joy of being an uncle is till you have had the delicate little fingers of your niece pull gently on those self same hairs of your chin!

 

The day has finally dawned, the sun has risen, it’s the weekend and I can finally spend some time in the garden, so I’m off.

New Beginnings

It was a very busy weekend dodging the high winds and rain. A couple of fishing trips with mixed success but we had a couple of mackerel in fridge for a visit from family on Sunday night and a bucket of mussels and cockles made for a very fishy supper. My wife makes a great dish with cockles adding smoked bacon, cream and pasta. I love mussels steamed open with a drop of white wine and a side pan of garlic butter. My wife also bakes a mean focaccia which is ideal to mop up any of the juices left over!

20170910_150754

Cockling on the beach

On Sunday I had my interview with Lea who thankfully has agreed to take me on for my work experience. I had a great couple of hours looking round her place which includes 5 polytunnels just crammed with tomatoes, salad, peppers, herbs and oh such more. I was fascinated with her aubergines, it is not a vegetable I have grown or eaten much as I haven’t found it very nice. She had so many varieties including these long thin purple ones which just looked amazing (I will get a photo when I’m next there). Anyway she gave me a couple to try out as well as these enormous sweet red peppers. I roasted them and put them on some small circles of toast with some olive oil. It was an idea I got from reading a blog recently and it tasted yummy. I spread some of them with a balsamic preserve which has a great mix of sweet and sour, i had intended to add some cheese and melt them but I ran out of time, I thought they tasted great and I will definitely try growing aubergines in the future. I start my work experience this week and I am looking forward to helping out and learning more about the world of commercial polytunnel growing.

20170910_151018

Mussel beds

I started my horticulture course for real and in fact I have just finished typing up my notes in the car waiting for my kids to finish school as I am on my way back from my first full day of college. It is a great spot and you can see for miles here across Roaringwater bay overlooking Cape Clear Island, a donkey sanctuary and the actor Jeremy Ion’s orange castle.

IMG_1108

Roaring Water Bay

My first impressions of the course are excellent and I have already picked up so many tips that I want to apply to my own garden project. A lot of it is simple stuff but there is a great mix of science, folklore, and general common sense. We are learning about identification of plants by their shared characteristics and by learning some of the folklore I hope to become more familiar with the Latin names and by understanding the plant structure it is easier to identify plants from different genus.

IMG_1103

I had hope to use my blog to keep a comprehensive account of my learning experience but there is just so much stuff at the moment I am struggling just to keep my notes in order, May be when things settle down a bit it may get easier to record more of it. I think I’ll just pick on the juicy bits, for the moment I will have to restrict myself to write about the things that appear most interesting to me.

IMG_1097

The Classroom!

I am going to set up a rain gauge and soil temperature record for my own garden when I next call into the garden centre that seems like a good place to start. The weather is horrendous today and I am off on my first day of work experience, thankfully it will be in the polytunnels so I won’t get battered about too much.

I’ve Got A Lot To Learn

I have been self employed or freelance for over 30 years and have generally worked on my own under my own supervision! The other day I went to my new college campus for an induction day. I hadn’t met any of the other students prior to this and we look like a motley crew. There were 12 on the day and we were told there would be 15 starting on the course next week. I am probably the oldest but I was pleasantly surprised that it is mostly “mature” students. A gender balance slightly in favour of men and a smattering of foreign students, well the names sounded foreign, I’m guessing at least 1 French, possibly Belgium and a couple of Eastern European, I’m guessing Polish.

SONY DSC

Cork College of Commerce, West Cork

We got given our timetable and book list and touched on the topics we would be studying including Soil Science, Plant Identification, Propagation and some other topics including Communications and Computer studies. Michael our teacher explained that it is mainly a practical course and that the polytunnel would be our main place of work rather than the classroom. He took us on a tour of the campus and identified a number of the trees, shrubs and plants around the place before taking us to the polytunnel.

IMG_1082

I am not naturally a tidy person in the home but I definitely am when it comes to the garden. I was amazed at how overgrown and disorganised this polytunnel looked. However Michael explained that he had let all the plants go to seed and we would be spending a good part of our first day identifying and collecting seed. There is a great variety of plants in the tunnel including all the regular veg as well as American land cress, chicory, grains like wheat and oats and a whole load of other stuff that I am sure we will have to identify.

We also talked about organising work experience for one day a week and Michael gave us a few options. The college is about 25 miles or so from where I live so not too far but I am going to try and find some work experience around here. I am hoping to try and use it as an opportunity to see a number of different sides to horticulture and I got in touch with a lady in a nearby village that supplies veg to a few businesses including the café where my wife works. Everyone says she always has nice stuff and it is all organic, so that seems like a good place to start. I rang her yesterday and I am going over on Sunday for a chat. She hasn’t had anyone doing work experience before so it will be a new experience for both of us.

College starts properly next week and I am really quite excited about it.

2013-11-29 09.03.23

Lissagriffin NS

This time of year adjusting everything while the kids go back to school is always a bit hectic as well as expensive, making sure they have all the right books, working out travel and after school activities, adjusting timetables and even finding socks and packing lunches. There is always so much to do! I have four kids at school, 3 at secondary and one in her last year of primary.

IMG_2397

Graduation day when some past pupils revisited

They all went to the same primary school, they call them National Schools here in Ireland. When I moved here, long before we had kids, I noticed this small school at the end of my road. It looked like an archetypal country school, surrounded by grass and with amazing views over Barleycove Beach. I thought at the time that it was just the type of school I would want my kids to go to, they could cycle or even walk to school in the mornings and they would get to know all their neighbours from the farms spread out across the peninsular. Lissagriffin means the “field of foxes” in Irish, so I am told and it is the most south-westerly school in Ireland and consequently in Europe. An outpost as far away from city life and all those complications you can get.

2013-06-16 15.20.11

Reliving past times in Infants Class

My kids have all thrived there. I have been on the Board of Management and I have got to know the principal Master Lanin and the more I have got to know him the more I have liked him and the respect my kids have for him even years after leaving is the best indication of his ability I can think of. On the academic side of things I have never had to worry about their grades, I do think the responsibility of education lies between both the school and the parent. Some feel it should all be down to the school but I think that is just passing the buck, the school supplies the software but the parent has to sort out the hardware.

IMG_0621

A view of the school from Brow Head, location, location, location!

We found ourselves with a major dilemma this year. The number of pupils has steadily declined since my eldest first attended and this year we are down to the final two. It is my daughter’s last year and we asked her how she felt about staying or moving to a new school, the option being a school not too far away with around 20 in each class room. She is a strong and intelligent child and made it very clear to us that she wanted to stay, partly out of loyalty and partly because she thought it would be a great experience. My wife and I were concerned about the lack of company and we discussed it and the more we looked at it the more we became convinced that actually this was a wonderful opportunity.

20160623_144551

Graduation cert for her and a copy of Jazz’s new book for him, published for her by Master.

We couldn’t afford a personal tutor of the calibre of Master Lanin and here we were with the opportunity to have almost one to one education. I have many friends all over the world and most of them seem to be concerned over the class sizes being too big and their kids not getting the attention they need, disruptive students, over worked teachers and poor facilities. Here we are with a fabulous school right on our doorstep with all the facilities you could ever wish for and all the personal attention you could hope for. We will obviously work on the social side of things but we already do, organising various clubs and activities outside of school.

IMG_0341

Graduation 2012, now all in last year secondary

So the proof of the pudding is in the eating and she has been back at school for over a week. She gets on great with the other kid, who is a bit younger, but as the youngest in our family I think she looks on him almost as a younger brother and we get on really well with his parents. She says she loves it and they have been getting up to lots of things which they would probably not have been able to do in any other school.

So is there any down side?

Well this has been the biggest surprise, the down side has been all the ah isn’t that a shamers. When people hear that she is in a school with only two kids there appears to be a formula reaction. Firstly I haven’t been going round telling everyone that there are only two kids in the school, it is people actually coming up to me and asking me if there are only two in the school and then offering me their sympathy. When I tell them that actually we are happy with the situation and isn’t it great that she is loving school so much and doing so well I get the second response, “sure, isn’t it a waste of money, it could be spent on something like hospitals etc.” So were they actually offering their sympathy or were they thinking all along that I am responsible for wasting money that could be used for better things? So are they really trying to tell me that I should feel guilty about making the best of the situation? You really can’t win!

I’m not really much of a complainer even though I think there is a lot wrong with the system. I have never claimed social welfare and I have been self employed for over 30 years and pay my taxes. I don’t get grants or funding for farming, I do get a bit annoyed with the amount that politicians get paid and I am stunned by the level of expenses demanded by some people, oh and  the bankers get bail outs and everybody seems to be happy enough to get as much as they can out of the system and “play the game.” But here we are trying to do the best we can for our kids and turn round what some would consider to be a disaster into a positive experience for one of our kids and in some people’s eyes we are wasting “their” money.

It’s a funny old world. I’ll let you know how she gets on.

IMG_0970

I feel quite proud of myself as I set up am Instagram account today for my blog, a few extra photos as I potter around. As my kids are always telling me “you really need to try and get with it dad.” So I’m taking some extra photos all over West Cork and you can follow my further adventures on Instagram @soditblog

Berries, Coffee and Dragonflies

You guessed it; it’s raining in Ireland again! That is a bit unfair as we have had a couple of beautiful days; yesterday the first official day of autumn and was gorgeous. There does seem to be some correlation between the kids going back to school and a fine day. The rain wasn’t unexpected it has been the talk of the village for a few days, we had a yellow weather warning and a prediction of over 30mm of rain today, that has now been updated to 50mm of rain and it’s now orange.

IMG_1036

I spent most of the day clearing out the ditches and digging some extra drainage channels. To tell the truth I would have been a little disappointed if the rain had given us a miss after sweating away with my shovel.

I also decided to do some picking so I would have plenty to do while I was inside. I now have rose hip as well as blackberry syrup bottled, I can smell a freshly baked blackberry and apple pie and I will be making elderberry syrup later on this afternoon. Autumn is a great time for bottling and jamming stuff from the garden getting things ready for the long winter months.

IMG_1077

Blackberry & Apple Pie

While out in the garden I spotted a dragonfly and I was able to get a couple of photos of the big beasty, I looked it up on the internet and I think it is a Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) amazing creatures and I love seeing them about but I don’t get to photograph them very often. We have a couple of other ones around the place and I hope I get to identify them sometime.

IMG_1052

I bought a couple of plants that caught my eye in the supermarket they were only €1.50 each and I potted them up for the conservatory windowsill next to the cactus. The tall spiky one is Dragon Fingers (Sansevieria cylindrical) the largest is another Sansevieria (paterns) and the one that looks like it has a top knot is Beaucarnea racurvata commonly called a pony tail palm, though it’s not a palm, the name on the label is Elephants Foot and it’s from Mexico. After reading up on them they are supposed to be really easy to grow as they don’t require much care and I think they look great.

IMG_1039

We finally got the statue up in the garden and our giant gnome is now looking out to sea, I am planning to plant some soft wavy grasses around him to mimic the waves washing in, I love grasses but don’t know much about them. I have a few individual plants in the Chinese garden but I would like to plant a large block of them in the big field.

IMG_1057

I have been busy planting up the polytunnels down at the community centre. I have broad beans, Swiss chard, spinach, winter cabbage, turnip, borage and some oriental salads all in situ and I intend to experiment with a few others. This is my first winter with a polytunnel so I might as well try out some new ideas. I asked my sister in law for some spent coffee grounds as she runs a cafe in the village and she gave me quite a few bags, my garden smells like a coffee shop as I’ve been using it as mulch and it appears to be keeping the slugs away but it is early days. I have it down in the polytunnels as well; I put some on some seedlings and left some seedlings without so I can see if it does make a difference. It is strange that coffee grinds are considered green compost being so obviously brown! There appears to be quite a few ants living in the tunnel and I have laid down some Tansy which I find quite effective as a good deterrent, so in the confines of the tunnel the combination of coffee and tansy is quite intoxicating.

IMG_1038

A barrow load of coffee!

I think I’m going to tackle those elderberries now and check the ditches are doing as they are supposed to. Any suggestions you have for planting in the polytunnels for the winter please leave in the comments, I have a load of space.

crookhaven

My friend Magda who runs the Crookhaven Art Studio took this lovely photo of a village near me called Crookhaven, the photo is taken from her shop where she sells her lovely paintings and photos.

 

The rain is really starting to come in now and the wind has picked up.

See you soon.

Statues, Sherkin & Seeds

Stuck inside today with the rain falling, thank God nothing like what they had up in the north from Derry to Donegal and further afield the reports coming out of Texas are horrendous. For us it’s just drizzle but enough to bring me indoors.

IMG_1001

Halfway there!

I have a new project on the go down in the village. We have three polytunnels at the Community Centre which get used to grow food for the Social Centre. Mostly potatoes and there are some very large marrows and courgettes in a couple of them. With the last harvest of spuds one of them is empty for the winter and I am preparing it for some winter cabbage, turnips and a few other ideas.

IMG_1000

A polytunnel squatter

I am starting my horticulture course in a couple of weeks and I am hoping that I will be able to try out some of my new knowledge in the polytunnels a mixture of homework and revision! It is quite hard work preparing it as there is a fair amount of couch or twitch grass and I don’t use chemicals so it’s a job for the fork and spade. Not too difficult in the main part of the bed but hard going at the edge of the plastic, still progress is being made.

IMG_0958

Garden Squatters

The garden is not only for plants and flowers it is also a place for activities and we had an end of summer party for my two eldest kids, who invited a few friends over and we put up tents, built a fire with seating around it and cleared out one of the old sheds and did it up as a “love shack” as a hang-out it case it rained.

IMG_0959

We were lucky with the weather and they were singing around the fire late into the night as I headed to bed. The next day I managed to round up a few bodies to help shift my new statue into the big field, I haven’t put it up yet but I have managed to dig a hole for it and when it stops raining I’ll put it up.

statue moving

I don’t have many statues in the garden and I am not one for “commissioning” art work but when my mum asked me what I would like for my birthday I asked for a contribution towards something for the garden and we now must have one of the biggest gnomes in West Cork, thanks to Nathan of Wyrdwood who carved this for me using a chainsaw. It is actually Neptune and he will end up staring out to sea.

IMG_0951

There is some nice colour out in the garden at the moment with some beautiful red gladioli and crimson lobelia. I can see the white buds forming on the heather which is a sure sign of autumn and there are a few things to collect including blackberries, elderberries and rose hips for making syrup.

IMG_0634

I have taken a load of cuttings of pink buddleia, honeysuckle, clematis, and hydrangea. I was round my friends’ house yesterday and they have a lovely lace cap hydrangea so I’m hoping to add one of them to the collection. The white one in the front garden seems to flower throughout the year and I consequently consider it great value.

IMG_0960

The Friary on Sherkin

We had a family day out to Sherkin Island which is just off the south coast near the village Baltimore. I have been out a few times over the years coaching table tennis but Kate hadn’t been there since she was 12yrs old. It was a fun family trip and we just did a short walk around and I managed to collect a few cuttings. I like to try and collect a couple of plants from places for the garden, a good few years ago I got a lovely white Fuscia cutting from Cape Clear Island and it has really established itself well all over the garden now.

IMG_0979

We finished our trip off at the Jolly Rodger where I found a Verbascum in seed in the beer garden, my last Verbascum came from Wales and I am hoping it might reseed itself but just in case I now have some seed from a smaller specimen and in two years time(they are biannual) it I hope it will be a pleasant reminder of a day out to the island with the family.