Time for Summer

It is time for another blog, I know it must be raining! I’m pretty happy about it the ground is so dry at the moment the weather has been fabulous for the last few weeks. Not as hot in Ireland as last year, which is a bit of a relief, even so there are times I have had to take to the hammock in the orchard as the heat has sapped my energy, the gentle swinging in the breeze, the rustling of the leaves and the sounds of Wimbledon on my radio has been a siren’s call that I have succumbed all to easily to.

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The orchard is around the back of the house, it used to have quite a few apple trees but over the years I have lost most of them to storms and the like and it is the elms that now dominate and produce a canopy that provides the dappled shade. I am delighted that we have a little sanctuary for these trees as they are a rare enough site these days. They produce loads of suckers and have spread throughout this part of the garden. I have let the grass grow longer here and from my vantage point I am surrounded by buttercups, daisies, dandelion heads and so many different types of grasses some with light feathery heads and others providing a lush green carpet.

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I have a bed with Brooklime with its tiny blue forget-me-not flowers and some brash yellow, orange and red Nasturtiums winding their way upwards through a Fuscia backdrop. There is also some Monkshood gradually establishing itself even though it would probably prefer some more sunshine. With the birds singing and the hoverflies just darting out of reach this place has a tranquillity that for me is equally hypnotic and nostalgic.

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I’m not really a bird watcher but more of an observer as they along with the butterflies and bees are my main company in the garden. This year I have been joined by a thrush, I think it is the same one as usually I either see just a flurry as it flies off when walking around the garden or occasionally I can see it making a meal of a snail on a flat rock from my bedroom window.

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This individual however, if it is the same one, has been much bolder this year and joins me while I am weeding, taking advantage of my disturbance of the soil much like the Robins do. It has come so close if I was quick enough or had the inclination I could reach out and grab it. The detail of its speckled feathers is beautiful and the other day it treated me to a glorious song as it stood atop a fence post. I had a wren land on my knee while I was taking a break, I think he was as surprised as I was, took a quick look about and decided he had better things to do! I have a particular fondness for the swallows, we have a few regular visitors who nest in some of the old building around the property.

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This year one lot decided to nest in the old rabbitry, when the fledglings were making their first attempts at flying a couple got confused by the windows and I gave them a hand as I was afraid that they would fly into the glass and hurt themselves. Having one of these delicate birds happily perched on my hand gave me a thrill to see them up so close. They zoom through the garden like little jet fighters and I love watching their acrobatic skills. They occasionally have a run in with the family of choughs who like to gather on the roof of the old house in the evening, I don’t know if the swallows think they are crows and consequently a threat but it is a spectacular site seeing the way they all twist and bank in their contrasting styles.

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We have a mob of starlings who fly in on occasion, the phormium in the main garden has a couple of tall flower spikes this year and they seem to love something about them, I presume they are eating the seed, the plant produces this orange dust, that I think is pollen and after feeding the starlings have bright yellow faces. When I first saw one I thought it was some kind of exotic bird I had not seen before. Thankfully I haven’t heard the cackle of a magpie for awhile, when they come around the garden goes very quiet as the smaller birds keep well out the way, the goldfinches, blue tits and warblers have good sense to hide from this invader. So that’s a rundown of my aviary without borders and now the rain has stopped it is time I join them. Would you believe it just as I wrote that a wren landed on the window sill beside me, took a quick look as if to say where are you? And flew back into the garden, I think I’ll join her. Till next time.

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My Garden Update

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It is raining outside, so I am taking to the computer to write my blog so at least I’ll feel a little bit productive. Thankfully the weather has been good for gardening so I haven’t felt like sitting indoors writing. I have been reading a few blogs from around the world and I think I have been very lucky as although it hasn’t been brilliant I have been able to get outside most days. The temperature has been cool so new growth has been slow but there has been enough sunshine for the established plants to bloom. My roses have been particularly good this year, this I have put down to the horticultural course I did last year, I have cared for them so much better, I felt more confident in my pruning and I certainly fed them better this year with the help of our Shetland pony Bracken.

It was a shame that we had a bad storm early in the year just as the fruit trees were showing some of the best blossom in years, that was destroyed in the cold wind and many of the trees had one brown side and one green side. Most of them have recovered well but I don’t think we will see much fruit this year. The wind is coming in from the North East today and the currants are taking a battering, they are very heavy with green berries at the moment and I was hoping for a bumper crop let’s hope they survive unscathed.

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Another result from the horticultural course was my attempt at training a quince, a medlar and an old established rose along the south side wall of the barn. I cleared a lot of briars and other weeds and set up three wires to train the trees. The storm that affected the other trees didn’t do much damage to these as the winds came in from the North and this southern aspect protected them. The medlar has really taken off and I am surprised by the amount of growth and the number of fruit. I haven’t had that much experience growing medlar and it looks like I will be researching some new recipes. If you have any ideas let me know.

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The quince we used to make quince vodka last year which proved popular at Christmas and I hope to make some quince jelly. We had a quince tree in our garden when I was a child and my Grandmother used to make quince jelly, you don’t see it that often these days but it provides me with many fond memories. I have added another quince to the training as my father-in-law gave me a couple of suckers from his Japanese quince that his mother gave him many years ago so it is a bit of a heritage plant and provides beautiful pink flowers as well as fruit in his garden, it will take a few years to establish and I hope it looks as good up against my wall as it does at his home down in the harbour.

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Staying with the successes I am really pleased with converting the area where I used to burn off garden debris into a flower bed. I think the ash pit has enhanced the soil and after a slow start last year it has really taken off. It wasn’t a planned planting it was more like whatever I had that didn’t fit elsewhere went in so it is a real mishmash of plants which by luck rather than judgement looks great.

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The ox eyed daisies have taken over a bit but I have been cutting them back and the size of their flowers is impressive. I have some verbascum that my brother-in-law gave me, dark purple aquilegia {columbine), a blue flowering hebe, a tall tree mallow in the centre and some echinops (globe thistle) that my nephew told me was one of his favourites. I also have a small dianthus, snapdragons, valerian, yellow and purple loosestrife, as I said it is a mishmash but I love it! I have been inspired to make a couple more smaller beds one dominated by oriental poppies and the other an experiment in combining herbs, veg and shrubs together.

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I do have a large and sprawling garden with many different “rooms” which isn’t easy to keep on top of, if I concentrate on one area for too long then another area can get out of hand so I try and rotate my various jobs. I have spent a few days working on the pond and the orchard. The pond area is looking better as I try and get it to blend in a bit, I like a natural look, even a bit overgrown and this will obviously take a bit of time.

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I planted some native iris (pseudacorus) which is known as yellow flag locally around the edge and a yellow water lily (Nuphar lutea) called brandy-bottle, it is only showing a couple of leaves but it is exciting waiting for the first bloom. I recently planted a water hawthorn (Aponogeton distachyos) which the pond snails seem to appreciate, so I don’t know whether it will survive. Pond gardening is completely new to me but it is fun to try and as it is right by the kitchen window it has provided an excellent view, we have even had a few visitors investigating it.

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I have also added some rock cages to the pond area, I came across a dividing wall when in Denmark using a wire frame filled with rocks and liked the idea. I had a few wire panels from the rabbit breeding cages that were stored in a shed and I have used them to create these rock shapes, they provide a bit of a wind break and I also like the look of them.

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So that is a bit of a round-up of some of the work going on in the garden and as soon as this wind and rain stops I’ll be back out there.

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.