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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.”


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.


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