To be or not to be….

..there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays; O, you must wear your rue with a difference and what wet and soggy Sunday it is as we wait for the attentions of Hurricane Ophelia. After all the horrific stories of hurricanes hitting our American cousins it looks like Ireland is about to get a dose of extreme weather. With winds predicted to be anywhere between 80 and 135km/hour we could be in for some serious damage. The roof of the old house is in need of urgent repair and it is not going to be done by tomorrow morning so I doubt there will be much left of it by Monday evening. I will spend the day clearing the ditches and moving the pot plants inside and we will hope for the best. There is nothing between us and the sea except a couple of open fields so I expect the full brunt of the winds to whistle through.


On Friday we had an impressive Field Trip up to Dublin for the Chartered Institute of Horticulturalists seminar. I have been told it is the first time it has been held in Ireland and as a student we got in for next to nothing and thanks to the Cork Institute of Technology we got a free coach from Cork. The bad news was a 3.30am wake-up call in order to catch that bus from Cork. It is a long drive to Dublin but it was a great opportunity to talk to fellow students about their experiences as well as getting to know the tutors in a less formal way. I was surprised that the CIT tutor was an old acquaintance of mine Joe Croke who I had been on my local Community Council with and it was good to catch up.


After a much needed coffee the conference started with an opening address and then straight into the presentations. I didn’t really have many preconceptions as to what the conference would be like but I was not expecting it to be so “industry” orientated. The first presentation was all about the “Future Trends,” facing the food industry and it was very interesting if a little disconnected with my own interest in growing. I am a small time glorified gardener with aspirations to improve my own garden and grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for a local market and my own consumption, this however was directed towards big commercial growers looking to develop national and international markets. Loads of interesting information and an insight in to how the other half live!

The second presentation was due to be about growing plants in a future changed climate but instead we had a talk on designing gardens for care homes. I found this very interesting and far more in my line of interest, I haven’t thought about garden design but I think it could be an area I could get more involved in, especially for therapeutic uses.


Dr Owen and just Owen

After a short break we got a presentation on the micro biome and health and this was way above my head going into the genetic aspects and analysis of kafir. I think I managed to absorb some of it but the early start began to cloud my brain along with all the science and the lunch break started looking more and more appealing and when lunch came it was very appetising. The afternoon stretched on and there was a presentation from a large commercial apple grower from Kent who had a great interest in using technology and robotics to improve profit. I had to take a break at that stage and went out for some fresh air and discovered a few others with a similar idea and had some interesting conversations which I found more my kind of thing. I discovered the President of the Chartered Institute, Dr Owen Doyle actually had a connection with West Cork having a holiday house down here, West Cork is a funny old place and I keep meeting people from all walks of life who have a connection and a shared love for this part of the world.


I managed to summon up the energy for a final presentation from Caroline Keeling who is part of the Keeling family company who produce fruit pots and other fruit based products. Even though this was again on the commercial side of things I found her enthusiasm and style very interesting and once again a good insight into the commercial side of horticulture. I am not sure what I had wanted to gain from going to this conference but it certainly gave me food for thought!


A crop of Horticulture Students!

Well the rain has stopped for the moment so I should really get outside and do those clear up jobs I was talking about. However just a few notes before I go. I harvested some of the pumpkins from the tunnel down by the community centre and we are going to give the local schools some of them to carve for Halloween. For me it is good to get the tunnel cleared and some winter brassicas planted as they really needed to be planted out but I hadn’t the space until the pumpkins had moved on.


We have had a few strange visitors recently and I wonder if they are a prequel to this imminent hurricane. The twitchers were getting very excited down by Barleycove as there were reported sightings of a Scarlet Tanager and a Red Throated Pipit. A few Portuguese Men of Wars were washed up on the beach, which are often referred to as jellyfish. They are actually siphonophores, which are not  a single multicellular organism, but a colonial organism made up of different polyps, they couldn’t survive separately but band together to form one Man of War.


photo by Orlaith


So there are loads of strange happenings in West Cork this week and I imagine the beach will be an interesting place to visit after the storm ahead.


“Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail
And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with thee.
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade.”

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