Sunday, April 14, 2013

Random catch-up

Thankfully I have been really busy lately and not had a chance to blog. Well that was partly because I have had IT problems aswell.   Ages ago I managed to trip over my laptop cable and broke the connector part in the laptop. It means I can't charge it now.  Once a week I work in a centre with the same laptop and I use that one to charge my battery, so I only have about 3 hours battery a week.  Now if only I knew someone who works it IT that could fix it for me...oh wait, yes I husband.  But well you know what they say about the cobblers children.

Craft catch-up, nothing to report.  Nothing at all. I haven't made anything since christmas.  I did start to knit myself a sleevless jumper but haven't bothered with that for a week or so.

Market catch-up: This has been keeping me busy. I have Nenagh Market on Saturday and Borrisokane every Friday.  Along with selling local cheeses I have been working on some recipes of my own to  make food.  We have hens and ducks producing eggs and soon (if the weather improves) we will have loads of fresh veg aswell.  So I have been looking at what I have and trying to add value to it.  I am making barley cous cous salad, buckwheat tabboulah salad and quiche.  I have tried a few variations and settled on four quiche varieties; bacon and cheese, tomato and cheese, brie/onion/cranberry and thyme and finally spinach, goats cheese and peppers.  I have regular and gluten/wheat free available. For the Borrisokane market I also make brown bread and banana bread.  I need to find another market each week to go to and have been talking to local county councils all week to find a suitable one.

Garden catch-up: The tunnel is up but no work done inside yet. The hens and ducks have been living inside and done a great job clearing out all the weeds.  I am waiting on raised beds to be dug and we have a pile of manure and a pile of topsoil waiting to go in.  I got some grow bags and have salads, radishes and beetroot sown in them.  I also got some IKEA bags, each can hold 1 bag of compost, and they have carrots and potatoes growing in them.  Outside potatoes, garlic, onions and more carrots are growing.  Inside I have a huge amount of seedlings all over the house; tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillis, peas, cabbage, sprouts, pumpkins, courgettes, cucumber, sweetcorn, physalis, melons, bulb fennel, random mixed squash, parsley and coriander.  I haven't sown any root veg as I really prefer to sow them direct so am waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the weather to improve.

That's it, the sun is out so I am off to the garden.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A garden discovery

It's the 1st of February and I haven't managed to make one single craft during January.  It's not because I am lazy, or lack ideas, or run up the walls with work. No! It's because this has arrived in the garden.

30 feet by 18 feet polytunnel so that we can grow some great veg to eat this year. We have had a veg garden for 5 years now but last years weather was so bad that we managed to grow nothing at all.  So after dropping big hints (well okay just right out begging) and 13 months after been promised, the polytunnel arrived. 

Right now it is home to 4 hens and  2 ducks, the plan being that they clear the ground, dig up all the grass and eat the slugs.  They are loving it and all laying giant eggs.   I have been kept busy digging the garden, weeding and sowing seeds.

I need to fill it with wonderful veg plants and as part of my search for good seed I discovered Irish Seedsavers in Scariff, Co. Clare and made my second visit to them 31st January and viewed the gardens to see what was growing and to get inspiration.

A view over the gardens
As a member I get 5 packets of seeds, 3 bags of seeds potatoes, an apple tree discount and free entry to the gardens.  Well yesterday was a cold but dry and sunny day so with a heavy coat and a pair of wellies I wandered through the gardens. Now I am so jealous. The site is on two slopes and they make the best use of this catching sun and providing shelter.  The garden is divided into different sections; orchards, terraces with vegetables, tunnels growing plants to produce seed, woodland, nursery, apairy, childrens section and loads of paths to wander through.
The orchard with old heritage varieties
Already the tunnels have salads, mixed greens, broad beans, peas and chard growing.  This gives me hope for us to have food growing through the winter months next year.  I also found some Delaware Cabbage growing in the terraces, this is a cut and come again cabbage and one I had not heard about before.  I was glad to see it growing because this is one of the seed varieties I came home with to try.
Salads growing in the tunnel
Bright coloured chard

The philosophy behind the gardern to is to save and distribute old seeds, heritage seeds and endangered seeds.  It is to keep a diverse range of open pollinated seeds. This means that left to go to seed the plants will reproduce again and again.  This is the way it happens in nature but due to hybridisation, genetic manipulation and plain greed this is not always the case with major seed manufacturers.  The benefit of open seed pollination to me is the wide variety of foodstuffs I can grow, being part of encouraging biodiversity and of course cost.  With any luck I only need to grow each seed type once and then can save my seed from year to year.  Also many seed enthusiasts are also willing to swap seed...this encourages even more biodiversity and is a great way to increase your variety of produce.  I myself have received seeds from other growers in Canada,the UK and my own family here, I am looking forward to see what they produce and how different they are to what I normally grow.  If you are interested in seed or plant swapping then seedsavers has a swap day organised on March 4th, see the details in ezine here.

Leah from Balbriggan pictured with The Balbriggan Sprout
Well, as usual I became preoccupied while writing this entry and it's now 18 Feb and I have been back to the seedsavers garden again.  This time I brought Leah, my ten year old niece.  It was Valentines day and though a cold February Day we had our first picnic of the year in the gardens.

Spot the Leah

I am sure I will make many more visits through the year but for now I need to get on sowing these seeds and chitting potatoes so we can be fed better than ever over the coming year. Along with the Delaware cabbage I also got The Irish Pea, Tipperary Turnip, Chocolate Peppers, Prague Celeriac and Black Russian Vine Tomatoes. As well as seed potatoes I got another tuber called Oca, I have never heard of this before so will be interested to see how it grows.