Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Some Interesting Plants On The Smallholding.


 This is a picture of one of our plant pots outside our little cottage (cosy dwelling) here in beautiful West Cork.  The pink flower is Saxifraga Umbrosa ("London Pride").  This traditional perennial rapidly took over (colonized) the Blitz bomb sites in London during the second world war.  Noel Coward wrote 'London Pride' celebrating London and this wonderful flower.  It was seen to be a symbol of resilience and the futility of the Germans thinking they could bomb Londoners into submission.  I love perennials and they are so easy to divide over an over again.

You can also see the red (pink?) Valerian poking its head into the picture.  They are said to attract rats and cats.  Apparently its the Actinidine in the oil of the flowers that attract the rats and cats.  It's traditionally a seaside plant and it self seeds every where.  The one in the pictures is growing from a crack in the mortar in the paving.  The other flower is a fragrant geranium.  I think its called geranium mandaresa?  No doubt you will tell me.
The wellingtons are no longer in smallholding service because they have holes in the toe part.  So I placed them in between the plant pots and I think they make a nice garden feature.  The milk thistle in the paving was planted by the weed gods in front of the terracotta (real plastic) plant pots.  Even milk thistle is useful for liver complaints.  There seems to be a use for most plants, wild and domesticated.  Do you love herbaceous perennials? When do you make cuttings or do you just divide them?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Planting Leeks On The Smallholding.



Me planting leeks with a metal tube on a showery Saturday afternoon.  I use the tube/dibber to make a six inch hole and drop in the leek.  Then I usually water the soil around the leek.  There is never any need to fill in the planting hole yourself  and it leaves you with a decent sized white sock on the leek.  

Me looking at the 100 or so leeks that we grew from seed in the poly tunnel.  I am going to mulch the area behind me and the polytunnel with flattened cardboard boxes.  This will be a winter plot.

Leeks are said to have originated in Egypt.  The Welsh claim they came from Wales and the Irish claim that St Patrick changed rushes into leeks to cure a dying lady.  I wonder which vegetables originated from England?  We seem to have developed a very cosmopolitan variety of vegetables over the centuries. Sir Walter Raleigh brought us the humble potato and tobacco.  How do you plant and cultivate your leeks?  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

First World War Inspired Gardens.

We have been watching Chelsea Flower Show this week and I thought Charlotte Rowe: "No Man's Land' garden was very poignant and incredibly beautiful.  The garden replicates the landscape created on the first world battlefields.  Mother nature always takes over and transforms the theatre of war into a picture of beauty.  Even the shell crater holes fill with rain water and soon become teeming with flora, fauna and all manner of wildlife.

The garden reminded me of when we visited the lost gardens of Heligan about sixteen years a go.  We looked around the old gardens bothy and saw the estate gardeners names scribbled on the walls were the ate their nose bag, drank their 'nice cup of tea' and no doubt talked about the forthcoming first world war.  I bet they said:

"It will be over by Christmas."

Wasn't it Bread who wrote that incredible song: "If a picture could paint a thousand words"?  Gardeners paint some really inspiring pictures and old mother nature throws in the magic dust and gilds the lily.  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A Very Cheap Irrigation System For The Polytunnel.

The missus went to Cork city the other day.  She went in Dealz and bought me a long length of irrigation pipe for one euro forty nine.  Everything in the shop seems to be: one euro forty nine.  I immediately expressed my disapproval and said:

"It will only be a load of old crap."
I duly took the nozzle off the old hosepipe and pressed  the hose into the cheap and nasty irrigation pipe.   Then I turned on the tap and guess what?  It's absolutely brilliant!  I hold my hands up and admit that wifey was right and sometimes cheap doesn't always mean nasty.  Although we won't mention the metal digging trowel will we?  Why do they always bend when you hit a stone?  Also why do they paint gardening tools green?  Is it so they camouflage themselves and you can't find them to do any weeding?  Garden manufacturers please note.  Will you paint all gardening tools orange or bright pink so that we can find them again?  Thank you!

Any road.  No longer do I have to stand holding the hose with my mouth open catching flies for five minutes or more, giving the poly-tunnel a thoroughly good saturating.  No.  I just turn on the tap and leave the irrigation hose with the holes to water it for me.  Do you have a good and cheap irrigation system for you greenhouse, poly-tunnel or vegetable garden?

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Day Trip To An Ancient Killarney Smallholding.


An old friend visited us last week.  So we took him to see Innisfallen Island in Killarney.   It's in Killarney National Park and you get to the island by boat.  We duly paid the ferry man (we ignored Chris De Burgh's song advice) and he took us a mile across Lough Leane ("Lake of Learning" ) to Innisfallen Island.

It was our second visit but we still picked up on the serene and peaceful atmosphere of the Island.  The abbey was founded by St Finian the leper in the 7 th century.  It is said to be a seat of learning and the 'Annals of Innisfallen were written there.  These are now stored in Bodleian library in Oxford in Blighty.  Innisfallen Island's most famous student is Brian Boru.  The lad who introduced the cow tax to Ireland.  See previous blog posts if you're interested.


We spotted these lads and lasses watching us and giving us a run around.  Playfully stopping and running.  There was evidence of the winter storms with quite a few uprooted ancient trees.  The boat man informed us that the deer graze the grass and swim to the the other islands and mainland when they want new pasture.
I think the island must have been very bleak for the monks and deer.  But it must have also been a wonderful place for solitude (the smallholders constant companion), prayer and reflection.  Plus they would have been self sufficient in meat, fish, honey, mead and of course vegetables and medicinal herbs.

I had never heard of rural isolation until I moved to Ireland.  Some times I think I would go mad without the Internet, satellite television, my smallholding and the country side.  How do other smallholders cope with rural isolation?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Latest Pictures From Our Poly Tunnel.

 Things are really moving in the new polytunnel.  The garlic in the bath seems to love the deep soil.  We religiously water the tunnel every day.  Already we are eating lettuces.  The best thing I like about the polytunnel or greenhouse is you have somewhere to potter about in even when its raining.  Rather like today.  You can tell it's a bank holiday.
 Carrots and onions growing in the old tractor wheel rims.  See the sweet corn growing in an old milk strainer I found in one of the farm outbuildings.  The green plastic thing is a kneeler and seat.  The Brassica plants need seperating and planting outside.  The blue planters are old tractor wheel hubs.
 Tomatoes, lettuce in containers and cabbages growing in the bath.

This picture is taken from outside the polytunnel.  The early  potatoes are poking their stalks through the soil.  Celery and last years leeks are growing near them.  Rogue potatoes and weeds are growing through the second handconcrete pig slats that I bought really cheap a couple of the months a go.  You can see the new lawn in the background is now established.  I decided to downscale the veg plot and rest some of it for a couple of years.  We will soon be running out of growing space with all the vegetables growing in the polytunnel.  Perhaps I might claim a few feet or ten back.

Going to sow some swede seeds this week.  I love swedes.  Especially when you pick them when they are the size of a snowball.  Small is beautiful - especially young vegetables.