Thursday, 30 December 2010

Flowers with my veg

I've been looking back over my plans that I made for the Leitrim vegetable garden for 2010 and never got to implement. As I looked at the list of different veg, I began thinking of how I love colour and flowers too and I'm wondering about trying a more cottage garden approach where there is a mixture of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

In part, I was inspired by the interesting creation that nature designed in the Leitrim garden this year - in my absence (see the pictures above and below).

I love a bit of bright colour - the orange of the calendula or the striking red of the red orach among the sea of green.

So, I've been wondering about interplanting some of the vegetables with flowers. When I had the poly tunnel I planted a lot of nasturtiums and, to be honest, they were a bit rampant .. but they did well here with the leeks, which managed to hold their ground!

I was thinking of trying them between the cabbages this year (I hear that nasturtiums and cabbages are good companion plants).

Another plan is to grow sunflowers (like this one that self seeded this year)

with some tall beans - these are barlotta de fuoco, which are colourful in their own right too.

Maybe its the misty, grey days we've been having since the snow thawed, but I keep thinking of bright colours ... and I'm wondering if I'd try some Californian Poppies....

... underneath some red curly kale.

Of course I could maybe even squeeze in some calendula nearby too.

I'd be tempted to use them for edging, but I find they can get a bit too tall and lanky to be truly fit for that purpose.

So, I'll probably stick to the tried and tested marigolds for edging, at least in places.

May have to sneak a few pinks in somewhere too.

Anyone out there any other good ideas for flowers to intercrop with veg?

I know some people sow carrot with flowers, such as Nigella ... and I'm considering trying my parsnips with blue flax.

Anyway, it's good to dream (and my garden dreams are all in vivid technicolour right now!).

Happy New Year everyone.

May 2011 be a good one for us all.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Yuletide Greetings and a seasonal song

Well, the festive season has started in style with the fabulous solstice eclipse yesterday morning, see previous post, and I'm getting into the festive spirit myself - getting ready to put a few decorations up .. and having mince pies for breakfast this morning.

I just wanted to say that whatever or however you are celebrating - solstice, yule, Christmas, New Year - have a good one.

Thanks ever so much to everyone who has been dropping in to my blog. I've really enjoyed blogging and following other people blogs. There's been great beauty and inspiration through following the journeys of my fellow bloggers and friends.

I really do appreciate this media for being able to connect with people, near and far.

At times like these, when the weather means travel is best limited its a real treat to have time to catch up with you all and to have made some new friends too.

Also, I'm glad to say that I have some good news to report. A report came from a neighbour that the horses have finally been removed from my land and garden and ... finally ... the further information for the planners (the revised reed bed report and Environmental Assessment) have been lodged with the planners. That feels like progress to me - and just in time to give us a some peace of mind over Christmas.

Finally, our band, Nuada have, as usual, provided a seasonal musical morsel for your enjoyment. This year its the Coventry Carol, a plaintive song, with lyrics from the 1500s, with lute and recorder accompaniment. Click on the song title to go to the link or use the link below. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Solstice lunar eclipse

We were really lucky to get clear skies here (in Castlewellan) for the lunar eclipse this morning.

We got out around 6:30 am and the eclipse had already begun.

The scene was truly magical. They sky was a deep blue, the snowy ground sparkled under the moonlight and the stars twinked. The clear cold air and cold blue sky gave an almost arctic feel to the event. It all felt very fresh and clear.

Here are our pictures of the event, taken from the top of the garden. They can never do justice to the atmosphere and to how the scene looked (it all looks so much darker in the photos) but they are a nice reminder for us.

This first one shows just how small the moon looked from there - it's the wee speck in the middle of the picture.

Now we're following the eclipse as it engulfs the moon.

By now, the sky is lightening to a paler blue as dawn hovers and the moon is fading into a gently dim pink as it is eclipsed. With the snow shining out and the moon descending behind the snow covered mountains it really looked otherworldy.

It was fantastic to watch the eclipse, to be in that atmosphere, of clearness and peace, then to feel the shift to early morning light and winter solstice sunrise.

I'm delighted to have been able to experience it .. and to be able to have a wee nap afterwards (well it was quite an early morning!)

Solstice greetings everyone and a warm welcome to the lengthening days of new beginnings.

Friday, 17 December 2010

This is on my mind .. a well stocked larder

A Well Stocked Larder

Today I'm very appreciative that we have a well stocked larder, as the snow has come back and heavily too, so we might not be venturing out for a few days.

We were wise enough to stock up during the week (when the last snow had thawed), so now we can relax, keep warm and cook up a storm. Its great to have fresh vegetables, especially the brussels sprouts still on their stalks. We're lucky enough to have an organic box scheme locally, yet I'm hoping that by next year most of the vegetables can be home grown (last years home grown stuff, especially the sprouts were amazing).

This is on my mind is a Friday blog theme started by Rhonda Jean.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ups and downs

I've been blogging a lot lately, I guess that there's a lot on my mind these days.

It's felt like life and especially anything to do with 'the build' is a real roller coaster of a journey.

This picture was taken back in 2008 in summer when everything felt so exciting, new and fresh. We'd go down and see how the land looked through the seasons, mark out the house position with string, plan out the interiors.

This was our first glimpse of the field... from the road ..

.. and from the stream (with the house digitally added in)

Building in 2009 was great too - from the groundworks, supervised from the caravan, to the exuberance of seeing our home arrive on the back of a lorry and magically erect itself in a day.

I'd spent months imagining what it would look like, what the views would be from all the windows, how far the light would come into the house etc.

It really was amazing to see walls fly through the air.

I also had the fun of the poly tunnel and I had a ball growing all our vegetables.

Yet, as much as there have been fun times, there have been hard times too.
It was hard work doing most of the inside ourselves, running low on money, having to leave out the renewables .. and then the planning fiasco .. which was (and still is) just horrible (they'd promised it was a mere formality and it would be sorted in weeks).
With Sam's health problems this year (especially the finger end he'll never get back), losing the chickens

and having to take down my beloved poly tunnel it has been very hard at times.

It easily feels like the shine has rubbed off this project, that somehow the innocence and exuberance of it has faded. Yet, I'm pretty good at remaining optimistic - and seeing the positives (that we do have the land, the build is underway, we'll be back soon and the neighbors are great).

Yet, I'm struggling right now. There was an incidence last week thats really getting under my skin.

Somebody took advantage of the fact that we'd put up temporary fencing (to keep out livestock) and has put horses on our land. We haven't fenced of anything but the boundary so the horses are free to roam over our lawns, building site, reedbed as well as the field.

We never gave permission for this (apart from in spring 2009 when we let a man fence of the field and graze there for two month before the house went up). God knows what damage they could be doing - or what danger they could be in, as there are building materials all over the site.

Here's some pictures of when we put the fencing up .. and it's hard not to imagine what damage has been done since then.

This is the fence so livestock can't come in from the road (they can escape from nearly fields).

Here's the view from the back of the house, from the pond.

I'm really nervous about the vegetable plot too.

Most of all I'm concerned about the reed bed, which cost £1000s to put in. If their hooves break the liner, it's useless.

Here are my covered beds. Is the membrane pierced from hoofs?

This is the sort of damage that the cows did, poaching up the grass (and the membrane around the veg plot).

I appreciate that the neighbors told me about the horses. I was in touch with the police last week but the horses are still there - and there is uncertainly as to who owns them. I was hoping that they would have gone by the weekend - when the ground began to thaw, but with each passing day, it's hard not to wonder what the extent of the damage is ... and how it can be repaired?

On days like this it can seem that 'the dream' has turned into a nightmare. With Sam's health still poor and with money dwindling, sometimes I just want to run away and hide.

I've got myself through the past year of trials and tribulations pretty well (I couldn't have done it without EFT and the other energy techniques that I use) but it's at times like this that I feel my resolve waver.

Below is the model of the house that we drew up early on in the project. On paper and in a model it all looks so simple, so straightforward.

Here's me, Sam and Sally outside the kitchen of our model home.

That kitchen seems a world away right now.

I've just got to find a way to move away from the negatives of our current situation and instead keep moving towards the 'dream' (which I still hold dear) of having our own home and homegrown produce in Leitrim.

I've also got to remind myself that worrying doesn't help (if it did I'd happily worry 24/7, but it doesn't) and start to trust that maybe, just maybe, things WILL work out.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

RIP Bennie, the last hen standing

Today, Bennie, this is the the last picture of her - taken just before the snow came - left for brighter pastures.

She was our last remaining rescue chicken.

She started to sulk a while after the snow came, so we brought her indoors and nursed her. She'd been ill in the summer and recovered, but this time she didn't make it, despite all our efforts.

She will be missed, as will the other three ladies that came to us with her back in July 2009 who died earlier this year.

There's always a risk with ex battery hens that they may not live too long - as they had a hard life beforehand. Although they lived a much shorter time than I expected, I trust that they had a happy extension to their time on earth living with us.

So, here's a trip down memory lane to remember our first (but I suspect not our last) hens.

When we got them in 2009 they were in a bit of a mess, with feathers missing, pale combs and beaks and pale faces, yet their colour started to come back within a couple of days, but really it took a month or two for them to make their transformation into healthy looking hens.

Here are Madge and Winkles early on.

Winkles again.

Here the ladies are trying to gain entry to the polytunnel (why are out of bounds areas so favored?)

Here's Frenchie. They also loved to take dust baths in the pile of builders sand (no photos of that though, sorry) and roam around with the ducks trying to find gaps in the hedge !

Here's Madge and her big comb - she was still looking a bit scruffy back then .. in fact, she was always a bit scruffy .. and completely daft .. but she could run fastest when pasta was offered! She was also the most docile .. and the easiest to pick up .. you could even cuddle her .. although she wasn't greatly impressed.

Here's the girls up in Co Down last winter, braving their first snow.

Here's winkles this Spring.

Here's the whole gang, with the ducks, waiting for bread or pasta - ever hopeful.

They also loved to 'help' me with the gardening i.e. to scratch up where I'd just been working in case I'd unearthed anything interesting. The ducks were always the best slug catchers - they even tried snails (by drowning them in their pool .. I jest not) but the chickens would have a go too and try to catch moving insects.

So, I have greatly appreciated the eggs and antics of my feathered friends over the past year and a half, they all had great personalities and made me laugh a lot.

It's really sad to have lost them all too soon (Winkles disappeared, maybe to visit Mr Fox, Frenchie dashed under the wheels of the van, Madge got ill last summer and died and now Bennie). Thank goodness the ducks are young, healthy, amusing and still laying!

I found it a challenge to deal with sick chickens. To us they are pets, but they aren't quite as docile / well handled as really domesticated pets - like our fancy rats, dog and cats. I find myself very short on expertise about their state of health (I can't spot things as easily as I can with my better known pets), handling them easily etc - but it's always a learning curve with 'new' animals.

As I said earlier, we will most likely get some more chickens in the future, but I want to wait until we're settled back in Leitrim before we even think about it.

I hope that the girls did have a good life with us and that they enjoyed their new found freedom. It really was heartwarming to see their first excursions onto grass (they hardly knew how to walk on it at first, but instinct quickly returned), to see them basking in the sunshine, taking a dust bath or chasing butterflies.

So long ladies, it was good knowing you .. and you won't be forgotten.