Permaculture Cottage ~ Dividing Rhubarb, Growing Trees and Composting!

Lots of the rhubarb has been lifted and divided recently and planted into the new beds, all loaded with fresh compost from the heaps stacked last year.

Rhubarb is an easy and early fruiting plant to grow. Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have medicinal and culinary uses.  In culinary use, fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant’s stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. Personally, there is nothing equal to a Rhubarb Crumble, or, one of my absolute favourites…Rhubarb Jam!

Did you know that in England, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley,a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk?

The New Vegetable Beds

The new beds are coming along well…planted out with Chard, Cucumber, Parsley, Tomato and Chives…for starters! I have spread wood ash recently on the beds and continue to build up with compost.

Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity, when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Raw chard is perishes quite fast, so it’s best to pick only when about to be used!

Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked  or sautéed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked Spinach. I use Chard a lot in my home made soups and curries and as a replacement for Spinach.

Flowering Oregano and Chives

Both grow like weeds here at Bealtaine Cottage, with lots of Oregano now coming up in the gravel driveway. Great for drying and using in sauces and soups and breads!

More Trees Please!

Trees are planted all the year around here at the smallholding. Many are grown from seed and potted on several times before eventual planting out. Many are rescued from the roadside verges and gravel paths. Lots of these trees are given away to those who show an interest in planting. There is one thing for sure though, the Earth needs more trees. Trees protect her.

Compost this morning at Bealtaine

Now working through the second heap and already filled up the first again, so am busy as you can see!

Composting as a recognized practice dates to at least the early Roman Empire since Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).

Traditionally, composting was to pile organic materials until the next planting season, at which time the materials would have decayed enough to be ready for use in the soil. This is the method I follow and it works every time as you can see!  The advantage of this method is that little working time or effort is required from the composter and it fits in naturally with agricultural practices in temperate climates. Personally I see no disadvantages in this technique. There is no real exposure to excessive rainfall, as the heaps are thatched with lots of straw to overwinter in peace and harmony with all the hibernating insects and frogs!

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  1. Yes, sad indeed, and I find it incredibly amazing that people can be so stupid as to not realize they’re killing their soil by using chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. What a vicious cycle they’ve gotten themselves into.

    Ah, sadly I have a sweet tooth that just won’t quit, but I’ve been limiting my sugar intake the last couple of years at the suggestion of my oncologist (I have follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) since sugar feeds cancer cells…I’m battling the beast without chemotherapy…the thought of that stuff (chemo) just makes me ill. I do sneak a bit of sugar here and there, but rarely. I feel soooo much better though, without all the sugar I’m used to, and as an added bonus I’ve lost those last few pounds that I could never seem to get rid of…some folks even say I’m underweight at this point, but I feel good!

    • It is always good to treat any illness in a holistic way and starting with diet is essential. You’re right to cut back on sugar. I have done this naturally with becoming a Vegan, as most factory food is a blend of cheap fats and sugars, combined with dairy. No more than yourself, I have shed quite a few pounds, which, in my case is welcome as I am outdoors a lot on the land and less weight means more agility! Life is about how one feels and interacts with it all…so many, with robust good health, are living mediocre lives…you seem filled to the brim with good living!

  2. I love the dark, black soil you have. It reminds me of the “muck” where I grew up in northern Indiana. Here in PA we have more rocks and shale than soil (and I know you have your fair share in Ireland, too!). My soil has lots of clay, so I’m constantly adding compost and using green manures, mulches, an attempt to end up with that “chocolate cake soil” that I love 🙂

    Mmm, rhubarb! As a child I could eat it raw from the garden. Now I pucker at the thought! A neighbor made some rhubarb wine which was outstanding…so far I’ve not had enough rhubarb to make wine, but that is on my agenda one of these years. And strawberry/rhubarb pie is a favorite, though I tend to not eat sweet stuff so much these days.

    • Ah, the earth, so very precious and so very sad that the majority of growers in the developed world have stopped feeding the soil. This soil has been built up over the past 7 years and I was adding to it today with lots more compost from the third heap…another two to go!
      Rhubarb champagne is the ultimate drink in my book and more production should be worked on…most of my rhubarb crop has gone to jam and crumbles…and oh dear, Deb, unlike you I have a VERY sweet tooth!

  3. Hi Colette! Thanks for all the lovely news, especially re the Irish calendar. Reading “Sun and Cross” at the moment so it fits well alongside…… Rhubarb – mmm, delicious I agree! The leaves can be used as a mordant in natural dyeing, yet as you say very poisonous. Just cooked part of the delicious Beltaine pumpkin from our brilliant visit with you a few months back in April! Absolutely perfect and so tasty – not stored in the fridge – oven roasted with one of the courgettes that we grew. Thanks so much! My raised beds are a mass of……weeds! Not done too well this year in the veg growing department.. Would layers and layers of something, applied now and over the winter help to stifle the weeds? Trouble is they are beautiful weeds – a sort of purple dead nettle and willow herb. Have a peaceful week-end

    Every good wish from Louise

    • Louise…I adore Willow Herb and as you like it too, then just enjoy! As they die back and before the cold sets in, lay cardboard over the earth and top it off with a layer of straw, not hay, mind, as that is full of seeds! Come Spring you will have lots of weed free earth in which to plant…keep as much cardbpard in place as this will help suppress weeds next growing season!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the pumpkin! They keep so very well, as you have found out! Have a lovely weekend! Best wishes, Colette

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