Saint Patrick’s Day! The middle of March in the West of Ireland…and there is much to celebrate! For we have enjoyed a mild winter and fast warming Spring.
According to the old Irish annals, Patrick died in AD 461 on March 17.
And so, it is today that we celebrate the greatest non-Irish person as the greatest of the Irish… for it is in Patrick that the Irish nurture their sense of national pride.
Much of the landscape of Ireland is awakened into Spring at this point in the year as you can see from the photographs taken this morning here at Bealtaine Cottage.
It has been traditional to plant potatoes on saint Patrick’s Day or thereabouts, so this morning, this is what I shall be doing, having prepared the beds at the beginning of the week, (and sliced through the water-pipe!).
Potatoes in Ireland were traditionally planted into mounds, a form of raised bed.
Potatoes are planted into the mounds as they have a lower tolerance to frost and this way of planting affords a certain amount of protection. Other more hardy crop,s are Peas, Beans and Cabbage, all of which can be planted out regardless of frost.
Permaculture planting takes into account these variants and straw is placed over the beds of potatoes as both a mulch to exclude weeds and a protection against late frosts, which can be expected right through to May!
All these pics were taken this morning and as you can see, it is a perfect planting day in the west of the country. The celebrations and parades will all take place this afternoon, so the morning is planned for a little light work, planting!
So, it just suffices to say…A very Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you all, with blessings and love to each and every one of you, from Bealtaine Cottage, Ireland.
Friday afternoon at Bealtaine and despite the rain work between showers has contiued throughout the day. I hung this plaque on the kitchen door earlier, a present from a friend. It’s simple, colourful and evokes a sense of what lies beyond the door…the pantry!
Talking of which…there’s several demijohns of wine waiting to be bottled and laid down in here!
Knitted a scarf recently and was thinking about the edging…and after considerable searching around in the craft boxes stashed under beds and other forgetful places, I found these wooden beads, which I’ve threaded onto the edges of the scarf with wool and a big darning needle!
A big and bold arrangement in the vase on the mantlepiece in the sitting room, using some quickly cut pieces from the upper garden…just two varieties here! Simple is best and looks fab!
Simple and easy chunky cake…
12 ozs SR Flour
6 ozs Margarine
4 ozs caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
home made Rhubarb Jam
Weigh all the ingredients.
Put all ingredients into the mixer.
Add a little buttermilk
Line a cake tray, add half of the mix.
Dollop jam on top and add remaining mix.
Sprinkle with oats and demerara sugar.
Bake at 190 c for about 20 minutes or so.
And for a wet Friday evening…what can be nicer than a hot vegetable stew, with big chunks of fresh bread?
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!
Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 85 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.
A Celtic emblem on my back door. The paint on the door is well scratched and there is a definite patina of life therein. Dogs and children, all attempting to enter the cottage with little patience and no time to wait! I know I have to paint it soon, because the weather demands it, but then this testament to life and laughter and fun and games will be erased…
Moving the tyres in the vegetable garden is a milestone reached this week…converting all to log, deep beds and narrow paths…easier to mulch and now that the soil has improved, I can do this. It has taken 7 years of work and patience, but it has finally paid off!
Apples continue to swell and grow and are, each one, quite perfect. These trees have never had any sprays or chemicals of any kind at all, yet continue to give perfect harvest every single year. Nature knows best!
The beautiful flowers of the remarkable Comfrey plant. This generous herb is not just a pretty face!
Look how well this tiny spider manages to camouflage itself on the Cotoneaster bush…Nature is so very clever!
Flowers have opened on the Fuschia…almost an adopted native plant here in the west of Ireland…
There is a real problem here today with water, that is, lack of it!
Imagine saying that in April in Ireland…it would have seemed improbable only a few years ago, but this is the real state of affairs here at Bealtaine this morning!
The water in the spring well has dropped to a low that lowers the pressure on the gravity fed supply.
If you look at the ground around the arch, it appears quite dry.
Lunaria, Honesty, or Moon Pennies growing around the pathway.
This is a biennial plant that grows easily from seed and produces the most beautiful disc-shaped seed heads in the autumn, hence the name.
Bees love them as they are some of the earliest flowers in the garden.
If you look closely you can see some of the seedheads forming…
I have planted some of the pot growns from the tunnel out into the garden in an attempt to save them from drying out and dying…hopefully this will work as I prepared the beds some time ago and the moisture content in them should be high.
The tunnel is too hot to work in…so one just has to sit it out!
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