Food in the Midwinter Garden

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It’s surprising just how much food is growing in the gardens of Bealtaine at this time of year, the time of scarcity…but far from it!

dsc05673dsc05672dsc05671There’s the makings of a decent salad, with Fennel, Japanese salads like Mizuna and others as well as a lovely edible garnish in the form of Pansy flowers.

dsc05670dsc05675In other parts of the gardens, where little micro-climates exist in the form of stones and shed walls, there’s Flat-leaf Parsley and Thyme.

I used Thyme in roasted potatoes yesterday…delicious!

dsc05664Purple Sprouting Broccoli is giving lots of florets…delicious raw or cooked and full of goodness! dsc05663Then there’s Leeks…all grown from saved seed and the stronger for it!

dsc05662Elsewhere in the gardens I found stands of Kale…shred this in salads and roast as chip dips!

dsc05669dsc05668Here and there in the flower beds and in pots…lots of Sage and Rosemary…great herbs to add taste to root vegetables at this time of year!

dsc05666Bay is growing in abundance, quite acclimatised to the Irish climate.

dsc05674Golden Oregano continues to thrive past Midwinter.

All of this is growing outdoors, not in the tunnel and these pics were snapped today, 26th of December!

dsc05651Even the Rhubarb is beginning to produce!

dsc05642There’s lots of other food in the garden…for birds and small mammals, in the form of berries.

Seeds are available from the link below…

 

https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-for-sale/

To join the Bealtaine Cottage Good Life…

https://bealtainecottage.com/bealtaine-cottage-good-life/

 

Subversion Without Violence

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Bill Mollison once said, “I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.”

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 Applying design to growing makes for good permaculture.

As Ireland endures a wetter and wetter climate, constructing vegetable beds on the top of gravel helps to counteract the worst elements of flooding.

DSCF0796The same design principles are applied in the polytunnel.

Beds are raised and paths are lowered, allowing for good drainage on this north facing slope.

DSCF0797This is a Nectarine tree, under-planted with Comfrey, which is then regularly chopped and dropped throughout the growing season, thus feeding the hungry fruit tree.

DSCF0798It has been planted in a central area in the tunnel so as to avoid cold drafts when doors are open.

DSCF0799This morning sees the blossom opening at just the right time, as bees are emerging from hibernation, so it’s essential to have both doors open to receive them.

DSCF0803Now this is something rarely seen, but this system works very well for me…seeds are sown together in one, big, deep, polystyrene, re-cycled box.

As seeds emerge and gain strength, I gently tease them out and pot them on, leaving space behind for the next swathe of emerging seedlings.DSCF0805Rhubarb fills out a Spring bed, with Raspberries coming along next in seasonal line!

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The Summer fruiting Rhubarb lies protected under this mound of straw…excluding light from emerging weeds.

DSCF0807The bed is mound shaped as every year sees more and more compost added.

DSCF0808And here’s the black gold…home made compost. As all of the gardens are on a north-facing slope, the tyres do not interfere with the quality of the compost, just protects the heap from the east and north weather systems…particularly cold!

DSCF0809Trees and bushes all play a part in the permaculture design, creating shelter and wind-breaks in this instance.

You can see one of the six bins used for compost toilet waste re-cycling tucked in on the right of the picture.

This makes great planting compost for trees!

DSCF0810More rain storms moving in from the west and Atlantic seaboard this morning, but the sun continues to shine!

DSCF0811As smoke curls up in wisps from the chimney, reminding me that a hot kettle awaits me indoors…tea!

DSCF0814I love the unpredictable Irish weather!

DSCF0813And the way everything greens up so quickly after the winter!

Have a good weekend everyone.

Blessings XXX

Bealtaine Cottage has built up a Permaculture Seed Bank.

If you want to see a list of available seeds, this link will take you there…

https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-from-bealtaine-cottage/

Seeds from Bealtaine Cottage in Ireland are posted all over the world!

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Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 110 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.

There are over 600 blogs in the archives on this site.

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As an Ark for Nature, trees and wildlife, the smallholding of Bealtaine Cottage receives no grant aid from the EU, as only farm animals, monoculture and set-aside are grant-aided!

Permaculture Gardens

www.bealtainecottage.com

The growing season has begun, with Rhubarb sending forth strong pink stems despite the storms of recent weeks.

www.bealtainecottage.comMeanwhile, down in the Fairy Wood, ferns have kept their green in the shelter of the dell. Mosses grow bright in the sunlight and ivy twists and twirls around the Goat Willow.

www.bealtainecottage.comLots of Goat Willow has been coppiced over recent months, and although it takes a year or so to season, it makes excellent logs for the stove, giving out masses of heat for free!

www.bealtainecottage.comFurther down the gardens, Pine, laurel and Great Western Cedar all grow happily together and appear healthy in the spring sunshine.

www.bealtainecottage.comDaffodils are on their way to opening under the shelter of the Beech hedge. This is down beside the pond by the driveway.

www.bealtainecottage.comAnd as I turn around from the Daffodils, the Ivy that hangs from some of the mature Goat Willow, swings about in the wind and sunshine…this is turning into a lovely walk around the gardens!

www.bealtainecottage.comI amble around the lower pond, snapping as I go…Jack moves ahead of me, tugging on his lead for he has picked up the scent of a fox or badger!

www.bealtainecottage.comI put my camera away and let Jack pull me along, hot on the scent of other life…we finally stop as we come up to the east side of the cottage.

www.bealtainecottage.comWe move around towards the polytunnel and one of the orchards. Pyracantha and Cotoneaster are now devoid of berries. This can be a hungry time for the birds as they mate and nest…there is a big bag of Oats I can scatter around in handfuls for the hungry birds and will do this later.

www.bealtainecottage.comBack to the cottage and the shelter of the veranda…it’s very stormy, despite the sunshine!

www.bealtainecottage.comWith a full moon over Bealtaine Cottage tonight and a hard frost to come, the evening will be cold for sure.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe coppicing continues and the woodpile grows…

www.bealtainecottage.comFennel is beginning to send forth lots of new growth in the shelter of the veranda and the back of the cottage. These new shoots are delicious added to salad!

www.bealtainecottage.comAnd just across from the Fennel…

www.bealtainecottage.comAnd a reminder for anyone wanting 100% Bealtaine seeds from Bealtaine Cottage…there is a link at the top of this page where you can choose what you want.

Glimpses of Days to Come

Red maple tree at Bealtaine Cottage

Stormy weather has given way to a sunny evening.

The Red maple has caught the glow, offering glimpses of days to come, for summer seems close at hand.

Rhubarb and Blackcurrants near the herb garden at Bealtaine CottageThe spring has lingered and time seems out of step with expectation.

One day it’s flooding and the next there’s a hurricane blowing!

I heard someone say to expect frost at night this week…I hope not, as I’ve planted a lot of seedlings out!

Grapevine in the polytunnelThe tunnel has escaped the ravages of the crazy weather and the Grapevine is coming into leaf.

Herb RobertHerb Robert carpets the ground underneath the vine.

This is a perfect ground-cover, as the root system is very delicate and shallow, so doesn’t take much from the earth.

Sammy-BearI caught the boys in here sunbathing in the warmth and out of the wind…

The cats at Bealtaine CottageThey are inseparable! Che-Mousey follows Sammy-Bear everywhere.

He was very lonely before Sammy-Bear joined us…

Lunaria at Bealtaine CottageThe plan is to save masses of seed this year and already the Lunaria is developing tiny seed-heads.

If you look closely, you can see the seed-heads and a beautiful bee doing her work!

These will expand to become “Moon-Pennies”

Lunaria in flower at Bealtaine CottageThe lovely thing about Lunaria is that once you introduce it into your garden it will spread year upon year…it is a most generous flower and so loved by bees.

This is Lunaria growing by the laurel arch today.

The heavenly scent is trapped in the archway and makes a visit to the herb garden and tunnel a joy!

Valerian, Columbine and BuddhaValerian and Columbine have the same generous, spreading habit and all beloved by the bees…

Both are growing freely by Buddha…neither one planted, but self-seeded in the gravel.

Apple blossom at Bealtaine CottageThe Apple blossom has opened fully today.

It’s 8pm as I finish writing and the sky outside the window by the desk is a perfect summer blue, making it hard to believe that frost lies ahead!

Important! Message from Terri:

 On Saturday 25th May, there will be a March against Monsanto in Dublin starting at 2.30p.m in the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square.

Come along and add your support.

Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 102 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.

Over 535 blogs from Bealtaine Cottage in the archives here.

Thank you for supporting this blog

Looking Back at March 2012 in the Photo Album of Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Gardens

Bealtaine Cottage march 2012 008The gardens came back to life with new leaves on the Photinia

Bealtaine Permaculture March  2012Blossom opened on the Nectarine tree in the polytunnel.

Sunday morning Permaculture garden mar 2012Rhubarb seemed to grow in spurts overnight!

Bealtaine Cottage permaculture March 2012Home made Blackcurrant wine was started as I began to empty the freezer.

Bealtaine Cottage March 2012Lichens opened up in the warmth of the Spring days.

Bealtaine Cottage March 2012Beautiful, delicate colours of Spring.

Bealtaine Cottage March 2012The warming sun began to work it’s magic on the north facing gardens of Bealtaine Cottage.

Bealtaine Permaculture March 2012Garden benches dried out and warmed up enough to beckon the visitor to stop awhile!

Bealtaine CottageSun, glorious sun…this old piece of driftwood stood up to it’s eighth winter of storms and winds.

Bealtain Cottage Permaculture 004As always, there was an early crop of herbs and greens from the tunnel.

Bealtaine Cottage March 2012 Donegal Bay

Late March was so warm, we headed off to the beach for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean here in Donegal Bay.

You can see the Hills of Donegal in the background!

Harvesting Rhubarb and Growing Peach Trees

Harvesting Rhubarb for the second time this year.

The first crop was back in the middle of Spring.

When that crop was picked, I manured the beds and allowed it to go on to develop a second flush.

Once washed and chopped I lightly stew the rhubarb, then cool it and pack it into bags for the freezer.

The Spring crop was made into delicious jam!

One of my favourite winter puddings is simple stewed Rhubarb topped with toasted oats and demerara sugar, mixed with some chopped nuts…mmm!

I lightly toast the oats in a big cast iron pan with the sugar and nuts.

It takes minutes and tastes divine topped with Soya cream!

Oops…the pics are mixed up!

Lots of good stuff for the growing compost heap.

You’re right!

I had no intention of waiting until winter for this treat!

Taking the compost over to the heap, passing the Nasturtiums on the way…lack of sun doesn’t appear to bother them at all!

Just to share with you the progress of one of the little Peach Trees, grown from seed here at Bealtaine Cottage…a real Irish Peach tree…and very strong indeed!

And as I return from the compost heap, I spotted the Spirea  in blossom in the hedge.

This is a mixed hedge planted with cuttings and home-grown plants about five years ago.

It is in the Orchard, so all the shrubs are flowering and Bee-friendly.

P.S. You may have noticed the name change at the top of the page. Well, I thought it best to make it a simple “Bealtaine Cottage,” for this is where it’s all happening…

How a Disaster was turned into a Triumph!

Disaster!
Today was going to be about planting potatoes…

It started off with digging the chosen patch in preparation for the sowing of the seed potatoes.

Towards the end of the dig, the spade hit something rather tough…

It turned out to be the water pipe which leads from the spring well on the hill above the cottage, down across my land towards the back of Bealtaine.

Oh dear!

(The Rhubarb this morning.)

An emergency trip was made to Ballyfarnon, a village about three miles away, where there is a local hardware store.
The connector was bought to mend the pipe.

At this point, a brainwave had caught up with the disaster…why not use this opportunity to connect a tap to the tunnel?

Why, every summer the carrying of buckets of water to the tunnel from the cottage was time-consuming to say the least! This was a golden opportunity, as the broken pipe was just a couple of metres away from the tunnel…so, the necessary components were duly purchased!

One of my five brothers, Hugh, was visiting from Omagh, so the expertise was there and willing to help!

Hugh and I returned with the gear and set about the task…
A channel was dug to release the water, which by this time had the potato patch looking more like a rice-paddy field!

After almost eight years of carrying water to the tunnel, I am delighted with my inside tap!

As you can see the Rhubarb is coming up really fast and will be ready for harvesting in the next 10 days or so. One of the joyous tastes of Spring…a Rhubarb Crumble and egg custard!

Although this morning is dull and grey, the garden is illuminated with colour…blossom, buds and leaves, like this Photinia near the apple trees closest to the cottage. Good shelter and colour!

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!

Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 85 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.

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Permaculture Cottage ~ Abundance…

Harvests continue to develop and flowers bloom at Bealtaine Smallholding. Flowers like these Sedums require little or no attention and soon fill out a space.

White Buddleia in full bloom, though there are few butterflies around at the moment. This tree, well, bush really, serves as an air island for the birds nesting in the box nearby.

Pots of Curly Kale, Chard and Pumpkins, some of which will be moved across to the new beds in the Vegetable Garden. All these have been planted in pots filled with home made compost.

The grapevine, grown from a cutting about four years ago, has produced well this season. This was pruned hard at the end of the winter and then lightly at the end of spring. Well developed bunches of grapes have set and continue to thrive.

Another good year for the apple harvest. This part of Ireland is great for growing fruit, as rhubarb, blackcurrants, redcurrant, plums, apples et al appear to thrive!

Permaculture Cottage Daily Diary

It’s been a really busy day!  After making the decision to re-design the vegetable garden and move the tyres…and this was several months ago, I finally got my act together to make a start on the work.

The Rhubarb in the first line of tyres had become embedded as they had not been divided for about four years or so…it was time to use brute force!

Stage one complete…next I will manure and mulch heavily while the soil is warm. Straw on the top will suppress weeds and keep the heavy rains from leaching the soil!

I’m doing this now because it is the right time and a good way of expanding the veggie garden!

Although it’s taken me most of the day, I’m glad to have got it done, finally, as there’s nothing worse than putting things off…now that can be ticked off my ‘to-do,’ list! Anyway, it’s been a lovely day for the work, though now have quadruple the freckles on my face that I started the day with!

Peas are growing well and ready for picking. It’s a task in itself just keeping the harvest up tp date on my list of work…still, that’s not a bad complaint really now, is it?

Before I came in for the evening, I picked a big bunch of flowers…Shasta Daisies, Dill and Lavender and it smells as good as it looks!

Home Made Wine from the Permaculture Garden.

 

Checking out the demijohns of various wines yesterday, I realised that some were ready to either rack off-that means transferring them to another, clean demijohn, or bottle up…so I spent a couple of hours doing just that, as well as sampling each one…well, it has to be done!Making wine from the abundant harvest of organic blackcurrants is one of my favourite summer tasks.

Plenty of bees in the permaculture gardens ensure masses of fruit and vegetables

Plenty of bees in the permaculture gardens ensure masses of fruit and vegetables

I also use Strawberries, Redcurrants, Rosehips and Jostaberries, all grown here at Bealtaine.home made wine at Bealtaine Cottage

The wine here is Strawberry and Redcurrant.

Bealtaine Cottage redcurrants from the permaculture gardens

After bottling it needs to be laid down for about 3 months minimum.

This improves the taste and helps maturity.

Bealtaine Cottage wine makingMost of the flower and fruit wines I have made over the years have needed this, with the occasional wine being drinkable straight from the demijohn!

The big freezer in the pantry is still in the process of being cleared out.

Blackcurrants in the freezer at Bealtaine CottageKilos of Blackcurrants and Redcurrants remain, as well as the Rhubarb added this year.

Wines and jams will be on the ‘To Do List,’ for the coming week!Bealtaine Cottage wine making

Keeping everything clean is very important in wine making and bottling.

Bealtaine Cottage Blackcurrant and Redcurrants

I use a baby equipment sterilising fluid and find this cheap and effective.

A bowlful is enough, making sure that lots of swirling takes place!

Dried herbs from Bealtaine Cottage

I use one pound of sugar to one pound of fruit. each demijohn takes about four pounds of fruit.

Bealtaine Cottage Blackcurrants

I add 1 teaspoon of wine yeast and fill with spring water, which thankfully comes out of the tap here!

I use a hand corker as you can see.

It is effective and works well in corking the bottles efficiently and completely.

Home made wine to celebrate Imbolc at Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2011 005All in all the process uses absolutely no imported energy, as all the bottles are re-cycled from friends.

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Rescue Dog Jack, Abundant Rhubarb and Irusan…Another Permaculture Day in Ireland

 

Just returned from the Animal Rescue Centre in Leitrim with the latest addition to the family…Jack!

Never a replacement for The Tomster, but in need of a home and Bealtaine is just that! he’s wandering about the cottage at the moment and sussing everything out!

He is a little bit nervous at the moment as you can see, but I expect he will settle in quite rapidly. It’ll take time then for us to bond and become trusting of each other…time will out!

Harvesting Rhubarb yesterday evening, just as the moon was rising…this is some of the crop, now sliced and in bags in the freezer, waiting for the wine and jam making process. The problem with permaculture is just keeping up with the abundance…

This is a plant box I made several years ago from reclaimed timber and driftwood. Planted out with edibles it will be really useful on the veranda, growing within easy reach of the kitchen…especially when it’s raining!

Irusan the cat has gone home to allow Jack to settle in without being continually glowered at…Irusan is pretty good at making a dog feel very uncomfortable…except for those he likes!

It looks like I’m in for an eventful weekend!

Permaculture Health, Wealth and Abundance…May the Force be With You!

Apple blossom this morning at Bealtaine.

As I write this I am listening to Irish Radio…talking endlessly about money, economics, making people spend money, kick-starting the economy! They just don’t get it! The wealth of a country must be measured in the health and wellbeing of its people…

Rhubarb waiting for me to turn it into jam…bumper harvests have begun again!

Apple blossom open today. the bees have feasted on the Ribes and are ready to continue the party on the fruit blossoms.

Irusan in the Fairy Dell this morning. He loves to walk the land with me each morning when he is staying at Bealtaine. Irusan is a Bombay Black Cat, whose mother was feral, living almost wild in London. he is extremely perceptive and interactive with people he chooses to like.

Growth over recent days has begun to impact on the paths that connect the permaculture zones at Bealtaine Cottage. Where monoculture fields around this smallholding are waiting for chemical fertilizer to green them, the grass and herbal pathways do the greening for themselves, for underneath lies a healthy soil that now pushes forth abundance!

Violets have emerged in the Fairy Dell…woodland abundance!