Tuesday, 28 August 2012
A ridiculous amount of rain falls over Sunday night; it keeps us awake with its 'roar' on the roof and its hammering against the windows. It falls onto already very wet ground and Dad is horrified to find that his drainage moats round 4 of the 7 new fruit trees are brim-full with water, the poor trees sitting glumly in a mini lake. Dad quickly digs slit trenches out from each moat downhill to allow the moats to drain. This is a worry.
On the Monday is Mum's birthday. She has a lovely quiet 'private' kind of a one in which Dad gets to do all the fussing around, shopping and cooking and Mum gets a good rest. Dad has managed to find a white Hydrangea which Mum has been after for a while, plus a couple of other bits. She is particularly delighted with these pink 'Hunter' wellies sent by Diamond and wears them all of Tuesday and threatens to wear them to bed too. We think they are really cool!
Anne and Simon are a bit older than 'us' and have been at the small holder game far longer. This one is their 4th or 5th; they have 'done' a couple here in Ireland and then one in Galicia and one Catalonia and have now moved back to Co Roscommon, even though they are both, actually, Brits. They are both mad keen 'organic' farmers who were in at the start when the organic movement first kicked off in Ireland and Anne was a lecturer on poultry management in the Organic Centre at Rossinver, Co. Lietrim and they do a lot of the 'permaculture' stuff and sustainability techniques as well as playing with African-Aid style "Keyhole beds". They are pleasantly 'old hippy'-ish. They keep the place going despite not being in the first flush of youth or the pink of health and they have dozens of chickens in 3 main breeds (including Buffs and La Bresse) as well as 2 donkeys (just to keep the grass down!), many ducks and huge meat-rabbits. Successfully burgeoning fruit and veg are everywhere and there is a well stocked poly tunnel. They also have 9 cats and 2 aged dogs all of which they brought back from Spain with them through all the hassles of rabies control and import vetting.
Mum and Dad were invited down for a visit and a look round on Thursday 16th, arrived with a jar of our blackcurrant jam, and came away with a jar of lemon curd and 4 blackcurrant plants. They returned the visit on Thursday 23rd arriving with 6 big duck eggs for Mum and Dad. They fell in love with all we dogs and puppies and, especially, Anne loved the kittens. We were all a tiny bit anxious, as if we were going to be 'inspected' but we needn't have worried. They were delighted with the place and impressed by the amount of work which has been done to get it to where we are now, all be it we are miles 'behind' Anne and Simon in the getting-established stakes. On both visits the chatting was fascinating and Mum and Dad learned so much. We are now all firm friends and the 'cultural exchange' visits are likely to continue into the future. Next stop is for Dad to take our lady rabbits, Ginny and Padfoot down to 'meet' their meat-breed Californian White buck, Peter. (Don't worry, Rogers is still here and his turn will come but for now he is still a bit small to be taking on the chunky girls). We hope that nature will take its course - that will happen on about the 6th September and 28-34 days later we may be in the baby bunny game.
Friday, 24 August 2012
The main issue here, says local advice (and we'd know from Dad's many failures of allotment crops this year) is water logging and drainage. Plums and "stone fruit" in particular do not like their roots to sit in the wet. Dad therefore adapted/created a special planting method which he calls the Volcanic Cone Method. You cut out a circle of turf as you would anywhere but so that this does not create a sump or pit for the rain to collect in, you dig within this effectively a raised bed for each tree. This leaves you a cone of soil with a circular moat for drainage, and the tree hole is dug into the top of the cone so that the whole thing looks like a flattened volcano cone. Dad then staked the trees against the prevailing SW winds (Atlantic Gales!) and covered the cone in black plastic sheet to both stop any weeds and also to further shed any water. So far they seem to have worked and they should (as we say talismanically about everything we plant) "get away nicely". Mum usually adds "Grow you bugger!" for good luck. Dad's comes from Geoff Hamilton's TV show Gardeners' World and Mum's from the magazine of the same show but much later when Alan Titchmarsh was in charge and writing pieces for the back pages each week.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
And so the visit ended and Steak Lady and Mr SL headed back to Dublin with the satnav re-set to home. They had been a bit nervous that we were 'so far away' and that it would be a difficult and exhausting journey. Now they were delighted that it wasn't so bad after all, 2 and a half hours of easy, mainly major road and motorway driving. They will be back, they promise. Safe journey, you guys! Sláin Abhaile.
By the time they arrived home, Mum and Dad had started the orchard, planting those first three trees, but that's for another post.
On the Sunday (19th Aug) we return to Kinvarra for another try to see Hooker racing, but this time we are more familiar with the race programme's talk of 5pm starts and 6pm high tides and we don't even set out for Kinvarra till 2.30pm - it's an hour and a half drive. This gives us plenty of time in the morning to garden and do some logging plus Mum, who has now had a phone call from Steak Lady saying she and Mr SL will be visiting on Monday, to have a bit of a tidy up round the house.
Thursday, 16 August 2012
Hands up who thinks we'll be going back?
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
The broader picture, though, has Dad needing to finally give in to the local method for raised beds or lazy beds and trenches. It's just been too wet this year gardening on the flat, to hoe or control weeds, so that we have a depressing embarrassing lawn of weeds between the rows of crop so that a mower is sometimes more appropriate than a hoe. The crops sulk in damp, cold misery, succumb to slugs or general malaise so that often 'we' have just given up on them and ploughed them back in.
It was John Deere Bob who explained what was meant by ridges - three or four foot wide broad ridges (what they'd call 'breeds' in the Fens) with deepish trenches between but with the ridges/trenches aligned down the slope (we'd done our initial rows across the allotment, effectively parallel to the contours). You can either dig the whole site over and then make trenches or use a traditional Irish method which saves quite a few square yards of digging and that's called 'Lazy Beds'. You skim the turf (or 'lawn of weeds in Dad's case) off where the trench will be, folding it over to lie upside down on the edge of the ridge, grass to grass. You then shovel out the trench and use the soil to bury the rest of the ridge and the flipped over turfs. You can also then cover the whole with plastic to further supress weeds. We used plastic sheeting left over from the building project, plus we recycled the ground sheets from Mr Silverwood's thrown-away tent. We have since seen pics of raised beds and Lazy Beds in the Museum of Country Life in Turlough, Co. Mayo, so we now feel very authentic!
Now we're talking. Now the soil in the ridge tops is drying out and does not water-log and Dad can stroll up and down in the trenches easily getting at the weeds even on the wettest day. The rest of the allotment will be converted to raised beds as it comes free after we have harvested the current crops of beans, cabbages etc.