Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Month: July 2020

Garden Update: Hidden Treasures

I’ve been checking my tomatoes, french beans, sweet corn and courgette (zucchini), as well as the new Brussel sprout and lettuce seedlings, every day. We’re at the point where the things that are bearing fruit, especially the tomatoes growing in containers in the greenhouse, need feeding every week. Well, all that work is finally being rewarded. The big surprise this morning was a gleam of orange red behind the giant tomato leaves—two tomatoes ripening up! I was so excited, I went around the garden to find what else might be hiding from me under the leaves—aside from the dreaded slugs… ugh!

Today, our dinner was accompanied by yellow and green french beans and lovely new potatoes from our garden. Earlier today, I brought a big bunch of rainbow chard up to a neighbor for their dinner. In a little while, I will treat myself to a serving of gooseberry crumble, the fruit courtesy of another neighbor who was overwhelmed by the abundance of his bushes. Life here, in this moment, is very good.

I finally found the GIY website and their 12-week gardening videos—a homegrown Waterford success story! They are wonderful and inspiring. So much so that I’m ready to add another couple of raised beds for growing things in spaces we didn’t know what to do with. So I went to Quickcrop’s website and ordered a couple of VegTrugs—Hey Presto! One and a half square meters of garden without all the hard landscaping! I’m excited.

We also saw a home gardening video on BBC’s Gardeners World where a viewer has created a wall of strawberry plants, solving a couple of problems: the whole “straw” bedding thing to keep the dirt off the fruit… and greedy, sneaky slugs. You know what happens. You espy a lovely big strawberry a day or two away from being just perfect to pick and you come back the next morning to half of it eaten away. The disappointment! So Robbie and I are going to up-cycle a couple of sturdy pallets and create a “wall” with “shelves” for strawberry plants in pots in a nice south facing spot that has the added advantage of screening off the compost area. I’ll wait until the fall to transplant our strawberry plants to that new location and use the resulting ground space for more plants in the herb garden.

***

I’ll be honest. Last week I was feeling a bit negative about the garden. I had a case of weed fixation—it seemed that the only thing I noticed growing in the garden was the weeds. And the weather made it too miserable to even contemplate getting down on my knees to get at them. People waiting in line at the bottom of our drive for the Fish Fellas were commenting on how lovely the garden looked and I had to bite my tongue to stop from pointing out every flaw, straggly seed head and weedy patch. I simply could not see the beauty for the weeds.

The three lovely sunfilled days we had at the beginning of this week have worked their magic. And the on again/off again rain we’ve had the last few days has filled the water butts and cleaned the air. The garden is lush and green with bright flashes of yellows and reds from the dahlias and poppies. The views from my kitchen window and from the bottom of the garden, underscored by the burble of the pond stream, punctuated by the flutter of wings at the bird feeders give me the feeling of having been dropped into a midsummer Garden of Eden.

 

 

 

Catching up: Better late than never…

Forgive me readers for I have sinned… it’s been a month (and four days) since my last post. I wish I could say that was because I was busier than usual—I wasn’t. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have stories to tell or projects to report on—I did, although some of the newsy bits are sadly out of date or obsolete and there are always projects.

It was just because.

The Sound of Music?

The most recent project was cutting my hair… something that took two of us, a cordless clipper and a pair of (cheap) scissors. I later found out that a close neighbor of mine had trained as a hairdresser and, had I known, I would have happily paid her whatever she asked to do this. I can deal with the emerging COVID gray/grey. It was the frizzy ends and unflattering length of the “coiffure” that was getting me down the last four or five days. I haven’t seen a hairdresser since January—that’s how bad it has gotten.

So with the full length mirror out on the kitchen patio and armed with the cordless clipper Robbie bought on Amazon, I set about trying to tame the sad condition of my COVID hair. I had to call Robbie in to help with the back after I cut it way too short and too far up because, despite the fact that my children believed I had eyes in the back of my head, I simply could not see or control or evaluate what my hands—and the clippers—were doing. So now I have what I like to think is the Julie Andrews/Maria von Trapp haircut from the Sound of Music.

There’s a Mouse in the house

We have a new member of the household—Mouse O’Líní (“líní” is as gaeilge for “lines” like the ones on the top of his head). We brought him home on June 15th, when he could easily fit in the palm of your hand. He has since doubled in size.

He is adorable, small for his age, but fearless in everything he does. Which is why we are very careful not to let him out of the house as he’d get flattened in no time by a hay tractor or milk tanker passing by on the road.

Having a “house” cat is not part of the cat owning culture here. Our garden has a parade of cats that wander freely from the various houses all around us. Most don’t have collars and some might be wilder than others. We shoo them away in the interest of saving the birds Robbie has worked so hard to attract. When Mouse is big enough to go out into the garden at all, he will be sporting a bell on his collar. Until then, he stays in the house with only supervised explorations of the outside world. He won’t stay this small and cute forever so we are enjoying this time to its fullest.

The Garden is a Jungle!

Back in late May, early June, it looked like this was going to be a hot, dry summer. As soon as Uisce/Irish Water (the water services board) declared a hosepipe ban due to water shortages, we started to get rain—every day. Sometimes an inch or so, more often just an annoying drizzle that made it unpleasant to work outside, or go for a walk or do anything. Every once in a while we’d get a burst of sunshine, the temperature would go up into the 70s in the sun and the heat loving plants like corn, tomatoes, and squash, would be grateful.

Over the past week the winter squash has taken over the paths and the courgette (zucchini) has commandeered the corner lot. The potatoes have overtaken where the raspberries are staked and all the herbs in the small kitchen garden have filled out and spread into each other. On the other side of the path the verbena bonariensis are taller than me and the dahlias are putting out new blooms every morning. In the front cottage garden, the tall daisies and crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ I rescued from the back garden in November when we were regrading it are more than happy in their new location. It was a gamble and it really paid off.

Village Life — FISH!

Wonderful things have come to pass in this little village. The Fish Fellas, Danny and Adam, started selling fresh fish from their van every Thursday—right here at the bottom of our garden! They have their own boats in Ballycotton and come here with the freshest fish ever! We generally buy enough for two days and haven’t been disappointed.

Then, a couple of weeks later, another member of the Ballycotton boat family, Vanessa, brought her gourmet fish and chips “airstream” to the village and set up by the river. They sold out of everything the first time and looks like they’ll sell out again tonight. Of course, this is better news for Robbie as I cannot eat anything battered in flour, HOWEVER, they use a different fryer for the chips!! So I have had my first feed of chips in what feels like decades but is really only SIX months! It made my weekend—I actually saved half to have tomorrow reheated in the oven. Irish chips are not like those skinny “french fries” you often get, all precut and frozen. They are freshly cut, thick and floury and taste like real potatoes. I can’t use malt vinegar (that coeliac thing again) but I’ve discovered that mayonnaise is yummy on chips, as is organic ketchup. I’m covered for the rest of the summer.

Village Life — the Big “C”

June was “100 K in 30 days” for Breast Cancer Ireland. I got more than 100k in even though I started a little late and I loved walking with my neighbors and friends, two of which were in treatment at the time. Their determination, cheerfulness and camaraderie was inspiring. Sometimes we were only four or five walking, other times we had 14 or 15 walkers, husbands and children joining in with the late evening sun shining down on us. A highlight was the 10 km walk up into the hills behind Mount Stuart church arranged by the Clashmore Set Dancers. At one point, we were up above the wind turbines. We walked by a freshly harvest timber farm that had turned into a field of foxglove and meadowsweet as far as the eye could see. It was stunning but I don’t know if I could do it again for a while—not at the pace that was set anyway.

Most days our walks would bring us in a 4 k figure eight leading up the hill and down to the river Lickey, back to the grotto, down the river walk to Raheen Quay and back. One evening, I walked out on my own, earbuds tuned to a book on Audible, up the village and out the back road to Dungarvan. I’d never walked that way before and I was surprised at how peaceful it was and how walking on one’s own can be centering. In the last weeks of the challenge, one of my neighbors undergoing breast cancer treatment got the word that she was clear and her elation was beautiful to see.

Sadly, a few weeks later, she discovered that, while she no longer had any evidence of breast cancer, there was cancer in her liver and it was quite advanced. She died shortly after. We were devastated—it seemed that everyone from the village and beyond stood for a mile on both sides of the road in a “guard of honor” on Monday as the funeral cortege passed by. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

So, while June was full of sun and walking and gardening, July has been tougher so far. My hope is that the rest of the month will lighten up a bit and bring us some long evenings sitting by the pond in the gloaming—tine, fíon, cairde agus scéalta—with the chiminea burning, the wine flowing, friends appropriately spaced, with stories and laughter lifting our spirits. It’s how it should be.

© 2020 Roxanne O'Connell

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑