Saturday, 13 October 2018

Garvagh's Weed Patch

On 7th April 2009 the Coleraine Times reported the official opening of the Community Courtyard Garden in Garvagh. As one would expect at such events the funders were much lauded. They were named as Ulster Wildlife Fund and The Bjg Lottery. The work appears to have been carried out by Breathing Spaces and the Conservation Volunters NI. I haven't managed to find a photograph of how the garden looked nine years ago but today it might be more accurate to describe it as a weed patch rather than a garden. One is tempted to question the expenditure. What was the point? Does the world of grants provide sustainable facilities? The very fact that grants are needed might give an answer.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Autumnal Colour

At this time of year the fruit and veg patch is definitely beginning to look a bit sorry for itself. The broad beans, runner beans, peas and courgettes have finished their cropping and have been removed. The tops of the main crop potatoes are dieing back and the Autumn raspberries have been picked and their foliage is turning yellow and beginning to fall. Amidst the greens and yellows the vibrant autumnal purple red hues of the blueberry bushes push themselves to the forefront of ones cognisance. Outdoor gardening is drawing to a close.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Runner Bean Ali.

I wasn't intending to take out the runner beans for a few weeks yet but storm Ali brought my plans forward. As in previous years I grew this year's vines up a nine foot high wigwam constructed of ash poles. Rather shortsightedly I had placed this growing frame within four feet of the greenhouse. When I was tramping around the garden at eight o'clock this morning it was very evident that the leafy vines were presenting ,"Ali," with a punchbag that was not going to be able to resist the storm's gusty punches for very long. Rather than have several panes of glass needing replaced I decided to crop the beans and dismantle their scaffold. Most of the pods were quite young and tender but I did discover several very mature pods which had escaped my earlier croping. These have yielded me with enough seed beans for next year's planting. I must remember to locate the wigwam further from the greenhouse!

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Before the Fridge

Before fridges established themselves as an essential feature of the kitchen keeping food fresh, particularly in the summer months, was a definite problem. In the early 1960's and yes I do remember those years, very few families had the luxury of a fridge.

My maternal grandparents had a food safe in a shaded area of their garden. It was constructed of wood and fine wire mesh. The mesh was of a sufficiently small gauge that flies and wasps were excluded. The woodwork was painted a muted green colour. This was where the meat, milk and butter was kept.

Clearly it wasn't as efficient as a modern fridge but it was cooler than their kitchen. My paternal grandparents didn't have a food safe but they did have the advantage of a cellar. That was probably a better and more proficient home for their comestibles. There is no doubt that peoples' standard of living has improved dramatically. Unfortunately most people take this for granted or worse as their entitlement.

Friday, 15 June 2018

A Royal Flavour

Now that the humble elderflower has been used to flavour the wedding cake for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle I wonder whether royal watchers will be jumping into hedgerows and denuding the local elder trees of their lacecap flourescences? So far the examples in my own garden have avoided such predations but I will put my hands up and admit that I will be getting the trusty secateurs out shortly so that I can produce this year's supply of elderflower cordial. I can't say that I am a terrific fan of cordials and juices but it is surprising what you can add to ones glass to give the contents a gentle kick.

The manufacture of elderflower cordial is thankfully a fairly easy process. Let's face it if it wasn't I wouldn't be doing it. One dissolves five pounds of granulated sugar in about two and a half pints of water which is then brought to the boil before taking your saucepan off the heat. Thereafter it is a matter of adding about twenty washed flower heads along with 3 ounces of citric acid and two unwaxed and paired lemons which have been sliced into G & T roundels. After allowing twenty four hours for infusion one is ready to strain the liquid into sterilised bottles. Your cordial is then ready to use.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Hidden Eggs

There has been a certain paucity of eggs from the hen coop over the past week. I had been putting this down to the age of my hens. They are now almost three years old.
However egg numbers had not actually decreased. One of my avian friends had decided to lay her eggs in the open air yards distant from the coop. I came upon her surreptitious clutch quite by chance deep in a herbaceous border. I removed five of the six eggs in the hope that the errant hen would continue to lay her eggs in what is no longer her secret lair. This she has done for the last two days. It would seem that she has not appreciated that she has been rumbled. Hens aren't good at counting.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A School, A Hymm, A Soldier.

On the 10th day of October 1874 one John James Hamilton Humphreys of Lincolns Inn, London leased a rood of his land on the lee of a green hill in the townland of Barnes, Parish of Upper Badoney and Barony of Upper Strabane to the Right Reverend Francis Kelly the then Roman Catholic Bishop of Londonderry and the Reverend Patrick Magee Parish Priest of the Parish of Upper Badoney. The term of the lease was nine hundred and ninety nine years and the assurance declares that the demise was upon trust that a school for the instruction of the youth of the district should be established and maintained. The demise goes on to say that if such a school should cease to operate for twelve calendar months then the lessees were required to surrender their leasehold estate and give up possession of the premises to the Lessor his heirs and assigns.

Who was this Mr Humphreys? Unsurprisingly with an address of Lincoln's Inn he was a barrister. Born in 1817 he was the eldest son of Major John Humphreys of Milltown House, Strabane, (until recently the home of Strabane Grammar School). He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford in 1839 and was called to the Bar on 18th November 1842. His father, Major Humphreys of the Royal Marines fought under Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. The latter's military career was subsequently cut short by injuries received in the West Indies. Following a period as a staff officer in Dublin he became the Agent of the Earl of Wicklow and subsequently accepted a similar position with the Hamiltons of Baronscourt.

The Major's third child was a girl Cecil Frances who was born in 1818. She is better known by her married name of Alexander having married the Reverend William Alexander in October 1850. Dieing on 12th October 1895 she was buried in Londonderry City Cemetery. By that time her husband was the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. In 1896 he was elevated to the Archbishopric of Armagh a position he held until 1911.