Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Garden Pal

Tiny Pal - 29th July 2013


Turnips don't seem to be the most popular of vegetables. Maybe it is the memory of the orange coloured and over boiled mush that school kitchens used to dole out. Anyhows, whatever the reason, many people turn up their noses at the thought of renewing their acquaintance with this humble root vegetable. However grown quickly they have a very sweet taste and the flesh needs little cooking and of course they can be used raw in salads.


As well as growing a standard garden turnip this year, (Purple Milan), I also sowed a short row of a small turnip called, "Tiny Pal." They only grow to golfball size, but as they can be grown close together productivity is probably as great as with a larger turnip and they are ready for picking after some ten weeks. With such a short seed to plate timespan I am sowing a further row of this little turnip in the ground vacated by the early potatoes. So long as there are no severe frosts I should be able to keep picking them well into November.


Monday, 29 July 2013

Dying Trees in Dead Centre


There has been little talk about ash dieback in Northern Ireland since its presence was first reported last autumn. Unfortunately the disease has not disappeared.


One of the region's local papers has stated recently that Derry City Council's Biodiversity Officer had cause to report symptoms of the disease ,which had been spotted at Londonderry's City Cemetery this spring, to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). The Londonderry Sentinel goes on to say that the trees had apparently been sourced and planted by a landscape contractor involved in the recent extension works at the cemetery.


As a result of an inspection DARD issued a destruction order which required the trees and associated soil to be removed from the site and buried at a depth of more than two metres. This was to be carried out by the contractor by 12th July.


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Beautiful Brassicas



At this time of year you can almost see the flower heads of the calabrese plants swelling as you watch them. This particular specimen made the journey from garden to dinner plate yesterday evening. It's compadres, (I planted out two dozen plants from the seed tray), should provide some sustenance for yours truly over the next three to four weeks even if there is no side-shoot formation. The books say that the florets freeze well but my experience is that they loose their crispness when you defrost them.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Tight squeeze for Swallows


Swallows are not the biggest of birds, probably about seven inches in length, but even a bird of that size must have clocked up a good few hours in its flying log to be able to fly through gaps of at most five inches between the metal bars of a gate.


Most years there are ten or twelve pairs nesting under the eaves of the house or in the outbuildings, but this year two pairs have elected to build their nests behind the bars shown in the above photo.


Why any right thinking bird should decide upon such an awkward nesting site I have no idea. Not that this quartet of swallows appear to have any difficulty with the locus. There is no hesitation or deviation in their flight and they do keep repeating their aerobatics as they bring back food for their noisy broods. Whether the fledglings will in due course be sufficiently adept to exit through the gaps remains to be seen.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Garden Produce


The garden seems to catching up with itself. The heat of the last three weeks taken in conjunction with the heavy showers of the past few days has brought both fruit and vegetables on apace. Dodging this morning's showers I picked a couple of bowls of gooseberries. A decision will now have to be taken as to how to process these. I suspect that they will either end up in a chutney or a jam. Whilst I may have avoided the precipitation I did not manage to avoid the thorns on the gooseberry bushes!

I also picked the first runner beans of the year. These I fancy will be consumed as part of tonight's dinner. Once the , "runners," are in full production it will be a matter of freezing the pickings or hunting out an appropriate relish recipe, but for the moment it is nice to enjoy the freshly picked pods.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Bogay House

Photo Courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

Bogay House in County Donegal is a property which brings back many happy childhood memories. The above photograph must have been taken circa 1967. Shortly after that the driveway was tarmaced,

The property was owed by a cousin of my father and we visited he and his wife on a very regular basis. The demesne was a veritable adventure ground for a young schoolboy. The rear of the house has a southerly aspect and the lawn immediately below the the house had and presumably still has an Italianate pond. Both this pond and the rather more informal pond adjacent to the northerly turning circle were full of frogspawn every Spring and newts could always be seen amongst the pondweed.

The surrounding woodland provided me with a seemingly limitless playground. I remember visiting Bogay to view a red deer stag that had escaped from Glenveagh and found its way to this little piece of rural tranquility. There were several Spanish Chestnut trees in the woods and I recollect collecting the nuts to eat.

Below the house was the walled garden. Apparently this is one of only nine walled gardens in Co. Donegal. Unfortunately this garden is now unused and overgrown. My dad's cousin kept it in good order, indeed it was a working and productive garden. The lower half of this two acre enclave was planted with apple trees. The remainder of the garden was devoted to soft fruit and vegetables. Uncle Willie, (that's what I called him), operated the garden as a vaguely commercial venture and sold the excess produce. Self sufficiency was definitely something which he approved of. He kept bees and up until the last three or so years of his life he had a couple of dairy cows. Learning how to milk a cow by hand is another memory that remains with me. I wonder if it is one of those skills, like riding a bike, that you don't forget?

He was a nice old buffer. Certainly from another generation. Born in 1890 he was educated at Campbell College, Cambridge and St. Thomas' Hospital. Having qualified as a doctor he served as such in the RAMC during the Great War where he was awarded the MC (For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He personally assisted in getting his wounded away from the dressing station under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire. Previous to this he had gone out from the dressing station on several occasions to tend ....).

Much of his subsequent working life was spent in Palestine as a senior medical officer. He was awarded an OBE in 1936. After he had retired to Co Donegal in 1946 he and his wife, (Dorothy) would travel to East Africa for the winter months, visiting friends and relatives in Kenya, (then pronounced Keen ya, not Ken ya). Not such a bad idea methinks. He was a good source of stamps for my schoolboy collection.

The house contained various artefacts from William's colonial career. I was particularly fascinated by the huge snail shells sitting on top of the bookcases in the large three bay drawing room. He was a keen ornithologist and his notebooks are contained within the manuscript collection in the Natural History Museum in Tring.

Cutting up firewood was another of his pleasures. Unfortunately he was rather too enthusiastic at this task on one occasion and managed to sustain a ten percent reduction in digits. This however did not result in a trip to hospital. He self treated.

Built as a hunting lodge on the Abercorn Estates the Record of Protected Structures for Co Donegal states that the house was constructed in the early to mid eighteenth century. It has five bays and is two storied over a basement and with a dormer attic. There is a single bay basement to the east. A projecting porch was added to the northern aspect circa 1890. In or about 1800 the house was given to the Reverend Thomas Pemberton, rector of Taughboyne for use as a Rectory and it remained as such for in excess of a hundred years. At the time of the 1911 census, Rev A. G. Stewart had the benefit of the glebe and the twenty one room house. The ancillary buildings are listed as being, two stables; coach house ; harness room; calf house; dairy; fowl hose; broiling house; barn; potato house; workshop; shed; laundry and wood house. The census goes on to reveal three other houses on the lands, one of which was vacant and one of which was occupied by a family by the name of Best, whose head of household is described as Land Stewart. For a large part of the nineteenth century Bogay House was the residence of Rev Edward Bowen and his family. His eldest son, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, (1821 -1899) became the ninth Governor of Hong Kong on 30th March 1883, remaining in this post until 21st December 1887.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Garlic Harvest


As anticipated, (my 8th July post refers), the garlic is now ready for lifting, with the leaves predominantly yellow and bent down. I dug up about twenty bulbs today. Most of them are about two inches in diameter, so certainly as large as you get in those little packs of three in supermarkets.


I brought a few into the house for imminent use and accordingly cut off their foliage with my trusty penknife, but the remainder have been left, "foliage intacto," and spread out on the greenhouse staging for drying and ripening. Rather than add to the profits of the Garlic Farm I think that I might save a few of the fattest bulbs and plant their cloves in the autumn. Usually I would plant my garlic in early spring, but I decided to try an autumn planting last year. It has certainly been successful with very few , "no shows," but I suspect that the mild winter did help the percentage success rate.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Gardening for Rabbits


There is a lot to be said in favour of miximitosis. Well perhaps not if you are a rabbit, but certainly if you are a gardener. Rabbits are a pest and for decades miximitosis kept these four legged locusts at bay. Now however these rapacious herbivores seem to have developed a resistance to what was the friend of the gardener and their numbers are climbing, - exponentially! That is I suppose what rabbits do. That and eat any tender shoots which their eyes, now undimned by miximitosis, fix upon.


A fortnight ago, perhaps slightly more, I planted several cosmos plants in the lower garden. They were doing well and the first flush of flowers was appearing. Now all that is left are skeletal stumps. Unfortunately I don't know any micro biologist who could be persuaded to release some deadly disease into the rabbit population. I do however know of two brothers who each have a shotgun. Their services will, I think, be called upon over the next few weeks. Death to all rabbits!


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Legume Update.

So long as you remember to provide your beans and peas with enough water the present weather conditions are perfect for the leguminous area of the vegetable patch. Hot and clammy.


My peas are forming lots of pods and I am now soaking them with umpteen cans of water. I really should invest in a sufficiently long hose! A week or perhaps ten days from now and I should be picking plump, engorged pods full of sweet tasting peas. That will be good.


The broad beans have come on well and are flowering well. I will have to think of pinching out the growing buds quite soon. It will certainly be August before the satin lined pods are ready for picking.


As for the runner beans, well they keep growing skyward. I pinched them out today and added extra bamboos to their wigwam supports. A few pods are now beginning to droop from the fertilised flowers. I am anticipating a heavy crop.


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Scent of Summer

Graham Thomas - 14th July 2013

Roses grow on you so the stalwart of the British confectionary trade told us before it was subsumed, (or maybe that should read consumed), by its crafty competitor.


I can't say that I am a great friend of the rose bush. The rose seems to attract pests and diseases, blackspot, greenfly, whitefly, etcetera, etcetera. You have to prune them, deadhead them and feed them. A lot of work and they have the audacity to scratch you! Accordingly while there are a few rose bushes scattered throughout the garden I can't say that they receive a lot of attention. They survive despite of me rather than because of me.


For whatever reason this seems to be a year which has favoured the roses and they have come into flower just as the weather has decided that it should be summer. Their scent lingers in the evening air.

Iceberg - 14th July 2013

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Stuart Broad - My name's not Walker

The actions, or more accurately the inactions of England's Stuart Broad during the third day of the first Test will reverberate through the game of cricket. He was clearly out. He had edged Ashton Agar's delivery but for some inexplicable reason the umpire didn't see or hear this. Despite the appeals from the Australian players he was given not out and he remained at the crease.


Obviously he only had a split second to decide whether he should do, "the decent thing," abide by Corinthian principles and walk, but the point is that, "professionalism," won the day. Broad will never be allowed to forget this violation of the unwritten tenets of the summer game. This may well be the incident which harbinges cricket's decline to the principles of play which rugby has embraced in recent years.


I must check the obituaries in the Times today.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Our Lady's Mantle.


I have several specimens of Lady's Mantle, (Alchemilla), scattered throughout the garden. They can look quite attractive, most particularly in the early morning when they are still wet with dew.


The problem however is that they are just too damned successful. They insist upon replicating themselves with gay abandon. The fecundity of their self seeding exploits would leave rabbits awestruck. Every year I rip out hundreds of seedlings. It does seem such a waste, but there appears to be no alternative. The mature plants which I have are more than adequate even for the most ardent of herbalists. Apparently it was used as a heart tonic and diuretic and to treat bleeding wounds. The fresh leaves can be used in poultices, whilst the dried leaves are used in infusions.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

First Potatoes of the Year

British Queens , 10th July 2013.
I dug a top of potatoes today. The first of the year.

It was with a degree of trepidation that I eased the graip into the drill. Would the potatoes be ready or would I be unearthing a selection of marbles? Success! The crop was ready. More or less on cue, - ninety nine days from planting to pot. Mint and butter provided a tasty addition to the floury starchiness.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Garlic Charm

Garlic behind the rabbit defences.

This spell of Mediterranean weather will certainly help the garlic and onions. The ground is still quite damp from the recent rains and I expect to see a substantial growth in the onion bulbs over the course of this week. Perfect weather for growth.

The foliage of my autumn planted garlic is starting to turn yellow. Another week and it will be time to start lifting the bulbs and drying them for winter use. Somewhat surprisingly I find that garlic cloves freeze well. The garlic slicer is prepped and awaits its first victim of the year. Salut Madame Guillotine!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Tempus Fugit.

It is hard to acknowledge the passing of the years. It only seems like yesterday that I was calling today tomorrow. I do however have to acknowledge that I am very squarely within the ambit of the midde aged. The tell tale signs are there. A trip to a garden centre is suddenly interesting. Deciding upon a coffee stop takes on a factor of importance. Getting home at a sensible hour is paramount.

But why is everyone else I see so old looking? The thing is that they are not, or rather they are not that much older than me. They are the same age, or slightly older, or increasingly slightly younger. How strange it is that suddenly you feel that you have to inspect ancient buildings and join the National Trust and sign up for the RSPB.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Borage Blue

Borage - 4th July 2013.


It was four years ago that I purchased a packet of borage seeds. The plants grew very well and flowered even better. My neighbour's bees seemed very pleased with this addition to the herb bed.


I have not had to buy any borage seeds since that initial packet. The first year's plants self seeded and have continued to do so ever since. Pulling up extraneous borage seedlings is now part and parcel of the garden routine. They pop up everywhere. In amongst the potatoes, between the rows of peas and even in the herbaceous borders. The flowers are quite attractive and yes you can use the young leaves in salads as well as eating the flowers themselves and yes the flowers can be entombed in ice cubes to add a certain something to a pimm's or a stiff g & t, but there is a limit to the number of plants that can be warranted on culinary or aesthetic grounds.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Ulster Bank Closing Yet More Doors

In January of this year the RBS's subsidiary, Ulster Bank Limited, announced that it would be closing twenty two branches and sub-offices and that eight hundred and fifty jobs would disappear.

The boom and bust of the Irish property market, both North and South has seen the Bank nursing huge losses. The most recent accounts disclosed a loss of over £1billion pounds for the year.

In the light of the Chancellor's recent pronouncements one cannot help wondering whether there was any political pressure behind the further cuts announced by the Bank today. An additional thirty nine branches are to close by the end of 2014 and it seems that a further eighteen hundred jobs may go. Taking the January cuts into account the Bank presently has two hundred and fourteen branches of which one hundred and thirty five are in the Republic of Ireland. It seems that the cuts announced today are to be to the rural branch network. The Bank wants to concentrate on urban areas and Internet banking. Yet another blow to small towns and villages. These Branches were not of course the source of the losses that are now pressing down on the Bank. A fair result?