NOT TOO LATE TO MANURE AND COVER SOIL – 3rd wk in January 2015

No better way to get warm on a cold day that to load manure in to a trailer and then to barrow it to areas of bare soil in the veg and fruit garden. Once the manure is spread, we like to cover  the manured bare soil either with old straw or sheets of black plastic. These plastic sheets are removed before planting out seedlings in April or May or later. Meanwhile the sheets of black plastic are weighed down with a few shovelfuls of  builders’ sand. This sand can be dug in when the plastic is removed to lighten our loamy soil.

Note the small trailer which gets refilled again and again with horse manure. This is then barrowed to bare soil areas.

Note the small trailer which gets refilled again and again with horse manure. This is then barrowed to bare soil areas.

The plan is to re-use these sheets of plastic year after year. During summer and autumn, they will be folded and stored away ready for re-use next winter.

RESCUING THE RHUBARB PATCH BEFORE MANURING – 2nd wk in January 2015

Our idealistic first year here in Tacumshin, Co. Wexford saw us plant 18 rhubarb stools. We had great hopes that the large characteristic rhubarb leaves would block out light and keep competing weed growth under control. How wrong we were! For a start, the wind here near the coast flapped the rhubarb around so much that it did not thrive.

Having been taught a lesson by nature, we erected an artificial wind break. In due course, trees and hedging will create natural shelter, we hope. As you can imagine, the weeds grew very happily in the rhubarb patch. Weeding the patch was a delicate matter as we had to avoid damaging the hidden buds on the rhubarb stools. So we chose to simply rip up the weed growth with our gloved hands, no trowels or hoes this time around.

Anyway, the patch is now recognisable as a rhubarb patch again. We have spread some well-rotted manure between the rhubarb stools. We may further mulch between the plants with thick straw or plastic. Vigilance

Áine taking a breather from hand weeding the rhubarb patch, while Stocaí Bána observes proceedings from the wheelbarrow.

Áine taking a breather from hand weeding the rhubarb patch, while Stocaí Bána observes proceedings from the wheelbarrow.

seems to be the name of the game in keeping weeds under control.

HARVESTING WIND TO KEEP THE LIGHTS ON – 1st wk in January 2015

The Christmas break gave us a chance to take a couple a bracing walks around this  corner of Co. Wexford. Looking out of our front window is Lady’s Island Lake and beyond that the iconic sight of the Carnsore Point wind farm. It is heartening to see the elegant blades of these 14 Vestas turbines turning peacefully with their 12 MW capacity. To think, this is the same site which was earmarked for a nuclear power station in the 1970’s.

Part of the Carnsore Point windfarm contributing clean energy to Ireland's renewable energy  capacity which can power 1.7 million homes.

Part of the Carnsore Point windfarm contributing clean energy to Ireland’s total renewable energy capacity which can power 1.7 million homes.

 

COMPLIMENTS TO DALE TREADWELL ON HIS BOOK ‘ROBBY THE ROBIN’ – 4th wk in December 2014

I had just finished shovelling horse manure into a trailer for spreading on vacant veg and rhubarb plots when Brendan, our postman arrived. Among his letters was a thin package. Inside was a beautifully illustrated book for children called ‘Robby the Robin’, by wildlife guru from children’s television, Dale Treadwell.  It is a clever and witty story about a territorial robin who comes across as bossy. I can say for certain that my 4 year old niece loves it. This book will certainly help her interest in observing wildlife to grow. Thanks again Dale, my Aussie mate! Long may we see you enthral young audiences on Irish television. Australia’s loss is Ireland’s gain! The book (as they say) is available in all good bookshops. BTW, Dale has another book out, ‘Harry the Hedgehog, which is also great.

'Robby the Robin' keeping an eye on my manure shovelling before feasting on the tiger worms uncovered.

‘Robby the Robin’ keeping an eye on my manure shovelling before feasting on the tiger worms uncovered.

PIZZA PARTY WITH HOME-GROWN PEPPERS – 3rd wk in December 2014

The mild weather threw open the possibility of firing up the cob oven when friends and parents travelled from Counties Meath and Dublin for a visit to Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. The weather was not warm, however, so the wood fired oven gave off some welcome heat as the pizzas were cooking. Admittedly, most of the pizza toppings were bought in, but the bell peppers were grown in the greenhouse and some of the wood was a remnant of boughs that broke of in the storms of last February.

Lighting up a cob oven takes over an hour before the cooking heat is just right, so no point cooking just one pizza after all that trouble. Having a few guests makes it all very sociable and worthwhile. Each pizza cooks in three minutes so nobody is left waiting too long. Roll on the spring and milder weather for more cob oven cuisine

Enjoying rapidly cooked made to order pizzas from the cob oven are Áine, Barbara, Brendan and their sons with my Dad.

Enjoying rapidly cooked made to order pizzas from the cob oven are Áine, Barbara, Brendan and their sons, Ferdia and Cillian, with my Dad.

– baking bread is the next challenge!

SHIFTING MANURE WITHOUT INJURING THE BACK – 2nd wk in December 2014

When the manure delivery arrived, I enthusiastically began relaying this ‘brown gold’ by wheelbarrow to the vacant veg patches. This was across very uneven rough pasture. There had to be an easier way, my back was telling me.

Áine’s car has a tow hitch and we have a small trailer. Using the car as a kind of tractor (grazie mile, amore!), I can now, repeatedly, load up the trailer and tow it to the veg patch location.

The old back also now appreciates that the wheelbarrow loads are more easily transferred to the trailer with the help of a long sturdy wooden ramp. I never thought I’d hear myself saying it but shovelling manure is now, in fact, enjoyable. I

Loading up the trailer which takes about 7 wheelbarrows full. The ramp is wedged under the mudflap.

Loading trailer which takes about 7 wheelbarrows full. The ramp is wedged under the mudflap.

t certainly is a good way to stay warm on a cold December day.

COVERING MANURE HEAP TO KEEP RAIN OFF – 1ST wk in December 2014

Thanks to Willie Kelly from Killinick up the road for delivering 4 loads of beautiful horse manure from Dara Ward’s stables in the Sanctuary, Killinick. After a couple of weeks, the grass growth atop the manure heap was spectacular.

The grass growth prompted me to cover the heap fully with builders’ plastic sheeting quickly. Nicky Kyle and Kathy Marsh, two organic growing friends from Fingal, have reminded me from time to time to cover manure and manured ground, to avoid the rain leaching away the goodness.

In this virtual peninsula in the very South East of Ireland we get strong winds coming from the Caribbean  and heading for Wales, so tying down plastic sheeting is crucial. Old carpet and rope serve

Weighing down the plastic sheeting with old carpet before fixing ropes to secure the whole covered manure heap.

Weighing down the plastic sheeting with old carpet which has then been tied in place with ropes to rainproof the whole covered manure heap.

useful purposes to weigh down the plastic and prevent ropes from cutting in to the plastic itself.

So far so good. The compost is staying fairly dry and friable and is easy to dig out.

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