gardening

The important lessons that gardening has taught me about getting through life

Sometimes, life is just shit. There is no other way to say it. It’s just shit. And let’s face it, a lot of the time, life is shit because people are shit. We are. We are all at times, just shit. Shit to ourselves, shit to others, shit to the world around us. Shit.

*Warning,  in case you haven’t noticed already, this post contains swearing, vague philosophical ramblings, some pessimism and some questionable theories on the nature of humanity. Don’t worry though, I never do these things without good reason. Read on*

Something incredible happened to me today. Something that taught me about the nature of the world around me, the nature of plants and wildlife and the environment I live in. Something small, something huge, something that shifted my whole perspective on a difficult situation. A lesson in getting through the tough times.

Let me set the scene. Many of you know I had a bad year last year in many ways. Well, I say bad, it was in fact, a year littered with the most wonderful things that have ever happened to me. But in terms of my health, my garden and my heart for the garden, I had a very tough year. My plot bore the brunt of everything that happened in the rest of my life. I didn’t really bother much with it, not as much as I should have. I let it go to ruin.

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It’s in an absolute heap

I made bad choices. I invested my energy in to the wrong things when I should have reserved it for my garden. It only served to hurt my garden and myself in the long run.

I’ve written at length about not knowing how to begin again. How to start over and why the hell I should bother. I’ve been looking around my plot with despair, and sadness and with a sort of veiled apathy. Why the fuck should I care about it anymore? Why don’t I just forget about it and move on?

But of course, because it is the blood in my veins, the air in my lungs and an intrinsic part of the very nature of who I am; I can not just give this up. It is part of my identity. It is the love of my life.

So, today I decided to give it another shot. To maybe just try one more time to get it back to its former glory. Or better still, to take all the lessons it had taught me, and use them to tear it all the fuck down and begin all over again.

So, I have begun again. I spent two hours just beginning to pick up the pieces. I’ve begun to throw away the dead plants, the old plants, the old bits of wood, the twigs, the crap. I’ve begun to clean up my act.

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You’ve got to be willing to get seriously dirty if you want to clean up your act though

And when I stood in my garden today and looked around, among all the litter and chaos and destruction, I found something that made my heart skip a beat. I found a patch of crocuses that I planted three years ago that never grew before, and they were in full, glorious, delicate bloom.

Despite the snow storm, despite the neglect, despite the fact that I had never tended to them. Despite everything and against all the odds, there they were.  And I nearly fucking wept. Not just because I’m a sap with too many feelings, but because I realised once again, that the greatest lessons we can learn about ourselves, we learn from nature. That we too can weather the storms. Plants and wildlife and the natural world has more to teach us about ourselves than we will ever know.gardening

So, in an effort to quantify this somehow in a blog post –  I’m attempting to marry the huge wonders of nature with some small words on a screen – I’m going to try to explain a few life lessons that my garden has taught me. Maybe it will help you if you are, like me, going through a rough patch. I’ve been thinking about all the amazing things that plants can teach us about ourselves and how to take those lessons and turn them to gold. How to fucking bloom.

Nature simply doesn’t give a shit about you

Sounds pessimistic right? It’s not. This is one I’ve written about before and it never fails to cheer me up. Seriously, just think about it. Plants and wildlife are incredibly apathetic to anything else around them except their own survival. They don’t care about you, they don’t care if you’re fat, thin, an asshole, a saint, gorgeous, ugly, a fuck up, a success, they don’t care if you’re a shit person or a good one.

And this realisation can turn your understanding of yourself and your place in the world on its head entirely.

Think about it this way, you can literally be anything, or anybody or act any way, and you will still exist. When you are a gardener, or simply out there in nature, your personality, your mistakes, the things that you don’t like about yourself, the things you love about yourself, there is no place for them. None. You are simply part of something bigger than yourself. You can just be an organism, of little or no consequence. In a garden you are absolved of all your shit and (perhaps even better) everyone else’s too.

Enjoy!

You have a responsibility to the world around you and the world you build

All that being said, every thing you do impacts the world around you. Everything.

If you don’t look after your garden, it will not thrive. You can’t expect to put nothing in to something and then expect to get anything worthwhile out of it. Plants and nature will always be there, but if you are the one who planted the seed, you are the one who should tend to its needs.gardening

I’m sure you’ve planted something before and kind of forgotten to take care of it properly. You thought to yourself “ah sure look, it’ll be fine, it won’t be the end of the world if it dies”.

No, it won’t, but you kind of made its existence pointless now didn’t you?

Gardens are amazing spaces and we are their curators. We have a responsibility to the plants and the wildlife in them. We have a responsibility to how we treat everything and everyone in our lives too.

In essence,  don’t be a dick.

Only plant what you want to grow

Right, this is a pretty basic one. But, why bother planting peas if you don’t want peas? Why the hell would you put all that time and effort and love into something you have zero intention to actually use?

Think about that. Same goes for jobs, friendships, relationships, hobbies, your fucking dinner, the clothes you buy. Stop chasing things you don’t actually want.

Mistakes are just mistakes

How many times have I written that I do not believe that there are mistakes in a garden? Well, I lied. Of course there are. You will spend your life in a garden making mistakes. But here is the difference between how you may feel about those mistakes and how those mistakes actually impact or hurt your garden.

Much like in the rest of your life, you will beat yourself up for your mistakes in your garden, you will. You will beat yourself up for your mistakes in life. You’ll ruminate on them, be sad about them, blame yourself. But here is the wonderful thing gardens teach us about mistakes: they can’t be undone so make your peace with them and move the fuck on.  Self blame in a garden is pointless. You know why? Because it doesn’t change or fix anything. Accidentally kill a plant by not watering it? Well just learn from it and water the next one. Did your tomatoes die because you had them in the wrong environment? Well, they’re dead. End of. You won’t bring them back to life.

Yes, you fucked up. Yes, it sucked. But yes, you have a chance to make it better.

Don’t equate mistakes to failure. If you do that, you will lose hope and simply stop trying. In a garden and in life.

Plants don’t waste their time on shit that doesn’t make them better

Plants and wildlife spend their lifetimes searching for things that make them a success. Things that make them thrive. Plants don’t waste time on things that they don’t need. Plants only have use for things that sustain them. Water, and nutrients and light and pollinators. Things that make them live and grow.

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You don’t see these guys sitting around feeling sorry for themselves

People tend to do the opposite. We stew in guilt and resentment and sorrow. We let shame and regret eat us alive. We waste our time on things that don’t sustain us. We hurt ourselves in the long run. If you spend your life on things that do not sustain you, you will literally die.

Bleak? Nope, that right there is the opposite of bleak folks that right there opens up space for hope.

Which brings me nicely to..

Gardening teaches you to hope

Have you ever sown a seed and not wanted it to grow?

Enough said.

Gardening teaches you to be patient

Gardening teaches you to breathe. To take a step back. Because no matter how much work you do, everything takes time to come to fruition. You’re not just going to plant a seed and poof, two seconds later have an apple.

Sometimes, you just have to wait and trust that the world has you right where you need to be.

Being buried doesn’t mean you’re dead

And maybe the most important lesson of all, gardening has taught me that you can quite literally be up to your neck in dirt and turn it all around. You can be so deep under all the crap and mud that life slings at you that it seems like there’s no fucking way out.

But what happens when you let in the things that will help you grow out of it? What happens when you just let in water? Or warmth? Or hope, or love, or forgiveness or trust or patience or self belief?

Your life can be a grave or a garden.

It can bury you. Or it can plant you.

It’s up to you to decide.

Fiona Goes Wild: Marcel the Field Mouse

I’ve had a very busy few days at the allotment the past week and I have plenty to write about over the next few days, however, I just wanted to share a bit of drama I had on the plot today. I recently wrote about the wildlife I have encountered in the garden and wanted to write a series of posts about wildlife, well, what better way to start than by writing about the adorable field mouse I found today.

I had just finished up at the allotment on another humid day in Dublin. Tumultuous ashen clouds were rolling over site which saw a mass exodus of gardeners running for home before the heavens opened. Dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, I decided it was probably in my best interests to wash my hands, get changed and go home for a well earned glass of wine. I was making my way over to the tap to grab some water, when I almost stood on a tiny field mouse, sitting in the middle of the path. The poor little chap was looking very ill, swaying side to side and trembling. I had spotted it two days ago while tidying up my shed and I’m pretty sure I disturbed it in the process.

Field mice are cute little rodents with long legs and a long tail. They’re very active little mice and like many rodents are usually nocturnal. It was strange to see one so listless, it didn’t even budge when I approached it so I knew something was wrong straight away.

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I was alone, on site with an injured animal and had no idea what to do. After a cry for help on Instagram, my parents suggested I put the mouse somewhere sheltered away from the sun and rain and possibly provide it with some food. I picked up the mouse (wearing little gloves) and wrapped it in a comfy old t-shirt I had in my shed. The poor creature squeaked as I picked it up but seemed to snuggle right in to the makeshift bed right away. I placed him in a cosy spot under my shed with a little tray of water and some raspberries and I found a few woodlice I put in there too so it could eat something. I had a little cry. I’m a sap.

I’m hoping little Marcel (name suggestion courtesy of my best friend Holly) makes a quick recovery, I’ll keep you updated.IMG_2574-1

Take A Walk On The Wild Side

(A bedroom in Dublin. Monday. 5.30am. A rooster crows in the mid-summer rain. A young woman hauls herself out of bed. She throws open a window into the morning. A grey tit hops along the wooden fence below. The distinctive call of a pheasant. The trill of a tit. The thrill of the wild.)

This is how my days begin now. I wake to a symphony of birdsong. I wake to a wild life.

I’ve always loved animals and nature. As a child, there was nothing I loved more than being outdoors. I, myself, was a little bit wild. I was always climbing, running, exploring. I was less of a barbies and dolls girl and more of a climbing walls girl. I had far more interest in catching bees and butterflies than sitting at home playing dress up. I was a scuff-kneed, rock collecting, river wading, bird chasing, tree hugging wild child.


Growing up in a city suburb never really held me back from loving my natural environment. There was quite a lot of green space where I lived, there were local hay fields, farms and parks. I spent a lot of time in the wild Irish countryside. My parents brought me on holidays all around Ireland and I’ve had the privilege to see and explore so many of our wonderful landscapes. I’ve spent entire summers in the midlands, playing on farms and bogs. I’ve travelled along the whole west coast; the rugged Burren, wild Connemara, the lakes of Killarney, the beaches of Achill. I’ve visited forests, cliffs and caves. Climbed mountains and fished in rivers. I’ve collected turf, shorn sheep and plucked pheasants. I have been in love with this lush island my entire life.

However, living in Dublin, I haven’t always been as in touch with the natural world as I would love to be. The rapid development of large housing estates in North County Dublin during the boom years, rendered many of my childhood exploration haunts into haunted ghost estates. There are acres of unfinished houses, scaffold cities, empty developments and abandoned building sites. Where I once spent my summers picking wildflowers and hunting for frogs, there are now apartment blocks, parking lots, train stations, space-wasting NAMA-NAMA-NAMA-NAMA-CRAPLANDS!

Now don’t get me wrong, I adore Dublin. I think it’s a great city. I love the culture, the food, the nights out, the festivals, the history, the hustle and bustle, the atmosphere; but sometimes I look at some of the suburban areas and despair. When we were so busy building and planning and expanding, where did all the wildlife go?

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Living in a city, it is easy to forget that it is populated by more than just people, more than shops and offices and pubs. It is populated by more than human beings. It is so easy to forget that there are entire populations of wildlife living in Dublin too. More animals than humans, more insects than animals.

This is one of the many reasons that gardening has become so vital for me. The garden is not just a place in which to grow food and flowers, it is a place of sanctuary for me and for many others. It is trembling with life. My garden has reconnected me with wildlife in this great urban sprawl. Four years ago, I’d have been hard pressed to identify a breed of bird. I’d have had no idea that it was a pheasant call I was hearing every day. I’d have been unable to tell you the birds living in my neighbours garden were in fact grey tits. I’d have probably been quite annoyed at the rooster waking me every morning.

I’d have never developed an obsession with bees, collected worms, discovered that ladybirds are ruthless killers, gone on regular slug patrols or learned what an ichneumon wasp is.

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Aphids Beware!

 

 

I’d never have developed a tenuous relationship with a hare. When I visit the plot in the early mornings, when there’s not another soul around, I often stumble on a slumbering hare in my rhubarb patch. We’re developing a bit of an understanding, she sleeps on my plot and leaves when I arrive. She often stares at me for a moment or two before bolting. I’ve yet to take a photo of her as I don’t want to spook her for the garden is her haven too.

I’d have never met Joseph Gordon Levitt. No, not the actor, the robin who visits my plot (if you get the reference, a virtual high five to you).

I’d have never learned that wasps build their nest from their own homemade scraps of paper and spit. I’d have never seen a fox chasing a hare while I was picking beetroot for dinner.

I have seen buzzards circling my plot, hunting for prey. I’ve seen sparrow hawks, thrushes, finches, blackbirds, chaffinches, pigeons, crows, the list is endless. I’ve even found a family of ducks, waddling past the plot. I’ve discovered xenomorphic looking chrysalises in nooks and crannies all over the garden. I have a shed full of giant spiders. Last week I found a song thrush egg lying on a rhubarb leaf.

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My garden is not just mine, for a garden does not belong to the gardener. A garden belongs to everyone and everything in it. Gardening taught me to be excited by insects and birds and animals again, to scuff my knees and climb and explore and to still freak the hell out when I accidentally touch a slug.

Gardening allows me to be a wild child again.

Sometimes that rooster really does annoy me though.

I have learned more about our wildlife in the past four years of gardening than in the previous twenty-eh-something. With this in mind, I’m going to write a series of posts on encouraging wildlife into your garden. If you are one of those people who is terrified of creepy crawlies, I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t be (except maybe earwigs, nobody likes earwigs). If you find yourself running away from bees, I’m going to tell you why you should be chasing them in to your garden. If you’re afraid of butterflies, I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you, you’re a lost cause.

I’m popping some useful links below if you want to learn a bit about Irish Wildlife, these sites are brilliant resources for amateurs like myself who want to know a bit more about our indigenous species.

Irish Wildlife Trust 

Bird Watch Ireland

Biodiversity Ireland

 

 

The Sting Operation

Welcome to the revitalised FionaGrowsFood. It’s been a crazy, hectic, heady few months here in the garden and I’ve been holding off on writing about it until I got everything in the garden organised and the site up to date. So, here we are.

2015 has been a spectacular year in the garden, despite the god-awful weather. This year, the plot is flourishing more than any previous year and I’m up to my eyeballs in produce. I’ve so much to catch you all up on over the next few days/weeks so apologies in advance for the upcoming blog post overload.

In what has probably been my greatest buzz (sigh) this year, I had an infestation of wasps a few weeks ago. Now, me, being me, I didn’t even notice the monstrous nest inside my birdhouse, until it began to spill outside the box and there were hundreds of angry wasps crawling on everything; including my arms and legs. By the time I realised I had a serious problem, it was too late to just smoke them out. The wasps had taken over and I was run off my allotment in an embarrassing incident involving much squealing, yelping and maniacal flapping of my arms.

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The scene of the crime (no photos of actual wasps because I was too afraid to get close)

Over the following weeks, I exhausted many options attempting to get rid of the nest. Despite the fact that wasps are the only insect to really terrify me and turn me into a total wuss, they are also quite beneficial in the garden and I really didn’t want to kill them off. In the interest of being an environmentalist and a bit of a wildlife fanatic, I made a few attempts to remove the hive without killing the wasps but to no avail. I attempted to remove the birdhouse myself, which was an absolute disaster. I tried to block up the entrances to the hive, which was an even bigger disaster. Imagine hundreds of wasps dive-bombing my person with reckless abandon and you get the picture.

And so it came to pass, after three weeks of avoiding my allotment like an accidental right swipe on tinder, I had to take the bull by the horns (the wasp by the wings even) and reluctantly kill them. I bunkered down in my war room (shed) to come up with a strategy for the elimination of the enemy. A plan was drawn up, codename: Buzzkill, a covert guerrilla warfare operation to be carried out against the nest at 0900 hours on a rainy Saturday in July.

Let me set the scene:  A young soldier inches her way towards a wasp nest with a giant plastic bag in hands. She’s doing a bit of a backwards-Michael-Jackson-in-Smooth-Criminal-stance (you know the one) and attempting to throw the bag over the birdhouse. All the while, she’s gathered quite the audience of bemused fellow allotment holders – who have since dubbed her “waspy” – who not so much egg her on, as laugh at her while she jumps and twitches around the plot. After much hesitation and twenty minutes of backing away at the last moment, she throws the black sack over the nest to rapturous applause and some pats on the back. Her work, however, has just begun. 

Now, my reasons for putting the bag over the nest were twofold; not only did I assume it would keep the dying wasps from escaping the nest and stinging me to within an inch of my life, but I also had to use a poison to kill them and those of you who read my blog know how I feel about chemicals and pesticides. Sadly, after three years of never using any chemicals on my plot, I had no choice but to use a pesticide to kill the nest. The plastic bag was an attempt to keep the poison localised to one place and away from my precious veggies. Once I had the bag in place, I emptied a full bottle of wasp poison into the nest and ran like hell yelling “you may take my birdhouse, but you may never take, my freedom”. Then, I was arrested, hung drawn and quartered, and my remains scattered around the four corners of the plot (I’d like to point out that sometimes I get myself confused with Mel Gibson characters, it’s an ongoing problem, I’m seeking the appropriate help).

The wasps all died within the hour, the queen and her subjects annihilated and I was safe to garden again. Nothing like a bit of casual regicide on a Saturday afternoon.

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The birdhouse, with bag still in situ

I’ve kept the birdhouse, sans wasps, on my shed for the past two weeks as a trophy. The black plastic blowing in the wind as a warning to all other wasps to stay away. Well, either that or I’m a little bit afraid there may still be a renegade wasp in there waiting to attack me. You decide.

The only real positive outcome from all this excitement, is that I was unable to stray near one side of my plot for a while so I had time to tidy up the bad corner of the garden. The corner I’ve never done anything with and had allowed to become an overgrown, weed-choked wasteland, is finally weed free. I’ve even planted a flower bed along the border and installed a raised bed which I intend to use as a hot bed. As such, the great wasp invasion of summer 2015 resulted in the reclamation of unused land and finally, the knowledge that there is now, no unused space on the plot. Success.

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The badlands in January

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Hell of a difference in July!

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As for the wasps, I have minimal guilt. The real sting in the tale is this: I spent four weeks doing battle with wasps and I didn’t get one sting. Five minutes after I killed them, I was assaulted by a five foot tall rogue nettle and ended up with nettle stings all over my face, neck and arms.

The perils of gardening…

Love Bites!

I must admit, so far, this Autumn has been a  joy in the garden, the sun has been shining, the leaves are turning golden,  gardeners and farmers everywhere are enjoying harvest season. The days are bright and fresh and the evenings are beginning to shorten significantly,  with sunsets that paint the sky in warm pinks and hot oranges. Along with sunny Saturdays in my garden,  I’ve been enjoying evening walks, evening strolls, evening rambles. It is a happy time in my life……mostly.

Love does hurt however, my penchant for going out in the lovely Autumn air has left me covered in bites from a few swarms of midges and some rogue mosquitos. Over the past four weeks, I’ve had at least eight or ten bad insect bites on my arms and legs that have swollen and itched and driven me positively mad.  Unfortunately, my favourite time of year to be outside also happens to coincide with hungry insect season and I seem to be attracting a crazy amount of bites this year. It must be my animal magnetism.

All of this I can live with, I can deal with itchy arms and legs, unsightly bumps and sneezing, I can deal with antihistamines and the scratching and discomfort. I can NOT however, deal with what I woke up to this morning: a large insect bite on the left cheek of my bum! Not only do I have no idea how in God’s name an insect managed to bite my arse throughout my jeans on my walk yesterday, but I had to spend the whole day trying not to scratch the bite for fear of being one of those people who scratches their bum in public. The shame.

Now, I’ve been told that insects are attracted to sweet blood, so I’ve decided that this obviously means I have a sweet ass. Obviously. I’d even share a photo of said bite to show you just how biteable my arse  is only I’d be worried you’d be jealous!

So, if you see me over the next few days awkwardly “adjusting” my jeans or conveniently rubbing my backside off a wall to scratch it, don’t judge, just know I am just the victim of the least sexy love bite of all time.

Irish Seed Savers Need Your Help!

Over the past two years, I have been discovering the joys of gardening, the importance of growing my own food and adjusting to the significant changes this has had on my life. Not only that though, gardening has broadened my horizons, opened my eyes to a whole world of environmental interests that I’d never gave a second thought to in the past.

It’s no longer just about having a bit of fun going out in my wellies, weeding and watering (though that does continue to be the my favourite thing to do in the world). I have become hugely interested in our environment, in climate change, our agricultural heritage, our wildlife and countryside and in particular, our future. Our very precarious future. I’m a firm believer that this planet of ours is headed for an absolutely huge food crisis if we don’t soon get our act together. I’ve come to realise the absolute necessity for me to do my bit, however small that may be, in order to make a modicum of a difference, and perhaps help alleviate my guilt at the complete disregard for this planet we live on up until this point in my life.

With this in mind, I have become keenly aware of the danger our very delicate ecosystems are in. Rapid environmental changes and diminishing biodiversity are leading to mass extinctions species the world over.  Biodiversity, as it is defined, is the degree of variety of life. This usually refers to the diversity of species, ecosystems and genetics in any given region. In terms of growing food, genetic diversity is vital. A lack of diversity in crop varieties causes serious problems. The perfect example of this is the Famine in Ireland in the 19th century, this famine was a direct result of only planting two varieties of potato, both of which were highly suupespitible to the blight which essentially destroyed the whole island’s potato crop.

I’ve begun to do some reading and research on environmental and conservational organisations in Ireland in order to develop a further understanding of the challenges facing us, and perhaps get myself involved in order to contribute in some way towards a sustainable future. About six months ago, I discovered The Irish Seed Savers Association, based in Scariff, Co. Clare.
Their main goals, as stated on their website are

“……the conservation of Ireland’s very special and threatened plant genetic resources. Our work focuses on the preservation of heritage varieties form all over the world that are suitable for Ireland’s  unique growing conditions.”

The Irish Seed Savers Association was set up in 1991 by Anita Hayes, initially based in co Carlow, they moved to Scariff, Co. Clare in 1996. In this time, their work in the conservation of seeds and heritage varieties of vegetables and fruit had been significant. They have established a seed bank of over 600 vegetable varieties (which is of course, of serious interest to me). They have a special interest in apple trees, and have an orchard on site where they have established the Native Irish Apple Collection, with 140 unique varieties of apple tree. They’ve also established the Native Irish Grains collection which contains 48 different varieties of grain. The importance of their work in the conservation of our botanical heritage is undeniable. Once a species is extinct, it is gone forever. The more people making an effort to prevent or delay this possibility, the better.
I have recently discovered that the Irish Seed Savers Association is under threat of closure due to a lack of funding. They have put out an appeal to the public to help raise much needed money to keep their work going. The have set up an Indiegogo campaign in the hopes of raising €100,000, but unfortunately to this date they have only been able to raise €10,000.
You can help by becoming a supporter, when you sign up, you will receive five packs of organic vegetable seed, three varieties of organic seed potatoes, twice yearly magazines, a 10% discount on workshshops and free admission to their 8 hectare site in Scariff, complete with orchard, gardens, a café and a shop.
The charity also provide many workshops and classes on site which look super. It looks like a beautiful place to visit, I think I’ll have to take a week off and go visit Co. Clare this year.
If you can support in any way, I’d urge you to do so, even if it’s only to spread the news, read about their work, tell others about it, share this article, share links to their website, they need all the help they can get to continue on with their very worthy cause.
 For more information on the appeal and the association itself, visit www.irishseedsavers.ie
For more information on biodiversity in Ireland, visit www.biodiversityireland.com 

 

Brace Yourself…..

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As the honourable Ned Stark once said said repeatedly, “Winter is Coming”. In fact, friends, winter is just about here, the clocks went back on Saturday and now it is dark by six in the evening. It is getting that bit colder every day and before we know it The Others will be among us (well, maybe not, but it does no harm to be cautious).

However, despite the wind and rain and cold and darkness, I like the winter, it is a time to reflect, to take stock and to plan. With this in mind, I am going to get to work this winter. I have some major changes I want to make to the plot. I have a huge section of totally unworked land at one end of my plot which I am going to turn into a bee garden. I hope to add a small seating area for those hot summer days on the plot where I can sit and simply enjoy my surroundings. This is the perfect time of year to get busy with structural changes on your plot as there’s not a huge amount to do in terms of planting and the weed growth slows down significantly. The ground is perfect for digging, the rain softens it and the frost hasn’t hit yet so if you do have digging to do, do it now, you’ll be grateful in springtime. I spent a few hours digging today and it was fun! I love when the soil is as workable as it is now, it makes digging and weeding seem like easy work.

Winter may not seem like the best time to be in the garden but I’ve enjoyed spending time at the plot the past few weeks,  I had gone through a tough phase during the year when I didn’t even think it was possible to keep my plot but I’m so glad I did. The weather has turned but I like the dull rainy days on site, there’s barely a soul around and the place is peaceful, if sometimes a little eery.

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If you look very very closely, you can see a direwolf in the distance, I swear.

There are also plenty of crops still growing if you thought far enough ahead and winter can be one of the best times of the year in the garden. The food is rich, hearty and nutritious, and a hell of a lot tastier than the out of season veggies you buy in the supermarket.

My friend bought me this adorable postcard and I had to share it

My friend bought me this adorable postcard and I had to share it

My herb garden is pretty much the only thing that looks pretty at the moment, the only crops really growing in my beds right now are my parsnips and my winter salads. However, once November hits, I am going to plant some overwintering crops, garlic, purple sprouting broccoli, chicory and broad beans.

It’s hard to believe the gardening year is coming to an end, but then again, it doesn’t really end at all, it’s just a cycle of seasons, a cycle of change. Since I first got my plot, this is the least I’ve had growing on it at any given time and yet there is still plenty, that’s the joy of growing plenty of perennials I suppose.

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My asparagus is still going strong and in fact, is thriving at the moment, though it’ll be at least another year before I can even think about picking any. My fruit bushes are all starting to establish themselves, I have 10 foot tall raspberry bushes, a blackberry bush, redcurrant bush, gooseberries and even my two blueberry bushes are beginning to grow and have a beautiful colour in autumn.

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Blueberry “Spartan” (I need to physically restrain myself from crying “This Is Sparta” a la Leonidas every time I see it)

This week, I also finally got around to staining my shed. This serves two purposes, one, it looks a hell of a lot better and two, it protects the wood from the battering of the winter weather.

Before

Before

After

After

It’s strange really, because of the way my year worked out, I didn’t really get time to garden during the gorgeous summer this year, so I’m going to get on my scarves and gloves and make sure I get out there during the cold weather, there’s plenty of work to do, lots of dirt to get under my (Little)finger nails.

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My sage plant looking fabulous in the late October sunshine

Seamus Heaney, The Loss of an Idol

Last Friday saw the death of beloved Irish writer Seamus Heaney. He was one of my favourite writers, his words inspired me when not much else did in my teen years and made me want to write. His poems evoke in me, memories of my own childhood here Ireland, our unique landscape and history, the beauty of this island. So, on this, the day of his burial, I wanted to share one of his poems. It’s very apt considering the theme and the season and one of my favourites.

Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney

Thank you for all the wonderful reads, you will be sorely missed.

Rest In Peace