The Beast from the East

The Beast from the East: Storming back to life

Hello my lovelies!

It has been quite a while since I wrote a post here, I’ve been incredibly busy and in demand, it’s not easy being me.

In fact, last time I wrote a blog post was during Hurricane Ophelia in October and I’ve been struggling to know how to begin again. Winter was tough this year, I barely visited the plot and as always, I lost the desire to dig while the world was dark and cold. it happens every damn year, yet every damn year, I begin to think I should just give it all up and stop this wild gardening ride I’m on.

But don’t panic, that’ll never happen.

I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out how to make a comeback, because, lets face it, you all miss me. I know you’ve been lost without me.

My gardening bollock naked advice, my endless photos of my welly-shod legs in ever more compromising positions in the garden, my plots to help you all use your exes corpses as compost. I’d be taking away something truly beautiful from the world.

In fact, I even considered giving up the blog entirely until I realised I am  pretty much the Slim Shady of Irish horticulture and I had an obligation to you all to struggle on, because it would feel so empty without me.

So, this week, I’ve realised there has been a perfect storm of events to bring me back to blogging life.

The so-called Beast from the East (or Storm Emma) has landed in Ireland. Here in Dublin, things have been particularly bad. It’s absolutely pelting snow outside and the wind is picking up pace. It is set to be the most severe snow event in Ireland in my lifetime.

There are red weather warnings in place and we’ve been told to stay indoors from 4pm today until 3pm tomorrow.  There is zero public transport and I’ll be working from home.

Myself and my colleagues at Buzz.ie and the Irish Daily Star are working away all day to bring you whatever updates you need so make sure to follow us for all your snow related news needs.

The nation is also currently gripped in a catastrophic bread crisis, with sliced pans becoming the country’s most valuable commodity.

Side note: I just checked the #breadmageddon hashtag on Twitter and one of my tweets was in the top featured and I feel MAD important and famous now lads:

And so, I am on my sofa, trapped by the weather yet again, and this is the perfect way to get back to blogging.

My winter gap, bookended by two storms.

I finally got back to my garden last week after my winter of discontent. The weather was absolutely glorious, I was in a t-shirt, digging, weeding, planting. That was exactly seven days ago.

Now, it’s -5 degrees outside, the snow is at least 30 cm deep in my garden and I’m wearing 700 layers. The Beast from the Esst

Actually, one benefit of being a gardener in weather like this is the endless supply of sexy fleeces, wooly socks, hats, thermal vests, gloves and wellies you have at your disposal.

Another red weather warning is just about to take effect as Storm Emma finally moves across the country and meets the polar air that has been bringing the snowfall.

Much like a great love story, two imperfect bodies will crash together and fuckin’ ruin everything in their path.

I know many of you are probably worried about your seedlings right now, I know you are. Thankfully I’m a procrastinator and haven’t actually planted any yet so for once, my laziness is actually paying off.

The allotments are closed for the rest of this week due to the weather warnings so even if I did have seedlings in the polytunnel, I wouldn’t be able to bring them inside. However, if you do have seedlings outside, sorry lads, they are – for want of a better word – fucked.

However, all is not lost. Today is the first day of March. It is still the very, very beginning of gardening season here in Ireland. You still have plenty of time to get growing so, instead of worrying about your plants (we all do it, it’s ok, nobody else actually understands, but it’s perfectly normal), just do one thing.

Please, please, please, take one slice of precious bread if you have any and leave it outside for the birds with a bowl of hot water. Our birds need help, they’re bleedin’ freezing. I have a robin in my garden today and I’ve been feeding him bread (don’t shoot me,  I know we’re having an end of the world bread event right now). The Beast from the East

If it helps, you can sing that feed the birds song from Mary Poppins while you’re doing it and feel like a fuckin’ saint.

Otherwise, it’s looking like this weather is only set to get worse, it won’t begin to thaw out until at least Sunday and the likelihood is, as gardeners, we’ll still be dealing with the effects of this for a couple of weeks. The ground will be too frozen to dig and too cold to plant in for quite some time now.

So, if you, like me, were worried that you are behind, Storm Emma is a great big reset button.

The snow is covering all your sins. It is a great white blanket of reflection. So, stay safe, stay warm and stay indoors and before you know it, it will be May and I’ll be looking for a new excuse for my plot procrastination.

Now For Something Completely Different: GROW HQ

The morning light winks over the lid of Grow HQ, letting me in on the little secret that I’m about to enter the best new cafè in Ireland. Now, before you accuse me of being biased, I am! But my pals at GIY didn’t even know I was going to visit, nothing like a surprise attack from Fiona the Dublin Food Growing Ninja (that’s now my official title) to go with your breakfast coffee.

I’m not one for writing reviews here so this is something different from my usual posts but as most of you know, I’m a pretty huge fan of GIY. When I first got my allotment, I joined a local GIY group, we would meet in a local library once a month to talk food growing/composting/seed swapping. It gave me a lot of confidence as a new grower and I learned a huge amount of the plant knowledge I now possess from their website and other resources.

In September, GIY opened their doors to the world with their new food education centre, GROW HQ in Waterford. Situated just outside the city, right across the road from the hospital, GROW HQ is a pretty unique space. It boasts a café, food gardens and a retail area where you can buy tools, books and seeds to help you get growing. The gardens are extensive, with training gardens, an orchard, fruit garden and an edible boundary. 

The building itself is really cool with a slanted grass roof, the run off water from which will be collected to water the plants in the garden. Nifty! It also boasts a kitchen garden where the veggies for the café are grown. As such, GROW HQ offers purely seasonal food with the menu changing each week to champion a particular vegetable in season. As an advocate for seasonal eating, this the first place I’ve seen in Ireland doing this and it’s a testament to how GIY are positively educating people about where their food comes from. 

GROW HQ is the antithesis to all the pretentious coffee shops that have popped up the past few years. Walking in the door, you feel at ease, this is in no small part thanks to the warm staff and the beautiful setting; from the floor-to-ceiling windows, the colourful chairs and even the adorable tables, it’s a happy place, free from snobbery or pretension but serving seriously good food.


I had myself a really nice breakfast, organic poached egg, bacon, spinach and cottage cheese on a blaa. Yep, you read that correctly, a blaa. I had no idea what it was either. So I did a bit of digging and I was told that the blaa is a Waterford staple, a lovely floury white bap that is unique to the area. The method of making the blaa is a highly guarded secret, or so my sources tell me. When I read up on it, I found out that the The European Commission awarded the Waterford Blaa with a Protected Designation of Origin. Notions! It was pretty yummy though. The egg was divine, the bacon was quite frankly the nicest bacon I’ve had (and I am a big fan of bacon, it is the sole reason I’m not a vegetarian) and the spinach was really rich, fresh and full of flavour. It really was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had, the food was all homemade, locally sourced and organic and you can tell. You can keep your jumbo breakfast rolls lads, this is the food we should be writing songs about! 


Grow HQ is a project four years in the making, the brain child of GIY founder Michael Kelly, it’s a welcome addiction to the Irish food scene and the first project of its kind in the country. In addition to the café and gardens, GROW HQ also boasts a great line up of growing and cooking courses. 

If you’re looking for something fun to do, you can check out the upcoming courses here. I think I may need the cooking courses, particularly the blaa making course. I must know how to make them and I must know now! I promise I won’t share the secrets with the rest of Dublin. I’ll call mine a bleh or something. 

If you’re in Waterford, I’d highly recommend a visit, in fact, even if you’re not, take a little day trip, you won’t regret it. Next on my agenda is to visit again to try the lunch! Yum. 


P.S. The coffee was out of this world too. Seriously, I was flying for hours. There were stars.