Sunday, January 07, 2007

Seasons turn

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? - Percy Bysse Shelly

January. Miserable weather, and the garden is a few (more) rainstorms away from being a bog. However, one can see a distinct improvement in the length of the evenings, and the dark evenings are perfect for perusing the seed catalogues. I whisper the above quote to myself, and know that while the worst of the weather may still be ahead of us, it's time to start planning for the productive year ahead.

So I have placed my orders from Seed Savers (–
Here’s what I got:
Seed Potatoes: Edzel blue, Simfonia and Tibet. Only 4 of each. I’ll have to cut them up in chunks so that each piece has a eye or two, and chit them in a few weeks. I’ll be growing them in tyres again this year, but I may try a few with a lazy bed method, for the secondary benefit of improving the soil condition. If they work out, I’ll be keeping some of the smaller ones as seeds fro next year, in true seed saver fashion. This will be a first for me, though I have no doubt that my parents were no strangers to doing this.

On the seed front, I got
Auld Sod and aurora tomato, Costata romanesco courgette, Ita Aherns pole bean, Uchiki Kuri Squash, Ragged Jack Kale, Black magic Runner beans, Black Valentine dwarf French beans. I was choosing based on hardiness – growing well outside, and productivity.

You don’t get a whole lot of seeds, but that’s fine with me, usually I end up with seeds past their expiry date. This year I’ll be germinating some seeds for my brother – in exchange for some organic manure. I’ll also be trading with my previous neighbour in Dublin, as in previous years.

So now I need to make a plan for what I’ll be growing, and fill the gaps from the Real Seed company(, and from Thompson and Morgan ( An interesting product that we’ll be trying out is the spore impregnated dowels, for growing mushrooms.

My trusty assistant is planning to build a new compost heap - recycling some of the fence that blew down before Christmas. We'll replace it with a hazel fence, which will have a number of advantages - less shade in the winter, hazelnuts, hazel rods, wildlife shelter, and windproof.

Things will be getting busy soon!

Friday, January 05, 2007

January harvesting(!) status

We’ve had terrible gales over the past few months, and the Lidl cloche will limp along till the spring, but will probably need to be replaced. However, the Daikon, Mizuna, Mispoona, Pak Choi and Chinese cabbage are still growing. We have been harvesting Mizuna regularly from both the cloche and the exposed beds, both doing fine, will be planting more of this next year. – it’s a winner. And the slugs don’t seem overly fond of it.

Something that can’t be said of the Chinese cabbage – it’s a lacework of holes. Not sure that it’s going to be able to form a head, but I’ll wait and see. I’d like to be able to spend more time investigating, but it’s so cold outside, and one disadvantage of the cloche is that the plants are not that accessible.

The beet sown in June or thereabouts, continues to produce leaves that are a bit tough for salads, but are excellent cooked. I’m using them a Miso soup, or in quiche. My brother has got a few chickens for the benefit of his kids, and with a production of 4 eggs a day, we’re all benefiting from them. So quiche will be a regular feature of the menu for the foreseeable future.

We bought a few cabbage plants late last year, and while they don't have heads yet, they are most beautiful to look at.

Here's one of our most frequent winter dinners, our kids are mad about it, and it's very easy to make. Thanks to Michiyo for the initial inspiration for this dish.

Chicken and Daikon stew:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
lump of ginger, grated ot finely chopped
12 chicken wings or drumsticks
.5 lt Chicken stock/white wine/water
soy sauce
One or 2 daikon, peeled and finely sliced.

Fry the onion and garlic in some oil. Add the chicken , and the liquid. You don't have to cover the chicken, just enough water so it doesn't dry out. Add the ginger. Add a little soy sauce, you don't want it to be too strong. Simmer covered on low heat for about an hour, then add the daikon. A little white pepper will do no harm. Cook for anothe 20 mins or so till the daikon is soft.

Serve with steamed rice - preferably Japanese.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Long time no Blog!

Hi - we've been a bit quiet here for the last few weeks, but we're still here. Unfortunately we can't say the same for some of our fences - the wild winter weather has taken it's toll and we've lost a few panels - and our side-gate! The garden itself is quite swampy, too; the soil here is quite a bit heavier than our last garden, and holds water a lot longer. Our much-lauded lidl cloche has survived the winds, although it is somewhat the worse for wear. Ah well, all part of the great lifelong experiment that is gardening! And on the plus side, we didn't lose any plants, and the mild temperatures mean we're still able to harvest fresh salad ingredients.

And speaking of Lidl, keep watching their website ( for their gardening specials - if they follow previous form they should be coming up in the next month or so.

Anyway, we're still plugging away and we're currently awaiting delivery of our new fruit trees from seedsavers (, which should be arriving any day now. We've ordered two Apple varieties and a self-pollinating Pear.

Thanks for checking in with us and we'll be posting again soon.