Saturday, February 07, 2009


Clearing the beds bit by bit - before we know it, it will be time to start replanting them! So today I harvested most of the remaining leeks - I'll miss having them out there - and some corn salad.

The corn salad was mixed with some Rocha pear, and a little goat cheese, and dressed with a light balsamic vinegar dressing for a sublime salad.

There's more corn salad in one of the planters, and in another bed. It's a great one for this time of the year, and it self seeds like crazy, so with judicious weeding, you can forget to plant and still have some coming along.

I'll probably make a Leek and Feta tart tomorrow. And will hopefully get around to sowing some more leek seeds, so it won't be too long before the next batch is ready.

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Hard to believe it, but the peas and broad beans planted on New Years eve have survived the move outside. They are currenly residing under a Lidl mini-greenhouse, so the snow is not landing on them. In the bright periods between snow, the little greenhouse is getting very warm, and they are even growing a bit.

The garlic planted back in October is very well established - better then the onions planted at the same time.

And the garlic planted in November - kindly sent by Spade Work right at the end of the month - is starting to peep through. So there is a bit of growth, in spite of the terrible weather.

And there's plenty of warmth when the sun does shine - our solar water heater got the water up to 41 degrees today.

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As good as a gold mine

I'm thinking a lot about soil fertility at the moment, as we are building new raised beds, and topping up the existing ones. The undergardener has been collecting horse manure, chicken manure and spent mushroom compost for me, as a special treat :-)

The horse manure in particular was lovely - well rotted, light and not too wet - reckon we'll be looking for more of that. Our acupuncturist - who is also a horse trainer - provided that - reckon we'll be looking to get more treatments real soon!

Anyhow, it got me to thinking about a book I studied for the Leaving Cert - way back when - Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad. Much has been written about this book, not least the fact that it inspired Apocalypse Now. Watching that would have been great Leaving Cert preparation....

Anyhow, the thing I keep thinking about is the mention of the guano island - an island made of or covered in bird excrement - "as good as a gold mine- or better", says the character, trying to get the crew to undertake the perilous voyage to harvest the guano.

In the mid nineteenth century, guano was found in large quantities in Western Australia- this became a lucrative export for the colony - ships would make a journey of several months to Australia and back to collect the guano for British farms. I suppose a strong constitution woudl have been a requirement for the return journey, especially when you crossed the equator.

The US passed a law in 1855 allowing it's citizens to annex any such island, harvest the guano, and then relinquish posession once the guano deposits were exhausted.

A fascinating topic, although not for dinnertime converations :-)and indicative of the general importance of soil fertility, and how it was achieved before petrol chemical based fertilizer.

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