All is quiet here in the Suir valley on this March afternoon after all the storms and upheaval of just a couple of weeks ago.
and the greenhouse is empty and dormant, waiting, but yet …
just beside it there are stirrings of life – new season rhubarb has been nosing its way above ground. Doesn’t that single leaf above the ruby stalk have a brainy look about it?
Some overwintered garlic
and overwintered broad beans with some of the weeds that overwintered with them
and some cabbage from last year’s crop, still producing those leaves with their lovely purple veins
The slender scarlet stems of the dogwood are getting on with it and showing their new pale green Spring promise
while the spinach leaves shine bright in the afternoon sun. But I would like to know what else is eating it!
Meanwhile above it all the crow flies …
With apologies to Jenny Joseph my vegetable garden, and beyond, today is in glorious shades of purple. But this is no warning, instead it’s a promise, if all goes well, of a modest harvest to come.
Sage flowers – the bees are always busy here while it is in flower
The flowers of Tibet – a variety of potato sourced from Irish Seedsavers.
The lovely lilac to magenta shades of the flowering Winterkefe Mangetout
And overlooking all in the valley is Sliabh na mBan, today in a soft purple haze. A sure sign of good weather.
What’s in the box?
Here’s a clue!
I like nothing better than unwrapping a parcel that arrives in the post all tied up with string. Don’t you? There is that delicious sense of anticipation for those few moments before I tear open the wrapping.
this is what I found inside the box …
Colourful handcrafted gift cards, each with a selection of seed packets inside with instructions for growing.
As regular readers will know this blog sometimes takes to the outdoors, finding inspiration in digging and tending and generally spending some time with things that just won’t be rushed. And as a GIYer I’m always interested in new initiatives that encourage more people to have a go at planting seeds and to learn at firsthand the wonders of growing some of their own food and appreciate the taste of fresh veggies grown with nil food miles or chemicals. Trust me, there really is nothing like it. So when Dee Sewell of Greenside Up (cue full disclosure here!) put a call out for someone to review her gift box of seeds I jumped at the chance. And as you can see from the photos above this is no ordinary set of seed packets but a very thoughtfully presented gift box with a selection of seeds that I think couldn’t fail to inspire those fortunate enough to get one. Who wouldn’t be captivated by titles like ‘Awash with Squash!’, ‘It’s Wine O’Clock’, ‘Feeling Hot?’, ‘It’s Time for Tea’ and ‘Bees Banquet’?
Growing food from seed has so much in common with the writing process – you must plant the seeds (words), add just the right amount of compost, rain, sunshine, earthworms and so on. Keep on tending it. Weed and hoe. Keep working. Observe. Progress, growth is not always obvious. It will take time and go through several stages, some that seem not at all promising. But the process itself teaches me something – perhaps patience, perhaps the need for regular attention. Now that it’s Spring here in Ireland let’s plant seeds. Grow and write. Write and grow.
When is a greenhouse not a greenhouse? When it becomes a writing space. Back in June, here in Ireland, we had lots of rain and it was all a bit miserable and unseasonal and I just longed to write outdoors. And then found that I could, sort of, in the greenhouse. This was before the tomato plants grew to such a size that they took over. But for those couple of weeks it was a writing haven.
On New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2012, I completed my Irish Seedsavers order form, looking forward to another growing season. It seemed an appropriate way to close the year, by throwing forward an anchor into the new. Irish Seedsavers does admirable work collecting and saving seeds and then distributing them so that more of us can experience the magic of growing and eating real food. But most of all it lives its mission, diversity in food and the active promotion of biodiversity. I love browsing their catalogue, to me it’s more like a storybook. It’s so full of interesting titbits and stories about how the seeds were saved or discovered and made their way to their base in Capparoe, Co. Clare and I also become aware of the links between seed banks around the world.
I couldn’t resist ordering seed potatoes called ‘Tibet’, brought back from a market in Nepal by one Mecky Beggan, and seed potatoes called ‘Bolivia Yellowhesh’, originally from Bolivia as you might expect from the name, and sent to Irish Seedsavers by the wonderfully named Lost Gardens of Heligan. What else couldn’t I resist? A courgette called ‘Syrian White’ which was given to a seed collector in Holland by a Syrian refugee; an onion called ‘James Long Keeping’ which was written about by the RHS in 1819, (surely the smell as you pull an onion from the ground has to be one of the best smells); a lettuce called ‘Veneziana’; a tomato called ‘Lucky Leprechaun’ which the catalogue tells me is an Irish heirloom dating back to the 1900’s. I had heard of Woad and thought of it simply as a blue dye used by Ancient Britons. But there it is in the catalogue, available as a seed, and I won’t reproduce the full description here, but when I read this sentence, ‘long succulent leaves which shine like stained glass; with inner immanent blue, foamy clusters and brilliant yellow flowers; pendant fiddle shaped seeds’ I just had to order it. Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of beauty in a vegetable garden?
On New Year’s Day (real gardeners look away now!) I finally dug in the red clover that I had sown months ago as a green manure. I had clipped it down after it had flowered ( the flowers are very pretty, a deep crimson) but I hadn’t got around to the final stage of digging it in to enrich the soil. It was very satisfying to be outside on such a significant day and to see what was happening at ground level, including lovely wriggling worms, some of the best, most tireless helpers in the garden.
The broad beans are now up a few inches above ground level
I pulled the last of the beetroot and just look at that glorious magenta colour,
And so it continues … Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you sow some seeds, that writing ideas germinate and that you find ways to nurture your creative self in the coming months and spend some time with things that won’t be rushed.