Three (not so little) piggies in their garden

In July 2011 our three latest weaners arrived – two red duroc & a gloucester old spot mix. It was our first time to keep them out in the garden and it was a great experience to see them rooting, playing, chasing each other around and even sunbathing when the weather allowed.

We placed them in a part of the garden that we are now planning to cultivate for green manure & crops next year. They did a fantastic job on rooting up the scraw and starting the process of breaking the turf and manuring the ground in preparation for working the ground for the next crops.

They enjoyed a great variety in their diet – corn stalks, herbs, old salad, spinach, brassica plants, soft pumpkins, acorns gathered in autumn – anything out of the garden, organic pig nuts for balanced nutrients, and anything they rooted up from the ground. All in all they had a good – if short life with us.

As great as it was to have them they were ultimately heading for the freezer, and with the cost of their feed there was no option to keep them as pets. Although I had misgivings, all the boys here were looking forward to sausages and pork crackling with no regrets. I guess if you are going to eat meat, it’s good to know that it’s the best quality possible, and that the animals enjoyed the time that they had here.

The meat turned out to be fantastic quality – enough fat for flavour, but lean from their outdoor lifestyle and full of flavour. We are selling some of the meat, as we had alot of requests from customers – if you are interested the list is on ‘available produce listing’.

The spuds are sown to start the New Year

Well, after a quiet(ish) time in January we have started sowing for the 2012 season. The first major sowing job of the year is the tunnel potatoes – orlas are now in the ground and on their way.

Once the potatoes are sown, it is only a matter of a week or two before the major tray sowing and preparation starts.

Just enough time to get the fruit garden tidied up and manured…

Winter closing

We will be closing for veg orders from Dec 24th until the start of February 2012.

In these weeks we are hoping to complete alot of groundwork, hedge cutting, fencing etc etc etc, that we never get to during the growing season.

Thanks a million for all your much appreciated orders all through 2011. I will update the website and will email our regular customers to let you know our first date for orders in Spring 2012.

Sowing for Spring 2011

2011 growing season was officially launched today with our first bed of tunnel potatoes sown – first earlies, Orla. It’s always a great feeling to have the first potato bed in the ground. And so off we go again for the year…

Together with the autumn sown seed we now have a few crops underway – garlic, beetroot, onions and broad beans are also coming on well from October sowing. It’s a help to feel at least a part of our Spring work is underway.

Plenty still ahead of course… the first of the spring salads and spinach will be sown in the morning and put onto the heated cables to germinate for March planting.

A new season has begun…

jimcronin_ploughingWell, after a very hectic season in 2009 we took time over the winter to think through our plans for the smallholding. After much thought, debate and calculation during the cold and dark months we have decided to press ahead with developing the smallholding with the kind support of Clare Local Development Company – leader funding.

So far we have added a new polytunnel which will replace quite a few of the outdoor beds which were difficult to make good use of with such poor summer weather. We are delighted with our new tunnel which gives us lots of room to grow loads more tomatoes, chillis, french beans, corn etc – all crops that depend on having protection and warm growing conditions. It is ready to be harrowed (with the kind help of Jim Cronin again). Jim is coming with the horses this week and we are looking foward to getting started on preparing the ground for this season’s crops.

Other developments on the holding are a woodturning workshop for John and a log cabin alongside the new tunnel that will be used for packing veg boxes and direct sales. So, from May we will be open for customers to call on Friday and Saturday every week – either to collect orders or to buy from the week’s harvest. More on that closer to the time, and we will put signs out with directions for anyone interested in calling.

So, all in all the Spring has sprung for us here – work is well underway, both on the new projects and in the tunnels. We are sowing and starting to plant the new season salads, spinach and herbs and, despite the cold weather all the tunnel crops are looking good.

I will add photos of our new setup when I get a chance – and hope to get back to adding recipes for all our new season produce.

The pig’s departure…

The tunnels are full of salads, herbs, rocket and spinach – as green as any time during the summer. It is a lovely contrast to the outdoor beds, that are looking a bit cold and empty compared to the height of the growing season. Our winter crops are doing well – leeks, cabbage, kale and cauliflower all growing well, but the summer crops have all finished outdoors at this stage and it is only inside that young leafy plants will do well. Our brussel sprouts are coming along nicely and hopefully will come into their own in December.

We still have work to do outside (surprise, surprise) – the empty beds have been ploughed and need harrowing and manuring for next year. We are hoping to sow green manure, but time is running out now, so it may be that we manure and cover the area in preparation for Spring. I have daily growing respect for all growers who have the skill and energy to keep up with the forces of nature in the garden… weeds never sleep!

It is the pigs that have us feeling a bit lonely this evening though – they went today to the factory and we are missing them around the place. I don’t think I would be a good livestock farmer – I couldn’t look them in the eye for the past few days and spent most of today feeling a bit tearful. It’s not like they were in the living room as pets, but they lived beside the tunnels, and were great company as you worked – you could always hear them snuffling around, particularly if they realised you were there. Don’t get me wrong – we are looking forward to the excellent meat they will give us, it’s just that it does feel a bit empty outside now that they have gone…

Pea picking

Ryan and Fionn spent a good deal of time this summer standing in front of various pea beds stripping them clean of their fruit…. it was one of the only ways to get them to stand still if we had to get a (very quick) job done in the garden. They love picking, opening (with their teeth mostly) and gobbling the peas inside. They do get a bit confused between round pods that need to be opened and sugar peas that you eat whole (pod and all)… so have given up trying to stop them chewing the whole pod – they like it  and doesn’t seem to do them any harm… and who am I to challenge a two year old doing something that they like?

Bees in the garden

The world bee population is in dire danger, and with it, so is plant life everywhere – anyone who has seen ‘bee movie’ knows what happened when the bees stopped working…no bees, no pollen carrying, no plant pollination, no plants. We planted flowers everywhere we could this year – because we like them mostly, but it is great to see the bees buzzing around the sunflowers on a (rare) sunny day – gives hope that we can make a difference!  SO – GROW FLOWERS!!!

Pumpkin hunting

One of the jobs that the children love the most in the garden is looking for the pumpkins – it is a treasure hunt and there is great excitement to see who will find the most/biggest hiding under the huge leaves that spread over more than 4 feet for each plant.  There are some great ones ripening (hopefully) on the beds now – with our wet weather the beds are soggy, even with the ground cover fabric, so we have put broken slates under each pumpkin stop them from rotting on the ground….

Apple harvest

After a couple of years nursing new apple trees and losing most to birds we are delighted with our apples this year – on the trees planted in 2006 we have had a great crop of elstar apples that looked gorgeous and tasted really delicious. Quite a few were eaten straight from the trees – and they didn’t last long, but they really did taste how an apple should! I recently heard that it has been a bad year for apples in Ireland (no doubt weather related) – so feel even luckier for that.