technical hitch

At the moment my internet connection is intermittent, which means that I can’t always access my emails. The problem is being repaired at the moment, so I hope to be back on the air regularly from next week.

I can access email from another location, but if you have any requests it would be a good idea to text or ring me on 087 6187908 to confirm.

Sorry for any inconvenience for the time being… I hope it will be a very temporary situation!

Direct sales from our gate

We are delighted to announce that we are offering a new service from our garden this Spring.

From Friday next, 30th April 2010 we are restarting our veg box service, for collection from our packing room every Friday and Saturday, 12pm – 7pm.

We are also open to customers to call and buy freshly harvested produce from our garden aswell as eggs and herb plants, 12 – 5pm every Friday and Saturday.

If you are interested in ordering a veg box please contact us, or we are looking forward to welcoming new and old customers to buy our produce and see our garden.

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.

Broccoli & Kale Stir Fry

from ‘www.vegbox-recipes.co.uk’

This is a great recipe for a quick lunchtime stir fry. It uses broccoli and kale (or dark-leafed cabbage or spinach) because these are so rich in nutrients. It can easily be adapted to have a Japanese style, if you prefer.

Ingredients
Serves 4

* 100g curly kale (or cabbage, or spinach
* 200g broccoli or calabrese (full heads or sprouting
* 150g mushrooms
* 2 cloves garlic
* 200g firm tofu (optional or halloumi cheese)
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon barley miso paste (optional
* 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Method

1. Wash the kale and the broccoli. Dry well.

2. Slice the kale roughly and chop the broccoli into medium-sized chunks.

3. Peel & crush the garlic. Wipe any mud off the mushroom and chop it roughly.

4. Heat the oil in a wok until hot. Add the garlic and the mushrooms. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly browned and their juice has evaporated.

5. Chop the tofu into cubes (if using). Add to the pan and cook on a high heat for 3 minutes, stirring regularly, until it starts to brown.

6. Add the broccoli. Stir and cover for 3 minutes.

7. Add the kale. Cover for 2 minutes, until it starts to wilt. Remove the wok from the heat.

8. Mix the sesame seeds with the tamari (or soy sauce) and miso paste, if using. Add to the pan. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Time From Cupboard-To-Table
15 minutes

Notes & Variations on Broccoli & Kale Stir Fry

For even more flavour, you can toast the sesame seeds in a dry wok, before you start cooking. Cook them for 2-3 minutes until some of them start to “pop”. This releases their delicious flavour.

You don’t have to use the Japanese flavourings. Use any stir fry sauce you have to hand.

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…

As Autumn rolls in…

The change of the season is well underway and we have changed over most of our tunnel crops. The tomato plants are still cropping well – most of our other crops had to go to make room for new season planting. The new winter salads, orientals, spinach and herbs are all in place and getting established while the days are still fairly long and relatively (?) warm. Even though the weather has been so wet the growth in the tunnels has been very good for the last couple of weeks.

The new season of root vegetables are coming in – Irish carrots, parsnips and swede turnips are all available now.

We have two beds of pumpkins that the boys love to search for under their huge leaves – they are ripening now and will be ready in October.

There is a calm (at last!) in the garden – everything is growing away steadily, but the intense growth has definitely passed and you can feel the change of the season clearly.

I never thought I would look forward to winter – but, having chased the garden since last March (and not been able to keep up at times…), we need a quiet patch to enjoy what has grown, to think about what we have learned from our efforts (alot!), and to plan how to use our experience to do it all better next year!

Health benefits of kale

HEALTH BENEFITS OF KALE

from www.howstuffworks.com

Publications International, Ltd., the Editors of.  “Kale.”  23 March 2007.  HowStuffWorks.com. <http://home.howstuffworks.com/kale.htm>  21 August 2009.
Inside this Article

Health Benefits of Kale
Kale is king. Along with broccoli, it is one of the nutrition stand-outs among vegetables. It fights fat through its ability to mingle in a variety of roles — in side dishes, combined in main dishes, or in salads.

For a green, kale is unusually high in fiber. This helps create the bulk you need to fill you up and to keep you full for a good amount of time. Kale is also an excellent source of nutrients, especially vitamin A and calcium. With a combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, kale is a dieter’s dream food.

Health Benefits of Kale

Though greens in general are nutritious foods, kale stands a head above the rest. Not only is it one of your best sources of beta-carotene, one of the antioxidants believed by many nutrition experts to be a major player in the battle against cancer, heart disease, and certain age-related chronic diseases, it also provides other important nutrients.

In addition to beta-carotene, kale posses other important carotenoids: lutein and zeaxathin. These carotenoids help keep UV rays from damaging the eyes and causing cataracts.

According to recent research results, kale is an incredible source of well-absorbed calcium, which is one of the many factors that may help prevent osteoporosis. It also provides decent amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium.

The manganese in kale helps your body’s own antioxidant defense system, superoxide dismutase, protecting you from damaging free radicals. Its folate and B6 team up to keep homocysteine levels down, which may help prevent heart disease, dementia, and osteoporosis bone fractures.

Nutritional Values of Cooked Kale
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Calories     18
Fat     0 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
Cholesterol     0 mg
Carbohydrate     4 g
Protein     1 g
Dietary Fiber     1 g
Sodium
15 mg
Vitamin A
8,854 IU
Folic Acid     9 micrograms
Vitamin C     27 mg
Calcium     47 mg
Magnesium     15 mg
Potassium     148 mg
Carotenoids     17,172 micrograms

Two little piggies…

Well, the best fun we’ve had in ages was the trip to Dundrum, Co Tipperary last weekend to collect two young pigs to complete our livestock (for now) for the smallholding. John Paul Crowe introduced us to his young pigs – who all look very happy and healthy on their farm outside Tipp town. His farm is in conversion and will have organic certification later this year. The breed is pietron – and the pigs are very cute – pale pink with black spots and stand up ears.

We decided to go for pigs for a few reasons – firstly because we need lots of manure for the garden and it is hard to get in any quantity (by the way, if you have any you would like to get rid of please get in touch!). Pig manure is one of the best sources of fertility of all the animal manures when it is well rotted on straw bedding. Also we do eat pork, ham, bacon etc… so we would be happier to know that the meat we are eating came from an animal that had a happy and comfy life. Lastly, we all really like pigs… is that too simple a reason??? John quite likes the idea that you can have a pet that can be eaten (I think that’s based on having to put up with two badly behaved dogs for a number of years)…

ryan_and_pigSo, the highlight of the trip to collect the two new additions was when one of them climbed out of the boot of the van and sat on the seat beside Ryan (one of our toddlers)… all the way home!

They are so very sociable and friendly – and really nice to have around. I know I don’t sound like someone who plans on eating them – will have to see how we all feel when the time comes…

Allotments in Murroe, Co Limerick

If you are interested in growing for your family but don’t have the space at home it is well worth thinking about getting an allotment. There is great potential to grow, learn and also to benefit from meeting other people trying to do the same – and share some ideas and tips along the way.

As promoted by Richard Corrigan on his series, City Farm everyone in Ireland is legally entitled to an allotment. Apparently lobbying your Co Council is the way to go about it – they are obliged to supply the space…

In the Limerick area Greenacre allotments are offering allotments in Murroe, Co Limerick. John Hassett is the contact name – look them up on www.allotments.ie for more info.

Sowing herbs

If your time and space are limited you can still add great flavour to your meals and great colour to your garden with a simple variety of herbs. These can even be grown in pots or window boxes – you don’t have to have a dedicated outdoor area. The following herbs all like to be started in the same way – coriander, parsley, thyme, sage, oregano, chives, chervil, basil… the best way to sow these is:
1. Fill a plug tray (tray with several small sections) with good quality compost (organic available from Jim Cronin, Bridgetown). Use another tray to compress the compost a little.
2. Water the tray well – avoid heavy waterfall – try to make it like rain – turn the rose so that the holes point upwards.
3. Sow a pinch of seed into each plug (approx 6 seeds – could be more for tiny seeds like oregano).
4. Sieve (sprinkle if you don’t have a compost sieve) compost over the seeds so that the final level of compost is level with the top of the tray.
5. Keep in a warm, light area – ideally a polytunnel/glasshouse or bright sunroom, until seeds germinate.
6. Grow on in the plug tray until the white roots are peeping out of the hole at the bottom of the tray. If you are going to plant outside, harden off the young plants (outside by day, covered or in at night for 5-6 days). NOTE: some plants eg basil are tender and will have to be kept indoors.
7. When hardened off you can move the plants into their final growing spot (eg. bed in garden, window box, large pot).
These herbs can all be used as cut and come again crops – so you can cut as you need and let it grow on.
Another note: Although kitchen window sills are warm – they are often too warm with not enough light – which leads to the problems many people have with whitefly or leggy weak plants. If you are keeping plants inside try to find somewhere as light as possible but not too warm.