The start of Spring is almost here, just another few weeks to go. I am already planning what work needs to be done and what crops I want to grow this year. I was astonished to discover that some of the carrots I planted last autumn had survived the arctic conditions and are actually doing quite well, so well that we had some baby carrots for dinner a few nights ago. Its amazing the difference between home grown and shop bought, these carrots were full of flavour and so juicy but at the same time had a good crunch to them. The onion sets I planted last autumn are finally coming up, although not as quickly as I had hoped but still it will be lovely to have fresh scallions in another month or two. Scallions are lovely in so many dishes from champ to potato salad to spring soups and salads. They are also extremely good for you too! Unfortunately all my other winter crops were destroyed, the broccoli, celery and cabbage all have perished. Still I will know next year to cover them in time with fleece material. I have been placing layers of ash from our fire over the carrots and onions to help protect them from the cold and so they wouldn’t rot and so far it seems to be working. The only thing is that it is quite ugly to look at but it will make the soil lighter to work with when it comes to turning it later in the year.
Its not a great time of the year for foraging for edible stuffs but given all the stormy weather we have had later, now is a great time to go out with some bags and collect any fallen pine cones. Pine cones first and foremost make for excellent kindling for starting your fire, they look lovely once dried out and place in a basket by the fireplace. You could paint them and use them for arts and crafts with children or using a bit of jewelery wire, you can make candle and napkin rings of small cones and suddenly you have something different and original. I always bring a heavy duty bag as cones can be surprisingly heavy particularly if they are wet. Make sure to dry them out before using them. Talking of fires, if any trees fall in your garden, don’t just have them removed. You could chop them up for firewood [in this case, store them somewhere dry for a while to remove moisture] or use the logs to create a Eco log pile which insects and small mammals will love. Just put it somewhere shady and in a quiet part of the garden and you will be helping the environment by sustaining local wildlife. Don’t forget to chop up your Christmas tree if you haven’t already taken it to a recycling facility to have it made into bark chips. I know it sounds awful but I like the idea that something which gave us such pleasure and delight during the Christmas will continue to keep on giving by providing us with heat. Also once its been burnt, you can spread the ashes in your garden adding nutrients to the soil.
I was browsing through the magazine section of a newsagent the other day and was surprised at how many publications there are out there on sustainable living so I thought I’d buy one every few weeks and review it here. I was disappointed not to find any Irish magazines but I will try Easons next week who would have a much larger selection. The magazine I did buy in the end is called ‘Home Farmer, for dreamers and realists’ which caught my eye. At just over five euro, it was affordable and has lovely glossy photos and very well written articles on everything to do with sustainable living from keeping geese, growing vegetables, wine making, foraging to building your own log shed! It had an amazing amount of useful, clear and well laid out information. I would recommend it to anyone and will definitely buy it again.
I have been thinking about keeping goats for a well, so have been doing some research on the topic. I even went so far as to buy some books on goats and now know a lot more then I used to! As much as I love the idea of fresh goats milk, as someone who is lactose intolerant I cant drink cows milk but have always loved goats milk and goats cheese and really quite fancied the idea of making my own cheese or using my own goats milk to make beauty products like soap. However, there is the problem of having to breed your goats every year, the problem of what to do with the offspring, vaccinations, housing, diseases, pasture and other costs and complications which would quickly work out to unworkable. Unless you have several fields[so you can rotate their pasture] and can afford to build proper housing for goats as well as look after them correctly, I don’t recommend you try it. It was very disappointing to realise that since I only have one acre and a very strict budget, that it wouldn’t work for me to keep two goats but never mind. For now, I will just buy my Glenisk goats milk from the shop!
I am looking into keeping hens however and this looks a lot more promising and possible. On the whole, hens don’t need too much space in comparison to goats, their needs are few and simple and you don’t need to worry about breeding them unless you want to expend your flock. The benefits are considerable from a fresh free range organic egg for your breakfast or for cooking something yummy to their desire for any kitchen leftovers like bits of salad or potato peel to then using their waste in your garden. If you buy them young as pullets, you can hand tame them so they become used to humans and make nice pets. All you really need is a nice hen house, a good long run with strong wiring to keep foxes out, fresh water, bedding and a variety of food. Once you have those things set up, it seems to just a question of looking after them and keeping them clean and healthy. You could also let them loose for a run each day if you had a walled garden but unless their wings are clipped [which doesn’t hurt I’ve been reassured] they might fly away and get lost or eaten. I haven’t decided where I will put the hen house yet, ideally it should be close to the actual house but space is at a shortage there so it will probably have to be up in my garden. I want to do some more research about the different varieties and there are so many types before I buy so I don’t see myself getting hens until early summer realistically. I am excited by the idea however. I don’t think we will get a rooster as they are quite loud and might upset the neighbours but half a dozen hens would be perfect. More on this again! 🙂
One last comment before I go, now is the time to by buying your seeds for sowing in early march. Perpare any beds you have now and plan carefully. Remember not to plant the same crop where you planted it last year! A lot of stores like Aldi and Lidal are selling seeds and fruit sticks cheaply right now, so it is a good time to buy. Its been a long winter but winter is on its way out.The first catkins have come out and very beautiful they look like golden waterfalls hanging from the trees, the willow trees are budding silver tassels and soon snowdrops, daffodils and tulips will be coming out to delight the senses.