Friday, 8 April 2016

The time my plants died, the sheep and goats got over the fence but we have a new son....

We are so happy to have Oli and Jon here for the weekend! See below - homemade bread, homemade scones and even.... HOMEMADE BUTTER!

Who is that little man in a beautiful tartan coat? His name is Archey, short for Archduke, he is two years old, a rescue dog who used to be stray ( he has little scars :( ), and a whippet cross with a Lurcher.   Our new son! The grandparents are thrilled.

St Brendans

I have started working finally at St Brendans two days a week. I work there with a couple of older guys - Henry and Brendan. They don't like to read or write (mainly because they cant) so I do all the reading of the seed packets and the daily note taking, as well as most of the actual planting due to lots of their tea and cigarette breaks and bad knees.   They have both been growing veggies for around 50 years so they have a lot of knowledge but sometimes listen (but mostly laugh at) my new permaculture ideas. They are, however, really old school and not at all used to working with women! I have been lectured on all sorts of topics including:
- obviously men are superior because a man created the world (this man was Jesus obvs)
- how annoying their wives are - I hear that a lot
- they are pretty vocally homophobic
- women should have between 8-10 children
- Isn't my husband jealous as I am working with men alone...

However I have done a ton of transplanting there and there are three big polytunnels and I get to take home loads of plants so it is worth it!

misty morning at the top of the booster - our daily walk
In the garden

As mum and dad arrived last weekend, a whole load of my seedlings started to shrivel up. I lost all my Brussel sprouts and a whole load of cabbage seedlings and salads as the living room was too hot. Also my tomato plants have also started to shrivel. I over watered them.

The sheep got over the fence. And then the wild goats also got over the fence - but Josh chased them out and there wasn't much for them to destroy anyway.

Josh's first brew went off.

My mini Polytunnels also fell down again but Dad helped me retrieve it so they weren't destroyed.  I have now dug one of them two foot into the ground and buried it and it has withstood some pretty big winds! I decided I trusted it enough to transplant my catch crop of radishes into so fingers crossed.

It sounds like it went wrong which it did but it's alright because Ireland is still really awesome and we can always just try again!

I am preparing my main crop potato bed using no dig methods (most of the garden is this way) which means I have to go down the road and shovel manure into bags and carry it back bit by bit....

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen, sat in the back of a convertible waving in her leather jacket and tiara...

After all the guests had left, the house was a little quiet. Luckily it was also St Patrick's day so we drove down to the St Paddy's parade in Newport, our local town.  I had a green whippy ice-cream from Chamber's and the weirdest parade on the planet commenced. In the 16th Century, the Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley, or the Grainne Uaile, ruled the shores of the West of Ireland. Today she was the town's teenage beauty queen waving at us from a car.  The fat St Patrick (who looks like Santa Claus but wears green) followed and then a whole bunch of old Irish cars and then loads of sport clubs (mainly boxing and fishing), the vintage threshing club and then just some people who it seems wanted to drive in the parade.... The strangest thing about it was how quiet it was, these people just walked down the street to a little bit of clapping and the odd hoot but apart from that it just felt a bit awkward.

A couple of days later and Josh's parents arrived. On the first day we made them walk a bit of marathon but there were no complaints and the weather was amazing and stayed stunning until the day they left (today!). We did all the best things: went to the Beehive in Achill, had dinner at Felicity's, chilled by my (fantastic) fire, went to Nevins, unloaded Josh's brewery they had driven all the way from London! Nigel helped me de-mould the walls and unblock various sinks as well as helping Josh in the brewery and cooking a few stand-up meals and generally we all had a lovely time.

In the garden
I have finally started at St Brendans with my new favourite person James Brendan who is a massive fan of Monty Don so obviously we are bezzers. He also gave me to take back to my garden a grape vine, 5 corn seedlings and rhubarb. I have dug the roots of the grapevine outside the polytunnel and will be growing the stem inside the Polytunnel. I went on a pear grafting workhouse and now have 5 pears grafted and looking for new homes to be found over the next year. I put up a new little Polytunnel which I got free because the last one broke when it blew away (we fixed it so I have two), and have secured it super tight (I hope) and am growing one side as a no-dig bed and one side  as a dig bed as an experiment.

I also made a HUGELKULTUR! There was a lot of shlepping of logs and soil - we have no soil so I had to dig some up from the road side but it is looking pretty cool and I put my chives and leaf fennel which were looking very sad in it. The slugs have also started coming out and today's death count is 25.

1 - starting with some cardboard

3 - have covered with earth, is about 3 ft - fennel leaf and chives are on the top

Looking forward to mum and dad coming on Friday! Happy Purim xxxx

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

I had socks on, but I gave them to a pilgrim....

Achill beach
We have had lots of visitors which has been so lovely for us! Alana flew all the way from New York and managed to get two jumping photos.  She joined us for the week and did what none of us have done before - took the train from Dublin to Westport - which was a success for future reference. We went to the deserted village, back to the Beehive, seeded some things, met a farmer and discussed at great length how everyone shops at Aldi now instead of buying the 99 Euro full lamb that he sells ....
Then Daisy and Gabriel came for a weekend and honestly, after eating ourselves sick, we climbed croagh patrick (the mountain opposite our house)- no joke! 
 Well Alana and Gabriel climbed to the top. Daisy and me were going to keep going but the wind got really strong and it turns out I am a bit frightened of wind so we went down at the half way point. On the way up there was this guy who was sitting down because his feet had been shredded by the climb up (he wasn't wearing shoes and the path is just rocks). Gabriel offered my socks to help him on his journey and he was much obliged. (Mum they were those pink socks you bought!) It is a bit of a  crazy pilgrim custom to climb Croagh Patrick barefoot...

In the evening when we got back, Felicity was there. Turns out I invited her for the wrong evening but Gabs and Daisy cooked a feast and she stayed till 11.30! AND she told us in Mulranny there is a Lesbian Jewish woman from Holland - really! Hopefully I will be meeting her soon at Craft.

In other news we finally met our neighbours Jason and his son Mason and wife.... And tomorrow is St Paddy's day so we are going to the parade. Also the nettles have finally started coming up as have loads of wild 3 cornered leek so for dinner I made foraged nettle and leek pesto which was YUM and Josh made us some Heather tea he is experimenting for the brew with some foraged Heather.

In the garden

The Polytunnel fell down two more times but I have made a wooden trellis inside it so hopefully that will support it - 5th time lucky. It was so hot in Mulranny I have been in A T-SHIRT so I took the risk and planted carrots and broad beans outside. Salad mixes, radishes, cabbages and beetroot all coming up very well and the tomato seedlings I cheated and bought are growing rapidly because the Cushleka living room is an incredible green house and the whole room is now seeds. 

I was wondering why I kept getting the date wrong - turns out my calendar is for 2017..... 

P.s. loads of these photos are courtesy of Alana - even though I always complain when they are taken, I love them

Monday, 7 March 2016

That time Alma ate her first baked beans!

In the garden:

Final resting place.
I have moved the fruit trees three times because I got over excited and kept planting them in bog. Also me and Josh (Josh) built my new plastic zip up polytunnel but it blew away in the first gale and smashed into the Rhododendrons.

Luckily our new friend Cian (who was in the last blog but spelt wrong) is bringing over some gaffa tape tomorrow. I said we could buy some but he thought we didn't need to waste money as he already had some.... So all the seed trays are by the windows in the living room looking grand and some of my lettuce seedlings have already started to come up!


In order to know my plants as well as my new Irish friends I have now seeded:
Mustard (golden frills), Rubens red lettuce, speedy salad mix, dwarf broad beans (Sutton), Brussel sprouts(Crispin F1 - don't judge me), Cabbage (Golden Acre), Dill, First early potatoes (Casablanca), Onions, Garlic, Nasturtium, parsley and two types of half hardy Marigolds. I also have 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 10 raspberry canes, 3 blueberry plants, 2 gooseberry plants and a woodland area with fennel, woodland and regular sorrel, Jerusalem artichoke, one Rhubarb and alpine Strawberries and horseradish from dad's garden.

They don't seem to sell seed compost here so I have used a mix of multi purpose, rotted woodchip which there is plenty of in the woodland area, and thrown in a bit of sand for good measure because it's free even though I have been warned it's too salty. I tried to sieve it all with an old onion bag but it got a bit boring even with Radio Ulster Gardener's Corner on.

In other news:

We saw some Meerkats in the garden centre/pet shop. We had the most magical weekend with our dearest friends Ephraim, Emma and Alma where we played lots of banagrams and Ephraim put us to shame with his fire making skills (me and Josh have done one successful fire each).
Heinz! Yum!
Emma cooked all the food, even stocking up our freezer so we are currently tucking into her soup. I've made a new friend, the piano teacher, who is coming over at some unknown moment to try the piano because she has to use the one at the school - her boyfriend is volunteering here to protect the old Irish goats who have lived here since pre-historic times. And I had to wheelbarrow down to Ann's to pick up some cow poo which she told me I am welcome to do any time.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

That time Josh and I only brought the necessities...

After 17 hours and several do-it-yourself costa stops at service stations, we arrived. I actually enjoyed the driving; there are some beautiful moments in Wales. The ferry itself was a bit dodge. The decour was half b movie, 1970s motel and half casino.  I was the only woman in a “canteen” full of trucker men which made me feel a tiny bit uneasy and though the food looked like salad and chips, it only looked like salad and chips.
dinner in a "fancy" restaurant - stir fry and onion rings

We had 3 long hours after “lunch” where I had a nap, caffeined up and annoyed Josh.  Then we drove on and Josh took over some of the driving because my eyelids kept shutting which is sometimes dangerous on the motorway. We pulled in to Cushleka house at 11.30 pm which was amazing although the gates had been left open (so the sheep had been in), there were sheets draped over the lampshades and the oven was on…..Obviously Ann the housekeeper had been.

On Friday we unpacked, Josh made a roast and I baked some Challah.  And some of the characters who I am sure will make several appearances over the next few months started to introduce themselves. When I was surveying the trees we planted in Christmas, a man, I now know is named Keane and is engaged to Cathy, the above mentioned Ann’s daughter, came up the drive in his van. It turns out he needed some unknown things he likes to leave in our garage. Lol. 
absolute necessities - argan oil and nail animals

On Saturday I heard a knock on the living room door, it was Ann who had come on in to say hi and we had a brief conversation where we both had to repeat ourselves a lot but I think it went well. Josh and I also went for a stroll on Saturday and knocked on Margaret and Pat’s door who my sister Rachel had introduced herself to over Christmas. 
Josh bought with the one thing we can't live without - his Hungary (broken) magnet.
It turns out Pat lived in Child’s Hill for 40 years before moving to Borehamwood with Margaret and coming to Mulranny full time 3 years ago. A small world! Between them, they seem to run several clubs in Mulranny and we are joining all of them. Josh will be off to “men’s shed” and I am starting “craft” on Monday mornings and the “grow your own club” this weekend.
liquid smoke and fancy pasta - obligatory

We have now been to do the obligatory big shop at Tescos and Aldi - we went to both, I also managed to squeeze in an ice cream, sign up and swim in the swimming pool, made two fires in the fireplace and planted some alpine strawberries, sorrel, a few herb plants, horseradish and some fennel leaf.

Luckily Josh and I bought all the absolute necessities of life with us, we couldn’t fit in another thing!
lots of vinegars we brought with us

12 days left to donate to St Brendans care home

Monday, 30 March 2015

The fitness fantasy - Fit vs Fiction

btw Fit vs Fiction is already a website and I stole their name for that so check it out.
I am now pretty much working full time as part gardener/ part urban farmer. This means on most days I am out and about pruning things, weeding, digging, planting - generally hanging out with plants and sometimes animals.  I have had quite a few responses to my new line of work but a really common and really annoying one is..... 'You must get SO FIT'.
And why should I be annoyed about this? Isn't it good Talia to be fit because doesn't that mean I am healthy? Isn't that part of the anti-obesity campaign? Except fitness in this day and age no longer just means 'healthy' and everyone knows it including gyms and the multi-billion dollar fitness industry that doesn't use fit, healthy models to promote their products; it uses slim, toned, lithe i.e. thin 'toned' models with glossy hair, perfect makeup and botoxed foreheads.

In actual fact, what the fitness industry does not say is that you can be super fit and shock horror above your BMI. That's right - not just not thin but bigger than western ideals of 'health' would have you believe.  This little fact is super underplayed because in reality the fitness corporations thrive off the same multi-billion dollar industry the weightloss companies thrive off- Bodyshaming;  that racist, sexist, horrendous, twisted, oppressive subjugation of women and men all over the shop to fit in to a generally white, extremely specific body shape which is anyway created by computer graphics or a shit ton of money (plastic surgery, gyms, specific clothes, toning shoes, injections, weightloss pills, steroids, speed, insanity...) 
Now I know that when people of the world say to me 'you must get so fit gardening', what they want me to do is get involved with them and the big fitness marketing vampires and collude in the idea that fit is the kind of fit that boys used to call girls when I was a teenager, i.e. Jessica Alba. They are expressing a bit of envy that my job will get me the body of my dreams, even if they are doing it subconsciously. But it wont be the body of my dreams, because 1: my dream is to love the body I have and 2: because fitness does not mean what you think it means! Yes I will be fit and yes I might be able to squat longer than the average joe due to excessive weeding but that is about it because unless you train 10 hours a day and stick to a spinach diet, that body you are dreaming of is Unattainable! Saying the 'fit' comment to me reminds me of the pressure I fight and sometimes lose to everyday that I need to fit the stereotype, that there are bits of my body I have been made to hate by lies. Saying it to me makes me feel I need to work even harder so that when we hit the beech I have met everyone's expectations of all of a sudden rocking the athlete figure.

I only too well understand the pressure to fit the body stereotype. I know what it is like to lie to myself over and over again about the idea of getting 'fit' in order to be 'healthy' when really I just want some more abs definition.  I know so incredibly well how easy it is to fool yourself into trying (And often failing) to lose weight for 'health' reasons by exercising or cutting out food groups. Once I went through a whole stage of pretty much only eating cantaloupe - a specific melon....and I struggle with fighting the media and making myself ok with my body every single day and have done for years and years and years.  I can and I will win in the bid to be happy in my skin but it is really, really hard for me to do it when others expect me to collude with them in the world's fitness fantasy. 

I just want to say that do whatever you like, diet, don't diet, jog, don't jog, gym everyday, gym never, feel like you need to exercise because you sit at a desk all day so take up the triathlon, or exercise because you think you need to change your body, do what you gotta do at this moment in time but don't get me involved. Don't make me agree 'yeah, it is so good to do spin class because I really feel the health benefits' when what you are trying to say is I want to be healthy but also have a super hot bod for the summer. No, I just do not want to talk to you about it. And maybe it isn't clear cut because guidelines on what is a healthy weight is so complex.  Being over your BMI decreases your chances of osteoporosis (little known because Osteoporosis is not a a huge corporate machine so can't get advertising space like weight loss can) and in case you get ill it is often good to have a bit of so called 'extra' and depending on how much over your BMI you are and what your general body shape is, it has absolutely no health problems whatsoever - so yes it is complicated and yes maybe it is a bit of both, fit, healthy, slim. whev. I don't really want to talk about it. Unless you want to have a good old rant about how body shaming oppresses people everywhere and you want to get together and plot about how we can throw the shackles of body oppression from the media, food industries, all adverts, internet, tv off our backs and kill it for good - then I am the person for that and let's rant away. 

This post doesn't even begin to cover the moral judgements we put on people with different weights! (how eating certain foods is bad and naughty and how we judge people of all weights all the time)  that is for next time, but I do want to quickly bring up eating disorders - something probably 60% of the people I know have dealt with in their lifetimes, maybe more.  When you talk about your fitness and eating regimes, you may not realise the effect they have on people with eating disorders and LOTS of people have eating disorders that you would never ever know about so just be sensitive when you decide to get in to details about how and why you eat and exercise how you do. There is more info on how to be an ally to people with eating disorders here - some of these rules you should just use with all people because you do not know their history.

And another cool article I just found on this topic
Loads of the image are from this place which is a great facebook page!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why you should buy vintage/ethical and how to do it

by Sarah Kendal
Creative Director at
During our daily commute, lives, and concerns over what to cook for dinner and how we can get a job/partner/dress that truly fulfils me, occasional sustainable living references will interrupt our musings and conversations. Whether it is in a bleak advert on the underground that screams scare tactics about the imminent flooding we will all face from the ice caps which we have killed or by a vegan friend who only buys vegetables locally coming to dinner or by a collapsing factory full of innocent exploited workers creating fast fashion.