Busy long weekend!

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We are still recovering after such a busy long weekend! Weather was great so plenty of time outside, which let us finish up jobs in the garden and see the changes happen.

Old potato bed changing into new onion and bean bed!

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This time, I decided to it is my turn to do a bit of  heavy lifting, so I shoveled some top soil into our newly built raised beds.I could not lift my arms for couple of days after! Another job that had to be done was turning the soil. It seemed easy at first but just managed to do 2 raise beds and left the rest for the coming weekend!

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We put our first seeds in the ground as well which is always very exciting! So far we have lettuce, radish, peas, spring onion, beetroot.

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Many more to go, and the kids raised bed is still empty as they are negotiating what should we place there…it’s great to see them fighting…over broccoli and corn…:) Their art work these days seem to be preoccupied with the theme of the garden as well!

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So the plan for the coming weekend is garden, garden, garden! And some walks of course! 🙂

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Making our new raised beds

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Last year I planted potatoes straight into the ground, not a problem initially, but it became a real nightmare of a task to maintain as the grass form the field beside the plot encroached upon the bed The solution, this year I am building a raised bed around the potato patch to help control the weeds. Similarly the bed that housed our onions last year had a real problem with weeds, this was more to do with the lack of preparation I put into the soil.

I have been looking online at various constructions of raised beds from scrap timber so over the last two weekends I set about building the first of my new raised beds. I had some scrap timber at home and bought the rest from DPL in Dundalk. I started with the old onion bed as it was the easier job of the two and also as I needed to have it in operation sooner that the old spud bed.

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I measured out the bed and built the surround first then I laid the bottom of the bed with compost and cardboard to act as a mulch and prevent the weeds growing up through the bed. I then has to fill the bed with top soil which I was able to source locally. I got one tonne which I though was more than enough but I now know I will probably need another 2 tonne to complete the job on both of the new beds.

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When the top soil was placed in the bed I then spilt the bed into two as it was very large. This will give me give me a good deal more capacity to produce veg than last year. Once that was complete I got straight to work sowing some seeds, radish, cut-and-come-again lettuces and spring onions then they were all watered and covered with a little plastic tunnel I had made from old wire coat hangers and plastic sheeting.

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It was a tough weekends’ work. I gave myself far too much labour having to shovel all the soil from my trailer into the veg patch. Added to that I also have a large amount of logs from a tree that was cut down. These all have to first be cut to size and then chopped in half so for the past few weekends I have been working away at these and there is still a lot more to do.

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Had I been more prepared I could have got the soil last Autumn and cut the tree down earlier and then chip-away at the work bit by bit over the Winter, but we live and learn, hopefully as we go on we will get into a routine and the work will be more manageable.

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On the plus side though, the Log House is beginning to fill up after being plundered over the winter. Hopefully I will have a good enough stock of logs this year that I will not need to purchase any…..well that’s the plan.

Anyone waiting for the winter to finally go away?

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View from Slieve Foye gap

We were hoping to really dig in the garden work this weekend but once more the weather held us back. So even though it was cold we decided to do one of our favorite walks in the area – walk over the mountain which ends with well deserved hot chocolate in Dans coffee shop 🙂

I have a great sentiment towards this walk as I actually manage to do it once from the our house, telling friends who just arrived from Poland and had no clue what is where, that we can actually walk to the coffee shop…not mentioning of course that it will take us about 2h and there is a mountain in the middle 😉

But going back to the walk itself, it is definitely a popular one with number of options. We tend to leave one car in Carlingford (which is our destination) and one on the other side of Slieve Foye, at the start of the trail, which is actually part of the tain way (https://www.google.ie/maps/@54.030587,-6.230725,3a,75y,29.09h,73.09t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s794ppLPbJvnHCoVMkgHZGA!2e0)

There is number of taxi companies in Carlingford, and it won’t cost you too much if you don’t want to involve the logistic of 2 cars.

So if you start form Glenmore AC stone, the Glenmore side of the trail leads up to the Slieve Foye saddle by a lovely path (once you pass the first short part on the stones, that is). It is not buggy friendly but it gently rises so 4 year old and older can handle it easily. The views as you walk up are well worth it and the feeling of freedom is amazing. Kids are usually entertained by jumping from stone to stone and watching the sheep…:)

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As you reach the top of the saddle, you are greeted with spectacular view of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne mountain.

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It’s great to have a picnic there (if it’s not too windy) and enjoy the lovely view. Watch out for the horses tha might want to steal part of your lunch 😉 If you wish to enjoy an even better view of both Dundalk bay and Mourne Mountains, at this point you can turn left up the trail and climb Slieve Foye (the highest mountain in Louth). We are yet to do it with kids, maybe this year 🙂

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View of Slieve Foye from the top of the gap

 

 

Also at this point you can turn right and walk up till he Meave’s Gap to see the whole of Cooley Peninsula. There is a narrow path from Meave’s gap which will bring you down onto the Rooskey road and then Carlingford.

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Path from the Slieve Foye gap towards Meave’s Gap

 

We usually just go down the trail towards Carlingford, as at this stage we are all a bit impatient to get our hot chocolate. The trail is quite clearly marked so even if you are there for the first time you shouldn’t have a problem finding your way.

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Path from the gap towards Carlingford

 

So whatever option you chose, make sure to take you time, take it all in and enjoy the hot chocolate! 🙂

 

February, is it Spring?

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February is supposed to be the beginning of Spring but I feel that is just  designed to lift a little of the Winter gloom. There is not too much  growing in February, save for the daffodils and snowdrops.

Temperatures are still very low and the ground has not really warmed up to spur on growth in the veg patch. But with a little human intervention in the form of cold frames, cloches and polytunnels seeds can be tricked into thinking it is later in the year that it really is.

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We have not yet invested in a polytunnel but we have improvised, which is a great skill to have when you are trying to be more self-sufficient. Some plastic sheeting and some wire hoops (or wire coat hangers) can be put together without too much trouble to create a nice and warm environment in which you can sow some early seeds.

We have planted some salad leaves, radishes and some early cabbages among others things to get our veg patch growing. Hopefully in 4-6 weeks we will be chomping down on some lovely fresh lettuce and radishes.

The Asparagus is in its second year so fingers crossed we will have our first home grown asparagus later in the year to enjoy, I have been carefully tending the Asparagus bed for the past year so I hope my work will pay off – I will accept payment in tender Asparagus spears!

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The Strawberry Pallet Planter needs a little attention which will have to be completed pretty soon as the plants will be back growing and producing fresh strawberries soon enough.

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Over the Winter I added a section onto the compost bin, so there are now 3 compartments, I really don’t know what to expect but I am hoping all of last year’s waste has broken down nicely, to be honest, I don’t think I approached it properly as a lot of the material I placed in the compost heap I didn’t break up small to aid the decomposition process.

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I also spent some time mulching my fruit bushes with cardboard. It has worked out quite well so far as it really does help to keep the weeds down, which means less competition for my raspberry, gooseberry, blueberry and Blackcurrant bushes.

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Most of the Winter though I spent rambling the hills and fields of the Cooley Peninsula in search of game, Pheasants, Woodcock, Snipe, Duck, Rabbit, Hare and Woodpigeon.

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But now that the season has ended I need to turn my attention back to the veg patch. My next little project is to build a few more raised beds using some old scaffolding planks and hire a rotavator to till last year’s potato bed which is slight mess!

It’s time for a walk!

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“One hour of exercise a day” that’s what we were told by our kids (at 6AM,,,) who at the  moment are taking part in a great initiative in their primary school -operation health  formation.

As we still need to wait a few more weeks before we can get into the veg patch planting,  it is actually a great moment to get out of the house and discover some local walks and  get that all important one hour of exercise :).  Living on the Cooley peninsula we are  spoiled for choice and we don’t need to drive far either.

 

Annaloughan loop is our favourite winter walk with the kids, simple reason being,  most of it is not exposed to the elements so it can be done in all but the worst of the  Winter weather.  There is number of options with this loop dependent on how much  walking your children can bare and plenty on nice areas where you can find a nice tree stump to sit down and have a picnic 🙂

Option 1 – full loop (6KM), time approx. 1h 30min if just adults involved, with kids well you could add at least an other hour if not more 😉

It’s a 6KM walk, a lovely mixture of a country roads, forest trail and mountain path. It is well marked out and you can also print out a map from Irish Trails website, which is really handy http://tcsinfoland.ireland.ie/content/Multimedia/Attachments/2041_120AnnaloughanLoopFINAL.pdf

This one is definitely the most scenic out of the three. It is handy to start and finish at Fitzpatrick restaurant which has a big car park and is 2 min walk to point A on the map.

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Option 2 – loop in the forest + a little bit on the country road

As per map, it is possible to do a slightly shorter loop in the forest, which will involve a walking short distance on the local country road. Great if the weather is really bad or you just don’t have enough time. You can start from Fitzpatrick’s Bar and Restaurant as you could with all options.  On the Map start and A and follow the purple trail to the left taking you to C, where you will join the road and turning left, follow the road downhill till you come to another forest gate on your left hand side. This forest trail will lead you all the way down till the starting point A.

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Option 3 – all downhill + buggy friendly

The last option involves a little bit of logistics as you need to leave 1 car at the start (mark as C on the map) and second at the end of the route (Fitzpatrick’s Bar and Restaurant, near the point A)  but it is ideal with small kids or if you have a buggy. It’s all downhill on a forest trail, very pleasant and relaxed walk with stunning views over Dundalk Bay.

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Most important, whatever loop you chose, you will definitely have one hour of good exercise done by the time you finish!

Time to get planning again!

2015

2014 is long gone and we are now in the new year. That means only one thing for us, we need to get our veg patch in order and start planning what we are growing and where.

Lettuce…

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Last year we had a good supply of lettuce, but in hindsight we could have prolonged our season had we spread our planting a little bit more. If the truth be told we could have done this for a number of our crops. Our courgettes did well, probably best, and we have good extended season, they really are so simple to grow.

Potatoes…

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One of my intentions for our veg patch this year is that it provides our family with all the salad leaves and potatoes that we need. We ran out of potatoes just before Christmas time, so I will need to give twice as much space to growing potatoes this year and that will present a little challenge, as we will
have to manage our space quite tightly. The issue of being self-sufficient in lettuce and salad leaves will be resolved far more easily with the help of sowing different varieties and also using a small tunnel to bring on some early leaves and also to give us fresh greens late into the year.

Carrots…

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I can’t get my head around them, I will have to reassess my carrot sowing regime as it was, to put it bluntly, a complete failure. But I guess that comes with the territory, there will be ups and downs to growing your own veg.

Garlic…

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My big plans are for Garlic. Firstly I love Garlic, raw and cooked. I am hoping to grow enough to sell in my local community and if all goes well I will expand this further next year.

But back to planning the veg patch for 2015. We will sit down over the next couple of weeks and finalise our list of fruit and veggies to grow this year. There will be a few definites apart from those mentioned above, Strawberries (the kids favourite), pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower and beetroot, the rest will be chosen very soon…

2014’s ups and downs

For us 2014 will be always be remembered as the year when our journey of growing our own fruit and veg began 🙂

We are delighted with our little garden but it was not all plain sailing…:)

The pumpkin patch was a bit of a let down…not a single full grown pumpkin grew but we are trying it again next year!

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Same with corn…our older daughter was not impressed as she loves corn and was really counting on them 🙂

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And then the poor sunflowers that looked so promising and for some mysterious reason did not produce a single tasty seed…

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So yes not everything worked out as planned but overall the balance is definitely on plus side 🙂

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Thank you for support and see you in 2015 😉