Category Archives: Home and Garden

The Club is open, yoga is on and the garden is busy. Sort of …

The Club is open, yoga is on and the garden is busy. Sort of …

It’s been a weird few months hasn’t it?  And we’re never going back to the way it was, are we?  Too many thoughts have helped us all see the world a little differently and Covid-19 will be here for a while.  But we can still live!

On Monday 11 May there will be a partial lifting of lock-down guidelines and you can read about that here.  The Nature Club can have a partial opening.  That’s good because nature is a complimentary therapy for  mental and physical health, so join The Club!  May is a beautiful time to walk the river.  Bluebells are fragrant, rhododendrons are boomin’ and the brambles haven’t yet taken over.  We started to look at mowing the path (video), but after cutting some branches across the way we decided that it didn’t need it yet and just drove home.  Please drop a line if you’re planning a visit as we want to help maintain social distancing while uncertainties linger.  We’re also looking at gatherings in The Tent, but want to keep numbers under control. There’s plenty of space to have a yoga session for a dozen people, but a full-on concert would be asking for trouble!

Continue reading The Club is open, yoga is on and the garden is busy. Sort of …

What’s up this new year …

Kung hei fat choi! This traditional Cantonese greeting means “May you have great wealth!” and is expressed at Chinese new year often followed by Lai see dow loi, meaning “Give me me lucky money” ;-). 

There are many new years celebrated around the world starting from October (eg Divali in India) to the ancient Babylonian new year, Akitu, celebrated at the first new moon after the spring equinox (i.e. around March).  Our focus is usually on the solstice, but, hey, any excuse for a gathering of fun is welcome 😉 .

Here’s a quick round-up at the beginning of this solar cycle …

Thank you to everyone who joined our Walk in the Woods on 29 December.  Niall, generous as ever, lifted our spirits with a shot of whiskey to toast the new year!  Then, Richard and Jaspar, who had spent the previous day hacking at the brambles, led us all through the woods.  It was a glorious day as the lovely photos from Milena on facebook show.

in the meantime, here are a few of our snaps scratched from a video
Continue reading What’s up this new year …

Fossil Free Food

There’s no such thing.

Everyone knows that fuel is used to grow our food and that petrochemicals are used to feed and protect food. But it’s probably worse than we realise. Most food has more fossil fuel energy in it than natural, current energy. It takes about 10 fossil fuel calories to produce and transport each food calorie in the average American diet. That’s about three times as much fossil fuel as we spend on transport.

We’ve been trying to take fossil fuel out of food we grow here for a couple of decades now. If you’re realistic about it, there’s hardly any chance to make fossil free food these days. In the garden here we make a pretty good attempt. There are organic or self-grown seeds, no sprays, no artificial fertiliser, etc. We do use a two-wheel tractor (diesel so can use biodiesel), chainsaws, cutters, mowers etc, but we use a lot of Tommy Power!

There are always fossil fuels involved somewhere. It’s hard to avoid. Starting with me. I eat food that comes in a bag. Paper or plastic that bag was made with energy from fossil fuel. And of course I drove to town to pick it up, and it came to town on a big truck running on fossil fuel. And the food was made almost entirely with fossil fuels – big tractors (possibly with auto-satellite drive), loads of chemical fertiliser, pesticide, herbicide, transport, sorting (by machine) etc etc The saga of our reliance on, our addiction to, fossil fuel continues. But if you want food with less fossil in it, buy local, organic, or grow your own. 😉

Where the rubber hits the road, or the spade hits the soil, we do a pretty good job. We use a lot of physical effort, sowing, weeding, harvesting. Here is a little glimpse of what it’s like to grow natural food avoiding fossil fuel and fossil chemicals.

There are three tools on show here: spade, 3 prong hoe, and swivel hoe (aka hoop/stirrup/oscillating hoe).

The spade, being used to dig and turn between rows of carrots. The ground in the patch is very weedy because it was broken, turned and planted for the first time this year. (The ground above and below has been cultivated for over a decade.) You can see the physical effort and technique employed. You can get an idea of the rate of progress – much slower than a big ol’ tractor! But no fossil fuels are being burned and no chemical sprays are killing the soil.

The 3 pronged hoe is being used to drag away the couch grass, and other weeds turned over by the spade.

The swivel hoe … ahh the swivel hoe. What would we do without the swivel hoe? It was one of the first tools we bought 20 years ago when we started. We have a 175mm (used in the clips) and 125mm. They are still going strong. The blades and handles wear out. We’ve replaced the handle on the 125 but had to use a broom handle replacement. The 175 handle is still original and we like it because it’s long and has a concave taper which enhances its handling. We replaced blades on both. (Check Dunmore Country School for them if you’re in Ireland.)

The clips are an example of light weeding potatoes, weeding tomatoes in the greenhouse and one of heavy weeding along the back wall of the greenhouse.

In 1999 we guessed that we had 20 years to change systems if natural cycles were to be protected from anthropomorphic destruction. Our guess was pretty good – nothing changed and here we are with climate breakdown …

Now we reckon we’ve got 20 years of fossil fuels left. They’ll always be around, but only in small quantities, as was the case before the industrial revolution. Why do we think they’ll run out? Because we passed peak oil some years ago and consumption is increasing. When everyone realises oil is running out, things are going to be very difficult as food supplies will shrink, transport capacity will shrivel and no one has any useful life skills any more – like carpentry, gardening, metallurgy, … Infrastructure will disintegrate as all those little plastic washers, valve, osmotic barriers etc which allow high tech to function will not be available …

So in the meantime, we’re enjoying growing fossil free food and eating and sharing it.

Time to get a swivel hoe?

Spring Snow, Yoga, Fishing, and more …

birdonhorserock

A little bird said …

The Beast from the East came and stopped spring for a few days.  We treated it as a special occasion.  We had to.  We couldn’t drive out for a couple of days. So we fed and watered the animals, checked on guests in the cottages, thawed the pipes that needed thawing, and took a lot of photos!  You can see a selection of snaps here.  It was also a good excuse to stoke up the fire and enjoy a quiet evening or two at home … 😉

IMG 20180302 114707b DSC 0121b

Yoga, yoga, yoga.  It was never my thing. In fact I’ve always thought it was a bit weird since it didn’t seem to actually be exercise and took a lot of time.  Living with a yoga guru meant that I got a bit of an inside look and started to appreciate its challenges.  I even did a couple of lessons over the past two decades which were both cathartic.  The philosophy of yoga, at least as I’ve picked it up, has always appealed.  At its essence it is about unity and the oneness of existence is an idea that has great appeal and increasing foundation in science.  But I never really tried yoga.  Until last November when Pam launched Yoga for Men as part of Movember.  I let the beard grow a bit and joined the class.  It has been good for me.privateyogahomepamb

  • It reaches parts of your body you didn’t know existed.
  • Pam guides you to stay in touch with your breathing which helps adapt breathing techniques to other spheres of life and is a foundation of meditation.
  • Pam’s technique encourages mindfulness so you practice that at the same time, with its consequent benefits of reconnection and stress relief.

I don’t need to mention relaxation because that’s what everyone loves – shavasanaaaaa!

So I’ll definitely encourage yoga for everyone.  If you’re a guy you might be more comfortable with more men in the class so you might prefer Yoga for Men, but you can go to any yoga class.  BTW, there are women in the Yoga for Men class.

I feel lucky that we’ve got such a dedicated, experienced teacher in our midst.  I would have served myself better by trying it sooner, but better late than never.  Check out the class options here.

The fishing usually opens on 10 March, but it was pretty quiet here.  We haven’t operated the salmon syndicate at Ballin Temple for some years now owing to deteriorating riparian habitat.  The regulations for fishing for salmon are on the Eastern Region Fisheries Board website: http://www.fishingireland.net/ Salmon fishing is restricted in numbers and size, so we won’t encourage it. (Get your salmon fishing license here.) Trout fishing is usually good on our beat and is a pleasant way to spend a summer’s evening.  Please get in touch if you would like to fish here.

St Patrick’s day was special this year.  Ireland beat England to win the Six Nations Championship.  You can imagine how quiet it was in the afternoon.  The St Pat’s parade at 2pm in Tullow was only 20 minutes long – it used to be a couple of hours.  Then after that few people could be seen in the streets, unless you went in to the pub.  Here’s the crowd at the Tara Arms:

IMG 20180317 160343b IMG 20180317 160353b

S3200004b

And the snow began to sprinkle down, so that the following day there was a gentle white blanket covering the countryside.  We ventured in to the woods and explored parts I’ve not walked in years.  It was magical.  We quietly found our way to the “pulpit” and “altar” overlooking the river. (You may wonder how this sanctuary got its name.)  Many trees were down, which is sad, though more will grow.  There is plenty of work to be done removing them and if you would like timber for the fire, please drop a line.  And if you would like to reconnect with nature and enjoy the ancient woodlands, please join the club, drop me a line and ask for a tour …

The weather even brought down timber in the garden.  A huge cedar dropped another branch under the weight of snow and wind over the St Pat’s weekend.  We started to clear it and then decided to trim the whole tree severely.  We did that on Saturday after I guest hosted a slow chat on Nature vs Artificial Intelligence which reinforced the benefits of exposing yourself to nature. (Storify archive here.)  There’s a brief article about that little logging experience here:Nature’s the Teacher, including a video some of the cutting.  (BTW, please be cautious about climbing trees and using tools, especially a saw.)

The cold weather in March slowed things down. I’ve only planted a few garlic and germinated tomatoes.  Hopefully I’ll catch up this week and put in the potatoes, onions and broad beans… So much to do, so little time … 🙂

Looking forward we’ll probably have a walk on Easter Monday so watch out for that.  And if you want to escape the city for a while, check out our cosy cottages for a holiday – clean air and water, plus nature, included free!

Equinox has passed, the days are longer, enjoy!

Tom and Pam

Nature is the Teacher

After the opening hour of #edchatMENA “Nature vs Artificial Intelligence” on Saturday 24 March 2018 I went outside to my other “office”.

A large branch from a cedar tree had fallen during recent snow and wind.  We had cleared much of it in the past few days, but, because it was now looking a bit lopsided, we’d decided to trim the other branches.

Without realising it you think, and learn, a lot when playing with nature.  There’s the physical aspect of simply walking over fallen branches, or climbing up to get at the branches that you want to cut or carrying the saw.  Then there’s the care that you want to take to avoid getting hurt.  This is learning where failure can be terminal.  I’ve had a couple of close shaves, and have the scars to remind me, so I’m not as audacious as I used to be.

It would be wonderful if you could also hear the birds and smell the wood.  Fresh cedar has a powerful aroma.  Its sap is sticky and stays on you.  When you’re up close and personal with the tree you also notice the differences with the other fir trees nearby.  With a guide book in hand you can accelerate your understanding of the trees and their different habitat.

Here’s how it looked a couple of years ago after one of several main trunks had fallen backwards leaving a bit of a gap …  You can see a “monkey” in the fir tree to the left, which helps indicate scale.  The tree is about 30m high.

Continue reading Nature is the Teacher