Preparing to Persevere

February arrives, and as has become our way of doing things here at monsterinthecorner, the advent of Lá Fhéile Bríde saw us sow our first seeds of the year.
The days are just a little longer; and whatever sunshine there is now seems a little more  luminous than January’s weak offering.

This year’s early February temperature is as expected for time of year, and the 5-7 day forecast suggests much the same in the short term, with westerly air flow and rain.
We sowed some pots of basil and popped them onto the bright windowsill. We sowed trays of onion seed, summer cabbage, kale, spinach and both Cayenne and Californian Wonder peppers.

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some of this year’s stock

Mrs. Dirtdigger planted up some pots of Spraxis corms. She set some late garlic into terra firma, and we also set a new rose bush in-situ; and with that simple half-hour’s activity the monster’s annual cycle is set in motion for 2019.

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The potted Red Barons

We have a plan; and without a plan there is nothing to adapt. The monster’s plan is always simple and hopefully productive. We use a practical approach to all interference with the monster’s measure fully aware that perhaps not everything we have sown this week will germinate, just as there will be no guarantee that anything we plant in the coming weeks may actually flourish or grow.

And so we’ve begun this year’s sowing diary , now active on the menu above

We shall contend with and deal with all those challenges the coming seasons send our way. We’ll protect against hail and late frosts, just as we’ll cope with the slugs, beetles, sawflies and other winged pests as they present themselves, for although some consider gardening/allotmenteering the gentle pastime, it is not so tame an undertaking; where would the challenge be if it were so?
And so we’re off; off again for another year, with mitts and caps and fleecy gear; winter- washing plums and pears; preparing to move up a gear as better days are drawing near;  Preparing for expected success, but mostly preparing to persevere.

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Cold Water Morning…

It’s been cold and grey, and it’s been frosty and sleety and occasionally wet-snowy. It is late January and winter has finally shown its face. All the surprising early unseasonal growth is stopped dead in its tracks, and the precarious plans we had been toying with for attempting some groundwork on the monster’s measure have been consigned to winter’s reality box. After a very mild early winter, normal service is resumed and with that the most that can be hoped for is that we do not get a late winter cycle of weather events the likes of those experienced last year.

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Winter’s dust

So, we’ve been busying ourselves otherwise; updating and tweaking the Monster’s log, giving it a new look to carry us into the New Year and seasons ahead. As part of this design we’ve now incorporated a new drop-down recipes menu into which we will post those recipes we have developed for the dishes we prepare using all of the fabulous bounty the monster affords us each year. We began by populating the menu with some of those culinary compliments more accessible this time of year i.e. the sauces and chutneys and salsas currently stocked in the Monster’s larder, and as the seasons progress we shall update with seasonal recipes using the monster’s own fresh seasonal fare as it becomes available and in doing so expand the scope and remit of the Monster’s Log to a more fully rounded Sow–Grow-Cook-Eat experience, a little something to further whet the appetite if you will, of all those who land here!
We emptied the seed drawers and storage boxes, and we have had to be ruthless in our dissemination of the stock therein: any and all seed stock more than one season past sow-by has been composted. We always use 100% fresh seed for certain sowings of parsnips and carrots and celery; and where some seeds may still possess a certain degree of viability the following year or years even,- especially floral stock– with fruit and vegetable seed we generally opt for the greater germination success rate by using fresh seed to begin with. We were still surprised by the number of opened and half-used packets of seed that we had put into storage during the previous year or so, and we determine not to be so cavalier in discarding future seed stocks opting perhaps to put them the way of some local seed swap before the seasons pass and drift into each other.

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Date checking the seed stocks…

We plan a venture into one of our favourite retailers next weekend to purchase what we need, and Mrs. Dirt-digger is reminding ourselves that this year we need to cultivate more in the way of leafy-greens: so lettuces and rocket, cabbages, spinach and kale are top of the list, with a promised new rose bush (if we can source the particular variety we desire, Irish Hope), and not forgetting some of the usual suspects for the poly-tunnel, the tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers to start-off in the next week or so. We’ll sow some onion seed this weekend, and we’ll purchase the red and white sets to pop in small pots the following weekend, and before you’d progress to shake a rake sure the whole bloomin’ process will be under way for another year.
Last night we had snow and ice and wintry showers across the country. It’s a cold water morning and Mother Nature is still quite some time off from donning her springtime boots. The temperature levelled at -5 Celsius this morning making it the coldest night/morning so far this winter season. The forecasts point to at least ten days to two weeks of similar conditions yet, but at least today’s bright winter sunshine is a bonus. And it’s cold, too cold to sow; too cold for anything to bother to grow, too cold to consider anything other than the seed catalogues and the holiday brochures, and as such we’ll simply continue to hatch our plans…

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compliments of @janpaulkelly instagram

Missing… inaction…

Missing in action!!!

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compliments of @janpaulkelly instagram

With the allotment site closed for the Christmas-New Year period we’ve not been out to tramp the monster’s measure in almost two weeks now, but then as past years’ experience could show, had we had the opportunity to venture out for a visit, we’d most likely have been hampered in our desire to undertake any serious allotment and gardening activity, it being the depths of winter.
And yet a little qualification; for we did say past years’ experiences, and most likely when this year’s early winter experience is proving anything but likely.

It was the mildest December in many decades with the daily temperatures 5 degrees above average for the whole month, and night-time temperatures not once falling below 3 degrees, never mind freezing. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day saw the mercury hover @13 degrees with slack southerly air and little or no rain. In truth it must be said that the early winter of 2018-2019 was/is a very benign affair, and being so means we have seen snowdrops in bloom and daffodil snouts four to five inches above their trenches before mid winter’s day, and when taken in tandem with the fabulously good summer of last year, followed by a milder than usual autumn, one could be forgiven for speculating that winter is missing-in-action.

But we here with the monster know better than to rush to rash speculations; and we need point no further back than to January February and March of last year to highlight the dangers with hastily drawn assumptions on a winter’s demise, early or otherwise. Mother Nature’s box of meteorological wonder is filled with magic yet for all of their allure none of her tricks has learned to tell the time, yet.
So, the fabulous year that was is now past, cast to history’s compost heap, and with that we prepare to begin the whole process again. We are hatching our plans, and we are preparing our templates. We begin filling the new sowing diary just as soon as we begin sowing (on 1st of February), and we still have one or two basic husbandry and upkeep tasks with the plot and bed perimeters to be pottering about with as the weather will allow. The celebratory actions and inaction just like the Mince Pies and Christmas pudding will have to be exercised and worked-off. The New Year –as every New Year does– presents its own challenges and propositions and we’ll greet them as we meet them and hopefully we will learn something from the encounters.
We still have jars of jam and sauces aplenty; we still have a store of Karmen and Stuttgarter onions, we still have rhubarb chopped and frozen and rather surprisingly we still have a bulb or two of garlic yet. Christmas has come and gone as has the year that was 2018. We may be missing our dirt-digging activities, but winter(?),

winter is not missing; it’s just not wearing its more familiar seasonal apparel, as yet.

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A very slack Dublin Bay on a very mild St Stephen’s Day

Bringing It All Back Home…

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Tinkerbell & Giggler…Jack O’s 2018

As an exercise we had been keeping track of all we had harvested as we harvested this year.  So, as we head into mid November and luckily are still using some of our own fresh tomatoes and lettuce this late in the season, we thought we’d share our running tally for the year thus far…

It makes for an interesting read: it not only helps you appreciate what can be accomplished and achieved from a small patch of earth once you have a plan and a little time to commit to it, it also deepens appreciation for all involved in the growing of fresh food produce on a large scale for an ever increasing population’s insatiable appetite…

It is always fun, but it is never easy.

Tomatoes over 80 lbs
Blackcurrants 20lbs
Gooseberries 15lbs
Blackberries 14lbs
Cucumbers and courgettes, a glut of both while they lasted
Rhubarb, although it struggled with the excessive heat and drought, we still have a little frozen stock for the coming months.
Broadbeans 20lbs
Californian Wonder Bell Peppers 20
Cayenne and Fireflame Peppers 30
French Mangetout Beans 10 lbs
Potatoes >30lb
Beetroot >20 lbs
Red Gourmet Shallots >10 lbs
Red Baron Onions >20lbs
Stuttgarter Onions >40lbs
Garlic 20 bulbs
Pumpkins 8 medium Jack O Lantern pumpkins,
All lettuce, radishes, green leaf salad and kale throughout the summer,
Parsnips and Swedes only beginning to mature and harvest now, but a crop of both in the ground to see us through till Christmas,
All our herb requirements throughout the year; basil, dill, parsley, tarragon, sage, rosemary with pots now dried and stored…

And with over 70 jars of Jams, Chutneys, Salsas and Sauces stored away…

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Setting the Samhain scene…Halloween 2018
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Autumn Harvest Table Spread…compliments of Mrs. Dirtdigger aka @janpaulkelly instagram