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
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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

Food For Thought!

Excursus IV

We here on monsterinthecorner have been ploughing our own unique furrow the last eight years or so. In that time we have transformed a couple of neglected patches of public parkland and disused former pasture into a pair of award winning allotment gardens.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far; we rose to the challenge we set ourselves and this year is one of, if not the best from a harvest and return point of view.

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We began our allotmenteering experience and the processes of food sowing and growing purely as a hobby of sorts, but quite quickly did we come to realize just how important the provenance of quality and organic food is become, and over the last decade or so this has gained quite a lot of media traction not only on the national but also on the global stage, and dare we say –without any desire to scare monger in any way whatsoever -that food security is destined to be one of the major concern for all societies in years to come.

And just as we acknowledge the monster’s own creative bent in wishing all like-minded gardeners to celebrate the process of gardening every year on International Green-fingers Day, and just as we look forward each year to the gardening world’s own big showy celebrations in Chelsea, and Bloom and Malvern etc. we think it timely and appropriate to acknowledge the day that is 16th October: World Food Day.

Laudable, commendable, and meritorious as the plan and objectives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization may be in hoping to eliminate world hunger in 12 years,,,twelve years?,,,it is wholly indicative of just how far removed the understanding of geo-politic necessity  truly is from the man struggling in the street or the child in a ghettoised war zone. But that is a subject for expansion and discussion at another time and on another forum. We do however agree with what it says on the tin so-to-speak: Our Actions Are Our Future. There is little arguing with that.
However we do ask that if you read here,  be mindful of all those people truly hungry today, and there are tens of millions of such people: tens of millions of human beings with nothing whatsoever to eat or drink; tens of millions of people without access to the very basics of human respect and dignity; millions of children without access to even the most meagre subsistence. There are millions, and sadly quite a lot of post-modern computer literate-social-media-savvy- people cannot adequately conceptualize MILLIONS….
Our little green nation now exports 84% of all the food it produces; millions and millions of tons worth billions and billions of Euro. Our national food industry is our biggest industry by a country mile, and a timely reminder would be that we not forget that just over 150 years ago millions starved to death on this little green island and millions more emigrated because of the failure of one, singular, subsistence crop whence about the same percentages of other produce was being shipped abroad.  But, that too, is a discussion on another time, for another time.
We here on monsterinthecorner have been lucky with our produce this year, and the harder and longer we dig and rake and water and sow, well then, the luckier we get.    We share our gluts and spread our surpluses across family and friends. We know where our food comes from, and we’ve learned to appreciate the effort it takes to get it here.

There is and always has been great hunger on this spinning cosmic rock, and I doubt any one single organisation at any one point in time of our unfolding human experience will ever eliminate the scourge of human starvation, but those fortunate enough to have enough, on them falls the duty to share…Unfortunately want and ignorance are as widespread today as they were along the banks of the Nile 3000 years ago, as they were on our own emerald isle 150 years, or in Russia, or Persia, or the plains of Ethiopia as they were 70, 50, and 30 years ago, or Sudan, or indeed as they are in Yemen today or Gaza tomorrow.

WFD2018_Poster_H_ENWaste not want not,,,a morsel for thought. the link below will bring you to the relevant site.

http://www.fao.org/world-food-day

The Big Windy…

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? A last rose for summer? Rosa Rhapsody In Blue

And so it’s official: summer is kaput, done, dusted, gone.

This week –the week leading into the autumnal equinox, as has become practice in recent years– the Irish and UK meteorological services have released the list of names chosen under the Name Our Storms Scheme that will be used to identify this coming winter’s storm cycle. And timely too it would seem just as we are being warned with a forecast that ex-tropical storm Helene’s tail is to cause some disruption to our southern coasts during the early days of next week.
The names chosen each year are supposed to reflect the culture and diversity of these island nations, with an equal distribution of both male and female names. Twenty one names are assigned each year running in sequence from A to W, with Q, U, X, Y and Z omitted as per international standardisation.
This year the cycle begins with the male name Ali, followed by the female name Bronagh, then male, then female, male, female etc. Every other year the sequence begins with a female name beginning with the letter A, followed by male name beginning with the letter B and so on. Thus, as you’ll no doubt see with this year’s selection you can have a Jane but never a Tarzan, or a Deirdre but not with Fionn, and a Tristan without Isolde; or as it seems this year an Idris but no Elba…

Cruel or otherwise, Professor Henry Higgins once postulated that “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen…” and without making a song and dance about it that may well have been the Lerner/Loewe meteorological reality in the mid 1950’s, but whether the weather will be worse in Walden, Wichling or Wicken matters not a jot when a bona fide hurricane is forecast to make landfall, for by their nature hurricanes are a massive storm event, capable of making their presence felt for hundreds of miles from the storm centre.
Ireland, as said before is a damp country; we’ve grown accustomed to the rain; we breathe it out and breathe it in: and so much so that it’s in our genes, in a manner of speaking. So, when a lot of rain is forecast we have a tendency to be quite nonchalant, nationally dismissive even about what constitutes “a lot” of rain. But Wind (?) Wind is a different matter. We’re a small island, and when the wind gets-up it can seem that bunting stripped for a lamppost in Kilorglin ends up tangled in the DART lines off Killiney, or rubbish fly-tipped in Dungarvan ends up strewn across the Dublin Hills. We’re used to the rain you see, but we don’t do wind very well. No we don’t: Do you remember the night of the big wind in ’47? What about the Breath of God in early 30’s? Big winds live long in the memory. Perhaps it’s because they have the ability to blow the cobwebs off just about everything, and shake and wake everything up whereas the rain, the rain just seeps and soaks. A lesser known fact is that depending on a hurricane’s origin and trajectory it can either be wet or dry: it can be predominantly rain bearing or predominantly driving i.e wind bearing, so although we now have names to assign to the the storms we are likely to experience this coming winter season, it is still anyone’s guess whether we’ll be soaked or windblown.
And just as a by-the-by: is it me or just a faulty recollection, but, with the exception of Charley which traversed these fair isles in autumn 1986, it seems all of the other major Hurricanes which crossed the vast Atlantic without diminishing too much of their ferocity and potency and eventually caused such havoc and damage have all had female designations; Katerina, Emma, Ophelia, even the approaching Helene and perhaps later next week sometime Florence, should she decide to u-turn? Just saying it like: getting it out of the way before Deirdre and Freya decide to send end of year seasonal greetings.

Oh yes, the monster is always considering and calculating such things, and conscious, always conscious that Mrs. Dirtdigger is proof-reader extraordinaire… yes,yes,yes, brewing up a storm? There is nothing to compare with fierce female fury forced to flee ‘cross foreign sea flattening everything she sees…

Winter Storm Names 2018-2019
• Ali
• Bronagh
• Callum
• Deirdre
• Erik
• Freya
• Gareth
• Hannah
• Idris
• Jane
• Kevin
• Lily
• Max
• Niamh
• Oliver
• Peggy
• Ross
• Saoirse
• Tristan
• Violet
• Wyn