Win some, lose some; taking in the outcome.

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Moneymakers ripening on the vines
then suddenly it was now;

the evenings noticeably shorter and the days slightly cooler, weeks and months have slipped by in the blink of an eye, and summer is most definitely in autumnal transition. July lived up to its promise and in doing so conferred on us four weeks of reasonably warm sun-filled days, a small seasonal mercy given the experiences of the late spring and early summer. June was typically hit-and-miss, and of course April and May, well, least said there the better…
But summer definitely arrived with July; however, it seems to have checked-out immediately on Augusts’ arrival. We’ve been returned to the all too familiar dull and wet routine this last week and the short range weather forecast indicates much the same for the coming week, but at least the temperature is holding up.
Summer came but now is most definitely going, and yet it seems as though some of the monsters summer show has only just begun. The sunflowers have only shown their faces in the last two to three weeks, and only now (as we enter the second week of August) have the gladioli made a full entrance. The disastrously dull and damp spring not only hampered the annual seed sowing schedule through April and May, it also had a detrimental time delay on many of the other garden stalwarts. We’ve had very little in the way of a crop from the gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes, and the apple and plum trees have not fared much better, a combination -we thinks- of last summer’s and autumn’s severe drought followed by this spring’s constant grey and stormy washout. We did have some nice rhubarb while it lasted though; we also had kale, rocket and chard a plenty, some fine beetroot and potatoes which we are still harvesting and consuming as we need and by way of compensation perhaps we have had a good harvest of onions, shallots and garlic.

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Centurion onions left out to cure…

  So, win some, lose some…plenty of alliums, and no strawberries.
The effects of the delayed spring are visible still though, even in the polytunnel. By this time last year we had been harvesting our tomatoes for over a month, whereas this year most of the set trusses are yet to ripen; there is plenty of fruit and Mrs Dirtdigger has made some fabulous tomato, basil and onion soup already with the first flush, it’s just that most of the tomato crop is still green at present. We have had some fabulous courgettes, we’ve had Rosa Bianca aubergines, and we are having a veritable cucumber glut fest, so we’ve opted to make some summer pickle with the excess. The pumpkin vines have set fruit and hopefully these will bulk up over the next eight weeks or so. The parsnips have struggled a little, but in the last fortnight they have begun to crown out and leaf-up a little more vigorously perhaps indicating that there is some subterranean development as well.

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some of the daily harvest from the monster’s bounty…

We made and jarred some jam, but nowhere near the volume we made in previous years, and we’ll have to wait a while longer as the ingredients for some of the monster’s other staples are still only ripening, but, there’s time yet.
Each gardening year is as different as different can be from those that have gone before. There are so many variables to consider when undertaking any gardening project it is surprising at times that anything at all is ever successful, and yet we continue to do it, day in, day out, and week after month, year after year. As any recorded sowing diary should show, you can sow the same varieties of seed on the very same day each year, and you can expend the same effort in care and attention to planting on and planting out and maintaining a thorough watering and feeding regime, and end up with results so different from previous years’ as to have you think you must have lost a whole month somewhere between April and July. And thus has been this year’s curve.
It’s been dull and damp and warm and wet, maybe not when we wanted it to be, and at times certainly not when we needed it to be, but that is what we had to work with so we got to work while attempting to ignore the pop-up pond that appeared on the monster’s measure throughout the spring, and which has made an unexpected if not wholly unsurprising return this past weekend.

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Cucumber, time for summer pickles…

So win some, lose some, and we certainly lost some this year, but Mrs Dirtdigger’s pollinators patch has been buzzing, and we’ve had hares and pheasants and frogs and buzzards and bees, and what we failed to get on the one hand nature gifted us with the other. We have not had the success hoped for with some things this year, but the harvest is in full swing so we’ll see how things fare. We’ll not change too much mind you for some variables are beyond our control: we’ll continue to tread softly; we watch our track, pay attention to the footprint, and we here at monsterinthecorner will continue to play our part in negating damage to the wider planetary variables, conscious of the degree of long-term damage our species has had on the fundamental variables on which we all ultimately depend for our continued existence.

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Seeing Both Days: Tipping Day 2018

I remember it well: it was The Year of the Cat, Silly Love Songs were Songs in the Key of Life, The Boys were Back in Town and some Dancing Queen was saving kisses for just about everyone. Rocky Balboa battered slaughterhouse daylights out of refrigerated carcasses and was doing it all for Adrienne, while, on the flip-side of things “we could have been anything that we wanted to be” with Tallulah and Blousey and Fat Sam. Yes I remember it well; the Bic white razors and Blue Stratos aftershave, the plaid patterned kick flairs, the big heels, the brass toecaps, and the migration from barbershop to hair dresser. And I remember it was warm, very warm, with water shortages and rent strikes. It was warm too in the Venetian court as one of literature’s earliest cross-dressers extolled the quality of mercy, and warm too as Kodály’s Hary János met Friel’s Potato Gatherers and all stopped by woods one snowy evening to discuss the allegorical significance of red socks sown into the futility of human greed in Sassoon’s Base Details. Yes, I remember it well; well most of it; well, some of it.
It was 1976, the whole country was a ‘thundering disgrace and that was the last time we experienced a spell of weather as warm and as dry as we’ve experienced thus far this year. It was the last time we experienced a bona fide prolonged heatwave.

  Ireland was a different place back then; grubby and dreary, still striving to come to terms with the reality of developing its own terms, and still trying to find some direction for the head-spun inertia experienced since it had taken its place among the Nations of the earth just a few decades earlier. Dublin too was different back then; the city centre was –as it had been for over a hundred years-crumbling, and the newer suburbs both north and south which had been initiated just a decade earlier now stretched out to the green country fields with no shops, schools, churches or hospitals and whence prevailing winds veered from that certain direction memory of what had been left behind would still catch olfactory orifices off-guard on light winter mornings as plumes from the distant hop house surfed the wavelength between the lifting smog and the Liffey’s perspicuous stench. And that was then; and this is…well, forty years later…
It has been a good summer, this summer of 2018. It has been a very warm and very dry couple of months. It has been a good summer, and upbeat consumer sentiment is reflected in the latest quarterly index retail figures, benefiting no doubt from the sunny feel-good bounce with sales in beverages and foods and BBQ’s and stay-cations way, way above average and expectation. It has been a very good summer and those lucky enough to have been visiting from abroad this last couple of months will have seen Éire at her bright and shiny best. The sun has been shining for weeks on end, the whole population is tanned and suddenly there is renewed talk of the necessity of increases in net inward migration as we are at full employment levels once again, something not seen since the heady days of the Celtic Tiger.
It has been a very good summer, and the country is on a high: those who needed to be held to account have, (well some of them have) at last, been held to account. We are become an all inclusive and an all encompassing pluralistic society. We’ve paid our international debts in full and on time and we are now squirreling away for the other type of day, the rainy day; and boy oh boy we know the rainy days here too!

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The monster’s entrance…

It has been a good summer so far, but the monster alas, is struggling. The effects of the summer’s drought-like conditions are now unmistakable. We have had some wonderfully early cucumbers and courgettes, and we’ve wiped out most of the early lettuce, salad leaves, kohl rabi and radishes but the broadbeans and potatoes are struggling big time and dare say the crop will not be so good as we hope for. The strawberries are finished, the shallots are curing and the onions have been lifted. The gooseberry crop struggled to plump so we opted for a crop in the hand sooner than the crop on the bush and managed to get a dozen jars of jam. We’ll be doing likewise with the blackcurrants this weekend. The pumpkins are swelling and the Florence fennel has germinated. We tasted some of the beetroot and it is fabulous, and once the Red Barons are cured we’ll chutney about 10 lbs. We’ve summer pruned the plum and dwarf heritage apple trees, and we’ve put the french beans and swede seed to bed and in so doing we have set the monster up for autumn and winter.
Today being the 19th July means it’s Tipping Day on monsterinthecorner, the 200th day of the year, the day by which high summer almost always recognizably wains. The young finches, sparrows and linnets are fledged, robin chicks have been rescued, fox cubs and leverets are making their own way and the early summer lush greens are beginning to look just a tad jaded. Some of the monster’s beds and drills are emptying fast, and at last there is a forecast of a substantial rainfall over the next 24 hours. And slowly, but surely, it all turns. And sooner than expected we’ll be saying “we saw both days”… and we’ll remember them and hopefully recall these days with fondness.
It has been a truly good summer thus far, so good so that in the last number of days we’ve found ourselves wondering what (?) if anything, the abiding memory of this great summer would or should be, should we be fortunate enough to live to reflect upon it forty years hence.
But, this is where we’ll leave it, for now.

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firewheels and poppies and peas and robins… monster images from the summer that is 2018 images compliments @janpaulkelly (aka Mrs. Dirtdigger)

A Little Summer Latitude…

 

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Mrs. Dirtdigger midst the early sunflowers…

House windows and doors have been flung open for weeks on end. Long hot evenings parade the Gran via Clontarf and Calle Portmarnock in flip flops and shorts, faded and frayed, scant enough to be eye-catching, skimpy enough to barely cover deeply tanned social sensibilities. Char-grilled meats and fish waft on dense humid air and easy evening salads with vermouth cocktails are de force. The beach-fronts are thronged during daylight hours, and new generations are being acquainted with the 99 and the Bucket & Spade. With night-time temperatures well into the high teens late al fresco parlays are par for the course, and soaked sheets and pillowcases an every morning reality. Every brow is glistening and beaded, necks are damp, chins are dripping, and every shirt (even a plain white t) betrays its proximity to hyperactive axillary pits.
After a four decades hiatus summer finally arrived in Ireland. Grasslands are parched and livestock is struggling; secondary roads are literally melting away, and now, the wettest country in Europe, having experienced a dry four week period the first time in 42 years (4 weeks!) has introduced water usage restrictions and a national domestic hosepipe ban. It had rained incessantly for months; it had rained incessantly for decades; it has rained persistently for hundreds of years on our little island, and due to a complete lack of planning and foresight by our public representatives for years on end, it seems one of the wettest countries in the northern hemisphere has found –that after only four weeks of good, summer sunshine– it has a water shortage problem.
Yes, summer has arrived; and where just a few short weeks ago we had firmly believed our little country inadvertently skewed 150 degrees eastwards in mid March, we must now be forgiven for thinking the same little country has slipped 30 degrees southward since mid May, and all ellipsoidal and rectifying calculations aside, it would be nice if it could hang-out at this latitude for just a few short weeks longer: just a little longer.
The monster is also enjoying its once in a lifetime summer experience. We’ve had courgettes and cucumbers in the month of June for the first time, ever. We’ve had strawberries, and beetroot, and lettuces and radishes aplenty. An abundance of basil and garlic has us making pesto, and the onions and shallots which fell foul of the appalling winter and late spring weather have more than made up ground and are bulbing up nicely at last. We’ve begun to harvest the broadbeans and have been eating the Kale Negro for weeks now. The run of very good weather has opened all flowers and this year we have a wonderful show of roses, zinnias and marigolds; and for the first time we can recall the sunflowers had opened and showed face by mid summers day, a good 3 -4 weeks earlier than usual. We have an abundance of tomato trusses, still ripening, and we have Californian Wonder and Cayenne peppers and Rosa Bianca aubergines also ripening nicely. Of course, the prolonged spell of good weather has had its draw backs too, especially as we are restricted with water usage, and even those well prepared plot-holders who resourcefully harvest rain water from sheds and tunnels have found their barrels and butts run completely dry. Potato drills are in needs of a drink and rhubarb stools are drastically wilted.
Summer has arrived, and our lush green isle is turned gold: the hay is in and the shorn meadows resemble a scene more evocative perhaps of the Andalucían plains. Summer arrived and India came to play international cricket in Malahide, and the World Cup has come ‘round again with Brazil, and Argentina and Uruguay, and evenings resound to childrens play till dark; summer arrived, and we are treated to a feast of red faces crimson thighs and peeling shoulders, and long days turning a blind eye to the short nights as they meld and morph into one super sunny circumferential experience that will last long in the memory, and we call it summer.

Summer has arrived and the Wild Atlantic Way is tamed awhile, and we’ll remember this summer in Dublin, the summer of 2018.