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.

Comings and Goings and turning Green…

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Kale seedling compliments @janpaulkelly/instagram

Congenial it was; and complaisant, almost to a fault, winter 2018-’19 cut itself plenty of slack and although we’ll not venture so far as to say it was derelict in its duty, in its coming and going this past winter bequeathed us one of the mildest, driest winter seasons in many decades.

Temperatures were 2 degrees above average from mid January and all the way through February, with seasonal rainfall amounts along the east coast 50% down on long term comparisons. Temperature and rainfall only returning to normal expectancy with the arrival of many weathered March. Snowdrops and daffodils, hyacinths and squills have all put out fabulous displays; cherry blossoms are in full flower, and plum and apple blossom are on show well before equinox. The Kerria Japonica Plentiflora has certainly lived up to its name with masses of bright yellow bachelor buttons since mid February and the hydrangeas were in full open leaf a fortnight before St. Patrick’s Day. There has however, been a lot of rain the last two-three weeks, but with soil moisture levels quite tolerable for early March whatever spot flooding occurs dissipates rapidly and the open beds are trafficable a few short days later.

Our first full visit of the year to the monster’s measure saw us plant out the red and white onion sets and sow some trays of cosmos, zinnia and pheasant eye seed. We planted out some kale and Dutchman cabbage seedlings and we potted on the cayenne pepper and the Moneymaker tomatoes. We tidied border edging, scattered potash and phosphate granules around the fruit trees and bushes, and broadcast a good many handfuls of chicken manure pellets where we will be planting and sowing in the coming weeks. We have plum blossom and apple blossom, and the gooseberry bushes are leafing up. The blackcurrant buds are tight yet, but the redcurrant has burst bud, and there is bright new red growth on all the rose bushes.
Close inspection of our raised beds has betrayed some remedial work we need to undertake in the short term; we will re-seal the shed exterior as soon as we get a dry and mild run of weather and there is still have a run of fencing that needs to be righted. As with every other allotmenteer and gardener we are about to move up and into top gear, and it is rewarding to be able to say that here, right at the beginning of the growing season we have already benefitted from the monster’s measure having enjoyed a couple of weekend pickings of Timperley Early rhubarb before March is out.

This afternoon’s temperature hit 16 degrees with moderate westerly wind which is more than pleasant for this time of year. There shall be cooler and colder days a while yet, and we’ll certainly have frost after dark for a good month still, but winter has set its sights northward.  The new lambs are coming and the Brent geese are going, and the monsterjust as with the Celtic spirit we celebrate this weekis greening up in style…

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Plum TreeBlossom by @janpaulkelly/instagram

Big It Was…

It was a big summer; with big sunshine and big temperatures and a big drought that will live big in the memory. And there you have it, past tense. A big summer it was; but now summer into autumn has slipped and this year’s transition is sudden and tangible.

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The Monster’s September song…

September, that great misplaced misnomer of the calendar year, tripping softly off the tongue, ripening memories of the big summer that was , safe that come the darker days September will fete us something to remember. And so we’ll gather and collect, and store-up, and we’ll treasure the harvest just as we’ll harvest the treasures from the big summer that was, and mindful that just as every gardener and grower begins the process of reaping and gathering, nature herself actually begins the cycle again, for come September nature begins sowing again, scattering her seeds abroad, and therein next summer is already sown…

 

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)