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

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Battens, Hatches and Hurricanes

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We’re still standing… the morning after the hurricane before

Sprawled squarely and perceptibly on the horizon, winter  looms unequivocally large now. Although still registering daytime temperatures of 63 degrees (17 Celsius)- which by all accounts is extremely mild for the time of year– as we enter the last week of October the sense of foreboding that always accompanies Samhain is curiously palpable once again. Summer is definitely fled, and try as it may autumn can no longer camouflage that it too is rapidly losing its grip on seasonal affairs; the sun takes longer to get out of bed each morning, soil saturation levels are back to saturated, and leaf fall speed has increased significantly as we steadily yet unmistakably slide toward first frost.
Last week’s weather heralded a once in a lifetime occurrence on this our little green isle, as a bona fide hurricane swept across our country. News and media outlets played it for all its worth with live on the spot updates and saturation reportage from correspondents right across the country. Ophelia was a category 3 hurricane, downgraded to category 2  before being designated extra-tropical and eventually an ex-tropical storm. Ophelia was also the easternmost major Atlantic hurricane on record, and though sadly lives were lost, thanks to our own met service who tracked this all the way over the previous 5 days, things could have been a whole lot worse. The storm resulted in wide-scale damage and destruction to property over large swathes of the country and, as mentioned,  sadly some deaths too as a result of the high impact weather event.
Having lost most of its destructive power coursing the cooler waters north of the Azores and subsequently along our own western Atlantic coastline Ophelia nonetheless retained enough potency to bring most of our public services to a standstill, before drifting toward Scotland making landfall in Sweden and eventually dissipating over Finland and eastern Russia. However, 5 days after Ophelia left through the backdoor, Brian blew in the front door. A hurricane and North Atlantic Storm all in the same week! We’re a hardy bunch us Irish; a well-weathered people; a wintered people: Hibernians, literally.
Just as with the rest of the country monsterinthecorner took it all in her stride. A quick drive-by visit next morning to assess damage and casualty revealed a fairly shaken and stirred allotment site, but, not too much mayhem. The last of the sunflowers, cosmos and hollyhocks were well and truly obliterated as Ophelia deadheaded in a way that no gardener ever could; miles of green windbreak fencing was shredded and fluttered in furious surrender, wheelbarrows and compost bins had been relocated to neighbouring plots, a shed or two had transferred to neighbouring farmer’s field and even a polytunnel had stripped totally bare, its skeletal remains framing the shambolic misfortune of feeling the sting from Ophelia’s tail.
The last storm of summer meets the first storm of winter. High impact selfie weather events and yet we are still turning down the auto home and office heating settings.

Where the summer’s months saw us acquaint ourselves with and try to adapt to a growing medium with the consistency of set concrete, the last two weeks have revealed that the monster’s autumn terra is yielding to soft to say the least, the recent weather events highlighting spot areas that will require attention over the autumn/winter season with pooling of excess water, thankfully not too much though. This being our first year at the monster’s new location we are still learning how it acts and interacts with nature as we uncover some of our new allotment’s unique peculiarities and anomalies.

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SETTING THE GARLIC

We have begun clearing out the beds, and as they empty we’ll leave them rest. We are now harvesting swede turnips, parsnips and kale, and last weekend we set out some Solent Wight, Vallalado and Iberian garlic. And just as we did at our previous location we’ve also planted some daffodil and allium bulbs that will, hopefully, add a splash of colour and interest early next spring. Compliments of storms Ophelia and Brian we had to undertake some running repairs over the last couple of visits, but we’ll dig and chip away at those other long-fingered tasks over the off season; constructing our planned wooden perimeter fence, finishing the monster’s pathway, perhaps a weeping run-off drain for the wet corner whilst not forgetting to compost, cover and mulch…and in so saying to do realise that we are fast approaching the end of our first year on our new plot.
Yes, the verdant greens at our new location are a distancing memory, and the remaining gold’s and ochre’s are being stripped at lightning speed from the beds and branches. 17 degrees and holding. But casting an eye to the horizon the monster sees winter’s merciless march already begun: time to pinpoint the battens and place them near the hatches…