Remarkably, not The End of the F***ing World…

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Water Water everywhere… compliments#janpaulkelly on instagram

It rained on August 1st, and it rained again on the 2nd. It rained on the 3rd 4th and 5th; it rained the first Tuesday and again on Wednesday 7th and the next day also. Thus it rained the whole first week of August. It also rained each day of the second week, with another full encore the following week. In fact it rained every day the first twenty two days of August,,,”

That is how we opened the monster’s previous posting at the end of September. We’ve not been able to do much in the meantime; hence we’ve not had much to record. We had hoped (and rather naively it must be said) that if things were not to improve that at least they could not get much worse than our end of summer experience. We had had a typically Irish summer i.e. one of sunshine and showers in equal measure with a couple of good weeks in July, but Augusts’ arrival seemed to herald an earlier than usual autumn and one which precipitated a necessary change in plans and harvest outcome. And so, just as with all other allotmenteers on our site and farmers and smallholders right across the country we proceeded to harvest and lift what we could so as not to have them totally ruined should prevailing gut feelings come to pass.
Well, come to pass it has. Autumn was rightly drowned: no bright days with golds and oranges and ochres; no piles of dried leaves to kick-up on walks through the woods and parks; no snapping twigs underfoot, and no fabulous transitional autumnal show from the branches before winter’s set-in.  No, everything is sodden, soaked and flooded.  Whatever crops we’d not lifted before October arrived have had an aquatic existence, and having been submerged for too long thus, are most probably beyond use now, but, we cannot even check this status until the standing water subsides.

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Jams and Chutneys and Sauces and Relish some of last year’s pantry harvest

It hasn’t stopped raining yet, and as such we’ve still not been able to do much with the monster’s measure. In recent weeks we have not been able to negotiate further than the full allotment site entrance as even the parking bays are under a foot of standing water. It rained most of August, and though early September brought a little respite from the deluge, October and November simply saw the situation deteriorate to a heavens opening down-pouring of almost biblical proportions. Large swathes of the country have already experienced flooding events; rivers have been in full spate for weeks on end, and in most low lying areas livestock has had to be housed already and that is a good 6-8 weeks earlier than usual and something not normally done till near winter’s end. A lot of the potato harvest could not be lifted, and a lot of the winter barley could not be sown, and to add a seasonal twist this last week has seen the mercury drop back significantly to what would be typically late December readings with daytime temperatures 3 degrees below average for early November. And to top it all off a forecast this evening of possible sleet and/or wet snow on a brisk north easterly and a forecast low tomorrow night of minus 4 degrees! Oh yes, come to pass it has: it was only a few short weeks ago we were mulling-over the potential of an early autumn, and suddenly we find ourselves in the grip of winter.
Year after year, decade after decade, perhaps century after century even Ireland’s weather was always viewed as dependable. It was dependable in the sense that it was always quite unremarkable. You knew what to expect with weather in Ireland: never too hot, never too cold; an odd few days or perhaps a couple of weeks in July of fabulous summer sunshine, and once every couple of years a blanket of late seasonal snow which, if you were lucky enough, might just coincide with the late 19th and 20th centuries media-driven Christmassy sentimentality that somehow lulled generations into a false belief in the possibility of snow flurries between the 21st and 31st December every year, when records have always shown that we would have been most prone to snowfall, if indeed we were to have snowfall at all, from late January to late February each year.

For as long as anyone could remember Ireland’s weather was remarkably unremarkable in this sense: drizzle and sunshine, breezy, and blustery; soft spring days and soft summer days aplenty; frosty mornings, though not so many as to write home about and unnamed winter storms which blew in half-unexpectedly and without warning and invariably blew themselves out by Patrick’s Day. But, that was then, and now is the new weather reality. The pattern of weather in Ireland now is most definitely changed, and what was once by-and-large considered dependable and unremarkable is now most definitely become remarkably remarkable.
As children of the twentieth century’s great and good technological developments and advancements, we here on monsterinthecorner have always valued the evidence and researched based conclusions which helped greatly improve the living standards, healthcare and education for many, many billions of people on this tiny blue spinning rock ninety-odd million miles from our nearest star; there is just no arguing with science when that science is done scientifically. And now almost all of The Science on climate change says…well, it says “we ain’t seen nothing’ yet!”
We here on the monster’s emerald isle stomping ground now experience a pattern of weather with noteworthy extremes: we now have higher than average seasonal temperatures in both summer and winter; we now experience twice the historical mean number of Atlantic winter storms each season and ones which make landfall with greater and more sustained force than had been the case heretofore; we are now become acquainted with extra tropical storms and downgraded bona-fide hurricanes not to mention highly destructive and erosive tidal surges, and how can we ignore that steadily increasing number of days when rainfall amount surpasses former monthly equivalents. Most certainly, and for all the wrong reasons, our weather must now be regarded as remarkable, if not remarkably remarkable.
Long before it was considered worthy of mainstream sound-biting we, here on monsterinthecorner, espoused an awareness of the fragility of the environment on which we all ultimately depend, and Mrs Dirtdigger has been a lifelong soft-shoed advocate and practiser of low-carbon footprint activity and sustainable living. So we’ll not attempt to outline the science here, we are just glad the giants in those particular fields have hoisted us onto their shoulders and, if truth be told, the whole world is (or at least should be by now) so well acquainted with the factual reality of climate change as to reduce quoted iterations here to little more than line and blog filler.
So fact, the climate of the planet on which we live is in massive flux, and most of the dynamic drive behind that recent flux is undisputedly due to human abuse of the planet’s resources. Another fact is that even if every single plane, train and automobile stopped dead right now, and we mean right now; and if every single coal, oil and gas fired station on the face of the planet ceased production immediately, and if all the gigantic herds of intensively farmed livestock were culled overnight, and if not one more tree was to be felled anywhere across the globe from today, and even if production of all plastics and herbicides, pesticides and fungicides was ceased right here and now, well, it would all amount to nothing! Don’t get us wrong, this all needs to be achieved and it needs to be done YESTERDAY, but in the short term it will amount to absolutely nothing. Even if all this was somehow magically possible overnight it would not change one single iota of the unimaginable damage already done, and more importantly, neither would it slow nor suspend the disturbing effects we are now witnessing. This in no way is to sound sensational, nor defeatist, but this is the hard reality. We’ve tipped the climate into a reactive state and unfortunately we cannot tip it back again. We are going to have to ride this out, and that ride that is going to last for decades, perhaps centuries. Yet when you listening very carefully you hear we are developing our survival and mitigation discourse whilst seriously considering  continuing to mine and burn, and pump and burn, and frack and burn, and cut and burn, and expand and grow economies, and maintain political viabilities, and talk the greatest talk that’s ever been talked, while we all hoodwinkingly walk somebody else’s walk to a mutually assured state of global chaos. It’s not The End of the F…ing World, oh no people, it’s much more serious than that, and if you/we/us/them are waiting for someone else to tell you what needs to be done and what you need to do, well then, you probably still haven’t got it.

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Monster’s Access Pathway in November!!! compliments #janpaulkelly on instagram

A rain of circles & squares…

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Sunflower sentry duty…

It rained on August 1st, and it rained again on the 2nd. It rained on the 3rd 4th and 5th; it rained the first Tuesday and again on Wednesday 7th and the next day also. Thus it rained the whole first week of August. It also rained each day of the second week, with another full encore the following week. In fact it rained every day the first twenty two days of August, and that, as must be said put a real dampener on the late summer’s gardening experience.

It did dry up and improve somewhat toward month’s end but the dull damp conditions for most of the month took its toll: the potatoes were blighted, as was the polytunnel tomato crop; the pumpkins sat in the dull damp and those that survived the unseasonal water-logging and flooding simply called it quits and failed to mature and swell to anything near expected potential, the vines mildewed completely and we had to pick the remainders. We had to lift the late onions and shallots and cure them under cover, and the lettuce and rocket bed was obliterated by the constancy of the pelting droplets; the summer colour in Mrs Dirt-digger’s orangey-patch looked bedraggled and those sunflowers which actually managed to bloom looked forlorn. We did however have some cucumbers from the polytunnel, in fact – and perhaps by way of compensation – we have had a veritable cucumber glut, which we’ve put to good use by using all the excess in a store of pickles, a challenging exercise with our dried herb and spice rack; turmeric, mustard seed, fennel seed, dill, chive flowers and shallots, fifteen jars in all to see us through the leaner months.

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Anemone with rudbekia

Things improved greatly with the first days of September, skies cleared and the sun shone; we had days with temperatures well into the mid twenties and all breathe a sigh of thankfulness at feeling the remnants of summer before it disappeared completely again for another year. The nights are cooler now and the mornings mistier, and with the exception of a couple of overcast occurrences the first 20 days of September had been a bonus. As I type there is patchy blue sky once again, a strengthening breeze and an expected temperature this afternoon of 18 degrees, which for the latter end of September is as good as it gets. Rain is forecast.
The early-fruits harvest through the early summer months was disastrous, a combination of last summer’s prolonged severe drought and this spring’s adverse blossom burst timing, and although our gooseberry and blackcurrant crop was practically non-existent as a result, these last few weeks Mrs Dirtdigger has been foraging some wonderfully plump blackberries which we’ve combined with April Queen Cider apple to make some seasonal jam that will more than compensate for the meagre store from the early season harvest.

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Grasshopper on a ripening pumpkin

We’ve already dipped into the pasta sauces and pizza sauces we jarred, just as we used the Rhubarb and Ginger Jam; we’ve also used plenty of the summer pickles, and this weekend we will set about combining our now fully ripened Cayenne peppers with Fresh coriander leaves and garlic bulbs harvested in July to make some Harissa, another of the monster’s staples.
The Purple Cascade French Beans proved to be a winner, and though the vines are now spent we have over 10 lbs frozen for use in the coming months. The beets are finished and it’s just a tad too late to try a successional sowing, the autumn curly kale is ready anytime soon and we still have the parsnip bed which only lately seems to be spurting growth and this should herald a good crop, most especially with the warm damp soil conditions that are autumn parsnip heaven.
And so with the drawing to a close of the monster’s annual cultivation activities, other activities come to the fore. We’ve already begun to plan some of those changes we need to make, and also some we want to make during the forthcoming winter season. Mrs Dirt-digger is planning a large octagonal herb wheel construct into which we’ll relocate most of our herbs early next year, and we will also finish the gothic picket fence which we started last winter.
It rained again yesterday, but as we are now the darker side of the equinox the weather is as expected to be given that. The rudbekias and anemones shine in the speeding autumn sunlight, the dahlias stand blousy-bright and the autumn beauties are on sentry duty right the way around the monster’s perimeter.

This past weekend we set some lavender and bay laurel cuttings; we collected our marigold, sweetpea, poppy and calendula seed heads, we cut the last of the strawflower blooms and have them drying in the potting shed and we planted some ‘Thalia’, ‘Sunnyside Up’ and ‘Double Fashion’ daffodil bulbs for new colour next spring and with that action right there, this circle is squared for the year.

It has started to rain, again

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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