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

Cold Water Morning…

It’s been cold and grey, and it’s been frosty and sleety and occasionally wet-snowy. It is late January and winter has finally shown its face. All the surprising early unseasonal growth is stopped dead in its tracks, and the precarious plans we had been toying with for attempting some groundwork on the monster’s measure have been consigned to winter’s reality box. After a very mild early winter, normal service is resumed and with that the most that can be hoped for is that we do not get a late winter cycle of weather events the likes of those experienced last year.

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Winter’s dust

So, we’ve been busying ourselves otherwise; updating and tweaking the Monster’s log, giving it a new look to carry us into the New Year and seasons ahead. As part of this design we’ve now incorporated a new drop-down recipes menu into which we will post those recipes we have developed for the dishes we prepare using all of the fabulous bounty the monster affords us each year. We began by populating the menu with some of those culinary compliments more accessible this time of year i.e. the sauces and chutneys and salsas currently stocked in the Monster’s larder, and as the seasons progress we shall update with seasonal recipes using the monster’s own fresh seasonal fare as it becomes available and in doing so expand the scope and remit of the Monster’s Log to a more fully rounded Sow–Grow-Cook-Eat experience, a little something to further whet the appetite if you will, of all those who land here!
We emptied the seed drawers and storage boxes, and we have had to be ruthless in our dissemination of the stock therein: any and all seed stock more than one season past sow-by has been composted. We always use 100% fresh seed for certain sowings of parsnips and carrots and celery; and where some seeds may still possess a certain degree of viability the following year or years even,- especially floral stock– with fruit and vegetable seed we generally opt for the greater germination success rate by using fresh seed to begin with. We were still surprised by the number of opened and half-used packets of seed that we had put into storage during the previous year or so, and we determine not to be so cavalier in discarding future seed stocks opting perhaps to put them the way of some local seed swap before the seasons pass and drift into each other.

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Date checking the seed stocks…

We plan a venture into one of our favourite retailers next weekend to purchase what we need, and Mrs. Dirt-digger is reminding ourselves that this year we need to cultivate more in the way of leafy-greens: so lettuces and rocket, cabbages, spinach and kale are top of the list, with a promised new rose bush (if we can source the particular variety we desire, Irish Hope), and not forgetting some of the usual suspects for the poly-tunnel, the tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers to start-off in the next week or so. We’ll sow some onion seed this weekend, and we’ll purchase the red and white sets to pop in small pots the following weekend, and before you’d progress to shake a rake sure the whole bloomin’ process will be under way for another year.
Last night we had snow and ice and wintry showers across the country. It’s a cold water morning and Mother Nature is still quite some time off from donning her springtime boots. The temperature levelled at -5 Celsius this morning making it the coldest night/morning so far this winter season. The forecasts point to at least ten days to two weeks of similar conditions yet, but at least today’s bright winter sunshine is a bonus. And it’s cold, too cold to sow; too cold for anything to bother to grow, too cold to consider anything other than the seed catalogues and the holiday brochures, and as such we’ll simply continue to hatch our plans…

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compliments of @janpaulkelly instagram

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

Early Days in a Late Spring

As expected, April’s arrival has put an end to things: The lingering sulk of the longest winter is finally docked, and spring is most definitely sprung. For four days last week we basked in pleasant sunshine with temperatures four to five degrees above average, but this week has seen a return to more familiar Atlantic troughs with pulsing thundery showers and periods of widening sunshine.  Though the forecast hints at a cool night or two yet, by and large April is doing what April is expected to do in scattering showers and sunshine in equal measure.
Suddenly there is a noticeable greening-up and perceptible growth across the monster’s measure, and everything that seemed to be standing still and simply marking time throughout February and March has begun to reach for the warming gold orb and widening blue above. Though at times it can be the cruellest month, this year April is the gardeners’ redeemer; nature has finally set its sight on new trim, and all at once there is pep in the step of everything.
Although way too early to make hay, when the sun did shine we made up for the four week foreshortening of the season and tried to get back on track with our own general spring sowing and planting schedule. We like to think we’ve more or less achieved this. Most of what we intended to sow has been sown, and where and when we lost stock we’ve simply re-sown. The bare branches of the apple, gooseberry and blackberries are consigned to memory; the Dutch Master daffodils which provided welcome solace during the extended bleakness are now fading fast and are being crowded by the stretching globe alliums; the parsnips have germinated as has the dill, parsley and coriander; the kale seedlings are acclimatizing to life outdoors; the onions are green-shooting at last and the gourmet shallots which seemed to have given up the ghost completely have also sprung to life. We’ve bedded the tomato, pepper and aubergines in the polytunnel, and the Dirtdigging Mrs has planted out the zinnia and marigold seedlings along with some lupin and lavenders. The garlic (fingers crossed) seems to have thrived despite  atrocious months on end with its feet in the worst of the weather, and the rhubarb also looks and tastes quite good. A four legged polytunnel squatter help him or herself to the first sowings of sunflower, sweet-pea and nasturtium seed, but, we’ve remedied his squatting rights and re-sown with some added cover.
It is early days still, and yet spring is quite late. Bud burst is a good two to three weeks behind, but this is not always a bad thing. Although the stuttering spring and extreme winter weather events did quite a lot of damage to Soft Fruit Growers stock especially in the south and east of the country, a late spring can be the herald of a very good apple, pear and plum crop later in the year: the blossom burst being delayed often means a much greater rate of pollination success as all the trees in all the orchards blossom all at once, and all of the cultivars and variants benefit from the late explosion of compatibility pollinators. So, there is always an up. Some you win, some you lose. We’ve pottered away and we’re back on course. The worst of the weather is behind us for the moment, and as we dodge the heavier April showers Mrs Dirtdigger can be found, listening to the ever increasing chorus now emanating from the greening hawthorns and rowans as all those “smale fowles maken melodye”.

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Early Days Still: April 2018

April, A cruel month?

Now with the darker days overtaken, spirits soar and senses awaken. There is much to do, and thankfully while we have today we have much time still in which to do it.

April, arriving brimful with showers,
Sets the parks and gardens throbbing;
Glancing patches of bright summer blue
And cumulus blankets perpetually sobbing…JJK

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compliments of Mrs Dirtdigger @janpaulkelly instagram