Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wednesday 3-28

Wednesday was the hotest day so far, reaching past twenty two degrees celcius in the sun. I started the morning building up the mounds that covered the potatoes to help with the daily loss of moisture in the heat. It took time to break up the compact paths between the ridges and hoe the soil into straight lines. It took most of the morning to get through the five rows and set up a sprinklet to ater them all. I moved onto weeding the asparagus bed afterwards whcih was covered in needles and dandilion which had to be dug up by the root and completely removed or else it would return in greater numbers around the same area. Before I headed in for lunch I gathered some tomatoes from the main kitchen window and moved them into the garden greenhouse. I labeled each variety of tomoatoe with a red pen as well as the different flower varieties I had germinated for Lesley whos labels had begun to fade from the bright sun and humidity. For lunch we had a vegetarian gree couscous and a large salad with bread. Lindsay was buisy with the kids and making school runs so Clara helped watch while one girl played in the garden while we worked. Lesley arrived back from Barcelona and went right to work helping in the garden. James wanted to get started arranging beds and planting the gardens on the patio next to the galler cafe so I helped him decide wich plants should go in now or hold off for another few weeks. We had to rake a good amount of soil and flattenout the beds to meet the patio and then arrange the lines of plants. I spent a good amount of the time pushing wheel barrows of top soil out of the old leek ben I had tilled the day before up to the patio garden. It was hot enough that this was the first day I had choosen to join the other workers in taking off my shirt and getting all the sun I could. The breeze was nice, and the smells of the spring blooms were relaxing. It was more like a day in the mid summer than the end of winter, even the pond was full of spring life. Wednesday night I fixed a plate of chips and some pasta with greens out of the garden. I sat out in the evening air playing guitar as the sun set and enjoyed every effect of the evnironment I could take in befor ethe sun dropped behind the tree line and the half moon ook over. I feel asleep early on the couch in the den that night watching old Cohen Brother's films and allowed the fire to burn out before eleven. The night was silent and peacful as a cool air settled  over the property laying a thin sheet of frost over the fields and ending the warm weather. Clouds where said to be moving in for the weekend along with cool breezes and heavier frost. I am worried that the sprouts that have done so well so far are in risk of damage, so we will try to be proactive with the plants in the the greenhouses and covering any sprouting plants with plastic in the gardens. A frost can shock and set back all of the vegetables for the season, and possibly even kill off any sprouts that have not yet broken the surface. In the past year, a heavy snow storm that outwieghed the past decade ruined perennial crops and gardens in the eary winter followed by an early and very warm spring. Many farmers planted early to make up for the lost crop but lost most of the early starts bcause of a late heavy week of frost in May. If the same where to happen this year, many farmers would lose too much of thier starting crops to have a successful season and would likely switch to more profitable short season crops that can be sold in market rather than the various greens and root vegetables popular on the dinner tabel. Sustainable food production can only be workable when the workers and family are well fed and suppourted. If crops are lost to weather and pests that would normally bring in the funds for equiptment and supplies, more land must be set aside to making a monatary income, which often would take away from the area used for property usage. Many farmers are more prepared this year with plastic covers and tunnels than ever before to ensure a succesful crop reguardless of frosts. Some growers that have been organic in the past have began using conventional methods and sprays to ensure a sellable crop according to some local farmers. Organic is the way of the land, but has become more and more difficult with the changing weather and economy in the past decade. Cool, wet weather, more so than in the long past has created an out break of various rots and mildew pathogens that have rarely affected organic growers in the previous generations of local growers. Consumers do not recongnize garden fresh vegetables the way they used to and even in farmers markets, geo engineered varieties of common vegetables are selling better than the organic providers. This weekend we have plans of traveling to Kerry, a beautiful scenic area full of farm land and sustainable projects where I hope to see a more positive opinion of the future in organic production.

Tuesday 3-27

Thuesday, after watering the greenhouse and pots on the padio, I set up the sprinklers and got on a set of waist high rubber boots that strapped around the belt. This as the third day of high sun and record temperatures for the end of March. The sky was clear blue and the sun was bright across the Kildare valley from six in the morning until eight in the evening. I was not bothered by spending the morning wading in the murkey creek water pulling clumps of stream grasses full of muck and various critters. I started down stream near a bridge with a small dam and worked my way slowly up the waterway. I raked large clumps of the tick grass with bundles of roots and soggy muck, throwing it high onto the back to dry out and die, making a silt sod for any grasses or plants to grow along the area over the summer. each step would stir up a cloud of dirt, so I would try to get as many clusters of grass as I could for each posistion I made moving along the creek bed. Many of the clusters of weeds and muck had small fish tangled which I would release and move back into the fresh stream water. I noticed sevral water intects including diving beetles, toe biters, skimmers, water scorpions and twirlers thoughout the grass and brush along the streams edge. Around half past twelve, a bit before lunch was served, I went inside and washed the mud from my hands and face that had splashed with every sling of grass out of the water. I changed clothes for the afternoon and started a load in the washer before I joined everyone for lunch. Clara had made a pizza with spinnach and garlic along with a large salad and bread. Afterlunch I got online to purchase a plane ticket back home through a different airline for about the same price I had bought my round trip back in November. I felt obligated to myself to stay for the summer as long as I could afford in order to get the most and best out of this experienc. I only wish I had realized this before I bought the original ticket and planned a few extra hosts for the summer. At this time I am planning to spend June with my first host as well as traveling for a week with my mother and two of my three sisters that will be visiting Ireland for the first time as well. My best bud Ryan will be coming for a few weeks in June as well and I plan to spend some time hanging out in Dublin and seeing an amazing Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on the 26th.
That afternoon I joined Clara in weeding various beds in the vegetable garden. She was focusing on an area of roses and raspberries while I went over the area for herbs and rhubarb. I went over the sea kale beds once more and covered an more shoot that had broken the surface since I last placed pots and slates around the growing sprouts. In the area I had cleared of year old herbs I started to plant collections of new herbs growing in stone containers. Each pot needed a large hole in the top soil to sit even with the bi annual and perennial herbs that were already in place. Clara finished clearing the two areas of raspberries so the following morning we could start moving runners and move on to other areas that needed cleared. I used the wheeled hoe to clear out the paths between the strawberries near a section of fruit trees until five that afternoon. I gathered all of the cut weeds and moved them to a pile outside the garden walls. We spent some time gathering broccoli and kale after we washed up so we could fix some pastas and greens for diner that evening. I made a noodle and cheese mix with broccoli and herbs along with a plate of curried vegeatables. The broccolli had started to dense up and was thickening every day in the high temperatures. It is some very tender and extremey tasty broccoli which blooms forseveral months through the early spring and summer. I use it in every dish I can along with the fresh kale and leeks which must be used up shortly to make room for everything I have germinated in the greenhouses. That evening I watched the film Finding Neverland with a nice fire from some wood I brought in that evening and a batch of cossaints I baked after our dinner of cod and vegetable sauce. Tomorrow we would finish weeding and prepare to sow some more seeds with one more day of clear bright weathe rbefore a cold front moved in for the weekend.

Monday 3-26

Monday morning I got up early for a big breakfast of eggs, kale, apples, porriage with bananna, and cinnamon toast with some herbal tea I had gotten from the health store in Athy over the weekend. I went for a short walk around the property line and went right to the gardens to meet Clara to plant some forest plants for Lesley. She had bought a few anenemes, crocus and other various bulbs wtih would be spread across a few ridges in the nut groove behind her stabel yard. We had four trays of plants so we split them up, placing them randomly between patchs of lillys, pachysandra, and gallanthus. This took about an hour and a half, then we moved onto cutting back an area of raspberries and Clara started pulling weeds around the area so we could later dig up any runners and put them back into the main rows of plants. Over the weekend the wind had blown off some of the nets covering the onions so we had to gather some more rocks and lay them down the sides of the beds to keep out critters and birds that had already pulled several of the onions out of the soil. A few areas had holes, so we also too time to tie them back together with pieces of bailing twine. I spent the rest of  the morning rotovating patches from a few weeks before to tear out any surfacing weeds and cut the soil even finer.
After lunch that day, Which was on the patio again in the warm sunshine, I got a hold of my airline to discover the price for transfering tickers. Since my origional ticket was a economy saver package, I would have to upgrade classes to transfere tickets which would cost over $1500. I went back to work for the afternoon without thinking much of the ticket situation and tried to enjoy the great weather. As soon as we went out I was needed to help James agther a hundred Achillites for a buyer from a local nursury which had run out of thier own supply. We dug clumps of ten and put them into small pots with compost and enough water to make it back to his own garden. These bulbs go for a high price because they take so long to divide and spread over an area. This garden is known for having one of the oldest and largest collections of Achillites in Ireland. After potting up the bulbs I went to water all of the pots and containers in the stabel yard as well as the small greenhouse full of verebena and flower sprouts. I then went back to the garden and harvested an area of leeks that could be weeded and rotovated. I gathered the weeds and stones and moved the rotovator to the bed. I went over the area a few times to level out the soil that had been built into a large raised bed for the root vegetables, but would now be used for cabbages and broccoli. For the remainder of the day I weeded areas near the stone boarder and set up a sprinkler to moisten the potato mounds and rows of beans and peas. After we finished, James showed me a section of the stream around the woodland that had been over grown with a creek grass that had to be raked out before it was out of control. I planned to start tuesday with waist high wellies and a rake clearing as much as I could before the afternoon.

2-23 Weekend at Burtown

After a good breakfast and a run up the road and back I had a nice cup of tea with Lindsay and Clara then met up with James in the flower gardens to discuss the days tasks. Giles would be in today and would be focusing on weeding as many of the flower beds as he could to get control of everything before the gardens opend to the public in two weeks. Clara and I started by picking out obvious weeds around the edges and any clumps of grass growing in the beds. The cows that are being help on the property had gotten loose early that morning and had caused damage to part of the lawn and a few trees on the edge of the garden so me and james spent some time lifting prints with pitch forks. Any where the hooves had dug too deep and torn up the sod we had to leave some topsoil in place to not have and indentations left. The cows had gooten loose simply because a wire had been left unhooked by a farm worker the night before when they were bringing in the tractor from the fields. Around half past eleven I started using an edger to clip the sides of each bed and trim any over hanging grass. This was a way to enhance the apearance of the gardens and outine each curve of the beds with a sharp contrast from the green lawn to the dark topsoil of the beds. We had the same great curry from the day before out on the patio for lunch in the warm sun. After lunch I spent my extra time looking at flights to exchange my ticket home in August. I was nervous about what it would be costing me because the only flights I could find through my airline were twice the price of my origional round trio ticket. When we got out to the gardens again I spent most of the afternoon edging the beds. there were about six large curvy flower beds in the front of the house along with a few sections of hedges which had to be lined with string and cut straight in line with each other. As I moved through the beds, Clara followed with a wheel barrow and bucket to gather all of the cut pices of sod and grass I left as I trimmed. It was a long day of monotonous cutting and weeding, but we made a lot of progress in those beds, whcih would only grow more weeds to be picked before teh area was open forthe summer. After a light dinner, Clara and I went down to Lesley's where Lindsay was staying to watch some movies together with a bottle of wine Jasmes had given us and a nice pt of herbal tea. I stayed up later that night to sit by the fire and enjoy some whiskey and music until I finally tired out a while after mid night. Saterday morning the three of us made a trip into Athy to stop by the market and the health stores for odds and ends. I spent most of the day Saturday painting and writing outside in the warm spring breeze. The gardens had started to bloom quickly in the first days of spring and several Tullips and trees had began seting blooms. That evening James's sister and good friend had come by for the night and the lot of us enjoyed music and drinks for the night together.
Sunday morning most of the house slept in and we all got together shortly after noon for a cookout on the lawn. James made a few rounds of bloody marys and mojitos while the meat and vegetables were be fixed as everyone wandered around the gardens chatting about this and that going on around the country.  For lunch we had grilled chicken and spiced sausage from a local butcher in Wicklow along with chips, salads, pasta and grilled vegetables. It was a beautiful day with a light breeze so after lunch a few blankets were spread out in the lawn where everyone cold sit and enjoy a few bottles of wine and rosea for the afternoon. around Six, Clara and I took a walk out to a historic ridgeline where a large masacre had occured during the famine. We saw an amazing sunset and got to talk to some neighbors that had lived in the area thier whole lives. It was a great way to end the weekend as we all settled in back at the house preparing for the next week. James planned to have the gallery cafe completed and ready for pictures, tabels and the works for an operational serving kitchen in another month. It had already been a few weeks and I was feeling very comfortable in the place. The work was enjoyable and the house seemed like luxy, but the family and workers are laid back and enjoyable to be around. I am looking forward to the next few weeks as well. 

Thursday 3-22

Thursday is cleaning day, so Clara and I split the three areas and spent an hour straightening and hoovering. Lindsay was staying at Lesley's to watch her dogs while she was traveling for the week so she was not around to lead the cleaning spree as she normall would. We headed out into a warm sunny day, one of th first Clara had seen since she arrived. We were going to start the day preparing beds and planting onions which required rotovating, raking and placing a few hundred bulbs before lunch. I first had to gather tools and take apart the rotovator from its trench digging model back to a tiller. I spend a while piecing together the blades and forcing pins to hold them together and took the machine out to the rocky dry soil that we had to work with. I first went along and lightly scraped the surface of the bed, tearing jup roots and rocks on the surface as Clara quickly followed behind picking them up in a large pot and piling everything ito a wheel barrow. Once tje surface was mostly clear of weeds I readjusted the anchor of the tiller to pull the blades deeper and started turning the soil. I went slowly to shred the larger clumps of hard soil and ensure the machine was digging deep enough. I passed over the bed two or three times until the topsoil was light and easy to work with. WE used a string line to mark the edges of both onion beds and used a rake to start pulling soil into mounds along the line. One side was raked into a straight mound and then we would switch sides and rake a mound one the other line then flattening the two mounds together into oune large raised bed. The raised beds were raked and smoothed for a good planting surface and fiverows were lined out to plant about twenty five collumns of onions. One bed was all white onions and the other was all red. We finished planting just around lunch and went in for an amazing vegetable curry Jo had prepared with rice and potatoes with fresh bread. I was so hungry from a buisy morning I helped myself to seconds of the curry which they had a spiced mango chutne to add even more flavor. After cleaning up from lunch and taking a few minutes to relax, we headed back out to the garden and began putting nets over the onion beds to prevent crows and pigeons disturbing the sprouts. black flexible tubbing was placed a few feet apart in an arch over the beds down the entire length and black nets were streched over the tubbing covering the entire bedding area. Rocks were placed down each side of the netting to hold it to the ground and keep a strong tension across the top. We waterd both beds, cleaned up the tools and took the weeds and rocks to the compost piles.
We worked on transplanting bulbs again from half past two until quarter to four until James was back from Dublin and free to help us plant trees in one of the planations. We focused on moving blubs that were growing in the path of the lawn mower and tansplanting them farther back into the field. We also moved a load of snow drops to the pillars by the front gate mixed together with daffodils and white tulips. When we met up with James, we got the left over bags of trees from the previous Friday when we planted a few large sections of Birch and Ash and carried them out into the fields were a several hundred small trees had already been planted the year before. Several of these trees had been damaged by rabbits and needed replaced, so we used the left over trees to fill in all the gaps. We split up around the plantation, each taking a long row of trees and searching for any sparce areas. We emptied four or five bags of various trees across the large field and did not get every gap filled. It was after five when we finished and we were all worn out from the long day. We agreed to miss out on the pub that night and take an easy watching movies by the fire. We made seperate plates of pasta and shared some puddings for desert with a bottle of wine and headed to bed early. The weather was going to be warm and clear again the next day so I planned to rise an hour early and go out for an early run down the road.

Wednesday March 21

On Wednesday Clara and I started transplanting bulbs from the main garden to the drive out by the front gate. Lesley showed us around the different beds with different varieties of snow drops and various other bulbs. She directed us to separate the clusters and spread them around in groups of three to five bulbs so they would have a good chance at spreading furthur throughout the gardens. We started with a group of achillites covering a large area under a few trees near the front car park and filled wheelbarrows to be taken down to the main gate. We spread these plants throughout the areas on each side of the road, surrounding the trees which lined the drive. We transplanted about three loads and then moved onto snow drops. One variety we had been asked to start with had a thicker folliage than I had seen on galanthus and were said to have larger blooms as well. As I dug up each giant cluster I had to use a spade to separate the bulbs since the roots had grown so dense. once the clusters were separated I scaatterd small groups of bulbs along the paths where we had laid the achillites. We continued on with this variety of snowdrop which was growing in large numbers close to the house and spread them half way from the gate to the main car park, leaving room in the beds for each cluster to spread and set new flowers the following years. It was a fast paced transplant process given the amount of plants we had to move. I simply stuck the spade into the sod making a good wedge and pressed the bulb in place. stomping the sod back down around the plant for suppourt. The strip of grass closest to the road, about three meters wide was left bare so the lawn mower could easily pass and trim the sod without tearing  up any flowers or small trees. Around noon, Clara headed inside to help Lindsay prepare a lunch for us and I finished two more loads of snowdrops on my own. It was a tedious but easy process of digging, lifting, pushing and replanting a bit don the road. It was laid back and simple for a nice clear day giving me a chance to enjoy some music and clear my head from the past few weeks of fast paced weeding and preparingthe vegetable garden. For lunch we had a large salad with potatoes and curry. It was very appetizing and filling for the day even with the work being a bit lightr than usual. I started the afternoon germinating the rest of the vegetable seeds and sowing some flower seeds into trays for Lesley. She had gotten some snapdragons, corriathus and cosmos along with a few small packages to replace areas of annuals that had dies out around the gardens. I planted a good amount of cabbage and a lettuce variety called rocket which the family uses a lot in salads and stews. I had gotten another batch of carrots of a different varietym wich I sowed into a plug tray. I also planted a few more brussels sprouts and spring onions. Clara joined in to sow a package of leeks onto a styrofoam fish cooler that had been saved and works well for starting root vegetables. Leeks are used in the spring for soups, curries, fried dishes, as well as mixed in with other baked or cooked vegetables to add a soft onion flavor. I went back to the root vegetable I had sown in the beds the day before to build up the ridges a bit more since I had only layered an inch or so over the seeds and the top soil was drying out very quickly in the dry weather. Clara and I went back to transplanting bulbs for the rest of the afternoon until she left to help Lindsay with the kids and learn some of the guidlines of thier daily routine. I worked a bit later than usual as I wanted to mov a final load of snow drops around an area that had over grown with grass and wild flowers. In the fall when other bulbs would die back daffodils, muscari, and tulips ould be transplanted to this area as well to creat a screen of various colors stretching from the road into the tall grass and cattle fields. When the gardens open next month, this will be the path visitors follow from the car park to the main gardens and should be a welcoming and colorful scene as guests arrive. That night we enjoyed some tasty pasta dishes with garlic bread and wine for dinner. I stayed up late playing guitar and chatting with Lindsy until she headed up to bed and then built a small fire for myself. I enjoyed a few pices of the pumpkin cake I baked the evening before and watched a movie call SLC punk which I had seen years before and always admired for its ciniacal truth of subjects like anarchy and rebellion with men and women my age searching for truth in thier various views of the world. It kept me awake and thinking for most of the night as I returned to my Chili Peppers biography which would touch on similar topics that influence passion and music. The next morning we would be planting trees again. Lesley had left to visit Barcelona for a week and left a list of tasks around the garden that me, Clara and james would need to tend to in order to keep evetything in line for the opening of the gardens in only a few weeks.

Tuesday March 20

I started with planting some root vegetables Tuesday morning. I used an area near the potato plot I had sowed the early varieties in last week. I sowed a full row of shallots, which are mild Allium type onions next to a row divided into raddishes and beet roots. I divided each package of seeds throughout each row I had dug and covered them with a light cover of topsoil. I watered the rows with a light spray from the nearby hose and put labels next to each small mound. I took time to water the trays in the green house by the garden as well as the other small greenhouse in the stabel yard. The verbena I had cut the first week I had arrived had started to produce shoots from the auxillary meristems on the nodes I had left. In anothr few weeks when these stems produce a few nodes, I will cut them back again to provide a bush like plant. The verbena are spread around the house in various pots and small beds intersowed with other herbaceous species. I spent the rest of the morning weeding some potted plants and adding orgainic fertilizer to old soils. The weeds were easier to pull from the potting soil than the normal hard ground so I moved quickly among several containers spread among the doors, patios, and windows around the main house and the two small houses in the stabel yard. On my way in to wash up for lunch, I stopped by the chicken hutch and gathered the poultry waste and used beding for compost. This compost will bespread throughout the garden late in the winter amoung the various gardens and tilled in as soil is prepared before planting. After a break for lunch with the family I started germinating a few seeds in the potting shed. I started some more cabbages and brussels sprounts in trays and sowed two small rows of baby spinnach next two the previous planted rows of lettuce.
The weekend had been filled with rain, so not much needed watered today. I spent the rest of the day tidying up the stones that edged the garden beds and weeding areas that the tiller had not hit. We had discussed planting onions soon, so I focused on an area on the upperside next to two rows of Autumn rapsberries where I would rotovate and build beds later this week. After work I put together ingredients to bake a pumkin spice cake from some pumpkin puree from the freezer. I added ginger, cinnamon, nut meg, rosemary, and lemon peel to the mix for a interesting treat. This was the second time I had put this type of cake together, and was looking forward to progress with the recipe. Lindsay put together a delicious couscous with greens from the garden and some noodles with herbs for dinner. It was an early night since we were all still worn out from Galway, and the last night that Sean would be around.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I started off St. Patricks day walking to the store with Lindsay to gather goods for our meal later that morning as to get a better look at the nearby area of Galway. It was a clear sunny morning with clouds in the distance and the smell of fresh pastries from every shop. The locals were drinking early and the tourists were flooding in a line of green towards the parade route on main street. I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere full of songs and laughter as me and Lindsay poked our heads in some nearby health and garden shops. We met up with Sean and Clara at our hosts apartment and began preparing pancake batter, bacon strips, egg and viggie mixes, asparagus, potatoes, and ofcourse my own fried apples. Coffee was sparce, so the crowd joined in drinking Jameson neat. We had to leave for the parade before we finished cooking, so we put all the dishes to the side to finish after the noon celebrations. We watched the stream of bands, singers, and political statements for a while before ducking into a nearby pub named Garavans and having a few pints while we watched the rest of the grounps pass by outside. We headed back and finished our meal and cleaned the kitchen before the start of the Ireland England Rugby game at five. We scrubbed and put away everything we could, doing out best to have the place cleaner than when we arrived. We headed back towards town to start a pub crawl during the game. We started at a roudy place called Fibber McGees, and then next door to Richardsons. We stopped in just about every pub we passed until we got to a place serving hot fish and sandwhiches. We went aroound the downtown area meeting up with different friends and trying ouut different pubs. We made it a late and easily forgetful night, but was a great way to celebrate the local culture and see some great live music.
When I got up Sunday I went for a long walk through the city and around to the bay while listening to a few favorites on my Ishuffle. I followed the path along the river canals into the bay and under the spanish arch. I walked up one side of the bay and down the other through the coast line nieghborhoods overlooking a calm clear horizon into the atlantic. At one point I stopped into a large catherdral and listened in on a morning mass, enjoying the loud chorus of voices in each song and rehersed prayer. I admired lines of gardens full of daffodils, tupips and hyacinth sparking the shoreline with colors. I sat in some various spots overlooking the water and the town and considered the changes I have made so far on this trip. I can't help but aknowledge the calming truths and the realities about getting by and making a life clearer that I ever have. What qualifies goodness and good work, what pushes one forward and what pulls them back, how to find a smile in the most fearful of spaces and how peace and happiness are forces that can only be shared once found. I made some good conversation about traveling and education over a few pints in a pub before I found some lunch at an Ittallian bistro. I met back with the others and headed off to find another hostel for our last night, which we had come across a common one called Kinlay right across from the train station. The beds were not too cheap, but they did the job for a night. We all had an amazing time revisiting our favorite pubs and enjoying a bottle of Tullamore Dew with the local chinese take away. We all had fun meeting the locals visiting from all over the country and sharing stories of our travels. I finished the night chatting with the three girls I had a room with while we shared the remainder of our whiskeys. I passed out late and woke up early for thier complemetary breakfast to plan our day. I met Clara in the dinning hall and collected our belongings to store until we caught the train. Lindsay was saying her good byes to friends for the morning while Sean, Clara and I walked around the shop area, got a good breakfast and saw a few sights. In one booksotre we stopped by had a display of James's Photography books, Vanishing Ireland, which was nice for us all to get to see. before getting our last pint and heading to the train we walked through one last street fair where I found a beautiful wooden pocket sized pipe and clara found a bibliography of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for only three euros who I will be seeing in Dublin the 26 of June with my best buddy. I couldn't help opening it immediately and soaking in every work about each members highchool years and influences that have led them to be one of the greatest and most followed rock group today. It was a long tiresome trip back, where we all ate and collapsed early, exhausted from an amazing three nights in Galway.

Second Friday at Burtown

Friday morning was rainy and mucky as we got ourselves together with a pot of coffee and headed out for the day. Sean, Clara and me were working with James and the gardener Giles to plant several bags of trees including common beech, ash, oak, and elders. We started in an area near the main gate along the drive btween the main high traffic road and the property. A large area had been cleared and tilled the two days before in the dry weather to prepare for the trees. We were suited for the rain, but it didn't help the muck and grimmy roots cover out hands and clothes and we dug and placed each small tree into the dirt. We each had bundels of a given variety which would be alternated in small groupings across the area to an area leveled for a car park near the end of the lane. I had beech which had a bright oragne leaf throughout the cold season and a dark green foliage in the summer and fall. The are used a lot around the Burtown property for hedges and large accents in the landscape. We planted close to five hundred trees between the five of us that morning between that field and a strip of grassy area across from the main gate. After lunch, Clara and I helped James with the rest of the beech to plant a boarder around the outter fields. The rain was nonstop so James had told us when we finished the boarder we would call it an early day and go  in for showers. The first strip was a barrier between the first and second tillage fields, where we planted a birch every ten meters to replace the present trees that had grown too tall and become a mass of vines and ivy. The back boarder was much larger, surrounding a large multi acre field of rapeseed which is produced for its organic oil. We alternated between Beech and Ash trees from the back gate beside a plot of willows around to where the tree line meets a creek bed, using another few hundred small trees between four people. We finished around half past three and walked back to the house with soaked clothes and water filled boots from a day of solid rain digging and bending in the muck. This is the type of day that I am most thankful for a hot shower and dry clothes before a warm meal. We all ate, packed and organized before James gave us a lift to Kildare to catch our train west. I got my round trip ticket and waited anxiously for the train to take off into the dark countryside towards the lively city I have heard so much about. Sean and I were up in the air about a place to sleep that night with most of the hostels being booked and no word from friend for extra space. Luckily, the girl we met at the train staition which Clara and Lindsay would stay with had two couches in thier sitting room we could use if needed and no affordable hostel was found. We had a small to go dinner after dropping of our bags and then headed to the main pedestrian street to find a pub and some live music. The first place we tried, called The Ques was very crowded and had too many people moving in and out from the bars but had a very good band playing covers of some well known punk and classic rock. We only stayed for one pint and headed off to another pub and lounge where we got a booth big enough for all of us, but lacked a live band. We had a good night with plenty of laughs and great people watching. We stayed until the music stopped and the crowds started to thin and went off for a cheap place to sleep. The next day we would head to a grocery store and prepare drinks and lunch for the girls that would be hosting us that night. It was a good start to a great weekend.

Thursday 3-15

Thursday morning, after a good meal of kale, tomato, egg and tost, the three volunteers got to work cleaning our areas of the house. We divided up the same way as we did the week before, so I was in charge of the sitting room and the linen closet. I dusted, organized and hoovered the areas within the hour and got ready to get outside in the warming morning air. I started by putting some finishing touches to my rows of potatoes I had been a work with the day before and then took care of the plants around the greenhouses. A few of the pots and trays had dried enough to take another good misting to ensure the area the germinating seed is would have enough moisture. I spent the morning weeding and preparing areas that would be planted in the next week or so. I prepared raised rows of soil for more lettuce and root vegetables including raddishes and shallots. I organized what remaining seeds we had with Lesley before she went to purchase anything they were running low on. She got some more lettuce varieties, mainly Rocket, brussels sprouts, more carrots, leeks, and cabbages for the main season. She also got a collection of flower seeds which I would sow in trays fist thing the next week. It was a laid back day mostly cleaning up the place and preparing for more planting. Clara, another Wwoofer from the same area as Sean arrived that afternoon and was getting adjusted. We all had seperate meals for a night since we were eating small before a trip to the pub. I had more of the soup from the night before which was still tasting great. I made a pumpkin spice cake from some frozen pumpkin pure made earlier that year off thier own crop. I used soy milk and bannana rather than milk and egg so that Lindsay, who is vegan, could also enjoy with myself, Clara and Sean. We headed tO Clancy's in  Athy around ten or so with our host James and Lindsay driving. James bought rounds while we got to know the new Wwoofer and listened to some amazing local jams. We chatted with a local banjo player and vocalist who had been playing at that pub for twenty years and told us some tales of the wildest nights in Athy. He cut off quickly to run and jump in on a favorite song starting uo in the next room. We all stayed up a while when we got back to discuss out plans for tomorrow when wo would be traveling to Galwat for St. Patrick's weekend. We would leave shortly after we were done working and the four of us would catch a train to Galway. We had all types of ideals of what to do each day including a large brunch with irish coffees and pancakes saturday morning after the parade before we headed to the pubs for the night. I was getting excited for a trip with these new friends and to see yet another new side of the Irish country.


Wednesday was the day to plant potatoes. I started by taking the tiller apart and putting the parts on for it to dig trenches. It took time to find wrenches of the right size for each blade to be removed, which ofcourse were each a different size bolt. The belts also needed changed, but I did not know to which arrangment so I choose the only other belt I found to fit. I got the machine together for plowing and moved it out to the potato plots. I used a line and steaks to set the rows I would plow and marked them. Two wheels with large spokes to pull the machine and a large triangluar spade which would dig the top soil and push it to the sides into neat ridges. The challenge was keeping straight lines at a good distance for planting. As I started into the softer parts of the soil, the blade would pull inward and off track. At any time I made a curve or went of the lines I had set, I would turn around and go over the area once more. I had five varieties of red and white potatoes so I plowed a furrow for each. I used a hoe to dig a level square line through the furrow where I could plant an even row of plants. I filled the wheel barrow and layered in some manure to the bottom of the trenches and put on a thin covering of soil to seoparate the compost and the potato sprouts.This would provide useful and rich nutrients to the plants as soon as they produce a good root structure. I went in for lunch before I started planting my first row of potato pieces. We had some amazing lamb burgers with homemade chips and a large sald. We cleaned up together and I spent time answering a few emails before I went back to work in the dirt.
Seed potatoe pieces are spread into the trench a few inches apart and burried with the mounds of topsoil. I went through the different varieties, alternating red and whites and doing my best to have an even hiegth and width between the ridges. Once a row of potatoes was burried I spent time raking the mounds into straight even lines for a good appearance. I had left the same amount of space for the main crop of potatoes and a few other root vegetables beside the current crop of leeks. I weeded the edges of the beds and cleared away any stones from the mounds. I finished the day wetting down the rows of burried potato pieces with plenty of water and then washing off the hose that had been drug through the muck with me as I went along. I spent a few minutes making stakes for each variety before I mocved the tiller and the other tools back to the shed and went in for the night. I got right to work cutting vegetables of all kinds for a stew that evening. I cut potatoes, carrots, leeks and onions along with a good ration of spinnach and kale. I mixed in some brocolli, squash, brussels sprouts, and beet root from the garden with a few herbs. I found a good bundle of parsley and fennel to chop into the mix with seasonings out of our kitchen. I added mushrooms, garlic, rice and a mix of three types of beans before letting the stew sit for an hour or so. The three of us enjoyed the dinner with bread and wine having plenty left over for the next day.

Monday 3-12

Monday I started back in the gardens getting seeds together and sowing the first sets into plug trays. I planted a few rows of various lettuce leaves with a fabric tunnel over half of them incase of a late frost. The lettuce was planted where the brassicas were grown this past year which I spent most last week weeding and preparing. I tilled all the areas I had been weeding with an older machine than I am used to, but once it got going it did a good job at cutting and digging quickly. Once the lettuce was in its fresh turned soil and was watered I worked to bring manure into the small greenhouse for its beds which are used for tomatoes and herbs later in the season. I shoveled about two wheel barrows of manure for each of the two beds and mixed it with the soil that was already there. I covered the beds with slates so the trays of seedlings could sit in the greenhouse with out the manure coming in contact with the young vunerable plants. I spent time slicing potatoes that would need to be planted later in the week. The idea is that when the tubers are cut into pieces containing a few eyes each, there will be more plants grown from each seed potatoe. The Fennels do not commonly use this method, but are eager to see it's results since they use potatoes almost daily and always run out of those in the gardens. The rest of the day Monday and tuesday was spent germinating seeds and planting rows of peas and beans. For most of the seeds, I used trays of individual small pots or a tray of plugs so each plant would be able to gain root structure and optimum nutrient uptake from the compost without competition with other seedlings. The compost they use here at Burtown is a local peat moss mix with small amounts of composted manure and organic matter with little to no weed seed or pathogens present. I would fill a tray of plug tray with the compost and use a second tray to indent the soil to sow the seeds. The seeds would be spread out in a sheet of paper and pushed off into place one at a time with a small plastic pointed label to try to ensure no more than one seed would take up each space. For these two days I was mostly focusing on Brassicas including broccoli cauliflower and cabbage. I used all early varieties that would be more tolerant of a late light frost and the shorter days which could then be harfvested earlier than the other varieties. The broccoli that is grown in the garden is three purple varieties which make up early, main and late crops. The cabbage is both white and red varieties along with a striped variety they are trying for the first year. In years past, cabbage is one of the first crops to run out given it is used a lot for soups and in main entres in the cooler months when not much else is available. James himself said he is not much of a fan of cauliflower, yet we planted a good amount to mix in with the brocolli. One variety was a organic variety named skywalker which I have heard has a great yield and great flavor even in the coolest of years. I planted a few trays of peppers in individual pots, which will be grown in the greenhouse along side the tomatoes. I had a Hungarian hot wax, and two sweet varieties which will need as much separation as possible where they are planted some they do not cross polinate and create fruits which are both sweet and spicy, but stay true to type. Carrots were planted in plugs, as well as a plain tray until transplant, which will most likely be easiest out of the plugs. In the previous year, carrots were planted directly in to the top soil and never germinated. When I finished all of the various early vegetables and moved them onto the slates in the small greenhouse, I then took time to thuroughly water everything with a mister. The humidity of the glass house without out side rain or mist to moisten the air, drys out the compost mix rather quickly within two days, so I must keep up with checking them and avidly misting as needed. I moved onto planting peas and beans, which would be sowed both in the ground and into pots to test which method would have better results in the long run. Lesley, the more knowledgable gardener in the house thinks this is too early in the year to be starting a majority of these  plants and especially too early for anything outside with the risk of a late frost. Even if the plants get an early start, a cold shock would likely stunt them or slow the growth enough that plants sowed early May would grow bigger and just as fast. I raked soft top soil into a raised row for both the peas and beans then hoed a small indentation down the line in which the seeds would lay. The seed was covered with a half inch to an inch of soil and watered. Lesley helped me put in place a number of plastic pipes and a row length net which would keep out birds looking for small sprouts or visable seeds. The nets had to be handled carefully because any small hole or loose area would allow bird to find thier way through and cause a mess within the tunnel. For the last part of the day, I spent time covering sprouts of sea kale with large pots and slates to keep out light.
This brassica sends out large asparagus like sprouts which are elongated when kept out of light. It grows naturally in coastal areas of europe and is sometimes used as an ornamental rather than a vegetable dish. I have never seen or eaten this vegetable and anticipate getting to use it.
I weeded the areas I had worked in, and straightened the nets for good presentation then put away the digging and sowing tools I had used to clean up. I picked a handful of kale on my way back to the house to cook a small snack for myself I call fried salad. Fried salad is mostly kale and spinnach cooked in oil and vinegar with herbs and some veggies such as tomatoes, brocolli or cucumber with some goat cheese and chic peas. I sometimes add some spicy salsa for flavor, but is good reguardless. Kale is quickly becoming an everyday and frequently used vegetable direct from the garden and full of vitamins. with a good day of work, I build a good appitite which is great to fill with healthy foods. Tomorrow I will plant the potatoes I cut Monday, which will likely require a full day of work for till, plow and plant.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

First Friday at Burtown

Thursday was another simple day of weeding and clearing the plots where cabbage and other brassicas had been grown the previous year. The three of us volunteers went into Athy to a traditional Irish pub and listened to the traditional jam session made up of several local banjo, bag pipe, mandolin and guitar players. We came back around midnight and headed to bed. I was up early around half past seven making a good breakfast and cleaning up before going out to the gardens at nine. I weeded for the first hour and then went to work with the main house gardener, Giles, to plant the trees me and Lesley had gotten on Tuesday. The digging was easy for the most part in the loose agricultural top soil out in the pasture where we planted each tree and added some manure compost, paking it in and taking away the left over sod. I helped James line out a path through an area of the pasture where he would be growing some various tall grasses and trees as a small aboretum. I weeded a bit longer until lunch and joined the family for a home made pizza with potatoes, fresh bread and a kale salad. One of the duaghters was having a birthday party that afternoon, and most of the family was headed to the house around three to enjoy the rest of the day with family and friends. I went in at five and joined the other volunteers for drinks at the party after washing and dressing up. As the family and the guest made thier way through several bottles of wine, we made our way to the basement and relaxed with our own wine and dinner. I made a kale kale and bean sauce out of the previous nights vegetable mix over a bowl of rice for myself and Lindsay while she prepared a bowl of bean burger mix. A few friends of the family stayed around for the night along with a previous au pair that had lived in the house before Lindsay arrived last summer. Saturday was my first day off, but it didn't keep me from getting up early and making a good breakfast. I went for a walk with the au pairs before they started working and then spent my morning sketching and painting. I made my self a cream sauce pasta for lunch on my own since Sean was visiting Belfast for the weekend. In the afternoon I went for a long walk around the surrounding farms and small properties until sunset. Lindsay was going out for the night to visit friends, so I had the evening to myself to relax and watch a movie. I feel asleep early, tired from a long walk and a few days of work. I am really enjoying the new gardens and living environment. The wwoofers are more secluded from the Host than my first place, and we work with other workers that come to Burtwon each day. The gardens are schedueled to open the second week of April along with a photo gallery and cafe for the Spring and Summer months.

Wednesday, March 7th

Wednesday was a pretty standard day of work. I got up at eight and fixed some egg and spinach on toast with a banana and got ready to go out to the garden. First I moved all of the freshly cut verbena to another small glass house outside of the vegetable garden so that one would be open for seedlings. I made room on a shelf made of boards and small slates as well as lining them on the gravel bottom. I spent most of the day cutting and removing weeds from the old brassica plot which would soon be sowed directly with lettuce seed. After an area would be hoed, I would go back through with a large bucket and remove all of the plant pieces of the various weeds and take them to a waste pile outside of the garden wall. For lunch we had a noodles and meat sauce dish with salads, bread, and potatoes. We all helped clean the cookware and dishes and went back to our tasks after a short break. I weeded the rest of the afternoon and went for a run around the property soon after I had finished. I went in to wash up shortly before dark and Lindsay had already started preparing a vegetable curry sauce with rice for our dinner. Shaun baked some sweet pastries for dessert after we cleaned our dishes, and we hung out for the evening chatting over drinks and a movie.

Day Two at Burtown

Tuesday was a very wet and mucky day in Kildare, so I didnt get much done in the vegetable garden. I started the day cutting back a row of lettuce and topping several verbena, which helped the first hours go by quickly. I had to leave for my immigration appointment shortly after eleven to travel into town, where me and the au pair waited over an hour to be seen. The appointment went smoothly from that point and I was quickly processed for my visa to stay through out the summer. Now I must figure out new flight arrangements to return home in August. By the time we got back to Burtown lunch had already been served. After I ate some good stuffed pasta, sauce, and bread I went to meet Lesley, the mother of James, who lives next door. She had asked me to join her to go to a nearby garden center to buy trees for the landscaping. I got some time to walk around the gardens and house area which sat above a small lake surrounded by various sprecies of trees and rose gardens. The gardens had an extensive collection of Snow Drop, Hellebores, and Rhododenron as well as serveral interesting varieties of small and large hardwoods. Lesley choose about five small trees along with about ten beech trees and a few potted hebaceous plants for the flower gardens. When we returned, I unloaded her vehicle while she took her dogs out and prepared to leave soon for a pilates class. When I got in I rested for a while and helped the au pair, Lindsay, prepare a few dishes for dinner. She practies a vegan diet, so any meals that we share are mostly fresh greens, beans, and various grains cooked with plant based and natural oils or additives. The three of us watched a movie during dinner and headed of to bed a bit early after a glass of wine. Wednesday was calling for a cool but clear day, and would be a full day of work getting the vegetable beds ready to plant.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 5th

 This Morning went as smooth as it could have, considering the circumstances. I woke up around eight in the morning from a good nights sleep of some of the strangest dreams and got ready quickly as I made a bowl of poariage and packed my computer up. I swept the pace out and did a decent wipedown of everything and headed down to The Meetings for my last time to check my email and make final plans for the travel day. I got word from James, my nest host, that he would meet me in Laragh around noon to head to Burtown House in time for lunch. I agreed and headed back up to ask Frances for a life and get my bags. We got into Laragh and I waited at a cafe to meet James, who was picking up some garden furniature from his Sister who lived near by. The drive though Gendolough to Kildare was astounding as we dropped through the mountains into the valleys and long pastures. I enjoyed talking with James about the plans for what we will be doing over the next two months, what hes done so far, and where he would lik to be in a few years time. We discussed some of the current available crops that have made it through the cold season or are developing now, including several types of lettuce, brussels sprouts, raddishes, kale and leeks. We got to the house in time for lunch when I was immidiately set aback by the size and elegance of the property. The first meal was a simple yet delicious plate of rice with a spiced meat sauce with fresh picked greens that me and James had picked just as we arrived. I met the other male Wwoofer as well who is another American from Minnesota. We chatted over lunch while introducing and getting to know a bit about each other. We washed up and I was shown the rest of the main house and where I would be staying on the the top floor past several interesting portraits and paintings. My head was spinning from awe and I i was in utter shock as I took in the place I would be staying for two months. We spent a few hours working outside in the large vegetable garden after I unpacked my bags and got set up. James showed me the rotovator and tools first as we got to work clearing an row of brussels sprouts and dead cabbage stalks. James went over the area lightly with the rotovator to break the surface and free clumps off weeds, which I followed him and picked up in a large bin. The materials were gathered in a large compost pile behind the garden wall. At five we packed the tools away, talked about what we would need to be doing the next day and headed towards the house to clean up for the day. I went off for a walk around the property to see the gardens and trails wich led around the boarder with my camera at a perfect time to see the sun setting above the trees behind the house. There were a series of creeks and pastures which surrounded the main yard area as well as several gardens full of many reconizable plants. I noticed a number of hyacinths and hellebores as well as gallanthus and the traditional beds of daphodils. The place is ovewhelming and very peaceful. The family is very interesting and as nice as could be, especially to be so wecoming and ethusiastic to a student from a different place. I had a good meal of fresh green vegetables, potatoes and pasta with a piece of chicken, then spent the evening getting to know Shaun, the other woofer who has been here a while before me. He has helped clearing areas, bringing in loads of gravel to fill the drives and painting the walls and windows of the main house. James is opening the garden to public April 12 so He want the three of us working working hard together to tackle a series of different tasks through out the vegetable garden and the surrounding areas that need cleared and planted with nice scenery Until that date. Im very excited and look forward to each day that I'll get to work and live in this place, likely getting many chances to travel this area and see some other amazing Irish gardens.