On a sunny day last week, I got a sneak preview of the new Teach Saileach or Willow Room at the Country Life Museum in Turlough, Co Mayo.
Sunshine through willow of Teach Saileach
On Sight 2017, was a community arts project, funded by Mayo County Council, in partnership with the National Museum. The Willow Room is one of several willow sculptures created in the grounds of Turlough Park, by the talented Mayo Art Squad. The artists used local willow and traditional basket making techniques.
I was privileged the following day to be the first person to use the Willow room as an outdoor classroom for a group of pupils from a local primary school. We used the space as our classroom before exploring the wood for bugs and other mini-beasts. The bug hotel is also a new addition to the woodland.
The room made a wonderful outdoor classroom. Pictured below are just a couple of the other willow sculptures that can be viewed as part of the Willow trail.
The artists involved in the project were: Mick Smyth (coordinator), Brendan Timlin, Kevin MacNeely, David McInerney, Saw Tun, Sanita Vecbrale, Paul O’Driscoll and Aidan Crotty
Why do we feel compelled to create gardens? My own garden has not so much being created but its journey has been an organic process of gradually fitting in what I wanted from a garden, around what was already there. The very first thing we did was fence off a vegetable plot at the same time the house was being built, as that was a priority for me. We started with fence but planted the beech hedge to provide extra shelter, and that is now well grown.
first year of veg plot
Veg plot (2016)
Second was the wildlife pond. It took a bit longer to complete but now it looks like it has always been there.
Pond with liner (2007)
Over the years we have acquired a tunnel, planted more fruit trees, and the wildflower meadow is a work in progress as there is always new plants that can be added. And then one year we had a bit of extra cash which allowed us to build the greenhouse.
Wildflower meadow and fruit trees
The last two years I have been working on the flower garden.
I never get bored in the garden. There is always something to do, something new to create. Though really all I am doing is adding to mother nature and to some degree managing her. Though if you walked into our garden at the moment you’d see that there isn’t a huge amount of management going on, as they wet weather recently has meant no grass cutting and work has meant little weeding, so it’s all a a bit wild. But I do like it like that!
The last two years I seem to have struggled getting the vegetable plot in order. Just when I think I am getting things under control the weeds seem to take over! Currently the autumn strawberries and the blueberries are somewhat overwhelmed with weeds
We’ve had a reasonable crop of purple sprouting broccoli and broccoli (which I started last autumn inside. Mange tout are cropping both inside and outside and broad beans are coming slowly.
Purple sprouting brocolli
The potatoes are doing well. Cabbages are suffering a bit of slug damage – how the slugs love them! I surround them with broken egg shells which does help a little. Usually I can get some lettuce going early in the year, but anything I have set outside this year has just vanished. So I’ll concentrate growing these tender leaves in the polytunnel. Of course the weeds in the raspberry and blueberry beds are probably havens for slugs, and the recent damp weather doesn’t help either. We did watch a blackbird dismantle a slug the other day, but it did seem to have a problem with the slime.
Leeks, onions, parsnip, beetroot, red and white cabbages, courgettes and runner beans are all planted out. I have the latter two planted in the tunnel too in case we don’t get a warm summer. In the greenhouse, I have just recently planted tomatoes and cucumbers.
So if I can just keep on top of the weeds and slugs it will all be fine!
I started drafting an Earth Day post that was becoming depressing. So I have decided on a list of ten positive actions anyone can do for our Mother Earth instead. Actions to help us live in harmony with the planet we call home.
Go outside. Close your eyes for fifteen second and use you ears to listen and your nose to smell.
Plant some vegetable or herb seeds, even if it is only in a pot or window box.
Walk or cycle somewhere you would usually drive to.
Find a local farm shop and buy something.
If you live in Ireland, sign the petition to strengthen the draft climate change plan. If you live in another country find out what your government is doing about climate change.
If you have left overs from dinner, eat them the following day for lunch. Don’t throw them in the bin
Make a more sustainable choice in one food product you buy each week. For example, buy organic free range eggs, or organic flour etc.
Pick a sunny day, and look in your garden or go to your nearest park and see how many bees and butterflies you can see.
Instead of your usual present when you go to visit someone bring them a nice flowering plant they can put in their garden.
Find a new woodland, nature reserve or other wild place to visit.