It is unusual to get heart-shaped potatoes but that is exactly what I dug up from the garden the other day!
Male bumblebees, also know as drones as pretty transient. They don’t hang about for long. Once they leave their nest they fly around for a few weeks looking for females to mate with and then, job done, they just die off. It is the new females queens that will hibernate and start a new colony the following spring.
This year, drones of both Early Bumblebees and Heath Bumblebees are appearing earlier than expected here in Ireland. No one is quite sure why yet. It may be due to the strange weather we are experiencing, or it could be that these species are having two generations a year.
Many drone bees can be distinguished by the yellow hairs on their faces. The drone will often fly further than the females. So while this is the second year I have seen Heath bumble drones in my garden, I have yet to see a female Heath.
And I near forgot to add solstice greetings!!
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.
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!
Combining two weekly photo challenges – Lost and Friend – I decided to do a post on how lost we would be without our friends the bees. Anyone who drops by here regularly will know that I am just a little bit passionate about bees, and in particular, bumblebees. What is there not to like; cute, clever, industrious and they pollinate so many of our flowers and crops.
Bees are every gardeners friend – we’d have no runner beans, strawberries, tomatoes, courgettes or fruit like apples without them doing the work of pollinating. Going further afield – do you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or a bar of chocolate? Well without bees you’d have neither. It is estimated that the production of more than three-quarters of world crops depend on insect pollinators!
One of the distinctive features of our Irish countryside are our hedgerows. These field boundaries are part of our cultural and agricultural heritage, often forming townland as well as farm demarcations.
In many counties, including Mayo, hawthorn makes up a large proportion of these native hedgerows (hawthorn is estimated to occur in about 90% of hedgerows in the county).
Hawthorns flower in May, so it is sometimes called the May tree, or whitethorn. This year there is an abundance of hawthorn blossom, much like last year. Some of the hedgerows look almost white (perhaps an indication of why it is also called whitethorn). Anytime there is a strong wind, the little roads around us are covered in fallen blossom. So it almost looks like it has been snowing!
In Ireland, the hawthorn is often associated with fairies and the underworld. Lone hawthorns in the middle of fields will not be touched for fear of upsetting the fairy folk. Hawthorns can live up to 400 years old, and while they never get tall, they can become quite gnarled, so you can see where it may get this reputation.
Enniscoe House and Estate can be found near Crossmolina in Co Mayo, on the shores of Lough Conn. Steeped in heritage the Georgian house dates from 1790 and today is run as a family hotel. We visited a couple of weeks ago to take part in a bumblebee workshop (held by the National Biodiversity Data Centre). The second half of the day involved looking for and identifying bumblebees. It also allowed us to enjoy the grounds including the beautiful woodland, but especially the organic walled garden. The garden is divided into two; first the formal garden or pleasure grounds, and secondly the vegetable and impressive fruit growing area. Strawberries, apple trees and currants were all in bloom. The garlic was huge in comparison to my own! And the potatoes were coming on very well.
Enniscoe is also the location of the Mayo North Heritage Centre, where people can go and explore their North Mayo ancestors / genealogy. There is also a looped walk, a museum and all important tea rooms.
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.