where: ballyboughal [just outside Swords, north Dublin]
when: saturday 21st August 2010
time: 9.30am – 3.30pm
cost: €75 – including morning tea, lunch and all materials
numbers limit: minimum of 8 and 12 people max
Who is it for:
If you don’t wish to farm your entire garden
or remortgage the house so you can garden full time
If don’t [or do] have an allotment
or you simply wish to gather the simple basics to get started
whether you have a window ledge or a small patio
or just wish to grow in pots on that amount of space
I’ll assume you have a life, possibly kids and a full time job
or just enough time in life between eastenders and the 9 o’clock news.
A similar set up to the previous GYO class, the theory is that in one session you will go home with enough skills to be able to look after yourself from a grow your own – without the use of a tractor – point of view 😉
if numbers are 8 or more it’ll run – if not no bother. If you do put your name down keep an eye on this blog post. But I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t. Weather won’t pose a problem. Numbers will include only the first 8/12 names down on the list.
There’s an idea:
interested in having your very own personalised class done at your place of work or home for your group of friends or colleagues…. ? contact details above.
where: ballyboughal [just outside Swords, north Dublin]
when: saturday 22nd May 2010
time: 10am – 2pm
numbers limit: 8/9 people max
After my talk with the GIY group and then after the last course was covered recently in the Irish Independent by Susan Daly….I don’t want to be farmer. I shall rephrase. I don’t wish to remortgage the house so I can garden full time. I don’t have time for an allotment and I don’t wish to grow enough vegetables to feed an entire village. If that is you..? or you wish to gather the simple basics to get started then… this is for you.
A little more concise in set up than the previous GYO class but with the exactly the same subject and content covered, the theory is is one session you will go home with enough skills to become self sufficient in looking after yourself from a grow your own – without the use of a tractor 😉
Whether you have a window ledge, a small patio or just wish to grow in pots on that amount of space, bearing in mind that there just enough time in life between eastenders and the 9 o’clock news.
It was the last course I did in grow your own and Susan Daly came out to my home in Ballyboughal [North County Nowhere, Dublin] and did the grow your own class. She then covered it in Mondays [may 10th] Irish Independent in the features section.
As disclaimers go…. Susan didn’t get a free spot to cover the class. She rang me two days before however to book herself in. If she wasn’t covering it for a newspaper I might have given her a free spot. For the sole want of getting a photo of me hugging a tree in the piece, I did however brush my hair parting to the left that little bit better and she did have an extra mug of coffee 😀
here’s the piece in full – I really want to do the course in the Wicklow mountains. I’m about half way down in this article.
Read Susan’s Blog – well worth a browse. The hair parting did nothing for me. 😉 It came under the title Apocalypse Postponed in the newspaper. I put the bit mentioning the GYO class in bold type below.
Self-sufficiency is the buzzword in these challenging times, so Susan Daly gets a few lessons in fending for herself
Monday May 10 2010
No-one knows what the future holds, especially now that it’s obscured by a cloud of volcanic ash. The view from here, such as it is, isn’t brilliant.
Turn on the radio and TV and it’s all economic collapse and climate change. Take a break and rent a DVD and you can choose between The Road (Viggo Mortensen wandering around a dying, post-apocalyptic world) or the Book of Eli (Denzel Washington, er, wandering around a dying, post-apocalyptic world).
On the bright side, some folks have never been happier. ‘Survivalists’ are people who firmly believe disaster, manmade or otherwise, is just around the corner and make preparations accordingly. For them, making a nuclear shelter and laying down 10 years’ worth of bottled water and tinned sardines is just common sense. They’re only waiting to be proven right.
Digging a bunker in the back garden might be overkill for most of us, but there are ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for difficult times, fiscally or otherwise.
Always the pessimist, I decide to deal with the worst-case scenario first. I’ve always wondered: How would I cope if I was plonked in the middle of nowhere without shelter or even a drop of water?
My first reaction would be to cry. Copiously. My second would be to ring up former army sergeant Patsy McSweeney (presuming my mobile still worked).
Patsy, whose hobbies include camping out in the Wicklow Mountains in snow without a tent, teaches bush craft survival courses at Loughcrew Estate in Co Meath. He takes one look at the way I’m sitting on the ground while listening to his instructions and immediately he can tell I’m a namby-pamby city gal.
“Always get something between your backside and the ground,” he says, “Even if it’s to sit on your heel. Otherwise, you’re on the quickest route to freezing yourself.”
Sir, yes sir. This is not my world, it’s Patsy’s, and I’m as helpless as a baby. To get me and two similarly soft pals in a more ‘survivalist’ state of mind, we are sent off to skim the tree tops on a sky-high zipwire. Physically exhilarated, we are then posed a number of brain challenges which force us to think laterally about our situation.
Team spirit elevated, Patsy gives us very basic tools to set ourselves up for the night. I cheat with a camping flint to start a fire. A piece of Patsy eccentricity that has been bothering me all day — he’s been picking bits of sheep wool out of barbed wire and stuffing it in his pocket as we walk — suddenly makes sense. It is perfect kindling to get the flames jumping.
The shelter is less easy to bluff. In the event of a ‘forced bivouac’ — sleeping outdoors without a tent, to you and me — this is the first thing to be sorted.
We get the basics assembled, a large stick laid like a crossbar across two branches and a lean-to of layered pine fronds. I feel like Bob the Builder without my little digger, carving out a catch-drain in a semi-circle with a stick to lead groundwater around and away from our precious shelter. Digging the latrine downwind is, mercifully, someone else’s job.
All of this is thirsty work. I am deluded from a childhood of reading Famous Five books into thinking that a nearby babbling brook should quench that problem. Not necessarily, warns Patsy. Rotting ferns or bracken can easily poison water. The test for this is to rub a few drops of the water on your lips. If it stings, you’re in trouble. ‘You first,’ I think.
“The Indians say that running water always runs free,” says Patsy. “But not if there is a dead sheep upstream it doesn’t.” Lovely. In the end, we establish that the best way to get water is to dig a hole in the ground, put a plastic bag in the bottom (there’s never a shortage of plastic bags blowing about the countryside, sadly), put a stone on top and let water gather overnight.
Rainwater is reasonably clean, and if needs must, boiling lake water twice is an option. Little tip: A twig with the bark scraped off, thrown into water as it boils, helps draw impurities and the smoky smell from it.
Food is an easy trout from a lake, scraped out in a stream and baked over a frame of sticks but, if we’re honest, we’d probably all die in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Surely the wildlife would be wiped out? In the event, nettles and dandelion boiled into tea is good for hunger pangs but that won’t sustain us long.
I’m still not confident I would survive long in the open air — Patsy left us for five minutes to sit and meditate on the sounds of the wood and I was freaked out by a cow moaning in the distance — but I think I can do something about the food.
Back in Dublin, I look into the GIY movement (Grow It Yourself). We rely so much now on air-freighted goods that are easily held hostage to random volcanic eruptions. Gardener Peter Donegan hosts groups of novice growers at his home in north Dublin. On a bright April morning, I head up there with the knowledge that I have killed every one of those ‘living herb’ plants I’ve ever bought in the supermarket.
Peter relieves me of my plant-homicide guilt. “Those things are force-grown and leggy,” he says, “They are not meant to survive beyond a few days.”
Other things I learn from Peter: seeds have a shelf-life of a year, but you can freeze them just like a bag of peas; I can grow lots of things in my tiny courtyard that never sees a shaft of light (solar panels work on cloudy days — so does photosynthesis); mint is invasive and should always get its own pot.
He also makes me squeeze a fistful of wet compost in one hand, and a dry fistful in the other. “People are afraid to get their hands dirty, but you have to get a feel for what is overwatering, and what is underwatering, the two biggest killers.” It’s like CSI — Cabbage Slaughter Investigation.
Nails duly dirtied, we set about separating and pinching seedlings, planting potatoes and onions, rocket and runner beans, beetroot and pumpkins, sorrel and strawberries.
One month later at home, the onions and potatoes are sprouting, the beans are running wild and the mint is trying to take over the world.
Of course, when it comes to really fending for ourselves, the best question to ask is: What would Darina Allen do? She had an ‘eat seasonally, eat locally’ approach long before it was fashionable. Her most recent book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking, suggests that growing our own beans might only be the start of it. Only two generations ago, Irish people knew not only how to produce their own food but how to kill it, cook it, make shoes and pianos from it. (I may have made that last bit up.)
I’m not up for making my own sausages — I don’t exactly have room for a pig — but I have a go at churning my own butter. Butter is like dust in our house, it ends up on everything, so it might be a good idea to have a Plan B in case creameries go out of business.
As per Darina’s step-by-step instructions, I whisk cream until it collapses and separates into buttermilk and fat. There is lots of faffing about with iced water and then comes the fun bit — squeezing the remaining buttermilk out of the fat. I thought the wet-compost test was bad but this is gross; slimy and sticky and I end up with butter behind one of my contact lenses. I now understand why Darina always wears those famous spectacles.
In the end, I’m not sure my finished product is right. It looks a bit pale and sickly, and doesn’t smell very nice. Perhaps my hands were too warm. Perhaps I cheated by not getting the cream from my own cow. I just have to hope that in the event of the apocalypse, Kerrygold is spared.
I had written an article last year on growing pumpkins from seed [check out the comments for ] and it seems many of you are on the hunt for pumpkins…. particularly pumpkin farms.
I did try and I did put the S.O.S out there for you. But there was very little response. If you know of anyone – leave a comment & make them famous 😉 But I did ring Natasha in Sonairte [click here], a place I have visited in Co. Meath [ just past balbriggan] many times. The mother of all gig for kids has to be the pumpkin carving course….. It’s times like this even I wish I had children 😉
Natasha sent me this email:
Pumpkins are such cheerful bumps in the garden aren’t they? The perfect colour to remind us which season we are in. Growing up in Australia, one of my fav winter dishes was pumpkin soup and you can’t beat roast pumpkin sprinkled with rosemary, thyme and salt.
News just in!! I have been out in the garden just this afternoon, chatting to the gardeners. They tell me that due to the inclement weather this year, our stocks are depleted, and everything has now been harvested! But don’t worry, there are still some left including some big rounded beauties! They are a bit pricier than what you would buy in other shops, not for growing up organic, but because they should keep for several months.
Sonairte’s pumpkins and our other organic produce and plants can be found at the Dublin Food Coop every Saturday, 9.30-4pm. Its an indoor market, Newmarket Square just off the Combe, Dublin 8. Here you will find fantastic organic food products including wines, breads, cheeses, dry goods and good coffee. www.dublinfood.coop. The market has a lovely, friendly atmosphere and you can by lunch and read the papers at your leisure. Alternatively pop into Sonairte itself and visit our ecoshop. We are on the Laytown Road just off Meaths coastline! Only 40 minutes from Dublin, there’s a bus service stopping right outside. Most convenient, especially if you’re carrying a pumpkin! The ecoshop, café and river walk are open 10.30 – 5pm wednesday to sunday
FYI, Sonairte hosts a Pumpkin Carving workshop, for adults and children. Its next Friday 30th Oct, Time: 11 -1pm, Cost: 20€ (1 adult, 1 child,1 pumpkin!).
For anyone who would like to learn more about growing their own veg and fruit, here are the details of other courses.
Thanks Peter for your time. If readers have any organic gardening queries, they can feel free to give us a buzz.
Other sonairte courses this year:
SOFT FRUIT AND FRUIT TREES IN THE GARDEN
With Kathy Marsh. A complete course on fruit growing for amateurs, covering choosing, planting, pruning and propagating.
Date: November 7th and 8th, 10- 4pm Cost: €120 or €75/ day (incl. lunch)
DRY STONE WALL BUILDING
With Bob Wilson (CELT). Covering basic techniques from foundation to capping. Also corners, steps, stiles, retaining walls and garden features and introduction to the use of lime mortar. Bring strong boots and rainwear .
Date: November 7th and 8th, 10am – 5pm. Cost: €150 (incl. lunch)
GROW IT YOURSELF
Course tutors Kathy Marsh and Geraldine O’Toole. A one day course at an affordable price to get you started on producing tasty, cheap and nutritious organic vegetables in even the smallest garden
Date: Saturday November 14th. Time: 10am – 4pm. Cost: €35.
*Please note that lunch is not provided. Our cafe will be open or you can bring your own and eat it at our garden picnic tables. All our courses can be viewed on our website. For more information and to book: Call 0419827572, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.sonairte.org
You might think that this is just some woodstock sort of hippies juncture where waifes hug trees and stare at the sun…. I say wake up and smell the fairtrade recycled gound beans coffee… 😆
Sonairte continues to provide a beautiful sanctuary to walk, sit or meditate. In March the bare trees along the nature walk show up the beauty and shape of the Nanny estuary. In the garden the daffodils are brightening up the winter shades. More volunteers are starting to come out of hibernation to join in the spring propagation and planting season
I hadn’t been out to sonairte so recently. No particluar reason… I think I just got caught up with life and the ‘stuff’ that goes with… anyhow.
What had happened since I was last out there at the hedge layers association day is I became good friends with one of the volunteers, Natasha, who like many people I know in my life – is doing what she does because she is passionate about it ie. money does not equal motivation. I like this.
I’m not saying give anyone any money. No sir! But where soooo many have jumped on the green eco freak bandwagon… for financial gain, Sonairte survives in my opinion because the journey is continuously borne from like minded people who care.
Natasha tells me that Meath County Council have been great to them – but pretty much they rely upon people visiting [or donating to survive]. Am I asking you to write a big fat cheque… no!! In fact she and the other volunteers are working for free at this moment in time. What I am suggesting is that you pop out… take a look and tell me if I am wrong. All you gotta do is buy a coffe or a plant like you would any where else….? More than fair I say… and you’ll feel all super dooper as well 😆
It is the ultimate place for those who love life, enjoy holding hands, home made everything, the unusual, the creative and most importantly the inspirational.
They run courses there which are really cool [view them here]. I particularly like the one coming up on chickens… something I should have done before I got them, but it’s never too late. I think I might try this one…
KEEPING CHICKENS IN YOUR BACK GARDEN
Time:10am – 4pm
With Fiona Crowe – a producer of Organic Eggs with12 years experience of keeping laying hens and other fancy poultry.Aimed at people who want to keep 3 to 10 chickens for eggs for their own table. Morning in classroom, afternoon, handling and practical experience of hens.
Cost: €75 (Lunch included)
Date: Saturday, April 18th
Whatever you do… do gown down. Have a coffee, do or don’t get durty… enjoy what has to be one of the cheapest and happiest places you may ever visit. And if you do feel like dressing up in your bell bottom pants complete with tee pee in arm… just remember to wear some flowers in your hair…. .
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