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Seriously, But Not That Seriously

box hedge

Before I begin writing this post there are a few notes I should note.

  • horticulturists are allowed to disagree, about gardening.
  • Gardening should not be confused with world politics
  • It will never be considered that controversial
  • Gardening at any level is supposed to make you smile
  • I do not take things seriously, in my personal life. In the gardens I create yes.
  • I have never met Marie and without question, I’m sure she is a very lovely person.
  • As previously noted, this is not about world politics
  • I don’t buy the Irish Indo and haven’t bought a news paper in about 4 years.
  • I’m sure like all good newspapers, that it’s a fine read
  • I am very intelligent. In all departments, including horticulture

Read more

Irish Independent 10th May 2010

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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.

How to fend for yourself

Self-sufficiency is the buzzword in these challenging times, so Susan Daly gets a few lessons in fending for herself

Monday May 10 2010

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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.

– Susan Daly

Irish Independent

Irish Independent March 3rd 2010

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Wednesday 3rd March was a nice day. I’d had a really great chat with Susan Daly over the phone last week and awoke to a clatter of texts and messages all singing Carly Simon on the answering machine 😉 Great to have humorous friends…

I must say it is a great article. Extremely well written by Susan and it was an absolute honour to speak with her. One of life’s really nice people.

For those that didn’t get to do so, one can read the article in full here. Apart from a sexy gardener erm….. 😆 also featured are two more of lifes really nice people kieran Murphy and Pat O’Mahony.

Thanks also to John Mc Williams for the photograph used above.

‘People ask why I don’t charge for my expertise — where’s the fun in that?

Wednesday March 03 2010

“I’m not stupid with the euro in my pocket, but some of the things I most enjoy I do for free. “Recently I took a group of people around the war memorial gardens in Islandbridge. “My wife made country apple pie and we had coffee in flasks, and we have another trip coming up to Ireland’s Eye. “But what people kept bouncing back to me afterwards was: Why didn’t you charge for it?

“I don’t get that. I competed at the Irish Conker Championships last year just for fun. “It’s like I won’t put a shop on my blog (doneganlandscaping.com), because that’s not why I do it.

“I’d say 50pc of the phone calls I get are for free gardening advice, and I’ve been on the garden side of things on the Niall Mellon trips. “I’m going to sound like a martyr, but for me, it’s just not the point of life to always have to tie in everything you do to paying the bills.”

silicon republic… technology for a gardener #9

The entire list of companies for ‘technology for a gardener’ is/will be here.

...and gadget republic

...and gadget republic

This is piece #9. This is Silicon Republic.

Silicon republic in my eyes like a who’s who sort of what’s what online publication of anything technical related. It is the Reuters of the techie industry so to speak. If there was ever anything I wanted to use, buy or try…. this is where I search first. Put very simply, if it ever had a 3 pin plug stuck to it or its not an abacus…. you’ll find it first at Silicon Republic.

With an average of over 81,000 unique visitors and 150,000 page views a month this is what they say:

Siliconrepublic.com is Ireland’s leading website for IT and business decision makers. Along with its sister publications, Knowledge Ireland, e-Thursday and Digital Ireland, Siliconrepublic.com provides a critical forum for decision makers that rely on our individual mix of news, views, comment and analysis to stay informed of strategic tech industry developments and to ensure their company is making the right business and technology decisions.

Thursday 26th February [yes a while ago now…] 2009 saw Silicon Republic writer Marie Boran review The Donegan Landscaping website/ blog. A long with 3 others here’s what she had to say:

This week we take a look at some of the best business blogs from around the country. Being an internet-savvy businessperson doesn’t just mean visibility for your product or service – it also means engaging with customers and potential customers in a way that grows trust for you and your brand.

Peter Donegan landscaping

Peter Donegan

While the aforementioned blogs are good examples of tech-related firms connecting through their blogs, it’s vital to see other sectors get involved.

With his gardening blog, Peter Donegan is a well-known personality on the Irish blogging scene. He says he’s no “techie genius”, yet his dedication to an online audience proves that even the tech-shy should embrace this medium for their business.

you can read the full review at the Gadget Republic Website or at the irish independent blog digest. Three other blogs were reviewed and well worth a visit. They were Niall Larkins BlogeWrite by Gordon Murray and Jason Roes Blog.

What more can I say…. go take a look for yourself and let me know what you think.

silicon republic review…

peter donegan landscaping weblog

irelands very own silicon republic

I started ‘blogging’ around October last year. I blog passionately. I try to. I never really worried too much about what I wrote – as long as it was from my heart. I hope[d] this [would] shine through.

I never for one minute expected that my experiences of ‘my’ horticultural world would be reviewed [?] by Irelands Technology News Service – Silicon Republic – and the great writings of Marie Boran [It was never my intention].

This, to me, is like my very own little oscar. A big deal for 5 horticulturalist in a meeting this morn! It’s not a blog award. It’s not a blog post award. It’s not an award. It is for a horticulturalist. It is to be posted on the notice board in the office – possibly even framed! It is more than an award, to me. Thank you Silicon republic. Here’s what Marie [flowers are on the way] thought:

Move over Diarmuid Gavin! Peter Donegan is a complete gardening nut and blogs religiously on the topic. It is obvious from this blog that it is not just his profession but his passion.

I particularly love the post where he tells us about his deep-rooted (no pun intended) love of gardening, which started with the growing of bulbs under his bed at the tender age of four!

There is something wonderfully captivating about holding in your hand the power of life within a tiny seed and having the responsibility to nurture this living thing. Unfortunately, I bored easily as a child and was apt to let my precious plant die.

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