Fermentalist with a fetish for fatty foods. Don't listen to those looneys telling you that fat is bad for you. Love your gut, eat real food. Writer at Irish Examiners on Saturdays and Irish Independent and Sunday Times, Food and Wine Mag and Tourism Ireland
What a full week. Last week culminated in a visit to Emer O'Flaherty's walled garden at Springfield Castle in Broadford, Co. Limerick. Emer lovingly grows organic salad leaves and vegetables and supplies her wares to top restaurants in Limerick and Cork. She kindly gave us a tour of her poly tunnels and garden which was then followed by a tour from Johnathan Sykes of his woodland and mushroom "forest".
Emer showing us her orderly rows of veggies
A picture perfect finger aubergine and petit pan courgette
Weeks three's report comes in early as the week began on a high with a visit from Tree man Ted Cook. Here is some blurb on the man, courtesy of the Woodland League, of which he is a founding member
"Ted Cook pioneered the concept of 'treestoration' projects, one of which is in Broadford, Co.Limerick, in a one-hectare quarry site that was left to the people of Broadford by Lord Muskerry of Springfield Castle in the 19th century. The quarry came to be used as a dump and, as such, became heavily polluted. In the 1990s, local developers wished to build on the site but the community opposed this and exercised their rights via Agenda 21. As an alternative, they promoted a plan created by Ted Cook to convert the quarry into a native tree arboretum as an education resource for the local school, with the added benefit of the power of the trees to clean up the pollution. Firstly, a nursery was established in situ and gradually all twenty species native to Ireland were groomed for planting on the site. This initiative became a millennium project for the community. The first flora and fauna count was taken at the start of the project, and came to 65 species. By 2004 the count had increased to over 400 species with the trees providing a 15ft canopy. The project has been a huge success in restoring a degraded public space using nature."
The arboretum was a fascinating place to visit. I've always been the kind of person who breezes past trees but never knew my Oak from my Ash, never mind my Spindle from my Hazel. Ted Cook is a profoundly enjoyable human to be with. He knows his trees, nay worships them. Relationships come and go, he says, but trees live beyond us. I won't witter on. To listen to him wax lyrical about our own history, Limericks glittering past and enchanting stories, Brehon law and to wander in and out of poetic verse was pure pleasure. It was a rare visit into what it is to be of Ireland, and a brief reminder of who we are and how much our trees are of us and beyond. We were all enchanted by this gentle and passionate person, a gift, aware and present. So much to learn. Ted seemed to have an effect on all of us, his presence, along with the full moon meant sleepless nights all round. But so worth it. I took lots of pictures of Ted, but I feel he would rather I show the trees. I don't have all the right names.
These are tree wasp eggs, they look cute. I was told I should put them back under their tree and they would be ok
Time flies when I'm having fun and Organic College is certainly a colourful place to be. The weeks are filled with many things; classes in crop production, crop protection, soil science, communications, marketing, woodwork, technology and so it goes. We spend some time in class taking notes and talking and lots of time outside digging beds, weeding and preparing the ground for planting.
On Monday we had a visit from an adorable gent who is a beekeeper. Andy has been working with bees for 27 years and he brought us in a beehive, sans bees of course and told us as much as anyone could about bees in a few hours. The best bit of the day for me was getting into a bee suit and getting up close and personal with our buzzy friends. No proper photo though, sorry. I was a bit freaked out at first, with the bees buzzing around like crazy but I found my happy place, as you must do around bees as they can smell fear and tension close to the hive. The smell from them was heady and intoxicating and their vibration is quite intense. Incredible creatures, we need them so much more than they need us.
Sinead and Maggie with the green manure seeds
We prepared two seed beds with green manure for winter. This is different types of plants like rye and clover that will give nutrients to the soil over winter as well as breaking it up. The plants are then dug back into the earth. After scattering the seed we covered them with netting for protection.
I stopped to pick blackberries on the way home and made some jam.
Ian liked the jam a lot!
On a totally different note we studied some old farming tools and how to use them in Sustainable Development. Sickles and what not. Not into knives much me. Then we prepared some ground for spring planting by covering it with newspaper and pond weed. On Friday we got started on our crop projects. Each group has a crop to grow over winter and on to spring. I've chosen spinach and kale, as I love them so I'm interested. We will grow them using different techniques, organic and biodynamic and record everything along the way.