Just browsing recently, weather in the Baltic means a bit of downtime. I am looking at a new property, I am hopeful, but nothing is certain yet - the mortgage still needs to be applied for, engineers need to be consulted etc. Early days but fingers crossed. When one is daydreaming, the internet can be a disaster - but sometimes it helps.
One thing I would like to do is keep chickens. When I was a child in Connemara, my grandmother kept them - as did my friend Sean in Roundstone, with whom I spent many happy days.
Chickens provide food
Chickens provide pest control
Chickens provide a great deal of entertainment
- especially for children (if you meet me in a pub ask me about chicken dominoes) There are several companies in Ireland who provide chickens commercially. Two I have seen are: henpecked based in Galway, and present at the Connemara Pony Show (see pics) & chique-hen with whom a schoolfriend of mine was involved - Both these companies also provide coops, equipment etc.
I remember as a child, a box of chicks being delivered to my Grandmother by Bus Eireann.
That'll teach him to stick his fingers into the cage!!
But in getting chickens, I saw something recently that I thought was a cool way of getting chickens and doing something compassionate. A quick internet search will give quick results - but essentially it is re-homing rescue birds from battery chicken farms. Rescue Hens Ireland is probably the biggest. Pethelpers.ie - and their facebook page Halfway Henhouse Nuthouse Hen Rescue are in the North Little Hill Animal Rescue also - at times - save chickens from mass culls. Adopt A Pet Ireland have a list of other rescue centers who may be able to help or advise near you.
Here's some advice from gardenplansireland.com They may go off-lay for a couple of months when you get them but should start laying again. Afterwards, treat them as other hens by worming and mite prevention. You will probably find the eggs are larger than you will get in the shops as well once they have moved back into full-lay. They can be great for double yokers. Give battery hens a chance in life, treat them with respect and you won't be sorry. The main psychological problem is feather plucking, it can be stressful for the bird on the receiving end of this habit, identify the bird responsible and the vet can snip his beak in the appropriate place to stop this. It does no harm to the bird and doesn't prevent her eating etc, just makes it difficult to get a hold of the feather, they usually stop once they go free range though, although sometimes one can persist. Please don't get a "I-can-do-that-for-you" person to do it, if it goes wrong, you can end up with another stressed hen.
You will get eggs from the ex-battery-hens, but just take your time with them. They should be quite quiet as they are used to close proximity of humans and handling. Due to the amount of antibiotics etc they have been given, they would do better in a large run initially until their immune systems get back to what it should be like, then allowed to roam free range, if that's your wish.
I think its a bloody great idea. Rescue chickens, give them dignified and decent conditions - and you get fresh eggs, virtue IS its own reward.
A correspondent of mine, Sean Gallagher from patchwork veghas just started a new venture. Sean is a real 'get up and go' guy, I've always admired his drive and innovation. When the slump in the building trade hit, rather than despair or give up - he got on with things, he started up patchwork veg. It was, at the time, a niche market and something that was new to Irish horticulture, but he made a go of it. More recently he has gone back into building and the results look very impressive.
The new company is Gallservso if you are considering extending or moving into the garden I would recommend Sean, not just because he is an obviously skilled builder, but also, as a kitchen gardener, he would look at the extension differently to a builder in that this is not more space to furnish in a house, this is part of a living garden.
OK - it's a folding bench table, but I write the blog, therefore have editorial control, and always like a bit of onomatopoeia. I've got to say, I saw this table on facebook, and the only way I can describe it is Sexy - I must be getting old or developing a furniture fetish. Terrible I know, but I think it is brilliant. A garden bench/kitchen table in one - those clever Dutch buggers. http://www.tiptopprojecten.nl/
Cost is 200 EUR (VAT etc is included in the price) and delivery is 78 EUR - all the way from the Netherlands!!
One of the perennials I planted back in 2011 has kept going strong with no attention whatsoever - as has the cordoon etc.
With this meal, unfortunately I left my stick with photos at home, so I will upload some on my return.
You will have to make do with the rather pretty botanists painting above.
There are many variations, this is simple, peasant food - but once it starts to caramelize, it starts to become the food of Kings. First time I saw it was on a UK site from a Welsh lad called Alan Refail - so thanks to him, I have something other than a soup or puree option.
Jerusalem artichoke is hardy, and is suited to the Irish climate. After it was established it has required no weeding or care.
In terms of sourcing tubers, after my experience, I would, unfortunately, not recommend Mr Middleton's.
Try looking about, or contact me. I have quite a stick of them.
Mind you, when I did put it in, a lot of seaweed and manure went in as the base of the bed.
Since then I have had strong, healthy plants.
The fresh tuber tastes like a water chestnut and is used in salads. They are better cooked though as they will give you wind if raw - and I really mean that - as did John Goodyer in 1621 when he was quoted as having said "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."
Dont let that put you off, it is a bit harsh. The flavour of Jerusalem artichoke is kind of sweet and smokey. If lifted and stored for any length of time, they become sweeter - so if using this recipe, dig the tubers up a few days in advance, it really helps with the caramelizing process.
This recipe Topinambours à la Barigoule, is a staple of Provence in the south of France, it's cheap, easy and different.
I like to keep it simple, and the recipe here is fantastic with roast pork.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
500 grams Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and peeled
100ml white wine
100ml of water or stock
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
12 Black olives, stoned
Handful of Parsley
Chop up the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into about 1 inch / 2 cm pieces.
Put them in a pan that just fits them and add two or three tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil, the juice and grated zest of a lemon, about a dozen black olives, 100ml water (or veg/chicken stock) and 100ml of white wine.
Add water to barely cover them tightly, bring to the boil then simmer till the artichokes are tender.
Uncover and let the liquid evaporates and the artichokes are just starting to caramelize.
Season with pepper, no need to use salt normally the olives are salty enough.
Add a good handful of chopped parsley before serving.
Great side dish - enjoy
As always, please take the time to comment - I really appreciate the time and effort.
That time of year again - blackberry picking - and if you have some apples and rhubarb also your away in a hack.
These recipes take work and effort - so ensuring its shelf life and giving you something of your own through the dreary winter is worth putting equal effort into. I strongly suggest you read my previous posting on preserving, it is worth taking the effort.
Trust me, when you hear jars with a pop-up top 'click' as they cool, its a very rewarding feeling to know that's a batch of Your work that can safely be stored in the larder/kitchen for the next 12 months, until the next harvest.
Here are 4 blackberry recipes - click on the highlighted text to link to the recipes