Saturday, 12 March 2016

Ides of March

First of all, some good news: My piece on bog butter has been reprinted in Grit Magazine, as well as on the Medieval Histories web site. Thanks to the people at Medieval Histories for asking permission, and for creating such a great resource.

I’m also set to be published in the home-schooling magazine The Old Schoolhouse later this year, and in the American Conservative shortly.

Finally, I’m also still writing my weekly column for our local newspaper, and last week, with their permission, I wrote about something other than my usual gardening and recipes – I tried to explain US elections, and this one in particular, to an Irish audience. Since the AmCon piece will be explaining Irish elections to an American audience, I'm doing my part for international understanding.

Today we had one of the first dry and slightly warm days of the year, so that I could chop wood in a T-shirt. Our heat pump hasn’t worked all winter, so we’ve been using up wood as fast as I can cut it, and today was the first time I’ve been able to catch up and build a surplus. 

The Girl and I built two ramshackle shelters a few weeks ago to keep firewood, and they’ve done an admirable job through the dark and rainy winter weeks. They are simply willow poles and old construction boards, held together with nails and scrap wood, knobbly and humorously ugly – but when high winds raced across the bog, blowing off the door to our greenhouse and pulling a tree down into our driveway, they stood and kept our wood dry. 

At my request, The Girl stacked bricks of turf into baskets for us to burn tonight, and we have almost used up our pile of turf. As I mentioned in the bog butter article, turf is decades of sphagnum peat moss, compacted into a reddish solid, and for generations the Irish have dug it up for fuel. Three years ago The Girl and I went into the bog and footed this turf – separated it into bricks and stacked it cross-hatching-style so that it would dry in the summer months. Then, in the autumn, we piled it onto my neighbour’s tractor, and he delivered it to our door. It was a year’s worth of turf, but we’ve made it last three years. 

We also tore down our old rose trellis and put up a new one, and The Girl got a great deal of adolescent satisfaction of smashing it up with a sledge-hammer and a hatchet. I also put her to work chopping all the elder saplings growing up around the edge of our property; elders are basically weeds in tree form, and they are pernicious, smelly, ugly and choke out other plants. We value them for their elderflowers and elderberries, but we will have plenty of those. Thus, on the edge of our land by the cow pasture, I want to eliminate all the elder saplings and plant beds of willow, which I can pollard each year and make into baskets. 

I’ve also been uprooting the brambles that grow around our property, which were also getting out of control, and I’m gathering the planks of wood that are rotted or broken, and that we can no longer use With these I made a bonfire, turning all of it into ash – and I’ve been using the ash to make lye, and hopefully soap in the future.

There’s a lot more to do, and the growing season is almost upon us.

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