Flowers in August.

Hollyhock Halo

As August draws to a close we are thankful for all the lovely vegetables we have harvested this month, despite mostly ignoring the kitchen garden this summer. The onions are so tasty grilled or baked and we are enjoying them on a daily basis.


But to sum up August we would like to write about our flowers in the garden. We started most of them off as seeds two and a half year ago and we also bought quite a few of them as small perennial plants. Even if you are on a tight budget it does not take long to get your flowers growing big and strong. The first year, we invested in a few trailer loads of well rotted cow manure and it has really been worth while.  All our flowers and vegetables have really taken off and it is quite amazing how quick the garden has established. Each year we have added more flower beds and even the ones started last year are looking good. In autumn we do an all over weeding and add leaf mould to all the beds and that makes it easy to weed in the spring. Most beds do need another weeding in midsummer as the perennials are still establishing and filling in their allocated spaces.

Lambs ear and geranium


In a couple of years we can start dividing the well established perennials and swap them with friends. We have already received lots of wonderful plants this way, shrubs, vegetables and flowers that had outgrown their spaces in friend’s gardens.

Gifted plants

Flowers are lovely to look at and create a colourful wonderland to stroll about in but are also highly beneficial. We have many edible varieties as well as bee and butterfly favourites. We grow them together with our vegetables for both a practical and beautiful approach. This year we have had a very cold and rainy summer but there are still lots of flowers and vegetables performing well, although a bit later than usual. Some vegetables come with the added benefit of beautiful flowers, like the runnerbean that was first introduced to Europe as an ornamental.



Our main circle has really put on a show this month with all the lovely red crocosmia in the south fiery section. The cardoons in the west have grown very tall and our willow fence we wove in early spring has prevented most of them from blowing over. We are happy with the grass bed we planted in the east section; most grasses have really taken off.











Grass garden

All in all, perennial, biannual and annual flowers give a garden almost instant appeal, and do not be afraid to experiment. If something outgrows its space or if too many weeds pop up in the bed, rearrange your plants to suit the space. Most perennials do not mind being moved, but you should wait until autumn or early spring, when they are dormant. Take some photos in the summer to remind you what the bed looks like as it makes it easier to adjust your plantings. We love all our colourful flowers and cannot imagine the garden without them. Collect and scatter seeds about where you want more flowers or plant them into seed trays to grow on a bit first, before planting out or giving to friends. Some people plan their colour schemes very carefully but we do not fall into that category. In our garden there are a lot of happy accidents and we think it all looks beautiful.

Verbena bonariensis



A colourful harvest on a grey day.

harvest nasturtium

It is harvest time in our garden and almost every day we are bringing in something tasty for the dinner or to store for leaner times.


We have recently adopted a lovely young dog, and between training her and building our extension, most of the growing season has been very busy.  Today it was time to harvest our onions and shallots and as you can see in the picture; our onion bed was completely covered in weeds and plants this morning. We have been growing nasturtiums for three summers now. They self-seed prolifically, taste nice, bring in pollinators to the vegetable plot and look very cheerful on a dull rainy day. Another reason to have them in the vegetable garden is that they act as weed suppressants and if they get too big and start to shade out your crops, they are very easy to pull out.

harvest onionbed

We started our onion harvest by pulling out most of the nasturtiums and weeds and after that it was very easy to get the onions out. We put in small sets in spring and have been eating and giving away lots of lovely fresh onions all summer so today we were surprised to find that we still had enough onions to fill a whole wheelbarrow. The only problem is that we have had a very wet summer here in the West of Ireland and they cannot be put out in the sun to cure and dry up a bit. We are planning to tie them into bundles and hang them from the roof of our open shed where the sun might shine on them once in a while, but the rain can’t get to them. If it works out we are hoping to be self sufficient in onions up until midwinter at least.

harvest onions

The weather has been very wet but it seems to have benefitted the members of the onion family. We bought a bag with about 15 shallots in spring and today we harvested hundreds. Each set had grown into a big cluster of plump healthy looking shallots.

harvest cluster

harvest shallots

Another crop we were looking forward to check on were the potatoes we planted on St. Patrick’s Day. The tyre stacks had grown quite high and we pulled apart one stack of the long fingerling ratte variety and two of the blue ones. The ratte potato is a French second early variety and the tubers had grown all through the stack but as it has been a very cold summer the harvest was not as big as we had hoped, but we are looking forward to tasting the ones we got. They are supposed to have a chestnut flavour. Our blue potatoes were growing close to the ground and had no tubers near the top of the stacks, but the ones we harvested were very big and healthy looking. We have not had any problems with blight.   We are not sure of the variety but are looking forward to baking, frying and mashing them.  We still have six more stacks to harvest in the next week or two.

harvest potato stacks

harvest ratte

harvest blue potato

harvest potatoes

Our runner-beans are called sunrise but so far there are only pretty flowers to look at and no beans. It has been too cold for them to really flourish.

harvest runnerbean

We are growing purple, green and yellow peas as well as lots of daylilies for stir-fries. The daylilies (hemerocallis)  are very tasty and can be picked as buds, flowers or the day after they have flowered for stir fries. They are eaten regularly in China and yellow daylilies are sold dried under the name of golden needles for soups and stews.  As far as we know, not all varieties are edible so use caution and do some research about yours.

harvest peas

All in all it has been a very wet and dull summer but we are happy with our harvest, despite mostly ignoring the kitchen garden and letting the weeds run riot we have enjoyed many tasty meals this summer and we are looking forward to the continued harvest.

harvest apples

Recycled pet bed from an old suitcase.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that we like to recycle and reuse as many items as possible. When our newly adopted puppy needed a bed we wanted to make it ourselves. We had an old suitcase in the shed that came with the house when we bought it and up until now had been used to store tiles in for mosaics.

dog bed 002

We started the transformation from suitcase to bed by washing it thoroughly and zipping and buckling it up. Then we turned it over and cut a cross from the four corners and glued the flaps down securely. We cut a piece of plywood to fit inside the suitcase and glued it down.

dog bed wash

dubh bed cut x

dubh bed glue

dubh bed plywood

After that it was time to attach the legs. We made them from a piece of round wood cut into 10 cm sections. The legs were attached to the underside by screws from the inside of the suitcase, through the plywood and suitcase material. Now the bed has five very sturdy and heavy legs that make it stay in place when our dog climbs in and out.

dubh bed legs

dubh bed side

We gave the inside of the bed two coats of washable matt emulsion, adding filler around the plywood bottom after the first layer and ended up with a practical, easy to clean bed.

dubh bed filler

dubh bed painted

We used an old foam mattress, cut it into shape and made a washable, detachable cover for it. After that all the bed needed was a fluffy dog blanket and it was ready for Dubh. We adopted her today and although she has only been in the house for about 9 hours she already loves her bed and has dozed off in it a couple of times in between all the excitement of a new home, a garden to explore and new country lanes to go for walks down. We are hoping she will sleep soundly in it tonight. As she is only about five months old we expect her to grow quite a lot bigger and maybe we need to look for a larger old suitcase in the months to come.

dubh bed matress

dubh bed asleep

You could adapt this method to any size suitcase and use it for cats and dogs. If you have a different type of suitcase with a hard shell you can leave the lid open and secure it in some way so the pet won’t get bitten…

You will be preventing the old suitcase from going into landfill and by not buying a new pet bed you are doing the Earth a favour in the process. It is a quirky addition to your home and you can adapt it using colours and fabrics to suit your own taste and style. Have fun if you decide to try this out for your dog or cat.

dubh bed

Every dog has its day.

Dubh 008

We are having a new addition to the family. Luckily it will not take nine month but she will arrive on Saturday. We have known for a couple of years that we wanted a dog and one day last month we saw this beauty that had just come into the care of the Roscommon spca. We went to have a look at her and fell in love. She is a lovely black mongrel, about five or six months old with a beautiful temperament. Because of her colour we decided to name her Dubh, which is Irish for black. It is pronounced similar to dove.

Dubh 007

If you are thinking of getting a dog we can truly recommend getting a rescue dog. Often these dogs are not pure bred so less susceptible to problems and diseases. We are not sure what breeds are in Dubh, but we are sure you will agree with us when we say she is gorgeous.  If you have any ideas what breeds she might be please write about it in the comments. We think she might have a bit of black Labrador, a bit of Grey hound or Lurcher and maybe a bit of Doberman.

Dubh 019

When you get a rescued dog in Ireland the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charity makes sure the dog is neutered or spayed, micro chipped and has had all its vaccinations and treatments for fleas and worms. The cost for all this amounts to about €250 but you only pay in the region of about €80 to €120 depending on where you are in the country. Of course you can make a larger donation if you feel so inclined. They also re-home cats. The only requirement is that the dog must live as part of the family, have an indoors bed and not be left in a shed or a dog run outside. Often these dogs have had traumatic experiences in the past and need lots of time, love and affection.

Dubh 017

Dubh has been getting ready to move over the last couple of weeks and we have been getting ready to welcome her into our home. We have visited her several times, taking her for walks so she can get used to us and make the transition as smooth as possible. She is very intelligent and is a fast learner, already walking to heel and learning commands like sit and come.

Dubh 015

We are very excited and happy to be getting a dog to share in our adventures and hope our cat will feel the same way. The cat was quite happy when we were looking after some friends dog for three weeks recently so we are optimistic.  We had planned to wait a couple of more months before getting a dog as we wanted to be all finished with our extension, but who in their right mind could pass up the opportunity of having an addition like this to their family.

Dubh 021

Dubh 022

Now we have to get on with making a DIY bed for her out of an old suitcase. You will probably see a post about that here soon…

Behind the scenes.

When we were making the herb-vinegar and natural air-fresheners we wrote about last week one of the younger members of the family said ‘I don’t like blogs, they only show the pretty and tidy bits. Not what is really going on’.

She does have a very good point. Many blogs are filled with pretty, manicured pictures and stories. With carefully and artfully arranged photos. We know we fall into that category. When taking pictures we always try to exclude any mess and untidy area and crop away areas that don’t look pretty enough. Many people have told us the pictures are beautiful and the blog is pleasant and interesting  to read but is it a true picture of what is going on? Not by a mile.

mess shed

Our messy shed.

mess rubble

Building rubble and old bathroom roof mess, with a beautiful bonsai in the middle.

We are two and a half years into creating a productive garden for ourselves and the local wildlife.  We are renovating  and extending our cottage at the same time as keeping our family of six in clean clothes, cooking and eating reasonably healthy and regular meals and trying to keep the house clean and somewhat tidy. Those tasks can be quite difficult as our entire house measures 7.5 by 8.5 meters on the outside. With thick stone walls that leaves us with a total of about 45 square meters. It is almost impossible to keep it tidy with four teenagers and two adults sharing this space. When you have been hard at work for hours moving barrow-loads of manure, mixing cements, digging drainage ditches or weeding in the garden, it is hard to find the energy to defrost the fridge or face the mountain of dirty dishes in the kitchen.  If we get a text or someone calls and tells us they are coming for a visit a few frantic moments follows when we are trying to tidy up the worst of the mess.

floor sweepings

Floor sweepings and an unfinished corner of the kitchen.

mess 2 005


mess tools

Building mess.

 I, the main writer of this blog walk around the garden and building site apologizing for the mess, telling people how difficult it is to keep on top of everything. Usually people are impressed with everything we have done since their last visit or if they are around for the first time interested in our somewhat unconventional building and gardening techniques and they don’t seem to mind the mess at all. So why this worry and panic about letting other people see the way things really are around here?

mess shed

More shed mess.

Lots of people ask how we manage to do everything. The answer is that we don’t.  The truth is that if we tried to stay on top of this mess, we would not have a lot of time over to build the extension or create the garden. Sometimes we tidy up a certain area only to find that it quickly reverts back to it’s old state. We are slowly moving from a complete mess all over the house and garden to a more finished and beautiful place but to try and not allow for any mess in the process would be a fatal mistake. We have decided to be brave in this post and show you what it really looks like around here. We think it will be a good thing as the main aim of this blog is to encourage others to do what we are doing. But if we portrait our journey as a painless, easy and always fun one it is probably not of much help. We are just like everyone else. We have good days and bad days. We have meltdowns and arguments. We even have piles of dirty washing and mounds of building rubble in the garden. Many days are full of slippery muck, cold rain and sore backs. But if we did not have any troubles and struggles we probably would not appreciate the sweet days as much. Days when we are all getting along brilliantly and the sun is shining and there is laughter all around the house and garden.  Days filled with flowers and good food and friends.

mess 049

Rubble mess.

mess 2 012

Dirty window.

Another good thing with posting these pictures is that we don’t have to apologize the next time some of you call in for a visit. You will already know that we are not perfect…

Washing up

Washing up mess.


Mess of books, cd’s, magazines and dvd’s.

mess 2 004

Messy view.

But we think it is worth it.

garden july 018