Saturday, October 20, 2012

Last trip on Lough Derg

So Saturday did turn out to be our last trip of the year on the lake. A beautiful gift of a day, so unpredictable - I was going to say at this time of year but the way things have been at any time of year. We brought my parents up the lake from Dromaan, planning to leave Winter Solstice in Portumna for Eamonn Egan to lift out.

It's a few years since my parents were on the boat - she was in the north Shannon last, year, and before that on the Erne. Now in their mid-eighties they're not as agile as they were (to put it mildly) so we had quite an operation to get them on board. Winter Solstice is not a stroll-on type of craft. You have to step down onto the cockpit seat from the aft deck, then another big step down to floor level. Previously we've used a small set of steps (bought for the purpose) to get them from floor to seat. This time the steps were necessary for the seat to aft deck bit too. And once in that was it. No getting out until the journey's end.

So why the last trip when this weekend is so lovely? Several reasons, but the main one turned out to be the phone call from Eamonn this morning to say Winter Solstice was safely in his big shed. We'd thoughts of a mooch about the lake, then through the bridge to Connacht Harbour, but no worries. The garden is in need of work and there's no better place to be than the Hollow on a day like this. Even better than the lake.... or maybe not. A close call.

Another glorious place to be in autumn is Coole Park. I was hoping the swans would be there making their raucous noise but no sign or sound of them. There were deer though, the stags in their full regalia.

Our own deer have been rutting. Making their own raucous racket in the woods around here. One big fellow was at it all day (do they get a sore throat?), and appeared in the field below the Haggard at dusk still roaring. Several females were keeping close, and they all ran off together towards the river.

The garden harvest continues. Here's a little and large moment:

Beef and cherry. All picked now and finishing ripening on the table in the passage. The tiny one is a Mexican Midget. Mini tomato, huge flavour.

Off down the garden again now. Joe's gone up to Eamonn Egan's yard to retrieve bedding, cushions, wooden spoons and tea cosy from the boat. We won't be needing to put on the winter covers this year.

Friday, October 5, 2012


The best autumn colours so far this year are in the lean-to glasshouse on the gable end of the barn. These are vine leaves. I'm loath to cut down this glorious display but I'm dicing with a stitch-in-time situation. The leaves drop suddenly, almost all at once, and become a fiddly awkward job to pick up, falling as they do among the clutter of pots, tools, boxes and all the other detritus of an untidy gardener. I'm still risking it, going into the greenhouse warmth to bask, looking out across the courtyard and soaking in the sensation of sunshine.

Along with red vine leaves are red apples littering the lawn. They're smaller than usual, but at least we have them. Many orchards have suffered this year from the cold summer and resulting lack of pollinating insects. Flocks of fieldfares have been scouting, pausing in the trees around the Haggard but not settling yet, having no desire for apples in their still not-yet-rotten state.

So the job began. The extra freezer turned on, then out to the Haggard armed with carriers bags filched from countries that still give them our for free, harvesting windfall apples. Four bags full thank you very much. Wait for them to freeze, defrost, through the fruit press and our first juice of the year.

The garden is full of seeds and berries. It's also full of birds. Two blue tits this morning, landing on these spikes of knotweed, bullfinches last week. A robin beneath picking up anything dropped. The tits and finches have their acrobatics well-honed, landing on a delicate stalk and taking the droop as it bends beneath them, balancing finely as they peck at the ripe seeds.

In case of panic this is KNOT Japanese knotweed but a native variety.

Blackbirds are squabbling over the profusion of rowan berries. Piping calls echo through the Hollow.

And in the Grove, deer footprints. The (oh so adorable) feckers are eating my garden again.