keeping tabs

I’m trying to keep a note on how much I’m managing to grow in the garden. So far we’ve got:-

1 kg shallots  (€4.90)
2 kg onions   (€4.50)
~25 (small) garlic (19.35)
34 tbsps coriander leaf (€5 ?)
2kg broad beans (€12.12),  200g broad bean tips
1.78 kg oriental greens (€14)
0.1g rocket (€2)
0.340 kg broccoli raab (think I forgot to record another cut) (€5)
2.75 kg beetroot leaf (€22)
5.35 kg beetroot  (€11.77)
1.7 kg chard (€13.6)
1.3 kg turnip tops (€10)
0.600 kg  leaf lettuce (far more) ( at least €14.70)
2.06kg perpetual spinach (€16)
7.7 kg potatoes (€19.25)
200g chinese broccoli
1.37 kg peas (€5)
2.75g carrots (€7.67)
0.170g asparagus kale (forgot another cutting) (€4)

There are some vegetables like the oriental greens, turnip tops, beetroot etc that I can’t find a price for. Basically if I treat them like perpetual spinach I have a rough guestimate of having to spend about €200 to buy organically what I’ve managed to grow in the garden.

Which of course is a lie because I had to buy the seeds, and slug pellets, and other bits and bobs.

If you want to confirm that our economic system is indeed bonkers and disproportionally rewards unreality while devaluing things that actually matter then you should keep a vegetable patch or just try growing a few onions.

The vegetable that is the easiest to grow, the one that grows the quickest.and  is the least work is the one that will cost you the most in the supermarket. H has been nibbling away at the lettuce and I haven’t been keeping a record of it because it seems to insubstantial compared to vegetables that matter like onions or ones that where a lot of work like the peas. My embarrassing rocket yield was actually worth €2.

Yet my onion patch which would provide a true essential of the kitchen,  which has tied the land up for months, and attracted weeds like a big weed magnet then had to be weeded, which seemed so important is actually dirt cheap.I thought that with the amount invested in growing them that they would be something. It was just about the price of buying the packet of onion sets.  Same with the peas. Grow your peas in the right way treating the world with respect, drive in wooden stakes to keep them propped up, harvest them, shell them and freeze them. Work out how much land would be needed to provide you with those 450g bags of peas you pick up in the supermarket without thinking. Wonder how it all works…


seed sowing

The weather lovely, the wind not too blowy, a morning for planting seeds in the garden.
So far I’ve planted chervil, land cress, leeks, stir fry greens, comfrey, courgettes and Chinese broccoli. I’ve got modules ready for some kale and lettuce and other seed packets/
I’ve been reading the instructions but now I’m ignoring the instructions and just planting seeds willy-nilly as it just feels right to be putting them in the soil today in any way.

I thought that planting my own vegetables and herbs might save money. But seeds, modules, cloches, wood for raised beds adds up and you wonder if it might not be cheaper to just buy them at the supermarket. Then there is the weeding (already!), and the snail holes and the watering. My soil seems so dry and now that I’ve actually started planting stuff it also seems poor.

Is it worth my while planting vegetables?

Putting kale seeds into modules quickly goes to thoughts about work and the economy and how bags of peas can only cost £1.19. How much fertiliser is being blitzed into the soil in fields in unknown locations to make the economics work?
The more I do stuff in the garden the more the economy doesn’t make sense. Machines might make farm productivity greater but how many men and women have they put out of work? Stuff doesn’t add up.
I could spend weeks planting vegetables and working hard but the price of cauliflowers or carrots tells me that my work isn’t worthwhile. That is if the value of our work is measured in euros or salaries. Which is a lie because the value of our work doesn’t lie in the valuation of Mammon. Or at least it shouldn’t.

And we pay too little for our food and too much for frivolities and trinkets.

Fantasy Raised Bed League


I’ve been slowly slowly filling my raised beds up with soil. While I’ve been doing that I’ve also been wondering ‘I wonder what I should put in here when the spring comes?’. In a way it reminded me of playing Fantasy Football League so I decided to pick a Fantasy Raised Bed Team.

The first name that I’d have down on my team sheet would be flat leaf parsley. I have some growing at the moment and use it all the time, at least once a week.

Buying one of those plastic herb boxes at my local supermarket would set me back €1.49 and I could do with buying a box of it every 2 weeks and then throwing out the rest. But the truth is that if I didn’t grow it I probably wouldn’t buy it as I would treat it as a non essential.
So by growing some I provide something that might otherwise cost  €38.74 per year, and if we lived here for 7 yrs that would be €271. Plus I would have cut down on plastic packaging.
It also won’t take up much space, so that is why it’s the first name on my team sheet.

1 Flat Leaf Parsley

urban farming

I have been clearing out an old USB stick this morning and found a folder called urban farming with links to various things that at one time or other I’ve found interesting.

The Vegetable Gardeners of Havana


Urban Homestead

Fallen Fruit

Your Backyard Farmer

Window Farms

Urban Farming

Spin Farming

Guerrilla Gardening

Green Roof Growers

Making a self watering container

we have to farm Eden

‘Today’s global food economy, with its lengthy distribution networks traversing continents and oceans, makes it difficult for eaters to know the places and communities that produce and prepare food. Having so little direct contact with food’s context’s – the fields and waters, livestock crates and pens, the factories and distribution centers, worker communities and restaurants – it is next to impossible for us to act in ways that would promote the good of any place or community’
Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith, A Theology of Eating

It can tie your head in knots to think that each time you eat something there is some specific place somewhere on planet earth that had to grow that food,
(or the things that make up that food)
with very specific fellow human beings doing the farming and either treating creation with respect and love or else treating it badly.
It can tie your head in knots and so why would we even bother thinking about stuff like that? Why not just be thankful you have enough to eat and get on with living life as best you can.

I often do and my default setting is just to consume uncritically, to munch my way through a Mars Bar as I rush from one thing to the next. Yet at other times a sense of unease comes upon me. Because I eat I ‘m involved with agriculture and farming, and so are you. You are responsible for farming.

This can of tinned rice had to be farmed in different nameless places throughout the planet

It’s an incredibly complex journey from farm to my mouth (without even considering the packaging) so I won’t even try or else I might drive myself crazy.
Yet surely few things (if anything) are as fundamental to humanity to eating, which also means that few things are as fundamental as farming to human beings.
This is something which we have completely forgotten in our culture. We know that we have to eat but we don’t seem to realise or have lost sight of the fact that we are dependent on the farmer to grow our food. Right now you are completely dependent on the fact that someone, somewhere is growing your next meal. Farming and agriculture matter, they matter  more than the Man Utd game or ipad 3 or Google or nearly anything else.
And because we eat and depend on the farmer (who depends on grace and things he ultimately can’t control) we also depend on taking care of the earth like we were designed to do in Eden.
If we’re serious about looking after creation we need to support good farmers and those gardeners who use sustainable practices, even if that means much more work on our part in doing research and paying more for our food. We also need to stop supporting those who use destructive practices.

With most of our mass produced food  it’s nearly impossible to know if you have acted in a way that has promoted the good of the communities and places it has come from. So we need to go looking for good farmers who we trust, (or grow as much as we can ourselves) which means more work for us but is the sort of thing we probably should do more off if we’re trying to reflect that idea in Genesis of tending the garden of Eden.



For someone who is trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle I have a guilty secret. I have a terrible track record for plastic bag hording. It was a great move by the Irish Government when we lived in Dublin to charge 15c for each plastic bag and they should do the same here in Northern Ireland. But because I am the most disorganized waster in the world (and they’re free as well) we come back from the shop with a couple of plastic bags from each trip.

The plastic bags sit in the corner condemning me as I past, pointing their fingers and taunting me about my lack of sustainable skills. So I feel the need to do something good with them. A few weeks ago (until I lost the  blue plastic needle I was using) I decided to melt the plastic bags together to strengthen them and turn them into mini grow bags. Then I misplaced the needle and growbag production stopped. But yesterday I found the needle and finished one off.

I’m not sure if it will work. Did I put enough compost in?Will the plastic let in too much light that will mess up the roots?But it’s eased my conscience a bit.

it’s not rocket science…or is it?

This morning I sat in a coffee shop on Botanic Avenue and tried to work out a plan for growing rocket and other salads. Even using a very rough calculation it would be worth my while to spend a day thinking about this.

I would say on average we spend £1.50 on salad at St George’s Market or the Co-Op. Then most weeks the rocket or oriental salad is half eaten and thrown in the brown bin.

If we take £1.50 x 52 weeks that equals £78 a year on salad.
Which if you earned £7 an hour would be nearly 11hrs of work.

Plus the plastic packaging that is thrown out, and the salad that is thrown out.

But alas, there are a few problems that I need to iron out if I want to grow some salad.

1. Our garden and yard is shade central. It’s a narrow garden, with a high fence, with big trees behind that fence, and facing the wrong way finally finished off by a our house which blocks the sun for most of the day.

Basically there are only a few places that would be sheltered from the wind and sunny.

2 We rent a house that has garden with big shrubs and bushes planted in those parts of the garden you would like to plant beetroot or kale in. As we’re only going to be renting for a few more years at most I don’t think it would be right to ask to dig up the bushes for the sake of a few kale or beetroot.

3 I have little desire for the yearly slug fight. We need to build some type of slug fortress or else the slugs can have my rocket.

4 I am basically full of good intentions, but don’t want to exert maximum effort to obtain results. The salad growing operation needs to be easy.

5 We have a lack of decent soil.

6 I can not get a handle on sowing every few weeks to make sure that there is a constant supply of salad. Usually there is a one morning in April sowing and that is it. So I need to make it easy to get into the pattern of planting.

So basically I have sketched out an idea that I think might work involving a black plastic bin that I have been using for compost and an idea I saw a few years back at Greenbelt. The charity Send-a-Cow had bag garden kits. I was wondering it I could do it with my black plastic bin, provided it is strong enough to hold soil while full of holes. That is a job for tomorrow sorted out then