Yes, you read that correctly, today I’m celebrating supermarkets. How much more ordinary can you get than going to a supermarket? Why on earth would I come out with a statement like that when I usually write about growing food, shopping locally, supporting small businesses and avoiding chain stores?
For two reasons. Firstly Marie over at Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer set a challenge asking people to post a picture or write a blog post on just that subject – Celebrating the Ordinary – more details can be found here including some beautifully written posts celebrating a myriad of subjects so do take a look if you like a good read.
A lonesome rainbow chard amongst a bed of nasturtiums
Secondly, if it weren’t for supermarkets we’d be bloomin hungry in this household! This year has been the worst in the vegetable garden since I first sowed a seed. A combination of the atrocious weather, working all hours during the main sowing season (April to June) as well as trying to raise a family and take an extended break away for most of the summer has left my garden overgrown, unkempt and struggling to produce the goods.
If we had to feed the family on the produce grown here alone this year we wouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks. Right now I’m struggling with a mixture of disappointment and despair when I wander around my veg patch, but I haven’t given up hope.
Our entire potato harvest
I sowed two beds of early potatoes this year – Red Duke of Yorks – and two days before we flew to the U.S. I spotted the first signs of blight. There was nothing else for it but to chop the haulms (stems) to soil level, leave the tubers in the ground and hope they survived. Five weeks later I dug the fork into the soil to see how they were looking, only to be greeted with mush. On the positive side my soil is now oozing with worms. The worms have gorged on their potato based menu for the past few weeks and the soil will no doubt benefit massively from the unintended organic matter that has been added to it. Unfortunately the slithery invertebrate didn’t leave much for us!
There be red onions in there
The onion beds have been a mixed success. We’ve managed to avoid onion rot which was a bit of a worry given the dampness but several bulbs have gone to seed and the garlic is tiny though still edible.
Because we were away we missed the ENTIRE fruit harvest bar a few strawberries that were thankfully grown in the polytunnel so harvested back in June. This is the outside strawberry bed as of today…
I’d like to be able to tell you that the brassica beds have faired much better, but they haven’t. All of the green curly kale has gone to seed, along with the cauliflower, and the scarlet kale is trying its darned best to. Thank goodness I grew some Tuscany kale which is managing to hold its own! I’m hopeful for the celeriac too so fingers crossed.
Inside the polytunnel its a mixed bag of goodies. The chilli peppers that I sowed in February still haven’t reached 6″ tall but the cucumber plants are producing and tomato trusses are full though still green. The sweetcorn too should make it to maturity if cold nights don’t set in too soon.
If anyone asks me whether a polytunnel is necessary in Ireland I would say without hesitation, a resounding YES! Just take a look at the difference between a Crown Prince squash grown outside and one inside…
Crown Prince grown outside (left) and inside (right)
Thankfully the autumn fruiting raspberries are starting to form their fruit so fingers crossed we may eat some berries soon with our ice cream.
I’d like nothing more than to be able to tell you that I visit the local farmers market every week to supplement my vegetable garden, but I don’t. I work on Thursday mornings when the Kilkenny market sets up and on Saturday mornings when the Carlow market is buzzing with activity at the Potato Mart, I’m usually driving around as a mum taxi service.
So back to my original headline about celebrating supermarkets, today I unashamedly am. My local SuperValu and Aldi stock Irish produce, employ local staff and are open at a time that suits. I’m delighted that I can pop into a supermarket that’s open till late and pick up all my weekly shopping in one place. As a working mum I quite frankly don’t have the time to visit the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker every week as my dream self is want to do, swinging her hand crafted wicker basket as she trips around from shop to shop. This working mum who’s doing her best to ensure her children eat a healthy, balanced diet barely has time to brush her hair on a daily basis.
Yes, I’m disappointed with my harvest this year but know I’m not alone as many gardeners have struggled with the weather conditions that have landed on us.
Now the children are back at school as well as giving my weekly classes, and ticking off the daily jobs from my seemingly never ending list, you’ll find me out in my patch, pulling the weeds and getting the beds ready for the winter months. In the coming week I hope to plant some potatoes, sow some oriental salads and maybe a few ornamental flowers too. More importantly I wont be giving in. Next year is another year with different circumstances and conditions and yet more ups and downs to look forward to. My garden isn’t perfect but it’s still producing something.
Thank goodness for supermarkets!!