Celebrating the Ordinary ~ Supermarkets!

September 1, 2012

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.

Swiss Chard & Nasturtiums

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.

Potato harvest

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!

onion bed

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…

strawberry bed

kaleI’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

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.

autumn fruiting raspberry

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!!


  • Reply WiseMona September 1, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Not to worry Dee…we all use the supmarkets. Lidl has a lot of Irish produce too and there organic selection is good too. We had a great. Gardening year this year but mostly due to the fact that we were here all summer taking care of the polytunnel and the weeds. The ducks took care of the slugs :0) and yes for sure it is vital to have the polytunnel on this island!

    • Reply greensideupveg September 1, 2012 at 11:56 am

      People are often surprised that I use supermarkets Mona (though goodness knows why) and if I bump into someone I know and there’s veg in the trolley I almost feel I should cover it with a cereal box lol! I couldn’t seriously expect to be away from my veg garden in its prime growing time and to come back and it be the same. Delighted to hear that you’ve had a great growing season and am now seriously considering ducks! Also glad the community gardens I work with are doing well too ~ all is not lost 🙂

      • Reply WiseMona September 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

        OMG … You buy cereal? Why, Dee, when it only takes four hours and serious amounts of euros for all the ingredients, are you not making your own granola and tossing it in the maple syrup strained from your trees? I.totally.feel.your.pain.

        • Reply greensideupveg September 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

          Haha, love it & funnily enough was wondering if chefs (or wives of) feel the same if they’re ever caught with a jar in their trolley 😉

  • Reply Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) September 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Well, as someone who doesn’t grow her own…but wishes they could get their act together and start…I was always envious of your home grown produce. But, I am well aware of the hard work that goes into growing it. As for supermarkets..I love them. I even love visiting them when we go abroad – love to see what is on the offer there. Thanks for joining in on this challenge Dee 🙂

    • Reply greensideupveg September 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Thank you for throwing it out there Marie! My mind went into all sorts of spiritual reasons for celebrating the ordinary but then I looked at what was facing me right now and I felt it should be acknowledged. Growing your own does take time and is why it’s so important to start small. When we started I was a stay at home mum with lots of time on my hands so having 17 beds was manageable but now circumstances have changed it is proving to be a challenge. The good news there however, is that it will make me look at ways of making things easier which I will hopefully be able to pass on to everyone 🙂

  • Reply Lorna Sixsmith September 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Just in from weeding my leeks! Gardening is time consuming and this year we’ve had neither the time nor the weather to get it to look its best – either in terms of veg or flower production. I do buy meat from butchers but do buy it at supermarkets too. Like you, I don’t get to town on a Saturday morning to the farmer’s market and like you, I like being able to race around a supermarket in less than an hour and get it all done.
    Sometimes I think we are too hard on ourselves – we try to act like our foremothers did in terms of vegetable production, village shopping where we visit all the shop and have a chat, baking but life seems to have got busier for our generation despite all the labour-saving devices.
    I must join in this challenge too 🙂

    • Reply greensideupveg September 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

      Lorna you’re so right! It’s like being on a hamster wheel sometimes. Gardening does take time and taking on too much can be the number one reason why people give up (can understand that looking in mine right now), though for me it can give such tremendous pleasure too and I’m glad I found that, albeit in later life. The trick is to learn how not to be phased or fussy when it does get overgrown but to enjoy it in all its stages 🙂


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