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Book Review: Would You Marry A Farmer?

December 3, 2013

Several weeks ago, when Lorna Sixsmith asked me if I’d consider reviewing her first, self published book “Would you Marry a Farmer?” in a bloggers book tour, I hesitated slightly…

Would You Marry A FarmerWhat if I didn’t like it? What if it sent me to sleep? What if I couldn’t find time to read it? (I have an ever-growing pile of books on my bedside table and haven’t finished any of them this year!) and what if it makes me wish I’d married a farmer??? 

I’ve known Lorna for some time now and really want her book to be a success. I’ve watched her journey from idea to crowdfunding to a full print run and she’s worked so hard to make it happen through all stages of its production, as well as continue to organise and run the rest of her life – I don’t know how she does it!!

Would You Marry A Farmer on Kindle

“Would You Marry A Farmer” on Kindle

As it happens, all of my worries were to prove unfounded. To address my time concerns, Lorna forwarded me a copy of the book in PDF format prior to it being sent to print, which I’ve been able to download to the Kindle app on my phone. This proved to be the best thing possible as it meant the book was always with me.

It also meant I could also read the book in the middle of the night without disturbing Mr G when my insomnia kicks in. Well that’s not strictly true…. I might not have disturbed him with my bedside lamp lighting up the bedroom at 3.30 am, but the shaking bed as I tried not to laugh too loudly might have! The way Lorna describes a sprint across fields chasing cattle, clutching trousers tightly to prevent them falling down, or running with one arm firmly planted across chest to prevent boobs bouncing in all directions, caused a few chortles and recognition from my own attempts at pig chasing!

Would You Marry A Farmer is split into five sections, beginning by guiding the reader through to the serious question of “Are Farmers A Good Catch?”, right through to “How to Stay Married to a Farmer” once you’ve made the decision that maybe they might be. Although this book isn’t an autobiography, it’s clear that Lorna’s own experience peppers the pages throughout and who better to write such a book, than a woman who’s happily married to a farmer, despite all the difficulties and obstacles that might entail (and of which she now shares).

This book isn’t just for women eitherI’ve quoted paragraphs to Mr G throughout as he’s glanced over to me wondering what an earth I was chuckling about now. (I was reading the section on how to get a farmer to do some DIY and/or take a holiday.)

And it’s not just a book about dating or being married to a farmer. Living in rural Ireland as my family do, surrounded by cattle farms, both dairy and meat, we’ve been exposed to cows for the past fifteen years without actually knowing a thing about them. Our neighbours have assumed that we know what they’re talking about when they discuss their maidens or heifers or that we’re not scared witless when they ask us to stand in the road and stop their cattle heading off in the wrong direction. Now, thankfully, having read this book, I can nod in all the right places during conversations over tea or ale and politely say no if they’re moving young bulls 😉 Would You Marry a Farmer covers many aspects of farming a newbie might meet, from birth to herding to death – vital I would imagine if you’re serious about finding your own farmer and winning his mother around too!

The early pages are dotted with small ads that have appeared over the past century, placed by farmers in their quest for potential wives giving a fascinating insight into how life has changed over the years (thank goodness!!).

The later half of the book is full of anecdotes and experiences, many written with tongue firmly in cheek, but still sharing a clear love of the farmerette way of life.

Would You Marry A FarmerPerhaps I’m biased (and I’ve tried very hard not to be), but I hadn’t expected the book to be so informative, for it to contain such an insight into Irish history and its rich traditions, or be quite so entertaining. I loved the illustrations drawn by Joanne Condon too which capture the essence of the book so well.

This book is for single and married folk, city or rural dwellers, men and women and would make a great read at any time of the year, though had I had it in my hand a couple of weeks ago when I was writing my Irish Gift Ideas for Christmas list, this book would most definitely have been in it.

Would You Marry A Farmer captures so much of what makes Ireland unique in a no-nonsense, honest to goodness fashion. If you’re looking to marry into the farming way of life or are just plain curious about what farmers do all day, you’ll be under no romantic illusions about this hard-working way of life once you’ve read the book.

How to get your hands on Would You Marry a Farmer?

If you’d like to order a copy of Would You Marry a Farmer, the easiest way is to order it online from her Irish Farmerette website. If you prefer not to do your shopping online, take a look at the Stockist page here.

Liam from Gotireland.com has a competition to win a copy on his review of the book here, and a couple more reviews are coming up this week if you’re not convinced by mine. Derbhile Dromey will be reviewing it tomorrow over at World of Writing.

Or, for your chance to win a copy now, you can leave a comment below. 

All you have to do is mention whether you think a farming lifestyle is for you or not. The random draw will take place this coming Sunday, 8th December at 6.00 pm and Would You Marry a Farmer can be posted anywhere in the world!

Disclaimer: I’ve not been paid or bribed to write this post, though Lorna did give me a lovely mention in the acknowledgements which has in no way influenced my review (promise). I bought my own copy of the book via Lorna’s crowdfunding campaign.

 

Food & Drink

Wild Food & Winning Competitions

March 26, 2013

Wild Food from O'Brien Press Book ReviewDo you ever win competitions? For years we didn’t win a thing, not a single raffle, draw or lottery but a couple of years ago that all changed. Little prizes started to arrive in the post box…

A bottle of Bailey’s, a book on Irish Slang, a couple of CD’s and a cook book, a beautiful Greengate Jug, a DVD player, a bottle of champagne and in 2011 Electric Picnic tickets!

A couple of weeks ago I entered a competition over on the Irish Food Bloggers website to win a Wild Food book and was absolutely thrilled to receive an email letting me know I was one of the winners! I’ve been meaning to buy a foraging book for some time now but hadn’t got around to it.

Wild Food by Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle
The winning book was a new one from O’Brien press by Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle called Wild Food. I like that it’s handbag sized and divided into seasonal chapters. For instance this month I could be looking out for Wild Nettle, Dilisk, Carrageen, Wild Garlic, Wild Sea Beet and Wild Rock Samphire and if I find them (each chapter includes tips on where to look and how to pick the plants) there are some delicious looking recipes from sweet, savory to boozy (how about a wee dram of wild rowan berry schnapps for instance?

I used to think there was no point entering competitions but as a result of our little wins have completely changed my mind. On this occasion there were 142 responses all hoping to win one of five books being given away. Sometimes there might only be twenty or thirty other entrants. We still rarely buy lotto tickets but really, you just never know…

Have you won any interesting, beautiful, expensive or strange gifts in the past?

Community Gardens

‘From the Ground Up’ by Fionnuala Fallon – Garden Book Giveaway

December 8, 2012
From The Ground Up

Image courtesy Collins Press

Are you a book lover or do you find everything you want to know on the Internet? Do you buy cheap gardening books, expensive ones, any books you see or recommendations only?

There’s such an array of garden books it can be difficult to choose, from ‘celebrity’ gardeners to unknown authors, there’s a book for everyone. So many that when you come across a gardening book, and in particular a book about growing food that’s unlike anything you’ve picked up before, if you’re anything like me it can fill you with excitement and glee. You just know it has to make it onto your own bookshelves somehow or some way.

That’s the sense I experienced when I finally unpacked Fionnuala Fallon’s first book ‘From the Ground Up‘. The book was sent directly from Irish publishers Collins Press who had kindly sent me a copy to be reviewed. Between Gift Seed Collection making, community gardening, teaching after schools children how to make vegetable puppets and family life, the parcel sat on my kitchen table unopened. It wasn’t until after midnight when I fell into bed that I remembered the book was still waiting to be unwrapped. Aware that day times are filled with activity and quiet time rare, I hopped out of bed and retrieved it. This turned out to be a BIG mistake.

As I carefully removed the protective envelope and pulled the book out, I began to feel a sense of joy. The weight of this new book, the solid binding and the colourful imagery immediately gave me a clue that this wasn’t going to be a run of the mill read.

What really popped my cork however, is that ‘From the Ground Up’ is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a book about people. A book about individuals who are passionate about growing food – young, old, inner city, rural, big gardens, community gardens, small gardens and balconies. Fionnuala and her husband Richard (who took the beautiful images throughout the book) travelled Ireland chatting to several experienced gardeners about their successes, their failures, why they grow their own, what they grow, their recommended books and websites, their favourite tools and their treasured memories (I thought I loved my job but I’ll admit to some job envy at the thought of that! Fionnuala if you need an assistant when you’re writing your second book…..)

Fionnuala Fallon – image courtesy of The Sodshow

Fionnuala listened and noted, then wove the tales into chapters, giving us a glimpse into the lives and passions of these experienced gardeners. committing them to history in an exquisitely written and styled book. This gardening book is unusual and it’s inspiring. It’s about how Ireland is growing its own food and whether you’re a grower or an observer, gardening or thinking about it, in Ireland or overseas, I think you will love it too. The one thing it isn’t about is egos.

So why was opening the parcel such a mistake? Because once opened I couldn’t put it down. I read page after page, noticed the digits on the clock click by and didn’t care, I wanted to read more and I’m now writing this post with matchstick eyelids as a result.

I really don’t want to give this book away. I want to keep it by my bedside and pick it up every night before i fall asleep. However, as its Christmas and a time of sharing I will be posting it off to a lucky reader with an Irish address (apologies to anyone else but An Post overseas postage is ridiculous, and as much as I love you all…..).

So why am I parting with this precious book if I like it so much?

I figure that authors need all the help we can give them in the days of the internet and google. Book shops are closing and publishers working harder than ever to survive. I’m going to put this book on my own Christmas list and hope that it finds its way under my Christmas tree so that during the festival period when we’re taking a break, I can stick my nose into it for several days, read it cover to cover and not feel guilty that I should be doing something else.

So how do you get your hands on this particular gardening book? Just leave a comment below telling me the title and author of your own favourite gardening book and why. It might be about ornamental gardens, flowers, biology or self-sufficiency, just tell us about it. That’s all you have to do… Well that and (given that this is the time of year to share)  tell your friends about this giveaway and not keep it all to yourselves…. A winner will be randomly chosen on Sunday evening, the 16th December giving me time to post it and you the opportunity to give it away as a gift or treat yourself this Christmas.

If you’re not the lucky chosen one, you can purchase a copy from bookshops or online at Collins Press for €24.99.

Lastly, The Sodshow interviewed Fionnuala on Fridays show. She talked about her book, the inspiration, people she met and her own gardening experiences. If you’re interested you can listen to the podcast here.

Best of luck and Happy Christmas to you all x

Vegetable Garden

It’s a celebration weekend! So it’s competition time for a gardeners goodie bag…

March 17, 2012
As we’re having a double celebration here in Ireland with St Patrick’s Day today and Mothering Sunday tomorrow, what better time to share the happy mood than to have a  prize giveaway!

The lovely Eoin Flaherty of  Sow Easy Grow has kindly donated the fabulous prize for one lucky reader of the Greenside Up blog. This is one of four kits available to buy on their website or at garden centres and would make a great starter kit for anyone interested in growing vegetables (or for someone like me who’s tools are wearing out!).

With our environment in mind, this Gardeners Delight Kit contains the newly launched GrowGrid, Seaweed Fertiliser, Biodegradable 3″ pots, organic seeds and aloe vera gloves, all contained within a handy jute bag.

Eoin has a passion for fresh, seasonal vegetables that have been grown without using chemicals and like many of us, knows from personal experience how labour intensive weeding can be. As a result he came up with the idea of the GrowGrid, a product manufactured in Ireland.

The GrowGrid is a weed membrane that lies directly onto a prepared seed bed and is pegged down with the biodegradable pegs. Vegetables are sown or transplanted into the ready made holes that are punched at intervals to suite a wide variety of vegetable crops. There are four different mats available for different vegetable requirements and you can choose from 4m or 8m lengths by 1.5m wide.

So whether you’re into gardening or you have a friend or relative who might enjoy this fabulous prize, it’s very easy to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment in the box below that contains the words Sow Easy Grow or sign up for the monthly newsletter (scroll down the column on the right until you arrive at  the Newsletter box – which will ensure you’re in the draw if Blogger’s playing up and you’re unable to leave a comment.)

Apologies to all my further afield readers, but on this occasion the prize giveaway can only be mailed to addresses in Ireland and the UK (though if you have a relative or friend living there who might like to receive this lovely gift…..)

So why not give it a go … and as it’s a weekend of celebration and giving, please help to spread the word to everyone you know. The lucky winner will be chosen by a random generator next Saturday 24th March at 6.00pm.

Good Luck

Dee x

AND THE WINNER IS……………………. JENNY DOYLE! Congratulations Jenny. Hope this starts you on  a new journey to grow your own! I’ll be in touch regarding delivery.

 

Vegetable Garden

Christmas Chilli Competition

December 18, 2011

It’s competition time! I’ve been reorganising my blog recently making it easier to find posts, tips on growing vegetables and recipes (see the tabs above).

To celebrate I’ll be giving away some chilli seeds that are perfect for growing in containers.

All you have to do is leave a comment on any of the posts or drop me an email saying which post you liked and I’ll pick a name at random on Christmas eve. Best of luck!

As it’s Christmas why not share the love and tell your friends about the competition too… I have a few packets to spare so you never know, if lots of people enter I’ll be choosing more than one winner.

Vegetable Garden

And the winner is……..?

February 22, 2011

Thanks to everyone both on the blog and on facebook for leaving comments (and for their honesty) regarding their first vegetable quandaries. No two questions were the same and I enjoyed reading them all.

The winner was randomly picked (names in a hat) on Monday morning and the lucky winning name was Margaret Ward. Congratulations Margaret…. a copy of River Cottage Veg Plot will be winding it’s way over to you soon.

We were slightly delayed in doing the draw as close friends were visiting and celebrating a birthday with  us.

The girls delighted in making and decorating gorgeous buns for the occasion.

Vegetable Garden

How to create a Budget Vegetable Garden

February 13, 2011

10 tips to get you started in the vegetable garden

Whether you have a large or small garden, allotment plot or community garden, knowing where to start in its design or creation can often be a major stumbling point, particularly if you can’t afford to use a landscape gardener or garden designer.

I still remember looking out at the grass field in front of me and wondering where on earth to begin. Would it ever become the vegetable garden that I dreamed about. We wanted to grow lots of food in the garden but I hadn’t a clue how to do it on a larger scale. Should I scrape away the grass or dig it in? We were busy renovating our farmhouse and had no budget for raised beds or bringing in top soil and anyway, we’d been told that we had beautiful soil so why go to the bother of importing fresh when it might not be as fertile.

If this is the year you’ve decided to have a go at growing your own vegetables, this post is for you. I’ve come up with 10 steps to help you create a budget vegetable garden that will take time and some hard graft, but it should get you started if you’re determined.

Once the soil’s prepared, ideally leave it for three or four weeks to settle before planting or sowing.

10 Steps to Creating a Budget Vegetable Garden

1. Start small

It’s okay to plan a dream garden and do sketch your plans on a piece of paper, marking where everything will fit in several years time. Include things in your plan such as a greenhouse, fruit and compost area, shed and pond, but to begin with, only clear as much as you can manage.

If you get carried away and prepare too much, you might find you don’t have the time to handle it all and you’ll be much more likely to give up.

This article gives ideas for 14 vegetables that are ideal for growing in smaller gardens to get you started.

2. Choose your site carefully

You might not have a lot of choice but if possible, avoid creating a vegetable garden in a shady or wet area.  The majority of vegetables like to grow in sunny, well-drained sites. Don’t forget you’ll need access to water so plan your garden near a water source to avoid trudging around with watering cans on those hot sunny days.

10 tips for creating a budget vegetable garden

Pigs are great for clearing ground

3. Clear the ground as best as possible

If your ground is overgrown with briars and rough grass, unless you’ll consider getting pigs or goats, only hard work is going to clear it.

Don’t resort to herbicides – the weeds will grow back and do you really want to eat food from an area that’s been sprayed with a chemical designed to kill plants? Whether you use shears, a strimmer or a scythe, hack it all down as close to the ground as possible, digging out seedling trees or shrubs where necessary. If you’re looking for tips on clearing ground without chemicals, this article gives 16 natural alternatives.

Anything that’s compostable can be saved for a heap that you will hopefully have the space to build too. This PDF gives tips on how to compost effectively which will ultimately save you money as well. If there’s too much waste, most County Councils now have green waste areas that it can be taken to.

Cover any areas that you won’t have time to dig over with black plastic, cardboard or old carpet until you’re ready. This will prevent any weeds growing in the meantime.

10 steps to create a vegetable garden4. Mark out the area

Once you’ve cleared the land you’ll be able to see it to mark your bed sizes. String, bamboo poles, an old hose pipe or flour are useful tools for this exercise.

Vegetable Bed Sizes

To avoid walking on the soil and compacting it, the ideal vegetable bed size is 1.2m x 2.4m. Any longer than that and you’ll be tempted to jump or pole vault over it with your rake, believe me, I know…

We find that bamboo poles work well to start with for laying a plan down on the ground as they can be moved and re-positioned until they’re in the right place. Practice walking around the marked out area with a wheelbarrow to make sure you have room to manoeuvre. Once you have an idea of the size and shape, mark the area out with string and pegs.

5.  Remove the ‘turf’ or the top layer of grass

Herein lies the hard work. If you were installing costly raised beds you could skip this bit and cover the top growth with cardboard before adding your topsoil, however this is a budget garden so you are going to have to remove the turf with a spade and dig the weeds out using a garden fork.

A straight sided spade is the best tool for this job and the idea is to only remove the grassy thatch that’s on the top of the soil. If you have space, the turf you remove can be placed upside down in a pile out of the way and covered with plastic. Eventually it will turn into topsoil that can be used again.

How to Create a Budget Vegetable Garden - 10 steps6. Turn over the soil

Preferably use a spade or fork.  As tempting as a rotavator is, any weed roots that are still alive will get chopped up by the blades and reappear as new weeds in your lovely prepared beds and unless your rotavation is shallow, you’ll upset the structure of the soil. If you use a fork you can pull out weed roots as you find them.

Double dig if you have the back for it but avoid digging at all if the soil is frozen or too wet as again, it can damage the soil structure which is key to good growing conditions. Avoid standing on the soil too or it can compact, something we need to avoid at all costs. If you really hate digging or aren’t able for it, you might like to consider the No Dig method of gardening as championed by Charles Dowding.

7. Pick out the larger stones

You’ll never remove all the stones so don’t try! Don’t worry too much about the smaller ones, they’ll keep rising to the surface and you’ll be at it for years.  Just pick out the larger stones as you find them.

8.  Test the soil

I know of gardeners who never test the soil but you will save money if you find out your soil pH now. There’s no point planting blueberries which are acid loving plants in soil that’s highly alkaline. They just won’t like it.

There are some readily and cheaply available kits at all garden centres or online. Choose one with instructions and follow them. The instructions should also tell you how to adjust your soil if necessary, but to be honest, I’ve worked with lots of gardens and we haven’t had to make adjustments; we’ve chosen instead to grow fruit and vegetables that will thrive in the soil they’re given.  For more tips on testing soil and fertility, take a look at this handy PDF from Garden Organic.

If you’re not sure what was in your garden before you were (it might previously have been an industrial area), it’s recommended to send off a sample of soil to a testing lab to be on the safe side. They will look for contaminants as well as the mineral and nutritional elements you’ll need to know to grow successfully.

10 Tips to Create a Budget Vegetable Garden

Make your own garden compost

9. Add some well-rotted organic waste

It’s quite likely that your soil will need improving by adding well-rotted organic matter to it in the form of animal manures (find a local farmer), leaf mould or garden compost. If you’re finding organic matter hard to source, garden centres sell it in which will get you started until you can create your own.

10. Rake and flatten

The final job is to flatten and rake the soil over. Some people are better at this than others. I thought I was okay until I worked with a couple of community gardeners who clearly have more patience than me and their resulting soil was like breadcrumbs (hence the expression, until your soil reaches a good crumb). Use the back of a rake to flatten out the lumps and gently pull the rake backwards and forwards through the top of the soil until it’s light and fluffy.

It’s not necessary to edge the beds but personally we’ve found it tidier and easier to manage. We used old house rafters that we were replacing during our renovation project for the first couple of beds but it’s really up to you and your budget.

If you’re a beginner and would like more advice on growing fruit and vegetables, community gardens are great places to join as you’ll pick up tips from a range of people. Alternatively keep an eye out for a Greenside Up workshop that can help you to grow food more confidently and successfully.