Last weekend saw the first of four new grow your own workshops planned for the Greenside up HQ and it was a pleasure to welcome everyone to our family home and garden.
Very soon we’ll be hosting the second in the series of workshops being held here and reflecting upon the first day with learners, I’m in a much better place to let you know what to expect if you join us.
A holistic grow your own experience
A grow your own workshop at Greenside Up is more than just a ‘how to’ session, it’s an insight into a lifestyle that develops once we make the decision to ditch the chemicals, think more about the environment and make the switch to ‘real food’ rather than mass processed, pre-packaged alternatives.
Don’t expect a pristine garden with neatly trimmed lawns here. Our garden is one that welcomes biodiversity, has pets wandering around and teens that occasionally like to launch a sliotar across the yard and into the veggie patch.
What you can expect
Compared to a more formal learning environment, the day will be a relaxed affair, though you’ll go home with a head full of information and a clearer understanding of how to manage your vegetable garden without chemicals.
The (loose) structure
Beginning with tea and some home-baked refreshments to ease the introductions, we’ll move on to some more structured time when I’ll be sharing lots of information about organic vegetable growing, sharing the basic principles involved that include crop rotation, vegetable families, companion planting and alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. The morning of learning will be followed by a sociable lunch and then we’ll head outside to prevent that afternoon slump.
During the practical time, I’ll be encouraging everyone to have a go at transplanting seedlings and sowing some seeds. Weather and time permitting we’ll be planting some of the unusual or blight resistant potatoes I’ve chosen this year that include Mizen, Puru Purple, Pink Fir Apples and Cara’s and we’ll also touch on vegetable garden layout and design as well as composting and general soil management.
Photos Frances Micklem
If you join one of our unique workshops you can expect an intimate learning experience as we limit numbers to just 8 people.
This allows for a feeling of friendliness in an environment where you won’t feel intimidated by large crowds and a space where questions are naturally asked and discussions take place.
Included in the workshop fee is a light lunch and refreshments on arrival so you can expect some tasty homemade treats as we talk and learn. During the first workshop we sat around the lunch table and indulged on butternut squash soup with toasted sunflower seeds, tore into some focaccia bread and wiped our bowls with buttered nutty soda bread as we chatted. When the crops begin to grow in the garden, lunches will be made from homegrown produce or perhaps foraged from the hedgerows. Dietary requirements can be catered for too once I’m aware of them.
The workshops aren’t just about sitting at a table; there are lots of learning opportunities outside too.
We keep bees and hens here, have reared pigs and grow lots of vegetables during the main seasons. As we walk around outside I’ll point out the various ways we’ve approached our organic garden; there are lots of topics to chat about or shrubs to take cuttings from.
The comfrey patch needs taming and there’s enough raspberry canes popping up in the ‘lawn’ for everyone to take one or two. As our garden has developed we can see mistakes and areas for improvement and these observations are shared.
When’s the next workshop?
Are you tempted? The next workshop is due to take place on Sunday, 10th April from 11am to 4pm and you’re very welcome to join us, though pre-booking is essential. The cost is €65 but if you book more workshops in advance, the price reduces. See the workshop page for more information. If you’re travelling, a couple of local B & B’s come highly recommended nearby, including a holistic vegan retreat.
Here’s some of the feedback from learners who attended the first workshop:
“What a brilliant holistic day, joining the dots between all the existing plants I love and already have in the garden and starting vegetables and pollinator friendly flowers from seeds. Feel able now to grow more of anything or at least give it a go” ~ Frances
“Greenside Up is a fantastic experience, and from the homebakes welcome to the practical workshops it is a rich yet simple experience” ~ Eilish
“Great way to learn in an informal setting” ~ Trevor
Over the last week or so my family have asked what I’d like for Christmas and I don’t know about you, but I’m really stuck. Bar a new pair of cozy pyjamas or a delicious smelling soap, I can’t think of anything. As our children grow into their teenage years and along with them all the fears that challenge us, the health and happiness of everyone close really is uppermost.
Our timelines and news sources are full of tales of uncertainty so rather than material goods, perhaps offering a gift of a skill is the way to go. Getting back to basics was one of the reasons I began tutoring vegetable growing. If all of a sudden the shops ran out of food, or perhaps more likely, we run out of money, how would we eat? A bit dramatic I know, but I’m not comfortable leaving my entire food supply to others, are you?
Workshops in Ireland
There have been a few workshop ideas floating around that have caught my attention; they eventually prompted me to come up with some of my own workshops here at Greenside Up (see number 15); but I was particularly drawn to Riot Rye’s natural bread making course that I spotted after my recent soda bread efforts (number 5), and I can personally vouch for the South Kildare Beekeepers workshops (number 1).
If you’re looking for a meaningful gift for a friend, loved one or even yourself, perhaps some of the following might appeal. Not only is learning a new skill a present that will keep on giving, you might even make it extra special by combining it with a weekend away in one of Ireland’s beautiful counties.
Talking of making clothes, this is another skill I’m now very rusty with. Miriam Lloyd of Sewing Concepts runs beginners dressmaking classes from her studios in Ballon, County Carlow. I was tempted to ask for a sewing machine for Christmas as mine hasn’t worked for years and Miriam came up with a great recommendation; could 2016 be the year to brush up on those long forgotten skills?
Want to learn how to sew? Need a sewing machine? I am asked regularly what do I recommend. The Janome 2060 is perfect…
The School of Food in Kilkenny opened its doors in 2015 and they offer a multitude of cookery classes, from the basic skills right through to chef training.
We’re also blessed to have Anne Neary’s Ryeland House cookery school nearby. There are cookery schools dotted all around Ireland that offer classes on everything from jam making and vegetarian dinners to preserving and butchery, though I’d suggest you’re careful about how you present this voucher if you don’t wish to offend your friend or partner!
5. Bread making
It was Joe Fitzmaurice’s tweet about his sourdough bread making classes that prompted this blog post. We’ve been trying to cut processed foods right out of our diets here in Greenside Up but fail when it comes to bread. However, this recommended bread making course from Joe might just swing it.
Knockdrinna Cheese are based in the tiny village of Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny and are makers of a range of goats, sheep and cows cheep. They have won over 40 International and Irish awards, including a Gold award for their semi-hard goats cheese at the 2013 British Cheese Awards where it was named ‘Best Modern British’. They now offer cheesemaking courses so if cheesemaking is on your ‘to do’ list, you’ll find no better teacher than Helen Finnegan.
7. Pig rearing
We swore after we began keeping hens that we’d never have another animal here unless we learnt about it first so we booked ourselves on an Old farm Pig Rearing course and subsequently reared our own for the following three years.
Alfie and Margaret’s courses sell out fast so if you’re considering taking the more humane option for meat eating and getting a pig or two, I can personally recommend this course.
8. Soap making workshops
Have you ever wanted to learn the art of soap making? Tanya from Lovely Greens in the Isle of Man has enticed me with her beautiful blog post tutorials, and as a result, I’d now like to try something more hands on.
Well not exactly but Steven Lamb and Gill Meller, two members of the River Cottage team will be sharing their skills at Croan Cottages at Dunnamaggin in Co Kilkenny. During the three day residential workshops, they’ll be teaching participants all manner of cooking techniques from fish to pizzas, breadmaking and curing, making for a very special culinary experience.
10. Basket weaving
Heike Kahle Hartmann is a gifted basket weaver living a couple of miles from us in County Kilkenny and if you’d like to buy a finished product, her workshops are often open where you can pick up a gift for a friend or relative.
Heike also offers basket weaving classes and after a quick Google, I came across this one in Tinahealy in County Wicklow taking place in February.
As COP21 closes I’d love to be able to share news of LOTS of courses or workshops about creating energy more sustainably but I’m sad to say I couldn’t find any.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland offer lots of links on sustainable energy and advice for primary schools, but try as I might I couldn’t find any workshops for adults – there’s a gap in the market if ever one sprang out.
CELT are a registered charity that offer sustainable living workshops and in 2016 they have another two-day traditional skills workshops planned, where you can learn to make your own jewelery, furniture, cloth, knives, leather, or even build your own home. For more information on this real back to basics weekend, take a look here.
Finally, last but certainly not least, how about learning more about growing your own fruit and vegetables. It’s good to see workshops being advertised all over the country but if you fancy a trip to the Carlow /Kilkenny border, for the first time since I began Greenside Up 6 years ago, I’ll be hosting a series of gardening workshops aimed at beginners.
The workshops will be restricted to just eight people, offering a much more personal learning experience with a light lunch and refreshments provided.
We’ll be starting on Sunday, 13th March with seed sowing and propagating, followed by an introduction to organic gardening on 10th April, growing your own herbs on 22nd May and finally tackling pests, diseases and weeds without chemicals. If popular, I’ll be adding more workshops to the list. For more information, prices and booking details, take a look here.
But back to basics and things that matter, many of the animal charities are looking for sponsorship such as Animal Magic Wildlife Rescue, a gift that animal lovers might appreciate. You can contact Animal Magic here.
If you have any more ideas for back-to-basic workshops, please leave them in the comments, we’d love to hear them.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.