Browsing Tag

swiss chard


Having Fun With the Colour Purple

August 19, 2016

Having Fun With the Colour Purple

“I have friends who are black, white, purple, grey straight, Martian, yellow, old and young. I have friends who are animals and a few who I believe to be robots. All of them are people to me. In my mind it’s not about what you look like or what you do, it’s about who you are inside.” Tracy Morgan

The Colour Purple

Having fun with the colour purple

I was looking up the meaning of the colour purple for this article and came across the above quote; my thoughts exactly though I couldn’t have written them nearly so well.

Maybe we’ve become more aware now we carry the news in our pockets, but as a result of reading about the violence and inequalities that appear when screens are opened, my gratitude for everything we have at home is growing.

Our children and pets, the garden and space, the solitude, flora and fauna, the landscape and climate – yes we have to work hard to maintain our lifestyle, but we’re tremendously blessed to live in a country that’s not at war, something many aren’t. Our hopes for our children are that it will always stay the same but who knows. Life’s uncertainties and the realisation that we’ve spent 16 years renovating our old farmhouse and doing very little else have this year resulted in us deciding to embrace life, to journey around our little island and to introduce some FUN into our daily existence.

That’s why we considered painting the patio purple rather choosing a ‘safe’ landscaping material. It’s such a cheerful colour and blends in with so much around us.

Having fun with the colour purple

Thankfully Ian is with me all away on the colour and agreed to let me run with it. The result: he’s as happy as I am and is talking about painting the back of our house purple too, “why stop at the front?” he says.

A concrete slab or a dry seating area

Having fun with the colour purpleOur one acre site has evolved organically and the patio is no exception. We didn’t plan to have a seating area next to the front door, overlooking the driveway. Yet nine years ago when the lorry delivered too much concrete for the new hallway floor, we had to make a quick decision. We asked the driver to dump the excess in exactly that spot, not thinking about the long-term consequences. We leveled the quick drying substrate as best we could before it set and ever since, that dreary grey slab measuring 3.6m X 2.6m has been the only dry surface seating area in our garden.

Having fun with the colour purpleI used to blame the Irish weather for not wanting to sit outside for long; it was too chilly or windy and not conducive to relaxation. But I was wrong, it had nothing to do with the temperature but more to do with the uninspired outdoor seating.

Since the transformation, we’re enjoying sitting outside so much we’re already talking about creating another outdoor space in one of the ruins that we can cover with tarpaulin to keep the showers off. It might house the pallet-made bar and stools that are next on Ian’s woodwork list as well as the barbecue and fire pit that rarely make it out of the shed.

But that’s a job for 2017, for now we’re looking forward to lots of outdoor entertaining and evenings bat and stargazing. If you’re wondering how we created this low-cost, tiny purple patio read on.

Three is the Magic Number

Once I began to think of paint as an alternative to other landscaping surfaces, three things happened simultaneously.

Having fun with the colour purpleFirstly I asked my herb garden clients from Advanced Coatings for some advice on outdoor concrete paint and they generously gifted me some of their Tikkurila product range by way of a thank you for the planting design we’d worked together to create. I looked through the sheath of colours on offer, finally choosing a shade of purple that would complement our plum coloured limestone driveway, the royal purple front door and the lilac window surrounds.

Having fun with the colour purpleSecondly Ian discovered a love for pallet furniture, having made a couple of vertical planters recently. He built a pallet herb planter fence that borders the patio, able to hold lots of herbs that can be grabbed while we’re cooking, saving us the short but often crucially timed walk to the veggie patch. Everything planted into the fence has been grown from seed in our polytunnel and includes mixed salad leaves, coriander, thyme, sage, parsley and rainbow beetroot.

Not content with pallet planters and fencing, this flurry of woodworking led Ian to build two pallet seats that will be part of the pop up community garden that I was invited to coordinate again in the Global Green village at Electric Picnic. The low seat was made from one and a half pallets, the larger one used two. Ian’s talking about making more benches and a coffee table. I’m holding my breath, bringing him lots of tea and hoping he doesn’t get bored with his new hobby too soon!

Having fun with the colour purpleThe third element in the patio makeover is that we took a trip to ReCreate in Dublin and stocked up on hessian sacks, artificial grass, woollen off-cuts and many other adornments that will be helping us, along with the other ten stakeholders involved, create a fun space at the music festival.

ReCreate is a remarkable organisation that was recently shortlisted for the €100K Social Entrepreneur Inspire fund. The idea behind the enterprise is that they store unwanted, end of line surplus materials from business and make them available to members such as schools, pre-schools, youth groups and art groups for create activities. Many of the items and materials would ordinarily end up in landfill but thanks to this innovative idea, they’re now being used to create pieces of art. The idea is that groups pay an annual membership fee and take what they want as often as they want from the warehouse. It’s a treasure chest of goodies, an Aladdin’s Cave for crafting. We spent three hours there like kids in a toy shop and could easily have stayed longer. ReCreate will be part of the Global Green garden at the Festival too and we’re looking forward to spending more time with them.

Come and Visit Us at Electric Picnic

Having fun with the colour purpleBar the purple floor, most of our patio will be heading to this year’s Electric Picnic Music Festival, along with a concept tree that Ian’s now creating with ReCreate remnants. 

If you’re at Electric Picnic do drop by and say hello. There are lots of events, activities, seating and crafts planned for Global Green that will encourage people to think about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. You might even go home with some seating ideas of your own.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this and have a small garden or patio that you’re considering making over yourself, the following article contains suggestions for 14 vegetables you might like to grow in a small garden.

Vegetable Garden

14 Vegetables to Grow In A Small Garden

May 11, 2013


Vegetables for a small garden

14 Vegetables to Grow in a Small Garden

“I don’t have much space, what are the best vegetables to grow outside in my small garden?”

This has been one of the most often asked questions which is encouraging as one of the first pieces of advice is start small! Why? Because you’re less likely to give up growing your own if you don’t take on too much at once.

You’ve installed a couple of raised beds, you’ve cleared a space for some veggies somewhere bright and sunny in your garden, or you’re even planning on planting vegetables among your flower borders or in containers; now you’re wondering what you might grow in your small vegetable garden that will give you the most return for your efforts. The following might help you take the next steps to growing vegetables in a small garden. Continue Reading…

Food & Drink

Spinach and Feta Puff Triangles Recipe

October 23, 2010
Rainbow Chard

Spinach is probably one of the most nutritious veg we can eat as it’s loaded with vitamins – especially vitamins B9, C, K, Calcium and iron but it can be an acquired taste.

It can (but not always) taste bitter due to the levels of oxalic acid it contains.  Many leafy veg contain oxalic acid, which in high concentrations can be poisonous (eg rhubarb leaves) and fatal.  I googled “spinach” and “oxalic acid” out of curiosity to find out how much you would need to eat for it to be dangerous….. and found there are pages, and pages and pages of information out there – many with differing opinions.  Suffice to say that it would take a lot more spinach to harm us than our family or ‘Joe Public’ is likely to ever eat!

As well as spinach, we grow Swiss chard in our garden – the rainbow variety. It’s not as strong tasting and withstands the colder temperatures better. It doesn’t bolt as quickly either.

grow your own swiss chard

grow your own swiss chard

Chard is a type of beetroot without the beet (the swollen root). It’s from the same ‘family of vegetables’ – the Chenopodiaceae for anyone interested – so is grown in the same area.

I love the colours from the rainbow variety (ruby red, yellow and white stems) and they wouldn’t look out of place in a flower bed. If you’re tempted to grow Chard for cooking it’s a good idea to cut out the thick stem that run through the leaves (the midrib) and cook it separately as it takes longer (lovely stir fried, or steamed a few minutes before the leaves).

So, on to the recipe… As ever I’m always on the look out for easy recipes and came across this one on the food network channel which I’ve adapted (so I’m afraid the ingredients list and cooking time is a bit hap hazard!)

You could use Swiss chard instead of spinach but pre-cook it until it’s wilted as it takes a bit longer to cook than spinach.


300g fresh spinach (or about 10oz of frozen)
A pack of feta cheese, or approx 120g
50g soft cheese (I used extra low fat Philidelphia)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg
lots of black pepper
1 pack of frozen puff pastry


Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºC/gas 6

Wash the fresh spinach and place it in a pan over heat with a lid on for a few minutes until it’s wilted slightly.  If you use frozen, run it under warm water or defrost it in a microwave as per the instructions.  Drain the leaves, let them cool for a couple of minutes if needed then squeeze as much excess water as you can from them.

Spinach, feta & cream cheese mix

Chop the leaves and place them in a bowl with all the other ingredients (except the pastry!)  Mix together with your (clean) hands, Nigella style.

Sprinkle some flour onto a clean, dry worktop and roll out the puff pastry in a square shape to about 3mm thick. Using a ruler cut the pastry into 7.5cm (3in) squares.

Imagining the square as two triangles, place a teaspoon of filling into the top half then dip your finger into a bowl of cold water and moisten the top edges of the pastry with the water.

Fold the squares in half so that the edges meet and then seal them together with a fork.

Brush the little pastries with milk then place onto baking paper (or a greased tin) for about 15 minutes, until they’re golden and puffed.

These are delicious served hot or cold. I had enough pastry to make about 26, and enough filling to make another 26! Yum. Enjoy!

Vegetable Garden

Wednesday Wiglers – Beet Leaf Miner

August 10, 2010

Beet Leaf MinerAnother pesky pest, this beet leaf miner was found on the beetroot at the Community Garden a couple of weeks ago.

This is one occasion where vigilance really is the only cure as there are no home-made remedies (or no approved insecticides) that will work on these little maggots.

Beet Leaf MinerYes …. maggots. These little white grubs will turn into the pupae of flies. They wriggle about (or mine, as their name suggests) between the internal tissues of the leaves and if left unchecked may have two life cycles in one summer.

They are attracted to beetroot, spinach and Swiss chard so crops will be ruined once infected (yuk, who wants to eat maggots with their dinner?).

So what can you do?

If you spot the Beet Leaf Miner early on you can remove the leaves of the infected plants and destroy them. If not I’m afraid your crop will be ruined.