June 2009 – Hedgerow Harvest

The first Friday in June was the Bantry farmers market, so off we went to buy some ducklings. We also purchased 10m of strong chicken wire and made a fully enclosed duck pen, so that the ducklings would be safe from the foxes. As they grow we will extend it and use the small enclosure when we are going out for the day. We considered buying one, but the price was 300 Euro for a tiny pen and instead we managed to construct one for a fraction of the cost.

 The ducklings are so cute. We think we have 2 males and 3 females, a slightly better ratio than last time 3 males and one female! They have veracious appetites and David is busy cooking them barley porridge, which they are fed 4 times a day, along with cooked vegetables. They are growing before our eyes. They have a little basin to swim in with a shallow end for the little ones and a deep end for the larger more adventurous ducklings. Rocky (shown opposite) has established himself as the leader and where ever he goes the others follow. They have settled in very well and are not at all shy. We bought them from a young boy and I think they must have been handled a lot.  

In the vegetable garden the potatoes and onions are really coming on. The peas are beginning to gain some height, but the beans are looking very sorry for themselves. Where we are 200 ft above sea level and quite exposed, it is a learning experience as to which varieties will grow or not. Broccoli is our biggest success. It grows all year and even when the plants finally go to flower the tender young leaves provide an excellent green vegetable.  

The hedgerows are lush with greenery now and we have had such fine weather recently that we have left the work and gone to the beach. There is a secluded bay about 3 miles from us that only locals know about. It is sheltered, with soft sand and shallow water, so inviting that David has had his first swim of the year and I lay like a beached whale basking in the sunshine!   

We have had our first harvest of the year this week – Elderflowers. I was determined to make full use of it this year, as in previous years it has been and gone with only a couple of bottles of elderflower cordial to show for it. The smell of the elderflower blooms is intoxicating. So it was out with the ladder on a barmy early summer day to reach the best blooms, which are always at the top of the trees. I then spent a day sterilising bottles and making ½ dozen bottles of elderflower cordial, a dozen bottles of elderflower champagne and elderflower sorbet. We will have to wait two weeks to try the champagne, although the longer we leave it the better. It’s already starting to bubble, so that’s promising. It should make a light fragrant drink for summer evenings and I will leave the rest of the flowers to produce berries for the autumn when we can make elderberry wine for the winter months to warm us. The gooseberry crop is looking good too; it’s the perfect companion for elderflowers. I’m off to look for some recipes – gooseberry relish would be nice for summer picnics!

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