Permaculture gathering and other visits

It’s been a busy few weeks and it feels like I haven’t stopped traveling, visiting friends in Clifden then up to the Permaculture Gathering in Northern Ireland, making a start on the survey phase of a garden project in Dublin and down to Limerick for exams with the Organic College. I’m nearly finished the 2 year distance cert in Organic Horticulture. I would highly recommend the course and the staff involved and have really enjoyed all the research that goes with it. It does take quite a bit of time but I loved it. I’m getting ready to start my own business teaching Permaculture Design and Organic Gardening in Schools in Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford this September.

On the way to Clifden we spent the night at Aughnanure castle near Loch Corrib; it’s a 16th century tower house with 2 bawns. The setting along the river Drimneen is magical and a great place to visit near Oughterard.

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The section below is through a typical 16th century towerhouse giving an idea of how it was lived in and defended. I especially liked the clockwise staircase designed to give sword weilding advantage to those inside and the long drop toilets.

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Along the Drimneen river bank Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris) and Meadow Sweet (Filipendula ulmaria) are now in flower. I also spotted Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) with its square shaped winged stem.

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On our wandering around Clifden we visited the ruins of Clifden Castle built in 1818 in the Neo Georgian style. Cattle, sheep and horses graze the surrounding land and the former stables are now used as cow sheds. In the hedges and along the road edges hazel, Gunnera, Fuchsia, and Montbretia grow. Down in the harbour area we nibbled on sea beet and spotted sea lettuce, serrated wrack and bladder wrack that had been washed up.

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I’ve never made it along to the annual all Ireland permaculture gathering before so didn’t quite know what to expect. This year it was held up north near Hillsbourough, Co.Down at Tubby’s farm. We had a very enjoyable weekend with some lovely people. There were interesting talks and workshops on all manner of subjects from upcycling old batteries to growing vines for winemaking in Ireland. Below is an image from the garden that had been made to provide some food for the event. A large rock is being used to provide a heat sink and create a microclimate. It’s a great use for what might be otherwise considered an obstruction. This is what I like about Permaculture. Turning the problem on its head.

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I was also very impressed with how the shower water for the event was heated. A pile of woodchips generates a lot of heat as it breaks down. Water from an I.B.C. tank was pumped to a 100 metre coil of water pipe buried on and under a metre of woodchips. When not in use 5 litres of water sitting in the pipes heats by the woodchips to over 70 degrees in about 15 minutes.This is then mixed with a little cold water to shower in. The design is brilliant as each person gets about 5 litres of warm water before it gets cold. That’s more than enough to wash in. By the time they have dressed it’s ready for the next person. The pile will stay warm for 6 weeks before it needs turning.

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All the cooking for the event was done in a pit fire by a lady named sue making it an off grid event.
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