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29 Sept 2022

Biodiversity brings us back together - Albert Nolan

Home grown vegetables taste incredible fresh

Home grown vegetables taste incredible fresh

It was a time for gentle reconnection as the Mens shed returned to Knockanrawley after a years of self-isolating. The men had kept in touch via zoom and occasional chats across the street, but the core of the group is meeting live, having the chat and tea and learning new skills. Perhaps after Covid the motto of the Mens shed will not be men work shoulder to shoulder but reflect a more a valued face to face.

Keeping in the nature of the shed we were starting a short course on bushcraft and biodiversity. This is done through the ETB and at a previous zoom meeting the men had decided on the activities that they would like to do. This ground up approach is central to any adult education course.

The Garden was bathed in beautiful May sunshine as I arrived. In the dense leaf canopy of a tree I could hear a whitethroat singing. These are spring migrants all the way from Africa and as the garden matures, it provides a habitat for more wildlife. As the same suggests both the male and female have white throats that shivers when they sing.

I joined Timmy Whyte lead volunteer with the garden and Mens shed and we started off with welcomes before discussing the plan for the morning. We have got organic seeds and we were going to sow lettuce seeds, as feeding the body keeps the mind healthy as well. Also home grown vegetables taste incredible fresh and have no food miles involved.

At this time of the year salads like lettuce grow within six weeks and this variety is cut and come. It grows new leaves after each picking. We sowed only a few seeds and in two weeks’ time we will sow more. This successional planting ensures a continuous supply throughout the summer.

We also sowed the herbs sage and marjoram for pollinators and Tobacco flowers that will attract moths that in turn will feed bats. As we worked the men shared stories of their own gardens. Some of the men had gardens in their youth and a few from large families grew out of necessity.

Next Timmy Whyte demonstrated how to sow potatoes. With years of experience behind him Timmy made it look easy. I had a go and it was not as easy as it looks and I need to handle a shovel more. The ground was really well prepared and we finished with sowing a patch of wildflowers.

After break and a chat we made a natural feed for plants. Using what is in season and growing around and this keeps us in tune with nature. We filled a bucket with mainly elderberry leaves, comfrey, dandelion and a few cleavers. This will be left to ferment for a few weeks and then strained to remove the leaves and stems.

The remaining liquid will be rich in nutrients and minerals for plants but needs to be diluted down before it is used. I was asked for the exact recipe, but I work in the old fashioned way with a handful and a pinch being my measurements.

After lunch Tipperary Town Biodiversity group met Muniteoir Mairead Class from the Gaelscoil to make seed bombs. Marian Clarke was on hand to record the kids in action and the video is available on the Tipperary tidy towns Facebook page.

It was all muck and magic as the kids and their teacher rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. They mixed plenty of compost with a little water, as you don’t want the mixture to be too wet when shaping the seed bombs.

We were delighted to see the students getting stuck in and even Muniteoir Mairead had a go. The class were well prepared and had brought old tops as dirty uniforms on a Monday would stress out even the calmest of parents.

Timmy cast his experience eye of the mixture and it was ready to add the wildflowers. This contains 27 different species of flowers that will support our pollinators. Bees need plenty of pollen and nectar and when these flowers will provide of food.

Each student got to put in a handful of wildflower seeds and then it was time to get down and mucky and mix it all together. We then gently shapped the compost into small balls and placed these carefully into egg cartoons.

These were left inside on the classroom window and will harden after a week. The class have already picked a place to drop their bombs. They are going to place them under the trees and these will help out under pressure pollinators.

The students also made their own nature soup using seeds, compost flowers and lots of seeds. We poured this under a tree and the bees will love all the wildflowers.

Their teacher had a real surprise for us. The class had got a butterfly hatching kit from the butterfly farm. They had been carefully minding and rearing them for weeks learning about how to feed them and metamorphosis.

We got a real surprise all they had hatched out into beautiful painted lady butterflies and were enjoying their first taste of the outdoors and life.

Thanks to Timmy and Marian from Tipperary Town Biodiversity Group and the staff and students from the Gaelscoil.

Comments/Questions to albert.nolan@rocketmail.com or 089 4230502. Albert is also available to give walks/talks to schools, tidy towns, youth and community groups

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