Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Biodynamic gardening course in Durrow

Orla takes a wander down the garden
Good afternoon to you all, another fine soft day thank God but we'd give it all up for a few dry weeks and some badly needed sunshine, these constant overcast days are getting on my nerves. So cough up some sunshine O Lord and let us pull out the BBQ's in honour of the month of August.We may even say a prayer or two while BBQ'ing, with cider in hand. I haven't even had a swim in the sea yet this summer -this is getting ridiculous.
The whole garden is awash with flowers including roses

Yesterday, although not the greatest of days, was the day that found Eileen, Orla, Brida and myself at Dunmore country school for a morning of gardening with Tanguy De Toulgoet. Tanguy gardens biodynamically on a lovely plot of land just outside the picturesque village of Durrow in Co Laois. I wrote about him earlier in the year when I found his website by accident here; earlier blog post.

My friend Annmarie is from just out the road and I spent lots of great weekends on her Dads farm and out in the town when I was in college fado fado ( a long time ago in Irish). I'd like to say I know Durrow well but really I know the inside of Faulty's Bar well so it was a shocking revelation to see a whole beautiful town in daylight that I never saw before!
And to see Faulty's in daylight too-not so good.
Christ! did we really drink there? it looks like it might fall down any minute.

Yarrow is an important wild plant in bio-dynamics

Biodynamically speaking I think I'm a yellow belt. While I'm getting used to gardening with the moon calendar I know nothing at all about the preparations or making compost the biodynamic way.Some things cross over with Organic gardening like rotating crop areas, companion planting and green manures but there is a bit more to biodynamics, it's a little bit of earth magic and seems almost Pagan in its rites and rituals. Mind you I think myself Christianity is over-rated so a bit of Paganism can't be a bad thing from time to time. We were all pagans once and it seemed to be going grand until St Patrick showed up and rocked the boat so maybe it's time to look into it again. Christianity is not going so well at the moment, and a number of us are shockingly bad at it, myself included, so maybe we'd make better Pagans?

Tanguys system for growing outdoor tomatoes-roof made from cold frame lid

We started with a delicious cup of coffee and an introduction to the history of the garden and house. The house was a fine ruin when they bought it but it was once an old inn- how cool is that? I forgot to ask if they had a ghost, you are entitled to one I think when you buy an old Inn, otherwise you should really get your money back. My friend bought an old farmhouse and got an old man ghost, it was probably in the small print on her contract; "contents to include one retired spectral gentleman who shall appear in the sitting room if and when he fancies it". And he did the fecker.
Ridiculously good looking cabbage

Tanguy took us through the building of the garden and the projects they took on each year. This reminded me of Deborah and Martin who have the motivation and discipline to pick one job and stick to it until its done, a skill sadly lacking in the greater Irish gene-pool. In spite of the rain we went outside and got a tour of the front garden. This was followed by a trip to the field nearby to see more crop areas, plus the hens, ducks, geese, sheep and cattle before breaking for a little elevenses involving home made Brioche and delicious pancakes with lemon and jam. At this stage I was on my second cup of coffee, knowing full well that I would pay for it later. Total coffee consumption for me is 1/2 cup a week not two big strong mugs in one day! Still I told myself it would help with my concentration.

Tanguy imparts some wisdom on Eileen

After the elevenses we went back outside to look at the tunnel crops and see the process of compost making. The whole time we were there we had intriguing conversations with Tanguy about everything he does and how he does it. We went from soil science to pollinating insects, disease management, useful weeds, useful mulches, managing pollinating insects, biodynamic bee keeping (which absolutely fascinated me) to varieties of crops he grows, undersowing, no-dig methods, green manure management and mixtures of flowers that are highly beneficial for fallow areas. There was so much information to take in and so much to learn. I'd love to come back again in 5 years when I know so much more to thrash out more ideas with him, it was absolutely brilliant! Thank God for the coffee! it helped me hold it all in and kept me focused on asking the right questions while we were there. A morning is really not enough. A whole day would be brilliant or better yet six months worth of them!

Aromatic Japanese Parsley under tomatoes in the tunnel
We were still talking as we wrapped up the day at 1pm. Afterwards I got an email from Tanguy with some bee-keeping questions for Jack. He told me how lucky I was to have someone like Jack living close by who has 70+ years of experience with bees, to pay close attention to him and learn all I can. Good advise if I can keep from throttling Jack in the meantime! But he's right, this is what its all about, swapping ideas and learning from people who have lived longer and know more than you, no matter what age you are.If you get a chance gather up 3 others (you need 4 for a group) and go spend a morning or better yet a whole day with Tanguy. I Highly reccomended it.

For contact details for Tanguy and more information on courses go to

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