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In a Bar with Irish Spring at Hand

Irish Winter is the best season for sitting in pubs and complaining about the weather (while eating oysters and drinking Guinness). I can hold my own at this sport.

At the beginning of winter, I went and visited Joe Shea, my best friend from Trumbull High School, who has been living in Ireland for decades. We hadn’t seen each other in 40 years.

Joe is a beekeeper in the Mourne Mountains and just contributed an article on the subject to the IrelandEats.com blog.

Joe joined us for Thanksgiving in Clare.

In January, my wife, Ph.D candidate Kelly Klaasmeyer, started her 2nd year at Burren College of Art and Ava and Joe went back to elementary school.

 

Spring is upon us now.

I know it seems early to declare the end of winter in February, but the Irish have a different system of marking the seasons. Whereas Americans rely on complicated computations based on the dates of solstices and equinoxes, here in Ireland they simply divide the 12 months of the year by 4 seasons and assign 3 months to each.

Springtime is February, March and April. Summer is May, June and July. Autumn is August, September and October. And Winter is November, December and January.

Never mind that August is the hottest month of the year in Texas (except when it’s even hotter in September). And in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil determines the start of American winter on Groundhog’s Day. But weather and burrowing animals be damned, February is Irish Spring.

This year it’s hard to argue. The winter was pretty mild and in the middle of February, the roadsides are already decorated with yellow and white daffodils. The wild garlic, a Springtime forager’s treat, is popping up early and (thanks to Dave Donohue) I’ve got a jar of wild garlic pesto in the fridge already.

Every time we have a sunny afternoon, the Spring Gardening bug starts biting me.

I installed a polytunnel (we call them hoophouses in Texas) back in January. It’s a metal frame wrapped in plastic and you can’t grow tomatoes or chile peppers without one here in Ireland–summers are too cold and too windy.

The bad news is that even in a polytunnel, tomato vines don’t start fruiting until July–the good news is you can keep harvesting tomatoes until Halloween.

Ed at the Gort Garden Center introduced me to the Irish Seedsavers organization, a group that preserves heirloom varieties and sells seeds to the public. I bought several packets, but Ed cautions it’s still a little too early.

If you plant them now, they will probably get killed by a late frost, Ed warns. After all, the first week of March last year, we had a blizzard named “The Beast from the East.”

Ignoring sage advice, I went ahead and planted mizuna, mustard greens, heirloom lettuces, radishes and dill seeds in my new “polytunnel” anyway. They are starting to sprout. If they get killed by a frost, I’ll just fork over more of my hard-earned Euros to Ed for more seeds.

Looking forward to baseball season! Go Astros!

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