Winter in Salthill

The birds have been very active in our little garden for the last week or a bit more.  I notice they are enjoying hopping around and checking out the flamingoes.  I just hope they’re not eating the few food plants I have growing.  The mint seems healthy but has not yet begun to spread out, but the garlic bulb I planted just for chuckles is really taking off.  I planted another one a couple of days ago, again for just for grins; we’ll see how that one comes along.  The parsley plant is sad and not growing.  However, I didn’t expect any of them to grow at all so the fact that only one seems to be unhappy – and is not yet dead – is quite good news.  So looking forward to finding some more herbs to grow this spring.  I hear that thyme is very high in iron, which is a mineral I need a lot of, so I hope to find some for planting, along with some basil and maybe another hearty herb or two.  (I miss fresh basil.  We had several good basil plants back in Denver which I used liberally in our meals.)  Claude works near a garden center so perhaps when the season breaks – I was going to say “when the weather breaks” but then I’m sitting here at this moment looking at a partly sunny sky with no wind and a temperature of 50 degrees F – I can go find some food plants that will thrive in our tiny garden space.  I read this morning of a lady in Kent, England whose one lone sunflower took it upon itself to become more like a beanstalk, growing on its own to over 20 feet tall!  I have no illusions of growing record-breaking plants, just some fresh herbs for our evening meals.  But in the meantime I can enjoy the birds’ cavorting and look forward to the promise of spring.

It’s so different, living here in this climate, the “maritime” or “oceanic” climate.  The overwhelming amount of rain that I keep hearing about just doesn’t seem to materialize, or else I’m simply not fazed by it when it does hit.  Having lived so many years in arid climes, I welcome the moisture.  It’s difficult to keep crispy foods fresh but other than that… well, even the humidity is negligible.  There were those two or three days of freezing conditions on the roads last month but really, no big problems.  This isn’t winter weather as I know it – and I believe the plant life agrees with me!

We got out of the house over the weekend and rode our bicycles together, a first for us since their arrival from home.  Claude rides every day to and from work, but I have been reluctant to ride in the poor weather.  I’m so wobbly and unused to riding on the wrong side of the road, definitely a recipe for disaster.  It was a short one, only into Salthill and back again; I think it’s going to take me some time to get my ‘sea legs’ as the ride definitely took a lot out of me.  I just need more practice to gain confidence.  It will help tremendously not to have to ride in scorching heat.  With hindsight I can recognize that what always foiled me and kept me from getting back on the bike was the heat.  I have other obstacles to overcome but at least I can control them.

Cooking is a real pleasure for me, and no season is better for that delicious pursuit than winter.  Heat the oven and warm the house, fill it with scents of freshly baked cookies and warm applesauce…  It just doesn’t get any better than that!  (Oh mercy, I sound like Paula Deen or Ina Garten.)  The only real problem I see is that the kitchen is so small that I have to keep it clean all the time in order to be able to cook.  Which isn’t such a bad thing, only it’s really exhausting for a lazy person.  I can’t cook in the room if it’s dirty but then I haven’t got the energy to cook once it’s been cleaned.  And then when I’ve finished cooking, it’s dirty again!  Gee whiz.  (I wonder, what is the Irish equivalent of “gee whiz”?)  Today I am contemplating a cheesy rice dish with roasted potatoes, and another batch of those fantastic chocolate cookies of which we cannot seem to get enough.

Yes, the birds are happy.  If they thrive this well in winter, I can’t wait to see how happily they greet the spring!

— Cindy

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