Growing Wild

With Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist

Blackthorn flowers: Look out for the first blackthorn flowers, with small snow-white petals striking a stark contrast against the black stems. Blackthorn flowers appear before its leaves, which is a clear distinguishing difference from whitethorn, where the leaves appear first.

While regularly appearing after St. Patrick’s Day, blackthorn flowers appearing in February are very early. As they seem to be appearing on hedges planted in recent years, the concern is that early flowering shrubs may have been imported, of non-Irish provenance. Farmers planting hedges under Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), who wish to include blackthorn can only use it if grown in Ireland of Irish provenance. Blackthorn with its sloes in autumn is part of our native Irish biodiversity.

Rural Rhymes

Singing in the Kitchen

Early morning ground frost

melted by skydrenched sunrise

flooding through kitchen sink window

across and over wooden table

where she peeled Sunday spuds

Over fifty years a Mother

ten of them a Gran

readying Sunday dinner for the wide brood

to come in and gather round

with workaday news

and hearty laugh tales of tots

their latest tricks and minor triumphs

to be shared at neighbours

throughout the coming week

Half singing lilting a

century old song

handed down from ear

to learning ear

etching more than word or image

on young absorbing mind

a tale of long ago

with its ups and downs

the details not the major matter

The singing and sharing

cusping a way of life

and living

encapsulating landscape

battered road and field

where souls have left

for better or worse

and returned better or worse

to re-find the way of life

and landscape still solid there

like an old song

lilting at the peeling of the spud

Written by Galway based poet,

playwright and novelist

Anthony Ryan.

Consumer tip

If you paid for an item but never received it, or it arrived damaged, and you, justifiably want your money back, you may try to dispute it with your credit card issuer through the process of a chargeback.

Chargebacks are different from refunds, but both can result in you receiving a credit for an order that went wrong or a fraudulent charge on your account.

In order to start a chargeback, you should contact your bank or credit card provider immediately. Give them details of the disputed transaction and request that they follow it up.

Depending on the debit or credit card scheme – i.e. Visa or MasterCard – there are different terms and conditions in relation to chargebacks. Most schemes offer full chargeback rights but there can be specific timeframes for requesting a chargeback, such as 120 or 180 days after the transaction takes place or the agreed date of delivery.

For more information check out Competition and Consumer Protection Commission at

Picture of the week

Two-year old Pàdraig Murphy helping his Uncle Con feed the bullocks. Submitted by Tracie Murphy, Co Cork.

Online pick of the week

Annika Berglund.

In this week’s Meet the Maker, Grace Hanna chats to multidisciplinary artist Annika Berglund about her work and she gives advice to those who want to pursue an artistic career. Annika’s work can be found at

Number of the week - 95%

An Post says it will advertise post office contracts shortly and that existing staff will have first preference in applying for them. David McRedmond’s press statement claims the move is in line with the ongoing transformation of the national network and that these six busy outlets will now join more than 95% of the country’s 900-plus offices run by contractors.

Quote of the week

Anyway, I quickly moved this heifer from the group and tried to figure out what the problem was. It wasn’t the food or water. At one point, I thought maybe she was a little depressed. In fairness to her, I had been playing a lot of Radiohead in the parlour. When playing her my Enya collection didn’t help, I knew I was in trouble.

Read more

Meet the Maker: Annika Berglund

Katherine O'Leary: 'I can continue getting well'