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Gardening made easy: novel idea takes root

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Lifestyle  – JUDY MURPHY finds  how the recession has  helped a hobby become  a thriving business

After father-of-four Eoin Flaherty lost his job during the economic crash, his life took a new and unexpected direction.

Eoin has drawn on his love of gardening to create a new product designed to make fruit and vegetable growing easier, for beginner and experienced gardener alike.

There’s nothing like it on sale in Ireland, or anywhere else in Europe, says Headford based Eoin, who shakes his head in disbelief as he describes how simple his GrowGrid mat is.

He had developed a series of polypropylene mats, which have holes pre-punched in them, with the distance between the holes varying in size to cater for different types of fruit and veg. Mats are designed to allow people to grow a mix of vegetables in a small area – everything from potatoes to spinach and strawberries, with holes for the seeds or plant plugs.

The GrowGrid mats, which come in large and small sizes, might be simple in design but they are highly effective, as a walk around his beautifully ordered garden in Ballycasey, outside Headford demonstrates.

There are several raised beds where herbs including lovage, curry and parsley are thriving, while garlic is also doing well. The potatoes are slower than usual, he says, but that’s because of the weather.

Further down there’s a polytunnel, where the mats are laid out in perfect symmetry and a range of food – strawberries, celery, chard, tomatoes, peas, beans and lettuce – are all in various stage of growth.

The holes in the GrowGrid mats are heat sealed to stop the fabric from fraying and the big advantage is that the membrane prevents weeds from growing so the plant is not competing with them for light or nutrients. 

Eoin, who is originally from Inis Mór on the Aran Islands, was always interested in food. After school, he trained as a chef at the then RTC in Galway and gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry, working in restaurants from Roly’s Bistro in Dublin, to Park House here in Galway.

But when the property boom came, he changed careers and went into the construction industry. He was newly married and the father of a small family and needed a change.  Working as a chef, with long and often late hours, is not a family friendly occupation, he says.

“I had a great career and worked at the higher end of it, but it’s a young man’s game. We were married, and both working shifts, so something had to give.”

However, like thousands of others, Eoin was left without a job when the property bubble burst. His wife, Catriona, is a nurse, so they made the pragmatic decision that, rather than returning to cheffing, he would become a stay-at-home father, while Catriona continued to work.

That’s when the idea for the pre-punched GrowGrid mats first came about.

Eoin had been growing vegetables all his life, except for the period when he was working fulltime, when he was too busy. But once he decided to stay at home, he returned to gardening – the family home is on a three-quarter acre site, which offered plenty of scope. However, a combination of bad weather, which saw weeds flourish, and having four small children to mind, left him strapped for time.

He originally put the matting down around copper beech to inhibit weed growth and it was then he realised its potential in the vegetable patch, as did other people who saw it.

“So I developed the pre-punched matting myself.  It’s much the same as membranes you’d put on soil except for the holes. There are four different spaces depending on what you want to grow.”

The mats are made of treated polypropylene and each will last up to five years if properly maintained, but he has several that are older than that. Each one comes with biodegradable pegging which secure the mat onto the ground. The small ones are 1.5 metres wide and 2.2 metres long while the large ones are the same width and are four metres long.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Work for children of all ages in extended Baboró programme

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Grand Soft Day, a new co-production from Branar is for children aged three to six.

The 26th annual Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will take place from Friday, October 14, to Sunday, October 23, in theatres, galleries, schools and communities in Galway City and County.

This year’s extended 10-day festival will have more than 50 live events, presented by companies from all over Ireland and Europe, including Belgium, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Scotland and England.

These will include a special collection of European work made for children up to six years, as well as residencies in special schools and child-led projects.

Children aged eight and older are invited to join the surreal world of Der Lauf, where nothing is quite as it seems. In this show, two circus performers from Belgian company Le Cirque du Bout du Monde, compete in a series of bizarre challenges as they juggle blindly, spin plates and stack glasses, while wearing boxing gloves. As the glasses rise, so do the stakes. The children are their only guides and will either help lead the clowns to order or towards further chaos.

Ballet Ireland will present The Glasshouse, a dance performance for children aged six and older. It is the story of Fiach, an earnest youngster who is on a mission to repopulate the world with plants and turn it green. This fun, compelling show, by exciting young choreographer Róisín Whelan, is about human courage, friendship and the determination to survive. The Glasshouse promises “moments of suspense and joy, exhilarating dancing, vibrant costumes and magical music”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

A feast of Butlers at the Kenny Gallery

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The Butler family, from left: Liam, Ronan, Lisa and Davin.

Sculptor Liam Butler will return to the City’s Kenny Gallery this Friday night, August 12, for his first exhibition in more than 10 years. The new show, Copper Roots, is an even more special occasion for Liam as it will be his first time exhibiting alongside his children, Davin, Lisa and Ronan.

Liam is a self-taught sculptor who has been creating and exhibiting work for almost 30 years. He has passed on his craft to Davin, Lisa and Ronan, teaching them the techniques he developed throughout his career, as well as his love for copper and its artistic possibilities.

In 2020, during Covid, the Butlers were all together, back home in Galway for the first time in many years. They rekindled their passion for sculpture, spending time in Liam’s workshop, creating   new work, alongside each another.

There was learning, creativity and experimentation, they say. The resulting exhibition at Kennys’ celebrates reconnecting with family roots, and passions passed on from generation to generation.

A welder by training, Liam grew up on a small farm in Kilkenny. He worked in Germany and America for years before returning to Ireland, settling in An Spidéal where he began experimenting, using the skills he learned as an industrial welder to create simple sculptures from steel.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Sisters in perfect tune for unique musical snapshot

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Breda and Claire Keville, photographed by Nutan. (Inset) The sisters, as depicted by artist Isabel Alegria, on the cover of the album.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

“A snapshot in time,” is how musician and composer Claire Keville from Claran, near Headford, describes Music from Galway, the new CD which she and her sister Breda have just released.

With Breda on fiddle and Claire on concertina, it’s a gorgeous collection of music from all parts of Galway and beyond, a mix of slow airs, gigs, reels and marches. The sisters are accompanied by guitarist and longtime musical friend Terence O’Reilly on several tracks, which they recorded in the studio of his East Clare home in April of this year.

Claire, a French and Music teacher in Coláiste Iognáid (the Jes) in the city for the past decade, and Breda, who works as a radiation therapist in UHG, have previously released solo albums. Breda’s, The Hop Down, was released in 2006 and The Daisy Field, from Clare came out in 2009. Each guested on the other’s album, but this is their first joint recording, a project they’d been discussing for years.

When it did finally happen, it came together a lot more quickly than either of them had anticipated.

“I didn’t think we’d have it done this year,” says Breda, as Claire recalls that they discussed its timeframe in April, while driving from Galway to Terence’s home in Clare.

After that first day, when they recorded 10 tracks and realised that most of them would make the album, they reckoned it was achievable. Another session in An Spidéal with musician, ‘talented engineer and general all-rounder’,  Ronan Browne, convinced them it was and Music from Galway was launched at the Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Malbay in July.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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