#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 16°C Saturday 19 June 2021

GIY: 'Don’t think about giving stuff up, think about taking things up instead'

Learn a skill, eat delicious things, sow a seed. Be kind to yourself, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

AS THE YEAR turns, my inner critic is active again, goading me to get started on work in the veg patch. Every time I look out the window at the veg patch, or visit it to grab a leek or some parsnips for the dinner, it starts up its never-ending critical commentary.

“You really need to get some compost on that bed,” it says. “Look at those weeds, you’d really think you would keep it tidier. That polytunnel needs cleaning and look at the state of the potting shed. You started GIY?  Really? You’d think the so-called founder of GIY would be more on top of things in his own veg patch.”

My inner critic, it turns out, is a total pain in the ass.

Slow at work

As a New Year gift to myself, I’ve been reading Aoife McElwain’s excellent new book, Slow at Work, and it strikes me that it’s principles could apply not just to my work life, but to my veg patch life too.

I am constantly beating myself up about what’s to be done out there, rather than cutting myself a break or, God forbid, praising myself for how much I’ve actually managed to grow.  I’ve done very little in the veg patch since November, but instead of relishing the break, most of the time I just feel guilty.

Aoife’s book promises to show us how to “work less, achieve more and regain our balance in an always-on world”. It’s a promise I think most of us could really latch on to in these frenetic times. It’s a fascinating book that explores the cult of busyness, the imposter syndrome and the problems of procrastination.

The phrase “I’ve been beating myself up” is a really interesting one. It points to the strange duality that’s the core problem of the human experience. Who exactly is it that’s beating me up? Is it me? Creating a tiny little bit of distance between you (the experiencer of life), and your inner critic (that constant inner monologue) is one of the healthiest things you can do for your mental health and all-round happiness.

Just being able to notice or watch the critic, to catch it out – is usually enough to be able to stop identifying with it so much. After a while you realise your inner critic is actually kind of a moron. It’s like the worst type of bullying boss – hyper critical and repetitive, often sulky, whiney and childish. Never giving you a break, always saying the same dumb stuff, time and time again.

If you’re still looking for a New Year’s resolution (or you’ve already broken your last one), how about this: get to know your inner critic. Start listening out for it and watching its patterns. Don’t identify with it so much or take it so seriously.

The first time you find yourself smiling at your inner critic you will know you’ve made significant progress. As for me, I’m staying out of the veg patch for another few weeks. My inner critic is not happy about it, but then again, he never is. Happy New Year folks.

Slow at Work by Aoife McElwain is €12.99 and available from Gill Books.

New Year, same you

We’re tired of the New Year, New You malarkey at GIY. We like you just the way you are.

Don’t think about giving stuff up, think about taking things up instead. Learn a skill, eat delicious things, sow a seed. Be kind to yourself. Check out our range of January courses from vegetarian cooking, beginners guides to growing, fermented and cultured drinks to yoga and mindfulness. growhq.org.

The Basics – How to Hoe

Speaking of new skills. Learning how to hoe properly is one of the most useful skills I’ve acquired in the veg patch – it’s the ultimate labour and time saving device. I wouldn’t be able to keep on top of my veg patch weeds without it. Hoeing is 8 times faster than pulling weeds, apparently. I would love to have been at the trial where they established that fact.

Ideally you want to hoe to prevent weeds as opposed to having to get rid of them. Although you may have to pull weeds if they get well established, it’s preferable not to have to, since it upsets soil structure and fertility.

Far better to hoe weeds which basically dislodges the roots and forces them to die – they then rot down and add to soil fertility. From April to September run over the entire patch with a hoe each week – its enjoyable work if you do it right, standing upright with a long-handled hoe and moving it forward and back just beneath the soil surface.

Try to hoe when the soil is dry.  Weeds are more likely to take root again in wet soil. It’s good to redouble your hoeing efforts at two times of the year – (1) go in to the winter with a clean patch and (2) in spring, don’t let weeds get established. Mulch and green manures will prevent weeds from becoming established, as will coverings of mypex, plastic etc. Also important to keep the grass around your patch short – otherwise it’s a great seeding environment for weeds.

Recipe of the Week – Celeriac, Kale and Apple Broth 

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

shutterstock_531945256 Source: Shutterstock/Eunizia Silva

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s excellent first book River Cottage Veg Everyday is the most used cook book in our house, packed with user-friendly delicious veg recipes.

As a result, his new book River Cottage Much More Veg is on my must-acquire list.  This is a new recipe from it – a timely, warming, nourishing celeriac, kale and apple broth.  Serves 4-6


  • 50g pearl barley or pearled spelt
  • 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ small celeriac (about 250g), peeled and cut into roughly 1cm cubes
  • 1 litre hot veg stock (see page 190 for homemade)
  • 150g curly kale or cavolo nero, leaves stripped off the stalks and roughly shredded
  • 5–6 sage leaves, sliced into fine ribbons
  • 2 medium eating apples, quartered, cored and chopped into roughly 1cm cubes
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil, to finish


Put the pearl barley or spelt to soak in cold water while you prepare the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or small stockpot over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic with some salt and pepper.

When everything is sizzling, turn the heat down low, cover the pan and let the veg sweat, stirring once or twice, for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, rinse the barley or spelt well. Add the barley or spelt to the pan with the celeriac.

Sauté, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, then pour in the hot stock. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the grain is almost tender (about 15 minutes for spelt, 25 minutes for barley). Stir in the shredded kale and sage and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cubed apple and cook for a further 2 minutes only.

Remove from the heat, taste the soup and add more seasoning if needed. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and finish with a trickle of extra virgin oil and a grinding of black pepper, then serve.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.


About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel