No words this evening…just some images of Bealtaine Cottage as the day fades into Lughnasadh…
Lots of the rhubarb has been lifted and divided recently and planted into the new beds, all loaded with fresh compost from the heaps stacked last year.
Rhubarb is an easy and early fruiting plant to grow. Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have medicinal and culinary uses. In culinary use, fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant’s stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. Personally, there is nothing equal to a Rhubarb Crumble, or, one of my absolute favourites…Rhubarb Jam!
Did you know that in England, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley,a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk?
The new beds are coming along well…planted out with Chard, Cucumber, Parsley, Tomato and Chives…for starters! I have spread wood ash recently on the beds and continue to build up with compost.
Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity, when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Raw chard is perishes quite fast, so it’s best to pick only when about to be used!
Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked Spinach. I use Chard a lot in my home made soups and curries and as a replacement for Spinach.
Both grow like weeds here at Bealtaine Cottage, with lots of Oregano now coming up in the gravel driveway. Great for drying and using in sauces and soups and breads!
Trees are planted all the year around here at the smallholding. Many are grown from seed and potted on several times before eventual planting out. Many are rescued from the roadside verges and gravel paths. Lots of these trees are given away to those who show an interest in planting. There is one thing for sure though, the Earth needs more trees. Trees protect her.
Now working through the second heap and already filled up the first again, so am busy as you can see!
Composting as a recognized practice dates to at least the early Roman Empire since Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).
Traditionally, composting was to pile organic materials until the next planting season, at which time the materials would have decayed enough to be ready for use in the soil. This is the method I follow and it works every time as you can see! The advantage of this method is that little working time or effort is required from the composter and it fits in naturally with agricultural practices in temperate climates. Personally I see no disadvantages in this technique. There is no real exposure to excessive rainfall, as the heaps are thatched with lots of straw to overwinter in peace and harmony with all the hibernating insects and frogs!
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The feast of Lugh, Lughnasa, or Lughnasadh happenssoon…on the eve, which is the 31st of July. A time for a bonfire and celebrations of the harvest…celebrations here at Bealtaine Cottage will be focused around a rather small outdoor fire but with the equivalent gusto of the eve that’s in it!
This was said to have been begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast commemorating his foster-mother, Tailtu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Little changed there then, as most of the agricultural work in many African countries is carried out by women!
In days of old, Lughnasadh was a favoured time for trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or later formalizing it as a more permanent marriage.
Already there is a feel of Autumn in the air and can be seen in the plant life as harvests begin and fruits ripen on the trees. The days have shortened, now over a month past the longest day.
Flowers like this Perscaria Bistorta, a late flowering perennial, begin to show a magnificence beyond their humble beginnings!
is a pre-Christian, Celtic system of keeping the year and still in popular use today to define the beginning and length of the day, the week, the month, the seasons, quarter days, and festivals.
The meteorological seasons begin on March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1.
The Irish Calendar observes the equinoxes and solstices and has a more realistic seasonal observance…
- Spring – February, March, April.
- Summer – May, June, July.
- Autumn – August, September, October.
- Winter – November, December, January.
These seasons are much more in keeping with the observations I make here at Bealtaine Cottage and I would abide by these dates rather than any other.
It was a common belief, long ago, that many conditions could be cured by bringing the patient into contact with the powerful life force or MANA represented by trees…
Nearly 800 trees have been planted here at Bealtaine and there is something so awesome about trees that makes me want to get more land and keep on planting.
Today has seen the transplanting of another 20 or so Birch trees, seedlings rescued from the road verge before the tractors mow the grass.
Managed to pull up 3 tiny Buddleias from the gravel around the cottage…gravel makes an ideal seeding ground for many plants and trees.
These too have been potted on and will make fine specimens for planting out next year.
This is a little Birch sapling planted only a few weeks ago and already grown over a foot in height and spread.
Grass cuttings have been spread around the base to deter weeds and provide food for the fast growing tree.
Apple trees under-planted with Blackcurrants and perennial flowers…here is the Verbascum in bloom with Geranium and Calendula amongst others.
Willow, Birch, Copper Beech, Twisted Willow, Oak and Pine, all planted in very close proximity to one another…this is the permaculture way and very quickly excludes weeds and provides an excellent source of coppiced wood for the stove.
Ash trees were traditionally used in Folk Medicine against poison and evil. Lightning runs to the Ash…’Avoid the Ash, it courts the flash!’
Long ago, in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland, on the birth of a child, the midwife would take a green stick from the Ash tree and hold it in the fire. As the heat worked on one end of the stick, the sap would ooze from the other. This was administered to the newborn baby as the first liquid to pass its lips!
I write about, film and photograph Mother Earth, for Mother Earth, opening little portals of healing energy all over the world.
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Lots of Parsley and loads of eggs…yes, it’s summer and the food is in plentiful supply here on this Permaculture smallholding.
An easy way of preserving food for the leaner times is to use it to cook and freeze, or bottle or…anyway, you know what I mean…just don’t let it go to waste!
Here is one of my favourite fast foods, devised by Rose Elliot, my favourite Vegetarian Cookery writer…Parsley Burgers.
I made these on the Cook and Dine Evening I hosted on Monday evening at Cleen Hall, Knockvicar, and, they were very well received!
Anyway, here’s the recipe…
2 eggs / 6 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs / 1 small onion, chopped / 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley / salt and fresh ground black pepper / oil for shallow frying.
Add the breadcrumbs, onion and parsley to the beaten egg and season to taste.
Pour oil into pan to cover the base thinly and heat.
Spoon the mixture into the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on either side, until crisp.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve with salad or baked beans!
As they freeze really well and there is a glut of all the ingredients here at Bealtaine, I have made dozens of them to freeze and save as a fast food…
AN UPDATE ON THE GRAPEVINE…I planted outdoors…it’s doing really well, so far!
It had over-wintered at Bealtaine and endured being frozen in its pot for weeks on end, survived well and is now set to be a successful outdoor grape…
Lots of logs continue to be stockpiled for what is going to be a very cold winter indeed.
Seriously, now is the time to prepare!
If you live in the British Isles, try to get hold of a wood burning stove now and start your woodpile.
Ash can be burned without seasoning!
The grapevine, grown from a cutting about four years ago, has produced well this season. This was pruned hard at the end of the winter and then lightly at the end of spring. Well developed bunches of grapes have set and continue to thrive.
8am this morning. The steps that lead down to the front garden…and on the tree, a weather-proof mirror and some bamboo chimes. These make the stsrt of the garden walk an interactive experience for all. Few can resist looking at the reflections of the garden behind them, in the mirror, or shaking the chimes. The melodious sounds follow as one descends the stone steps!
This small mirror is made from a lightweight metal and has been wired onto the tree…which is an Alder that has been pollarded to remain compact and umbrella shaped. Alders are fast growing and results can be achieved rapidly…in less than 3 years in this case!
White Buddleia and Bamboo form a natural gateway into another small garden at Bealtaine. The table is an old cable reel, disguarded by the electric company. There is a display of large shells on top, that would otherwise just be collecting dust indoors!
Another naturally shaped path and gateway, marked with an old piece of driftwood, hammered into the ground and topped off with another indoor ornament, of which I had too many! Now, scattered throughout the gardens here at Bealtaine and better appreciated!
Avoid straight lines where you can and plant in clumps with edges that can be rounded off easily using a mulch…I use grass clippings as this also feeds the soil. Place pieces of sculpture where you can…in this case an old fountain, now used as a planter with sedums. Sedums require NO looking after at all!
Just a few ideas, but food for thought for lots of your own. And bear in mind that the best are recycled!
Potatoes growing by the east side of the shed. Did you know that there are about five thousand potato varieties worldwide? Potatoes do not keep very well in storage and are vulnerable to molds that feed on the stored tubers, quickly turning them rotten. However, I left potatoes in the ground over the course of last winter, when all was frozen solid for six long weeks…and they were dug out after the defrost and were perfect! I think it may have been the layer of straw that was atop the ground!
Throughout Europe, the most important new food in the 19th century was the potato, which, of course fast became a monoculture among poorer people… I strive hard to avoid planting all the tubers in one area, preferring to plant here and there in a positive way to avoid disease…and it appears to have worked thus far!
Now in its seventh year, Bealtaine smallholding has achieved new heights of growth, meaning that compost is plentiful. This is because there is so much to cut back and use to build compost heaps…I have made two so far and am still using the compost made last year, with loads to go!
At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting a year or more. This is the method I use and it has benefitted Bealtaine well! The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. Any parts of the heap that have not degraded sufficiently can be added to the next heap…a process I indulge in!
Permaculture planting lends itself really well to bountiful compost production, so even if you do not keep animals for manure, it is still quite possible to maintain a high degree of healthy and fertile soil, using plant compost alone…however, a few hens are easy and happy and productive little workers to have on any smallholding!
Crataegus,or Hawthorn is one of my favourite trees here at Bealtaine and I have grown all I have planted from seed. Hawthorns provide food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals, and the flowers are important for many nectar-feeding insects.
In Gaelic folklore, hawthorn ‘marks the entrance to the otherworld’ and is strongly associated with the fairies. Lore has it that it is very unlucky to cut the tree at any time other than when it is in bloom, however during this time it is commonly cut and decorated as a May Bush or Bealtaine…Irish meaning May. This warning persists to modern times; it has been questioned by folklorist Bob Curran whether the ill luck of the De Lorean Motor Company was associated with the destruction of a fairy thorn to make way for a production facility.
Hawthorn trees are often found beside clootie wells; at these types of holy wells they are sometimes known as ‘rag trees’, for the strips of cloth which are tied to them as part of healing rituals. ‘
When all fruit fails, welcome haws’ was once a common expression in Ireland.
Without food we would die.
How fundamental to our existence is that then?
I grow it on trees, bushes and plants…most of which are grown from seed here at Bealtaine and saved here and in the locality.
But, if the story emerging from Iraq is anything to go by, then soon, I will be breaking the law!
For all the seed I save will be done so illegally. Monsanto want to issue patents
on all seed and are being aided by the US government…check it out for yourself!
Complacency is the biggest weapon they have, that and ignorance.
So it behoves us all to become very educated about what Monsanto have done in other countries…a kind of trial run.
Thousands of poor Indian farmers have killed themselves because of the corner that Monsanto knowingly and greedily backed them into!
I urge you all, now, to arm yourself with as much information as you can find on Monsanto and their global practices.
Leave any comment here on this site, complete with links to any info you come across…I will put this into further blogs and post on Twitter.
Don’t play into the hands of the global elite…empower with knowledge and discuss with all!
This post was written in July 2011 and it is happening as I feared it would!
The weather has forced me indoors a lot recently, encouraging a hive of activity that includes knitting and sorting cupboards and reading… I’ve just completed this scarf for someone who wanted me to knit for her in these colours and in natural wool. So hard to get a scarf knit in natural 100% wool these days apparently. So there it is, completed and ready for collection.
Finished reading this book a few days ago and again, so much info and fascinating facts that have been forgotten and yet are so useful for us today…simple things like the fact that a cobweb, placed over a cut, will stem the bleeding and help to heal the wound! Soldiers going into battle hundreds of years ago carried a tiny box with cobwebs inside to treat deep cuts inflicted by the sword!
As the weather has blown a gale outside, I’ve been in the kitchen making chutney and curries…freezing the curries for ready meals later on. Imagine having to light the stove in July, but the weather has really been that bad!
I picked these flowers from the garden last week and as you can see, the display includes Dill. Over recent days the scent of the Dill has changed from a liquorice smell to a very sweet coconut scent and it is gorgeous!
Managed to snap a pic of the baby Hare who has come to live at Bealtaine, just as he emerged from the shelter of the underneath of the shed this morning.
He wasn’t at all fazed as I stood near the back door snapping away with my camera.
The hens are very intolerant of them and boss them around continually.
For the moment I am freezing them.
This is a good way of collecting and saving daily.
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Jack has settled into Bealtaine very well and now runs around the cottage playing with anything he can steal…usually one of my socks, scarves or shoes…
Highly scented Buddleia, drooping under their own weight, hang down after the storms of recent days.
No butterflies as the weather has been so bad recently…hoping all that will change at the weekend when warmer days are promised!
Intense permaculture planting of Bamboo, Spirea, Horse Chestnut, Buddleia, Dogwood and Greengage, bullying and pushing weeds away from them…
The permaculture gardens here at Bealtaine Cottage have lots of rain and like to pretend to be a rainforest!
Hypericum, Sedge, Pine and Beech, with Michaelmas Daisies coming slowly into flower, rather too early I think!
There were three visitors to Bealtaine this morning and as walking around became enthused to talk of their own gardens! One had brought a photo album to show me…and it was well worth a look, as there were shots taken from just about every angle of her small garden in Dublin. it reminded me of a garden I once tended in London. It was an old garden, created when the house was first built around 1795, so the porportions were conducive to the size of the house…a Georgian Artisan Cottage.
When I lived in London it became a Saturday ritual to go to the local park and the Teahouse therein for an early morning coffee…just to be outdoors! Summer and Winter alike, the same glorious ritual applied and more often than not it was shared with friends and family.
It is always the little cafe or teashop I go in search of…the big franchise, multi-national , always the same, just does NOT do it for me…!
Trying to control nature is not an aspect of personality of the passionate gardener…well, not that I have found! Valerian has found its own way up by the side of the tool-shed and there it will continue! Putting down a mulch or a sheet to stop growth of weeds is as much control as I have it in me to exercise…apologetically I may add…
A Celtic emblem on my back door. The paint on the door is well scratched and there is a definite patina of life therein. Dogs and children, all attempting to enter the cottage with little patience and no time to wait! I know I have to paint it soon, because the weather demands it, but then this testament to life and laughter and fun and games will be erased…
Moving the tyres in the vegetable garden is a milestone reached this week…converting all to log, deep beds and narrow paths…easier to mulch and now that the soil has improved, I can do this. It has taken 7 years of work and patience, but it has finally paid off!
Apples continue to swell and grow and are, each one, quite perfect. These trees have never had any sprays or chemicals of any kind at all, yet continue to give perfect harvest every single year. Nature knows best!
A journey via Permaculture that has led me to give up smoking, become a Vegetarian and evolve into a Vegan.
Happy to be an Economic Terrorist…I rarely shop, so that makes me an enemy of the Corporate State…and anyone who wants to rant about me being a Conspiracy Theorist…well, I live in the real world and watched as Ireland was handed over to the Corporations, mostly banks, bankers and greed-mongers…if this resonates with you then be prepared to be dismissed as a C.T.!
You can’t buy anything on this site…everything I advocate comes for free and I’m happy to welcome visitors to this Permaculture Smallholding and show them around, even send them off with free plants and advice on how to do permaculture.
A willow arbour. Free. No Garden centre involved here! No money, just the abundance and love and goodness that is Nature…beyond money and the Merchants of Greed!
The Permaculture Polytunnel this morning. Spilling over with food and seeds…Seeds are the bankable currency of the VERY near future! Why do think the US government shares the control of GM seeds with that Monster Monsanto?
They are very sociable and family oriented animals.
These belong to my neighbour, Gabriel, here in Ballyfermoyle.
They are contented and very laid back.
At this time of year the land is over-run with wild herbs and flowers and cows are out in the fields all the time.
It’s fascinating to watch them…and they watch me…and Jack, but mostly Jack!
I stood by the fence for about half an hour and they were as interested in me as I was in them.
The flowers of the Rosa Rugusa are in full bloom at the moment and already quite a few hips have formed.
These are packed with Vitamin C and used to make syrup, amongst other foods.
They also make lovely additions to Seasonal wreaths and bouquets.
I am reading a book about life in Medieval Times in England and was fascinated to read how soldiers going off to battle would carry a tiny box with them at all times, filled with…spider’s webs!
These would be used, very successfully apparently, to stem the flow of blood from a wound.
The Rhubarb in the first line of tyres had become embedded as they had not been divided for about four years or so…it was time to use brute force!
Although it’s taken me most of the day, I’m glad to have got it done, finally, as there’s nothing worse than putting things off…now that can be ticked off my ‘to-do,’ list! Anyway, it’s been a lovely day for the work, though now have quadruple the freckles on my face that I started the day with!
Valerian grown from seed continues to flower and will do all summer and into the autumn all the time that the seedheads are removed…
Blackcurrants and Sage in the Nursery area, again grown from seeds, so 100% permaculture at Bealtaine plants to come. Both of these plants grow very easily from seed scattered into limestone gravel and left to overwinter, before being pricked out and potted on…how simple is that?
Far be that fate from us…said Ovid over 2,000 years ago…
It got me thinking of all I thought would not happen when I first took up growing…
We would not destroy our lifeline, the soil, for all that is necessary for life lies within…
Did you see the gigantically terrifying Dust-cloud that enveloped Phoenix, Arizona?
Reminiscent of the Dust-Bowl catastrophes of the hungry thirties…
There is little need to dig, disturbing the ecological balance of the soil.
The fate that awaits us all is a depleted soil and thence a depleted Earth and this is happening every day in corporate controlled Agriculture…and there is a Land-Grab going on, have no doubt about that!
The Corporate monsters are on the march!
As consumers we are powerful, very powerful indeed!
I was reminded on Twitter this morning of this when reading some of the tweets accumulated overnight and one of them was about buying local, another about imported foods from parts of Africa where hunger is now ravaging the people…think on…
Hazelnuts beginning to ripen here at Bealtaine…this is a food to forage as well as grow and forms a good source of protein for the vegan or vegetarian.
These store well and can be ground or minced and added to burgers!
And a few more words from Ovid…”Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor,” which translated means, simply…”I see the better way, and approve it; I follow the worse.”
We have choices.
We have the power.
We can be the change we want to see…
SWEET JOE PYE
A perennial, growing near the apple tree pictured in previous blog, it grows tall and flowers quite soon as you can see. Otherwise known in Latin as Eutrochium Purpureum is a clump forming plant. it can grow to 2 metres high…wow, indeed it does too! The leaves grow to 30 cm (12 in) long and have a somewhat wrinkled texture. Plants attract a lot of activity from insects that feed on the nectar produced by the flowers.
This clump grows well beneath the Copper Beech tree and wedged between it and the Apple tree. I recently mulched around the area with cardboard and straw in oreder to clear some ground for planting out this Autumn.
I once spent Autumn in Toronto in Canada and that was definitely the most gloriously colourful place ever for that season…it took my breath away!
Roses, Willow and Copper Beech…some of my favourite plants. I must take lots of cuttings this Autumn and grow these Roses on! I took some last year and they all did well!
Why is it that plants like to be together? They obviously thrive well like this! Perhaps they are aware that they are not alone…
The white Buddleia near the Barn is coming into bloom. Soon the Butterflies will be around and about!
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium ), a member of the sunflower family, has been used for centuries in European folk medicine.
This sweet smelling flower is commonly associated as a remedy for headaches, arthritis, and fevers.
The name Feverfew is derived from the Latin word for fever…febrifugia, meaning, fever reducer!
It grows really easily from seed, self-seeding all over the gravel here at Bealtaine Cottage.
This is growing in a pot near the back door of the house, on the southern side.
These are rambling roses, climbing and pushing their way across a willow arch I made to help support them last year.
Roses are best known as ornamental plants grown for their flowers in the garden.
There are several different varieties here, though I don’t really know the names, as I have grown them from slips, mostly purloined from other gardens!
Roses are used for commercial perfumery and commercial cut flower crops.
Some are used as landscape plants and for hedging.
Although Roses have minor medicinal uses, the fruits, or Rose-hips tell a different story altogether, most famous for the syrup made from them and fed to babies!
This is a little apple tree bought by my mother and planted into a quiet little spot on the land behind the cottage.
The apple is from the species, Malus domestica, in the rose family (Rosaceae).
It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits.
The tree originated in Western Asia, where its wild ancestor, the Alma, is still found today.
There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples.
Cultivars vary in their yield and the ultimate size of the tree, even when grown on the same rootstock.
This particular cultivar is a miniature apple tree.
At least 55 million tonnes of apples are grown worldwide, annually. China produces about 35% of this total.
The United States is the second-leading producer, with more than 7.5% of world production.
Iran is third, followed by Turkey, Russia, Italy and India.
I noticed the birds coming down to feed on the flowers of the pansies.
The red and pink plant at the front is the little plant, Herb Robert.
Monday morning, balmy, warm and bright. Midsummer has passed and the work outdoors continues unabated. Sheds to be cleared and painted, as well as fences to be fixed and preserved. Lots of blackcurrants still to be harvested…
Sunday afternoon. The first in July. Bealtaine basks in the sunshine.
Talking of happy, I was in Omagh on Wedneday last to help Mum celebrate her 81st birthday…what a girl! She manages to outstyle me, out-talk me and usually outsmart me as well! Not looking bad for a woman who told the doctors to back off over her diagnosis and operation for breast cancer late last year! “No more drugs or treatment, I ready for living my life not sitting in waiting rooms,” she quipped just before Christmas…yep, you can’t keep a good woman down! …And, talking of Alice Taylor, isn’t she a woman for our times? On board the Gaza Flotilla…more power to you Alice!
More wine ready to be bottled and fined down and cleared without the use of animal products, as used in the commercial wines! Still, if you want to eat and drink the finest than it’s always best to make it yourself!