Posted in celebrations, Country Living, Inspiration, Permaculture, Uncategorized

New Year’s Eve on a Permaculture Smallholding…

Trees…Our Only Hope…

Planting trees on New Year’s Eve at Bealtaine Cottage.

These were Christmas presents from Earth Lovers…Thank you!

The Colours of Winter

Today is the last day of the old year, but colour abounds on this permaculture landscape.

Climate Change?

Roses in bloom on this last day of December…an indication of the extremely mild weather we have experienced in the west of Ireland. This has been a very wet month and the records may show just how much!

Dogwoods, Willows and Fedges.

Lichens

Lichens have multiplied in the rainy month of December. It’s worth going walking just to see these beautiful creations of Nature.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Posted in celebrations, Country Living, Folklore, Inspiration, Ireland, Permaculture, Uncategorized

Windy, Warm, with Daffodils on Boxing Day!

Christmas Presents…

Trees as pressies! I love these presents as they keep on giving and giving and will be here long after I have passed!

Daffodils

The weather is very mild and has been so for much of the winter so far. As testament to this the daffodils have decided to make an unseasonally early appearance and will be opening their blooms very soon.

Under Trees

Trees lend a huge amount of shelter to all kinds of plants, but especially early flowering bulbs…a good reason to plant under trees!

To the Water and the Wild…

The lower pond this morning, the day after Christmas. Water weed remains green and lush. The spring well gushes life into this huge pond from further up the hill…

The Wren Boys

Today is St. Stephen’s day in Ireland…one where people dress to hide their identities and go door to door singing and making fool in aid of charity…an ancient tradition!

The sedge remains green and lush.

Spring is not far away!

Posted in celebrations, Christmas, Country Living, Music

Christmas Eve in Ireland

The cottage awaits Christmas.

Visitors are on their way from Canada.

Logs are chopped and ready for the stove and the table is dressed for the festive coming together.

Holly and ivy decorate the widow ledges.
The tree stands by the window, reflecting lights into the darkness of the midwinter night.

Christmas has arrived!

I wish you a very Happy Christmas!
May you enjoy quiet contentment in all you do this festive season.

And my recipe for a lovely Christmas is simple…a long walk on Christmas day, followed by some good food, drink and a cozy evening, with friends, family, or, by oneself…
Merry Christmas

Perhaps the loveliest version of this beautiful carol — In the Bleak Midwinter {Robert Shaw} http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39h3VVfOoW0&feature=share via @youtube

Posted in celebrations, Celts, Christmas, Cottage, Country Living, Uncategorized

Midwinter Cottage and Solstice Celebrations

The Plants of Christmas

The plants traditionally associated with Christmas were  Holly,Mistletoe, Ivy  and Common Yew. These trees and plants have had special roles in earlier religions and past cultures.

The Celts in Ireland  had midwinter festivals to celebrate the return of the sun from the shortest day.

In the 4th and 5th centuries, 25 December was gradually adopted as the date for Christmas in Europe in order to superimpose on the existing mid-winter festivals.

Evergreens

 The Roman festival of Saturnalia was a week of public feasting, dancing, singing and gambling. Houses were decorated with evergreens and bunches of holly were given as tokens of friendship. When this festival was absorbed into the Christian calendar, Holly and the other evergreens were absorbed as well.

Fire and Celebration

Midwinter Solstice marks the rebirth of the suns power.
The midwinter fire is the  symbol of death and rebirth – going from the darkness into the light.
I celebrate the Midwinter Solstice with a traditional fire, food and drink with family and friends.

In The Bleak Midwinter

 In the bleak mid-winter 
  Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, 
  Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.        
 ~ Christina Rossetti

Ascent To Spring

The fire will burn into the night and as is the custom, I will use an ember to light the stove here at Bealtaine Cottage in the morning.
So the ritual of the Midwinter and the longest night will be over.

Tomorrow will begin the ascent to Spring and the light.

Posted in celebrations, Country Living, Inspiration, Winter

Midwinter ~ Celebrating the Solstice and Illuminating the Darkness

Midwinter. 

The sun is barely visible.

Time to light the fire and illuminate the darkness.

DSC00038

The stove is lit.
The kettle sings out a tune of hot tea.
Midwinter…a time to hunker down and keep warm.

“Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC00024

“O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, . . . . I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturb’d Retirement, and the hours Of long uninterrupted evening, know.” 
William Cowper 

DSC00019

“Up rose the wild old winter-king, And shook his beard of snow; “I hear the first young hard-bell ring, ‘Tis time for me to go! Northward o’er the icy rocks, Northward o’er the sea, My daughter comes with sunny locks: This land’s too warm for me!”” 
Charles Godfrey Leland

Posted in celebrations, Permaculture, Uncategorized, Winter

Mosaic Mirror ready to reflect the Midwinter Light

Creating a Mosaic Mirror from broken mirrors has been a work in progress for the past few weeks.
it was finally completed this morning!

Mirrors reflect light, bouncing it around rooms where light is at a premium.

The preparations for Christmas continues. Now that the mirror is finished, time to move onto finishing the firebreast wall around the mirror. I am going to paint it a bright colour…well, whatever is the brightest from what I have in leftovers out in the shed.

The mirror really comes into it’s own once the candles are lit on the mantlepiece. The candlelight is reflected, creating a visual warmth in the room, even without the stove being lit!

Candlelight is restive and calm.

Enjoy the midwinter light tomorrow…

Posted in celebrations, Christmas, Country Living, Uncategorized

Life in the Country at Christmas

Living miles from the nearest town, beyond a fair stretch of the legs, shopping becomes an event…not to be treated in a casual way at all!

There is no such thing as, ‘just popping out to the shops,’ as the journey there and back can be costly on limited resources, such as petrol for the car.

Running out of food is simply not an option, so a pantry is essential, where a good stock of food can be built up and held in reserve.

The pantry really comes into it’s own at Christmas and other festivals where visitors are expected to descend with little notice…and the tradition is to always feed the visitor!

As the pantry is a cool, dark place, storing food is easy, much better than a fridge in some cases, especially when it comes to cakes, home made bread, vegetables and the like.

The Victorians were especially adept at designing and building pantries and larders.  However, there appears to be little inclusion of this excellent feature in any modern design. I would even go so far as to say that few architects would even have heard of this small, but very essential room.

I used to live in an old Victorian house in London that came complete with a stone slabbed pantry, with fine mesh wire window, facing north for ultimate coolness!

Ideally the only light to penetrate the pantry is an artificial light or weak light from the north.

It is possible to build a small pantry in any home and I have even seen them made from wood, lined with various materials, in city apartments. 

The pantry here at Bealtaine Cottage is well stocked. Over the course of this week it will fill up with home baked goodies. Jellies and cakes will jostle with cans and jars on the shelves.

Christmas cannot be bought…well, not here at any rate!

Posted in Christmas, Country Living, Inspiration, Ireland

The Enchantment of Midwinter

bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Hot tea, midwinter and poetry. 

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Ensconced as I am in the silver light of a near Solstice afternoon, this seems a good way of passing the time.

Outside the jewels of winter hang on the pine trees and the air is cold.
Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

I hear the cars move slowly, cautiously along the frozen road.
A near Solstice Sunday.

Tables high and low in the cottage are decorated with green and candles, a celebration of this dark, still time.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

The descent towards the Solstice continues unabated.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

For a few days time will be still as the world turns  and the sun completes it’s downward drift…

Willow lies cut and ready to be stacked into neat bundles for basket-making in the early Spring.
tues eve 14 12 10 002

The tasks of winter continue to resonate around the cottage, calling me to do their bidding…

wed 15 12 10 001

Low lies the sun in the winter sky.

Posted in Christmas, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Winter

First Snow in the West of Ireland

Dawn breaks in the east and illuminates the snow that has fallen overnight.
Last night was very cold indeed, so it’s no surpise to awaken to such a winter landscape.

As I write this at 11am, the snow has begun to fall silently once more, surprising the onlooker at the sudden transformation.
Somewhere, deep within the recesses of the barn, is stored a sleigh and there’s a good possibility that it will be brought out this weekend!

Just another five days until the time of the midwinter solstice.

This lasts for about three days or so and if the weather is good, with clear skies, then the Newgrange visitors should be well pleased!

Posted in Animals, Cats, Crafts, Inspiration, Permaculture, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized

100,000 Visitors to Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Smallholding

Missy investigates the basket I made yesterday.
She may be sussing it out for a new home!

I noticed that she spent some time licking the new basket and wondered if she was in search of Aspirin, a drug derived from the bark of the Willow.

Visitors to Bealtaine have reached the 100,000 mark…almost…probably today, and you may be the one to match that number!

I am delighted that so many people seek out this blog, or even stumble across it and decide to re-visit again and again.

Interest in Permaculture and the resulting self-sufficiency and sustainable living is growing…

“Oh, well…back into this basket…I may decide on a tenancy, depends on the decoration…”

A big “Thank You,” to all visitors!

Posted in Crafts, Eco-Living, Inspiration, Permaculture, Uncategorized

Making Willow Baskets…here’s one I made earlier.

Day 2 of the willow basketry workshop. It felt great to be completing my first willow basket.

These are some of the stages in the process.

I’m still digesting all the information.

Tomorrow I will cut willow on the smallholding for using to make my own baskets.

The willow needs to stand for 8 weeks after it’s cut, before it can be used in the weaving process.

I have got to say that this workshop, has been for me, a really wonderful experience, working and sharing with some great people!

Despite the fact that we all began the process together, each basket turned out to be unique!

Working on the basket edge finish…a nice, chunky edge!

Top finished…now working on the bottom edge.
I have lots of ideas for baskets…using driftwood, fabric, wool, hedgerow materials…
If you are thinking of a Christmas present…why not buy a creative workshop course…I would heartily recommend it!

Posted in Crafts, Eco-Living, Permaculture, Self-Sufficiency, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized

Weaving Baskets from Willow.

I began a two day basket making workshop today.
Being able to weave baskets fro the huge stocks of willow growing here at Bealtaine has always been a dream for me.

This is the base of the basket.

I am hoping to make lots of baskets during the coming months as I practise the craft.


Inserting the uprights into the base…you need lots of space to do this!

This just a short diary update and will continue tomorrow with the finished project and lots of information!

Posted in Cottage, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Country Living and Gingham Curtains

New curtains, made from cotton gingham and hung on the newly cleaned windows, all ready for the festive season and visitors arriving on Christmas Eve…

There is a plethora of fabrics available to use in sewing, but many of them are produced as by-products of the petro-chemical industry and carry with them many pollutants infused into the fabric itself.

These pollutants then become infused into the very atmosphere of the home and part of the air we breathe…so, I choose natural fabrics for my sewing and decorating efforts.

Midwinter light, candles and greenery collected from Nature and placed on window sills as a reminder that life is eternal…

There is a soft beauty in the midst of winter. A quiet time of contemplation and renewal, re-charging the life force…

Paper stars, a simple form of decoration…
I read that the Beckhams had spent $35,000 on a tree and decorations for their home this month. Now, I bet that the Beckham children would have enjoyed making decorations, collecting their own tree and decorating it for themselves!

During the great sort out of the cottage recently, I came upon an unfinished jumper that started life as a cardigan…a natural evolution when you think about it!

The logs are burning well in the stove in the kitchen, warming the cottage, water, radiators, boiling the kettle, cooking and baking!

Posted in celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Christmas, Music, Permaculture, Uncategorized

Newgrange, Ancestors and Preparing…

www.bealtainecottage.com 007

In preparing for the season of Christmas, I follow the age old tradition of having a good old clear out and tidy-up…much to the discerning eyes and critical comments of family and friends…”but why are you changing the furniture around?”  “…re-painting that room…” etc.,  Well, don’t ask me…it’s just what I have always done!

www.bealtainecottage.com 003Yes, indeed, Christmas has some strange effects on people and it’s older than you think…

I am driven with the desire to instill a sense of order upon Bealtaine Cottage as the midwinter festivities approach.

There is a history to this festival that precedes the usual image we hold as the collective ideal…Christmas.

The winter solstice was immensely important.

This was because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months.

 Food and wine was ready to eat and drink as fruit fermented and animals were slaughtered as feed stocks dwindled.

Hyacinths continue to push their way up through the soil and moss in a pot, placed on a window-sill in the cottage. It’s good to have a reminder of what’s to come…

www.bealtainecottage.com 007Even during the morning, parts of the interior of this Irish cottage can be dim during the months of midwinter.

www.bealtainecottage.com 021Light was and remains the important aspect of winter and our ancestors realized the connection this had to all life.

www.bealtainecottage.com 027That connection, that sense of knowing the elemental forces that governed their lives, was so important to them, that many monuments were erected to this end.

www.bealtainecottage.com 005Here in Ireland, Newgrange is the most important, monumental reminder we have of this elemental connection.

cropped-old-pictures-saved-by-dylan-3678.jpg

So today has been a day of tidying and ordering…cleaning the henhouse, sorting wool, cleaning out one cupboard, (well, that’s a start!) and listening to the gentle music of “Altan,” as I go…

Posted in Country Living, Inspiration, Music, Uncategorized

As Snow Falls on the Mountain…

Friday morning.

The sun is shining, as snow falls on the mountain and tries to gain ground here in the valley.

Even as the snow falls on Kilronan Mountain, the midwinter sun shines weakly onto the back of the cottage.
The Geraniums continue to bloom…

This is the view of the mountain opposite Bealtaine Cottage this morning.
Snow dustd the top of Kilronan, making it look like a huge Christmas cake!

Rosehips from the Rosa Canina shelter in the lee of one of the pine trees.

Trees of all-sorts and all-colours…the birds approve of all and the landscape is better for the diversity…monoculture is not an option.

The beautiful energy that is Ireland’s greatest hope…it’s young people…

Mike Scott from “The Waterboys,” sings live to a school in Connemara, west of Ireland…feel the energy, wow!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLAPOxpXGkU&feature=related

Posted in Christmas, Cottage, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Sunshine, Oranges and Stormy Weather…Christmas in Ireland!

Wild winds and storms brought rain and as I write this the storm continues to rage.

The sun shines through the storm and illuminates the sittting room on an otherwise grey day…it’s brilliant and uplifting when this happens!

Talking of brilliant and uplifting, I’ve been looking at Judy Collins recently on Youtube and this is a brilliant rendition of “Amazing Grace”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6vR-TQ7n68

The intricate carvings on this little table top are highlighted in the silvery morning sun of midwinter…

Surely this is a new take on, “the cat sat on the mat,” …in this case it happens to be Missy on the table mat!

She does look rather elegant though, don’t you agree?

Oranges in the cool of the pantry.
When I was a child it was traditional to have oranges at Christmas, because that was when the orange harvest happened in Spain.

It behoves us all to return to a time of seasonal food as a way of eating more healthily and, ultimately, sustainably!

Posted in Birds, celebrations, Christmas, Crafts, Uncategorized

Christmas Hearts and Bird’s Nests…

Here’s the hand made hearts made from scrap material, hanging above the hearth in a festive, jolly way…So easy to make and fun to create!

The last rosehips of the year hang ready for the birds and their midwinter feast.

My friend Thomas has recently made these shelves for me, for the pantry. They are made from 100% recycled wood, all collected and saved over the past year, from skips and builders yards.  The shelves are a great addition to the pantry and enable me to store a wider variety of food.

While cutting back some of the willow recently I came across this bird’s nest…aren’t birds ingenious at finding some great places to nest-build?

The wind turbines on Kilronan Mountain are shining white in the afternoon sun. The light is getting weaker as midwinter approaches but on days like today it’s worth being outdoors!

Posted in celebrations, Christmas, Country Living, Inspiration, Music, Uncategorized

Midwinter Light and Country Comfort

A simple tea-light in a paper bag.

Comforting and warming.

A table decoration made using greenery from the garden, with a candle in the middle of the oasis.

Judy Collins sings a beautiful rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” …I scoured the web for the best version and I do believe that this is it!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THRaaR0Z_oo

So many traditions and cultures across the globe celebrate this special time…a time of rebirth and renewal.

As we prepare for the shortest day, let’s celebrate in light…

Posted in celebrations, Christmas, Country Living, Inspiration, Self-Sufficiency, Thrift, Uncategorized

Christmas Country Living Thrift Workshop…How to make a Table Decoration.

It’s time to get decorating…it’s that time of year, December and nearing midwinter.

One of the simplest decorations to make, for free, is what is called a table decoration.

This starts with a container or plate and a piece of florist wet foam. I have lined the pot with some plastic and cut a piece of foam to put inside.

The florists foam is actually called ‘Oasis,’ and holds a great amount of water. Keep pouring on the water until the foam can hold no more!

Next I insert pieces of greenery around the edge of the foam.

Keep building up the greenery and looking at your creation from all sides to ensure a balance…

I have used Teasel for the centre piece…you can use any seasonal flower, dried or fresh.

Try to include as many aspects of the season as you can lay your hands on…it’s not finished yet!

It is easy enough to insert a candle into the middle of the decoration, making sure it rises above the greenery so it can be safely lit on Christmas Eve.

Posted in Garden, Herbs, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Uncategorized, Winter

Country Living with Climate Change in Ireland…Evidential Photographs

Climate change is quite evidential here at Bealtaine Cottage in the west of Ireland!
Walking through the gardens this morning I am shocked to find many flowers still in bloom.

Borage in flower this morning, the first day of December 2011. This herb is growing in a fairly exposed spot near the gate to Bealtaine.

The Borage is growing alongside a miniature Rudbeckia, grown from seed this year and in flower from early autumn.
This is indicative of just how mild the weather has been!

I used home made compost to plant out the Rudbeckia and the Borage has come up through it!

This time last year the ground was frozen solid. Today it is more like early autumn than December!

Fuschia in flower down near the Bog Garden…this is not the semi-native one that is hardy, so the flowers this morning are quite a shock to see!

Even the spring water in the ponds is warm…