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!

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!

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

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.

Midwinter ~ Celebrating the Solstice and Illuminating the Darkness

Midwinter. 

The sun is barely visible.

Time to light the fire and illuminate the darkness.

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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

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“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 

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“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

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…

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!

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

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Low lies the sun in the winter sky.

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!