On the Eve of Imbolc…

Imbolc is a time to celebrate the promise of Spring and to think about planting…

On the eve of Imbolc

Imbolc, or St Brigid’s Day  Lá Fhéile Bríde,  is an Irish festival marking the beginning of spring.

Imbolc is celebrated on the 1st day of February, the date that falls approximately halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

Hens at Bealtaine Cottage Jan 2012

The holiday was, and for many still is, a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring.

Stove at bealtaine cottageCelebrations are focused around hearth fires, special foods, as in a family dinner or feast, candles, invoking a sense of the light to come…

“The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.” 

candle and spiral at bealtaine cottageFire and purification are an important aspect of this festival.

Brigid is the Gaelic goddess of poetry, healing and smith-craft. 

As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing.

The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.

Laurel arch at bealtaine cottage permaculture gardens

Brigid is said to walk the earth on Imbolc eve.

Before going to bed, each member of the household may leave a piece of clothing or strip of cloth outside for Brigid to bless.

The head of the household will smother (or “smoor”) the fire and rake the ashes smooth.

In the morning, they look for some kind of mark on the ashes, a sign that Brigid has passed that way in the night or morning.

The clothes or strips of cloth are brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection.

Brigid Cross  Bealtaine Cottage Shop on Etsy

Traditionally, a cross made from pulled rushes is hung inside the home each Imbolc.

You can find these at the Bealtaine Cottage Etsy Shop, at the right side of this page.

The Road Not Taken…

Spent the day learning more about basketry in another great workshop organized by Tom Browne at Corrigeenroe near Boyle, here in County Roscommon.
I am tired, but looking forward to day 2 of the willow weaving and basketry, tomorrow.

This is a fabulous, fabulous hen basket woven by Tom, to transport hens in…isn’t this just the best looking and most practical basket you ever did see? It has a gorgeous little door on the front and will hold several hens in pure comfort.

Something worth mentioning is the fact that the hen basket is a completely unique design…Tom’s own craft-work! Admired for sure and perhaps copied as well!

The beginnings of another basket..

Tea…hot, comforting tea…and a chance to put my feet up and contemplate my endeavours…I shall dream of willow and baskets and patterns and possibilities… 

I adore Robert Frost and his poetry…this is one of my favourites…I was reciting this in my head as I drove home from Corrigeenroe tonight…

It is, perhaps, one of the most philosophical poems I have ever read and loved!

Robert Frost

“The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost

Rainbows Before Imbolc

 

As I write this, the rain is lashing down around the walls of the cottage. it’s Friday and the weather is almost mid-March in it’s behaviour…wild, windy, mild and wet!


It has been a day of rainbows…I’ve counted four so far! And the sun, when it does shine through, is brilliant!


The rain has now turned to hailstones!

“By early evening all the sky to the north had darkened and the spare terrain they trod had turned a neuter gray as far as the eye could see. They grouped in the road at the top of a rise and looked back. The storm front towered above them and the wind was cool on their sweating faces. They slumped bleary-eyed in their saddles and looked at one another. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place n the iron dark of the world.”
― Cormac McCarthyAll The Pretty Horses

Little bits of work has been done over the course of the day, including cleaning out the hen-house and continuing to cut willow.

“Dang! Look at that RAINBOW!” Piper shouted, accidently spewing bits of apple pie from her overstuffed mouth. All quickly turned and saw…
…exactly what Piper claimed, a rainbow.”
― Victoria ForesterThe Girl Who Could Fly

Thomas Hardy

“WEATHERS
This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at ‘The Traveller’s Rest,’
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.”
― Thomas Hardy

An Irish Homesteader.

 Permaculture @ Bealtaine Cottage 005The wind turbines on Kilronan Mountain stand out against the dark blue stormy sky.
Bealtaine Cottage wind turbines on Kilronan mountainAnticipating a cold evening I have chopped lots of wood for the sitting room stove for tonight!
I have worked out a new site for a big, big compost area, now edged with willow.

I figured that the willow would take up all the extra nitrogen around the edges and provide yet more harvest-able supplies for basketry!

Bealtaine Cottage permaculture

It is always a challenge to work out better ways of doing things…I’m hoping that this will be very productive!

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Coppicing some of the ash trees on the land will be carried out before the sap rises in the wood…this takes place in early Spring, though the ash is the last tree to come into leaf and usually the first to lose it’s leaves.

Bealtaine Cottage wood burning stoveAbout half the wood burned in both stoves here at Bealtaine Cottage comes from the smallholding.

This will increase steadily over time. Ash can be burned on the day it’s cut, so is a valuable timber to grow and it’s also a hardwood.

Ash is a very fast growing tree here in the west of Ireland.

The forecast for the next few days promise frost, icy patches and sleet.

At times like these, it’s great to have a stove alight that also heats the water and feed the radiators in the cottage.

Bealtaine Cottage frogs in the pondIt remains fairly mild overall though and the frog spawn in the lower pond appears to be doing fine!

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I popped into the library today while in town and got some interesting books, including one called “The Urban Homestead.”

There’s lots of excellent information from a cursory glance through it…a snuggle up on the sofa night is in order, tea and reading!


On the subject of reading, I was thumbing through ‘Hello,’ magazine in a shop and was surprised to realize that I did not actually recognize anyone in all the photographs…is this because I do not have a television?

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Bealtaine Cottage bog garden

Frugality, Environmentalism and Optimism…

Frugality, environmentalism and optimism…big helpings of each on this very wet Wednesday!

Much of this is embodied in the painted stone which nestles near the climbing Rose next to the veranda  at Bealtaine Cottage.

I love natural shapes and garden ornaments that don’t cost the Earth.

This painted stone, embellished with water colour paint and some varnish to hold it together, was gifted to me by a child who visited Bealtaine, on a rainy day, like today, and who sat engaged in this task for simply ages, as his mother and I drank tea and shared time!

I adore Owls and have yet to see one here in the west of Ireland, so I keep Olly Owl perched on wood just outside the back door!

Never throw away an old Bear…they just keep improving with time!
My heart cries for the Brown Bears kept in captivity in China for their bile…absolutely horrid and cruel!

A peek out the window in the Den is as far as I go into the gardens today…much too wet!

On the upside, it’s incredibly mild!

Intensive planting, excludes weeds and cuts down on much work!

Intensive planting, excludes weeds and cuts down on much work!

I might mention all the divine charms of a bright spring day, but if you had never in your life utterly forgotten yourself in straining your eyes after the mounting lark, or in wandering through the still lanes when the fresh-opened blossoms fill them with a sacred silent beauty like that of fretted aisles, where would be the use of my descriptive catalogue?

GEORGE ELIOT, Adam Bede

It's always good to have a special spot in your garden. Sitting in the shelter of trees is calming. This is a quiet spot to enjoy a cuppa and look around.

It’s always good to have a special spot in your garden. Sitting in the shelter of trees is calming. This is a quiet spot to enjoy a cuppa and look around.

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

ALFRED, Lord TENNYSON, Locksley Hall

The Mayan Calendar, 2012 and the Shift in Consciousness.

Missy contemplates the day.

Hyacinths emerge from their winter slumber into the delicate light of a very early Spring morning.

This year, on December 21, 2012, the Mayan Calendar’s 13th Baktun cycle will end.

Many prophecies for this date state that the world as we know it will also change.

According to one interpretation of the Mayan Calendar, December 21, 2012 is the beginning of a new era…a time when humanity will evolve to a greater understanding of our place in the universe.

The Mayan Calendar, hanging on the wall of the veranda at the back of Bealtaine Cottage.

“An Apocalypse (Greek: “lifting of the veil” or “revelation”) is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted.” — Wikipedia

“Both the Hopis and Mayans recognize that we are approaching the end of a World Age…

In both cases, however, the Hopi and Mayan elders do not prophesy that everything will come to an end.

Rather, this is a time of transition from one World Age into another.

The message they give concerns our making a choice of how we enter the future ahead.

Our moving through with either resistance or acceptance will determine whether the transition will happen with cataclysmic changes or gradual peace and tranquillity.

The same theme can be found reflected in the prophecies of many other Native American visionaries from Black Elk to Sun Bear.”
— Joseph Robert Jochmans

Jack, on this Monday morning, waiting for his walk…

“Amazingly, there is a cultural/
prophetic context for the arising
of this Feminine-based planetary
transformation that is underway.

The Mayan 2012 prophecies
foretold of this shift of planetary
stewardship into the hands of
the Feminine.

In a personal
communication with this author,
Nicaraguan Mayan Grandmother
Flordemayo, of the International
Council of 13 Indigenous
Grandmothers, explained that
the final glyph (pictogram) from
the “Mayan Story of Creation”
(the Dresden Codex) shows the
Reawakening of the Feminine.”
— Vikki Hanchin

More willow, cut and ready for bundling, tying and stacking…

This is the year that the Mayans predict  the rebirth of our planet.  A new consciousness, which is emerging at this time, will take hold and provide the basis of all change to come.

There is, without a doubt, a shift in consciousness going on right now!

The world as we know it is changing and requires all people to open their minds to the possible.

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Is the world going to end on the 21st of December 2012? 

No, it will not.

The world will be a much more interesting place  in which to live after that date though…

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A Most Formidable Woman…

The stretch in the days is quite tangible…it remained light until after 5:30 today. Yesterday I wrote about the frogs in the lower pond and the frog-spawn therein…so, yes, Spring is creeping in!

I lit the stove here in the sitting room earlier as I intend to curl up with a glass of home-made vino and a book…

I am reading all about the reign of Elizabeth 1st…a formidable woman who lived in dangerous times in a world dominated by man! This biography is the best to date that I have read…it’s alive!

Just two oranges remain from the Christmas fruit bowl and these will be finished off tonight. Oranges are a treat as I get most of my daily Vitamin C from the ample supply of frozen blackcurrants I keep in the freezer from the summer harvest here at Bealtaine.

Jack is turning out to be a good dog and great company.

As I type this he sits at my feet.

Although I never intended to adopt a Collie from the Rescue centre, Jack has been a good addition to life here at the cottage!

From the 1890s on, American corporate business, in league with key institutions, began the transformation of American society into a society preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this. American consumer capitalism produced a culture almost violently hostile to the past and tradition, a future-oriented culture of desire that confused the good life with goods. It was a culture that first appeared as an alternative culture—or as one moving largely against the grain of earlier traditions of republicanism and Christian virtue—and then unfolded to become the reigning culture of the United States.

-William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993 

Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions.

– Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Art of Loving, 1957

Frogs, Spawn and Climate Change in January!

Willow continues to be harvested for basket making this Spring.

Today is yet another mild day, warm for the month of January!

The real unseasonal surprise was yet to be found…further down the gardens…

As I walked down through the gardens towards the ponds, I heard frogs, croaking…
now, this has got to be a first…

Frog’s spawn…it’s hard to believe that this is happening so soon in the year, still in the third week of January 2012!

“Is it all worth it? If we do our best to heal the Earth and make our place in her a sustainable one, is there a good chance that we will succeed?…to my mind that’s the wrong question. Even if we could answer it – and we can never know anything about the future for certain, it would beg the question How do I want to live my life? So my answer to the question..is that I want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem”.
Patrick Whitefield ‘Earth Care Manual’

Standing stones and bamboo today in the Bealtaine gardens.
Moss is slowly creeping over the top of the stone.

It was with the Industrial Revolution, as society plunged ever more eagerly into the conquest of material riches and bent all its energies to the accumulation of goods, that material poverty became a major problem. Obviously, this meant abandonment or downgrading of spiritual values, virtue, etc. To share or not to share in the increase of the collective wealth—this was the Number One question. It was the desire to acquire wealth that prompted the poor to start fighting. And the rich were hypocrites when they accused the poor (who were no longer interested in “spiritual values”) of materialism. For the rich had given the example and set society on the acquisitive path. The great business of the whole society and therefore of all its members, was to increase consumption of goods. But obviously, the moment this is the first objective, the ideal, lack of goods, is the principal drama.

-Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), Violence, 1969

A Reason to Dig ~ Life in the Country, Town and City!

Bamboo this afternoon in the garden.

Many people are experiencing hardship at the present time.

This will, inevitably get much worse, as more and more people get trapped in the web of debt.

This is surely a time to think seriously, long and hard about sustainable living.

There are many ways that people can empower themselves and perhaps the most beneficial one is growing food.

Crocosmia shoots are growing fast this month, promising early flowers and colour!

Of course, not everyone has a garden.

In fact, I lived in an apartment at one time in London and did not have access to any growing space, so rented an allotment.

For those who have never grown fruit and vegetables this way, I can tell you, it is the best fun and most social thing one can enjoy!

Beautiful Birch trees on the north bank today.

I often think that allotment growing is even more productive as going to the allotment is a regular delight and there’s always good advice and help at hand.

More important, it is about real self-empowerment, growing and sustaining oneself and one’s family.

Willow, cut, tied and standing in the barn, ready to be used in 8 weeks time.

Growing food is only the beginning of an exciting and fulfilling journey.

What follows from here is an engagement with food…making jams, chutneys, wines, cordials for a start!

Perlagoniums standing in the barn to over-winter, continue to hang onto their flowers…that’s just how mild the winter has been!

Now is the time to get started in the garden.

A propagator can really give you a start on the growing season and there are also many seeds that can be sown on the window-ledge and even directly into the ground.

Any good gardening book will inform you well!

Bealtaine Cottage Jan 2011 006

Pot grown veggies can be very easy, as with growing in hanging baskets.

Willow off-cuts…when dried these make great kindling for the fire.

Have a go and get growing…the first big step in taking control of your life back and embracing independence!

The Days dividing Light and Lover…

For Winter’s rains and ruins are over,

And all the seasons of snow and sins;

The days dividing lover and lover,

The light that loses, the night that wins;

And time remembered is grief forgotten,

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)


Early Spring around Bealtaine Cottage…

Spring is making an early entrance into the west of Ireland. 

Euphorbia is developing it’s flowers…we could see an early display of flowers. 

Over recent days I have spread 3 tons of local gravel. When I bought this old cottage almost 8 years ago, there was a need for a road into the land. Bealtaine sits back on the hill about 150 metres back.

Gravel is an excellent medium for a lot of plants to grow through, like the Valerian emerging here along the back of the Eco-Lodge. Rubus edges the path in a natural fashion and determines the size of the path, thus saving gravel spread.

Here Comes the Sun…Permaculture Smallholding, Ireland

It’s time to start sowing seeds, especially if you have a propagator. Light has returned and there is a definite stretch in the days.

The signs of spring are to be found everywhere. Daffodils are up really early and buds are starting to thicken on the lower bushes.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus

The Blackbird sits atop the Ash tree in the hedge, enjoying the morning sun.

Lots of food remains in the tunnel. If you grow anything this year, let it be Chard…so very easy to grow and so full of vitamins. It’s colourful and looks lovely planted in flower beds and pots!

In a matter of weeks, the orchard will break into blossom and all will be the promise of abundance! It’s not too late to plant apple and pear trees.

Missy on the Garden Tour at Bealtaine Cottage

Awoke to a glorious morning and a warm, sunny day! Seriously!

I was expecting a delivery of gravel to top-dress the driveway after seven years of wear and tear!

I spent some time harvesting willow, as you can see from the pic.

As I waited, I decided to go for a walk around the gardens, followed by Missy!

I try to post a blog from Bealtaine every day…sometimes this can prove impossible, but according to the WordPress Stats., just issued :
In 2011, there were 357 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 645 posts.

The busiest day of the year was December 7th with 648 views. The most popular post that day was Christmas Hearts and Bird’s Nests….

Missy was happy to follow me around the gardens at the front of Bealtaine.

Buds are thickening, birds singing and daffodils ready to open…it is strange to see!

I came across this wonderful piece of writing yesterday and tried to tweet parts of it, but anyway, here it is in full! It spoke to me deep in my heart…

“Now we are at the very end of our trail. Many people no longer recognize the true path of the Great Spirit. They have, in fact, no respect for the Great Spirit, or for our precious mother earth, who gives us all life.

We were instructed in our ancient prophecy that this would occur. We were told that someone would try to go up to the moon; that they would bring something back from the moon; and after that, nature would show signs of loosing its balance. Now we see that coming about. All over the world there are now signs that nature is no longer in balance. Floods, droughts, earthquakes and great storms are occurring and causing much suffering……

There are many of you in this world who are honest people. We know you spiritually for we are the ‘Men’s Society Grandfathers’ who have been charged to pray for you and all life on earth, never forgetting anything or anyone in our ceremonials. Our prayer is to have a good happy life, with plenty of soft, gentle rain for abundant crops. We pray for balance on earth to live in peace and leave a beautiful world to the children yet to come. We know you have good hearts but good hearts are not enough to help us out with these great problems.

So many people have come to us to Hopiland to meet with us. Some of you we have met on your lands. Many times people have asked how they can help us. Now I hope and pray that your help will come. If you have a way to spread the truth, through newspapers, radio, books, through meeting with powerful people – tell them the truth! Tell them what you know to be true. Tell them what you have seen here; what you have heard us say; what you have seen with your own eyes. In this way, if we do fall, let it be said that we tried, right up to the end, to hold fast to the path of peace as we were originally instructed by the Great Spirit. Should you really succeed, we will realize our mistakes of the past and return to the true path – living in harmony as brothers and sisters, sharing our mother, the earth, with all other living creatures.

In this way we could bring about a new world. A world which would be led by the Great Spirit, and in which our Mother will provide plenty and happiness for all.”
– Chief Dan Evahema of the Tradi

The driveway is in need of that gravel, for sure!

“Love all of God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love.”
– Fyodor Dostoyevski

Healing our Environment and Saving our Earth.

Jan 12 Bealtaine Cottage 002

The weather has been mild and very damp, ideal for mushroom growing. Polytunnel this morning at Bealtaine Cottage with Che Mousy Bear strolling through!There are lots of these growing in the tunnel.

Though it’s not actually mushrooms I want to talk about today.

You see there are things on my mind that are troubling me…

jan 12 Bealtaine Cottage 009

Biting the Hand that feeds YOU!

For if we are to live in the world as we know it, then we have to make changes…

veranda at Bealtaine CottageMother Nature gives, and we take. Most of the time we give nothing back…nothing!

Jan 12 Bealtaine Cottage 004For the past hundred or so years we have demanded and taken more and more!

Bealtaine Cottage midsummer morningThe killing fields of World War One left mountainous mounds of dead
and gave us our agriculture of today,
…chemicals!

We are what we eat.

Jan 12 Bealtaine Cottage 008

Chemicals

From that day to this we have almost drowned Gaia in chemicals!

wild honeysuckle on the table at bealtaine cottageChemicals to force food from the ground.

Chemicals to kill Gaia’s workforce; bees, insects and bacteria.

Bee on Nasturtium flower at Bealtaine Cottage

Chemicals poured in relentless fashion into her rivers and oceans to make our clothes whiter, cleaner and our homes chemical waste grounds.

Cats in the shade at bealtaine cottageWhere babies are reared in exclusion zones that make them weak and sometimes ill…for the good bacteria that aids children in developing strong immune systems, is no longer allowed!

Rain on Nasturtium in the Permaculture GardensWhen we become ill, we then require stronger and more aggressive pharmaceuticals.

The Fairy Wood at Bealtaine CottageAnd so we are trapped within a complex ecocidal system of living that is doomed!

Jan 12 Bealtaine Cottage 003

A Better Way

Yes, there is a better way!

I am exploring aspects of it in whatever small way possible.

But, overall, the solution is simple…

Summer shed at Bealtaine CottageMostly, the solutions require little more than common sense, some small effort and a willingness to keep an open mind and ask questions!

Astrantia by the Fairy Wood at Bealtaine Cottage this morningFor therein lies solutions…millions of them! Each one suitable for our immediate environment.

Veranda at Bealtaine CottageSolutions that empower us and make us integrated, part of the healing, not part of the illness!

Sustainable growing at bealtainecottage.com 004

The words of Albert Einstein resonate more today than ever before…

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe … We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
– Albert Einstein