Self-Sufficiency at the Cottage

Fennel grows very well in my garden here in Ireland.

In fact all the plants from the herb family grow well here.

I’ve been harvesting seeds from the Fennel plants this morning.

The seeds taste lovely, sweet and liquorice like.

They make great chewy sweets that help to assuage the appetite, so can help in weight loss too!

I suppose the taste could be likened tio a distinctive anise-like flavour and scent.

Medicinally this seed acts as an aid to digestion, stomach pains and flatulence…it’s traditionally good for babies with colic if a tea is made from it.


No using washing powders.

No using fabric conditioners.

No using bleach or ANY chemicals here at Bealtaine Cottage.

My washing machine broke down about two years ago and I have hand-washed clothes ever since.

It really is extraordinarily simple and easy to make a routine that encompasses washing a few items of clothes each day.

If I want white fabrics to whiten up, I leave them to bleach in the sun…and a shower of rain on them is even better!

Of course the very best and quickest way to bleach fabrics naturally is to leave them out on a frosty day…brilliant whites!

Think about it…the Victorians wore a lot of white cotton and calico, with only bars of soap to clean their clothes!

We need to stop sending all those chemicals down our drains to the oceans…there is NO AWAY!

I am storing the pumpkins wherever I can find a space in the pantry, ensuring they are kept separate on shelves, cool and dry.

There are so many  recipes that use pumpkin and am collecting them up for use this winter.

Pumpkin Curry is already a tried and tested dinner and is yummy!

Tomorrow is the beginning of October.

Fortunately there are many bright and sunny days to be had in the months that make up the Autumn.

The evenings are drawing in, fires are lit and warm jumpers unpacked from summer storage, but the days are pleasant and filled with a beauty only to be found at this time of year.

Enjoy the week ahead and take time to appreciate The Fall.

A Special Delivery from the Postman!

My postman, Tom Benson, was clearing out the cowsheds on his farm in Keadue and kindly offered me an absolute mound of well-rotted cow manure, one of the best additions to the permaculture gardens at this time of the year.

It will boost the fertility in all areas of the land, especially the fruit and vegetable gardens.

The harvest next year will be a good one, for sure!

Spreading it on the earth before the soil cools is also a way of letting it get in around roots before the next growing season.

Never mind diamonds…this is a permaculture girl’s best friend!

And on the subject of diamonds…here’s my little Pumpkin Mouser Missy, sitting beside the pumpkins on the veranda.

These will soon be ready to bring into the pantry and store for the winter, ready for pies, soups and curries.

Grown only on home-made compost, these cabbages continue to develop good firm hearts, ideal for saukeraut and freezing.

The autumn is continuing to be a fair season, dry and mild.

Time to tidy sheds and treat all outside wood with a preservative.

Last night was a full moon and the land was illuminated beautifully.

Tonight promises the same.

I do so love the autumn!

Driven Headlong by Passion…

Walking along country lanes in late September is a joy, when wrapped up warm.

The sun shines bright, but there is a chill in the air.

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Colours are brightening before the leaves finally shed their food onto the earth, replenishing the soil and adding fertility for the next growing season.

Cows muster around hedges, watching the road for signs of movement, for they are curious and social animals.

Autumn walks are precious.

The colours of autumn lead towards Samhain, pronounced, “Sow-een,” the end of summer proper and the start of winter.

Many know this festival today as Halloween.

The festival of Samhain is an ancient Celtic one.

Traditionally, there were many festivals celebrated to mark the passing of the seasons and indeed this celebratory feasting and dancing was noted by other, more formal civilizations.

The Celtic characteristics of spontaneity and passion were remarked upon by many in the Classical World…”I say…in everything they attempt, they are driven headlong by their passions and never submit to the laws of reason.” written by the Greek Historian, Polybius[200-118BCE] 

Such characteristics form part of the driving force which propels me here at Bealtaine Cottage.

The matrilinear society I come from encourages connections with, and observations of, the natural world, that is, for me, the driving force behind Permaculture.
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An aspect of the present day sickness of consumer driven materialism is the alienation of many in society, from the natural world and certainly, many of the so-called celebrations of today are corporation rackets and little more!

Roman society was predominantly patriarchal and much of western civilization is based upon the Roman model of governance and living.

Celtic Cross at Bealtaine CottageCentralized forms of government are now the norm., in the developed world, leaving communities behind or confining them to the edges of importance.

Within the framework of my life, based solely on the approaches of Permaculture, I am driven by the influences of my Celtic predecessors with their more harmonious and indeed balanced approach to life.

It is a way of living outside of the dictates of consumerism.

A Time of Early Shadows

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Autumn is a time of early shadows as the season of summer passes over.

Scents of woodsmoke and compost fill the air.

Samhain is close.

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The Celts divided the year into two parts…the light and the dark.

Samhain is the crossover point into the dark.

Seamus Heaney wrote a wonderful collection of poetry entitled, “Into The Dark.”

One of my favourite reads at this time of the year.

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Poetry is like that…it can be turned over again and again, extracted from the past into the present and enjoyed afresh.

The turning of the year towards the light is heralded in the Feast of Bealtaine.

www.bealtainecottage.com 054Bealtaine also means, “May,” in Irish and is why I named this cottage Bealtaine Cottage…for it was in May I first spied it!

Bealtaine celebrates the beginning of summer as we turn towards the light and short shadows.

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In Ireland the Tribes gathered for Samhain, at the ritual centres across the land to celebrate this most important festival of the year.

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It was a time to reconnect with the past, a time of early shadows and light veils of separation.

A time of magic.

Living Lightly upon the Earth

So much has changed since my birthday last year.

Re-painting the cottage has made a big difference to the light inside and the way in which the walls now reflect the outside in. I made new curtains from simple gingham.

There is now a green floor in the kitchen with gold spirals all across it.

The vegetable garden has been moved closer to the cottage and is now a potager style with easier access.

However, the real change has happened in my own life and it is a change worth celebrating and sharing with all.

I became Vegan…no longer consuming any animal products and eating a fully plant-based diet.

I consider this to be the most beneficial lifestyle choice I have ever embraced.

I am transformed in the way I live my life.

Not only have I shed a considerable amount of weight and have loads more energy, I sleep well and feel calmer and more positive than ever before.

I heartily recommend this way of eating. I call it, “Living Lightly upon the Earth.”

As my birthday approaches this autumn, a sense of renewal is exciting me as I open up the big box of winter clothes…not many of them now fit me, so the sewing machine will be put to good use altering and reshaping much of my wardrobe!

This may even be a good time to host a “Clothes Swap Party,” and enjoy an evening of fun with friends and some home-made wine and clothes exchanging! The winter months are a good time to share time with friends and family. I have re-engaged my love of knitting recently and intend putting the spinning wheel into action soon too.

I have an idea to knit socks this winter.

Hand-knits are so luxurious these days as so much is mass produced and cheaply made…ugh!

A lovely idea for gifts is really anything hand-made and special…little hamper baskets of home-made goodies are the very best Yuletide gifts to make and give.

Living well should not cost the Earth.

Stonehenge, Newgrange and the Cycle of Life

The autumn continues to progress through it’s mellow display of earthy colours.

Tomorrow is the Equinox and the beginning of the descent towards midwinter.

The time of year denotes the slowing down of all that is life as we know it.

Time to sort out the winter woolies and hang the heavy curtains to keep out the drafts.

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One of the big tasks I have lined up here at Bealtaine Cottage is the coppicing of the majority of the trees that were planted eight years ago, in the first flush of restoring the fertility of the land.

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Trees are one of the most important connections we have to the Divine, embodying the sacred fertility that anchors us all on this planet.

Where trees grow, life is abundant…without them we are bereft of all that makes life comfortable and good.

One of the great delights of the shorter days is the ritual lighting of the stove and the chance to sit around the fire and enjoy the scent of woodsmoke on the air.

There are few pleasures in life quite so comforting.

From this point in time the autumn will wend its way through to Samhain and evolve into the dark depths of winter, finally rising towards the light in the deep midwinter, a time of renewal, hope and promise.

Life is cyclical.

The builders of Stonehenge and Newgrange knew all about that.

As The Nights Draw In…

The light is changing.
The nights are drawing in.
The Equinox approaches…a time of equality in night and day, dark and light, balanced on the cusp of the descent into winter.

Much more of autumn is to come, with the delights of Samhain and last harvest in the coming month…my favourite time of year, for it is the season of my birth.

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…the dying sun. I love the changing of the seasons and the scents of the earth as the musky, mellow scent of autumn evokes a spirit of welcome for the darker nights.

We are seasonal creatures forced unwillingly into man-made rhythms that go against our inner desires to snuggle down into the deep recesses of a feather quilt and keep warm.

Now is the time to plant Broad Beans, Garlic and Onions for a good early crop next year.

This is also the time to hang winter curtains and make sure all outside painting tasks are completed to safeguard wood against the rigours of winter.

When I lived in London, I often ventured into the Hertfordshire countryside to buy sacks of vegetables direct from farms,to store in my pantry and use during the winter months.

I believe that a good pantry is worth any amount of fitted kitchen and can be easily constructed for little money!

The Equinox is near…make the most of your time outdoors and enjoy the autumn, one of the most beautiful seasons!

Ireland: Life before and after The Merchants of Greed…

The radio is talking about economic growth/lack of it/regulators/lack of them…

They are all lacking the essential connection, which to my mind is the actual land where they live!

All the time there’s talk about international investors, while fields grow high with rushes and Irish children leave school with little or no understanding of how to make a good life possible, here, in their homeland.

There was a time when anyone who could, grew fruit in this area to supply Lairds Jam Factory in Drumshanbo.

Well, the factory closed and the fruit growing stopped!


There are few people who grow fruit in this area now, yet I harvested over 150lbs of Blackcurrants with ease this year and the Apple trees I planted are bent double with the weight of beautiful Apples…all organically grown!

We should be turning off the radios and televisions and asking ourselves some serious questions, because the only investments worth growing are not to be found on the Economic Markets…after all, you can’t eat talk!

Using a re-cycled water bottle,  for the past eight years, contains my homegrown version of washing powder…mild soap bars, cut into chunks and all shook up in this bottle with some spring water added.

  1. Total cost: In the region of 10 cents per wash cycle.

  2. Total Damage to the Earth: Minimal compared to the average Washing Machine Powder or Liquid!

  3. Usability: Really easy!

  4. Does it work: The real work is done by the tumbling action of the washing machine…didn’t you know? The soap just softens the water and helps the washing action.

  5. How much money can you save per year? : Work this one out for yourself.

  6. Message: Stop being brainwashed by advertising from the big chemical companies. YOU DON’T NEED THEM!

  7. P.S. My clothes are clean!!!

    Blackberries are really ripe for harvesting at the moment!

    Mixed with some of my apples, these will make a fine Blackberry and Apple Jelly.

    So far, the pillowcase method of straining the juice has served me well, washing the pillowcase and ironing it to sterilise.

    However, there are few people to be found harvesting berries for free, though many to be seen in the supermarkets buying jam filled with chemicals!

    Elderberries are just beginning to ripen, so the harvest will continue well into September!

    Permaculture is about living on less while at the same time continually running a surplus, because there appears to be a surplus of everything except paper money!

    Sharing the surplus with family and friends is a happy thing to do.

    The philosophy of sharing makes one feel extremely wealthy and begin to question the value system that exists in society around us.

    Permaculture can and does change lives.

    I believe it is the way forward, especially looking at the present state of the Irish economy.

    There is a saying here in Ireland, more relevant today than ever it was before, “People appear to have lost the run of themselves”…how sad, how true!

    But then, before the Economists, bankers, government and people lost the run of themselves, there was a quiet generosity of spirit that embraced the country.

    An open door…this is what Ireland used to be about…I wonder how many doors are freely open today?

    Ivan Illich, social thinker, has written many books criticising present day society and its failure…privileged people can escape the need to be consumers and be ‘doers’, instead, whereas the under-privileged seek satisfaction in consumerism, all that is packaged and pushed their way.

    The way forward lies in nurturing confidence in people to enable them to take more control of their lives…knowledge is power and empowering people to move away from big institutions and useless economic models is enabling empowerment for everyone!

    As John Seymour once wrote…”To allow ourselves to be dependent on some vast Thing created by the Merchants of Greed is madness.

    It is time to cut out what we do not need so we can live more simply and happily.

    Good food, comfortable clothes, serviceable housing and true culture – those are the things that matter.

    The only way this can happen is by ordinary people, us, boycotting the huge multinational corporations that are destroying our Earth – and create a new Age – an Age of Healing in place of the current Age of Plunder.”

     

How to Grow the Best Organic Apples!

Apples…one of the easiest  fruits to grow.

These Apple Trees were planted seven years ago and have fruited every year.

They has never been sprayed.

There have never been any chemicals sprayed on or around them.

September 2011 Permaculture Cottage 007These trees are the perfect plants in the perfect place…a permaculture success.

The fruit is used as a base for a whole range of jellies, chutneys and jams.

Some of it is stored in the freezer.

September 2011 Permaculture Cottage 010Much is stored in a cool, dark, dry area where it can be accessed for use.

August 2011 permaculture cottage 002Apples are made into Toffee Apples at Samhain and for floating in barrels for dunking games.

Apple slices are dried as rings…simply hooped onto lengths of homegrown Bamboo and hung in the oven of the wood stove.

September 2011 Permaculture Cottage 023I use some of the Apples at the moment in home made Apple yoghurt, yummy stuff!

Of course, where would civilisation be without the seasonal Apple Pie?

September 2011 Permaculture Cottage 009I mulch around these trees every couple of years with sheeps wool left over from my spinning…there are parts of the fleece which are not used in the spinning process.

September 2011 Permaculture Cottage 008This is filled with goodness which is washed, through rainfall, into the soil.

Bealtaine Cottage August 2010During the summer as I mow the paths, I heap the cuttings around the base of each apple tree to mulch out weeds and feed the roots.

Grass is, after all, great fertilizer.

Bealtaine Cottage Sep 2010At the end of each growing season, I cut by all new growth by two-thirds.

All branches that grow towards the middle of the tree are cut out.

Permaculture Cottage August 2011 024Most important of all…I plant lots of bee attracting plants and bushes around the orchards, especially the early Spring flowering bush, Ribes.

The Bees must be looked after!

Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 85 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.
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