Posted in Art, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Folklore, Garden, Inspiration, Life, Lifestyle, Spirituality, Thoughts

The Colours of the Celts

Creativity was associated with orange, as well as sexuality and fertility.

Think of the egg yolk…only a deep orange yolk is really healthy and full of goodness.

Invoke this colour in areas of your home where you want to express these elements.

Wind Spiral in the Fairy DellGreen is infused with beauty and fertility, but also prosperity.

In Feng Shui, it is advised to paint the front door of one’s home red so as to attract prosperity, but my door is painted green and the real prosperity is quite tangible at Bealtaine Cottage.

As for beauty, well, that speaks for itself, for what is not beautiful in the flowing greens of Nature?

Brown is the essence of earth and the home.

The very centre of the home is the “hearth,” or home earth.

Brown is also for animals.

In old cottages in Ireland the animals were brought near to the “hearth,” or home for the winter.

Winter begins tomorrow in the Celtic Cycle.

The prosperity of purple is long associated with the royal families and indeed was not to be worn by lesser mortals in Europe, upon pain of death…not so the case today where we recognize the equality in all human life and the real meaning of wealth and power being unique to each one of us.

The blue of heaven heralds healing…I keep a long piece of blue silk to lay on a pillow or seat especially for those feeling poorly.

Blue also invokes peace and the sacredness of all under it’s mantle.

There are many colours that represent other aspects of our sacred journey.

As we wear a particular colour, our understanding of how it makes us feel infuses us with a little more knowledge and understanding of its importance to us.

We each have a favourite colour that we wear, one that looks good on us, matches our skin tones and brings out a certain energy.

That is a good place to begin to relate to the energy of colour.

Posted in celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Folklore, Inspiration, Ireland, Life, Nature, New Year, Spirituality, Thoughts

The Consciousness of All Things

There is a stillness in the air tonight…a preamble towards Imbolc.

These last days of the Winter in the Celtic Cycle are a time of reflection…

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Spirals fascinate me, as they fascinate so many people.

We are drawn towards them.

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They mean something to us, something we have forgotten.

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My Celtic ancestors carved Sacred Spirals on stones…and so they appear to us today, a message from the past, but we have lost the key to understand their meanings.

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They, too, would have gazed up at the night sky and tried to understand their world.

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They, too, would have intuited a connectivity in all life…we continue to subconsciously embrace all life, yet we struggle against great odds, for we have been told for millennia that we are superior, and so removed from that life force.

And so we try to make our way back to where we can, once more, connect to life.

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For we now know, on a deeply spiritual, non-religious level, that we are one.

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We are one, as the spiral depicts an eternal connection, we are one.

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Spirals are full of symbolism.

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The spiral is found all over the natural world and indeed is also the symbol of life itself, as represented in the famous double helix, the molecular structure of life.

April 2011 Bealtaine 013The belief among the Celts, was that communication with nature was the chief priority in their lives, and the sound, immovable belief in the consciousness of all things.

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They did not fear death as we do in this present time.

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Everything was connected, there was no beginning and no end.

Every single thing upon and in the earth had a consciousness and was a part of, a fragment of, the one cosmic entity.

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The sacred spiral, I believe, was a representation of this belief.

Stones were considered to be old before time itself…a fascinating thought and a manifestation of a deep spiritual understanding, if not connection.

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The Winter is almost at a close…just another fifteen days left.

The joy of Spring awaits to be welcomed in on the first day of February…Imbolc!

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As in the nature of the Sacred Spiral, we move inexorably along the path of our life, but not alone, for we are one with the Universe…

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We now know we are made of that oneness, stardust itself!

The Celts recognized the great sight held by someone who was physically blind.

That person had the greatest sight…inner sight.

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Perhaps it’s time for us to connect with our own inner sight and begin to see with our intuition.

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Posted in Books, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Culture, Folklore, History, Inspiration, Ireland, Spirituality, Thoughts

The Prophecy of Merlin and the Vatican

The spiral, so long viewed as a mystical symbol…associated with the ancient Celts.

Merlin was one of the great mythological figures, also associated with those ancient people.

I say, “mythological,” only because we have no written proof…or do we?

Merlin, according to the Celts, was reported to have made many prophecies in his mythological lifetime…

Nonsense, I hear you say…but, read on, for this is where it all gets rather tangled and interesting!

It is interesting to note here that any writing to do with prophesy is of great interest to an old institution, famous for the suppression and burning of women and especially those with healing and esoteric knowledge at around the same time as this book was published…and into the centuries that followed.

A patriarchal institution of great secrecy…

You see, there is a book in the Vatican Library, amongst many hundreds of thousands of books, that are not to be read, or studied, except under the prescriptives of the higher echelons of that closed, patriarchal institution.

This book is a copy of an original manuscript, dated 8 October 1474.

The extraordinary title of this closed document is, Merlini Prophetica.

  This title, simply translated from the Latin, reads, “The Prophecy of Merlin.”

Amazing importance given to someone who was said not to have existed, don’t you think?

Posted in Books, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Climate, Cottage, Current Affairs, Eco-Living, Inspiration, Life, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Politics, Smallholding, Sustainable Living, Thoughts, Thrift, Uncategorized

Light, Midwinter Sun, Signs and John Seymour

Light

What an opportunity!

As we descend into the dark days of midwinter, what better thing to do than light a candle and enjoy the soft light and warmth.

I was making candles today to add to my stockpile for the coming weeks, when candlelight is really the best light medium to illuminate the darkness.

Midwinter Sun

Sun worship was a common practice among the Celts…one only has to look at the amazing amount of motifs from that time to see this.

The god Belanos, known as, “the shining one,” had his feast on May 1, also known as Bealtaine!

The festival of Bealtaine was celebrated right up until 1895 at a place known as Mount Callan, near Ennis in County Clare.

There remains a sun altar at this place.

There is another sacred stone near Macroom, a standing stone known as “Stone of the Sun.”

It is easy to see and perhaps understand this Celtic fascination with the sun, when looking at the life and vibrancy exuded by the midwinter sun, on a clear morning at this time of year.

Signs

It’s possible to assess the insulation needs of any house by looking at the roof.

There are obvious signs to look out for!

For example, does the frost or snow remain on the roof as the house heats up?

If it does, then all is well, insulation is adequate up above.

Bealtaine has a double layer of sheep’s wool insulation added this year and it is paying for itself already.

Walking in this weather can identify insulation needs just by looking at the houses…snow or melt on the roof?

Insulation is one of the many ways we can help ourselves to live better and more frugally in these times of hardship.

I think it is time to re-visit what John Seymour, in his wisdom, had to say…

“…We have allowed ourselves to get where we are because of the ‘blind workings of the market’.

But we are not blind, so we must now start using our good sense to ‘break this sorry scheme of things and remould it to our hearts desire,’ as old Omar Khayam had it.

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 creating a new Age – an Age of Healing in place of the current Age of Plunder.”

Posted in Autumn, Garden, Inspiration, Ireland, Life, Lifestyle, Permaculture, photography, Spirituality, Thoughts, Trees

The Illusion of Separateness and Our Sacred Mother

A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe,” limited in time and space.

He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

This delusion is a prison,restricting us to… our personal desires and to affection for a few persons close to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein

The Earth, once regarded by ancient tribes as the sacred Mother, is , once more, regarded by the awakened mind, as integral to our lives.

I was reminded of this as I walked the land this evening, taking the photos below.

The moon was waxing and the sky crystal clear.

The thought occurred to me that we are not separate…

We are not separate.

We are all connected.

We are all one.

Do you doubt this?

Each time you take a breath, thank a tree!

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Posted in Celtic Mythology, Celts, Culture, Fairies, Folklore, Garden, History, Inspiration, Ireland, Permaculture, Spirituality, Trees, Woodland

The Magical Garden

This is the magical Stone Circle at Bealtaine Cottage.

It lies at the southern edge of the land and was, until recently, part of a form of ancient stones that had been cleared from the surface of the soil and pushed back into the recesses of the hill.

Some of the stones are huge and took several people to move them into position.

I worked alongside an archaeologist friend of mine, who had shown an interest in this particular site for some time.

It was he who urged me to allow himself and some colleagues to move the stones back into place.

The site was chosen following careful study of the alignments of several megalithic structures within the area, including a cairn on top of Kilronan Mountain, which lies to the north of the circle, in a direct line with the centre.

Although the Celts did not build the megalithic structures found within their lands, they were certainly aware of them.

The Fairy Rings are as much a part of Irish folklore as the Celts themselves…with stories of the mysterious lights that are seen within them when the Sidhe or Fairy Folk dance on moonlit nights.

These monuments were attributed to the the Tuatha de Danann, whom, it was said, disappeared, underground, into the hills and mountains.

The ancient stone sites are portals, where entrance to the human world can be made…and vice versa!

So, the Fairy Ring is now restored…just what Bealtaine Cottage was missing!

 It sits well in the landscape of trees and Nature that abounds the land.

With a stone seat nearby to sit and wait for the Fairy Folk on a moonlit night!

 

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Posted in Art, celebrations, Christmas, Cottage, Crafts, Inspiration, Permaculture, Self-Sufficiency, Trees, Winter

How to Make a Biodegradable Willow Wreath…easy and free!

Cut a range of willow stems, including Dogwood and any other bendy shrubs or woods you can easily access and lay them on the floor to grade them in length.

Take a long length of green willow and made a circle, twisting the spare of the length around the circle.

Following this,  insert another long length as you can see, and twist this around the circle.

Twisting long lengths to start the circle, strengthens the hoop and makes it easier to follow on with shorter pieces.

You can keep adjusting the circle to make it as round as possible.

The willow will bend and shape quite readily.

Keep adding in lengths, inserting the thick end in between the woven lengths.

Excess pieces of willow can be snipped off as you go or at the end of the work.

Try to keep the shape balanced by rotating the wreath, not inserting the thick ends all into the same part of the circle.

I use garden cutters to trim the thick ends of the willow.

Start to add the colourful willow slips.

You can also use any bendy plant strips and even fresh Bamboo.

Take time to experiment with as many garden materials as you can find!

If it grows and is fresh cut, then it’s fine to use as it will be pliable.

Now add the red Dogwood…

Keep winding.

Keep twisting.

Make the wreath thick and chunky, as it will make a good decoration base all the year round and last for years to come.

The wreath continues to be pushed into shape, making it rounder.

The wreath is now ready for decorating.

This willow wreath is 100% biodegradable and will last for years to come.

You can redecorate it as many times as you please!

Adding Larch

Larch is associated with integrity and vision.

It is also for protection, so lends itself well to a front door wreath.

Adding Birch

Birch is for healing and cleansing and Willow is magical and powerful, so already, we have a triad of good energies balanced within this Christmas, midwinter wreath.

Adding Ivy…symbol of the spiral path of the Self

I cut several long trails of Ivy to wrap around the wreath…symbolizing aspects of the journey of the self and new experiences.

You can probably begin to see and feel the powerful energy from this Circle of Willow and Nature!

The wreath is now complete.

All that remains is to add some more seasonal decorations of your choice.

This is how I finished mine…

What a beautiful welcome!

dsc04154dsc04151dsc04156Here’s another I made recently as a gift for a friend…

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Posted in Climate, Cottage, Eco-Living, Food, Garden, Growing Food, Inspiration, Ireland, Leitrim, Lough Allen Basin, Permaculture, Self-Sufficiency, Tea

Rose-hips, Rain and Recipe for Rose-hip Syrup

The sun rises in a cooler sky, as the mist crawls slowly along the valley floor, in from Lough Meelaugh, past Kilronan castle to eventually meet the mists that cover the giant stretch of water that is Lough Allen.

Autumn is a time of mists, just as Samhain merges into Winter, so do the mists swirl and merge away off into the low clouds.

Lough Allen is an English translation from the Gaelic, meaning ‘Beautiful Lake’, and that it is!

The little town of Drumshanbo lies just above the Lough in the County of Leitrim.

It is little wonder it is referred to as “Lovely Leitrim.”

On a calm day the Lough takes on a look of pure glass, as in Maeve Binchy’s book, “The Glass Lake.”

I am happy to see such a beautiful sunrise and then sit here writing in the still of the morning…it’s now exactly 9am.

This morning has to be slowly enjoyed because there’s a mighty storm of heavy rain approaching Ireland.

Rain has been heavy all year and the earth is quite sodden…the wettest I have ever experienced.

As I write this, clouds have shadowed out the morning sun and already spots of rain are dotting the windows.

Even as the rain falls, the harvest continues…

Did you know that Rose-hips contain 20 times more vitamin C than the same weight of oranges?

Here is an old recipe for making Rosehip Syrup, a Vitamin C product given to babies and young children during World War Two…

Rose-hip Syrup
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2lb ripe rose-hips

6 pints water

1lb sugar
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Wash and remove stalks.

Mince or finely chop.

Add to pan with 4 pints boiling water, bring back to boil then remove from heat.

Stand for 15 minutes then strain through a jelly bag.(I use a cotton pillow-case!)

Return the pulp to pan with 2 pints boiling water, bring to boil, remove and stand for 10 minutes, then strain through jelly bag.

Now mix both juices and boil until reduced to 2 pints.

Add sugar, stir until dissolved, boil for 5 minutes.

Pour into small bottles, seal and sterilize using pan method.
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Other Uses for Rose-hips…

Rose hips can be gathered and dried for tea.

Drying methods are simple as the fruit is small and easily dried…but keep it slow and steady…I use the oven on my wood stove and leave the door slightly ajar to keep the dry air circulating but not baking.

Posted in Animals, Autumn, Bealtaine Cottage, Country Living, cows, Garden, Inspiration, Ireland, Life, Permaculture, Smallholding, Thoughts, Uncategorized

An Autumn Afternoon in an Irish Cottage Garden

Colours of the season, dogwoods ablaze and Loosestrife turned to straw.

Birch and Beech turn earthy tones.

Near the lake, the cows move slowly in the afternoon heat, seeking shady spots to stand and stare.

Old driftwood from the ocean salutes the cottage.

The horses come to look over the fence, waiting for a treat they are sure to get!

A last flush of yellow on the Hypericum bush holds the moisture from the October air.

The Beech trees will cling onto their leaves for most of the winter, even though the life within has passed.

And little Newts seek a place to over-winter, resting on the back door mat as they make their path towards hibernation.

Posted in Art, Courses, Crafts, Garden, Inspiration, Life, Permaculture, Self-Sufficiency, Sustainable Living, Trees

How To Make A Willow Wigwam Plant Support…for Free!

Place a tyre on the ground.

This acts as a guide to the size of the wigwam.

Insert poles of Willow, Hazel or Ash into the ground around the tyre…it helps if the ground is soft!

Tie the poles together at the top, string will do, but I use a few thin ‘whips’ of Willow!

Now, you can begin weaving…

Starting with a long stem of Willow, begin to weave in and out between the poles.

Each strip woven in will begin to strengthen the support.

You can experiment with different weaves, but working with 2 lengths at a time, twisting together between each pole will make it VERY strong!

It starts to come together!

Mistakes are easily undone and made good…take heart.

My strong advice is to experiment to find the technique that suits you best…try using other materials as well!

Once the structure is fairly sound, you can continue the weave up to the top, like this, or weave separate rings into it.

Personally, I like to spiral the Willow upwards towards the top, using double lengths and twisting twice between poles.

Gently remove the poles from around the tyre…

And here’s the finished project.

Willow wigwam in a permaculture garden in February

 

Posted in Autumn, celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Country Living, Folklore, Inspiration, Ireland, Life, Lifestyle, Nature, Samhain

The Celtic New Year Festival of Samhain

It is nearing the end of this beautiful year.

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The transition of Autumn is underway as the end of October arrives with the magical Festival of Samhain…known to many as “Halloween.”

Halloween was derived from the celebration of Samhain, with its myths and beliefs about the “Otherworld” and happily placed into Christian culture through the celebration of, “All Hallows Eve,” or “All Souls Night.”

This beautiful time of the year is extolled in many beautiful poems and odes.

The year was divided in two, with Summer and Winter heralding transition.

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“My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, Summer is gone.

Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone,
The wild goose has raised his wonted cry.

Cold has caught the wings of birds.
Season of ice – these are my tidings.”


–  Irish Poem, Translated by Caitlin Matthews 

 

My favourite verse…the one that enters my head and repeats itself at this lovely time of year is the evocative verse of Keats…

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.”


–   John Keats,  To Autumn

The summer is officially over as Samhain is celebrated…and winter begins.

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This is a special time, where there is a real sense of renewal and hope.

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Time to light the annual bonfire and celebrate, with songs and games and food.

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Time to write your wishes, hopes or fears onto paper and cast it away into the flames.

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Time to share and bake and dance and laugh.

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Summer is over and we have lived to greet another year.

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And for those we have said goodbye to, wish them well on their onward journey.

As the days shorten and the sun dips low in the sky, our homes become sanctuaries of warmth and comfort.

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The over-wintering begins!

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Posted in Bees, biodiversity, Bloom, Country Living, Current Affairs, Ecology, Food, Garden, Growing Food, Nature, Orchids, Permaculture, Uncategorized, Wild Flowers, Wildlife

A Message from the Master of Relativity

There are many flowers that are great for attracting and keeping bees in your garden.

Most of the berry bearing shrubs and trees are essential for the welfare of the bees.

What is a garden without bees?

Just four years… That’s how long Albert Einstein reportedly said the
human race would last in a world without bees. For the master of
relativity, the equation was relatively simple: no more bees = no more
people. ~ Valentine Warner

There is a worldwide problem concerning bees…the bee population is being decimated and people are becoming concerned…no bees=no food, simple as that!

A survey by the British Beekeepers’ Association in May 2010 revealed their members had lost 19% of their colonies (the population that inhabits a hive) in the previous year alone.

Why is this happening?

Well my own take on the problem concerns monoculture…something we should all be concerned with and striving against!

Where monoculture exists, Nature struggles.

Monoculture requires chemicals, Nature struggles.

  Farmers spray chemicals, Nature struggles.

A terrible loop of destruction is fixed into Nature and world governments are complicit with this decline in the bee population!

Are people blind?

Is science operating with a blindfold on?

I have little formal training in the field of horticulture, yet I am aware of the need to encourage and keep bees on my 3 acres.

Even planting willow like this arch above, creates food for the bees.

Planting for the bees is as important as growing food for myself!

In fact, the two go hand in hand!

 It is estimated that one in every three  households in Britain kept bees for honey to supplement the table right up until the 20th Century.

This is something that could, so easily be encouraged by our governments and our departments of agriculture.

As I walked in the garden earlier today,  the bees were continuing to be busy.

This Viburnum is a late flowering bush and very important for any late working bees!

We need to make their lives easier, not more difficult.

We all, including farmers, who own the majority of agricultural land, need to get out there and plant for the bees!

Posted in Angels, Birds, Current Affairs, Food, Inspiration, Life, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Thoughts, Thrift, Wildlife

Austerity, Angels and Food

Isn’t it ridiculous how we have come to measure prosperity in terms of pieces of paper and metal?

As if that could possibly sustain us in times of hunger.

Food prices are rising steeply as the world harvests are brought in and disappointment is faced.

The excessive weather conditions of drought or flood have impacted on all the land across the world.

I don’t think that anyone escaped the extremes on Planet Earth!

I was talking with my mother about her childhood during World War 2 and she recalls how governments radically encouraged frugality, a return to the earth, growing food and sharing.

It is hard to understand the lack of empathy present day governments have with the people.

Allotments need to be increased dramatically, as the waiting list for allotments grows longer each day in towns and cities across the UK and Ireland.

As the enforced austerity takes hold on our lives, governments need to be helping people to help themselves as much as possible.

If our politicians cared to help empower people, they would…

As I write this, the stove is slowly warming up the cottage, heating the radiators, heating the water and boiling the kettle, ready for my next pot of tea.

Many of the artefacts we have in our homes around us remind us of places, people and our own journey through this world.

I am very fond of natural crafts and evocative ornaments.

We have a need to surround ourselves with beauty.

Some of the most strikingly beautiful elements in our homes can be a simple vase of greenery from the outdoors

Light catchers are fascinating for reasons that are obvious, in that we continually gravitate towards the light.

Plants defy gravity in their growing towards the light.

Sunshine beckons me outdoors, or towards a window.

How many angels have I looked up at in stained glass windows, earth on one side of the glass and all beyond it on the other.

I have recently noticed  many flower shops are also selling angels and the link therein is intriguing to ponder…spirituality, plants, the earth and beyond, all linked and increasingly acknowledged by people seeking answers to age old questions…our material world has let us down.

There is an increasing disillusionment among people seeking a better way of living and understanding their small place in the Cosmos.

People need to feel hope and a sense of purpose in their lives.

The  trees and bushes stand heavy with fruit and seed-heads, food for all, including the birds.

Why import thousands of tons of peanuts, coconuts and the like, when planting food trees for the birds as well us can do the job so much better?

Planting rather than buying can take us all onto a different level of living!

Developing independence through small steps like PLANTING food for the birds and ourselves, enables thinking and living outside of the present day model of wasted consumerism.

The change is waiting for us.

Posted in Autumn, Bealtaine Cottage, celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Country Living, Food, Gardens, Life, Lifestyle, Nature, Permaculture, Uncategorized

Ireland…Ridden with Debt and Blessed with Land

We are a country ridden with debt and blessed with land…and water…and a temperate climate.

Ireland is capable of producing a lot of food, not just meat and dairy, but fruit and vegetables of all kinds.

We could have a great wool industry!

We were famous for our Crystal from Waterford!

Irish people are hard-working and dedicated.

What is needed is courage, integrity and honesty in our political leaders.

We need political leaders with vision and confidence…

If only we had leadership…

I have cut back many of the Dogwoods in the upper gardens and have been busily replanting some of the better cuttings.

The entrance to the Fairy Dell is enveloped in the striking reds of Dogwoods.

These easy to grow [stick a wand in the earth] shrubs are incredibly valuable to me…the stems remain a vivid red all winter, I use them in Willow wreaths for vibrant colour and vase  arrangements in the cottage to brighten a dull day.

The birds will eat the juicy ripe berries and the bees will enjoy the delicate spring flowers on the old stems.

Another misty morning.

Cobwebs everywhere shining with tiny drops of dew.

I walked through the Fairy Dell to the sound of the Blackbird rustling about among the fallen leaves, searching for breakfast!

It wasn’t just the mountains that had disappeared, this morning, into the mist, but most of the land as well.

My garden had vanished this morning!

It’s strange because the air was so still and the bird calls seemed to echo in the mist.

I hope it’s like this at Samhain…so many preparations are under way, especially gathering in the apples and preparing them for the freezer.

Despite the warm and sunny days,  nights are cold  and lots of little creatures are seeking hibernation spots…

I have to keep the windows closed at night for fear of having to share this cottage with too many visitors!

Posted in Bealtaine Cottage, biodiversity, Current Affairs, Ecology, History, Inspiration, Ireland, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Smallholding, Trees, Woodland

National Tree Day Ireland and the Kindness of the Twitter Community!

The package from the USA could not have arrived at a better time…for Thursday the 11th of October is National Tree Day here in Ireland!

There are so many fabulous, caring people on Twitter, that it has become, for me, more than just a social media.

David, one of a fantastic group of people, answered my call for seeds to plant here at Bealtaine Cottage, with a box full of tree seeds…acorns, all different varieties!

The excitement here at the cottage was tangible as the post arrived and the package from America was opened.

Tara, from new York City, also sent me some wonderful Black Tomato seeds.

Lá na gCrann 2012
TREE DAY 2012 is a day for reminding everyone about the importance of trees. Ireland was once a much forested land, leading up to the 16th century.

At the end of the 16th century, Ireland was still a relatively wooded country, with one-eight of its surface area covered in forests, but this was soon to change and the continued decimation of the Irish forests continued unabated until the present day.

Ireland currently has about 11% tree cover, but if one takes into account the fact that about half of that, at least, is the horrid, tightly planted, plantations of Sitkha Spruce, then the actual coverage figure is considerably lower…possibly as little as 5%! We need to plant trees!

In Elizabethan times, the extent of the forests in the southwest of Ireland was almost legendary.

 The Irish forests were a considered to be an impediment to troop movements and a place of concealment for Irish rebels…not unlike the merry men of Sherwood Forest and their  use of the trees as protectors of their freedom, so much so that Sir John Perrot, Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Ireland, suggested that the woods be cut to ”deprive the rebels of their place of succour”.

English settlers started the clearance of the forests for their own security and prosperity.

Wood was a much traded commodity, as boats and houses were built using the precious resource.

Today has been a good tree planting day here at Bealtaine Smallholding, with two fine Sweet Chestnuts being planted…both gifts from well-wishers…Thank you Helen and Blair from Sligo!

As the Autumn moves through towards midwinter and into Spring, any fine day is good for planting trees, so there is much opportunity ahead of us.

This Thursday will be a day for planting trees and thinking about the importance of trees in our lives…for, without them, we have no life!

Posted in Current Affairs, Gaia, Inspiration, Permaculture, Personal, Spirituality, Thoughts, Uncategorized

A New Earth Rising

There is something in the air.

A sense of possible…anything is possible.

What is it that has so inspired people all across the globe in recent months to feel this sense of optimism?

In a time of global meltdown, wars, ecocide and crimes against humanity being committed by our once trusted governments, we are experiencing a wave of hope and optimism,  almost unparalleled than ever in our known history.

Humanity now, perhaps more than in any previous time, has a wish to create a better world.

If we understand energy and the fact that all we have ever been and will be is energy, then we have begun to understand the meaning of happiness…Love is the most transformative power in the universe.

What it will involve and just how it will manifest is unknown…but this much is true, it is already being experienced by people across the Earth.

We live in the time of Gaia.

A time of recognising and understanding that we live on a planet that is affected by every little thing we do, for it is all connected, as described by James Lovelock.

“Through Gaia theory, I see the Earth and the life it bears as a system, a system that has the capacity to regulate the temperature and the composition of the Earth’s surface and to keep it comfortable for living organisms.” (p.30)

James Lovelock The Ages of Gaia. A Biography of our Living Earth, first edition 1988

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There appears to be a shift in consciousness, as we move towards the dates set in the Mayan Calendar, though this may be only a small part of the entire experience.

This much is tangible and understood : we are in a state of immense change, one which can either be embraced, or denied.

We live in interesting times indeed!

Each one of us is as important as every other being on Earth.

Nothing sets us apart from others, except our behaviour towards the Earth and one another.

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Posted in Celtic Mythology, Celts, Country Living, Folklore, Garden, History, Inspiration, Ireland, Life, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Samhain, Spirituality, Vegan

A Way of Living in Circular Time

Hazel nuts ripen on small trees near the orchard at Bealtaine Cottage.

Many of the Hazel trees were planted at the beginning of the land conversion to Permaculture and some have been planted on a fairly continuous basis since, being eight years in total.

As a Vegan, nuts are important in my diet, and as Hazel Nuts are indigenous to Ireland, these would be the most compatible to the diet.

Nuts are easily added to food and form a tasty part of any home-made burgers and roasts.

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The Hazel is a small, deciduous tree and is native to Ireland.

They take up little space and are suitable for coppicing, as the wood can be used in different projects, especially for pea supports and woven fencing.

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Hazel has always been regarded as a ‘magical’ wood, with the stems used historically as ‘wands’.

William Butler Yeats used the Hazel as imagery in some of his poetry and writing.

“I went down to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head…cut and peeled a hazel wand…”

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The hazel tree in Celtic Mythology is associated with wisdom, intuition and creative energy.

It is no surprise then that the Hazel Wand has such magical connotations!

Permaculture…living in harmony, understanding our natural environment and helping it all to come together…a way of living, of looking at our world as our paradise of plenty.

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I have been trying to explain all this to a visitor today who came to see permaculture in action, but, sometimes it’s best not to go seeking, instead stopping to look…

After heavy rains here in the west of Ireland, the sky has cleared to reveal a beautiful sun rising in the East.

The colours of Autumn are like a technicolour display of Nature at her best.

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As the moon wanes in the evening sky and the earth cools, mists encroach on the morning air.

winter sunrise at Bealtaine Cottage permaculture gardens

The past nights have been clear and bright and very cold.

Even the waning moon has shone bright.

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The Celts respected the moon and rather than speak openly of it, alluded to it instead, calling it ‘gealach’, meaning ‘brightness’.

The Celtic calendar was based on the lunar cycles, in that a month began with the full moon.

The Celts believed in circular, not linear, time.

Maybe, just maybe, that is where we have gone astray…

Posted in Books, History, Inspiration, Permaculture, Spirituality, Thoughts

The Permaculture World According to William Blake

William Blake, born in 1757, was a wise man, a great poet, artist and seer.

According to William Butler Yeats, he was also of Irish stock, originally bearing the name I share with him, ‘O’Neill’.

The story goes that Williams’ father married Catherine Blake and took her name to evade the shame associated with a being in a debtor’s prison.

William adopted the name his father took, despite being the stepson of Catherine, but, I digress…

These two lines from Blake, memorised when a child at school, have helped shape my life and influenced my perception of the world…

“A Robin Redbreast in a Cage

Puts all Heaven in a Rage.”

This, for me, simplified the connection between Nature on this planet and the entire Cosmos/God/Cosmic Energy/Higher Power…whatever one connects with and understands.

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This intuitive understanding of right and wrong, of how to live in harmony with Nature rather than trying to control and dominate this magnificent, regenerative force, has guided me into Permaculture. The more planting one does, the more evident it becomes…the inter-connectedness of all life on this planet.

The world in which Blake lived was markedly different from what it is today.

His empathy with the sentient world was profound and inter-connective, something we could all learn from as a way of trying to live in harmony with the Earth, rather than the continual domination man seeks:

A dog starv’d at his master’s gate

Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misus’d upon the road

Calls to heaven for human blood.

Each outcry of the hunted hare

A fiber from the brain doth tear.

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From the poem “Auguries of Innocence.”

Planting for the bees is the next most important thing to growing food in my book!

Always trying to ensure a steady supply of food for the bees,  Michelmas Daisies spread into bigger clumps each year and bloom all the way through late August, all of September and well into October.

They seem to be happy just about anywhere as I have them growing in all parts of the garden.

The birds are happy to feast on the seed-heads and the bees will feast before that!

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When one thinks about, it is easy to understand the vital connection between both, for without the bees, we have no food!

William Blake understood that more than most, for he was attuned to the Earth, both physically and spiritually.

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Posted in Animals, Art, Autumn, Books, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Country Living, cows, Folklore, Garden, Inspiration, Ireland, Permaculture, Uncategorized

Suibhne, the Wild Man in the Forest

As the wild and vivid colours of autumn consume the landscape around me and the nights draw in, illuminated by a full moon, I have been reading 12th century Irish verse…my ancestors had a deep respect for the natural world as displayed in these extracts…

“Little antlered one, little belling one, melodious little bleater, sweet I think the lowing that you make in the glen.

Home-sickness for my little dwelling has come upon my mind, the calves in the plain, the deer on the moor.

Oak, bushy, leafy, you are high above trees; hazel-bush, little branchy one, coffer of hazel-nuts.

Alder, you are not spiteful, lovely is your colour, you are not prickly when you are in the gap.

Blackthorn, little thorny one, black little sloe-bush; water-cress, little green-topped one, on the brink of the blackbird’s well.

Saxifrage of the pathway, you are the sweetest of herbs; cress, very green one; plant where the strawberry grows.

Apple-tree, little apple-tree, violently everyone shakes you; rowan, little berried one, lovely is your bloom.

Bramble, little humped one, you do not grant fair terms; you do not cease tearing me till you are sated with blood.

Yew, little yew, you are conspicuous in graveyards; ivy, little ivy, you are familiar in the dark wood.

Holly, little shelterer, door against the wind; ash-tree, baneful, weapon in the hand of a warrior.

Birch, smooth, blessed, proud, melodious, lovely is each entangled branch at the top of your crest.

Aspen, as it trembles, from time to time I hear its lovely rustling, and think it is the foray…

Taken from: ‘Suibhne the Wild Man in the Forest’   

           Irish; author unknown; twelfth century