The rain taps on the cottage roof as the Eve of Bealtaine draws in.
All the dry, warm weather is ended abruptly with heavy, rhythmic rain.
This Summer’s Eve will be freshened with Atlantic rain and the dry earth will release scents of green…yes, indeed, colour has a scent!
Bealtaine is the oldest festival in all of Europe and was historically celebrated on the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath.
This ancient ceremonial hill was, and remains, a sacred place and one of the most significant places of ancient ritual in all of Ireland.
This was the home of the Goddess Eriu…a place of High Kings and Tribes, a gathering place, where laws were passed and old allegiance re-newed!
Bealtaine“Beacon-fires lit upon its summit could be seen over a quarter of Ireland, and in most directions the hills upon the horizons could relay the message of the beacon as far as the sea-coast. The claim of Uisneach to be the centre of Ireland is thus quite justifiable, even though it may not be mathematically accurate.”[Macalister]
In Irish mythology, the beginning of the summer and the bright half of the year started with the Fire Festival at Bealtaine.
May Summer be long and joyful for you, with a great harvest all the way through.
Small farms in Ireland are in a steady decline and have been for several decades now.
In fact farming is now referred to as an “industry”…a most illuminating use of language!
The pressure on small farmers to produce more and more, (mostly meat), is driving many off the land, as they find it difficult to compete with the bigger landowners and thus meat growers!
The countryside is fast losing vital habitat, as hedgerows are pulled out, trees felled and field size increased.
There is a government initiative behind this, of course…”Food Harvest 2020!”
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is Simon Coveney TD.
Minister Coveney held a meeting on the 17th of April.
Invitations were issued to key stakeholders, including farm organisations, beef processors and relevant state agencies to a round table discussion on the future development of the Beef Sector, as it is referred to!
Participants at this meeting were invited to discuss the government initiative, Food Harvest 2020.
This scheme was introduced by the Irish government to increase production of beef! (Ironic naming it “Food Harvest 2020!)
Now, read this statement from the Minister of Agriculture…using language of industry, markets and sport!
Commenting today on the initiative, Minister Coveney said
“By some measures the beef sector is Ireland’s biggest indigenous industry, involving more than 100,000 farm families, and 8,000 jobs in processing, sales and marketing, with exports valued of more than €2 billion in 2013. Food Harvest 2020 set an initial target of a 20% increase in the value of output for the beef sector. The target for beef exports has already been exceeded.
The time is now right to sit down with key stakeholders in the sector, to consider the strategic approach needed to support its development, using the best available market intelligence, and the newest technology and research to improve performance at all levels of the supply chain. The beef sector makes a vital contribution to Irish agri food and to employment and the economy generally. I am convinced that with the right strategic approach and positive collaboration from all of the players, the beef sector in Ireland has a bright future.”
The hens have settled into their new home and are all laying.
Happy clucks and soft singing emanates out from the hen house.
The secure enclosure promises to keep the Fox family away…for I have lost too many of my lovely hens to Mr and Mrs Fox. Inside, the house is spacious and comfortable, with an upstairs and five windows in total!
The system is similar to the one I used in London for over a decade.
It is known as a deep litter system, using lots of straw.
The dirty straw is then used in the gardens as a mega-mulch!The deep litter system allows the girls foraging in a limited space and I collect greens for them on days when they are stay at home.
Days when I am in the garden, the girls are allowed out under my watchful eye!
The mulching continues unabated, as the grass paths are mowed…grass clippings are piled onto cardboard as a weed suppressant, allowing newly planted trees to get a footing!
This is the system I have used for ten years and all the fruit trees are producing well.
Honesty is in full bloom now and being enjoyed by the bees.
Most of the early bees are bumble bees and are most prolific here at Bealtaine Cottage, where succession planting keeps all visitors fed from February through to the end of November.
The painted stone Cockerel stands guard by the front door of the cottage.
Newly mown paths allows everything alongside to look lush!
The Cherry tree, grown from seed, stands covered in blossom, with the promise of lots of Cherries, some high for the birds and some low for me!
The Bealtaine Feast has begun!
Seedlings are flourishing in the late Spring sunshine.
The economic crisis, that became evident to all in October 2008, has never really been discussed in the mainstream media. Much of what could, and should, have been put in place by national governments, to ameliorate the dreadful effects of this crisis, have been blatantly air-brushed from the media and political debate!
We continue to be sold the illusion of full employment for all.
As direct fallout from the media hype around this lie, many people are feeling inadequate and hopeless, believing it to be their fault that they are job-less.
The media has demonized the unemployed and disabled, citing examples of welfare abuse, whilst ignoring the very real struggles many good people face in their everyday lives!
Governments have introduced all kinds of hoops and hurdles, that intimidate those seeking employment, into a state of hopelessness and despair.
Leadership, has and continues to, fail us!
Governments are aware that carbon reductions in relation to Climate Change cannot facilitate Economic Growth in the present paradigm, but resist any debate or discussion on this!
Government GDP figures do not take into consideration any guide to National Well-being, including health, food, clean air, clean water etc.
Fracking is part of GDP for example, as that produces a commodity to be sold, but look at the utter shambles it leaves in its’ wake, for local people to have to deal with!
Poisoned water, devastated land, sick children…the list goes on!
We are on-board a rudder-less ship with a drunk Captain and crew…time to lower the life-boats and row towards resilience, community and sustainable living!
When this ship goes down it will take everyone on board with it!
The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was started at the beginning of World war two, in Britain,
The people of Britain were urged to use any spare land to grow vegetables.
Victory gardens were planted everywhere…and I mean everywhere!
All land was considered viable for planting, including gardens, lawns, parks, golf clubs and all public spaces even in the City of London, around the Tower of London, for example!
During the height of the war, when food was rationed through scarcity, there were 3.5 million allotments in Britain, producing over a million tonnes of vegetables and it was estimated that in 1944 British gardeners produced between 2 and 3 million tons of food overall!
People were encouraged to keep small livestock and ‘Pig Clubs’ were formed as a way of best utilizing leftovers to feed the pigs.
Hens and Ducks were kept for their valuable eggs.
The children growing up through this period of time were the healthiest ever reared in Britain.
My mother was born and raised during this time and lived a remarkably long and healthy life!
So, now we are all in a state of financial hardship and unemployment, I have one simple question to pose.
Why cannot our governments introduce a similar campaign?
Living in a time when the cost of food is rising day on day, it might be time to re-think the lawn! This is what Bill Mollison, one of the founders of the Permaculture movement has to say on the subject:
“. . . every society that grows extensive lawns could produce all its food on the same area, using the same resources, and . . . world famine could be totally relieved if we devoted the same resources of lawn culture to food culture in poor areas. These facts are before us. Thus, we can look at lawns, like double garages and large guard dogs, [and Humvees and SUVs] as a badge of willful waste, conspicuous consumption, and lack of care for the earth or its people.Most lawns are purely cosmetic in function. Thus, affluent societies have, all unnoticed, developed an agriculture which produces a polluted waste product, in the presence of famine and erosion elsewhere, and the threat of water shortages at home.
The lawn has become the curse of modern town landscapes as sugar cane is the curse of the lowland coastal tropics, and cattle the curse of the semi-arid and arid rangelands…
Over the past few days I have been busy converting this little shed into a new hen house and run…food to swap and share…fresh eggs! it is going to be a simple enough barter, swapping a sack of logs for nine eggs. Most logs are traded at 3.50 a sack, so that’s a fair swap!
That makes a good swap as eggs are getting more expensive by the day and the logs will be delivered to my door! I just have to ensure that the hen house and run are secure against Mr ans Mrs Fox and family!
As Spring moves across the land, a drying wind is working its magic on the earth. The greening is under-way.
The view from the sitting room window is being filled in like a ‘Painting By Numbers,’ canvas. Ash trees are the last to get their leaves and so stand proud in all their silver glory against temperamental Spring skies.
This is the beautiful Field Maple to the front of the cottage.
Continuing my lifelong passion for trees…this is a wall tile I made from clay…complete with tree, a fairy tree.
The lone Fairy Thorn one often sees growing in the middle of fields here in Ireland served as my inspiration. They are often windswept and leaning away from the west.
This sits upon the dresser in the kitchen…a time when preserves were sold in stoneware jars. All containers were re-cycled, in that they were re-used…even milk bottles! Lemonade bottles had a money deposit attached to them and children would collect them up to return to the shop, as a way of earning pocket money!
Even cream came in little stoneware jars like this, as it kept cool in the pantry in the days before every home had a fridge!
This is not colour enhanced, but the vivid colours between storms here in the west of Ireland!
The buds are still thickening, yet the life is visible in the stems, sky and emerging green…isn’t it simply wonderful to be able to witness the Spring as it progresses, slowly, tentatively through the landscape?
This is the skyline above the Arigna Mountains, with a Rainbow, flopped over the ridge of the hill!
I watched this from the window, then rushed out with camera in hand to snap the moment!
I feel blessed to be a part of the Spring, waking earlier, walking for longer and working in the tunnel in my dressing gown!
Showing some wonderful garden visitors around over the weekend, reminded me of the reasons why I write and talk about Permaculture and the simple way of life…it lifts my heart to be a part of it!
As we walked the land and into the Fairy Wood, the sight of all this bright green Spurge ignited a passion for woodland in us all.
The Celandines are so bright and golden as to seem unreal…but that is the wonder of Nature, Mother Earth…too beautiful!
There is work to be done too, but all to the beat of the weather…weather-proofing all the wood around the cottage.
Lavender is the colour, soft on the eye, but tough and resilient!
Excess donations to the website renewal were used to pay for the wood preservative…so bless you one and all, Friends of Bealtaine XXX
My right arm hurts from all the painting, but it was in desperate need!
The heavy rain we get in Ireland can ruin buildings if they are not looked after!
I watched this small slug acrobat his way onto the potting table in the tunnel…on a long thin thread, like a spider!
So, that’s how they do it!
Geranium is coming into leaf and exploding green under the apple trees…a good companion plant for keeping weeds at bay!
Bumble bees are in busy flight all across the gardens.
The light grows in intensity, day on day, fading into the west way after nine o’clock in the evening.
On a clear day, the heat can be quite intense…
…as the sun continues its ascent towards Midsummer.
As long as the Earth can make a spring every year, I can. As long as the Earth can flower and produce nurturing fruit, I can, because I’m the Earth. I won’t give up until the Earth gives up. Alice Walker
I’m writing this between lighting the stove, going in and out to the barn chopping wood and getting my breakfast together.
Much of the wood I save and stack in the barn is collected from the ground beneath trees after a storm…it’s amazing how much timber for the stove can be foraged in this way.
I’m so delighted with this lovely gift from friends…
Thank you my friends Nick and Danielle for this funky new birdbox, created by Nick from driftwood!
Steps have been taken to avoid the one big bill, from the one mains service, coming into the cottage…electricity!
This is a Pay-As-You-Go-Meter, that also monitors usage and allows one more control over the utility.
I have managed to keep this week’s usage to just under ten euros!
I would recommend this as a way of taking more responsibility for one’s little bit of Earth.
It was free to install!
I’m weather-proofing all the wood around the cottage…with a selection of colours, some donated, some bought and mixed with leftovers, so Bealtaine Cottage will take on a different, more interesting hue!
Lavender is the colour of the day…with blue here and there.
One of the great things about cottage life is the simplicity of design…if it’s made from natural materials, then it doesn’t look out of place.
I love colour!
It seems a natural decorating choice for cottage living…one lovely eclectic mix of whatever it is one scavenges!
Blossom is out on the Ornamental Plum…
The sickly little Peach tree in the tunnel shows blossom for the first time ever…it has taken me four years to nurse this little gem back to life.
It was rescued from the rubbish skip at Lidl, where it had been dumped after being snapped in half.
This is a new bed I wanted to share with you…it’s another one of my experiments here at bealtaine Cottage.
The tyres are protecting the bed from the East and North , allowing the solar energy to be kept in the bed.
As the land is on a north-facing slope, any rain runs off the tyres downhill towards the north, thus leaving the bed clear from any run-off.
The tyres are well-weathered and already covered with mould.
This was a compost heap from last year.
I shall keep you updated as the growing season progresses.
And finally, a reminder of the thin soil that made up this land ten years ago…this is how close the bedrock is to the surface in many places all over the land here.
Tree-planting here has ensured a future unrealized before now…everything is possible! I cannot stress enough the importance of a Nursery Bed like the one seen here…grow, grow, grow! Then plant, plant plant!
“Husband the earth.
her from greed and violence.
humbly, plant trees, grow flowers and clothe her
Respect all her creatures.
natural laws and the universe which cradles her.
Above all, heartily worship the Source of All that is.
This world needs secret heroes!
Be brave, speak the truth, heal the sick, make peace.
Be strong, serve patiently, love generously, live simply.
Enjoy fellowship, eat and drink modestly, celebrate the festivals.
Breathe deeply, sing and make music, walk often, cycle and recycle.
Be thrifty, prefer cashflow to possession, give good measure.
Let your work be your prayer.
Put on the whole armour of light!
Unearth the beauty in everything.
Inhale the Spirit of Goodness.
Kindle kindness, especially toward yourself, embracing the sweet silence of your own soul.
Accept what you are and — while you have breath — give thanks.” ~John Rogers