The Power of Ritual

Rising a little earlier, cleaning the ash-pan, lighting the stove and waiting, allows my morning to begin a sacred quietness.

Bealtaine Cottage ~ The Oldest, Independent, Permaculture Smallholding in Ireland! Conceived, Designed, Planted and Worked by One Woman!

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Ritual, everyday ritual, is incredibly powerful!

Examine the ritual of power, be that in the opening of parliament, royal celebrations, religious ceremony…and you begin to see the importance and power of ritual!

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So where does this fit into a sustainable life or a permaculture smallholding?

It is simple to understand in the context of power…

Since the rise of the Age of Technology, our real power as human beings has become diminished.

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We have become reliant on technology, without stopping to assess and filter the bits we really need and want.

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I was contemplating this as I lit the stove this morning, moving to and fro with paper and wood, collecting fuel from the barn, whilst casting my eyes over the pile of long thin trunks, standing erect ready to be sawn into logs. Autumn in the permaculture gardens of bealtainecottage.com 001

My early morning coffee is predicated on lighting the stove and doing small chores, as I…

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Obsession

The farm became her life and she slept for the next twenty years in a big brass bed in the barn…

Bealtaine Cottage ~ The Oldest, Independent, Permaculture Smallholding in Ireland! Conceived, Designed, Planted and Worked by One Woman!

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Morning light floods the kitchen.

The sky opens early revealing a mist over the valley.

It’s been very dry here in the west of Ireland, so morning mist adds a little dew to the plants and is very welcome.

bealtainecottage.com permaculture (15)I am busy writing my book, all about Bealtaine Cottage and how it grew from barren monoculture into Eden, with some permaculture magic!

As I write, I compare this ten year journey to that of my great grandmother, Mary Ann, who felt compelled to leave the comforts of a small town and re-invent her life, on a small farm, in the countryside around Omagh.

bealtainecottage.com permaculture (16)At the age of fifty four, during the great depression of the 1930’s, Mary Ann Baxter strode into a property auction being held in the town hall and bought, for cash, a small farm.

This swallowed up her entire life savings!

bealtainecottage.com permaculture (18)My great grandmother was a remarkable…

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Severe Weather and Climate Change

An incredible storm has raged all day long and continues into this dark, cold night.

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The wind has howled around the cottage, shaking the trees so fiercely that the ground has trembled!

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Thunder and lightning, hailstones rattling the windows and snow…this is the worst storm I have witnessed in over ten years at Bealtaine Cottage!

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The scary aspect of this biting cold, storm-ridden, night is that only two nights ago, it was positively warm; in fact the dramatic rise in temperature woke me up before dawn.

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As the weather becomes more and more wild and extreme, so everyday life is affected.

Even as I write this blog and upload photographs, the power has cut out twice, leaving me to start over…though some of the writing is automatically saved.

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It is past 9pm here in the cottage and the storm has not let up all day.

Still, I have made the most of the time, moving the beginnings of my Blackcurrant wine into demijohns, where it will bubble and work away in the coming months.

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The back of the cottage is a little more sheltered…indeed this storm is raging from the north of the country.

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Temperatures have plummet by 10 degrees over the past 48 hours.

Despite our best efforts to ignore it, climate change  is fast turning into the crisis of our present time…and looks likely to be a problem of growing enormity.

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Mother Earth has endured over two hundred years of industrial impacts, as well as an ever-intensifying human population, all demanding energy, food and an ever-increasing standard of living.

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On the day my mother was born, there were just over one billion people living on Planet Earth. Bealtaine Cottage homespun wool

On the day she died, this had increased almost sevenfold, to over seven billion!

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As the natural world is plundered, many species are in sharp decline.

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The sustainability crisis is second only to climate change, as the greatest threat of our times.

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I have kept diaries over the past ten years and have noted rare, extreme weather events become the norm!

This is not going away.

We have to face into this problem and start developing solutions.

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I write to encourage, help and inspire mindfulness for our beautiful world and have photographed and written over 870 blogs on the Bealtaine Cottage site, as well as over 110 videos on YouTube…all free from advertising!

You are very welcome and appreciated by leaving a comment, liking, sharing, or even leaving a small donation. Blessings X

Blessings

The Cottage in the Woods

Winter edges away slowly, with lighter mornings and longer days.

The Permaculture Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage have emerged this year into the Permaculture Woods.

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However, I’ve got to admit that I’ve been flagging recently!

A combination of the time of year, family commitments and basically just trying too hard to do too much!

The saying goes, “spreading yourself too thin on the ground”, or something like that…well, that’s me!

I’m done for!

I would love to take a few days off and lounge about in my Jim-Jams, but…well, you know me by now…!

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So, in keeping with the time of year I’ve been painting, cutting, tidying the land and planting.

As you can see here, the back wall of the cottage has been (almost) finished…though I’ve run out of paint and will have to colour match, as I mixed the paint from leftovers.

Still, an old cottage can get away with mismatches…shabby chic!

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The weather has been fairly mild and despite some snow earlier in the month, it’s not been too cold.

I spent some time cleaning up the steps, removing the willow fedge, as it became too shaded by overhanging trees to grow as it should and was dying off.

Clearing other parts of the land I came across yet more stone, so have tidied the edges of the steps with some dry stone walling.

This is a lovely habitat for beetles, snails and small mammals…adding to the immense biodiversity build up here over ten years.

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Some shrubs and bushes near the cottage are looking a bit unruly…these I shall neaten up before the spring is over.

Bealtaine now sits among trees and each year becomes more like the cottage in the woods.

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To be too tidy a gardener is to deny entry to your garden to many beneficial creatures, as well as food for the birds!

Here I have thrown some rotting logs in under the hedge, where all life in the vicinity will benefit. There may well be some mushrooms in the near future as well.

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The leaves of the Hypericum have kept green all winter.

I shall prune this a little to keep a shape in it, as some order near to the cottage looks pleasant.

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“…I hear the sounds of melting snow outside my window every night and with the first faint scent of spring, I remember life exists…”
John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

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“A tree can be tempted out of its winter dormancy by a few hours of southerly sun—the readiness to believe in spring is stronger than sleep or sanity.”
Amy Leach, Things That Are 

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Aquilegia has begun to grow…this is one of the first flowers of Spring and great for early rising bees.

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The all too tidy gardener will also miss these wonderful flowerings of Moss on small standing stones.

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And leaves that are busy creating woodland paths in a garden evolving fast into much welcome woodland.

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I keep the stove in the sitting room burning as I work outside, for it’s a welcoming and warm place to retreat to now and again.

Just to sit by the fire is relaxing.

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And one learns over the years to pace oneself…knowing when it’s time to down tools and go indoors…this I need to remember to do a little more!

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There’s a heap of work to get through before settling down for the evening.

And, as a gorgeous girl in a big dress once said, “Tomorrow is another day!”

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I write to encourage, help and inspire mindfulness for our beautiful world and have photographed and written over 870 blogs on the Bealtaine Cottage site, as well as over 110 videos on YouTube…all free from advertising!

If you wish to put a tip in the hat, just click below…it’s greatly appreciated, believe me!

Blessings

Rising to Imbolc

The morning in the garden is bitterly cold.

These are the days before Imbolc.

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We have endured the long sleep and are ready to waken to Imbolc…

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Magical days, filled to the brim with anticipation, a sense of urgency too, as the precious days of sleep and hibernation in the gardens comes to a close.

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As I walk around the gardens this morning, I become increasingly aware of short time left in which to prune and cut back, clear and prepare, the gardens for Spring and Summer.

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Ah, Summer, just the thought of Summer on this cold, white morning of late Winter, comforts the bones.

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The days of walking barefoot in the damp grass lie ahead of me.

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The promise of a warm Summer makes the cold of the day recoil.

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Imbolc heralds Spring here in the West of Ireland.

It is one of the four big Celtic celebrations in Ireland.

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Imbolc was also Christianized into Saint Brigid’s Day.

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Imbolc is a festival of purification, hence the “Spring Cleaning” and a celebration of the first signs of Spring.

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Walking along the paths that wind through the gardens, the colours of an all year round planting scheme are evident.

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Here and there are stacked reminders of work to be completed, in this case, wood to be taken up to the barn, to be cut and stacked for the next winter.

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As the snow melts on the upper hill of Ballyfermoyle, so the water flows through the ponds to be carried further into the mighty Shannon and beyond into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Coming round once more to Imbolc, reminds one of the eternal cycle of renewal and one we are all a part of, though less understood today as by our ancestors of past millennia.

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Willows, Birch and Dogwoods fill ground where once only the Rush held sway. This is the new cycle here of regeneration and renewal…a return to a fertile Earth.

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And, where clean water flows, so does life!

To the ancients peoples of this sacred isle, the water was life and honoured in such a way.

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The starkness of these remaining days are etched with beauty…a rare kind of ethereal beauty that is both proud and alone.

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In a garden so welcoming of the sunlight, for this all faces north, each tree receives these low rays with grace.

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The old name Imbolc occurs only in the very old literature, as many have forgotten it’s magic as the move towards modernity was embraced…but what is lost?

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The Ancient Ways have been suppressed by all invaders and religions, and much dogma of uniformity, without thread of meaning.

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For many in the western world this is now Candlemas in non-Gaelic speaking areas.

However there appears to be a revival of many traditions as people seek to understand their tribal ancestry and re-establish the threads of the tapestry to an older time.

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And so we rise to Imbolc, as our faces seek out the sun and count the lengthening days.

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We strain our necks to peep out onto sunsets, remarking on the time that’s in it.

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Rising, from our long darkness, to Imbolc.

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I write to encourage, help and inspire mindfulness for our beautiful world and have photographed and written over 1,000 blogs on the Bealtaine Cottage site, as well as over 110 videos on YouTube…all free from advertising!

Most of you are familiar with this Bealtaine Cottage website.

Bealtaine Cottage is free to all, as it has been for the past five years.  

With over 1,000 blogs and 4,000+ photographs, Bealtaine Cottage continues as a free to access website.

As a way of supporting the work of Bealtaine Cottage, I have developed a second website… Bealtaine Cottage Good Life.

Bealtaine Cottage Good Life is 12 euros per year for full access and allows me a small income, to keep doing what I love doing most…writing about Mother Earth and photographing her.

Blessings

And Then It Snowed…

Snow fell heavy on this Permaculture smallholding in the West of Ireland today and suddenly we were back in the midst of winter.

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The light changed, as the reflective quality of the snow worked it’s magic.

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“Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.”
Jean Webster

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For some childlike reason, it fills the heart with hope and delight, as though there is something else just waiting around the corner!

Walking over to the polytunnel, I felt a lightness in my step.

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Inside the tunnel there remained an early Spring, untouched by the snow and ice, with vegetables and herbs waiting to be harvested.

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“So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!”
John Greenleaf Whittier

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Clumps of green, like this native Sedge, rise up from the snow, providing lots of shelter and warmth for birds and small mammals, especially on these cold, late winter nights.

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Snow changes everything!

Even the light on the veranda, as the snow on the roof encloses the space.

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Meanwhile, indoors, Charlie is watched over by a curious fox…a present I received recently.

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All is brighter in here too as the reflected light illuminates a shadowy cottage.

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It is in consideration of the bird life all around Bealtaine Cottage that I deliberately keep the cats indoors, especially in the morning and early afternoon.

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It’s easy to encourage them to do this by simply feeding them a large meal and allowing them to doss at leisure!

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As the evening draws in, the real snow magic begins to manifest…

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Night time across a snow covered landscape emits a strange light.

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“A few feathery flakes are scattered widely through the air, and hover downward with uncertain flight, now almost alighting on the earth, now whirled again aloft into remote regions of the atmosphere.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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These are special evenings, when the urge to walk in a snow covered land is pressing.

No torch to light the way, for one can see for miles around.

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The low energy light from the cottage emits an otherworldly glow.

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Magic…

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Blessings

The Economy of Resilience

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During 2014, much of what we assumed to be reality was turned on it’s head.

The great recovery of the economy turned out to be a case of a great slump in China, the economic barometer of the western world.

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For, if we are not buying consumer goods, it reflects in China’s economic growth.

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It became apparent, early on in the year, that China had cut back on it’s imports of raw materials…as for the rest, it does not take a room full of economists to work it out!

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Through all of this, for my part at least, growth excelled here at Bealtaine Cottage.

 Mother Earth, now in full recovery in this little portal, happily gave of her best and settled into her annual rest.

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It was a year of proof.

Proof that resilience is our greatest ally!

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Resilience and the building of this great economy, is possible for all, through the application of basic Permaculture principles.

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To begin with, waste does not exist…everything has a value.

This cottage and three acres used to have a septic tank.

It now boasts a compost toilet.

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The thousand plus trees I planted are grateful for the waste that myself and visitors produce.

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In return to the economy of the cottage, the stove benefits from timber, my purse benefits from not having to pay a septic tank inspection charge and the soil is improved year on year.

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That, in a nutshell, is an example of applied Permaculture, shielding both myself and Mother Earth from the vagaries and demands of an economic model which is killing us all.

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We invented waste as part of the economic model we follow in the west…now fast encroaching on all other countries.

This was not how people lived before the 20th century.

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Read history…even the bed Shakespeare slept in formed part of the estate bequeathed in his will.

For that matter, his coat and garments also formed his estate!

In other words, nothing was considered to be waste!

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Building resilience into one’s life is creating revolution against a system we know to be destroying the future.

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For my part,  Vive La Revolution!

Permaculture Works…A Ten Year Transformation!

Just over ten years ago I bought a derelict cottage standing on three acres of wet, rush-infested, north-facing land.

This is how I transformed it, using only Permaculture and my own labour.

See for yourself and share the magic!

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Manifesting the Divine Feminine

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Year One…the pond and stream beds were dug and the water has flowed ever since!

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Looking out on a May evening...

Looking out on a May evening…

For the past fifteen or so years, Mother Earth has been communicating with us in a powerful and energetic way.

She wants us to plant her, nurture her and most of all recognise her for the Great Mother she is.

I heard her over ten years ago.

I write about her and photograph her magical ways every day, uploading to bealtainecottage.com several times a week, to be her voice and advocate.

The energy is quickening.

We live in wonderful times.

Renewal

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You may recall how I began clearing out “stuff” before the Midwinter.

Since then I have begun to enjoy the freedom of less and less stuff.

In keeping with this new sense of space and energy in and around the cottage, I have gone in seek of leftover paint, so as I could begin the task of painting and renewing as much of the cottage and gardens as possible.

The veranda wall of the cottage has not seen paint in several years, so a good wash down and paint was begun this afternoon.

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I scavenged two pots of paint and set about mixing them…I am happy with the result, a kind of peachy white.

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My energy has been renewed as I embarked on a plant-based diet a week ago.

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Washing the tunnel and clearing out the beds inside have been completed.

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The beds have been raked over and are ready to plant into during the weeks ahead.

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Another task undertaken this weekend was the cleaning out of the hen-house.

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They are enjoying masses of fresh oat straw!

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As the daylight faded and I packed the paint away until the morning, I began to see the lovely tones of the freshly painted wall.

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Blessings

Voices in the Mist

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The day has changed in a matter of hours.

Sunshine and mist blankets cover the mountain opposite Bealtaine Cottage.

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Then the mist grew in huge swathes, quickly covering the mountain.

The valley became still and silent…so silent that small noises and voices began to travel in echoes.

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I darted in and out of the cottage clutching my camera.

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I never really thought about a planting scheme here at Bealtaine, other than an urgency to plant trees, but it now seems that some sub-conscious force was at work, for there appears to be a plan…

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This garden has a magnificent backdrop, now framed by the trees I planted.

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Especially on a day like today.

The mist has moved quickly.

There is a very cold night ahead according to the weather.

I have chopped wood and filled the basket in the kitchen and one by the back door.

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The mountain has now disappeared.

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As it disappears, I walk around the side of the cottage and notice the increased colour in the hedgerow.

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The colour is rising in the humble Fuschia, grown from cuttings stuck into the ground.

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This reminds me to take lots of cuttings and continue this guerilla gardening in other parts of the land and out onto the roadway.

 I should love to see this beautiful shrub growing as it does here in the west of Ireland…wild!

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I see the Birch trees are hanging onto their decorations…DSC00594

and behind me, voices are calling in the mist.

With Love

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The hands of the clock move forward, inexorably towards the first day of the New year.

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I sit in the quiet, listening to the low singing of the kettle on the range, looking forward to toasting this New Year with a cup of tea.

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Few people admit to being quietly on their own.

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It seems that the flurry of activity around this celebration is something of a competition.

The cities of the world attempting to out do one another in firework displays.

Sales of alcohol being added into the GDP figures…and on and on!

The fact is that there are many more people like myself than any of the media would care to admit…this year especially!

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Many people are suffering financial hardship and simply cannot afford to go out so soon after the Christmas festivities.

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So, in this time of tranquillity here at Bealtaine Cottage, let me take the opportunity to thank all of you wonderful souls who have visited this sacred little piece of Mother Earth, sent letters, posted presents, made donations, took the time to write some truly beautiful comments and stayed on this journey with me through 2014.

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I feel so blessed by you all and in return you have my heartfelt blessings.

May the days ahead be filled with joy and love, peace and compassion, for each and every one of you.

With love and deep gratitude from Colette at Bealtaine Cottage, West Ireland.