The First Ramble of 2020 Through The Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage

ENWinEYWwAA0d8oHere we are at the start of another year, relishing the thought of Spring and the return of the light as we rise towards Imbolc, the first of the seasonal celebrations in the the Celtic calendar.

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Walking up the driveway with Jack this morning I noticed the tips of the Daffodils pushing through the soft, wet earth, though it will be another six or seven weeks before the show of yellow trumpets that will stand to attention on either side of the lane, a sure sign that Spring really is here, despite the occasional slide back into the frosty arms of Winter!

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The love affair with white mornings, clear skies and bejewelled skeletons of last Summer’s foliage will be at an end. Mornings will be filled with birdsong and the young golden light of the sun as it rises ever steadily into the midday sky.

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I have been very busy, hard at work with multiple chores across the woodland gardens and in the cottage. Part of this work involved cleaning out a small area of the shed opposite the veranda. To my surprise and delight I came across some of my artwork from some years back.

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I love to work in watercolour…this was an old cat of mine named Irusan, after the Son of the King of the Cats from Celtic folklore.

Irusan went to stay with my eldest daughter for a while when I was moving to Ireland and she subsequently refused to give him back!

He lived for over seventeen years, passing into the Otherworld last Summer and returning to the ancestral home of Bealtaine Cottage.

Irusan was the most Otherworldly, magical and enchanting cat I have ever known! ENgW86hXUAArN-k

Clearing weeds and grass from the gravel has been an ongoing arduous task throughout the winter…it continues with good results! DSC03104

As does my growing fascination with naturally bonsai trees I rescue from roadside edges and woodland walks. It’s funny how new interests develop as restrictions are imposed, such as the lack of space for planting trees.DSC03102

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Since my family treated me to this beautiful pot, along with bare root trees and bulbs, I have been eyeing up other garden items at Ardcarne, my local garden centre…watch this space!DSC03101

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Viburnum tinus in flower…I have been informed by my eldest daughter Cara, who is something of a horticultural expert, that this makes a wonderful informal hedge. The remains of the Yule tree now supports it from falling out over the path.DSC03096

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It will be interesting to see the results of my heavy pruning in the Apple orchard…more to do!

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Rhubarb pushing up in sheltered areas of the gardens.DSC03089

A tangle of branches in part of the Apple Orchard, waiting to be pruned!DSC03088

The tunnel still standing in this it’s sixteenth year! Same plastic!

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Just look at that depth of leaf fall covering and fertilising the earth as it makes new soil!

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Looking North East, towards Slieve Anierin.

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The re-birthed Rowan tree through the great Ash overlooking the Fairy Wood.

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Giant moss covered stones on the bank above the Fairy Wood.

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I have purchased and planted seven Mahonia now in an effort to feed any early-waking bees…there are always a few!

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My comPOOst

bins…the best food for plants that was never invented, but part of an incredible design by Mother Earth to enable us to feed Her plants, which, in turn give us life!

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What to do with a three-legged chair?

Plonk it into the shrubbery where  it won’t be sat upon and makes an interesting garden ornament!

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Some of my baby trees…beloved babies!

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New additions…I shall die in debt! My final ambition!

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Jack sees much more than any of us ever will…

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Goddess Blessings to you all XXX Colette and Jack

The Cave of The Cats…a Samhain Journey.

Today is the day after my birthday. The morning is clear and sunny, a brightness fills the air. The woodland gardens are filled with birds eagerly seeking breakfast after a long cold night…and a Sparrow Hawk is hunting for his breakfast too.

He sits atop the bird table, very still, eyeing up the landscape. The small birds have felt his presence and flown! He may have to hunt further afield this cold morning for his breakfast!

To see such a hunting bird visit one’s garden is to witness the re-balancing of Nature in a once impoverished landscape. A very fitting celebration of my birthday, for my heart’s desire was to help Her become restored, vital and once more, abundant!

Rich woodland now surrounds the cottage…a mere few steps from the front door.

Those who talk about leaving Nature to regenerate on Her own in an impoverished landscape know little of the struggles She faces in a world where we have taken everything from Her and then tell Her to get on with it! Fifteen years of careful nurture, love and planting, planting, planting has brought Her back to healthy abundance…now She regenerates!

In the early days of the Bealtaine Project I cut the rushes, millions of rushes…and kept the land clear for my planting, so as the young trees would not be strangled by the monoculture mess of rushes left behind after decades of meat raising.

Yesterday, the day marking my 64th year with Mother Earth, I visited one of the most sacred sites in all of Ireland, Rathcroghan and Oweynagat, The Cave of the Cats…the portal into the Otherworld. Unlike all other cultures, the Celts believed we could cross back and forth to the Otherworld. It was not to be feared, but existed parallel to our own world.

This is from Wikipedia:

Rathcroghan (IrishRáth Cruachan, meaning “fort of Cruachan”) is a complex of archaeological sites near Tulsk in County Roscommon, Ireland. It is identified as the site of Cruachan, the traditional capital of the Connachta, the prehistoric and early historic rulers of the western territory. The Rathcroghan Complex (Crúachan Aí) is a unique archaeological landscape with many references found in early Irish medieval manuscripts.

Located on the plains of Connacht (Mag nAí/Machaire Connacht), Rathcroghan is one of the six Royal Sites of Ireland. This landscape which extends over six square kilometres, consists of 240 plus archaeological sites, sixty of which are protected national monuments.

These monuments range from the Neolithic (4000 – 2500 BC), through the Bronze (2500 – 500 BC) and Iron Age (500 BC – 400 AD), to the early medieval period and beyond. These monuments include burial mounds, ringforts and medieval field boundaries amongst others. The most fascinating of these are the multi period Rathcroghan Mound, the mysterious cave of Oweynagat, the Mucklaghs – a spectacular set of linear earthworks, as well as the Carnsmedieval complex.

There are many interesting historic references to Rathcroghan (Ráth Crúachan) recorded in early medieval manuscripts, including the 12th century Lebor na hUidre. Rathcroghan is recorded as the location of one of the great fairs of Ireland, as well as being one of the island’s three great heathen cemeteries. It is also the location for the beginning and end of a national epic tale – an Táin Bó Cúailnge, and the royal seat of Medb (Maeve), Connacht’s Warrior Queen.

Rathcroghan is said to provide entrance to the Otherworld, via Oweynagat (the Cave of the Cats). Sadly, the newly arrived Christians name-called this sacred site, “The Gates of Hell,’ despite the fact that Hell was a new concept to the Celts! The cave is the starting point for the ancient festival of Samhain, as well as being described as the “fit abode” of the Morrigan, a Celtic Goddess of pre-Christian Ireland.

I want to say a big “Thanks and Blessings!” to all who sent me good wishes and birthday presents!

I want to thank all of you who have supported me through Patreon during the past year…Bless you!

Also those of you who donate apart from Patreon…bless you!

Blessings to those who support the Bealtaine Cottage Press through the purchase of a book, map or calendar!

Samhain Blessings to you all

XXX

Colette and Jack

A Glimpse into Ancient Celtic Ireland

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Ruins of Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland.

Dunluce Castle is a now-ruined medieval site in Northern Ireland, the seat of Clan McDonnell.  This is also a place where an early Irish fort once stood.

The first historical recording of the people called the Celts was in Ancient Greece around 700 BC.

dsc09711Moving from East and Central Europe, the Celts first arrived in Ireland about 500 BC.

dsc07886The story of their arrival is intermingled with that of the coming of the Tuatha de Danaan, a mythical tribe of the Goddess Danu.

dsc02192With the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century AD, written records then observe that the Celtic language was being spoken all over the island of Ireland.

fullsizeoutput_10ffHowever, the Celtic Ogham script was used in Ireland from the fourth century AD to the eighth century AD.

DSC02683The script consisted of strokes or notches cut along the edge of a standing stone. DSC02695Therefore, Ogham is seen as being the first written records of life in Ancient Ireland.

ueK2sRvBQviqybeGN4wQYQ_thumb_2019The written word was not, however, much required in Celtic life, as the hierarchy placed the storyteller high in importance within the tribe.

1wRqeJZ5TweBo3g+436eiw_thumb_202cWithin this is also placed the Druid, whose powers of recall, knowledge and tribal history, as well as poetry and lore, was central to the wellbeing and social standing of the tribe or clan.

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In this, the Celts loved storytelling. Before they learned to write, the Celts passed on their stories from one generation to another. Here is my grandfather, Hugh O’Neill of Tyrone, who was both a wonderfully gifted storyteller and musician. My elder brothers, Phelim and Sean are with him by the fireside in Omagh, County Tyrone.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1d79The Celts built large earthen banks or stone walls around their farms to protect themselves and their animals.

DSC02574These walls were called raths or duns.

IMG_8878Many place names in Ireland include the word rath or dun.

fullsizeoutput_111cExamples such as Rathcormac and Dunloe come to mind…try looking at a map of Ireland and see how many you can pick out!

fullsizeoutput_1126Many of the fortified homes were enlarged to become know as Hillforts, offering more protection and domination of the landscape. Oftentimes these sites were used later to build castles and larger settlements.

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Ireland is covered with the memories of our ancient tribes and people.<

Preparing

The summer is fading into autumn, one can feel it in the air. The full force of Lughnasadh dominates the mornings and evenings, cool and silvery, temperature and light heading the change, now no longer subtle.

Last year…

Cleaning the lower pond on a fine day in early October was, as always, part of preparing for yet another change, that of Lughnasadh into Samhain. Once more, the reflective light of water is welcomed into a darkening environment, as the days contract and clear night skies become as important as daylight, especially when illuminated with a full moon.

Rowan berries on a young tree in the Fairy Wood.

Angelica turns to seed preparing for the next chance to grow and bloom!

Raku

The beautiful vase purchased in Rathcormack Market, created from the earth and displaying a wonderful otherworldly kind of beauty. This pottery is called “Raku,” and originates in Japan. The hedgerow bouquet, filled with many magical herbs and flowers, was freely picked as I walked Jack.

Ancient Sites

I have been exploring many ancient sites in North West Ireland, taking photographs for my upcoming book. Many are to be found near old monastic sites, confirming what I always thought was the specific energy found in these locations and therefore appealing to the more contemporary religion.

Magical Stones

The stones hold the energy in many of these sites and can relay the stories if one is prepared to listen…

Rowan Tree in the Fairy Wood

It’s not just the stones that hold onto the stories and act as connections to the Otherworld, trees resonate with Earth magic too and can take the pulse of the land. One learns to read these and tune into what lies beneath and around!

Fennel adds scent, shape and colour to the sitting room. I have brought the old coffee table in from the lodge veranda for a cosier nest for the months ahead.

A typical meal of mixed, seasonal vegetables, cooked with spices and added seeds/nuts, topped with yeast flakes. I love these mixed bowl type meals as cooking this way allows me to use what I have in the fridge and pantry rather than endlessly shopping and following recipes!

In Honour of Lyra McKee

I left Bealtaine Cottage this morning to travel to Derry, a city in Northern Ireland I last visited when my mother was ill and in hospital there.
Poignant memories, but brightened and lightened by the glorious sunshine of the morning, as I drove alongside Upper and Lower Lough Erne and across Boa Island…do check them out on Google maps if you get the chance for the scenery is simply stunning!

I am in Derry for the Vegan Festival and will be happy to report all to you on my return home. As you can see from the photos, home is very much in full bloom!

Driving into Northern Ireland from the west of Ireland brings back memories of my youth, much of which involved “the troubles,” as they are referred to…bombings, killings and the constant uncertainty of war.

My father was a Civil Rights leader and our tiny home was a hub for much social and political activity.

I learned over the course of my growing up in Omagh that the world was not fair and equality did not exist in social terms…it had to occupy one’s being instead, like an essential component of one’s own integrity.

My moral backbone grew strong in this respect, as I ventured into the world.

My love of Nature stemmed from this time also. Born at home, delivered by my father into a tiny room where he had himself been born, was a singular honour. I was named Frances after my father, whose name was Phelim Francis O’Neill. The tiny terraced house had only a small concrete yard enclosed by a tall brick wall…there was no garden, or indeed gardens in the area. The grey streets made up a larger area known as “Gallows Hill,” …you can guess what used to happen there in days of old!

So, driving into this part of Northern Ireland brings back memories, none of which are particularly sad. That said, this journey allows me the space and small time to look back over my shoulder and understand why I am this woman and what evolved in me to bring me to where I now find myself. The past is indeed a foreign country, as L.P. Hartley wrote:

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” So runs the famous first line of L.P. Hartley’s novel, “The Go-Between.”

“But men still shoot each other, don’t they?”

Lyra Catherine McKee was a journalist from Northern Ireland who wrote for several publications about the consequences of the Troubles.

She also served as an editor for Mediagazer, a news aggregator website.

On 18 April 2019, McKee was fatally shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry.

My journey today has helped me understand who I am…and why I plant trees and tend Mother Earth.

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In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment.

— MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

When I return home to Bealtaine Cottage, I will plant a tree in honour of Lyra, in hope the tragedy of her death will be the last of so, so many acts of senseless violence and destruction.

A Home for the Jackdaws

The Jackdaws have up residence in the unused chimney.

A beautiful pair of Jackdaws…here is the male keeping watch, waiting for the female to put the twig, carefully carried to the cave, into place in the nest. He will alert her to my presence!

He’s just spotted me! Now there followed a flapping of wings as both took off together into the cold, clear morning sky. I don’t object to their presence…let all life find sanctuary here at Bealtaine Cottage.
Yes indeed, it is very cold, with a deep cap of snow on Slieve Anierin to prove it.

Blossom on the Blackthorn is abundant this year…the Wild Bees are in their nectar Heaven, with a promise of Sloes to follow in Autumn.
The tunnel is evolving as my own sanctuary, where I can sit and observe the burgeoning life all around me. A place of silent retreat and mindfulness.
The days of clearing up the compost and pots area are almost at an end. The new compost area is now where the hundreds of pots used to be. The compost to the left will be distributed around the gardens where it is needed.
I intend planting out the old compost area with shrubs, to provide both protection from the east winds and colour to lighten the heart!

There remains much work to be done here in the gardens over the coming days and weeks. It is essential I get on with it! I shall leave you with the rest of the photographs I took this morning as I walked around the gardens.

Apple blossom ready to break out.
Blackcurrant blossom near to opening.

Heart Awakening…

Heart Awakening at Equinox 2019

Spring is here…once the Ribes are in full bloom around the cottage, the Bees are ready to make an appearance.

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.” 
― John O’Donohue

from: A Little Book of Celtic Wisdom

Heart Awakening Podcast (audio)


Heart-Awakening…recorded in November 2016 at Bealtaine Cottage.

We approach the Equinox and the promise of longer days and shorter nights…the dark days are over.

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An Irish Cottage Garden and Homestead in Spring

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The promise of peaches growing outdoors in the west of Ireland, another Bealtaine Cottage first! Blossom on these home grown trees, grown from seed, is looking good. So far, with only the first month behind us, this has been a remarkable Spring!

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New Bird Boxes have been added to the rich habitat, now in its fifteenth year on these three acres.

IMG_1967The interior of the tunnel has been remodelled  to create a sanctuary in which to enjoy being in the garden, even in very wet weather!

IMG_1678Sanctuaries are much needed in today’s world!

IMG_1965The plastic has been washed inside and out, ready for its fourteenth year!

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IMG_1963The area around the tunnel, which includes compost heaps and potting corner, is now tidy.

IMG_1961Crocosmia is growing into fine clumps of lime green foliage.

IMG_1959Rhubarb doesn’t need forcing in the mild climate enjoyed here in the west of Ireland. IMG_1960Beds have been well mulched and Rhubarb banked up with enriched compost.

IMG_1954Work in the garden never stops, because Mother Earth never sleeps.

Sweet Peas have successfully germinated outdoors in plastic buckets. Many of you have been following this experiment.

IMG_1953IMG_1952There are lots more seeds germinating in this way and I expect them to be stronger and hardier for their experience being outdoors, even through the recent snow!

IMG_1949In between the outdoors work, clothes are hand-washed and hung out to dry in the wind and sporadic sunshine.

IMG_1948IMG_1947Potatoes are arranged to chit, as pots are brought together and prepared for potato planting.

IMG_1955In a home without television, reading is the great entertainment…my book of the moment is all about the incredible life of Vita Sackville-West…a rollicking good read in the form of a wonderful biography by Victoria Glendinning.

IMG_1940And, as always, whenever the weather allows, the back door is thrown open to welcome in the day that’s in it!

Books, Map, Calendar and Bumper Sticker selection…

Bealtaine Cottage Press: 

https://bealtainecottage.com/bealtaine-cottage-publications-books-and-maps/

February in the Goddess Permaculture Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage, Ireland.

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Work has continued unabated all this week. I managed to get a load of cardboard to begin mulching the problem bed over by the Lughnasadh Garden.

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Here I have laid the aboard and mulched with chipping from the garden shredder and laid another layer of cardboard.

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The progress is fairly rapid, with the exception that all the chipping come from the gardens, so pruning and shredding has to happen in conjunction with the mulching…and that takes quite some time!

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These are the magnificent red dogwoods that I am pruning at the moment…providing lots of mulch.

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The shredder is electric, second hand and the cheapest one on the market. It serves me well, but capacity is limited!

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The Robin keeps me and Jack company as I work.

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All the Laurel pruned last week is now laid as weed-suppressant mulch, as well as small mammal habitat. Goddess permaculture is about ALL LIFE!

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This week has been both cold and wet, so the occasional sunshine is worth photographing…I keep my camera with me as much as possible.

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The days are getting longer, with dark drawing down around 5.30pm.

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The sap is rising in the plants, developing a depth of lovely colour!

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Work in the tunnel continues, as I move from task to task in order to remain enthused with energy…small results are energising!

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I walked down through the gardens this morning and took these photographs.

IMG_1541It was delightful to see the first catkins on the willow.

IMG_1547IMG_1552Heavy rain fell last night, so the pond was gushing!

IMG_1554IMG_1556IMG_1557Back up to the cottage to write this blog and upload some of the photographs. I have heaps more that I may put on a slideshow on YouTube.

Thank you for your continuing support…I will continue to happily share freely.

Blessings X Colette