Ireland is the richest source of Celtic myths and legends.
Down through the Ages, Ireland remained remote and cut off from mainland Europe, holding onto its rich folklore and spirituality.
It’s peoples worshipped all aspects of the natural world in which they recognised the Divine, in much the same way as I do here at Bealtaine Cottage.
The reason for the wealth of myth and legend that pervades Ireland, today and it’s people lies not just from its isolation from mainland Europe for much of its history.
Ireland remained free from pressures exerted by other cultures such as the Roman Empire.
So much so, that the great writer, John B. Keane referred to his people as having only a “thin veneer of Christianity…” in that they merged their pre-Christian practices with their newly inducted Christianity.
And so I offer this up as a simple explanation for the gardens at Bealtaine Cottage having evolved through a similar understanding of the natural world and the supreme forces of Nature.
This is no ordinary Permaculture garden as you can see, but one deeply nourished and inspired by the Goddess.
For me there is a spiritual, otherworldly, ethereal force at work and play here.
This is the rational (for me) way of explaining the extraordinary growth and extreme revving-up of biodiversity that has happened at Bealtaine.
All beyond my control…not that I ever wanted to control this magnificent force!
I leave that to the Planet-Wreckers!
As I re-emerged through my journey with Mother Earth, I came to an intuitive understanding of the need to stop digging Her…to let Her be!
So I mulch and cover Her with as much tenderness as befits the Great Mother.
You will never see any of Her precious skin exposed.
Her mantle remains in place.
And so this brings me to the second part of this story…
The wonderful success of No-Dig Gardening…
And here is the first of over twenty photographs and the story of growing success at Bealtaine Cottage, Ireland…continued over at Bealtaine Cottage Good Life… bealtainecottage.org
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Being able to upload 31 photos is a real treat for me, and, I hope you will get a taste of Bealtaine Cottage today.
I have snapped these minutes ago and come straight in to upload and write this blog…taking time en route to give Jack a cracker treat.
As you can see he’s fully engrossed with chomping!
There is an abundance of Poppies this year…these are just outside the back door and almost ready to burst open!
Thanks and blessings to my dear friends and supporters of the Bealtaine Cottage project.
It is so very heartening to read the wonderful feedback and special messages of support.
There was enough rain overnight to half-fill the water barrels and all is looking lush this morning! Aquilegia is in full bloom and has grown well from an extra scattering of seeds I did last Autumn. Here is the perennial Yellow Poppy.
This seed sold out fast last year, so I shall be harvesting as much as I can this summer.
It’s a much smaller, more delicate bloom, but strong and hardy!
I’ve moved potted seedlings and more robust plants out of the tunnel.
Planting will be wherever I can find a space!
The symbolism of the Goddess is not a parallel structure to the symbolism of God the Father.
The Goddess does not rule the world…She is the world!
Manifest in each of us, She can be known internally by every individual, in all her magnificent glory.
The Permaculture design and planting at Bealtaine is not just inspired by the Goddess, but is the Goddess manifest…as natural and intuitive as the energy that flows from Mother Earth herself.
This is the difference between Permaculture and Goddess-inspired Permaculture.
The spirit is fed as much as the stomach!
Each Summer the harvest grows more abundant. Redcurrants hang in droplets waiting to ripen and reveal their jewel-like qualities.“
Hawthorn has opened…
Garden paths become enclosed, dark, shady places…
The Spindle bush sits covered with blossom yet to open…
“I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic
and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.” – Violette Leduc
To meet it — nameless as it is —
Without celestial Mail —
Audacious as without a Knock
To walk within the Veil.” – Emily Dickinson
Lilac is open…
“That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me,
who could ask for more?”
– Bev Adams
“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most
beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James
“The smell of manure, of sun on foliage, of evaporating water, rose to my head; two steps farther,
and I could look down into the vegetable garden enclosed within its tall pale of reeds – rich chocolate
earth studded emerald green, frothed with the white of cauliflowers, jeweled with the purple globes
of eggplant and the scarlet wealth of tomatoes.” – Doris Lessing
“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
― Wendell Berry
Went for a walk down to the pond and made a video on the way, as the sun shone and the birds sang…what a beautiful day!
The lower pond is filled with Frogspawn…almost heaving really…I’ve never seen so much!
Just recalling how a mere twelve years ago there was nothing here by wet, rushy ground that was impenetrable to the spade!
Now it’s packed with wildlife, young woodland, ponds, streams, orchards, soft fruits and vegetables!
There is even a Spring Well, dug out from stone, deep within the Fairy Wood! Bealtaine Cottage…from monoculture to permaculture in twelve short years!
Enjoy the video!
Those interested in the Fuchsia, Blackcurrant or Rubus cuttings need to hurry and order, as they are fast coming into leaf…another couple of weeks left to get them in the ground and growing…and they will grow very fast indeed! To place your order, click on the link below…
Winter edges away slowly, with lighter mornings and longer days.
The Permaculture Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage have emerged this year into the Permaculture Woods.
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…!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
“…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
“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
Aquilegia has begun to grow…this is one of the first flowers of Spring and great for early rising bees.
The all too tidy gardener will also miss these wonderful flowerings of Moss on small standing stones.
And leaves that are busy creating woodland paths in a garden evolving fast into much welcome woodland.
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.
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!
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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Last year I planted a new orchard at Bealtaine Cottage.
To date there are thirty eight fruit trees planted across the three acres of land here.
This new orchard was planted on an area previously fenced off and used for hens over a period of years.
This is always a good start, as the land was prepared by the hens in terms of manuring and picking over.
Before the trees were planted I laid down a generous spread of seaweed and covered this with cardboard, to hold back the weeds for a year or so.
Over the morning I have been planting yet more layers into the orchard, mainly flowers and herbs to attract and feed the bees…my secret of abundant harvests; where would we be without the bees?
The next phase will include planting a bee-friendly hedge along the south edge of the area.
I planted Fuschia and Berberis, Dogwood and Rubus along the north edge.
As I cut back around the orchard, cuttings are dropped onto the ground around the trees and bushes as a mulch. The planting continues as more and more flowers and herbs are brought from my small nursery area, a really important part of any permaculture garden or smallholding!
As with all my projects here at Bealtaine, I couldn’t resist using some Willow to effect, constructing a simple arbour that will eventually house a home-made bench, on which to sit and sup a cup of tea! The plan of maximum planting has worked well all over the land here, building resilience as well as fertility into the land, as a forest does naturally.
The days have been warm and sunny, with the back door open all day long.
There is such a good balance of biodiversity here that flies don’t seem to be a bother…this can be a serious Irish complaint during the summer months!
I pulled the sofa chair over to the open door as I find the soft sounds of life in the gardens very soothing.
Sammy does too!
The idea of planting food trees is taking off here in the west of Ireland.
My local town of Drumshanbo has planted a Community Orchard near the entrance to the town…a great Transition Towns inspiration!
The start of the week in this sacred place, where edges meet and overlap…a cooling, calming morning.
Yesterday was a day of visits and creating bouquets to take with me.
The gardens are flourishing and birthing beauty all around me, so there was much to gather and choose from.
This is the tenth year using the roll of cellophane bought for me by my eldest daughter all those years ago as a leaving London present!
Small investments can and do go on giving!
Walking the gardens this morning, after the rain, with the earth scents rising all around me, it was a delight to see the apples well on their way to a grand harvest.
I continue to drink the apple juice saved as frozen juice from the harvest last year.
The “poor” land here has given me more food than I can cope with…a continuing surplus builds year on year.
In this tenth year, it is no longer a surprise that the main stream media has steered clear of permaculture, for the truth of biodiversity undermines the huge Agri-business pushed by governments and those in power.
Permaculture has been pushed out to the fringes of society by ignoring the outcomes of such an approach.
This is why I write and photograph and film and keep putting it out there.
I don’t mind being ignored, but Mother Earth WILL have her voice heard and those tuning in are rising in numbers to a point where the mainstream media will have to take notice or end up being overtaken.
The compost heaps continue to rise toward the sky, dropping back down to earth as they bio-degrade. Newly planted beds promise a rich return all Autumn and well into the Winter. Natural Spring water flows in abundance from an aquifer that is unabused by demanding “flush it away,” toilet cisterns.
There is no away and besides which, water is sacred!
Why use clean water to flush our human waste into the rivers and oceans…no way, there is no away! Taking care of people means taking care of the Earth…how simple is that philosophy to put into practice?
Not if you are a corporation or a politician on the make and take, for there is no money in caring, just an abundant, real economy!
Our abiding relationship is with Mother Earth.
It is the only physical relationship which surpasses all others in this life.
If we imagine our world as a tapestry, then where are you on the stitching?
Where do you want to be on the weave?
Here’s a thought: one of the biggest and most powerful supermarket chains in the UK and Ireland spent a small fortune on creating this advertising slogan, “Every Little Helps!”
This is the tenth anniversary of Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Smallholding.
It’s hard to believe that ten years ago this was a desolate cottage on three acres of the poorest agriculture land imaginable.
Wet, north-facing, thin, dauby soil promised little in the way of growing.
It was a challenge few in their right minds would have contemplated, let alone sink their life savings into, as well as borrowing from the bank!
But, I fell in love with the land, for it looked immeasurably forlorn and abandoned.
My approach was simple…it was holistic, nothing was separated or apart…all was connected and that included being connected to me, as the new caretaker and caregiver.
I have never taken a Permaculture course, but read every book on the subject and applied the principles. As a teacher I had created environmental gardens in primary school grounds in London, bringing Mother Nature to children living, in many cases, remote from Mother Nature and all her wonders!
In the early days I was physician and surgeon, intensive care nurse and visitor, channeling all my energy and hope into the sick land.
Working on my own was a blessing, for the land took all my time and love.
After ten years, this once barren little place is one of the most fertile and productive pieces of land in all of Ireland…in fact I would like to issue a challenge to The Botanical Gardens in Dublin and it is this: Bealtaine Cottage has more biodiversity in it’s flora and fauna than the Botanical Gardens, Dublin!
Our personal journeys are sacred and find sacredness as they cross paths with other sentient beings.
As Christopher Hitchens said towards the end of his life, “there is only love.” …an Atheist who honoured his humanity.
The love we express forms an energy that feeds into the well-being of all life.
Good vibes and bad vibes…we can relate to what they mean.
Isn’t it wonderful to spend time in the company of good vibes?
C.S.Lewis said…”There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
Somewhere, in all of this, is what I am trying to say…that there is a connection between our actions and the energy field of the Earth… our world is truly what we make it to be.
We feed into the very air of life, the atmosphere of the Earth.
The Earth resonates on the same Hz as our brainwaves…a reason to love and be loved, don’t you think?
We breath deeply from that collective force of life.
We become what we exhale…
I write about, and photograph, Bealtaine Cottage as often as time allows.
This little part of Ireland remains a place of visit and peace for many all over the world.
The decision, once made, gathers energy and slowly, slowly begins to move…like a baby discovering it can crawl!
And so it begins…the first small movements of the Forest of Bealtaine, barely perceptible, but felt and experienced.
The Forest of Bealtaine is emerging through seed…seeds collected, saved and sown into pots of Bealtaine compost, that will travel with them, to their final destination, here, somewhere, in Mother Ireland.
Where in Mother Ireland I do not know, but, somewhere on this land bereft of the comfort of cover and canopy, open to the growing harshness of rain, that once fell soft like dew…for the changing weather patterns and climate are taking their toll!
And so She grows!
Today the rain falls heavy and my visitors from Dublin have gone.
The heavy rain assures me we need forest…for we are the rocky outcrop of a failing empire
There is no mistake in that word…for it is She with a capital letter, She with a need to grow and nurture.
The land we have collectively failed…our governments collecting carbon taxes whilst fracking the bowels of Mother Earth! The failing Empire of the EU paying Irish farmers to rip out trees, so land can be mapped out for Google Earth Maps!
And all so politicians and bureaucrats can peer and measure and post out cheques…
But what use is money to a people living on a land being ravaged by Climate Chaos?
But here at Bealtaine, the Goddess, the Mother, our Earth is nurtured for in her womb is cradled Eden, waiting to be birthed.
And Bealtaine is one of many birthing places, for the Mother is us and we are her…there is no separation.
And in these little pots of hope, She grows, and slowly, barely noticeable to visitors, the magic begins to manifest.
She stirs, awakens and is…
Food production can be a problem for many people who have little or no access to land.
There are many who live in conditions where even a balcony is a precious space.
I have spoken before about the ways in which access to growing space can be achieved, through allotments, community gardens and the like, but here is something which may prove to be an inspiration, a new way of looking at food, both growing it and eating!
As an aspiring Vegan, (sometimes I miss the mark!) and dedicated grower and lover of all life, I have recently been converted to “Micro Greens.”
The concept is extraordinarily simple!
Seeds such as lettuce, peas, beets, etc., aresown and grown for about two weeks or less, before being harvested and added to dishes.
These Micro-Greens, it is said, contain up to 40% more nutrients than older, traditionally grown and harvested vegetables.
I can believe it!
Yesterday evening, I had a dish of cooked brown rice, mixed with Micro Greens, seasoned and drenched with the juice of half a fresh lime and this morning I feel a surge of energy!
Micro Greens can be grown on a window ledge, balcony, hanging basket…anywhere they can get a decent dose of light!
Growing Organic is easy to manage in small areas too!
Little or no problem with slugs and availability all the year around!
For me, the days of packaged salad of any kind are over and the tiresome task of cooking greens are almost over…adding raw makes more sense in every aspect of preparing and eating food!
All you need is a tray, or pot of compost, seeds and water!
So, there you have it…a new way of living…simple, easy and kind to Mother Earth!
And the fun part? Now you can enjoy seeing some of your vegetables run to seed, like this Mizuna in the Potager Bed!
Here are just some of the seeds you can grow Micro Salads from…
and many more…
(Both the Light Catcher and the Bird Box were gifts, made by Nick O’Neill…aren’t they lovely?)
Soil is being depleted at a rate never before encountered on Mother Earth.
Plants can only upload minerals from the soil and if they are absent from the soil, then the plants, that make up our fruit and vegetables will be nutritionally deficient!
About 10% of the land on the planet feeds the entire population.
A 1992 Earth Summit Report stated that American soils, for example, are now 85% depleted of the essential minerals and elements conducive to growing healthy fruit and vegetables.
Considering the fact that this report was published over twenty years ago, the soil would now be considered to be useless in terms of growing healthy food.
That leaves many people in a state of undernourishment.
I suggest you look into this for yourselves, to understand the full extent of nutritional depletion in the food we buy.
Type the words : soil depletion, into your search engine and YouTube, to be surprised and shocked!
So what do we do about this problem?
Well, here at Bealtaine Cottage, the answer I have implemented over the past ten years, has been to continually mulch and build up the soil, all over the three acres of Ireland of which I am guardian.
This method uses tons of biomass, which I grow on the land, shred, then compost or spread directly onto beds.
You can see the bed I covered in cardboard, compost and shreddings last autumn.
The light material is shredded willow on cardboard for access paths.
The beds themselves will be heaped up with even more compost before planting out!
Biomass is carbon neutral and requires no shipping or transportation…it can be grown on site!
Biomass is all biologically-produced matter based in carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, so even dredging the ponds of weed will provide nutritive mass for the soil!
This pile of clippings will be shredded to produce more biomass to be added to the soil, building up a nutrient rich, resilient land!
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Bill Mollison once said, “I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.”
Applying design to growing makes for good permaculture.
As Ireland endures a wetter and wetter climate, constructing vegetable beds on the top of gravel helps to counteract the worst elements of flooding.
The same design principles are applied in the polytunnel.
Beds are raised and paths are lowered, allowing for good drainage on this north facing slope.
This is a Nectarine tree, under-planted with Comfrey, which is then regularly chopped and dropped throughout the growing season, thus feeding the hungry fruit tree.
It has been planted in a central area in the tunnel so as to avoid cold drafts when doors are open.
This morning sees the blossom opening at just the right time, as bees are emerging from hibernation, so it’s essential to have both doors open to receive them.
Now this is something rarely seen, but this system works very well for me…seeds are sown together in one, big, deep, polystyrene, re-cycled box.
As seeds emerge and gain strength, I gently tease them out and pot them on, leaving space behind for the next swathe of emerging seedlings.Rhubarb fills out a Spring bed, with Raspberries coming along next in seasonal line!
The Summer fruiting Rhubarb lies protected under this mound of straw…excluding light from emerging weeds.
The bed is mound shaped as every year sees more and more compost added.
And here’s the black gold…home made compost. As all of the gardens are on a north-facing slope, the tyres do not interfere with the quality of the compost, just protects the heap from the east and north weather systems…particularly cold!
Trees and bushes all play a part in the permaculture design, creating shelter and wind-breaks in this instance.
You can see one of the six bins used for compost toilet waste re-cycling tucked in on the right of the picture.
This makes great planting compost for trees!
More rain storms moving in from the west and Atlantic seaboard this morning, but the sun continues to shine!
As smoke curls up in wisps from the chimney, reminding me that a hot kettle awaits me indoors…tea!
I love the unpredictable Irish weather!
And the way everything greens up so quickly after the winter!
Have a good weekend everyone.
Bealtaine Cottage has built up a Permaculture Seed Bank.
If you want to see a list of available seeds, this link will take you there…
Mist prevails as the earth slowly heats, releasing some of the water absorbed during the wettest winter on record here in Ireland.
The air is still and birdsong echoes through the foggy dew…
The first of the seeds are now sown in a big fish box in the tunnel, made from thick, white polystyrene, once marked out for the dump but rescued and up-cycled here at Bealtaine Cottage…perfect for seeds and young plants!
There’s a digger at work on the hill of Ballyfermoyle, I hear it’s machinations echoing through the misty morning.
Young trees and bushes are being torn up and tossed aside, in an effort for land to be measured by the EU on Google Maps.
Less tree cover shows more grass and it is grassland that the EU are paying farmers here in Ireland to grow.
More grass, more meat, more export, more globalization…you know the story!
And so, the Earth is losing more habitat in a land that cannot feed it’s own people…Ireland is heavily reliant on imported food!
Another famine lurks around the corner, as monoculture food systems are the order of the day, financed and controlled by the EU bureaucrats, blinkered up to the eyeballs with bullshit!
In this land of plenty there is little food grown around this area.
EU sponsored, subsidized and pimped Monoculture prevails!
Bealtaine Cottage has built up a Permaculture Seed Bank.
If you want to see a list of available seeds, this link will take you there…
What is it that makes so many farmers and gardeners want to burn vegetative material? The same happens here in Ireland, a country with the lowest tree cover in all of Europe! This is essential for building soil, in fact is the only thing apart from erosion of rock, that actually gives us soil. Our connection to the soil is vital, for it gives us our food. Those who fail to make that connection are doomed to starvation and loss of habitat. Loss of habitat means certain death. Is this what is happening all over the Earth right now? It appears to be so. Disconnection!Earth is not a thing we live upon, but Gaia, as described by James Lovelock. Gaia is affected by everything we do, every breath we take, every loving or hateful action we do to her.The collective consciousness we inhabit is being infused by her cries…there are those who are evolved enough to hear and respond, and those who willfully lock themselves out from the trauma our planet is enduring.The latter will have to watch their step for Mother earth is angry and will not abide!I believe that we are each a part of the Divine Consciousness and dependent on every other living thing. I see this grasp of understanding, manifesting in so many people now, that it really lifts my heart! There is a fusion happening. This fusion is bringing us all together with all life, every last atom of it! For those who embrace this, there is a sense of pure joy bestowed upon us by that Consciousness.For those who continue on the path of hate and spite, dominance and abuse, there can only be fear and a deep dark corner of a dying planet. The atoms we carry within us were once part of the Milky Way, of stars long since vanished back into the Divine Consciousness. We carry Eden within us.
Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 110 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.There are almost 700 blogs in the archives on this site.I write, photograph and film, in a small way, to give a voice to Mother Earth.