The sun has set into the west, far out on the Atlantic Ocean and the night draws in.
The candle is lit in the kitchen window, a soft light to welcome the night, while on the far side of the room a small lamp illuminates the dark.
“I love to watch the fine mist of the night come on,
The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,
The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,
And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see
The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;
And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,
I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,
And build me stately palaces by candlelight.”
― Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal
The Blackbird has sung out the day and in the night, as it flies around it’s territory, marking out it’s boundary in song.
“Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful ev’ning in.”
― William Cowper, The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper
The time between blue and black is quiet, almost timeless.
“But there were certain early days in Casterbridge- days of firmamental exhaustion which followed angry south-westerly tempests-when, if the sun shone, the air was like velvet.”
― Thomas Hardy
Colours emerge and birds sing out a joyous, higher note.
We are officially in the season of Spring in the West of Ireland and the new energy is tangible, from rising in the morning to the growing lateness of dusk.
The temperature seems rather unstable, as you can see evidence of in the photograph above.
The morning began very cold and in the space of minutes, the temperature had climbed by 18 F., causing the mirror on the veranda to steam up!
I recorded this as most of the only real information about climate and weather appears to be anecdotal evidence from social media!
My favourite aspect of Spring is the way the light changes.
If one simply sat in this cottage and never ventured outdoors it would be possible to map the seasons in light play.
I expect birds, animals and even insects are similarly informed.
Living in the glare of artificial light can be dulling to our senses!
“She walks in the loveliness she made,
Between the apple-blossom and the water–
She walks among the patterned pied brocade,
Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter.”
― Vita Sackville-West, The Land
Elsewhere in the woodland gardens at Bealtaine, frogs have emerged from hibernation and busied themselves, as only frogs can in cold ponds!
Frogs in Bealtaine pond have the luxury of a shallow, sheltered, ancillary pond, hand dug by myself, just off the main one.
This water heats faster and earlier, ensuring maximum attention to the detail of frog mating and spawning…a sort of nursery pond!
Anyway, it works a treat and has done for the past eleven years.
As a consequence, the amphibian life force has healthily expanded!
“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the idea of a colour – as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts.”
― Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Diversity of planting not only has created resilience, but bestowed all year round colour to Bealtaine Cottage…so appreciated as Spring emerges…for with this rising of the sap, comes a much defined colour change!
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Outside the remains of the storm huff and puff it’s remaining fury.
Inside the thick stone walls it’s Christmas Eve.
There will be a full moon on Christmas night, the first one since 1977.
But, this morning, the rays of the Midwinter sun illuminate the grey morning and all is quiet.
Quiet is a welcome word after a night of howling wind and relentless rain.
My blessed thanks to those of you who sent me good wishes and gifts.
I am heartily grateful to receive the appreciation of friends.
Friends like Heather, who made me this beautiful brooch, stitched with love.
I have pinned it to the lapel of my jacket…it is a thing of beauty indeed!
It is the little notes, gifts and donations that bring a sense of being appreciated.
I am indeed blessed to live my life in the service of Mother Earth and able to live without the needs so many feel they must have, forever indebting themselves to the corporate machine that is destroying her.
As I write this journal, the radio informs me of another storm on the way.
I will soon light the traditional candle in the window of my small sitting room.
The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas Eve is still practised today.
It remains a symbol of hope.
Hope is what Bealtaine Cottage is all about…hope and renewal.
I am a woman and a pragmatist who looks to the future.
Despite the wars of man, the fear of climate upheaval, the greed of those in power and the relentless drum-banging of the corporate consumer world, life, in all it’s imperfections, is sacred and beautiful.
On this blessed Christmas Eve, I will step out with my spade and wheelbarrow, to plant the future, in the form of five trees.
May you be blessed with love, light and happiness on this wonderful day and in the days of light to follow.
XXX Colette XXX
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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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Decorating the cottage has been under way over recent days.
It began with a thorough clean and dust which inevitably led onto other things…painting and moving furniture, as well as painting furniture!
This is what happens when one starts the process…Quentin Crisp once said that it was a never-ending task once undertaken…however, it has come to a close, for the moment at least!
Even the rough carpentry I attempted ten years ago at the beginning of my tenure here, looks appropriately renewed, if not perfect.
The results are here for you to see and I am happy to have a cleaner, brighter kitchen, as well as an easier to use sitting room and all on a budget too!
The paint on the walls, a slate grey, is actually masonry paint for the outside walls of a house…bequeathed to me as leftovers from a friend of a friend…it works well and is much tougher than interior matt paint.
I have taken bags of stuff to the charity shop, as well as giving much away to friends.
All are happy and most of all me!
I have a dedicated area for the juicer as I intend to do a lot more juicing in the coming year.
I have little excess stuff and so feel much lighter, both physically and spiritually.
My little cottage has space to welcome more of Mother Nature and that I am very happy about indeed!
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The post you’ve all been waiting for…the Bealtaine Cottage Compost Toilet.
Easy to install and simple to use.
No running outside on cold mornings to tramp across wet grass to use the toilet!
This is located in the bathroom…not quite a bathroom though as I took out the bath and installed a shower instead!
There’s still a little bit of tweaking to be done to finish the project off to a high standard, like decorating the wall where the cistern used to be and making a wooden surround with a small door, but as you can see, it is simple and attractive.
This is the material used for covering one’s toilet.
It is grown here at Bealtaine Cottage, shredded in the shredder and smells nice and pine fragranced, as it is cut from evergreen trees in the gardens.
This material is also anti-bacterial.
There is absolutely no bad odour!
So what happens next?
The bucket is taken to a corner of the garden, tucked in behind a Willow fedge, and then emptied into a large bin. The bins have holes in the bottom so all liquid is drained out slowly.
This system uses five such bins on a rotation basis.
After about a year, the contents have turned into sweet-smelling compost that I use around trees in the lower gardens.
This compost is not used in the productive gardens as I have adequate vegetative compost on site in the vegetable and fruit gardens.
Besides…the trees thrive on the waste produced here at Bealtaine and in return, I have plenty of wood for my stove…cycle complete!
…and the Arum Lilies seem to like it!
In the course of life here at Bealtaine Cottage, there is really no need for a septic tank…flush it away?
There is no away!
If you liked reading this, why not Like, Comment or share with others on Twitter, FaceBook or email to a friend! Blessings XXX
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Morning in the west of Ireland on a perfect day in late June.
The back door of the cottage is open; wood pigeons call softly to one another as blackbirds swoop noisily in and out of the blackcurrant bushes, feasting on the heavily laden stems.
Morning…full of stillness and promise, the prelude to a hot, dry day of high summer.
The cottage will remain a cool sanctuary, as the heat of the day rises golden over the hill of Ballyfermoyle.
Birds will swoop along paths of shade, wings outstretched catching the earthy updraft of chill.
“Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
“Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare, and left the flushed print in a poppy there.”
― Francis Thompson
The hill at the back of the cottage captures the sounds of the birds, holding them close before echoing onto the walls and through the open door into the cool recesses of the stone.
Leaving this sacred place would never sit easy in my heart, for all that is Bealtaine Cottage has been co-created with the great Mother: Earth, Gaia, Nature…whatever insufficient name we draw upon to express the mystery of the Divine.
My dream to plant a forest will come to pass…in some divine way…
I dream and manifest the vision in sleep and wakedness.
One day, a beautiful morning such as this will shine through onto a young forest floor, illuminating the darkness of a greed-stricken world.
The old tin bath has been taken down from the wall of the barn.
Used wine bottles are left to steep for a few hours in rainwater.
Washed and clean, ready to be filled with home-made Blackcurrant wine.
There is always at least one day during the Summer, when one feels enthusiastic enough to overcome the reluctance to get stuck into bottling wine…today, all the right chords were struck and the work began!
Cork stoppers were duly washed and left to soak and soften, till, finally…
the wine was securely bottled! All that remains to be done is labelling…Chateau Bealtaine!
Outside the back door, Summer continues in layers of sheer abundance…Feverfew splurges on masses of tiny, daisy-like flowers.
Midsummer has only just crossed over and the garlic is ready to pull, with the first batch of Garlic and Oregano Olive Oil infusing.
Summer just keeps on getting bottled!
There is so much food and flowers, it’s sheer Heaven!
Walking around the cottage is a feast for the senses!
Even the ancient Polygonum is covered with bright red flowers…one of the very few plants here that has nothing for the Bees…but a delight for me!
Yellow Loosestrife stands tall in the casual cottage borders.
Roses fall over in a drunken Summer stupor, heavy with scent and bees.
Petals cascade onto stone steps, ivory wraps for blushing fairies.
Valerian falls onto the gravel path, dropping seeds and heavy flower-heads onto the visitor’s shoe.
And the Summer that was bottled today, will be brought out amidst smiles and raised glasses in the depths of Midwinter.
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.
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.
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!
My great grandmother was a remarkable woman, for in the 1930’s, a woman in her fifties was considered old and good for little!
Not alone that, women did not do anything as bold and individual as buying property, on their own, at an auction!
The farm became her life and she slept for the next twenty years in a big brass bed in the barn…never in the little cottage which she kept pristine!
Her story is simply enchanting and I promised my father to write it…and I will!
In the meantime the story of this obsessive desire to live close to Mother Earth continues to be written.
The first four chapters are posted on this website and I would be happy to receive any comments you may care to leave…
Talking of which…I know there are many, many subscribers to this blog, running into the thousands and often wonder why so few use the “Like” button at the end of the blog.
It does my heart good to see that what I write is appreciated 🙂 and maintaining a spirit of generosity in photographing and posting regularly is helped by appreciation, so please take the few seconds to like.
The midnight sky stays light on the northern horizon.
Bats encircle the cottage, as stars emerge into the darkness.
The day has passed into the Turning…of the light.
As the light passes into the lazy warmth of an enduring summer, visitors to Bealtaine Cottage come and go.
July and August nestle into the promise of sultry heat, with visits to the beach and afternoons spent in the shade of maturing trees.Berries continue to ripen, as flowers provide a succession of colour.
There is little to concern oneself with, as Nature holds sway.
The birds appear to have wakened in the cool of evening, filling the air with song and calls, as though they’d spent the day in the shade of the nest, keeping still and cool.
The grass paths are mowed in the upper gardens and plants cut back to allow safe passage.
This is Ireland at her best, with long cool evenings complete with blue sky until nearly the witching hour. Just as the fragrant roses have gone over on the veranda, archways of roses burst into being.
Roses and Virginia Creeper support one another in a frenzy of growth.
Less than a week until the Midsummer Solstice and the Earth knows.
She sings a song of endless summer days and green abundance.
Seeds are forming.
Fruit develops and ripens.
Blackcurrants darken and plump out.
Geraniums spill out from under Blackcurrant bushes.
Lady’s Mantle flowers and falls over, drunk with summer!
And the Bealtaine Angel is surrounded by rose petals at Summer Cottage.
Rising on the last morning of Bealtaine and looking out the window of the lodge to be greeted by mist and sunshine.
The heat of yesterday rose in a mist over the valley and mountains beyond.
Rising towards Midsummer is a most magical time in the west of Ireland.
Between the rain and the sun, the jigs and the reels, the land has grown a mantle of green.
Festivals are held in every village as birds, from thousands of mile away, fly low over the feeding grounds of this small island.Midsummer customs prevail in much of Europe and certainly here in Ireland, where the traditional bonfire is part of the celebration.
The fire is lit exactly at sunset on the eve of the solstice and celebrations continue until sunset on the solstice itself.
The sense of abundance is quite tangible and visible at this time, helping to create a celebratory atmosphere.
Midsummer was seen as a time when the veil between this world and the next was thin, and when the spirit of the land itself held sway.
This is encapsulated in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
This year I shall be lighting the Midsummer fire with wood cut around the time of Midwinter, in honour of my Mother.
It is a time for gathering and spending time together and a celebration I look forward to…
As I walked I the gardens this morning, there arose a great sense of peace and harmony, again something which seems to be released from the very Earth herself each year, at this time of ascension to Midsummer.
The promise of a good harvest holds firm as the beautiful weather continues.
Here is one of my favourite quotes by Carole Carlton…
“The festival of the summer solstice speaks of love and light, of freedom and generosity of spirit.
It is a beautiful time of year where vibrant flowers whisper to us with scented breath,
forests and woodlands hang heavy in the summer’s heat and our souls become enchanted with midsummer magic.”
Early, matrilinear civilizations held certain areas as sanctuaries, for religious purposes.
These were marked out in forests as groves, and mountains with stone, but all bound with markers, many of which can be recognized in the landscape today.
Here in Ireland it is still possible to walk and sit in these sacred places near water, rock and remnants of ancient forest.
In ancient societies the Earth Mother was one of the earliest deities.
Her marriage with the Sky God produced life on Earth.
This was a way of understanding the interconnectedness of life, for people evolving societies.
These are some of the Sacred Spaces that have evolved in the gardens of Bealtaine, each one co-created with Mother Earth.
The alignment of these Sacred Spaces holds particular fascination for me, for I have watched each one come into being and am aware that one must enter from a particular direction and engage the space on a particular alignment.
Alignments that engage the human interacting within the gardens are particularly interesting…
I watch where the visitor is attracted to and the position they hold upon entering that space.
These alignments indicate energy pathways, referred to as Ley Lines.
Regarding the Earth as sacred, allows one to engage with the possibility of co-creating Sacred Space.
It is a way of opening portals to allow the Earth a sacred space in which she can re-generate herself.
Abundant energy flows from these spaces, connecting the land around and drawing in more energy.
This is the most remarked upon aspect of Bealtaine Cottage from visitors far and wide.
This is the time to create Sacred Space…
…for when we regard Mother Earth as sacred…
…we will cease to abuse her, or, more importantly, allow her to be abused!