Here in the study the light is low as the day fades into the west.
Ten O’Clock rings out as I take up my camera and head out into the warm evening.
I have enjoyed visitors for much of the day, so stepping out into the evening allows me time to be quiet and absorb the ending of the day.
“Be calm…calm as a calm lagoon, then you will look beautiful as a beautiful calm lagoon crowned by the Moon and sheltered by the brilliance of the stars reclaiming your royalty of regal life…”
― Oksana Rus
The light lends an ethereal touch to everything.
“When one tunes in into nature’s frequency, life becomes change, change becomes hope!”
― Aniekee Tochukwu
The birds continue to fly to and fro their nestlings in a frenzy to keep them fed.
Fortunately, Bealtaine Cottage can now support dozens of pairs of breeding birds and all from the plentiful supply of food in the gardens and food forest.
“It was that time of dusk when there is a—deepening of the interior shadows. It is a melancholy time: all you need do is switch on one lamp and the inside and the outside will separate, held apart by the reflections in the glass, and evening will begin.”
― Rudolph Delson
As always at this time of evening, there is magic in the air.
Flowers are dancing in billows of colour around the cottage.
As I walk, snapping pictures here and there, I fancy my camera may capture an image of the other world that is veiled so very thinly at this time of day…
I sense the watchers…
and is gone in the blink of a lens.
(This photo is as it appears…I NEVER use photoshop!)
On such a morning as this, there can only be one place to gently go…come with me as I venture down into the Fairy Wood at Bealtaine Cottage. Nature spirits are in evidence in the lush new growth. Magic abounds…
To understand Celtic Spirituality we must suspend the normal way of looking at the world and ‘sense’ the other worlds around us.”
– Donald McKinney, Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century
Looking North East towards Slieve Anieirin Mountain…
Slieve Anierin, known as the Iron Mountain, is a magical landscape, where Iron Age people once mined Iron Ore.
Slieve Anierin in Leitrim; Sliabh-an-iarainn, the mountain of the iron; from its richness in iron ore.
Bealtaine Cottage is surrounded by landscape, where traces of ancient peoples are to be found with ease.
The Tuatha de Danaan were one of these ancient races and were also known as the Shining Ones.
Few people are aware of the fact that it was these people who became the origins of what we know worldwide as the Fairies…or the Sidhe.
This was the Tribe that became the Sídhe…the Fairy Folk.
The stories of the Sidhe abound in Ireland.
We live alongside our ancestors.
This path at Bealtaine leads down into the Fairy Wood.
There is much written about the
Sídhe, pronounced “shee”, and a lot of the writings are contradictory, much like the
Living among the remnants of ancient tribes, as I do, here in the West of Ireland, watching skies with stars so bright, they illuminate the night, it is easy to believe in theSídhe…even revere them at times.
There comes a shift in perception, when one’s closest allies are the invisible forces of Nature.
Where does reality begin and end?
What is actual and what is reflection?
For much of it is coloured by perception.
This was something debated by the Romantic Poets, as they often explored the world around them, using reflections, as they held up mirrors to gaze into Nature.
There are many tales relating the emergence of Fairies in Irish Folklore.
Many legends recall how once great Queens, Kings and Warriors became
In turn, these mortals went on to establish new kingdoms in the ancient mounds and hills of the landscape we know today.
It is easy to regard these ancient sites with reverence and understanding, for even though there are millenia of time that separate us from them, they are part of our ancestral being.
The true origin of the legendary Tuatha De Danaan lies somewhere between the worlds of reality and perception of reality.
The name means literally “the folk of the god whose mother is Dana.”
It is merely recorded, that they appeared, as the clouds rose, from the mountain of Slieve Anierin, on the day of Bealtaine, the first day of May…Summer.
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Bog Oak Pendants are available from the Bealtaine Cottage Craft Shop. (Sorry, all are now sold. No longer available!)
Each pendant is hand-crafted from locally sourced Irish Bog Oak, an ancient and profoundly mysterious wood that’s been buried in the Irish peat bogs for thousands of years.
These pendants are made from wood dated as 5,600 years old.
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.
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.”
Living in a time when the cost of food is rising day on day, it might be time to re-think the lawn! This is what Bill Mollison, one of the founders of the Permaculture movement has to say on the subject:
“. . . every society that grows extensive lawns could produce all its food on the same area, using the same resources, and . . . world famine could be totally relieved if we devoted the same resources of lawn culture to food culture in poor areas. These facts are before us. Thus, we can look at lawns, like double garages and large guard dogs, [and Humvees and SUVs] as a badge of willful waste, conspicuous consumption, and lack of care for the earth or its people.Most lawns are purely cosmetic in function. Thus, affluent societies have, all unnoticed, developed an agriculture which produces a polluted waste product, in the presence of famine and erosion elsewhere, and the threat of water shortages at home.
The lawn has become the curse of modern town landscapes as sugar cane is the curse of the lowland coastal tropics, and cattle the curse of the semi-arid and arid rangelands…
Over the past few days I have been busy converting this little shed into a new hen house and run…food to swap and share…fresh eggs! it is going to be a simple enough barter, swapping a sack of logs for nine eggs. Most logs are traded at 3.50 a sack, so that’s a fair swap!
That makes a good swap as eggs are getting more expensive by the day and the logs will be delivered to my door! I just have to ensure that the hen house and run are secure against Mr ans Mrs Fox and family!
As Spring moves across the land, a drying wind is working its magic on the earth. The greening is under-way.
The view from the sitting room window is being filled in like a ‘Painting By Numbers,’ canvas. Ash trees are the last to get their leaves and so stand proud in all their silver glory against temperamental Spring skies.
This is the beautiful Field Maple to the front of the cottage.
Continuing my lifelong passion for trees…this is a wall tile I made from clay…complete with tree, a fairy tree.
The lone Fairy Thorn one often sees growing in the middle of fields here in Ireland served as my inspiration. They are often windswept and leaning away from the west.
This sits upon the dresser in the kitchen…a time when preserves were sold in stoneware jars. All containers were re-cycled, in that they were re-used…even milk bottles! Lemonade bottles had a money deposit attached to them and children would collect them up to return to the shop, as a way of earning pocket money!
Even cream came in little stoneware jars like this, as it kept cool in the pantry in the days before every home had a fridge!
For the past few evenings I have lit the stove in the Lodge and turned down the sofa bed to make a cosy sleeping area that is easy and cheap to heat!
The little wood-burning stove that seems to emanate warmth from one or two small logs, is economic and easy to maintain, making this a snug and cosy place to overwinter.
The layers of insulation packed into the walls of this little wooden cabin, makes for excellent heat and maximum comfort!
The nights are drawing in fast now and the ice, frost and mist has been a nightly feature for about a week.
Autumn appears to continue during the day and Winter holds sway from darkness onward.
This morning was particularly beautiful, with swirls of icy mist hanging over the mountains and the air still and warming around the cottage.
The berries on the Pyracantha are turning deep in colour, as the Blackbird and Thrush both eye them up!
The Larch tree betond the Lodge is getting ready to shed its needles and the Purple Beech in the foreground hangs onto her leaves well into the middle of Spring!
Autumn is colourful and delightful and definitely my favourite season!
Parsley grows through the winter in this old, bottom-less bread-bin, tucked into the raised stone bed…a good source of Iron and Vitamin C.
Tiny Lichens are beginning to grow on this Birch tree…I love the delicate colours of the Lichens!
Bamboo and Beech compliment each other on the driveway…both are a source of energy and usefulness at Bealtaine. Bamboo lends itself well to many projects and makes fantastic tapers for using in the cottage, between the fire and candles!
Bamboo is also a wonderful medium to use when making wreathes, as it is very pliable when first cut and will bend into a circular shape with ease.
It can then be wrapped around with other plants and wood.
Beech, seen here with Forsythia, grows into fairy tree shapes, all twisted and gnarled, reminiscent of the Arthur Rackham Fairy story illustrations…these are indeed beautiful trees!
Red Dogwood comes into its own at the entrance to the Fairy Wood.
Do I believe in Fairies?
Indeed I do…don’t you?
Can you believe these cheeky little Perlagoniums, refusing to give up and go to sleep?
Tomorrow I shall lift them from their big pot and put them to bed for the winter!
Early morning in the permaculture gardens of Bealtaine, coffee in one hand, camera in the other, to record the passing of a time, a merging of a season, as we flow seamlessly into late autumn…the autumn equinox.
Blackberries hang heavy near the stone circle, flattened grass signs the badgers have been here.
Looking skywards, all looks different as the season casts a spell over the landscape…I never noticed the ivy on the Ash tree before, really looked and wondered…
And underneath the mighty Ash, a sacred tree in Celtic lore, the ferns remain green and lush in the warm September weather.
The circle of stone and willow in the early morning light…
Crossing the little bridge over the ditch to continue my walk.
And down into the Fairy Wood…
towards the pond…
under Willow arches in the playground of Mother Nature.
Along pathways evolved over nine years of delight with the Mother herself!
Where the Sidhe dance and Badgers trundle…
I spent yesterday clearing the paths a little, for I and many visitors walk these paths all year round.
Some wood I leave on the ground to feed the earth and provide habitat for all seen and unseen.
As I write this blog, an email hits my screen, a response to one I sent earlier to a very kind donor to Bealtaine Cottage.
I sent an email to this wonderful man asking permission to publish a little of what he wrote to me recently…
I have discovered your beautiful cottage a week or so ago from an article in permaculture.co.UK, I have watched most of your youtube videos, subscribed to your newsletter and want to do my part to help you do the beautiful things you are doing….
I was floored to see the transformation you have made around you through I’m sure a lot of hard work, an enlightened mind and a superb taste (and of course these wonderful trees)… I am personally still stuck on a corporate life that I don’t appreciate and I would love to gather the courage to make the jump and return to a more balanced, tastier, healthier and joyful country life…
The address mentioned on my donation is actually my parents’, they have a lovely garden where I would love to have your seeds make their magic. Feel free to send whatever you have, don’t feel obligated to any quantity…
The entertainment and inspiration you have provided with your videos and blog entries are already worth more to me than the money donated. But if I am buying seeds to plant in my parents’ garden, I’d rather my money going to you than to Monsanto or another large commercial seed merchant!
All the best and keep these posts and photos coming, they make my day!
That was a lovely email to receive today, the autumn equinox and I know you will be happy to read it too!
Enjoy the rest of the photographs taken this morning, here in the permaculture gardens of Bealtaine Cottage…it’s always a pleasure for me to share this sacred place with you X
Yesterday afternoon and evening was spent down in the Fairy Wood, cutting back the paths and lifting the canopies on some of the bigger trees.
My work was intensive and totally absorbing, as you can imagine.
It wasn’t until several hours of hard labour had passed that I began to look around me…
… for I had moved about ten metres through the wood, without taking much note, other than look at what I was sawing.
Taking a breather, I stopped and looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings…I was in a place unknown to me in all the nine years I have worked and planted this land!
This is the most amazing aspect of the Fairy Wood…that it had transformed itself as I planted, worked and took daily walks through this magical place.
I walked around to the far side of this ancient Ash tree, one that had stood in among the briars and thorns, alone, for all the time I have planted here.
The tree looked totally different on the other side…
The Ash tree has been coppiced at some point in the past and has grown into a multi-stemmed tree which now has an underground cave.
Almost all kinds of trees found in the Celtic countries have been thought to have special powers, or to serve as the abode of the fairy folk, but especially the magical trio of the Oak, Ash and Blackthorn.
The Ash was a sacred tree to the Druids and it’s wood was highly prized in making wands.
This a a very special tree and quite magical as you can see…
I just received this petition. Perhaps you can mention it in your blog and get other people to sign it.
Love and best wishes
Bayer has just sued the European Commission to stop the ban on its bee-killing pesticides — despite clear evidence its products are behind the massive bee die-offs.
We can’t let Bayer and Syngenta get away with this blatant threat while the bees disappear. Sign the petition to tell them to drop the lawsuits now!
It could be the way the light hangs in the sky this evening…
Or the stillness of the air as a mist starts its’ way up the valley…
Or may even be the predominance of moths fluttering in the still air down in the Fairy Wood, in the gardens below the cottage…
I’m walking the gardens in search of the Fairies.
Although most people here in the West of Ireland will tell you they’ve left the fairy faith in the past, there is a lingering moment, between asking whether or not they believe in the Fairies, and the reply in the negative.
That moment of hesitation is all one needs to be aware of!
Fairy faith is the belief in fairies, of course.
When the Milesians, the mythical race described by an 11th century scholar in Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of Invasions), came to Ireland they banished the natives to the underground and they became the Sidhe, the fairy folk.
They reside in old ring-forts, stone circles and inside and under magical trees like the Hawthorn, or Fairy Thorn as it is known here in Ireland…particularly one growing alone in a field.
No farmer disturbs the Fairy Thorn, for to do so brings almighty bad luck!
There is a Fairy Thorn in the wood below the cottage, hence the name, Fairy Wood or Dell, as it lies in a hollow, well below the cottage.
And so I ramble the gardens, quietly, patiently looking here and there for movement or unexpected light.
I would really appreciate if you’d take the time to vote for me in this Irish award…