After so much rain during the past few weeks, it was a relief to have a relatively dry day! You may remember that last week I visited the Atlantic shoreline to harvest some seaweed to use on the garden. The strands to the south of Sligo town have piles of loose seaweed here and there along the beaches.
Always only ever take the loose stuff…don’t pull seaweed from stones as these form habitats and are essential to the ecology of the seashore!
In the end I managed about three big bags of seaweed and headed home with my foraged booty!
The first thing I do is to spread it on the gravel around the cottage and allow the rain to wash out excess salt.
After about a week, I start to spread the seaweed around established plants in the garden and tunnel.
The seaweed acts as a wonderful feed and a weed-suppressing mulch!
One of the best things about growing food in the garden is the opportunity to use local and near resources that are free to be foraged or collected…seaweed is an organic fertiliser! Seaweed is washed in by the tide, so is easy to forage!
Only ever take what you need!
It can be used straight away too by the way!
It’s packed with Potassium and Nitrogen, bot wonderful for the garden!
In the next blog, over at Bealtaine Cottage Good Life, I will explain how to make Liquid Seaweed Manure…along with lots more pics of the vegetable beds mulched with seaweed and how this feeds the plants!
With my camera in one hand and mug of coffee in the other, I set off with jack for an early morning stroll around the garden and down as far as the end of the driveway.
As you can see it’s a beautiful morning!
My mind, as ever, began to focus on the beauty of all around me…for I live in a constant state of disbelief that all this has manifested from such barren land in little more than a decade!
We live in unprecedented times.
In what was promised as a post-war era of plenty on this abundant and beautiful planet, deceit and greed have overtaken and consumed the dream.
Mother Earth has been harnessed and shackled to the corporate nightmare.
War appears to be never-ending.
As George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Jane Goodall, a wise and compassionate woman if ever there was, speaks and writes about the issues facing us today, in a world where little makes sense…
“Michael Pollan likens consumer choices to pulling single threads out of a garment. We pull a thread from the garment when we refuse to purchase eggs or meat from birds who were raised in confinement, whose beaks were clipped so they could never once taste their natural diet of worms and insects. We pull out a thread when we refuse to bring home a hormone-fattened turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. We pull a thread when we refuse to buy meat or dairy products from cows who were never allowed to chew grass, or breathe fresh air, or feel the warm sun on their backs.
The more threads we pull, the more difficult it is for the industry to stay intact. You demand eggs and meat without hormones, and the industry will have to figure out how it can raise farm animals without them. Let the animals graze outside and it slows production. Eventually the whole thing will have to unravel.
If the factory farm does indeed unravel – and it must – then there is hope that we can, gradually, reverse the environmental damage it has caused. Once the animal feed operations have gone and livestock are once again able to graze, there will be a massive reduction in the agricultural chemicals currently used to grow grain for animals. And eventually, the horrendous contamination caused by animal waste can be cleaned up. None of this will be easy.
The hardest part of returning to a truly healthy environment may be changing the current totally unsustainable heavy-meat-eating culture of increasing numbers of people around the world. But we must try. We must make a start, one by one.”
― Jane Goodall
There are some main differences between the times we live in and a few decades ago here in the western world.
Do you remember?
Do your parents recall?
Have you ever had this conversation…the one that begins with “consumption of food and acquisition of material goods never used to be like this!”
My diet as a child consisted of tiny amounts of meat two or three times per week.
Milk was limited to what was given out free at school.
Ice cream only ever was a Sunday treat during the Summer months.
Sweets were literally a treat…very rare indeed and brought by visitors to our home!
Clothes were handed down and rarely bought new!
Toys and games were what one got at Christmas or birthday if one was lucky!
Compare all that to now…
We have a consumer society gone mad!
We are devouring our world!
Our happiness levels have plummeted.
Seasonal food and life is unrecognizable to the majority of younger people.
“Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF”
This shocking truth has been sinking in over recent months!
“Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.” ~ The Guardian
Half of the animal life on the planet has been lost to human consumption.
Greed, gluttony and sheer arrogance have brought the world we inhabit to the brink of destruction.
Any time I mention the fact that I am now a Vegan, I get pounced upon by people who denounce my choice of diet and insist upon telling me that it is unnatural to live without meat, fish and dairy!
The correlation between what we eat, and the ecological disaster that is our Earthly home, is there for all to see…there is no more denying the fact that we have plundered to the brink of mass extinction!
“Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb.” ~ The Guardian
“The report concludes that today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. But four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, or 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.” ~ The Guardian
Most people associate being Vegan with ending cruelty to animals, but even adopting part of one’s diet to being Vegan achieves much more.
For example, in adopting a diet without meat and dairy, even a couple of days per week, and thinking more about what we eat, personal and planetary health improves.
Each one of us is either part of the problem or part of the solution.
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!”
Second-phase food production is under way as from this week.
Midsummer has passed and many harvests are home or under-way.
This week has seen me clear the tunnel, spread lots of compost afresh on the beds and begin planting for the next phase of crops.
As I cleared the tunnel and collected masses of seeds and seed-heads, I was thinking about the crops I would plant.
Number one on my list is Kale; one of the great foods, especially in juicing.
Regular intake of Kale juice keeps health at a peak.
Soil is the most important aspect of good food.
The food takes up the essential minerals and goodness in the soil and turns these into health-giving good food.
This was a good time to prune the Peach Tree and remove about half of the Nectarines and feed the tree.
I left some of the herbs in place and moved the rest into pots and outside beds.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
― Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
“Organic is something we can all partake of and benefit from. When we demand organic, we are demanding poison-free food. We are demanding clean air. We are demanding pure, fresh water. We are demanding soil that is free to do its job and seeds that are free of toxins. We are demanding that our children be protected from harm. We all need to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done—buy organic whenever we can, insist on organic, fight for organic and work to make it the norm. We must make organic the conventional choice and not the exception available only to the rich and educated.”
― Maria Rodale, Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe
All the Poppy heads are now harvested, providing a massive amount of Poppy Seed…great in cooking and baking!
Looking out upon the Midsummer Solstice morning makes me want to weep…for what are we doing to our beautiful planet?
This is a stark realization, in terms of how we relate to Mother Earth, for we can survive without most material goods, but cannot survive without good food and clean water.
Much of what we eat and drink today is predicated on the use of massive amounts of chemicals…and all being pumped into, or spread upon, Mother Earth.
We are not just soiling the nest, we are destroying the habitat around it.
Not even animals do this!
Somewhere in all of this are people with real concerns, who are aware of the dangers ahead; only some people though, as many are still unaware, or refusing to face reality.
The reality is, in my opinion, quite stark.
One only has to start looking at the figures, such as loss of topsoil, loss of food growing agricultural land, number of force fed, factory farmed animals raised for excessive consumption on an annual basis.
The list goes on and on and the figures add up to frightening and alarming of destruction of habitat, for they point directly to an unsustainable world.
Unsustainable growth and development is when we plunder the future of our children, restricting their lives for our own wants and desires.
The health and well-being of future generations is dependent upon us all being mindful of caring for our Mother Earth and all her bounty.
Living lightly is not living without, but living with a care for our environment, our habitat and the children whose faces we will never see…
We will be remembered for our caring, or scorned for our destruction…
Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…I have posted over 110 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.
I write to encourage, help and inspire mindfulness for our beautiful world and have photographed and written over 720 blogs on the Bealtaine Cottage site.
As an Ark for Nature, trees and wildlife, the smallholding of Bealtaine Cottage receives no grant aid from either the Irish government or EU. Everything created here is self-funded.
Any donation, no matter how small, goes a long way in sustaining and developing this site.
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?)
Small farms in Ireland are in a steady decline and have been for several decades now.
In fact farming is now referred to as an “industry”…a most illuminating use of language!
The pressure on small farmers to produce more and more, (mostly meat), is driving many off the land, as they find it difficult to compete with the bigger landowners and thus meat growers!
The countryside is fast losing vital habitat, as hedgerows are pulled out, trees felled and field size increased.
There is a government initiative behind this, of course…”Food Harvest 2020!”
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is Simon Coveney TD.
Minister Coveney held a meeting on the 17th of April.
Invitations were issued to key stakeholders, including farm organisations, beef processors and relevant state agencies to a round table discussion on the future development of the Beef Sector, as it is referred to!
Participants at this meeting were invited to discuss the government initiative, Food Harvest 2020.
This scheme was introduced by the Irish government to increase production of beef! (Ironic naming it “Food Harvest 2020!)
Now, read this statement from the Minister of Agriculture…using language of industry, markets and sport!
Commenting today on the initiative, Minister Coveney said
“By some measures the beef sector is Ireland’s biggest indigenous industry, involving more than 100,000 farm families, and 8,000 jobs in processing, sales and marketing, with exports valued of more than €2 billion in 2013. Food Harvest 2020 set an initial target of a 20% increase in the value of output for the beef sector. The target for beef exports has already been exceeded.
The time is now right to sit down with key stakeholders in the sector, to consider the strategic approach needed to support its development, using the best available market intelligence, and the newest technology and research to improve performance at all levels of the supply chain. The beef sector makes a vital contribution to Irish agri food and to employment and the economy generally. I am convinced that with the right strategic approach and positive collaboration from all of the players, the beef sector in Ireland has a bright future.”
The economic crisis, that became evident to all in October 2008, has never really been discussed in the mainstream media. Much of what could, and should, have been put in place by national governments, to ameliorate the dreadful effects of this crisis, have been blatantly air-brushed from the media and political debate!
We continue to be sold the illusion of full employment for all.
As direct fallout from the media hype around this lie, many people are feeling inadequate and hopeless, believing it to be their fault that they are job-less.
The media has demonized the unemployed and disabled, citing examples of welfare abuse, whilst ignoring the very real struggles many good people face in their everyday lives!
Governments have introduced all kinds of hoops and hurdles, that intimidate those seeking employment, into a state of hopelessness and despair.
Leadership, has and continues to, fail us!
Governments are aware that carbon reductions in relation to Climate Change cannot facilitate Economic Growth in the present paradigm, but resist any debate or discussion on this!
Government GDP figures do not take into consideration any guide to National Well-being, including health, food, clean air, clean water etc.
Fracking is part of GDP for example, as that produces a commodity to be sold, but look at the utter shambles it leaves in its’ wake, for local people to have to deal with!
Poisoned water, devastated land, sick children…the list goes on!
We are on-board a rudder-less ship with a drunk Captain and crew…time to lower the life-boats and row towards resilience, community and sustainable living!
When this ship goes down it will take everyone on board with it!
As long as the Earth can make a spring every year, I can. As long as the Earth can flower and produce nurturing fruit, I can, because I’m the Earth. I won’t give up until the Earth gives up. Alice Walker
I’m writing this between lighting the stove, going in and out to the barn chopping wood and getting my breakfast together.
Much of the wood I save and stack in the barn is collected from the ground beneath trees after a storm…it’s amazing how much timber for the stove can be foraged in this way.
I’m so delighted with this lovely gift from friends…
Thank you my friends Nick and Danielle for this funky new birdbox, created by Nick from driftwood!
Steps have been taken to avoid the one big bill, from the one mains service, coming into the cottage…electricity!
This is a Pay-As-You-Go-Meter, that also monitors usage and allows one more control over the utility.
I have managed to keep this week’s usage to just under ten euros!
I would recommend this as a way of taking more responsibility for one’s little bit of Earth.
It was free to install!
I’m weather-proofing all the wood around the cottage…with a selection of colours, some donated, some bought and mixed with leftovers, so Bealtaine Cottage will take on a different, more interesting hue!
Lavender is the colour of the day…with blue here and there.
One of the great things about cottage life is the simplicity of design…if it’s made from natural materials, then it doesn’t look out of place.
I love colour!
It seems a natural decorating choice for cottage living…one lovely eclectic mix of whatever it is one scavenges!
Blossom is out on the Ornamental Plum…
The sickly little Peach tree in the tunnel shows blossom for the first time ever…it has taken me four years to nurse this little gem back to life.
It was rescued from the rubbish skip at Lidl, where it had been dumped after being snapped in half.
This is a new bed I wanted to share with you…it’s another one of my experiments here at bealtaine Cottage.
The tyres are protecting the bed from the East and North , allowing the solar energy to be kept in the bed.
As the land is on a north-facing slope, any rain runs off the tyres downhill towards the north, thus leaving the bed clear from any run-off.
The tyres are well-weathered and already covered with mould.
This was a compost heap from last year.
I shall keep you updated as the growing season progresses.
And finally, a reminder of the thin soil that made up this land ten years ago…this is how close the bedrock is to the surface in many places all over the land here.
Tree-planting here has ensured a future unrealized before now…everything is possible! I cannot stress enough the importance of a Nursery Bed like the one seen here…grow, grow, grow! Then plant, plant plant!
“Husband the earth.
her from greed and violence.
humbly, plant trees, grow flowers and clothe her
Respect all her creatures.
natural laws and the universe which cradles her.
Above all, heartily worship the Source of All that is.
This world needs secret heroes!
Be brave, speak the truth, heal the sick, make peace.
Be strong, serve patiently, love generously, live simply.
Enjoy fellowship, eat and drink modestly, celebrate the festivals.
Breathe deeply, sing and make music, walk often, cycle and recycle.
Be thrifty, prefer cashflow to possession, give good measure.
Let your work be your prayer.
Put on the whole armour of light!
Unearth the beauty in everything.
Inhale the Spirit of Goodness.
Kindle kindness, especially toward yourself, embracing the sweet silence of your own soul.
Accept what you are and — while you have breath — give thanks.” ~John Rogers
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!