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!
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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Towards the end of a perfect day at Bealtaine Cottage. The gardens are looking well tended as the evening descends. Strawberries have been potted up in hanging baskets and seedlings rescued from the gravel around the cottage and potted up. These will make fine plants for the Summer ahead! And…all the while…the birds sing!
The year in the garden is now well under way, as Mother Earth awakens in a very visible way…not that she ever slept!
Coltsfoot is one of the first herbs to come into flower, for it flowers before it leafs and a very welcome sight this is!
Bronze fennel, that most vigorous of herbs and also a brilliant addition to the flower garden, starts to produce tasty leaves that can be added to early Spring salads.
Rocket has over-wintered well in the tunnel and forms the base ingredient.
Daffodils are now up and beginning to flower.
Daffodils on the hill above the cottage, around an old abandoned dwelling are in full bloom!
Reminders of Winter come and go, but not for long, sometimes just an hour or two of a light dusting of snow.
Never enough to hold back the advance of the seasons!
But beware the wind chill factor that comes with early Spring and wrap up warm when venturing out to work in the garden!
When the sun does shine, it is truly glorious and plants like Rhubarb spring into exuberant life!
A very hungry plant, Rhubarb eats up a generous dressing of well-rotted manure.
Euphorbia comes into life in the flower garden…here it shares a half barrel with a Fig Tree and both like each other’s company!
In fact, the Fig has fruited well year on year since getting a new bed fellow!
An old but treasured book is always at hand to delve into for advice on seasonal food, gardening and outdoors work!
I wonder if this little gem is still in print?
Beautiful catkins on the Hazel trees…flowers in fact!
The pond is filling with frogspawn and clumps of frogs celebrating the turn in the year as only frogs can!
Out in the hen-house the girls are in touch with the growing of the light as they come back into lay!
Mr and Mrs Fox are hungry and on the prowl! I often lay out food at night for the foxes, for the way I see it is simply this: we have interfered with the food chain by removing the animals that would have predated upon foxes.
This is my way of attempting to live in harmony as best I can…and ensuring that the girls in the henhouse are well protected!
Part Two of THE GARDEN IN FEBRUARY can be found on Bealtaine Cottage Good Life…
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Spring is in full bloom and life is thriving at Bealtaine Cottage.
There is a certain joy in the air that is spiralling outwards and upwards capturing the energy of all life.
Primulas and Lady’s Mantle show off their form and colour, jostling for attention as the sun rises higher and higher in the clear blue skies above this little cottage.
I love archways like this in the gardens, for there is something deeply spiritual and connective about the shape of them, joining one side of a path to another…connecting, as we’re all connected!
Green, deep shades of green symbolising life at it’s most potent and powerful.
Healing colour that pulses energy through the eye and deep into the human mind creating calm and joy.
As Mother Earth thrives, so do we.
The connection is so very simple to make.
We need little education to understand this most elemental of connectors we share with her.
We need Nature to thrive.
There is much to be said for the “Green Economy”, including the aspects of personal health and well-being we acquire through allowing Nature and ourselves to thrive.
If you want to thrive, go to Mother Nature.
If you want children to thrive, place them in Nature.
The sounds, sights, scents of Mother Earth are all around us.
The eminent Archaeologist, Marija Gimbutas, describes the power of Nature so well… “Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hills, trees and flowers. hence the holistic and mythopoeic perception of the sacredness and mystery of all there is on Earth.”
The cost of food has risen and the overall quality has dropped.
Much of the fruit and vegetables being sold in the supermarkets may look good, but the taste is somewhat lacking. Considering these issues, it is fair to say that there could not be a better time to grow your own food, as well as make, cook and bake your own food!
Today I have been harvesting potatoes and clearing the beds for the next planting or simply for mulching down with cardboard and straw.
The compost heap is growing by the day as the beds are cleared and tidied.
Elsewhere in the gardens, the burgeoning beds await their turn to be harvested.
This Golden Oregano will dry nicely and ensure tasty tomato sauces all winter!
This is a sheltered part of the fruit gardens to leave the potatoes in the ground for a while to come.
Those at the back of the picture will stay where they are.
You may remember how I mulched this ground last Autumn, using cardboard, straw and shreddings…now you can see the value of this exercise.
The earth is in good condition and any weeds that did grow were very easy to pull.
This gives you some idea of how permaculture works…a forest garden with lots of shelter, biodiversity and ultimately, resilience!
Lots of leaf drop feeds the soil, building a much needed fertility.
Meanwhile, indoors, one of the few electrical items I own is ready to do a lot of sewing.
I also have a hand sewing machine for less labour intensive tasks.
And in the kitchen I’ve been baking bread and making Houmous Dip.
There really is no comparison to home made and home grown food!
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!
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?)
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!
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…
Real Crisis in the Economy, Economic Forecasts, Economic Recovery, …the list of headlines, news and political in-fighting over the economy seems endless.
However, the figures that are collected year on year, collated and spun out to us all, regarding the state of our country’s economy, are referred to as GDP or Gross Domestic Product.
GDP is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a year.
This includes trees.
Only dead trees!
Trees that have been cut down and transported out of the country, or sold.
Now, imagine this…
What if living trees were included in GDP?
For, after all, a tree is of more value to us all, alive than dead!
A tree is worth $193,250…
According to Professor T.M.Das of the University of Calcutta. A tree living for 50 years will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, control soil erosion and increase soil fertility to the tune of $31,250, recycle $37,500 worth of water and provide a home for animals worth $31,250. This figure does not include the value of fruits, lumber or beauty derived from trees. Just another sensible reason to take care of our forests.