It’s been a long and lovely day, filled with wonderful garden visitors, followed by some serious cutting back and clearing over near the tunnel.
However, before I begin, I must say that I’ve been reading the comments on the Bealtaine Cottage Magical Gardens site on FaceBook and feel compelled to make a very important comment, for all to read…
The lovely Bridget Birkner had this to say about her garden…
“Colette, my dear sweet friend. You know I started this year as my first year with Goddess-Inspired Permacultre Gardening and Food Forest since moving here some months ago, but being now in August, having only 1 cucumber, 6 cherry tomatoes that only turned orange and one sweet banana pepper, I wanted to sit down and cry at the lack of harvest. My soil is so insanely poor, and it looks like I need to do some more tending and research. My Willows, everything you sent me, the moment I transplanted it, it withered. I’m crushed to say the least, but I promised myself at least 10 years before I can say “goal!” It truly is hard but amazing work, but right now I feel so defeated because Mum Gaia seems so sad at the state she is in my area. I look to you with such hope and KNOW She WILL prevail! Why? Because SHE can live without us, we however, cannot live without Her. And for that, I humbly bow before her in grace and humility, that she give me another chance in helping me tend to the area where she is so sad right now in the United States”
So in response… and for this valuable knowledge to reach the wider world…
Especially for Bridget…and those who are struggling with restoring fertility to soil…here’s a little secret…and what I have done and continue to do to restore health to the soil…
I pee in a bucket and mix it 10:1 with rainwater…it is marvellous liquid fertiliser and helps to get good bacteria developing in the soil.
However if you are on serious medication it’s best not to use it!
Fresh urine is high in nitrogen, moderate in phosphorus and low in potassium and can act as an excellent high-nitrogen liquid fertiliser
In a healthy person, urine is sterile.
Urine is great as an activator for compost heaps and, in highly concentrated form, as a weed-killer.
Dilute fresh urine at a 10:1 ratio and apply to the root-zone of fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, or to leafy crops like cabbage, broccoli, spinach and lettuce every two weeks or as needed.
Dilute fresh urine at a 20:1 ratio and water in to the root zone of seedlings and new transplants.
So, there you have it folks! No more supporting chemical fertilisers or paying extraordinary amounts of money for organic fertiliser…get yourself a bucket and a watering can and help Mother Earth the natural way!
Now that’s out of the way, here’s an update on garden work today…this has involved an immense amount of cutting back. I have stacked all the cuttings and wood into various big piles to biodegrade naturally, whilst at the same time providing essential habitat for hibernators and small mammals.
You can see from the followings pics the difference this has made in terms of light and space for the woodland floor to regenerate.
Bealtaine Cottage Good Life membership is 12 euros per year and allows me a small income to continue to grow the Bealtaine Project both here in Ireland and in the hearts and minds of good people all over the world.
Sammy-Bear couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted in or out.
Previous to this photo I had opened the back door for him twice to go out, whereupon he ran around to the front of the cottage and jumped up on the window sill, as you can see here!
It’s always a strange time when the moon is full.
I’m sure you each have stories about weird happenings at this time!
This May moon has cast it’s brightness over Ireland, presiding over an extraordinary time of growth.
All around the cottage there are flowers opening, plants growing, seemingly overnight and trees now heavy with leaf and blossom.
Where would an Irish cottage garden be without the beautiful and traditional Perlagonium?
And, of course, every cottage garden has a little spot for Succulents…I plant these in terracotta pots and here in this old planter.
They love dry conditions!
Always lots of tasks to complete as in painting the old Buddha, so he may survive another winter!
As in all cottage gardens, famous for their mish-mash of flowers, vegetables fruit and just about everything else, edibles share potager beds with their close relations!
I have had to move many plants from pots and plant them in spaces wherever I can find them.
For, as always now at this time of the year, there is a drought…sometimes prolonged, but dry enough at the best of times!
The nursery bed, essential to a cottage garden, is being cleared fast, with plants going into the long beds down by the road.
Pieris and Poppies…as always, flowers are squashed in beside the most unsuitable bed mates…the Poppy is planted in with Flowering Currant!
And sitting in my chair on the veranda, looking up…the classic cottage garden rose.
The all-forgiving Cottage Garden will tolerate just about everything one wants to “throw out!” Except, of course, I throw little away, favouring a good old re-purpose, as in this old, but very comfy, fireside chair!
And…the beautiful Wisteria…tougher than it looks and essential “cottage garden!”
Nothing pristine here!
No manicured lawn or well-placed fountain or garden ornament…yet everything knows how to behave itself without supervision.
Even Jack…unlike Sammy-Bear!
Oh Jack, you are a little beaut!
Opening my backdoor this morning I see the Fairies have tidied up again!
“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
― Wendell Berry
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 polytunnel at Bealtaine Cottage has stood for eleven years, retaining it’s structure extremely well and providing all year round space for growing food. The plastic remains “as tight as a drum,” as any visitor to Bealtaine Cottage gardens will attest to.
In this blog I will endeavour to give you simple instructions on how to build your own polytunnel from scratch, as was done here…
To read more, go to Bealtaine Cottage Good life website at…
The decision, once made, gathers energy and slowly, slowly begins to move…like a baby discovering it can crawl!
And so it begins…the first small movements of the Forest of Bealtaine, barely perceptible, but felt and experienced.
The Forest of Bealtaine is emerging through seed…seeds collected, saved and sown into pots of Bealtaine compost, that will travel with them, to their final destination, here, somewhere, in Mother Ireland.
Where in Mother Ireland I do not know, but, somewhere on this land bereft of the comfort of cover and canopy, open to the growing harshness of rain, that once fell soft like dew…for the changing weather patterns and climate are taking their toll!
And so She grows!
Today the rain falls heavy and my visitors from Dublin have gone.
The heavy rain assures me we need forest…for we are the rocky outcrop of a failing empire
There is no mistake in that word…for it is She with a capital letter, She with a need to grow and nurture.
The land we have collectively failed…our governments collecting carbon taxes whilst fracking the bowels of Mother Earth! The failing Empire of the EU paying Irish farmers to rip out trees, so land can be mapped out for Google Earth Maps!
And all so politicians and bureaucrats can peer and measure and post out cheques…
But what use is money to a people living on a land being ravaged by Climate Chaos?
But here at Bealtaine, the Goddess, the Mother, our Earth is nurtured for in her womb is cradled Eden, waiting to be birthed.
And Bealtaine is one of many birthing places, for the Mother is us and we are her…there is no separation.
And in these little pots of hope, She grows, and slowly, barely noticeable to visitors, the magic begins to manifest.
She stirs, awakens and is…
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.”
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!
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
Despite the wet weather, I’ve been busy making a comprehensive list of what to grow …and the reasons why I should.
The ability to store food is at the forefront of my thinking.
I’ve discovered this year that Beetroot stores very well indeed.
Not just that it stores well, but is a first class root vegetable in the making of healthy juice.
This is one taken from a box in the pantry and cut open to be juiced.
Last year was the first year that I grew this wonderful root vegetable and was surprised at how easy it was to grow! The tunnel is now ready to sow.
Most of the seeds will go into the polystyrene fish boxes I used last year.
I simply scattered the seeds into the filled boxes and pricked out the seedlings as they came on…the healthiest were those from boxes where the seed was all mixed in together and in no particular order!
Greens are next on my list…and again, in no particular order, just greens!
As a vegetarian who tries to avoid dairy, greens are an important part of my diet.
I add greens to my juice every day to stay fit and healthy.
I have lived at Bealtaine Cottage for almost ten years and have only needed to visit my doctor once.
During this time I have not suffered a cold or infection and never stayed a day in bed…something I must treat myself to at some point!
All the Herb beds were cut back and the paths in-between covered with straw…
to keep the weeds down.
Sometimes we do not even need to sow or plant, as foraging for wild food can produce excellent results.
When I lived in London there were many places that bordered on wilderness and produced masses of food.
There’s a growing movement to get local and municipal councils to plant fruit and nut trees in public parks and highways.
Resilience has it’s foundations in food security and is an aspect of life we need to take more seriously, but, more importantly, see that it not only gets onto the political agenda, but stays at the top of all planning!
If you wish you can subscribe to the latest website from Bealtaine Cottage…”Bealtaine Cottage Good Life”…simply make a donation of 12 euros for a full year and access the long list of blogs now on site. Quote: “Bealtaine Cottage Good Life” with your donation.
(Please note that this small donation sustains the work on this website, Bealtaine Cottage YouTube, Bealtaine Cottage Podcast and Bealtaine Cottage Magical Gardens FaceBook.)
There are basically four different kinds of seed you can purchase.
Open Pollinated Seed. This is the most natural seed, simply because it has not been interfered with in any laboratory. This seed is pollinated by Nature…bees, insects and wind. Occasionally by us too as we brush up against flowers and accidentally get pollen on our clothes, carrying it to another flower and so on. Sometimes we help Mother Nature a little by gently brushing the pollen from one flower to another. It’s all good! These seeds are what are commonly referred to more and more as “Organic” on the packaging. Organic seeds are fast becoming more difficult to obtain in Garden Shops etc. This is because the big seed companies are busy buying up the small seed companies, leaving the consumer with less and less choice!
High Yielding Seed. These look attractive in the packet, with lots of blurb attached to get you to buy, but, these seeds thrive on chemicals and are sort of married to chemicals too! Definitely not organic and in many cases a danger to bees and insects.
Hybrids. These are actually designed not to be saved!
G.E. Seed. Otherwise known as GM, GMO and all about genetic engineering Nature and patenting the result. These seeds are injected with chemicals and then patented by corporations such as Monsanto. Monsanto declares to be above God Almighty, by stating, and being supported by US Law, that it created the seed!
This is merely a guide for you to build on.
Find out all you can about seed, for it is your future and that of your children.
Vandana Shiva: The seed in its essence is all of the past evolution of the Earth, the evolution of human history, and the potential for future evolution. The seed is the embodiment of culture because culture shaped the seed with careful selection—women picked the best, diversified. So from one grass you get 200,000 rices.
That is a convergence of human intelligence and nature’s intelligence. It is the ultimate expression of life, and in our language, it means “that from which life arises on its own, forever and ever and ever.”
Here at Bealtaine Cottage in the West of Ireland I save seed…grown under Permaculture conditions which seek to protect both the integrity of the seed and the environment!
Open pollinated seed is available from Bealtaine Cottage.
Click on the link below to see the current list of seed.
The biggest threat to our food security lurks in the shadowy depths of the Halls of Power…the buildings housing the European Parliament in Brussels.
You may or may not be aware of something called The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
TTIP is a trade agreement presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.
In my estimation, this will allow full and unfettered access to our food production, from multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto, that carry the weapon of GMOs.
I call this manifestation of utter madness, GMOs, a weapon, because that is precisely what it is…and a weapon that will cause more devastation to the environment than anything concocted in laboratories ever before!
This is already the case in the US, as small farmers, producing Organic food, are hauled before courts accused of property rights violations by Monsanto.
Monsanto claims ownership of any plant material infected by their GMOs!
Once this insidious and odious polluted seed of mass destruction is unleashed into the environment of Europe, supported in Law by the TTIP, then the takeover will be fast-tracked by our own governments, who are mandated by us to protect us, not US Corporate interests!
The countdown to the ultimate weapon of mass control and destruction is under way.
You need to know what is happening.
Knowledge is power.
For my part, I will not comply with any law that says a corporation controls and profits from the very essence of life itself…seed.
For their part, all they have done is take the seed of the Divine Creator and pollute it.
That, in my eyes, is a grievous sin.
Bealtaine Cottage has built up a Permaculture Seed Bank.
The growing season has begun, with Rhubarb sending forth strong pink stems despite the storms of recent weeks.
Meanwhile, down in the Fairy Wood, ferns have kept their green in the shelter of the dell. Mosses grow bright in the sunlight and ivy twists and twirls around the Goat Willow.
Lots of Goat Willow has been coppiced over recent months, and although it takes a year or so to season, it makes excellent logs for the stove, giving out masses of heat for free!
Further down the gardens, Pine, laurel and Great Western Cedar all grow happily together and appear healthy in the spring sunshine.
Daffodils are on their way to opening under the shelter of the Beech hedge. This is down beside the pond by the driveway.
And as I turn around from the Daffodils, the Ivy that hangs from some of the mature Goat Willow, swings about in the wind and sunshine…this is turning into a lovely walk around the gardens!
I amble around the lower pond, snapping as I go…Jack moves ahead of me, tugging on his lead for he has picked up the scent of a fox or badger!
I put my camera away and let Jack pull me along, hot on the scent of other life…we finally stop as we come up to the east side of the cottage.
We move around towards the polytunnel and one of the orchards. Pyracantha and Cotoneaster are now devoid of berries. This can be a hungry time for the birds as they mate and nest…there is a big bag of Oats I can scatter around in handfuls for the hungry birds and will do this later.
Back to the cottage and the shelter of the veranda…it’s very stormy, despite the sunshine!
With a full moon over Bealtaine Cottage tonight and a hard frost to come, the evening will be cold for sure.