Photographs (18 exclusive photos taken today) from the gardens of Bealtaine Cottage on EarthDay 2016.
Words from the Earth Day network…on Bealtaine Cottage Good Life.
We are now entering the 46th year of a movement that continues to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion, and motivate people to action.
In 1970, the year of our first Earth Day, the movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channelling human energy toward environmental issues. Forty-six years later, we continue to lead with ground-breaking ideas and by the power of our example.
And so it begins. Today. Right here and right now. Earth Day is more than just a single day — April 22, 2016.
This Earth Day and beyond, let’s make big stuff happen. Let’s plant 7.8 billion trees for the Earth. Let’s divest from fossil fuels and make cities 100% renewable.
Yes, I have a mortgage and some bills to meet each month and this is my only source of income. The free website, Bealtaine Cottage, has almost reached maximum capacity at 97.8% of 13 GB allowance at a cost of 199 Euros per year. Bealtaine Cottage Good Life has the same 13 GB allowance, but with only 18% used, so you can see why I now publish new blogs on Bealtaine Cottage Good Life! My total expenditure on both sites and internet maintenance now exceeds 700 Euros.
I will continue to write about, and photograph, Mother Earth whether you subscribe/donate or not…but I so appreciate those who do! …blessings to all XXX Colette
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!
2016 is a year of transformation for Bealtaine Cottage.
Changes are being put into place this month in preparation for the year ahead.
Last year was the busiest year ever for visitors to the cottage…I lost count somewhere around June and with almost every day welcoming new visitors, work on my writing and gardening began to suffer as a consequence.
I was guilty of what many enthusiastic people are guilty of…spreading myself too thinly! Already I have many requests from would-be visitors, so have made the decision to take a year off from opening the gardens.
There is so much work to be done, as I have plans to create new beds and paths around the three acres. Talk about work…I haven’t even had time to move my Lemon tree in from the veranda! Thank goodness it’s been a mild Winter!
The Kale I planted into the old wheelbarrow has made good strides in growing through January! As the days lengthen the growth will increase and I look forward to harvesting leaves of Kale very soon!
For those wishing to visit, the garden gate will not be permanently closed…
Sunday May 1st is Bealtaine Day, a very special day in the gardening year for lovers of all things Celtic and Mother Earth!
May 1st is the first day of Summer in the Celtic Wheel and Bealtaine Cottage will be hosting an OPEN DAY of celebration!
Unlike the photograph taken today, the gardens will be awash with colour, as well as the hum of bees and the sweet scents of herbs and flowers!
I will also organize another Open day or two as the Summer progresses.
Time is of the essence for me, as I attempt to fit in so many aspects of my life!
Bealtaine Cottage is home to me and I have come to realize that it is also home in a spiritual way to so many others…that is why my writing and photographing of this little place must come first.
Out of metamorphosis comes new, better and stronger.
Seeds are available from Bealtaine Cottage…all grown, open-pollinated and saved here!
Winter edges away slowly, with lighter mornings and longer days.
The Permaculture Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage have emerged this year into the Permaculture Woods.
However, I’ve got to admit that I’ve been flagging recently!
A combination of the time of year, family commitments and basically just trying too hard to do too much!
The saying goes, “spreading yourself too thin on the ground”, or something like that…well, that’s me!
I’m done for!
I would love to take a few days off and lounge about in my Jim-Jams, but…well, you know me by now…!
So, in keeping with the time of year I’ve been painting, cutting, tidying the land and planting.
As you can see here, the back wall of the cottage has been (almost) finished…though I’ve run out of paint and will have to colour match, as I mixed the paint from leftovers.
Still, an old cottage can get away with mismatches…shabby chic!
The weather has been fairly mild and despite some snow earlier in the month, it’s not been too cold.
I spent some time cleaning up the steps, removing the willow fedge, as it became too shaded by overhanging trees to grow as it should and was dying off.
Clearing other parts of the land I came across yet more stone, so have tidied the edges of the steps with some dry stone walling.
This is a lovely habitat for beetles, snails and small mammals…adding to the immense biodiversity build up here over ten years.
Some shrubs and bushes near the cottage are looking a bit unruly…these I shall neaten up before the spring is over.
Bealtaine now sits among trees and each year becomes more like the cottage in the woods.
To be too tidy a gardener is to deny entry to your garden to many beneficial creatures, as well as food for the birds!
Here I have thrown some rotting logs in under the hedge, where all life in the vicinity will benefit. There may well be some mushrooms in the near future as well.
The leaves of the Hypericum have kept green all winter.
I shall prune this a little to keep a shape in it, as some order near to the cottage looks pleasant.
“…I hear the sounds of melting snow outside my window every night and with the first faint scent of spring, I remember life exists…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
“A tree can be tempted out of its winter dormancy by a few hours of southerly sun—the readiness to believe in spring is stronger than sleep or sanity.”
― Amy Leach, Things That Are
Aquilegia has begun to grow…this is one of the first flowers of Spring and great for early rising bees.
The all too tidy gardener will also miss these wonderful flowerings of Moss on small standing stones.
And leaves that are busy creating woodland paths in a garden evolving fast into much welcome woodland.
I keep the stove in the sitting room burning as I work outside, for it’s a welcoming and warm place to retreat to now and again.
Just to sit by the fire is relaxing.
And one learns over the years to pace oneself…knowing when it’s time to down tools and go indoors…this I need to remember to do a little more!
There’s a heap of work to get through before settling down for the evening.
And, as a gorgeous girl in a big dress once said, “Tomorrow is another day!”
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The integration of water as a harvest system brings both light and warmth to the land.
Intensive planting creates so many micro-climate zones that encourage and nurture plants even in the severest of weather.
This was never more apparent than on my garden walk yesterday…a fine day, after all the flooding and torrential rainexperienced this week.
Sheltered spots harboured mushrooms, many of which were edible.
Wild herbs continue to flourish near waterways and on banks, particularly Wild Mint and Sorrel.
Perpetual harvests of food, fuel and water, with little or no input at this stage of development, for once the sculpting and planting are complete, the eco-system of perpetual food and abundance takes over!
Permaculture is a clever system which copies Mother Nature at her finest.
There are few parts of the world where she is allowed to truly be herself.
The Rainforest is one of the few remaining ecosystems where this remains governed by the Wise Mother.
My journey into Permaculture began along practical lines, but as I became immersed in planting and sculpting, my life transformed with hardly a blip, as Sacred Permaculture merged the boundary lines between the practical and the ethereal.
Perhaps the pictures I took yesterday best sum this up…walk with me…
Thanks and blessings to those of you who support this site…it’s good to be appreciated XXX
The photographer from Irish Country Magazine has just left…the magazine photo-shoot is over!
You can read all about Bealtaine Cottage in the Dec/Jan edition, which will be on the shelves at the end of November!
As we walked around the gardens, the conversation turned to the story of how Bealtaine emerged from rushy fields and it became apparent that this story becomes harder to tell…for it all seems so improbable.
The story has taken on myth-like qualities as visitors look around, finding it hard to believe that Nature could work such magic…but She has…the Great Creatrix!
The gardens are now a riot of autumnal colour, due in part to what many call ‘mistakes,’ but have turned out to be inspired tree planting, with nothing other than a gut feeling of where to plant and plant without discrimination.
When one considers it, Mother Nature does not discriminate.
She merely gets on with whatever needs to be done…nurturing and giving all her days.
Rachel Carson was acutely aware of how the future might be, if humankind did not awaken to the need to live with her…the one…the Mother, Creatrix of beauty and life.
“Silent Spring” remains to this time, an enduring legacy of the call to wake up and smell the roses.
We cannot live without her, though she can go on and on into the future without us.
The question is: does she want to?
I believe Mother Earth is reaching out to us in a last desperate bid to stop us from destroying our habitat.
What is being done in the name of economic progress is nothing less than a dance with death.
Despite what is apparent, there appears to be a mass awakening of people, much of it happening on internet media with a gathering speed and force.
If this little website is anything to go by, then all is not lost, for I see the growing numbers of people interested in a more sustainable lifestyle!
We are living in fast changing times, days of optimism and hope…we are moving into a time of co-creating with the great Creatrix…Mother Earth.
I did not choose Bealtaine Cottage…it chose me, as one who would be an enabler of the great Mother.
In the Celtic calendar, the first day of May was known in Irish as Bealtaine.
This was the feast of bright fire, the first of summer, one of the four great quarter days of the year.
The ancient Irish Book of Invasions tells us that the first magical inhabitants of the country, the Tuatha Dé Danaan, arrived on the feast of Bealtaine.
Bealtaine is all about renewal, another chance, an awakening.
I will let the great Seamus Heaney have the last word…
Beacons at Bealtaine
Phoenix Park, May Day, 2004
Uisce: water. And fionn: the water’s clear.
But dip and find this Gaelic water Greek:
A phoenix flames upon fionn uisce here.
Strangers were barbaroi to the Greek ear.
Now let the heirs of all who could not speak
The language, whose ba-babbling was unclear,
Come with their gift of tongues past each frontier
And find the answering voices that they seek
As fionn and uisce answer phoenix here.
The May Day hills were burning, far and near,
When our land’s first footers beached boats in the creek
In uisce, fionn, strange words that soon grew clear;
So on a day when newcomers appear
Let it be a homecoming and let us speak
The unstrange word, as it behoves us here,
Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare
Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak,
From middle sea to north sea, shining clear
As phoenix flame upon fionn uisce here.
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…
It is difficult to comprehend, without seeing this photograph, that what is now a lush, abundant paradise, was once a barren monoculture, devoid of wildlife, birdsong and no biodiversity to speak of…
This was Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Smallholding on day one of the transformation, only made possible by applying permaculture principles and design.
What you are looking at is the view of the land from the cottage itself.
The transformation has been carried out single-handedly, by myself, aided only by planting, mulching and manuring, again carried out by hand over the course of eight years.
Today I decided to visit the well which feeds water to the cottage. The landscape of the hill behind the cottage remains unchanged, so you can see for yourself how inhospitable the cottage and land first looked…
Flowering Currant, or Ribes as it is called, is in full blossom all over Bealtaine smallholding and it is already calling the bees out from hibernation with it’s heavy scent and glorious flowerdroplets!
This incredible shrub is the ultimate in permaculture planting, because wherever one chooses to plant a cutting or two, it will grow readily and develop into a flowering shrub rapidly. The flowers turn into droplets of berries adored by birds and hens alike!
Free food and beauty and windbreaks…that is so permaculture!
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I made the journey to Omagh to visit my mother…who is hale and hearty and looking forward to coming down to Bealtaine for a holiday very soon.
Mum insists that she finds her holidays here to be invigorating and healing. Mainly due to the birdsong and cool atmosphere around the cottage, which helps enormously with that plague of old age, swollen feet!
I am convinced that this is due, in part, to the overwhelming heat in the environs where most older people live, especially the constant dry central heating and sealed homes. It is no coincidence that Mum’s feet are returned to normal size within 24hours of her visit here!
Cool, clean air was once a mainstay of the Health System…open windows in hospitals were de rigeur under the watchful eye of Matron! Today, with closed windows, sealed buildings and air conditioning, health problems in hospitals abound, especially MRSA! Cool, clean air is healing…make no mistake!
I have been busy spreading gravel on the driveway and around the cottage. This is the first top dressing I have laid in almost eight years. As it had to be done, I chose a local stone which, as you can see, is very bright and reflects the light beautifully!
Periwinkle in bloom in a sheltered spot near the west of the cottage.
A big stack of straw in the barn…I have stocked up on bales of straw for the hens and vegetable garden as the next harvest will not be until around August…it pays to plan ahead, besides which, the girls will only lay eggs on clean straw!
A Celtic emblem on my back door. The paint on the door is well scratched and there is a definite patina of life therein. Dogs and children, all attempting to enter the cottage with little patience and no time to wait! I know I have to paint it soon, because the weather demands it, but then this testament to life and laughter and fun and games will be erased…
Moving the tyres in the vegetable garden is a milestone reached this week…converting all to log, deep beds and narrow paths…easier to mulch and now that the soil has improved, I can do this. It has taken 7 years of work and patience, but it has finally paid off!
Apples continue to swell and grow and are, each one, quite perfect. These trees have never had any sprays or chemicals of any kind at all, yet continue to give perfect harvest every single year. Nature knows best!
The beautiful flowers of the remarkable Comfrey plant. This generous herb is not just a pretty face!
Look how well this tiny spider manages to camouflage itself on the Cotoneaster bush…Nature is so very clever!
Flowers have opened on the Fuschia…almost an adopted native plant here in the west of Ireland…
More logs wait to be carted around to the barn and stacked ready for the cold winter days ahead!
Valerian grown from seed continues to flower and will do all summer and into the autumn all the time that the seedheads are removed…
Something else grown from seed here at Bealtaine…this gorgeous Poppy this morning in full bloom, all red and frilly like the Folly Bergere!
Blackcurrants and Sage in the Nursery area, again grown from seeds, so 100% permaculture at Bealtaine plants to come. Both of these plants grow very easily from seed scattered into limestone gravel and left to overwinter, before being pricked out and potted on…how simple is that?
This is one of the many apple trees snapped this morning. The harvest is coming on well, with plans for lots of Apple Chutney! The trees continue to be fed with mulched comfrey and nettles.
Painted Mountain, Native American Sweetcorn is a real success in the tunnel, with lots of heads coming to maturity. Definitely one to save seed from!
The Aloe Vera on the sitting room window has had babies!
A perennial, growing near the apple tree pictured in previous blog, it grows tall and flowers quite soon as you can see. Otherwise known in Latin as Eutrochium Purpureum is a clump forming plant. it can grow to 2 metres high…wow, indeed it does too! The leaves grow to 30 cm (12 in) long and have a somewhat wrinkled texture. Plants attract a lot of activity from insects that feed on the nectar produced by the flowers.
This clump grows well beneath the Copper Beech tree and wedged between it and the Apple tree. I recently mulched around the area with cardboard and straw in oreder to clear some ground for planting out this Autumn.
I once spent Autumn in Toronto in Canada and that was definitely the most gloriously colourful place ever for that season…it took my breath away!
Roses and Willow
Roses, Willow and Copper Beech…some of my favourite plants. I must take lots of cuttings this Autumn and grow these Roses on! I took some last year and they all did well!
Why is it that plants like to be together? They obviously thrive well like this! Perhaps they are aware that they are not alone…
The Butterfly Bush
The white Buddleia near the Barn is coming into bloom. Soon the Butterflies will be around and about!
Nasturtiums in bloom this morning. These are the trailing variety and will grow well in poor soil. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible and add a spicy taste to a salad. These are growing from a pot on the veranda.
Swathes of colour dot the driveway to the cottage as the Valerian, Dog Daisy and Dog Rose all come into bloom.
The Dog Rose, Rosa Canina, will go on to produce rosehips that are packed with vitamin C and are good for making syrup that is traditionally fed to babies and toddlers.
Yellow Flag Iris grows by the Lower Pond. This beautiful flower spreads each year, given the right conditions and makes such a brilliant show in late May, early June…I love this naturalized flower.
This is growing on the side of a big log of cut wood near the veranda. Some kind of Fungi…not quite sure and am in the process of scouring books to try to find out! It’s soft, like a giant marshmallow and this is the actual size…but it appears to be growing…
Walking by Lough Key yesterday with the Tomster and his mum…well it WAS Mother’s Day and Tommy wanted to give his old mum a treat! …this tree, magnificent in its ancient grandeur.
Standing right up against it, heart to heart, looking up, skywards, through its giant arms towards the sky…it took my breath away!
And the little boat, nestled into the calm stillness of the lough…
And enough Ramsons, (Wild Garlic), to feed the world, growing everywhere in this massive old estate that was…the heady scent of delicate flavoursome food being carried on the cool, evening air…
…with just enough daylight left to harvest the first Rhubarb of the year and…
…make a Rhubarb Crumble, before saying goodnight to the Tomster and heading off out to dinner, Crumble in one hand, home-made Redcurrant Wine in the other…FRUGAL LIVING?…are you kidding?