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.
Following on from comments and emails you have written about planting The Forest of Bealtaine, I have realised the international importance of this healing project.
You, my dear friends, have been planting this forest all over the world and have gently reminded me of the connectedness of which I so often write.
I am dedicating a section of this website to that dream made reality and here’s how…
If you have been inspired through Bealtaine Cottage to plant a tree, then can I ask you to email a picture and a few words to me, including your name, country and website, so it can be added to The Forest of Bealtaine page?
This page will be located at the top of the website in the coming day/s.
I will continually update it and maybe even create a special website, if it grows like a forest!
What do you think?
Is this a good idea?
I know so many of you have been inspired to plant trees through Bealtaine…this site will hopefully pay deep respect to you and your love for Mother Earth.
The post you’ve all been waiting for…the Bealtaine Cottage Compost Toilet.
Easy to install and simple to use.
No running outside on cold mornings to tramp across wet grass to use the toilet!
This is located in the bathroom…not quite a bathroom though as I took out the bath and installed a shower instead!
There’s still a little bit of tweaking to be done to finish the project off to a high standard, like decorating the wall where the cistern used to be and making a wooden surround with a small door, but as you can see, it is simple and attractive.
This is the material used for covering one’s toilet.
It is grown here at Bealtaine Cottage, shredded in the shredder and smells nice and pine fragranced, as it is cut from evergreen trees in the gardens.
This material is also anti-bacterial.
There is absolutely no bad odour!
So what happens next?
The bucket is taken to a corner of the garden, tucked in behind a Willow fedge, and then emptied into a large bin. The bins have holes in the bottom so all liquid is drained out slowly.
This system uses five such bins on a rotation basis.
After about a year, the contents have turned into sweet-smelling compost that I use around trees in the lower gardens.
This compost is not used in the productive gardens as I have adequate vegetative compost on site in the vegetable and fruit gardens.
Besides…the trees thrive on the waste produced here at Bealtaine and in return, I have plenty of wood for my stove…cycle complete!
…and the Arum Lilies seem to like it!
In the course of life here at Bealtaine Cottage, there is really no need for a septic tank…flush it away?
There is no away!
If you liked reading this, why not Like, Comment or share with others on Twitter, FaceBook or email to a friend! Blessings XXX
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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…
The rain taps on the cottage roof as the Eve of Bealtaine draws in.
All the dry, warm weather is ended abruptly with heavy, rhythmic rain.
This Summer’s Eve will be freshened with Atlantic rain and the dry earth will release scents of green…yes, indeed, colour has a scent!
Bealtaine is the oldest festival in all of Europe and was historically celebrated on the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath.
This ancient ceremonial hill was, and remains, a sacred place and one of the most significant places of ancient ritual in all of Ireland.
This was the home of the Goddess Eriu…a place of High Kings and Tribes, a gathering place, where laws were passed and old allegiance re-newed!
Bealtaine“Beacon-fires lit upon its summit could be seen over a quarter of Ireland, and in most directions the hills upon the horizons could relay the message of the beacon as far as the sea-coast. The claim of Uisneach to be the centre of Ireland is thus quite justifiable, even though it may not be mathematically accurate.”[Macalister]
In Irish mythology, the beginning of the summer and the bright half of the year started with the Fire Festival at Bealtaine.
May Summer be long and joyful for you, with a great harvest all the way through.
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 days here at Bealtaine are beginning to lengthen.
Not tangible as yet, but optimism for more daylight has taken hold and sometimes that is enough…simply knowing that the darkness has passed.
The cottage remains in a post-midwinter party state, with chairs pushed back and floor-space revealed.
It may be a day or two before this is sorted, for I want to escape outdoors, despite the stormy weather!
The lush greenery on the mantelpiece will stay in place for as long as it retains life.
Replacing the candles daily is a small task and keeps the soft light there to lift the spirits.
A small sadness pervades the air, now that family and friends have gone.
We all enjoyed the coming together of our midwinter feast, with music and bonfire and soft candlelight…a magical time that lifted the spirit.
Rich food and drink will now give way to simple soups and tea…a sort of cleansing of the palette and system, together with late winter walks, to appease the feasting of recent days.
Venturing out this morning, into the wind-driven rain, fresh in from the Atlantic, amid the sounds of birds fighting over food…time to scatter the scraps from the feast around the gravel by the cottage for my hungry and cold feathered friends.
Parsley, Kale and Chard all continue to grow abundantly in the Potager beds…no sign of prolonged frost to diminish these green gifts.
The Chard is particularly beneficial to the body at this time of year, as it contains generous amounts of both Vitamin C and Iron…the Vitamin C is necessary for the body to absorb the Iron.
I use the Kale in the juicer each day…a great supplement to my diet, as it charges my energy!
Do you recall the ground I mulched with cardboard and shreddings?
Well, here it is this morning and as you can see it has now transformed itself into a bed ready to be planted out in the Spring…how easy was that?
There are several hundred blogs on this website about mulching and preparing ground for planting using the easiest methods that I have tried and tested.
To access them simply type key words into the Search Bar at the top of this page!
The stretch in the days is quite tangible…it remained light until after 5:30 today. Yesterday I wrote about the frogs in the lower pond and the frog-spawn therein…so, yes, Spring is creeping in!
I lit the stove here in the sitting room earlier as I intend to curl up with a glass of home-made vino and a book…
I am reading all about the reign of Elizabeth 1st…a formidable woman who lived in dangerous times in a world dominated by man! This biography is the best to date that I have read…it’s alive!
Just two oranges remain from the Christmas fruit bowl and these will be finished off tonight. Oranges are a treat as I get most of my daily Vitamin C from the ample supply of frozen blackcurrants I keep in the freezer from the summer harvest here at Bealtaine.
Jack is turning out to be a good dog and great company.
As I type this he sits at my feet.
Although I never intended to adopt a Collie from the Rescue centre, Jack has been a good addition to life here at the cottage!
From the 1890s on, American corporate business, in league with key institutions, began the transformation of American society into a society preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this. American consumer capitalism produced a culture almost violently hostile to the past and tradition, a future-oriented culture of desire that confused the good life with goods. It was a culture that first appeared as an alternative culture—or as one moving largely against the grain of earlier traditions of republicanism and Christian virtue—and then unfolded to become the reigning culture of the United States.
-William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993
Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions.
– Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Art of Loving, 1957
come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
like a flame.
~William Butler Yeats, “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” 1894
Living in Ireland, at Bealtaine Cottage, it is easy to believe in Fairies.
Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels. But their magic sparkles in
nature. ~Lynn Holland
The elemental spirits of Nature are all around…
As a child I was enraptured by the possibility of Fairies and often spent time constructing little altars to Nature wherever I went…arranging stones, plants and sacred things like I have done in the picture above and all over the smallholding that is Bealtaine…
Spread your wings and let the fairy in you fly! ~
Princess Edane… heard a voice singing
on a May Eve like this, and followed half awake and half asleep, until she came
into the Land of Faery, where nobody gets old and godly and grave, where nobody
gets old and crafty and wise, where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue.
~William Butler Yeats, “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” 1894
And the land at Bealtaine has been softly planted to embrace the possibility of Fairies…always keeping the inner child in mind and mindful of the great force that is Nature!
When the winds of March are wakening the crocuses and crickets, Did you ever find a fairy near some budding little thickets,… And when she sees you creeping up to get a closer peek She tumbles through the daffodils, a playing hide and seek.
We call them faerie. We don’t believe in them. Our loss.
Friday afternoon at Bealtaine and despite the rain work between showers has contiued throughout the day. I hung this plaque on the kitchen door earlier, a present from a friend. It’s simple, colourful and evokes a sense of what lies beyond the door…the pantry!
Talking of which…there’s several demijohns of wine waiting to be bottled and laid down in here!
Knitted a scarf recently and was thinking about the edging…and after considerable searching around in the craft boxes stashed under beds and other forgetful places, I found these wooden beads, which I’ve threaded onto the edges of the scarf with wool and a big darning needle!
A big and bold arrangement in the vase on the mantlepiece in the sitting room, using some quickly cut pieces from the upper garden…just two varieties here! Simple is best and looks fab!
Simple and easy chunky cake…
12 ozs SR Flour
6 ozs Margarine
4 ozs caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
home made Rhubarb Jam
Weigh all the ingredients.
Put all ingredients into the mixer.
Add a little buttermilk
Line a cake tray, add half of the mix.
Dollop jam on top and add remaining mix.
Sprinkle with oats and demerara sugar.
Bake at 190 c for about 20 minutes or so.
And for a wet Friday evening…what can be nicer than a hot vegetable stew, with big chunks of fresh bread?
Ivy loops and twirls around the trees in the Fairy Dell woodland. Ivy that feeds the birds in the depths of midwinter. Ivy that shelters the pheasant in the heat of midsummer. Strong, natural and wild…
Ivy and Lichens, so perfect in the gardens at Bealtaine that it can only be the hand of Nature…no gardener can create this perfection…
Another sacred part of the land at this permaculture smallholding…a small field of Devil’s-bit Scabious, the natural habitat of the rare Marsh Fritillary Butterfly. Nature working her pure magic and being encouraged at every turn!
Now is the time to plant Willow. This is something which is easy to do and will serve the eco-system around you well. So many insects, birds and bees depend on this plant. Simply cut a wand of Willow and push it into the ground as far as you can…about 1-2feet will do! Manure it well and it will grow fast and strong! Some people surround it with plastic to stop weeds and grass, but, personally I do not approve of this as the earth under plastic is not beneficial to wildlife and anyway, the Willow will soon shade out any unwanted weeds!
Cotoneaster…planted, but soon takes on the mantle of wildness and becomes a feeding station for birds and insects alike!
Working in the gardens today. The evening has arrived. It’s hot and still and sweat appears effortlessly. To chill out I decided to just ramble around the gardens here at Bealtaine, mug of coffee in one hand, camera in the other.
These are some of the poppies grown from seed this year…all are different shades of pink and red and white and, I hope, perennial.
The girls are happy! I deposited heaps of fresh barley straw all around their extensive runs today. They enjoy scratching around…
I have often thought that what we need more than any religion in the world today is a spiritual order that will teach a sense of belonging to Earth and communion with Nature. I say this because working on this land over the past seven years has brought a sense of spirituality into my life that was never before experienced. This spirituality is creation centred and allows me to see the Divine in so much of Nature that it sometimes takes my breath away.
Even though all our institutions and governments are in debt, it isn’t money that we lack in our lives today…it is that spiritual awakening we most need and it is that which will change our lives and our communities.
Over recent decades we have been exposed to great materialism, yet drug and alcohol abuse increases daily. Here in Ireland, a study out just today, has put Irish motorists at the very top of European drivers surveyed for drug and alcohol abuse. Even here, in this green island paradise, there is a deep disconnect!
Growth on all of the trees planted here has been amazing this year. As I walked through the land I stopped often to look at trees that I had simply forgotten I had planted…they now towered above my head and appeared to look down at me. I almost felt like an intruder!
The first day of Autumn in the Celtic calendar and the harvest continues. Blackcurrants are being picked at Bealtaine, along with masses of herbs, including Oregano, Chives, Dill and Fennel…though the Fennel in the tunnel is seeding and will be dried and stored for baking purposes later on.
The Plum trees are bearing up well with the wight of the fruit and this will be used for jam and wine. I have planted four Plum trees so far and am also growing some trees from seed.
Yes…it’s hard to believe, but there have been bumper harvest every year at Bealtaine and this is set to continue as the land moves from monoculture in year one to wonderful biodiversity in year seven, with shelter developing and compost heaps bursting…
This is the Fennel in the tunnel this morning, with a good crop of seeds developing.
Apple too are plumping out well…juice, chutneys, pies and crumbles here!
Remember the immense power as a consumer you have…and ultimately, your ability, with others, to control the market…buying Fairtrade and supporting local producers is one way to control the market for the good, rather than giving your precious money and support to the global corporations who wreak havoc on our world…
It was a common belief, long ago, that many conditions could be cured by bringing the patient into contact with the powerful life force or MANA represented by trees…
Nearly 800 trees have been planted here at Bealtaine and there is something so awesome about trees that makes me want to get more land and keep on planting.
Today has seen the transplanting of another 20 or so Birch trees, seedlings rescued from the road verge before the tractors mow the grass.
More Buddleias for FREE!
Managed to pull up 3 tiny Buddleias from the gravel around the cottage…gravel makes an ideal seeding ground for many plants and trees.
These too have been potted on and will make fine specimens for planting out next year.
This is a little Birch sapling planted only a few weeks ago and already grown over a foot in height and spread.
Grass cuttings have been spread around the base to deter weeds and provide food for the fast growing tree.
Apple Trees and Verbascum
Apple trees under-planted with Blackcurrants and perennial flowers…here is the Verbascum in bloom with Geranium and Calendula amongst others.
Many Magical Trees…
Willow, Birch, Copper Beech, Twisted Willow, Oak and Pine, all planted in very close proximity to one another…this is the permaculture way and very quickly excludes weeds and provides an excellent source of coppiced wood for the stove.
Ash trees were traditionally used in Folk Medicine against poison and evil. Lightning runs to the Ash…’Avoid the Ash, it courts the flash!’
Long ago, in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland, on the birth of a child, the midwife would take a green stick from the Ash tree and hold it in the fire. As the heat worked on one end of the stick, the sap would ooze from the other. This was administered to the newborn baby as the first liquid to pass its lips!
I write about, film and photograph Mother Earth, for Mother Earth, opening little portals of healing energy all over the world.
Lots of Parsley and loads of eggs…yes, it’s summer and the food is in plentiful supply here on this Permaculture smallholding.
An easy way of preserving food for the leaner times is to use it to cook and freeze, or bottle or…anyway, you know what I mean…just don’t let it go to waste!
Here is one of my favourite fast foods, devised by Rose Elliot, my favourite Vegetarian Cookery writer…Parsley Burgers.
I made these on the Cook and Dine Evening I hosted on Monday evening at Cleen Hall, Knockvicar, and, they were very well received!
Anyway, here’s the recipe…
2 eggs / 6 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs / 1 small onion, chopped / 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley / salt and fresh ground black pepper / oil for shallow frying.
Add the breadcrumbs, onion and parsley to the beaten egg and season to taste.
Pour oil into pan to cover the base thinly and heat.
Spoon the mixture into the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on either side, until crisp.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve with salad or baked beans!
As they freeze really well and there is a glut of all the ingredients here at Bealtaine, I have made dozens of them to freeze and save as a fast food…
AN UPDATE ON THE GRAPEVINE…I planted outdoors…it’s doing really well, so far!
It had over-wintered at Bealtaine and endured being frozen in its pot for weeks on end, survived well and is now set to be a successful outdoor grape…
A Forecast for the Winter Ahead…
Lots of logs continue to be stockpiled for what is going to be a very cold winter indeed.
Seriously, now is the time to prepare!
If you live in the British Isles, try to get hold of a wood burning stove now and start your woodpile.
Managed to snap a pic of the baby Hare who has come to live at Bealtaine, just as he emerged from the shelter of the underneath of the shed this morning.
He wasn’t at all fazed as I stood near the back door snapping away with my camera.
There are 3 ducks staying here at Bealtaine for a short break.
The hens are very intolerant of them and boss them around continually.
If the weather dries up any time soon I will get all the wood on the sheds painted.
Harvesting continues in and around the Blackcurrant bushes.
For the moment I am freezing them.
This is a good way of collecting and saving daily.
The ducks are sticking together…but will be happy to return home on Thursday…I’m sure!
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Thanks to all the visitors to Bealtaine Cottage! Through this blog I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great friends and welcome some of those as visitors to Bealtaine in the flesh so to speak! I hope that in the coming weeks and months to welcome many more!
Each year the gardens grow a little more and after seven years there is a sense of maturity at Bealtaine, which is quite noticable. Some trees now reach thirty feet and more and shrubs have more than filled the spaces they were planned for.
All the Mother Plants remain in situ and many of their children have spread out into new areas of the land. There are now fifth and sixth generation plants dotted around the smallholding.
Even the verge on the public road is planted with Bealtaine plants that are all the more hardy for being raised organically here on site. These are planted straight into grass using the no-dig method where only a slit is opened in the ground to receive the rootball, then closed and mulched with grass clippings to keep the plant free from pressure of grass and weeds.
Some of the blackcurrants harvested here yesterday…
Sunset through the window of the porch. Up-cycled window, up-cycled stained glass, continuously re-cycled sun.