It’s worth noting that theses productive little beds, built near the back of the cottage, straight onto gravel, have no soil in them whatsoever!
Soil is precious here in North Roscommon and the land is rushy and wet, so I filled the beds with home-made cold compost and shredding…I continue to build up the structure with shredding, made in my little electric shredder!
The beds carry a lot of food in them still, due to the close planting system I use…as food and flowers are harvested, other plants spread themselves out and the gaps are quickly filled with seasonal planting.
Garlic will be planted out over the weekend in this bed.
Loads of material is then transported over to the growing compost heap…and so the cycle of life continues in a wonderful loop of plenty!
The huge Sunflower head will yield a generous amount of seeds…I use these in Oat Smoothies, an important part of a healthy diet.
Rudbeckia, Marigolds and Evening Primrose continue to bring colour and delight to the Potager Beds as they’re cleared, providing food for many visiting insects.
There is a good amount of herbs around the edges of this bed.
They like the micro-climate afforded them by the stones, as well as the good drainage.
Apples continue to plump out, surviving the storm of last weekend by virtue of the fact they are all very sheltered.
This is an important aspect to growing apples in the west of Ireland, as many storms blow in from the western seaboard at a terrifying speed, decimating fruit production that’s in any way exposed!
Today is a fine day with clear skies and strong sunlight…this will help the tomatoes in one of the baskets to ripen, the salad tomatoes! it’s such a pleasure to be outdoors on days like today…one of the last flings of Summer as she goes on her wilful way!
The hips of the Rosa Rugosa hang heavy over the path.
“The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” continues…
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Drought is no longer a problem as the land in sodden with rain, but it’s not all bad!
Not that it bothers Missy in the slightest!
In fact it’s a glorious summer for the plants and Nature, as the abundance of midsummer flows through a permaculture landscape.
I am uploading today’s video as I type and thinking about the lands that have little or no rain.
It can be tremendously difficult for growers in drought conditions and I am mindful of a the wonderful work being done by by permaculture teachers all over the world as they help people design their way back to abundance.
Indeed, this is the vital message I continue to learn as I do the same…designing the best landscapes in my continual adaptation to the chaos that is climate change.
In the example here at Bealtaine Cottage, that means using stone to make raised beds closer to the cottage and in the warmth of a south-facing aspect.
It also means ensuring both east and west sides of the smallholding are kept exceedingly sheltered, for, indeed, I have noticed that the winds have blown hard from the east over recent days and heavy rains.
Usually they come in from the west and the Atlantic Ocean.
Over recent days I have been on the forage for all the crops that are free in the hedgerows and across the land.
Elderflowers are at their most scented peak and I recall similar wet conditions last year when I went in search of an Elderflower harvest.
It is interesting to keep a record of weather rather than relying on external sources.
Local knowledge is intrinsic to making plans for the next year!
On todays diary of photographs you can see the raised bed, now less than 3 weeks old and already yieding a harvest, as well as the 2nd bed currently completed and being filled with compost.
On today’s video diary you can see the most recent compost heap uncovered and the progress of the latest compost heap under construction.
Today the sky is heavy and grey, but summer rolls on and is quite marvellous.
The Earth exudes the most wonderful summer scents and the birds sing…life is good!
Permaculture gardens and growers shy away from bare earth.
The introduction of a layered system simply emulates Nature herself, allowing seed to spread and drift onto open land where pioneering speciesare allowed to take hold.
There is a plant for every place, even here on the limestone gravel…Valerian nestles into whatever spot a seed lands upon.
In this way, this beautiful flowering plant has made the gravel driveway of Bealtaine Cottage it’s home…
Buddleia is another pioneering plant that will nestle into stony and inhospitable places.
Have you ever seen this flowering shrub, beloved of Butterflies, growing out from old buildings, between the cracks in the mortar?
From the introduction of two shrubs, the natural cultivation of hundreds has followed on at Bealtaine Cottage.
Harvesting is simple…pull the seedling out from the gravel path and pot on, ready to replant the following year in it’s new home.
An example of the Valerian along the west wall on the gable end of Bealtaine Cottage.
When flowers appear to grow effortlessly, like weeds, you know they have found their perfect home…let them be!
Wild Orchids here, growing on a land that is allowed to breath free from chemicals…Nature knows best!
Michaelmas Daisies…make great ground-cover under trees and grows in almost any conditions from my experience here.
This is growing under a pine tree in the Bog Garden on the lower slopes of Bealtaine Cottage.
Spiraea, a most beautiful summer flowering bush.
Easy to grow…all here have been started as slips simply pushed into the soil.
Hard pruning will give you lots of kindling for the stove as well as bulk for the all-important compost heap!
Columbine, or Aquilegia, another hardy self-seeder here at the cottage.
This made itself at home in the early days of establishing permaculture at Bealtaine and has thrived and spread ever since!
This purple Columbine comes up each year at the front of the cottage.
Permaculture flowers are easy to grow and take good care of themselves!
There are hundreds of photographs showing the flowers that grow here…feel free to look up the summer calender of last year…just click on Calender and hover the mouse over dates for that month, then click to go in…
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Potatoes growing by the east side of the shed. Did you know that there are about five thousand potato varieties worldwide? Potatoes do not keep very well in storage and are vulnerable to molds that feed on the stored tubers, quickly turning them rotten. However, I left potatoes in the ground over the course of last winter, when all was frozen solid for six long weeks…and they were dug out after the defrost and were perfect! I think it may have been the layer of straw that was atop the ground!
Throughout Europe, the most important new food in the 19th century was the potato, which, of course fast became a monoculture among poorer people… I strive hard to avoid planting all the tubers in one area, preferring to plant here and there in a positive way to avoid disease…and it appears to have worked thus far!
Now in its seventh year, Bealtaine smallholding has achieved new heights of growth, meaning that compost is plentiful. This is because there is so much to cut back and use to build compost heaps…I have made two so far and am still using the compost made last year, with loads to go!
At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting a year or more. This is the method I use and it has benefitted Bealtaine well! The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. Any parts of the heap that have not degraded sufficiently can be added to the next heap…a process I indulge in!
Permaculture planting lends itself really well to bountiful compost production, so even if you do not keep animals for manure, it is still quite possible to maintain a high degree of healthy and fertile soil, using plant compost alone…however, a few hens are easy and happy and productive little workers to have on any smallholding!
Upcycling baked bean tins…making a few holes in the bottom and planting with sedums…these are two years old now and quite attractive when grouped together like this, don’t you think?
Lots of berries on the Hawthorn. last year was the same and I predicted a very cold and long winter…I forecast more of the same for the coming winter based on much evidence around me…
Crataegus,or Hawthorn is one of my favourite trees here at Bealtaine and I have grown all I have planted from seed. Hawthorns provide food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals, and the flowers are important for many nectar-feeding insects.
In Gaelic folklore, hawthorn ‘marks the entrance to the otherworld’ and is strongly associated with the fairies. Lore has it that it is very unlucky to cut the tree at any time other than when it is in bloom, however during this time it is commonly cut and decorated as a May Bush or Bealtaine…Irish meaning May. This warning persists to modern times; it has been questioned by folklorist Bob Curran whether the ill luck of the De Lorean Motor Company was associated with the destruction of a fairy thorn to make way for a production facility.
Hawthorn trees are often found beside clootie wells; at these types of holy wells they are sometimes known as ‘rag trees’, for the strips of cloth which are tied to them as part of healing rituals. ‘
When all fruit fails, welcome haws’ was once a common expression in Ireland.