Here in the study the light is low as the day fades into the west.
Ten O’Clock rings out as I take up my camera and head out into the warm evening.
I have enjoyed visitors for much of the day, so stepping out into the evening allows me time to be quiet and absorb the ending of the day.
“Be calm…calm as a calm lagoon, then you will look beautiful as a beautiful calm lagoon crowned by the Moon and sheltered by the brilliance of the stars reclaiming your royalty of regal life…”
― Oksana Rus
The light lends an ethereal touch to everything.
“When one tunes in into nature’s frequency, life becomes change, change becomes hope!”
― Aniekee Tochukwu
The birds continue to fly to and fro their nestlings in a frenzy to keep them fed.
Fortunately, Bealtaine Cottage can now support dozens of pairs of breeding birds and all from the plentiful supply of food in the gardens and food forest.
“It was that time of dusk when there is a—deepening of the interior shadows. It is a melancholy time: all you need do is switch on one lamp and the inside and the outside will separate, held apart by the reflections in the glass, and evening will begin.”
― Rudolph Delson
As always at this time of evening, there is magic in the air.
Flowers are dancing in billows of colour around the cottage.
As I walk, snapping pictures here and there, I fancy my camera may capture an image of the other world that is veiled so very thinly at this time of day…
I sense the watchers…
and is gone in the blink of a lens.
(This photo is as it appears…I NEVER use photoshop!)
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!
On such a morning as this, there can only be one place to gently go…come with me as I venture down into the Fairy Wood at Bealtaine Cottage. Nature spirits are in evidence in the lush new growth. Magic abounds…
To understand Celtic Spirituality we must suspend the normal way of looking at the world and ‘sense’ the other worlds around us.”
– Donald McKinney, Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century
Looking North East towards Slieve Anieirin Mountain…
Slieve Anierin, known as the Iron Mountain, is a magical landscape, where Iron Age people once mined Iron Ore.
Slieve Anierin in Leitrim; Sliabh-an-iarainn, the mountain of the iron; from its richness in iron ore.
Bealtaine Cottage is surrounded by landscape, where traces of ancient peoples are to be found with ease.
The Tuatha de Danaan were one of these ancient races and were also known as the Shining Ones.
Few people are aware of the fact that it was these people who became the origins of what we know worldwide as the Fairies…or the Sidhe.
This was the Tribe that became the Sídhe…the Fairy Folk.
The stories of the Sidhe abound in Ireland.
We live alongside our ancestors.
This path at Bealtaine leads down into the Fairy Wood.
There is much written about the
Sídhe, pronounced “shee”, and a lot of the writings are contradictory, much like the
Living among the remnants of ancient tribes, as I do, here in the West of Ireland, watching skies with stars so bright, they illuminate the night, it is easy to believe in theSídhe…even revere them at times.
There comes a shift in perception, when one’s closest allies are the invisible forces of Nature.
Where does reality begin and end?
What is actual and what is reflection?
For much of it is coloured by perception.
This was something debated by the Romantic Poets, as they often explored the world around them, using reflections, as they held up mirrors to gaze into Nature.
There are many tales relating the emergence of Fairies in Irish Folklore.
Many legends recall how once great Queens, Kings and Warriors became
In turn, these mortals went on to establish new kingdoms in the ancient mounds and hills of the landscape we know today.
It is easy to regard these ancient sites with reverence and understanding, for even though there are millenia of time that separate us from them, they are part of our ancestral being.
The true origin of the legendary Tuatha De Danaan lies somewhere between the worlds of reality and perception of reality.
The name means literally “the folk of the god whose mother is Dana.”
It is merely recorded, that they appeared, as the clouds rose, from the mountain of Slieve Anierin, on the day of Bealtaine, the first day of May…Summer.
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Each pendant is hand-crafted from locally sourced Irish Bog Oak, an ancient and profoundly mysterious wood that’s been buried in the Irish peat bogs for thousands of years.
These pendants are made from wood dated as 5,600 years old.
It could be the way the light hangs in the sky this evening…
Or the stillness of the air as a mist starts its’ way up the valley…
Or may even be the predominance of moths fluttering in the still air down in the Fairy Wood, in the gardens below the cottage…
I’m walking the gardens in search of the Fairies.
Although most people here in the West of Ireland will tell you they’ve left the fairy faith in the past, there is a lingering moment, between asking whether or not they believe in the Fairies, and the reply in the negative.
That moment of hesitation is all one needs to be aware of!
Fairy faith is the belief in fairies, of course.
When the Milesians, the mythical race described by an 11th century scholar in Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of Invasions), came to Ireland they banished the natives to the underground and they became the Sidhe, the fairy folk.
They reside in old ring-forts, stone circles and inside and under magical trees like the Hawthorn, or Fairy Thorn as it is known here in Ireland…particularly one growing alone in a field.
No farmer disturbs the Fairy Thorn, for to do so brings almighty bad luck!
There is a Fairy Thorn in the wood below the cottage, hence the name, Fairy Wood or Dell, as it lies in a hollow, well below the cottage.
And so I ramble the gardens, quietly, patiently looking here and there for movement or unexpected light.
I would really appreciate if you’d take the time to vote for me in this Irish award…
There are times when the only way I have of explaining the growth of everything here at the permaculture smallholding that is Bealtaine Cottage, is by citing the Fairies as the little workers that sally forth at night, as the sun descends and their Fairy Forts allow them exit…and here’s what I mean…
This bed is less than 3 weeks old, built and planted out on the same weekend…now look at the growth!
Well, it must have been the Fairies, because it wasn’t the chemical companies that most people use to grow food…
Talking of which, I was in Lidyl this morning and they had some lovely Rose Bushes for sale.
I did what I always do, I read the label…and oh, the utter disappointment!
It read that the Rose was licensed and one could not grow cuttings from it!
Not grow cuttings?
That’s like telling me not to drink the Spring water from the well, or breathe the clean air on the mountain!
So, …these are the raised potager beds in the Magical Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage…
Cardboard straight onto the gravel to stop weeds coming through!
And now to show you a little secret…here’s what I use to line the raised beds, sheep’s wool.
It’s referred to as “shoddy,” which is the parts of the fleece of little or no use for spinning.
It is very rich in plant food and even a liquid feed can be made from it.
It will rot down nicely and the roots of plants can bury themselves into the feast of food that is trapped therein! Fairies are fond of beauty and loathe straight lines…none here!
Just one more little bit of information on this beautiful Sunday in the west of Ireland…
You may be wondering why on earth there are pots sitting on the top of the raised beds…well that’s another brainstorm I had…
Cut the bottoms out of pots and plant that on the raised bed, with a plant inserted, so the roots have even more depth!
Have a lovely day and watch out for the Fairies! Earth Spirits are at work everywhere!
This little area on the 3 acres that make up Bealtaine Cottage has slowly given up it’s secrets to me as the years have passed.
From the first days of discovery, when this appeared to be an overgrown thicket that was impenetrable, to the weeks spent slowly unravelling the beautiful space within…The Fairy Dell has emerged as a very special part of Bealtaine…perhaps the actual heart of the energy that has grown here…
I’ve lit the stove and the kettle begins to sing on the top.
It’s a tea and toast kind of evening.
I was thinking about Fairies today as I walked through the Fairy Dell Woodland.
It lies below the cottage, in a natural dell and is a very special place.
There’s a Fairy tree in the centre of the woodland with a huge stone underneath it’s branches.
I’ve often wondered about the history and meaning of that tree and stone.
I have been told that such a tree planted by a stone can mark the resting place of a person whose body was not allowed to be interred in the graveyard…the churches had all sorts of rules regarding who could and could not be interred in so called sacred ground…unbaptised babies, suicides etc…all of great sadness and shown little mercy…
And so, while Jack plays with his football…for some reason he believes I want to steal it…I think about this tree, the Fairy Dell and…fairies…
Fairies are widely regarded as magical spirits who can help humanity get closer to Nature and embrace harmony in the natural environment.
To the Celts, nature embodied the sovereignty of the Goddess.
In comparison, within the church view, Nature is widely regarded as something amoral and fearsome, needing to be dominated and put to service.
All this has led us away from our deep relationship with Mother Earth…we are now in a state of flux and near abandonment and we feel this deeply, with some more aware of the root of our unhappiness and others less, or in severe denial.
My cardigan dries on the back of a chair this evening…
Maybe we need to think again about Fairies, for until we respect the natural world and our precious environment, we are doomed to be cast aside as Gaia struggles on her own…
The storm continues to rage. Walking Jack this morning, I was pulled down the road by an over-enthusiastic dog and blown back home by the gale force wind. It was brilliant and energizing and really uplifting!
A Lovely, Tasty, Hot Recipe for a Cold Autumn Day…
4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
(1 onion (diced)
2 large cans of chopped tomatoes
250mls passata tomato
500g cooked red kidney beans
3 tbsps of olive oil
3 tbsps of chilli powder
4 tablespoons tomato puree
Fry the onion, oil, garlic. Add tomato puree and fry another 2 minutes. Add chilli powder and fry a further 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, passata and beans…let it cook for about 20-30minutes. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste! Yummy…serve on a bed of wholegrain rice, with green salad and fresh deliciou bread…STOP DROOLING!
A Simple Idea to STOP That Draft…
You will need a staple gun or hammer and tacks. Cut a strip of material the width of the door and about 20-30cms deep. Fold and tack to the bottom of the door, with the folded side just touching the floor. Now you are draft free!
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.
It’s hard to believe that this place was just rushy monoculture land 7 years ago.
Yet, it is just this possible to turn poor land around and re-invest fertility to the soil.
Trees are Nature’s way of doing that.
Permaculture intensive planting is the way forward.
Pots and old bits of pipes filled with Sedums add interest to a little corner.
The Pine tree is only 7 years old, from a seedling and it is giving cones already!
Three acres of poor land have been turned around in a relatively short space of time to create a very productive, edible landscape and sheltered habitat.Perennials are the ones you don’t have to bother about too much…Michaelmas Daisies on the right, Sedge to the left and a self-seeded perennial coming up in the middle…Birds, bees and insects all benefit from the transformation from monoculture to permaculture. Yellow Loosestrife and Blue Geranium, perennials that push their way into beauty every year, never mind the grass and weeds, they will do their thing regardless!Roses are in bloom on the veranda…it really amazing just what will grow in this once desolate looking place…have a look at the “before” pictures on this blog.
When I first seen Bealtaine Cottage in May 2004, I did not see desolation, I saw abundance…the first step in living one’s self-sufficient, permaculture dream in Ireland!
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