The Cottage in the Woods

Winter edges away slowly, with lighter mornings and longer days.

The Permaculture Gardens of Bealtaine Cottage have emerged this year into the Permaculture Woods.

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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…!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“…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

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“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 

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Aquilegia has begun to grow…this is one of the first flowers of Spring and great for early rising bees.

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The all too tidy gardener will also miss these wonderful flowerings of Moss on small standing stones.

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And leaves that are busy creating woodland paths in a garden evolving fast into much welcome woodland.

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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.

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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!

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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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Blessings

A Day in Early Spring

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Juicing is a great way to ensure one has the maximum of vitamins and minerals and this is something I do every day.
It’s also a reason to keep greens growing all the year around, as even small bits can be added to the juicer and vital vitamins extracted.
I’ve used some small bits of Kale that have escaped the frost and storms.
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There is no waste in Permaculture, just compost and more vegetables growing! Compost is the food needed to grow food!
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Slowly, slowly the Willow is cut and stacked…time is running out as the buds thicken! Baskets, Fedges and Obelisks are standing here!
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These beds are fairly sheltered and continue to produce Kale, which is processed in the juicer.
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Fine Willow used in basket weaving waiting to be harvested. The gardens look colourful all the way through Winter, as the stems of Willow, Dogwood, Ash and Birch are revealed.
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So much rain has fallen here in Ireland this Winter and now, in the early days of Spring, the flooding has begun to dominate the landscape. Here at Bealtaine cottage I spent much time in the early days digging out drains and water channels, as well as keeping them maintained over the past ten years…and it has paid off, as you can see from the lower pond. The water runs free, out into the streams and rivers that take it to the Atlantic Ocean. 
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In sheltered areas all over the gardens the ferns have remained green, though a little bit droopy. The winter was mild and warm, with plenty of rain!
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This is the beginning of the wood pile for next winter. It comprises of coppiced logs of Birch, Ash and Hazel. The twiggy bits are thrown into the back of the pile as they make wonderful kindling! These logs may be small, but are perfect for a small wood-burning stove!
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I’ve been stocking up on straw recently, as this makes great mulch around the garden helping to suppress weeds and line paths.
www.bealtainecottage.comGreen Beech hold their leaves right through Winter, adding even more colour and shelter to the gardens! 
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And look who’s keeping an eye on me as I type…my loyal Jack!

A New Era at Bealtaine Cottage

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Smoke rises into a clear blue January sky.

The birds are singing like it’s Spring and black ice covers the road by the gate. www.bealtainecottage.com 012My friend Michael is here this morning to finally remove the toilet and install my compost loo.

The septic tank is, from today, a grey water tank!

www.bealtainecottage.com 008I have been using the compost system for the past year, keeping the flush toilet for visitors, but this is the time to finally say goodbye to a system that no longer makes any sense!

www.bealtainecottage.com 019Those who visit, or stay at Bealtaine Cottage, will experience a neat loo, that is both efficient and hygienic, adding to the environment rather than being a source of pollution.

I shall write a blog and post pics of the new loo in a few days time…

www.bealtainecottage.com 006Meanwhile, there are signs of life all the way through the permaculture gardens, with Daffodils pushing up through the more sheltered earth under the Beech trees.

www.bealtainecottage.com 027The sun is not yet high enough on the horizon to reach the paths in the Bog Garden, many of which will remain frozen for weeks to come.

www.bealtainecottage.com 026In the sheltered parts of the woodland, Ferns remain green and quite lush.

Many keep their life until new fronds unfurl in late Spring.

www.bealtainecottage.com 005The Willow continues to be cut, tied and stacked in the barn.

www.bealtainecottage.com 029Many of the Fedges will need to be pruned before Spring and vigorous new growth that follows.

This Fedge borders the stream that runs from the Spring Well.

www.bealtainecottage.com 038Many of the Bird Boxes around the gardens will need to be water-proofed with whatever I have to hand…usually a coat or two of gloss paint.

This does not seep into the wood and so does not harm nestlings in the box.

                                  Many thanks for the continuing support for the work of this Bealtaine Cottage  website.

Blessings

Willow Fedges, Arches and Fairy Woods

It’s evening here at Bealtaine Cottage.

The sun is setting in the west and there’s a mild chill in the air.

I have been cutting back some of the wild summer growth and the sunlight can now reach areas where there was only heavy shade.

The dappled light covers the standing stone on the bank under the cottage.

One of the big tasks is tying in the willow growth from this year into the fedges that cover the smallholding.

It’s a lovely task really, I can’t complain, as I work and listen to the sounds of Nature all around me.

It also allows me time to look at the way plants are developing and plan the next task, so there is an organic flow to my work.

This willow arch has many stems of Dogwood worked into it.

The fedge on the right was the first one constructed here and had developed well over seven or so years.

It looked odd at the beginning as it stood all alone on a rushy field.

An upside down vase covers the top of a stem from a Sitka spruce that I recently cut down.

There is a disease which is killing these trees off all over Ireland and Scotland and no wonder!

The plantations of these trees spread far and wide and are monoculture nightmares that blot the landscape in huge square planting schemes that allow no light or biodiversity into their space…it is purely for greed!

The bog garden has seen lots of work over recent days as I clear the edges of the pond and cut back willow and shrubs.

This is a lovely time of the year to work outdoors.

Autumn is my favourite season.

It is a time when the gardens start to look their best as the summer party ends and the tidy up begins…

I have realised the great value of Willow this year as a fuel for the stove.

Much of what I cut last Autumn made great kindling and small logs, giving a strong heat.

It also works well in the Rocket Stove.

When I had finished my work, I walked back up through the Fairy Dell Wood as the evening sun was illuminating the entrance, making it look magical.

I have always believed in Fairies…

Permaculture Cottage ~ 70,000 Visitors…(now almost 300,000) seek a better way forward.

Potting, planting, protecting and nurturing the future of Earth…the babies of Gaia are secure in the Nursery beds as the storm approaches from the west, with an early winter not far behind…in late October to be expected!

Visitors to this permaculture blog topped 70,000 this week.

Interest in permaculture is booming as the forces that rule and dominate this sacred earth go into a tailspin, driven by their hatred, greed and compelling and overwhelming desire to destroy all that is good and sustainable on Gaia.

More and more people are becoming desirous of finding a way forward which can only be based on sustainability.

Permaculture is the way that has proven itself to be foolproof here at Bealtaine Cottage. Marian, Colin and Marisa, visitors this week, will testify to that!

Sedums this morning, near the tunnel.  It’s hard to believe that these are growing where once only rushes grew…with nothing sprayed, turned, dug, imported, raped or plundered.

The thing is, when you start to trust Nature and treat her as a friend, wonderful things start to happen…that is permaculture for me, in a nutshell!

Oregano growing around the water bins near the tunnel this morning.

The flower heads can be dried and used to make tea which has wonderful anti-bacterial properties.

Good for sore throats!

Ash trees stand tall and heroic all around the borders of Bealtaine…I have more faith and trust in these guardians of Gaia than any standing army!

The pathway into the Fairy Dell, lined on either side by a Willow Fedge…now is the time to create fedges like this, easy to make and cost ZERO…my favourite word as you all know!

PS…since posting this in September 2011, over 295,000 visitors have made their way to Bealtaine Cottage…permaculture is blooming!