Garden in February (Part One)

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The year in the garden is now well under way, as Mother Earth awakens in a very visible way…not that she ever slept!

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Coltsfoot is one of the first herbs to come into flower, for it flowers before it leafs and a very welcome sight this is!

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Bronze fennel, that most vigorous of herbs and also a brilliant addition to the flower garden, starts to produce tasty leaves that can be added to early Spring salads.

Rocket has over-wintered well in the tunnel and forms the base ingredient.

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Daffodils are now up and beginning to flower.

Daffodils on the hill above the cottage, around an old abandoned dwelling are in full bloom!

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Reminders of Winter come and go, but not for long, sometimes just an hour or two of a light dusting of snow.

Never enough to hold back the advance of the seasons!

But beware the wind chill factor that comes with early Spring and wrap up warm when venturing out to work in the garden!

Rhubarb in a permaculture garden

When the sun does shine, it is truly glorious and plants like Rhubarb spring into exuberant life!

A very hungry plant, Rhubarb eats up a generous dressing of well-rotted manure.

Euphorbia at Bealtaine Cottage

Euphorbia comes into life in the flower garden…here it shares a half barrel with a Fig Tree and both like each other’s company!

In fact, the Fig has fruited well year on year since getting a new bed fellow!

bealtaine cottage permaculture feb 2011 002

An old but treasured book is always at hand to delve into for advice on seasonal food, gardening and outdoors work!

I wonder if this little gem is still in print?

Bealtaine permaculture gardens

Beautiful catkins on the Hazel trees…flowers in fact!

Bealtaine Cottage frogs in the pond

The pond is filling with frogspawn and clumps of frogs celebrating the turn in the year as only frogs can!

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2011 028

Out in the hen-house the girls are in touch with the growing of the light as they come back into lay!

Fox in the garden at Bealtaine Cottage

Mr and Mrs Fox are hungry and on the prowl! I often lay out food at night for the foxes, for the way I see it is simply this: we have interfered with the food chain by removing the animals that would have predated upon foxes.

This is my way of attempting to live in harmony as best I can…and ensuring that the girls in the henhouse are well protected!

Part Two  of THE GARDEN IN FEBRUARY can be found on Bealtaine Cottage Good Life…

To subscribe, see the link below…

 

I’m happy to write, photograph, podcast, YouTube and Facebook on behalf of Mother Earth…it would be great if you could take a second or two to press the LIKE button, leave a comment, or even subscribe to Bealtaine Cottage Good Life…

https://bealtainecottage.com/bealtaine-cottage-good-life/

 

You can place an order for seeds harvested here at Bealtaine cottage, from the plants seen growing here…all strong and vigorous. Click on the link below that will take you to the selection available:

https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-for-sale/

 

Signs of Spring

Catnip Heart Toy made at Bealtaine Cottage

Life is stirring.

Light shines higher in the morning sky.

Thickening buds cast a haze over the land.

“But there were certain early days in Casterbridge- days of firmamental exhaustion which followed angry south-westerly tempests-when, if the sun shone, the air was like velvet.”
Thomas Hardy

The woodland that surrounds Bealtaine Cottage

Colours emerge and birds sing out a joyous, higher note.

Warm weather in January

We are officially in the season of Spring in the West of Ireland and the new energy is tangible, from rising in the morning to the growing lateness of dusk.

The temperature seems rather unstable, as you can see evidence of in the photograph above.

The morning began very cold and in the space of minutes, the temperature had climbed by 18 F., causing the mirror on the veranda to steam up!

I recorded this as most of the only real information about climate and weather appears to be anecdotal evidence from social media! Cottage interior at Bealtaine, 2016

My favourite aspect of Spring is the way the light changes.

If one simply sat in this cottage and never ventured outdoors it would be possible to map the seasons in light play.

I expect birds, animals and even insects are similarly informed.

Living in the glare of artificial light can be dulling to our senses!

“She walks in the loveliness she made,
Between the apple-blossom and the water–
She walks among the patterned pied brocade,
Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter.”
Vita Sackville-West, The Land

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Elsewhere in the woodland gardens at Bealtaine, frogs have emerged from hibernation and busied themselves, as only frogs can in cold ponds!

Frogs in Bealtaine pond have the luxury of a shallow, sheltered, ancillary pond, hand dug by myself, just off the main one.

This water heats faster and earlier, ensuring maximum attention to the detail of frog mating and spawning…a sort of nursery pond!

Anyway, it works a treat and has done for the past eleven years.

As a consequence, the amphibian life force has healthily expanded!

“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the idea of a colour – as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts.”
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

 

Frogspawn at Bealtaine Cottage, Ireland, 1st Feb 2016

Frogspawn at Bealtaine Cottage, Ireland, 1st Feb 2016

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

Permaculture gardens at Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2016

Diversity of planting not only has created resilience, but bestowed all year round colour to Bealtaine Cottage…so appreciated as Spring emerges…for with this rising of the sap, comes a much defined colour change!

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Pussy Willow at Bealtaine Cottage. Ireland

Catkins have appeared on the Willow…and there’s many different varieties in the Woodland. Pond and even Orchard gardens. Essential food for the bees emerging from a hungry winter hibernation.

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Quince flowers, Bealtaine Cottage, Feb 2016

This Quince grows in the Bog Garden and has begun to flower!

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Margaret Atwood

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Where would Spring be without the exquisite little Primroses?

Seen here in the Fairy Wood at Bealtaine, surrounded by Spurge!

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Spurge at bealtaine cottage in the Fairy Wood

The Fairy Wood awakens!

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You can place an order for seeds harvested here at Bealtaine cottage, from the plants seen growing here…all strong and vigorous. Click on the link below that will take you to the selection available:

https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-for-sale/

 

I’m happy to write, photograph, podcast, YouTube and Facebook on behalf of Mother Earth…it would be great if you could take a second or two to press the LIKE button, leave a comment, or even subscribe to Bealtaine Cottage Good Life…

https://bealtainecottage.com/bealtaine-cottage-good-life/

Monet in Gaia’s Garden

Coppiced wood makes one neat pile to be used in the wood stove next winter.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe small logs burn very well in the wood stove and give tremendous heat!

The building of the next pile is under-way.

www.bealtainecottage.comMuch of today has been spent cutting back the growth on the stream that carries the water into the ponds.

Che-Mousey-Bear has stayed in the Bog Garden with me as I worked, keeping me entertained… www.bealtainecottage.comas you can see!

www.bealtainecottage.comThe lower pond looked like a Monet painting…

www.bealtainecottage.comin the soft afternoon light after the storm.

www.bealtainecottage.comEthereal…

www.bealtainecottage.comAs I worked silently along the banks of the stream, frogs croaked, mating, swimming and spawning in both ponds.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe spawn was visible…

www.bealtainecottage.comand floated in big chunks across the water and weeds.

www.bealtainecottage.comWillow and Dogwood was pruned back and cuttings inserted along the stream banks,

www.bealtainecottage.comwhere they will root and keep the earth from being eroded by the ever-increasing rain…this is building resilience and adapting to Climate Change!

www.bealtainecottage.comBirdsong filled the gardens all afternoon and Coltsfoot made an early show of yellow flowers in the gravel…

www.bealtainecottage.comnear the lower pond.

Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 110 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.

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Celtic Spring

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

A weekend of storms has settled into sunshine and showers.

mum at Bealtaine CottageThe funeral of my darling Mother is over.

The future for those she left behind has re-started.

A lovely calm has descended upon Bealtaine Cottage.

www.bealtainecottage.com permacultureI returned on my own last night, preferring to spend time alone.

The evening was filled with lighting stoves, making tea and feeding pets.

My mother was a great pragmatist, being a war-child…she was adept at knuckling down, to doing what had to be done!

So, it’s easy for me to follow suit.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe next few weeks are going to be very busy, as there’s masses of work to be finished in the gardens and much preparation for the growing season ahead!

www.bealtainecottage.comThe next few weeks will see the Willow opening and bees beginning to emerge, rather tentatively, from hibernation.

www.bealtainecottage.comIf there is to be any good Willow for cutting this year, then the coppicing needs to be done now!

www.bealtainecottage.comOne lazy week will never be caught up with!

www.bealtainecottage.comImbolc is welcomed in on the 1st day of February.

Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureThis marks the start of the Celtic Spring…always a month or so earlier in these far reaches of Europe. www.bealtainecottage.comThe earth begins to dry out and warm up…lovely days ahead!

Bealtaine Cottage frogs in the pondThe ponds will throng with frogs and toads, all making merry in the Springtime revelry!

www.bealtainecottage.comThe wheel turns.

www.bealtainecottage.comMother Nature never sleeps.

Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureSpring is on her way!

Cats in the Sink and Frogs in the Pond!

Missy Cat in the sink at Bealtaine Cottage

Missy Cat is being stubborn and uncooperative.

Frogs are laying spawn in the pond.

The sun is shining and snow is promised.

All that’s missing is the Mad March Hare!

Bealtaine Cottage SeedsI’ve been having fun stamping my little cat stamp all over the seed envelopes.

Bealtaine Cottage stampAs you can see it is a specially made stamp that says “by Bealtaine Cottage.”

Bealtaine Cottage summer in the permaculture tunnelLots of you have asked for seed, so I’ve been busy sorting and labelling before posting all over the world!

Missy Cat at Bealtaine CottageI always dreamt that the magic of this little cottage in the west of Ireland would spread out, like a ripple of life and energy, to all four corners of the world…and it really is happening.

Many of the plants grown here over the years will be grown this year across Europe, America and Australia…it’s wonderful to think of.

This is today’s video all about the frogs in the pond in the Bog Garden…

Permaculture Cottage ~ Dividing Rhubarb, Growing Trees and Composting!

Lots of the rhubarb has been lifted and divided recently and planted into the new beds, all loaded with fresh compost from the heaps stacked last year.

Rhubarb is an easy and early fruiting plant to grow. Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have medicinal and culinary uses.  In culinary use, fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant’s stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. Personally, there is nothing equal to a Rhubarb Crumble, or, one of my absolute favourites…Rhubarb Jam!

Did you know that in England, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley,a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk?

The New Vegetable Beds

The new beds are coming along well…planted out with Chard, Cucumber, Parsley, Tomato and Chives…for starters! I have spread wood ash recently on the beds and continue to build up with compost.

Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity, when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Raw chard is perishes quite fast, so it’s best to pick only when about to be used!

Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked  or sautéed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked Spinach. I use Chard a lot in my home made soups and curries and as a replacement for Spinach.

Flowering Oregano and Chives

Both grow like weeds here at Bealtaine Cottage, with lots of Oregano now coming up in the gravel driveway. Great for drying and using in sauces and soups and breads!

More Trees Please!

Trees are planted all the year around here at the smallholding. Many are grown from seed and potted on several times before eventual planting out. Many are rescued from the roadside verges and gravel paths. Lots of these trees are given away to those who show an interest in planting. There is one thing for sure though, the Earth needs more trees. Trees protect her.

Compost this morning at Bealtaine

Now working through the second heap and already filled up the first again, so am busy as you can see!

Composting as a recognized practice dates to at least the early Roman Empire since Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).

Traditionally, composting was to pile organic materials until the next planting season, at which time the materials would have decayed enough to be ready for use in the soil. This is the method I follow and it works every time as you can see!  The advantage of this method is that little working time or effort is required from the composter and it fits in naturally with agricultural practices in temperate climates. Personally I see no disadvantages in this technique. There is no real exposure to excessive rainfall, as the heaps are thatched with lots of straw to overwinter in peace and harmony with all the hibernating insects and frogs!

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