Or may even be the predominance of moths fluttering in the still air down in the Fairy Wood, in the gardens below the cottage…
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!
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.
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.
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I made a short video to show you some of the beauty… you can click on that below.
The apples have all set and are developing well.
There promises to be a magnificent crop this year, so all the recipes for apple wine, chutney,butter, cider and more will be perused and debated…will I make this or that or…
The Willow is now in leaf, as are most of the trees, with the Ash being the last to leaf.
The scent as I walk around the gardens from the blossom on the Hawthorn trees is heavenly!
Work in the kitchen is almost finished and the task of stencilling will start later in the week.
I thought that an Ivy stencil would be lovely, so will cut one out when I get the chance to sit down!
Anyway, here is today’s video, with love from Bealtaine Cottage…click and enjoy…
Following on from the short video on Willow and using willow in the garden as living willow fedges and structures, here’s a short video on trees… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBu_fP82VDY&list=UUHkXJ9wsrdPEpzb-KMgmt-A&index=1&feature=plcp
This is the new feature on WordPress and it is just fascinating…a breakdown of visitors to Bealtaine Cottage on Friday.
I love to look at statistics, as these represent real people in real time…and from all over the world!
Feverfew coming up in the gravel driveway…I must admit to being rather naughty and deliberately shaking seed from plants all over the gravel…I shall NEVER get my driveway tarmaced! That would be the end of such fun!
The delightful little buds on the Hawthorn hedgerow are fast becoming leaves as they unfurl in the bright warmth of an Irish Spring…
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!
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.
Gunnera by the side of the pond is sprouting and growing by the hour. It is surprising that this of all plants survived the bitter cold of last winter. Many of the plants like Escallonia and Eucalyptus died.
The Gunnera is a huge and stunning plant, especially grown beside water.
Copper Beech is planted throughout the gardens on the smallholding and they add a tremendous amount of colour for most of the year. Many are planted along the laneway up to the cottage and each year add another dimension to the look and shelter as they increase in size.
The flowers of the Pine trees are out and each one has this lovely white cobweb under each one. These unusual looking flowers turn into cones…pine cones, and have a delicate yellow pollen that when the tree is shaken the yellowy dust blows off in a cloud…it’s beautiful to watch!
Ivy in the Fairy Dell woodland is growing and hanging in great swirls as the light seeps through before the full shadiness of summer begins.Ivy grows in abundance here in the west of Ireland…it is almost unstoppable!
Valerian coming into flower today at Bealtaine. The rain continues, almost unabated, raising the water table and pushing the water in my spring well down towards the cottage. Spent quite some time bringing water across to the tunnel to give the plants a good drenching!
Sprays of Hawthorn blossom hang in swathes around the hedgerows at the cottage. The flowers of this tree release a certain chemical which is good for the heart and it is recommended to breath deeply around these gorgeous blossoms!
Made a fruit sourdough bread yesterday. Sourdough skills are developing slowly and the real savings are tangible. Making the traditional soda bread was easy, but more costly. Buttermilk was needed, whereas sourdough requires nothing other than the flour and what one chooses over and above that! Added to that is the bonus of the bread not using commercial yeast, which is detrimental to health for more and more people.
Lots of wild Bluebells have appeared this year at Bealtaine. This single flower is indicative of the natural spread taking place after 7 chemical-free years on this smallholding. Open the door a little, (figuratively speaking), and Nature sweeps in…a much welcomed guest!
The heavenly, sweet-scented flowers on the Hawthorn trees is in full bloom now. This is the edge of the Fairy Dell, where many of the apple trees thrive. Cherry and Plum are also planted on this south facing edge of the woodland.