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…
The old tin bath has been taken down from the wall of the barn.
Used wine bottles are left to steep for a few hours in rainwater.
Washed and clean, ready to be filled with home-made Blackcurrant wine.
There is always at least one day during the Summer, when one feels enthusiastic enough to overcome the reluctance to get stuck into bottling wine…today, all the right chords were struck and the work began!
Cork stoppers were duly washed and left to soak and soften, till, finally…
the wine was securely bottled! All that remains to be done is labelling…Chateau Bealtaine!
Outside the back door, Summer continues in layers of sheer abundance…Feverfew splurges on masses of tiny, daisy-like flowers.
Midsummer has only just crossed over and the garlic is ready to pull, with the first batch of Garlic and Oregano Olive Oil infusing.
Summer just keeps on getting bottled!
There is so much food and flowers, it’s sheer Heaven!
Walking around the cottage is a feast for the senses!
Even the ancient Polygonum is covered with bright red flowers…one of the very few plants here that has nothing for the Bees…but a delight for me!
Yellow Loosestrife stands tall in the casual cottage borders.
Roses fall over in a drunken Summer stupor, heavy with scent and bees.
Petals cascade onto stone steps, ivory wraps for blushing fairies.
Valerian falls onto the gravel path, dropping seeds and heavy flower-heads onto the visitor’s shoe.
And the Summer that was bottled today, will be brought out amidst smiles and raised glasses in the depths of Midwinter.
As it does, a new growing season begins to unfold.
This is the year of change, as more and more people realize, that civilization, as we have come to know it in these past decades, holds little hope of holding together.
I do not say this lightly and the reasons I see for it are manifold, but the main contributors to the calamitous and increasing loss of habitat and stable environment on the planet, is civilization itself!
Our civilization has created the perfect conditions for collapse of the very systems that sustain us.
We have watched the collapse of the financial world over the past few years.
There is no recovery!
Have you joined the endless queues in your local bank recently, just to be served?
Governments, like mine here in Ireland, are extracting carbon taxes from impoverished people and are not planting trees! Extreme weather events are fast becoming an accepted part of our weather systems…have you noticed?
If you know how the Jet Stream works, or should work, then you will be aware of the reasons why climate change is happening.
Quote science for or against and waste time debating…or simply look around you and keep a weather diary.
So, as always with my writing, I move onto the positive, the can-do…and what comes to mind is a simple skills set, that we need to acquire, if we are to move beyond the last years of civilization as we know it.
These are skills we need to acquire and pass on to younger members of our society…the ones who will be left adrift, without the security blanket we have used and abused.
Healthcare…basic first aid! can you prevent someone from bleeding to death or help deliver a baby?
Craft skills…how to make and create from local resources.
Building and construction, as well as maintenance to keep a home dry, for example!
Cooking and baking…Home economics is so degraded now in general education, I wonder why?
Permaculture…encompasses all the skills listed here!
Fire-making…few young people know where to start and the basics!
Management of resources (NOT financial!)
Herbs and the vital role they play in good health, food and body-care.
Conflict resolution and society building without hierarchy.
Basic mechanics…look how people in poorer societies keep their cars on the road!
It’s time to start putting plans in place for a better world.
The politicians are not bothered about our future, but we should be!
The permaculture gardens are very wet today…the rain has been quite relentless!
Lots to do indoors and sorting through boxes of “things,” I was happy to find these lovely Yuletide cards.
Doesn’t she look gorgeous in the snow?
As I am receiving orders for the Bealtaine Cottage Christmas Book, I thought that I would add these lovely cards, as a way for me to send the book to someone you love, with a card inscribed with your message.
Anyway, you can have a peek, using the link at the top of the page!
Missy continues to make a steady recovery, though has refined her taste-buds to a rather expensive prescription cat food, available only from Suzy the Vet, in Boyle.
When I refer to Missy as a “high maintenance gal!” …I’m not kidding!
Please ignore the clothes drying all over the stove today…it is rather wet outdoors!
Makes it really “Shabby Chic” style!
I take Jack into see Suzy the Vet, tomorrow morning, to have his “thumb nails” clipped.
Jack loves travelling in the car and tries to snap every other vehicle he sees on the road!
Which is why he can only ever be walked on a lead!
Dodging in and out, to collect up the logs, my friend Marian delivered to me yesterday, I still managed to get wet!
I’m stacking them under the shelter of the veranda by the lodge.
Despite the dull, rainy day, the gardens continue to look colourful!
As you can see, the potager beds continue in their abundance, producing herbs, vegetables and flowers.
There is never any shortage of work to be done here at Bealtaine Cottage!
Tree coppicing continues along the north bank, in front of the cottage, opening up the view just a little, as well as supplying the stove with kindling and small logs.
The fact is, no matter what the weather is like, it is simply wonderful to be outdoors in the gardens, working here and there!
Have a good week ahead everyone…Blessings from Bealtaine Cottage X
I grow over fifty different herbs here at Bealtaine Cottage.
All are grown organically, in keeping with everything I do here.
Lavender grows in profusion in the tunnel and dry areas of the gardens.
Wild Mint grows in the Bog Garden.
Oregano grows wild in the gravel driveway…one reason among thousands why NOT to tarmac!
The amount of self-seeding that occurs in the driveway is amazing!
I have taken lots of Lavender Cuttings and potted them on, so there will many more plants for next year.
It is important to keep a well stocked Nursery Garden…this enables continued expansion.
The garden has begun it’s slow transitional journey into Autumn.
By the Celtic Calendar, this is the beginning of the second month, and some plants already display that.
The Birch trees are colouring into autumn hues, the Willow hangs low in the early morning frost and harvesting food is well under way.
Hazel nuts are ripening, Rosehips are ready and apples are being harvested.
The hips of the Rosa Canina, or DogRose, rich in Vitamin C and ready to collect to make syrup.
They can also be used in Hedgerow Jelly and Jams.
I planted several of these bushes in various locations around my smallholding and they have all grown and fruited well, though sunlight is important, so shady locations are not that good…semi-shade is tolerable though!
The fruits of the Rosa Rugosa, rich in vitamin C.
These were collected by people during W.W.2. and delivered to the local collection points for the Ministry of Food where they were turned into Rosehip Syrup and given out to families with children as Vitamin C Syrup.
Isn’t it amazing just what governments can do for their people when they have to!
It’s worth looking at the history of the Ministry of Food during this time…some of the recipes produced by them are incredible…!
There are many hundreds of metres of pathways in this garden, connecting many different types of growing areas and gardens, all of them organic and all permacultured for ease of managing.
One of the paths, leading from a compost area in several directions…the orchard, the east garden, the cottage and if you turn right, along the north bank.
At this time of year, when there is so much to cut back, I use all the waste to mulch within that area.
The mulch, as it degrades, feeds the plants and builds up the soil.
It’s amazing how much is uncovered and revealed when this cut back happens.
The paths are all grass and are mown weekly…grass being used as a harvest food for the nearest trees and shrubs.
Did you know that there are over 300 species of Willow?
In wet ground, Willow only has to be inserted into the earth and it will take root.
Bees love Willow!
It makes great wood for burning in the stove, with just a little seasoning, depending on the thickness.
Baskets can be made from it, as can all kinds of decorations.
There is an archaelogical site in Antrim, recently uncovered that shows that the Ancient Celts used Willow and Wattle to create dwellings.
It is also a sacred tree, featuring in both the Celtic and Saxon Chronicles as such.
Here in the Bog garden, by the lower pond, this Willow provides wildlife food and habitat as well as structure and form.
It’s one of my favourite trees.
Willow lends itself easily to Permaculture, feeding so many insects and birds as to be totally amazing!
For the gardener it is a growing medium without restraints, bending into arches, fedges and garden sculpture.
Lughnasa fades into Samhain and there is magic in the air!
It’s amazing what a little rain manages to achieve in a growing vegetable bed.
This is the new raised bed constructed less than a week ago and already settled into the garden.
All plants were grown on in trays, then pots to give them a fighting chance against the all-invasive Irish slug…so far, so good!
Potatoes are all growing well in the old compost area from last year…the ground is full of nutrients. I move the compost area each year as a way of bringing fertility to as much of the ground as possible.
Comfrey is growing to grand heights, majestic and abundant in the days before harvesting.
Walking around the edible garden this morning was a heavily scented experience as the rain last night pushed up earthy perfumes from the garden.
This is a tiny fraction of the berry harvest growing here, this morning, at Bealtaine Cottage.
These are Jostaberries, a cross between a blackcurrant and a gooseberry…they are delicious!
The path to the tunnel is bordered with foxgloves, beautiful in their ascendency this morning. You can see the Oregano and Blackcurrant cutting growing happily underneath.
And look what was waiting for me in the tunnel…
And on the way back from the tunnel, stopping by the shed, I spotted this beautiful Valerian growing single-mindedly against the side of the building… wilful and independent…
Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. In this video, I show you some of the Herbs I grow in the tunnel.
Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases spiritual usage.
Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavour rather than substance to food.
Many Herbs are perennial and easy to grow, coming up year after year with little or no effort on the part of the gardener. Here are a few of the Herbs I grow and use…I will include many more as the summer progresses, as well as ways of using and saving them.
Rugosa rose is widely used as an ornamental plant. As a seaside plant it is invaluable as it can tolerate the salty wind and storms really well.
The sweetly scented flowers are used to make pot-pourri in Japan and China, where it has been cultivated for about a thousand years. This grows well here at Bealtaine Cottage.
The other rose growing abundantly here at Bealtaine is the Rosa Canina, or Dog Rose.
During world war two, the shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables was having an adverse effect on the nation’s health, so the call went out for the collection and distribution of rose hips from the hedgerows, as they provided the highest home-grown source of Vitamin C.
In response, the government organised a nationwide initiative to collect roadside rose hips which, with the help of the Women’s Institutes, were processed into syrup for babies and children.
Oregano is an important culinary herb, used for the flavor of its leaves, which can often be more flavourful when dried than fresh. It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity. Factors such as climate, seasons and soil composition may affect the aromatic oils present.
The leaves are most often used in Greece to add flavour to Greek salad, and is usually added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies many fish or meat barbecues and some casseroles. I grow heaps of this lovely herb and dry it for daily use all the year round. It is a mainstay of my cooking, especially tomato sauces!
Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments.
Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. The flowers can be dried and used in tea and as it is a good antiseptic it is useful to stave off colds during the winter.
The easy to grow corm, Crocosmia, this evening at Bealtaine Cottage. The chains of corms are fragile and easily separated, a quality that has enabled some species to become invasive and difficult to control in the garden. However, I welcome invasive flowers…less weeds!They are commonly known in the United States as coppertips or falling stars, and in Britain as montbretia. Crocosmia are winter-hardy in Ireland. They can be propagated through division, removing offsets from the corm in spring.
It’s hard to believe that this is not a garden flower…but the beautiful herb, Chives. This plant has been flowering since the middle of Spring! Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are the smallest species of the edible onions.
Chives are a commonly used household herb, frequently grown in gardens. In culinary use, chives leaves (straws) are shredded for use as a seasoning for fish, potatoes, soups, and other dishes. Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used in gardens to control pests.I think they make great border edging plants as well!
The first day of Autumn in the Celtic calendar and the harvest continues. Blackcurrants are being picked at Bealtaine, along with masses of herbs, including Oregano, Chives, Dill and Fennel…though the Fennel in the tunnel is seeding and will be dried and stored for baking purposes later on.
The Plum trees are bearing up well with the wight of the fruit and this will be used for jam and wine. I have planted four Plum trees so far and am also growing some trees from seed.
Yes…it’s hard to believe, but there have been bumper harvest every year at Bealtaine and this is set to continue as the land moves from monoculture in year one to wonderful biodiversity in year seven, with shelter developing and compost heaps bursting…
This is the Fennel in the tunnel this morning, with a good crop of seeds developing.
Apple too are plumping out well…juice, chutneys, pies and crumbles here!
Remember the immense power as a consumer you have…and ultimately, your ability, with others, to control the market…buying Fairtrade and supporting local producers is one way to control the market for the good, rather than giving your precious money and support to the global corporations who wreak havoc on our world…
The weather has forced me indoors a lot recently, encouraging a hive of activity that includes knitting and sorting cupboards and reading… I’ve just completed this scarf for someone who wanted me to knit for her in these colours and in natural wool. So hard to get a scarf knit in natural 100% wool these days apparently. So there it is, completed and ready for collection.
I enjoyed the task so much, I decided to use all the leftover wool and knit one for myself…
This is a great book I’m enjoying reading at present…picked up in a charity shop for 50cents. it’s amazing just how much info I’ve gleaned from this so far and Im only on the second chapter!
Finished reading this book a few days ago and again, so much info and fascinating facts that have been forgotten and yet are so useful for us today…simple things like the fact that a cobweb, placed over a cut, will stem the bleeding and help to heal the wound! Soldiers going into battle hundreds of years ago carried a tiny box with cobwebs inside to treat deep cuts inflicted by the sword!
As the weather has blown a gale outside, I’ve been in the kitchen making chutney and curries…freezing the curries for ready meals later on. Imagine having to light the stove in July, but the weather has really been that bad!
Bad weather means I get to sit and drink tea and read…so there are advantages to be had from the wettest day!
I picked these flowers from the garden last week and as you can see, the display includes Dill. Over recent days the scent of the Dill has changed from a liquorice smell to a very sweet coconut scent and it is gorgeous!
A cottage garden is the most informal garden it is possible to create and the easiest to maintain, if following the permaculture, no-dig method and approach.
Ladys Mantle will grow, fall, spread, then grow some more from the centre, outwards…if allowed, and that is what happens in a cottage garden!
Plants are ‘allowed,’ to do their own thing to a large extent!
Informality is the only hard and fast rule and that’s a contradiction in itself!
Formal or Not
Spirea simply HAS to get unruly before it produces these exquisite spires of pink fluff!
The hedge or bush…there is both here at Bealtaine Cottage, can only be brought back into semi-formality after the flowering period!
This stunning herb gets very big and quite straggly, but it’s all worth it when the flowers happen.
It self-seeds everywhere, but who cares?
It’s carelessly beautiful!
Once these seeds are introduced into your garden, there is no way back for splashes of pink bobbing on the morning breeze between vegetables and fruit alike.
The Bees adore them!
Just let it be!
At the end of the day that’s the great joy to be found in a cottage garden.
Prepare to be surprised, shocked even!
There is no rule book!
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The delicate an exquisite flowers on the Dogwoods are beautiful close-up. For colour all winter, flowers in summer and berries during the autumn, dogwoods are hard to beat.Wildflowers…the most delicate and delicious blooms at Bealtaine Cottage…Elderflower Cordial, mmm!The time of the butteflies is very near. Last summer seen a huge upturn in the butterfly population as the garden matured. This summer should be good for butterflies too, although some of the buddleia was killed off in the prolonged frost of last winter. Seed heads from last summer. All so-called weeds are in fact valuable herbs, some of which we have not yet found a use for. It’s amazing just how much knowledge we have lost over the post-industrial time, a mere 150 years!
Another beautiful day at Bealtaine…it looks like there is an early summer for sure. Wild herbs are up in the woodland, as are the Bluebells. Primroses are continuing to bloom and seem to be in abundance this year. Nights are quite balmy and there is no sign of any ground frost, as the grass in the early morning is holding the dew.
There remains a problem with the uploader/browser, so apologies for the stacking effect of the photographs!
The need for a decent bed has been uppermost in my thoughts recently…I had made a bed using pallets, but kept banging my feet on the wood, tripping and, the worst thing of all…could not shove boxes of old shoes etc., under the bed. So, I had a long hard think about the problem and came up with two possible solutions…Buy a new bed, a mere 300 euros, yes, okay, beam me up spotty! Or, dismantle the old sofa bed and use the bed part with a mattress on the top…so guess which one I went with then?
You guessed right…now I’m chopping up the remains of the sofa for the stove, composting the material and storing the foam for future cushions…cost, ahem, sorry multinationals…zero!
Every Sunday I visit the second-hand market, always on the lookout for bargains and objet d’art. Last Sunday was a lovely day and there were plenty of stalls selling lots of interesting items…and I bought this for 5euros! Handknitted and warm and colourful and beautiful, the perfect throw for another old sofa! Rather gorgeous, don’t you think?
Strawberry flowers are opening up in the tunnel today.
And the strawberry plants in the hanging baskets on the veranda are not far behind! I have planted up lots more baskets and have them hanging in the tunnel, this time with lettuce and lots of other edibles, including herbs.
The tunnel has certainly come to life over recent weeks. I shall move the baskets to the veranda once they are established.