Days of Hibernation

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Snow fell today.

As I stood by the front of the cottage, the mountain of Sliabh an Iarainn appeared to suddenly rise up in a shroud of white.

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More often than not it merges into the sky in shades of grey and sometimes blue, but today it stood out proud, gleaming white.

This mighty mountain, where once the ancients mined iron ore and ushered in the Iron Age, rises from the shores of Lough Allen to the North East, as Kilronan Mountain faces the cottage, sentinel-like, to the North.

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It too was dusted with a covering of light snow.

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I retreated to the warmth of the cottage and watched the snow fall.

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By the time I went into the bedroom to make the bed, Sammy-Bear had made a nest and curled up for the day…I exited the messy room and closed the door!

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Sammy-Bear often sleeps in my bedroom to escape Charlie, who often makes great sport from terrorizing his betters!

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Charlie and Jack are quite good friends now.

It’s a hierarchical relationship…Charlie’s the boss!

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The evening has drawn in fast…there is not much to notice yet in the stretch of the day…it slowly manifests when we are busy getting used to the new year.

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Now is the time to make the most of the days of hibernation left to us, for they are few in number…the Spring moves in faster than we realise.

Charlie knows this…in fact, looking into his eyes, I’d say that Charlie knows an awful lot!

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!

Companion Planting in Permaculture

Pumpkin and kaleHere are some of the combinations that have worked really well for me this summer here at Bealtaine Cottage. Pumpkins, Kale and Nasturtium…the bees love the flowers on the Nasturtium, bringing them in towards the Pumpkin flowers.

Celery and RudbeckiaAnother strange but beautiful combination…Celery and Rudbeckia.

Rudbeckia is late flowering and especially useful in a potager bed, making lots of babies that can be potted on and sold at the market next Spring.

Parsley and SedumParsley and Sedum…Sedum is the last meal of the year for the bees and will ensure adequate nutrition for their long hibernation. This is the Sedum, Autumn Spectabalis, which makes lots of babies for potting up!

Tomatoes and FeverfewTomatoes, Feverfew, Borage and flat leaf Parsley…all very happy and thriving together in this potager bed. This is the way I grow all my fruit and vegetables…to the point where no soil is exposed. It works great every year!

KaleYoung Kale with Sedum and Nasturtium. The plants are continually surrounded with shredding. I make shredding from what I cut at Bealtaine Cottage and put it back onto the earth to build up soil. I use an electric garden shredder.

Corn and kaleSweetcorn and Kale in one of the potager beds outdoors.

Lemon Balm and RocketLemon Balm and Rocket…both go great together in a salad as well!

Working in the potagerPotager beds are the focus of companion planting in extremis!

Colette in one of the orchardsThe next harvest in the fruit gardens is the from the Apple trees. Plenty this year!

Potager bedsMeanwhile, the work continues in the potager beds.

bee on courgette flowerOne of the many workers supporting Bealtaine Cottage.

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April Snow, Bees and Butterflies

April  Bealtaine Cottage pond gardenApril weather is always unpredictable.

Snow fell this morning…in between rain and brilliant sunshine!

It was like a convergence of all the seasons in one morning!

April permaculture rhubarb at Bealtainecottage 016This time last year we were swimming in the Atlantic Ocean down by Mullaghmore Pier.

Legs and arms, uncovered for the first time in months, looked a sickly white in shorts and T-shirts.

April 2011 permaculture cottage 022The apple blossom was fully out and the season was about a month ahead of what was expected.

This year, the season is late.

About 4-6 weeks in some parts of the garden!

April  Bealtaine Cottage PolytunnelHowever, the polytunnel is really paying for itself, as I have all the fruit and veg in pots, growing big and strong and ready for when the weather settles down and all danger of frost has passed!

April Bealtaine Cottage permaculture GardensI have been hauling more and more stone from the edges of the land, into specific areas, where the passive solar heat trapped in the stone will help growth in annual crops, creating micro-climates.

As the season is late, it allows more time for me to catch up with the bigger tasks here at Bealtaine Cottage.

Always looking for the silver lining!

Bealtaine Cottage Gardens  in April 2011 001The Bats are out from hibernation and yesterday, as I walked down the lane-way, a butterfly fluttered just ahead of me, for most of the walk.

The bees are flitting from one heavily laden Ribes bush to another…their end of hibernation feast!

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A Healing Environment…

Flowering Currant, or Ribes as it is called, is in full blossom all over Bealtaine smallholding and it is already calling the bees out from hibernation with it’s heavy scent and glorious flower droplets!

This incredible shrub is the ultimate in permaculture planting, because wherever one chooses to plant a cutting or two, it will grow readily and develop into a flowering shrub rapidly. The flowers turn into droplets of berries adored by birds and hens alike!

Free food and beauty and windbreaks…that is so permaculture!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I made the journey to Omagh to visit my mother…who is hale and hearty and looking forward to coming down to Bealtaine for a holiday very soon.

Mum insists that she finds her holidays here to be invigorating and healing. Mainly due to the birdsong and cool atmosphere around the cottage, which helps enormously with that plague of old age, swollen feet!

I am convinced that this is due, in part, to the overwhelming heat in the environs where most older people live, especially the constant dry central heating and sealed homes. It is no coincidence that Mum’s feet are returned to normal size within 24hours of her visit here!

Cool, clean air was once a mainstay of the Health System…open windows in hospitals were de rigeur under the watchful eye of Matron! Today, with closed windows, sealed buildings and air conditioning, health problems in hospitals abound, especially MRSA! Cool, clean air is healing…make no mistake!

I have been busy spreading gravel on the driveway and around the cottage. This is the first top dressing I have laid in almost eight years. As it had to be done, I chose a local stone which, as you can see, is very bright and reflects the light beautifully!

Periwinkle in bloom in a sheltered spot near the west of the cottage.

A big stack of straw in the barn…I have stocked up on bales of straw for the hens and vegetable garden as the next harvest will not be until around August…it pays to plan ahead, besides which, the girls will only lay eggs on clean straw!

January at the Cottage

Re-cycling

The cottage is warm and cosy, thanks to heaps of old timber 

collected over the summer months.

Old wood flooring, pallets and posts have been stock-piled. Most

were sodden wet,

but have dried out well and give off super heat!

You may be wondering at the pic…yes, it snowed a little today and

this was snapped around 4pm.

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January Work

  • Plant trees
  • Clean out land drains
  • Prune fruit trees, mainly apple.
  • Prune bushes
  • lift and divide perennials
  • Wash tunnel inside and out   

Oh…and how could I forget…take Jack on longer walks!

Reflections

There are times when it can seem impossible to see the wood for the trees, as the old saying goes…and this time after the midwinter can appear confusing, as winter and the beginnings of Spring tend to merge and fade.

It remains a time of hibernation on cold days and Spring activity on sunny ones. My advice is simply to ‘go with the flow.’

Most of all, enjoy the days of this month and measure the gradual lengthening of each one.