Fresh air and sunshine have an excellent cleansing effect on the materials.
Little cobwebs, insects and textures becomes a world all of its’ own.
The green of Autumn has a fairytale quality about it…it becomes a woodland green, reflected by silvery, autumnal sun light.
Red berries and silver light, weather changing frame by frame and night skies opening up to endless stars…country living, or maybe just observing.
For as I type, a fierce storm moves across the tree tops, sweeping leaves before it like a Samhain broom!
Yet in the stillness of the sheltered gardens of Bealtaine, Perscaria blooms stand tall and erect, like soldiers guarding Summer…but not for long!
(Persicaria amplexicaulis is a species of flowering plant in the family Polygonaceae, native to the Himalayas.)
Che-Mousey-Bear chases around the gardens, delighting in Autumn and curiously keeping watch as I take photographs this morning.
Willow arches have thickened this year…something I will plant many more of, as the Autumn progresses and leaves fall away, to reveal the best stems to cut and plant.
This beautiful tree had fallen in a storm over nine years ago, but now grows in the more sheltered gardens.
The Rowan tree has long been regarded to possess magical and protective qualities and often was planted near Irish cottages.
This may have something to do with the fact that there is a small five-pointed star, or pentagram, opposite the stalk of each berry.
The covering on the tunnel is in need of washing, for the algae has settled on the outside…a task to add to my weekly list!
These are a welcome source of food for blackbirds and if not eaten, remain on the plant until spring, providing an important food-source for young birds.
Ivy makes a magical decoration for the home towards midwinter… I always look forward to gathering and decorating the mantelpiece with this wonderful greenery, leaving plenty for the birds!
Yesterday afternoon and evening was spent down in the Fairy Wood, cutting back the paths and lifting the canopies on some of the bigger trees.
… for I had moved about ten metres through the wood, without taking much note, other than look at what I was sawing.
Taking a breather, I stopped and looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings…I was in a place unknown to me in all the nine years I have worked and planted this land!
This is the most amazing aspect of the Fairy Wood…that it had transformed itself as I planted, worked and took daily walks through this magical place.
I walked around to the far side of this ancient Ash tree, one that had stood in among the briars and thorns, alone, for all the time I have planted here.
The tree looked totally different on the other side…
The Ash tree has been coppiced at some point in the past and has grown into a multi-stemmed tree which now has an underground cave.
Almost all kinds of trees found in the Celtic countries have been thought to have special powers, or to serve as the abode of the fairy folk, but especially the magical trio of the Oak, Ash and Blackthorn.
This a a very special tree and quite magical as you can see…
I just received this petition. Perhaps you can mention it in your blog and get other people to sign it.
Love and best wishes
Bayer has just sued the European Commission to stop the ban on its bee-killing pesticides — despite clear evidence its products are behind the massive bee die-offs.
We can’t let Bayer and Syngenta get away with this blatant threat while the bees disappear. Sign the petition to tell them to drop the lawsuits now!
Some friends of mine called the other day.
They were off to Sligo to do their Christmas shopping.
The list of what they had to buy was long and detailed…three children and lots of family living close by!
Whilst here, they collected Holly, Ivy, lots of other greenery, as well as a small Christmas tree, which they left down by the gate to collect later on.
Back inside the cottage, warming ourselves by the stove in the kitchen and drinking mugs of hot tea, they remarked on the similarity between my lifestyle and that of the television series, “The Good Life.”
I won’t expand too much on the series as you can always look it up on YouTube and have a laugh at my expense…
So, what exactly can be called a “good life?”
And here, we’re talking in terms of lifestyle choices, rather than anything too holy!
I could draw up a list of all the things that make my life feel good, but, instead, I shall condense it all into one little word.
For the past few months I have been endeavouring to make my life as simple as possible, by giving away as much as I do not want…clothes, books, household items…and painting furniture to bring it all together.
The result is very satisfying…less stuff to move around, fall over, gather dust and fret about and, more simple elegance.
Her little black dress, well cut suit and No.5 perfume are still as popular as ever they were!
Living the “Good Life,” is not all about muck and wellies, no…it’s about lots of simple elegance too!
Ask Missy, she knows where to sit to look her best!
Part one of The Good Life, Christmas special 1977…
Cut a range of willow stems, including Dogwood and any other bendy shrubs or woods you can easily access and lay them on the floor to grade them in length.
Take a long length of green willow and made a circle, twisting the spare of the length around the circle.
Following this, insert another long length as you can see, and twist this around the circle.
Twisting long lengths to start the circle, strengthens the hoop and makes it easier to follow on with shorter pieces.
You can keep adjusting the circle to make it as round as possible.
The willow will bend and shape quite readily.
Keep adding in lengths, inserting the thick end in between the woven lengths.
Excess pieces of willow can be snipped off as you go or at the end of the work.
Try to keep the shape balanced by rotating the wreath, not inserting the thick ends all into the same part of the circle.
I use garden cutters to trim the thick ends of the willow.
Start to add the colourful willow slips.
You can also use any bendy plant strips and even fresh Bamboo.
Take time to experiment with as many garden materials as you can find!
If it grows and is fresh cut, then it’s fine to use as it will be pliable.
Now add the red Dogwood…
Make the wreath thick and chunky, as it will make a good decoration base all the year round and last for years to come.
The wreath continues to be pushed into shape, making it rounder.
The wreath is now ready for decorating.
This willow wreath is 100% biodegradable and will last for years to come.
You can redecorate it as many times as you please!
Larch is associated with integrity and vision.
It is also for protection, so lends itself well to a front door wreath.
Birch is for healing and cleansing and Willow is magical and powerful, so already, we have a triad of good energies balanced within this Christmas, midwinter wreath.
Adding Ivy…symbol of the spiral path of the Self
I cut several long trails of Ivy to wrap around the wreath…symbolizing aspects of the journey of the self and new experiences.
You can probably begin to see and feel the powerful energy from this Circle of Willow and Nature!
The wreath is now complete.
All that remains is to add some more seasonal decorations of your choice.
This is how I finished mine…
What a beautiful welcome!
Here’s another I made recently as a gift for a friend…
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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…
The Plants of Christmas
The plants traditionally associated with Christmas were Holly,Mistletoe, Ivy and Common Yew. These trees and plants have had special roles in earlier religions and past cultures.
The Celts in Ireland had midwinter festivals to celebrate the return of the sun from the shortest day.
In the 4th and 5th centuries, 25 December was gradually adopted as the date for Christmas in Europe in order to superimpose on the existing mid-winter festivals.
The Roman festival of Saturnalia was a week of public feasting, dancing, singing and gambling. Houses were decorated with evergreens and bunches of holly were given as tokens of friendship. When this festival was absorbed into the Christian calendar, Holly and the other evergreens were absorbed as well.
Fire and Celebration
In The Bleak Midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Ascent To Spring
A simple tea-light in a paper bag.
Comforting and warming.
A table decoration made using greenery from the garden, with a candle in the middle of the oasis.
Judy Collins sings a beautiful rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” …I scoured the web for the best version and I do believe that this is it!
So many traditions and cultures across the globe celebrate this special time…a time of rebirth and renewal.
As we prepare for the shortest day, let’s celebrate in light…
Apples out from the store and in the kitchen ready for a little magic that lies in the art of an Apple Crumble!
So what is the special ingredient?
Ivy…one of the essential parts of midwinter decoration.
This beautiful plant was traditionally brought into the home around midwinter to remind all that life continued and the green abundance would, once again, in Spring, return…
Shop bought/factory food, is mediocre compared to even the simplest home-baked cake…
Well worth a good pot of tea, don’t you think?
Sunday…it hardly feels like winter really! It’s so warm and pleasant outside…
There is somethinginfinitely healing in the repeated refrains
of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night,and
spring after the winter.
– Rachel Carson
The Sense of Wonder
Yesterday, on my way back from the North, I stopped at a Charity Shop and bought this lovely throw for a few euros.
It now covers a multitude of sins on the old sofa and Missy certainly approves of the recycling effort here!
Try to keep to sheltered areas in a strong wind though!
My brother Hugh made the lovely bench from old Georgian doors, 150 years old! Hugh makes a lot of these and calls them, “Hugh’s Pews!”
This one is ‘Shabby Chic.’
Haws and Ivy.Some of nature’s mostexquisite handiwork is on a miniature
scale, as anyone knows who has applied a magnifyingglass
to a snowflake.
– Rachel Carson
..food for the birds!
No need for peanuts if you ‘plant ahead!’
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Ivy loops and twirls around the trees in the Fairy Dell woodland. Ivy that feeds the birds in the depths of midwinter. Ivy that shelters the pheasant in the heat of midsummer. Strong, natural and wild…
Ivy and Lichens, so perfect in the gardens at Bealtaine that it can only be the hand of Nature…no gardener can create this perfection…
Another sacred part of the land at this permaculture smallholding…a small field of Devil’s-bit Scabious, the natural habitat of the rare Marsh Fritillary Butterfly. Nature working her pure magic and being encouraged at every turn!
Now is the time to plant Willow. This is something which is easy to do and will serve the eco-system around you well. So many insects, birds and bees depend on this plant. Simply cut a wand of Willow and push it into the ground as far as you can…about 1-2feet will do! Manure it well and it will grow fast and strong! Some people surround it with plastic to stop weeds and grass, but, personally I do not approve of this as the earth under plastic is not beneficial to wildlife and anyway, the Willow will soon shade out any unwanted weeds!
It’s raining this morning and the plants that self-seed in the gravel are continuing to drink. This is Valerian, which loves the limestone gravel and grows from seed scattered into the stones. It’s beginning to flower and will continue to flower all the way through the summer.
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!
The Ivy hangs in 3-4 metre tendrils on a tree in the Fairy Dell…Quite Magical!Euphorbia…this wonderful perennial comes up more lush every year and transplants easily…I started with a stolen cutting and now it dominates the April/May/June garden and beyond!Angelica, now at least 7 feet tall and with a massive spread. Medieval herbalists called it ‘Herba Angelica,’ meaning ‘Angelic Plant.’ Traditionally it is supposed to flower on the 8th of May, which is the feast of Michael the Archangel. needless to add, Angelica possesses protective qualities. The seeds add flavour to Chartreuse Liqueur!The way up out from the Fairy Dell…Orchids continue to emerge all over Bealtaine Smallholding. I was asked by the Census Enumerator the other day if I used any chemicals here…where that came from is interesting! However, I simply told him to look around…there is far too much growing evidence of NO CHEMICALS HERE!Sunlight dapples the grass under the Blackthorn trees near the tunnel. The light dances on the ground as the Fairy trees gently sway in the breeze.