The Stone Circle here at Bealtaine Cottage is infused with early morning light.
A wild wind blows in from the West carrying energy and a sense of renewal as it blows Hawthorn flowers in front of it.
The morning is defined by change and renewal.
Stillness pervades the air at the back of the cottage where shelter holds sway…
Nearby a new sculpture of a Hare holds pride of place in one of the Potager beds…
The Celts believed in the magical strength of the Hare.
The Hare belonged in essence to the Celtic goddess Eostre.
It was her most favoured animal, representing love, fertility and growth.
In Celtic mythology the Hare was associated with the Moon, dawn and the belief in the transmigration of the soul. (I have written about this in a previous blog and can be accessed by typing Transmigration of the Soul into the search bar on this page).
Eostre was reputed to have changed into a Hare at the full Moon.
The poet Robert Graves referred to the Hare as sacred to the White Goddess, the Earth Mother, being regarded as, and considered to be, a royal animal.
“…language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age, and that this remains the language of true poetry…” ~ Robert Graves
Boudicca, the Queen of the Celtic tribe of Iceni in England, was said to have released a Hare as a good omen before each battle.
The Druids were said to have been able to divine the outcome of battle by the hare’s movements.
In some parts of Ireland hares continue to be celebrated, such as the legendary ‘White Hare of Creggan’, a sculpture of which can be seen at the “An Creagan” Visitor Centre in County Tyrone.
Even in the local community, its white silhouette continues to adorn homes.
Gardens in Spring are one of Nature’s great delights.
Here at Bealtaine Cottage the back door remains open and the sun streams in.
My grandson, Dylan sips tea, whilst nearby, Charlie sleeps on the rocking chair.
It is days like these that are idyllic to recall, as the days of Spring and Summer stretch out before us.
Sammy-Bear sits by the open door, enjoying the strong sunshine.
Somewhere in the scheme of things, as the days lengthen and the early morning birdsong touches our souls, a deep sense of optimism pervades the humdrum of everyday life.
Animals react to Spring with displays of joy.
The image of the Spring lamb are there for all to see, but look at the behaviour of other animals…
And the Earth itself…I can smell the grass growing…it’s an earthy, green, living smell that intoxicates!
As I walk among the Potager beds in the garden, I notice how the Purple Sprouting Broccoli is regenerating, almost as fast as I can pick the small sprouts.
In the tunnel, Calendula flowers on last Summers plants…a welcome reminder of the flowers to come and oh, they smell so sweet!
Buds on the Peach tree are beginning to thicken.
This was a broken tree I rescued from the waste of a big store.
It’s taken four years to nurture it into a strong tree and this year, maybe, just maybe, I shall have some fruit!
The Kale has over-wintered well, keeping me supplied with plenty of this rich food through the dark months.
Now, as almost all the leaves have been harvested, it begins to sprout abundance all over again.
Time to feed and water well!
This Celery was planted and stem harvested last Spring.
It has regenerated and will provide yet more nutrients for juicing!
Spring flowers, beauty to behold…feeding the spirit as I work in the kitchen.
Flowers on the Ribes bushes have opened.
These will be ready to feed early awakening bees.
Wood, stacked in Wigwam shape to air dry before being cut and moved to the barn.
There is so much wood here at Bealtaine that I am never going to get around to coppicing more than about 25%!
Taking the time to bend down and look closer to the Earth, sights like this remind one there is another world below our view, reacting to the energy of Spring.
I hope you make time to go out into Nature and find repose with her, for these are days of Spring magic…Magical days indeed!
Snow fell heavy on this Permaculture smallholding in the West of Ireland today and suddenly we were back in the midst of winter.
The light changed, as the reflective quality of the snow worked it’s magic.
“Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.”
― Jean Webster
For some childlike reason, it fills the heart with hope and delight, as though there is something else just waiting around the corner!
Walking over to the polytunnel, I felt a lightness in my step.
Inside the tunnel there remained an early Spring, untouched by the snow and ice, with vegetables and herbs waiting to be harvested.
“So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!”
― John Greenleaf Whittier
Clumps of green, like this native Sedge, rise up from the snow, providing lots of shelter and warmth for birds and small mammals, especially on these cold, late winter nights.
Snow changes everything!
Even the light on the veranda, as the snow on the roof encloses the space.
Meanwhile, indoors, Charlie is watched over by a curious fox…a present I received recently.
All is brighter in here too as the reflected light illuminates a shadowy cottage.
It is in consideration of the bird life all around Bealtaine Cottage that I deliberately keep the cats indoors, especially in the morning and early afternoon.
It’s easy to encourage them to do this by simply feeding them a large meal and allowing them to doss at leisure!
As the evening draws in, the real snow magic begins to manifest…
Night time across a snow covered landscape emits a strange light.
“A few feathery flakes are scattered widely through the air, and hover downward with uncertain flight, now almost alighting on the earth, now whirled again aloft into remote regions of the atmosphere.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne
These are special evenings, when the urge to walk in a snow covered land is pressing.
No torch to light the way, for one can see for miles around.
The low energy light from the cottage emits an otherworldly glow.
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Just over ten years ago I bought a derelict cottage standing on three acres of wet, rush-infested, north-facing land.
This is how I transformed it, using only Permaculture and my own labour.
See for yourself and share the magic!
Year One…the pond and stream beds were dug and the water has flowed ever since!
For the past fifteen or so years, Mother Earth has been communicating with us in a powerful and energetic way.
She wants us to plant her, nurture her and most of all recognise her for the Great Mother she is.
I heard her over ten years ago.
I write about her and photograph her magical ways every day, uploading to bealtainecottage.com several times a week, to be her voice and advocate.
The energy is quickening.
We live in wonderful times.
Midwinter, past and present…all here for you to see!
Feeling a touch nostalgic, I decided to share some of the magic of Midwinter with you from previous years.
The silvery light of a midwinter sun captures a sense of magic indoors.
We are all deeply affected by light and respond in varying ways to it, though mostly it makes us feel happier and more positive about life.
The light of both the sun and moon proved so important for our ancestors that they integrated all aspects of both into their spiritual lives.
Our bodies and minds ascent with the sun towards Midsummer, filled with joy and optimism.
Much of humankind has forgotten the importance of observing the heavens and being mindful of our connection to them.
The star that flashes red and green, (I was told was Arcturus), has moved from its midsummer position above Kilronan Mountain to the north, to one high in the south eastern night sky.
I have come to be more aware of the night sky over recent years…
As we continue on the descent towards Midwinter, with clear, cold night skies, this can be a good time to look to the heavens.
Midwinter will pass soon enough and the cycle will begin once more.
The darkness will lift.
Days will lengthen.
And life emerge anew!
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Something strange happened last night, for I slept so very deeply and woke early.
It was as though an enchantment had worked a magic everywhere!
I say this, because I spoke with friends this morning, who had similar experiences.
All day today, time has seemed to move so very slowly, though all year it has been remarked that time appears to be speeding up.
Perhaps there is magic in the date…
This morning has witnessed me once more standing atop the range in the kitchen, armed with a crowbar and quite suddenly realizing success, with the sounds of solid chunks of resinous soot falling down the immense cavity…the chimney is now cleared and the stove, once more, warms the cottage.
Who shall describe the inexpressible tenderness and immortal life of the grim forest, where Nature, though it be midwinter, is ever in her spring, where the moss-grown and decaying trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth.~ Henry David Thoreau
It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
― Agnes M. Pahro
As early Lughnasa transforms the permaculture gardens of Bealtaine Cottage into a colourful abundance and the harvest continues, the early days of an Irish autumn unfold.
These mushrooms are growing today near a clump of Birch trees in the woodland gardens further down from the front of the cottage.
The willow archway here has closed in on either side as the summer growth has cast even more shade in the new woodland. Bamboo and Dogwood have almost merged to close this path. As you can see, the leaves are beginning to drop.
The entrance to the Fairy Wood is closing too…there is a lot of work ahead this Autumn as the cutback begins!
Here are the new beds by the front door of the cottage. They are filled with home-made compost and planted with Birch and Cotoneaster, both grown from seed.
One of the evergreen trees originally by the front door has been planted in the corner. It had grown far too big for the terracotta pot.
I love the way the silvery autumn light changes the way the sitting room of the cottage looks. This is my best-loved season!
I have just returned from the wedding of my son, held over three days at Markree Castle in Sligo. My beautiful grandsons are here with me in the picture. The flowers were grown here at Bealtaine Cottage and all the guests were gifted with bags of seeds.
It was a lovely, lovely wedding!
The morning is hot and sultry.
The sky is clear blue.
Ireland basks in heat.
These self seed and come up more intensely year on year.
Scents of woodsmoke and compost fill the air.
Samhain is close.
The Celts divided the year into two parts…the light and the dark.
Samhain is the crossover point into the dark.
One of my favourite reads at this time of the year.
Poetry is like that…it can be turned over again and again, extracted from the past into the present and enjoyed afresh.
In Ireland the Tribes gathered for Samhain, at the ritual centres across the land to celebrate this most important festival of the year.
It was a time to reconnect with the past, a time of early shadows and light veils of separation.
I had no idea!
Reading about soil today has enlightened me…no, transported me…into another world, seriously!
The world beneath my feet.
I have always had a fascination with Fairies and the world of Nature, but was never fully cognisant of the facts about our soil…that deep, dark, rich matter that gives forth all we eat.
Facts like, a gram of soil contains about 100 million bacteria.
A square metre of fertile farmland can be inhabited by something like around 55 million worms and about 50,000 small insects and mites.
Monoculture diminishes all this, of course.
A monocultured ecosystem is very weak and may not be up to withstanding disturbance…hence the severe erosion and dust storms seen throughout places like the mid west of America.
A complex ecosystem, such as can be found here at Bealtaine Cottage, is better able to adapt to disturbance.
Permaculture has a healing effect in a very short time, allowing the soil to build up a strong ecosystem relatively fast…a few years in the case of this monocultured 3 acres!
Homo sapiens, means, Wise Man.
A Wise Man would not be sieving life out of our Eco-system, or interfering with our food chain and supply by patenting seeds.
A Wise man in Government would not allow that to happen.
Where have all the Homo sapiens gone?
The land approaches Lughnasa, (Lughnasadh), August and the beginning of Autumn.
Looking at the apples today on the trees at Bealtaine Cottage, it is easy to see how this is.
Harvests continue to be gathered and develop, ripening to plumpness and fullness.
Tomatoes, like the ones above, grown outdoors in areas of micro-climate warmth and shelter, continue to flower and produce.
The weather is promised good for the week ahead, as grass moves in the gentle breeze of a July afternoon…the only missing part of this picture is the beautiful Butterflies, so decimated by rain last year and almost finished off with rain and cold this summer.
There is little I can do to help this situation, other than continue to grow and plant out Buddleias and other shrubs and flowers much beloved of these fairy creatures with coloured wings.
Herbs are harvested, tied into small bunches and hung to dry in the warmth of the tunnel, with lots of air circulating, as both doors remain open day and night during summer.
Lughnasa is a harvest festival, marking the end of the period of summer growth and the beginning of the autumn harvest.
This is the time to save seed…as you can see, seed-heads have formed beautifully on the Leeks in the tunnel today.
I will save the seed of the strongest plant, for sowing next year.
Jostaberries are almost ready to harvest.
They come into season just after the Blackcurrant.
Many people think that Lughnasa was a fire festival, but it was not.
Lughnasa was associated with water and earth, as seen in decoration of wells, making of corn-dollies, decorating and adorning with flowers, and climbing mountains.
Many of the most beautiful flowers come into flower at this time…the Crocosmia by the door of the tunnel will flower over the next week or so, as will the gorgeous Shasta Daisy!
The plant just peeping into the tunnel is Lemon Balm.
Wonderful scents arise as one brushes past it!
Wood cut last winter will be ready for the barn by Lughnasa.
It dries well when stacked like this!
Lughnasa is a Celtic cross-quarter festival, meaning it is not a Solstice or an Equinox, but falls between.
Perhaps this Lughnasa you will climb a mountain, visit a Holy Well, collect Bilberries, bring in the first potatoes…all celebrations of this special, magical, Celtic Festival!
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.
Just click on the link to see today’s video…
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!
All the ingredients to make Autumn Chutney are in the pot and heating up on the stove. The apples are from the trees here at Bealtaine. Onions were grown here as well. The stove is burning wood grown here also…which all adds to the sustainability of living…and living well.
I posted the recipe for this last night…so you can easily find it on the previous day…just scroll down and click on the link to go back…
I have been reading a lot of stuff on Twitter recently about how pointless it is to plant trees and the importance of protecting our woodlands and forests! Well, the latter I do agree wholeheartedly with, but as for the pointessness of planting new trees…that’s just damned silly! Anyone who has planted a tree in their lifetime will testify to that!
Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn
them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
Seven years ago there were NO trees here on this land…just some in the rather neglected hedges that skirted the land. All you see on the blogs I post are trees that I have planted…over 600 to date. the willow I am harvesting in this photo is a catch crop, planted inbetween the actual trees.
However, there is another very important reason to plant trees and willow and anything else you can think of…biodiversity and wildlife!
It is amazing just how much we can create from nothing with the magic of Gaia. This was a rod of willow I just stuck into the ground…
We are Change http://youtu.be/ji8iYgLx8G0 Listen with your Heart…
The storm continues to rage. Walking Jack this morning, I was pulled down the road by an over-enthusiastic dog and blown back home by the gale force wind. It was brilliant and energizing and really uplifting!
- 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- (1 onion (diced)
- 2 large cans of chopped tomatoes
- 250mls passata tomato
- 500g cooked red kidney beans
- 3 tbsps of olive oil
- 3 tbsps of chilli powder
- 4 tablespoons tomato puree
Fry the onion, oil, garlic. Add tomato puree and fry another 2 minutes. Add chilli powder and fry a further 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, passata and beans…let it cook for about 20-30minutes. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste! Yummy…serve on a bed of wholegrain rice, with green salad and fresh deliciou bread…STOP DROOLING!
You will need a staple gun or hammer and tacks. Cut a strip of material the width of the door and about 20-30cms deep. Fold and tack to the bottom of the door, with the folded side just touching the floor. Now you are draft free!
With amazing images!
The Celts believed that endurance and patience were two of the elements in Woodbine, or Honeysuckle as we commonly call it.
The spiral journey could be found within the vine, so to have it growing wild at the entrance to Bealtaine Smallholding is magic indeed!
In lovely harmony the wood has put on its green mantle,
and summer is on its throne, playing its string-music;
the willow, whose harp hung silent when it was
withered in winter, now gives forth its melody-
Hush! Listen! The world is alive.
we respect the waters which give us life.”
–Amergin the Bard
Belief in oneself,
Belief in a higher self, and
Belief in the truth.
These are the pears in one of the orchards this morning, continuing to develop. Good rainfall has helped enormously and the days are healthily damp!
The No-Dig Method of Growing.
It is possible for one woman as myself to look after 3 acres of poor land and make it productive, using the No-Dig method which is in itself an integral part of Permaculture.
Making compost…the most important work you can undertake in the garden, for whatever you don’t want growing will be turned into this rich food for all you want to encourage. Start a compost heap today, don’t wait! I practise the cold-composting method, which is the easiest one to do…just heap it up!
These were planted onto a thin layer of cardboard that was placed directly onto grass. However, you could dispense with the cardboard, as I have done in the past and it works perfectly well! Used straw from the hen run is spread on the top.
As the potatoes push up compost is added on a weekly basis…I have 4 huge compost heaps, so no shortage of good organic food!
Animals and Bedding
I keep 4 hens. Their bedding is barley straw. This is changed often and regularly, giving the garden a continual supply of nitrogen impregnated mulch and fertilizer. I also spread generous amounts of barley straw around their outdoor runs as they love to scratch and I continue to collect the used straw. It’s a good method and works very well for me!
Mulch to Grow, Mulch not to Grow!
Srtaw is placed on the top of cardboard as a way of excluding growth and preparing the ground for the following year. This can also be planted into and is super for trailing plants such as pumpkins!
There is a sacred space here at Bealtaine Cottage, an ancient place that evolved at such a speed, that I quickly realised there was magic in this little corner of the land.
Above is one of the six entrances to what became known as the Fairy Wood…not my name for it, but bestowed upon it by visiting children.
Children are more in tune with the land than we, for they see and hear on a more profound level.
As I planted and observed the land, I could see the influence this little place had on the bare land around it.
Slowly, over one thousand trees filled the space, with plants like the Sedge, above, planted alongside paths I created to wind in and out of trees.
As I planted, so the Fairy wood evolved and her life energy seemed to emanate from deep within the earth itself.
This was co-creation at it’s most magical and inspiring.
Primroses and Celandines have emerged.
The land is packed with magic indeed.
The Sidhe are watchful as I work here.
One of the entrances overlooks the polytunnel.
Some pruning and cutting back has taken place here recently to allow more light onto the woodland floor, where rewards are plentiful.
Another entrance to the Fairy Wood…the essence of permaculture is being able to let go.
The secret is to allow Mother Nature free reign over all of her subjects…she really does know best.
I simply tidy up around her, paying attention to her promptings to do this and that…
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