The sky opens early revealing a mist over the valley.
It’s been very dry here in the west of Ireland, so morning mist adds a little dew to the plants and is very welcome.
I am busy writing my book, all about Bealtaine Cottage and how it grew from barren monoculture into Eden, with some permaculture magic!
As I write, I compare this ten year journey to that of my great grandmother, Mary Ann, who felt compelled to leave the comforts of a small town and re-invent her life, on a small farm, in the countryside around Omagh.
At the age of fifty four, during the great depression of the 1930’s, Mary Ann Baxter strode into a property auction being held in the town hall and bought, for cash, a small farm.
This swallowed up her entire life savings!
My great grandmother was a remarkable woman, for in the 1930’s, a woman in her fifties was considered old and good for little!
Not alone that, women did not do anything as bold and individual as buying property, on their own, at an auction!
The farm became her life and she slept for the next twenty years in a big brass bed in the barn…never in the little cottage which she kept pristine!
Her story is simply enchanting and I promised my father to write it…and I will!
In the meantime the story of this obsessive desire to live close to Mother Earth continues to be written.
The first four chapters are posted on this website and I would be happy to receive any comments you may care to leave…
Talking of which…I know there are many, many subscribers to this blog, running into the thousands and often wonder why so few use the “Like” button at the end of the blog.
It does my heart good to see that what I write is appreciated 🙂 and maintaining a spirit of generosity in photographing and posting regularly is helped by appreciation, so please take the few seconds to like.
The morning was misty, with an autumnal feel in the air…cool and damp with dew. Cobwebs hung on trees and bushes, sometimes stretching for metres in the air.
It felt so liberating to just amble around with tea in one hand, camera in the other and not be oppressed with heat.
I don’t tolerate heat too well and look forward to autumn, it being my favourite season of all. The early morning sun began to evaporate the mist, bringing to mind the day ahead and all that needed to be done.
I love the time in the morning before any other creature has stirred…it’s magical and charged with a wonderful energy.
I was born and grew up in a tiny two bedroom house in Omagh, shared with parents and 8 siblings, so have come to appreciate the calm, before the day begins in earnest.
Quiet, early mornings, hold a sacred space for the mind.
Early morning, as the sun rises, is an almost different world…a world apart from the mundane and expected.
A world filled with possibilities, hopes and plans.
And the setting sun carries away the hot day, into the embrace of another cool, welcome night.
Reading this report from yesterday quantifies everything that is wrong with our approach to food.
You see, Salmon, used to be a seasonal food.
Much like other seasonal foods, it was enjoyed as a celebration of a particular time of year.
I remember this time as a child.
The salmon would return to Ireland to spawn…swimming furiously up the rivers to lay their eggs in dark, sometimes shallow, pools of freshwater, having survived a momentous journey across the Atlantic Ocean and into the fast, freshwater rivers of the west of Ireland.
It was easy enough to catch them, though not always legal, but then people rarely took more than they could eat or share.
We had no fridge in our tiny house and no freezer.
Barely standing room for parents and eleven children!
The salmon was a great supplement to a frugal diet and the men seemed to understand the value of the sacred fish, for they were regarded as such in the old ways.
The Salmon of Wisdom.
The Salmon of Knowledge.
There was a sense of compassion by the banks of the River Strule in Omagh.
An empathy even with this most magical of all fish… Fish Farms put an end to all this, injecting a venom of disconnect into the veins of human beings.
Greed over-ruled millennia of links between human and salmon.
This is what I have just read from yesterday’s paper…
The number of salmon killed by diseases at Scottish fish farms rose to more than 8.5 million last year.
New figures released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) reveal losses from all salmon farms have reached nearly 10% of production.
The main problem has been the spread of amoebic gill disease, blamed by some on the warmer seas caused by climate pollution.
In 2012, 13,627 tonnes of dead fish had to be disposed of by 230 fish farms along the west coast and on the islands, compared with 9717 tonnes in 2011 and 7159 tonnes in 2010.
This has raised questions about how such large amounts of diseased waste are safely disposed of, and how the process is regulated. Sepa and local authorities both say it is not their responsibility.
Anglers and environmentalists pin the blame on production methods and are demanding a halt to any expansion plans.
“It is clear from these massive mortality figures there are major problems,” said Hugh Campbell Adamson, the chairman of the Salmon and Trout Association in Scotland. “When a large number of fish are closely confined, the likelihood of endemic disease is greatly increased.”
Irish cottages are fairly dark houses, designed to be snug and keep in the heat, working well it has to be said…but I love the light, so have judiciously placed mirrors, here, there and everywhere!
This is one near the north window, reflecting light from the west window.
A well placed mirror can act like another window in terms of light.
I never turn down the offer of a mirror, even a broken one and have even used bits of mirror in the garden to reflect light onto plants.
Contentment is often found to be lacking in the world today.
So many people want more and more and, as they acquire material goods, become weighted down with the accumulation of such.
Materialism is like the albatross in the poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
When the mariner finally looked down upon the creatures in the sea around him and recognized their divinity, the dead Albatross finally fell from his neck…he became one with all life…contentment descended upon him.
To free oneself, it becomes imperative to examine the inner self and one’s values and beliefs.
There is an old saying, a proverb if you like, that I often heard as a young woman growing up in my home town of Omagh.
Of all we know life to be, three aspects of it will guide your journey: truth, nature and knowledge.
These three things will light the life path and bring you forward, safely and in contentment.
My paternal grandmother had little in terms of money or property, but was immensely wealthy of spirit and generous with all.
Her own mother was an equally remarkable woman and incredibly attuned to the natural world around her.
She loved the world outside of her little lime-washed cottage and slept in a big, brass bed in the barn, all year round, waking with the birdsong and living a long, contented life.
Happiness, contentment and the recognition of Divinity in all life, were never strangers on her journey.
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Disaster! Today was going to be about planting potatoes…
It started off with digging the chosen patch in preparation for the sowing of the seed potatoes.
Towards the end of the dig, the spade hit something rather tough…
It turned out to be the water pipe which leads from the spring well on the hill above the cottage, down across my land towards the back of Bealtaine.
(The Rhubarb this morning.)
An emergency trip was made to Ballyfarnon, a village about three miles away, where there is a local hardware store. The connector was bought to mend the pipe.
At this point, a brainwave had caught up with the disaster…why not use this opportunity to connect a tap to the tunnel?
Why, every summer the carrying of buckets of water to the tunnel from the cottage was time-consuming to say the least! This was a golden opportunity, as the broken pipe was just a couple of metres away from the tunnel…so, the necessary components were duly purchased!
One of my five brothers, Hugh, was visiting from Omagh, so the expertise was there and willing to help!
Hugh and I returned with the gear and set about the task… A channel was dug to release the water, which by this time had the potato patch looking more like a rice-paddy field!
After almost eight years of carrying water to the tunnel, I am delighted with my inside tap!
As you can see the Rhubarb is coming up really fast and will be ready for harvesting in the next 10 days or so. One of the joyous tastes of Spring…a Rhubarb Crumble and egg custard!
Although this morning is dull and grey, the garden is illuminated with colour…blossom, buds and leaves, like this Photinia near the apple trees closest to the cottage. Good shelter and colour!
Spent the day in Omagh visiting my mother. She’s well and hearty and looking good! On the way back I stopped outside Blacklion by the lough and spotted this beautiful stone sculpture. It is in the spirit of John and Yoko, which is very appropriate as they visited Ireland and even had tea in the old Mulranny Hotel near Achill Island where I once lived. Imagine was the first album I bought when I went to London and it really is timeless, perhaps even more relevant today than ever…actually, definitely more relevant today! John was a soul of immense wisdom and integrity, which is so lacking today in our leaders!
A plain and simple message…
And there’s the island when you peep through the hole…the size of the world if looking from space. There’s a series of standing stones, so the alignment is important, as in all stone circles…
Home…it’s always good to return! The blackbird was singing the last song of the day. Valerian was almost in bloom along the walls of the cottage and bluebells had opened under the kitchen window.
The sun sets into the west and the day is nearly over. Rain is promised for the night ahead and tomorrow. All is quiet and calm and dry at Bealtaine. The well has stopped feeding the cottage with its sweet water.
The shadows cast by the setting sun illuminate the curtained cupboard…”I am half-sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shallot…” Listening to the incessant reporting on the death of Osama Bin Laden, I am half-sick of news…! Is this all that is news worthy? Will we ever be told the truth by the popular media? I grew up in Omagh, a town dominated by institutional sectarianism and was aware from an early age that the BBC rarely reported what I experienced…there were two different realities, the one I lived and the one on the screen!
The sun continues its descent into the west.
There is one certainty in all of this mayhem that is civilisation…that the beauty that is Gaia will be here long after we have passed…Perhaps the words of an unknown Irish Bard can best capture the moment that’s in it- “The world has laid low, and the wind blows away like ashes Alexander, Caesar, and all who were in their trust; grass-grown is Tara, and see Troy now how it is – and the Irish themselves, perhaps they too will pass!” Irish; author unknown; 17th-18thcentury.