Midwinter Blessings

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The ancients believed winter, especially Midwinter, was a time of tremendous spiritual power.

And so the shortest day has passed and we are looking forward, at last, to the ascending sun, from tomorrow.

The greenery on the mantelpiece will stay a few days longer, as the days slowly lengthen.

Work on the potager beds and orchards begins in the next week or so.

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Cloud and mist have enveloped Kilronan Mountain today, between snow falls and dark skies…the sun has shone intermittently.

Of the Solstices and Equinoxes, the Winter Solstice was the most important among the Ancients, since it marked the rebirth of the sun after the shortest day.

The worst of the winter is yet to come though…Kale and Parsley stand proud in the Potager beds, not yet diminished by prolonged frost.

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The small Yuletide tree, at the end of the veranda, tied to the supports, stands stout against the wind and storms of the past week.

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The sky changes dress in spectacular fashion from winter to summer and all in-between!

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And jewels of melted sleet decorate the skeletal Fennel.

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Yule marks the rebirth of the sun.

It is a potent symbol of death and rebirth – going from the darkness into the light.

Yule starts before the Solstice and continues on until New Year’s Day.

Midwinter Blessings to you all XXX

Framed, Raw and Rather Juicy!

Upcycling Old Picture Frames

I was given this beautiful old frame by a guy in a second-hand market in the local town.

It is one of the most beautiful picture frames I have ever come across.

Look closely at it, for it is a colourful mosaic of sea washed glass and shells.

The new chalkboardFor several years now it has waited patiently in the shed for someone with a good idea…who just happened to come along this week.

Cara was helping me to find a hammer in the outside shed on Monday, when she spied this frame and suggested it be used as a chalk board for the garden…all it needed was some board cut to fit, which could then be painted with blackboard paint and fitted into the frame!

Cara turned up with the finished, magnificently up-cycled chalkboard today and promptly fitted it onto the wall of the lodge under the shelter of the veranda.

Lodge VerandaDoesn’t it look great?

organic herbs from the permaculture gardensMeanwhile…in the kitchen I prepared some wholesome juice, using organic produce from the gardens…

After juicing organic apples and carrots, I add Kale, Apple-mint, Lemon Balm, Fennel and Parsley.

Juicing is a great way of ensuring a steady supply of the finest and freshest nutrients, especially using what is so easily grown in the edible gardens here at Bealtaine Cottage.

Preparing aVegan stir fry at Bealtaine CottageMuch of what I harvest is added to stir-fries too.

These are the ingredients for this evening’s meal.

Missy catMeanwhile, Missy Cat is enjoying the sunshine, while keeping an eye on me!

Winter in a Permaculture Garden…and Sam!

Awoke to frost this morning and a brilliantly clear, blue sky.

The stove had stayed lit all night, so the cottage was warm.

It’s easy to see the level of insulation in homes, looking up at roofs, as I drive to Drumshanbo on an errand.

Many of the newly built homes appear to be poorly insulated.

I took my tea outside and walked around in the sunshine…

The sheer beauty of a winter morning is stunning.

The play of winter light upon the earth is a delight to behold!

The winter stems of Spiraea colour a deep orange.

Missy followed me to the tunnel.

Her visit to the Vet’s on Monday has perked her up a bit…

Even though the covering of the tunnel is frozen, plants inside continue to flourish and will stay green and healthy for the winter.

Parsley is very healthy as it grows strong beside the water bin…an ideal micro-climate!

Washing the plastic covering on the tunnel last month allows maximum winter light through to the plants…every little helps at this time of year!

The Lemon Balm grows well and will continue all winter, unless we have extreme weather.

Introducing Sam…one very naughty little kitten!

Sam was found on Samhain, hence his name.

He had an eye infection, which is now cleared up…though he fought me every time I applied his medication!

Sam had his second vaccination on Monday and is on medication for a bad cold, though that does not stop him being this adventurous!

My Herb Garden

I grow lots of herbs in the gardens at Bealtaine Cottage, picking freely wherever I walk along the paths.

Herbs grow very easily in the Irish climate, as the fairly constant temperature agrees with the plants.

Herbs have a variety of uses that include culinary and medicinal.

The crossover line is blurred, as much of what we cook with does so much good and is easily integrated with everyday food.

Think of Garlic for example, or Parsley, both great for the blood!

Herbs can also be used in spiritual practice too, usually through the method of burning to release scent and as a cleansing or purification ritual.

Many herbs release anti-bacterial oils into the air, thus cleansing, so again, the crossover line is easily blurred, as herbal oils released into the air can have a tremendously uplifted effect upon the senses.

This can also be in the form of strewing underfoot, as was the practice during medieval times, to combat pungent smells and general sickness.

Here at Bealtaine Cottage I grow over fifty different herbs, including perennials  such as Thyme, Lavender, Rosemary, Fennel, Lemon Balm and Mint.

The list goes on to include: Chervil; Angelica; Borage; Catnip and Chives.

Include in this list, Dill, Elderflower and Garlic. Lavender, Lovage and Salad Burnet.

Parsley is a good permaculture herb, coming up each year and growing steadily for two years as a biennial plant.

Most herbs self-seed easily.

Feverfew and Borage, once introduced to your garden will grow always.

Some perennial herbs are shrubs, such as Rosemary, Sage and Lemon Verbena, or trees, such as Bay laurel, all growing healthily here.

Oregano grows virtually wild here as does the strongest mint you will ever smell or taste, which grows in the Bog Garden as Water Mint.

Willow Herb is another wild addition and even the Valerian around the cottage looks after itself.

Inserting willow to make arches that will support the developing crop of Pumpkins and Butternut squash.

Many herbs are enjoying the space left in between the squash, such as Nasturtium and Thyme.

The production in these newly established raised beds has been phenomenal!

Growing herbs will give an easy and beneficial garden anywhere.

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Sustainable Food: Easy Grow Vegetables and Fruit

Some vegetables and fruit are so very easy to grow it seems ridiculous not to do so!

1. Chard. Simple to start from seed. Full of vitamins and minerals. Cut and come again…it just keeps giving!

This Ruby Chard has grown in the tunnel and given successive crops since last summer!

2. Parsley. In this case, curly parsley, but in fact any variety is great to grow, providing endless supplies of vitamin C and Iron for a healthy diet, as well as being simple to grow.

Parsley will grow for 2 years easily before it dies back!

Another great Chard is this beautiful yellow variety, bringing colour and taste to the table!

3. Purple-sprouting Broccoli.

These pics were snapped today in the tunnel, so you can see how far advanced this great vegetable is…ready to harvest in January.

The joy of these vegetables and herbs I have here is that they have all self-seeded, in true permaculture fashion!

Again, one of the benefits of cold-composting, allowing seeds to survive and continue on their merry way!

4. Mizuna. The great little winter salad crop…cut and come again!

These are just some of the crops in the tunnel today.

Bealtaine Cottage Apple tree

Apple, if you have space for a tree, are very easy to grow…what would life be like without the Apple Pie?

Bealtaine Cottage Pumpkins

Pumpkins in a sunny spot will provide you with easy to store and save fruit.

Bealtaine Cottage rhubarb

Rhubarb is another plant that just keeps giving and all one has to do is to manure it well once a year!

Bealtaine Cottage Blackcurrants

I grow masses of Blackcurrants here at Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture gardens and they are incredibly easy.

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Part of the Bealtaine Cottage ethos is to harvest and save seed.

All seed at Bealtaine Cottage is open-pollinated, mostly by Bees.

This is offered for sale at a minimal cost…2 Euro per pack which includes P&P to ANYWHERE in the world!

This is a link to the site.

https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-for-sale/

For subscribers to Bealtaine Cottage Good Life, I will be posting a blog today that includes the easiest ever recipe for Brown Soda Health Bread…and I mean, the easiest!

Subscribing to Bealtaine Cottage Good Life allows me a small income…enough to pay the mortgage and a little more to live on…bless you…here’s a link…

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Permaculture Cottage ~ Dividing Rhubarb, Growing Trees and Composting!

Lots of the rhubarb has been lifted and divided recently and planted into the new beds, all loaded with fresh compost from the heaps stacked last year.

Rhubarb is an easy and early fruiting plant to grow. Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have medicinal and culinary uses.  In culinary use, fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant’s stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. Personally, there is nothing equal to a Rhubarb Crumble, or, one of my absolute favourites…Rhubarb Jam!

Did you know that in England, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley,a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk?

The New Vegetable Beds

The new beds are coming along well…planted out with Chard, Cucumber, Parsley, Tomato and Chives…for starters! I have spread wood ash recently on the beds and continue to build up with compost.

Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity, when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Raw chard is perishes quite fast, so it’s best to pick only when about to be used!

Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked  or sautéed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked Spinach. I use Chard a lot in my home made soups and curries and as a replacement for Spinach.

Flowering Oregano and Chives

Both grow like weeds here at Bealtaine Cottage, with lots of Oregano now coming up in the gravel driveway. Great for drying and using in sauces and soups and breads!

More Trees Please!

Trees are planted all the year around here at the smallholding. Many are grown from seed and potted on several times before eventual planting out. Many are rescued from the roadside verges and gravel paths. Lots of these trees are given away to those who show an interest in planting. There is one thing for sure though, the Earth needs more trees. Trees protect her.

Compost this morning at Bealtaine

Now working through the second heap and already filled up the first again, so am busy as you can see!

Composting as a recognized practice dates to at least the early Roman Empire since Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).

Traditionally, composting was to pile organic materials until the next planting season, at which time the materials would have decayed enough to be ready for use in the soil. This is the method I follow and it works every time as you can see!  The advantage of this method is that little working time or effort is required from the composter and it fits in naturally with agricultural practices in temperate climates. Personally I see no disadvantages in this technique. There is no real exposure to excessive rainfall, as the heaps are thatched with lots of straw to overwinter in peace and harmony with all the hibernating insects and frogs!

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Permaculture Cottage ~ A Summer Feast on a Wet Evening

Lots of Parsley and loads of eggs…yes, it’s summer and the food is in plentiful supply here on this Permaculture smallholding.

An easy way of preserving food for the leaner times is to use it to cook and freeze, or bottle or…anyway, you know what I mean…just don’t let it go to waste!

Here is one of my favourite fast foods, devised by Rose Elliot, my favourite Vegetarian Cookery writer…Parsley Burgers.

I made these on the Cook and Dine Evening I hosted on Monday evening at Cleen Hall, Knockvicar, and, they were very well received!
Anyway, here’s the recipe…
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2 eggs / 6 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs / 1 small onion, chopped / 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley / salt and fresh ground black pepper / oil for shallow frying.

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Add the breadcrumbs, onion and parsley to the beaten egg and season to taste.

Pour oil into pan to cover the base thinly and heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on either side, until crisp.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve with salad or baked beans!

As they freeze really well and there is a glut of all the ingredients here at Bealtaine, I have made dozens of them to freeze and save as a fast food…

AN UPDATE ON THE GRAPEVINE…I planted outdoors…it’s doing really well, so far!

It had over-wintered at Bealtaine and endured being frozen in its pot for weeks on end, survived well and is now set to be a successful outdoor grape…

A Forecast for the Winter Ahead…

Lots of logs continue to be stockpiled for what is going to be a very cold winter indeed.

Seriously, now is the time to prepare!

If you live in the British Isles, try to get hold of a wood burning stove now and start your woodpile.

Ash can be burned without seasoning!

Permaculture Cottage ~ Just Sunday Pics…

Curly Kale and Parsley growing in pots at the back of Bealtaine Cottage.

The flowers on the Lady’s Mantle near the tunnel have all flopped outwards, but they remain beautiful…

The flower on the Mullein has begun to open…near the vegetable garden.

Potatoes and blackcurrants and even a little orchid…can you see it on the right?

Today has been very stormy…this was yesterday! The vegetable garden and tunnel.