Photographs (18 exclusive photos taken today) from the gardens of Bealtaine Cottage on EarthDay 2016.
Words from the Earth Day network…on Bealtaine Cottage Good Life.
We are now entering the 46th year of a movement that continues to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion, and motivate people to action.
In 1970, the year of our first Earth Day, the movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channelling human energy toward environmental issues. Forty-six years later, we continue to lead with ground-breaking ideas and by the power of our example.
And so it begins. Today. Right here and right now. Earth Day is more than just a single day — April 22, 2016.
This Earth Day and beyond, let’s make big stuff happen. Let’s plant 7.8 billion trees for the Earth. Let’s divest from fossil fuels and make cities 100% renewable.
Yes, I have a mortgage and some bills to meet each month and this is my only source of income. The free website, Bealtaine Cottage, has almost reached maximum capacity at 97.8% of 13 GB allowance at a cost of 199 Euros per year. Bealtaine Cottage Good Life has the same 13 GB allowance, but with only 18% used, so you can see why I now publish new blogs on Bealtaine Cottage Good Life! My total expenditure on both sites and internet maintenance now exceeds 700 Euros.
I will continue to write about, and photograph, Mother Earth whether you subscribe/donate or not…but I so appreciate those who do! …blessings to all XXX Colette
“But there were certain early days in Casterbridge- days of firmamental exhaustion which followed angry south-westerly tempests-when, if the sun shone, the air was like velvet.”
― Thomas Hardy
Colours emerge and birds sing out a joyous, higher note.
We are officially in the season of Spring in the West of Ireland and the new energy is tangible, from rising in the morning to the growing lateness of dusk.
The temperature seems rather unstable, as you can see evidence of in the photograph above.
The morning began very cold and in the space of minutes, the temperature had climbed by 18 F., causing the mirror on the veranda to steam up!
I recorded this as most of the only real information about climate and weather appears to be anecdotal evidence from social media!
My favourite aspect of Spring is the way the light changes.
If one simply sat in this cottage and never ventured outdoors it would be possible to map the seasons in light play.
I expect birds, animals and even insects are similarly informed.
Living in the glare of artificial light can be dulling to our senses!
“She walks in the loveliness she made,
Between the apple-blossom and the water–
She walks among the patterned pied brocade,
Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter.”
― Vita Sackville-West, The Land
Elsewhere in the woodland gardens at Bealtaine, frogs have emerged from hibernation and busied themselves, as only frogs can in cold ponds!
Frogs in Bealtaine pond have the luxury of a shallow, sheltered, ancillary pond, hand dug by myself, just off the main one.
This water heats faster and earlier, ensuring maximum attention to the detail of frog mating and spawning…a sort of nursery pond!
Anyway, it works a treat and has done for the past eleven years.
As a consequence, the amphibian life force has healthily expanded!
“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the idea of a colour – as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts.”
― Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Diversity of planting not only has created resilience, but bestowed all year round colour to Bealtaine Cottage…so appreciated as Spring emerges…for with this rising of the sap, comes a much defined colour change!
I’m happy to write, photograph, podcast, YouTube and Facebook on behalf of Mother Earth…it would be great if you could take a second or two to press the LIKE button, leave a comment, or even subscribe to Bealtaine Cottage Good Life…
The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was started at the beginning of World war two, in Britain,
The people of Britain were urged to use any spare land to grow vegetables.
Victory gardens were planted everywhere…and I mean everywhere!
All land was considered viable for planting, including gardens, lawns, parks, golf clubs and all public spaces even in the City of London, around the Tower of London, for example!
During the height of the war, when food was rationed through scarcity, there were 3.5 million allotments in Britain, producing over a million tonnes of vegetables and it was estimated that in 1944 British gardeners produced between 2 and 3 million tons of food overall!
People were encouraged to keep small livestock and ‘Pig Clubs’ were formed as a way of best utilizing leftovers to feed the pigs.
Hens and Ducks were kept for their valuable eggs.
The children growing up through this period of time were the healthiest ever reared in Britain.
My mother was born and raised during this time and lived a remarkably long and healthy life!
So, now we are all in a state of financial hardship and unemployment, I have one simple question to pose.
Why cannot our governments introduce a similar campaign?
Cutting back the willow in the forest fruit garden today, allowing the willows archways space to develop more.
The cut willow is shredded and spread around the fruit bushes as an autumn mulch.
This will compost down over the winter months and provide food for the soil which in turn will feed the bushes…cycle of life completed with a bountiful harvest nest summer.
I have cleared some of the potager beds today to make room for an autumn sowing of garlic and onion sets.
It makes good sense to plant out the garlic bulbs before the soil cools down…same for onion sets.
This is the sure way to grow good-size onions to harvest next year!
This is my favourite time of year to work outdoors.
It’s not too hot nor too cold…and the autumn scents are so evocative.
Meanwhile, indoors, Jack and Flo have spent the morning fighting over who gets the biggest dog basket…Flo has lost this time, so has decided to make Jack as uncomfortable as possible by sitting on his back!
Isn’t it amazing how little dogs can be so bossy?
The paths around the garden are so overgrown that some are no longer navigable.
The word “jungle,” springs to mind!
However, the sheer volume of prunings is adding enormous bulk to the compost heap, which is now the biggest ever!
I have grown some mighty pumpkins in the potager beds this year that have had only compost in them.
I think that the sheer biodiversity of the plants here at Bealtaine is the basis of some great compost!
Clearing the paths and cutting back is a lovely way to spend quiet time on the land…being outdoors on a fine autumn day is hard to beat!
The weather is about to break…we are expecting thunder storms!
The earth is dry and the well is low.
Thunderstorms and rain, lots of rain, will be very welcome indeed!
It’s eight years since I laid this floor, bit by broken bit and I decided to give it a facelift of sorts, by simply colouring in the cement using some green masonry paint, sponged on and then wiped off the tiles…it has made the floor look good and the cost was zero!
The garden is sheer abundance at the moment!
Everything is growing and flourishing.
The vegetable bed I started on Sunday, is now extended even further and planted up as I go.
I can pop out with a torch and remove slugs…easily.
Having vegetable beds near the cottage, makes taking care of these precious plants easy!
This is how permaculture works…easy!
The Willow hoops are working great, keeping the cats away…they scowl as they pass!
Planting lettuce, which grow fast and have a short time in the bed, between plants like cabbage and cauliflower, makes perfect sense, helping to keep the weeds down.
I will whitewash the stones when the bed is completed.
The Valerian has grown up around this old bicycle, affording it an arty look…sometimes the natural evolution of a piece of junk takes on a beauty all of it’s own!
Oh…and how could I forget…take Jack on longer walks!
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.
Living in a small cottage in the west of Ireland is easy enough!
It’s small…very small…two tiny bedrooms, one sitting room, a kitchen, shower room and porch.
It’s old…ish, and built from stone in the vernacular style and all local stone!
Bealtaine Cottage, for that is it’s name, nestles nicely into three acres, now mostly set to trees and ponds and permaculture!
The best place to seek God is in a garden.
You can dig for him there.
~George Bernard Shaw
Permaculture means planting, planting and more planting!
Plant for your life!
The Earth needs trees and cover and food and fuel…lots and lots…and Abundance follows!
Oregano grows wild here, through the gravel, around trees and all over the tunnel and bees love it.
I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field
and don’t notice. – Alice Walker
From “The Color Purple”
Garden writing is often very tame, a real waste when you think how opinionated, inquisitive, irreverent and lascivious gardeners themselves tend to be. Nobody talks much about the muscular limbs, dark, swollen buds, strip-tease trees and unholy beauty that have made us all slaves of the Goddess Flora. ~Ketzel Levine’s talkingplants.com
Secret Garden…Adagio…beautiful… Click on the link to watch and listen!
Plant propagation is the process of creating new plants from a variety of sources: seeds, cuttings, bulbs and other plant parts. This is a great time of the year to engage with this way of increasing your garden/smallholding for free.
Now is the time to…MULCH!
In agriculture and gardening, mulch is a protective cover placed over the soil to retain moisture, reduce erosion, provide nutrients, and suppress weed growth and seed germination.
This is the best time of the year to do that…before the soil begins to cool off as the Autumn sets in. That way, the soil is warm as it is mulched and this keeps in the heat to a fair degree, which is good for the plants and life forms.
Mulching in gardens and landscaping mimics the leaf cover that is found on forest floors.
As you progress through permaculture, you will find you have access to more and more compostable materials in your garden/smallholding/farm. This is, simply a golden opportunity for your land to benefit from compost!
Compost can be rich in nutrients. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil.
In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation and wetland construction.
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment.
Compost is a key ingredient in Permaculture. At its most essential, the process of composting requires simply piling up waste outdoors and waiting a year or more.
Perennial crops are crops planted and grown to reduce inputs necessary to produce food. By greatly reducing the need to replant crops from year-to-year, perennial cropping can reduce topsoil losses due to erosion and increase biological carbon sequestration within the soil. Rhubarb is a great example of perennial cropping, though division every 4-5 years is necessary. This is also a perfect way of increasing the crop yield and spreading the planting base.
And Flowers to feed the bees and the soul…
And…one ab fab simple permaculture idea!
The idea was pioneered by Brazilian Engineer Alfredo Mozer in 2002 –
If we understood the need for trees on our planet, we would be out planting for our very lives!
This is a realisation being brought more and more to the fore of my thinking.
All that is wrong in our world today can be traced back to our reckless and insane treatment of the environment.
The cost of economic growth in our world has been paid for by Gaia herself.
And yes, I know I sound passionate and maybe even upset, but, then, I am!
The E.U. and Trees!
I once held out hope that Ireland’s participation in the European Union would create a sense of joined up thinking about the state of our sick environment and how we could start to create instead of continually destroy.
That somehow, policy and directives from Brussels would create enlightenment and lead to the wholesale planting of trees on our monocultured island…but recent discussions with someone in receipt of E.U. grants for tree-planting has led me to be very concerned indeed!
Grant to Plant!
In order to qualify for a specific grant to plant deciduous trees, my friend has to agree to plant 2,600 deciduous trees on 3 acres…and I’ve tweeked these figures…DOWN!
Now for those of you who don’t know what 3 acres looks like, have a closer scan of some of the 500 or so posts put up from Bealtaine Cottage.
Sitting on 3 acres, the cottage is surrounded by trees, planted over the course of the past 7 years.
Somewhere between 500-600 trees have been planted, with plans for a further 100-200 in the future.
Can you identify much room for a further 2,000 or so trees?
I conclude that the E.U. does not have a clue, not even an iota of one!
The state of tree planting here in Ireland can be summed up as inadequate, with the emphasis on monoculture plantations of Sitka Spruce, planted for harvesting, in long, tight rows, where only a huge machine could possibly access the nightmare of environmental sickness.
These trees are planted for money and regarded only in fiscal terms.
Monoculture is the order of the day because the environment is tied into the “Merchants of Greed,” as John Seymour called them…the institutions now viewed as the great destroyers of our country!
And, This Fear…?
Where does it come from?
What is it that makes so many people frightened of Nature?
Where does this desperation to control Gaia come from?
To see trees reduced to gangly, over-crowned sticks that need staking in order to stand up, is a sad reflection on our lack of understanding of our world and Mother Nature.
Trees don’t need stakes if the WHOLE environment in which they are planted is taken into consideration.
There are no staked trees at Bealtaine other than some of the smaller fruit trees that become heavy with fruit and need supporting during this time.
It is this continual need to dominate Nature and control her that causes humanity to fear the environment.
We must awaken to the possibilities of living with her, or, well, I don’t want to go there!
Mowing the paths this morning in preparation for the visit of 19 permaculture students this Wednesday.
It should be a busy day!
The grass had grown quite high over the past few weeks as I was unable to get out to cut it because of the continual rain.
I went slow due to the amount of frogs in the grass and because it was still wet!
Planting close together allows shade and shelter to develop.
The Birch shown here, planted close-up to the Ribes, are providing shelter from the north wind, which can be cold and destructive!
You can see Kilronan Mountain in the distance.
It would be impossible for me to work 3 acres without the benefits of permaculture techniques.
I don’t do weeding except directly around vegetables!
The reality is that I simply don’t have the time for this and anyway, I find that mulching and planting takes care of the gardens more than adequately!
Small areas of lawn add interest to the gardens and allow one to look around at the plants , shrubs and flowers and to appreciate the wildlife which is absolutely integral to the health of the land and humankind on it.
This is one of the most important elements of permaculture in my view…after all there is nothing without pollinating insects!
Where would a garden be without birdsong?
Biodiversity at its best…a tiny orchid grows up alongside a young Ash sapling.
I best go back to work…nettles to pull and use as mulch!
Blossom on the Plum and Cherry trees continue to develop at Bealtaine Smallholding.
As I type this blog on a calm and warm Friday evening I am amazed at the continual good weather experienced here in the west of Ireland since the middle of March. The climate is changing…that I know.
Peach blossom covers the tree in the tunnel and all the seedlings are growing well. The bottom line is that food is very easy to grow. A small warm space is all that’s needed to get seedlings up and ready for planting out.
The Fairy Dell is now covered in green growth. Primroses, Mosses, Violets and Ferns are all competing with hundreds of other species to grow. The scents emanating from the warm earth below my feet as I walk the woodland are nothing less than intoxicating!
This is the willow wreath made here in December. I will strip back the winter foliage of Larch and Ivy and re-dress the willow base for the Easter celebrations. This Willow wreath will keep for several years and can be dressed for seasonal celebrations.
The leaves on the Amelanchier tree are out and making colour in the garden.
The weekend is here and I have another five trees to plant. These are all pot grown from seeds, so can be planted at any time of the year as long as they are kept well watered!