Those of you familiar with Bealtaine Cottage online and the many hundreds who have visited will be interested to see the results of what a little paint can do in terms of brightening up a home.
Yes, I’ve been busy over recent days, stood on a step-ladder, paintbrush in one hand and paint tin in the other, alongside dusters to remove the heaps of cobwebs…eek!
There’s a certain old world loveliness to “Duck Egg Blue,” as the paint is referred to, more often than not!
The colour is reminiscent of the eighteenth century and the novels of Jane Austen…a favourite author of mine.
There’s a simplicity about the soft pastel shades which bring out the best in an old cottage.
Decorating a cottage is fairly simple too, as the walls and general layout are quite forgiving…in other words, anything goes as long as it’s a good mix of styles and time periods, for a cottage is a harbourer of both!
The wooden chest of drawers in the corner is relatively new-style, but provides a practical function of storing clothes not in seasonal use…and what better position, than by the chimney wall, where dampness is never an issue!
It’s a fuss-free environment indeed! Decorating an old cottage works well when one projects personality and quirkiness into the general style…in my case it’s always a case of what frugality allows for, so an eclectic style is as much practical as it is creative.
A reflection of what the great William Morris once said…”Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”...that allows me free reign really!
Cosy. Practical. Colourful. That’s what works for me.
The colours will also be a good backdrop to Samhain and Yule decorations…as many of the pumpkins are seasoned indoors and the window ledges are needed for storage too.
And as for the paint…well, it does go a long way…
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Bog Oak Pendants are available from the Bealtaine Cottage Craft Shop.
Each pendant is hand-crafted from locally sourced Irish Bog Oak, an ancient and profoundly mysterious wood that’s been buried in the Irish peat bogs for thousands of years.
These pendants are hand carved from wood dated as 5,600 years old.
Nasturtiums hold their blooms and the occasional bee busies himself with work, inside the generous flowers of orange and yellow.
Sammy-Bear and Che-Mousey have drunk all their milk and turned their noses up at the biscuits…they may be spoiled!
The leaves of the Nasturtium appear to grow huge, as the season of growth comes to an end…capturing and reflecting the dew of the morning. Giant Willow, (Biomass), drops its leaves and the winter duvet, that will cover the earth, spreads.
This Willow grows at the top of the gardens and is pollarded, to allow for ground space.
Few gardeners here in Ireland pollard Willow, so these trees always attract attention from visitors to Bealtaine!
Che-Mousey has taken to following me around the gardens, as I take pictures.
He has even managed to develop a feint miaow! The reflective quality of the rainwater improves, as the air cools into early winter. Vivid colours are manifested on the Copper Beech trees… Cats are all around on this first day of winter! Can you believe these colours?
Grapevine on the veranda against blue sky…it actually appears photo-shopped, but is not! The raw beginnings of a basket, hung into the eaves of the veranda, now appearing, as the leaves fall away from around it! The Pumpkins are ready to store away in the pantry…I must remember to do this today! I’m just enjoying all this green, before Jack Frost steals it! Have a wonderful weekend everyone XXX
The clock ticks towards Samhain, literally meaning: Summer’s end!
Tomorrow is Samhain, a celebration of the last day of Summer and the beginning of Winter in the Celtic calendar. Despite cold nights creeping into Bealtaine, all remains green on the ground, with just the trees showing signs of transition into Winter.
Nasturtiums have not yet melted in the frost…it seems the ground continues to put forth enough heat to protect them!
“I ordered my food ages ago!”
Sammy-Bear waits for his breakfast on the veranda…I have to hurry up with this photography business and serve him breakfast! The Wisteria, on the veranda of the Lodge, is showing a last magnificent vibrancy before it sets itself into bed.
The plants and trees are making a fantastic show of colour this season!
The view from the doorway of the Lodge remains green and tranquil.
The micro-climate created here serves the cottage well.
All is sheltered from the North, West and East! We really have been blessed, with perfect weather this year, here in the west of Ireland.
Each season has behaved itself extraordinarily well! Despite the fact it was my birthday yesterday, I was sufficiently inspired to work and spent the afternoon crocheting this hat.
It’s an “Annie Hall,” inspired creation…I adore Diane Keaton!
I love the “cloche” type, 1920’s inspired, hats and adore working with pure wool and natural fabric.
This one is made using Donegal Tweed Pure Wool and the colour is just wonderful!
I shall be making many more for the Bealtaine Cottage Etsy shop!
Here’s the link to the Bealtaine Cottage Etsy Shop…
September has been an extraordinary month of sun and still air, little has moved and time has appeared to stand still. Sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular.
Indeed, September 2013 will be remembered here in Ireland for the “Indian Summer,” often promised and rarely received!
Tomorrow is the last day of September.
We are now past equal day and night and on the descent to Samhain and the night of the “thin veil”…
I have spent as much time outdoors as possible, walking and watching the light play with the changing seasons.
The Celts believed in the sacredness of times and places “in between”.
The places, “in-between,” the shore and land, thresholds, night and day, life and death.
The place between life and death was honoured in the form of a wake, for the soul took time to depart and journey onwards.
Bealtaine and Samhain are in-between times, when time stands still, as transition occurs.
Bealtaine is the transition to summer and Samhain the passing into winter.
‘Tis a pity that Samhain has been so commercialized, into the freak show of Halloween…it is not to be tolerated! Samhain is a lovely time of remembering and honouring the ancestors and all those who have passed from our lives during the year.
I hope you take the time to celebrate with a gathering of family, friends, feast and fire…reclaiming our precious traditions from the corporate nonsense of plastic pollution and Hollywood freak show!
(All photos today were taken by me, in the local area around Bealtaine Cottage.)
The transition of Autumn is underway as the end of October arrives with the magical Festival of Samhain…known to many as “Halloween.”
Halloween was derived from the celebration of Samhain, with its myths and beliefs about the “Otherworld” and happily placed into Christian culture through the celebration of, “All Hallows Eve,” or “All Souls Night.”
This beautiful time of the year is extolled in many beautiful poems and odes.
The year was divided in two, with Summer and Winter heralding transition.
“My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, Summer is gone.
Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.
Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone,
The wild goose has raised his wonted cry.
Cold has caught the wings of birds.
Season of ice – these are my tidings.”
My favourite verse…the one that enters my head and repeats itself at this lovely time of year is the evocative verse of Keats…
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.”
– John Keats, To Autumn
The summer is officially over as Samhain is celebrated…and winter begins.
This is a special time, where there is a real sense of renewal and hope.
Time to light the annual bonfire and celebrate, with songs and games and food.
Time to write your wishes, hopes or fears onto paper and cast it away into the flames.
Time to share and bake and dance and laugh.
Summer is over and we have lived to greet another year.
And for those we have said goodbye to, wish them well on their onward journey.
As the days shorten and the sun dips low in the sky, our homes become sanctuaries of warmth and comfort.
The over-wintering begins!
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We are a country ridden with debt and blessed with land…and water…and a temperate climate.
Ireland is capable of producing a lot of food, not just meat and dairy, but fruit and vegetables of all kinds.
We could have a great wool industry!
We were famous for our Crystal from Waterford!
Irish people are hard-working and dedicated.
What is needed is courage, integrity and honesty in our political leaders.
We need political leaders with vision and confidence…
If only we had leadership…
I have cut back many of the Dogwoods in the upper gardens and have been busily replanting some of the better cuttings.
The entrance to the Fairy Dell is enveloped in the striking reds of Dogwoods.
These easy to grow [stick a wand in the earth] shrubs are incredibly valuable to me…the stems remain a vivid red all winter, I use them in Willow wreaths for vibrant colour and vase arrangements in the cottage to brighten a dull day.
The birds will eat the juicy ripe berries and the bees will enjoy the delicate spring flowers on the old stems.
Another misty morning.
Cobwebs everywhere shining with tiny drops of dew.
I walked through the Fairy Dell to the sound of the Blackbird rustling about among the fallen leaves, searching for breakfast!
It wasn’t just the mountains that had disappeared, this morning, into the mist, but most of the land as well.
My garden had vanished this morning!
It’s strange because the air was so still and the bird calls seemed to echo in the mist.
I hope it’s like this at Samhain…so many preparations are under way, especially gathering in the apples and preparing them for the freezer.
Despite the warm and sunny days, nights are cold and lots of little creatures are seeking hibernation spots…
I have to keep the windows closed at night for fear of having to share this cottage with too many visitors!
The autumn continues to progress through it’s mellow display of earthy colours.
Tomorrow is the Equinox and the beginning of the descent towards midwinter.
The time of year denotes the slowing down of all that is life as we know it.
Time to sort out the winter woolies and hang the heavy curtains to keep out the drafts.
One of the big tasks I have lined up here at Bealtaine Cottage is the coppicing of the majority of the trees that were planted eight years ago, in the first flush of restoring the fertility of the land.
Trees are one of the most important connections we have to the Divine, embodying the sacred fertility that anchors us all on this planet.
Where trees grow, life is abundant…without them we are bereft of all that makes life comfortable and good.
One of the great delights of the shorter days is the ritual lighting of the stove and the chance to sit around the fire and enjoy the scent of woodsmoke on the air.
There are few pleasures in life quite so comforting.
From this point in time the autumn will wend its way through to Samhain and evolve into the dark depths of winter, finally rising towards the light in the deep midwinter, a time of renewal, hope and promise.
Life is cyclical.
The builders of Stonehenge and Newgrange knew all about that.
For those wishing to visit Bealtaine Cottage on or around this time, you can get my number from Hannah…I am happy to show visitors around the permaculture smallholding that is Bealtaine Cottage…
Lughnasa is a good time to assess one’s life harvest of wisdom, for the dark evenings of winter are a good time to learn new skills and crafts, to read and share, to think and plan.
It is about preparing the land for winter too, helping to put it asleep, mulching and covering…
We also need to prepare ourselves for the journey through Lughnasa and into Samhain, by ensuring we gather sunlight on ourselves, walk and meditate, enjoying sunrises and sunsets at this mellow time of the year.
Times like today, when the rain seems relentless will give way to sunny mornings and misted evenings, the Lughnasa of the year.
Long walks with Jack and Flo are great excuses to go out and explore new pathways, leaving the dark evenings ahead to navigate the pathways of the soul…
The sun shone brilliantly today and as it heralded the first day of winter, I felt it was a good time to visit the magical mountain of Knocknarea and the grave of Queen Mebh.
The huge cairn that sits on the top of Knocknarea Mountain and marks what is probably a passage grave housing the ancient Queen, is 55 meters in diameter by 10 meters high.
It was constructed for the mythical Iron Age Queen Maeve, whose father, the high king of Ireland, gave her Connacht as a gift. Archaeologists believe it may really date back to 3000 BC.
It is considered bad luck to remove a stone from the cairn, and good luck to take one up the hill with you to deposit on it.
The view from the top of Knocknarea is spectacular!
Medb (old Irish spelling, pronounced Maeve), was the queen of Connaught. She ruled from Cruachan (now Rathcroghan, County Roscommon).
Maeve features in the story known as “The Tain.” This is also known as “The Cattle raid of Cooley.”
This is the incredible view across from Knocknarea to Ben Bulben. William Butler Yeats is buried at the foot of that great mountain!
Nestled in on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean…descending Knocknarea today!
The Atlantic Ocean on this calm first day of winter!
From: The Old Age of Queen Maeve, by William Butler Yeats
MAEVE the great queen was pacing to and fro, Between the walls covered with beaten bronze, In her high house at Cruachan; the long hearth, Flickering with ash and hazel, but half showed Where the tired horse-boys lay upon the rushes, Or on the benches underneath the walls, In comfortable sleep; all living slept But that great queen, who more than half the night Had paced from door to fire and fire to door. Though now in her old age, in her young age She had been beautiful in that old way That’s all but gone; for the proud heart is gone, And the fool heart of the counting-house fears all But Soft beauty and indolent desire. She could have called over the rim of the world Whatever woman’s lover had hit her fancy, And yet had been great-bodied and great-limbed, Fashioned to be the mother of strong children; And she’d had lucky eyes and high heart, And wisdom that caught fire like the dried flax, At need, and made her beautiful and fierce, Sudden and laughing.
Apples harvested at Bealtaine Cottage last year…you can tell it’s from 2010 as the walls are now blue…though I may repaint them soon, as I mix my own colours and feel a creative moment or two approaching!
Bring forth the raisins and the nuts-
Tonight All-Hallows’ Spectre
Along the moonlit way.
~John Kendrick Bangs
Of course, Apples are the signature of Samhain/Halloween…where would we be without the Apple Ducking Game or the Toffee Apple, or, best of all…the Apple Pie?
Mushrooms are yet another signature of Samhain…
There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery. ~Joseph Conrad
And the exquisite colours of the leaves…
Stir the fire till it lowe
How like a queen comes forth the lonely
From the slow opening curtains of the clouds
Walking in beauty to her
Little beats the delight of walking though deep piles of Autumn leaves on a crisp, sunny day, with a chill in the air!
The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
There is definitely magic at this time of year as we descend towards Samhain and Midwinter…
For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is
a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. ~Edwin Way Teale
Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely
stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline
Cats will always find a home. The cleverest cats manage to find hotels. Cat hotels. The best food, drink and accomodation, free of charge with limitless facilities!
And so it is that Missy the ginger cat has come to stay at Bealtaine Cottage…
Missy is the daughter of a feral cat. Her mother was killed on the road, leaving Missy and her siblings orphaned and living in the hedgerow. A kindly man rescued them and Missy came to live at Bealtaine. years later she went further afield, to London and became a city cat…but has now returned to Bealtaine Cottage.
I think all cats are wild. They only act tame if there’s a saucer of milk in it for them. ~ Douglas Adams
Sitting on the window-sill this morning waiting to be let in…for a jolly hearty breakfast!
Lat take a cat, and fostre hym wel with milk
And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
And every deyntee that is in that hous,
Swich appetit hath he to ete a mous.
~ Geoffrey Chaucer The Manciple’s Tale
Today, someone told me to expect snow at Halloween…Samhain as the Celtic calendar states…but, I ask you, snow? What on earth could it be doing snowing at Halloween in Ireland?
Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. ~ Jeff Valdez