A Home for the Jackdaws

The Jackdaws have up residence in the unused chimney.

A beautiful pair of Jackdaws…here is the male keeping watch, waiting for the female to put the twig, carefully carried to the cave, into place in the nest. He will alert her to my presence!

He’s just spotted me! Now there followed a flapping of wings as both took off together into the cold, clear morning sky. I don’t object to their presence…let all life find sanctuary here at Bealtaine Cottage.
Yes indeed, it is very cold, with a deep cap of snow on Slieve Anierin to prove it.

Blossom on the Blackthorn is abundant this year…the Wild Bees are in their nectar Heaven, with a promise of Sloes to follow in Autumn.
The tunnel is evolving as my own sanctuary, where I can sit and observe the burgeoning life all around me. A place of silent retreat and mindfulness.
The days of clearing up the compost and pots area are almost at an end. The new compost area is now where the hundreds of pots used to be. The compost to the left will be distributed around the gardens where it is needed.
I intend planting out the old compost area with shrubs, to provide both protection from the east winds and colour to lighten the heart!

There remains much work to be done here in the gardens over the coming days and weeks. It is essential I get on with it! I shall leave you with the rest of the photographs I took this morning as I walked around the gardens.

Apple blossom ready to break out.
Blackcurrant blossom near to opening.

Days of Hibernation

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Snow fell today.

As I stood by the front of the cottage, the mountain of Sliabh an Iarainn appeared to suddenly rise up in a shroud of white.

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More often than not it merges into the sky in shades of grey and sometimes blue, but today it stood out proud, gleaming white.

This mighty mountain, where once the ancients mined iron ore and ushered in the Iron Age, rises from the shores of Lough Allen to the North East, as Kilronan Mountain faces the cottage, sentinel-like, to the North.

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It too was dusted with a covering of light snow.

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I retreated to the warmth of the cottage and watched the snow fall.

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By the time I went into the bedroom to make the bed, Sammy-Bear had made a nest and curled up for the day…I exited the messy room and closed the door!

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Sammy-Bear often sleeps in my bedroom to escape Charlie, who often makes great sport from terrorizing his betters!

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Charlie and Jack are quite good friends now.

It’s a hierarchical relationship…Charlie’s the boss!

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The evening has drawn in fast…there is not much to notice yet in the stretch of the day…it slowly manifests when we are busy getting used to the new year.

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Now is the time to make the most of the days of hibernation left to us, for they are few in number…the Spring moves in faster than we realise.

Charlie knows this…in fact, looking into his eyes, I’d say that Charlie knows an awful lot!

The Midwinter Archives

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Midwinter, past and present…all here for you to see!

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Feeling a touch nostalgic, I decided to share some of the magic of Midwinter with you from previous years.

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The silvery light of a midwinter sun captures a sense of magic indoors.

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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.

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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.

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Somewhere in the depths of Winter was born a sense of the light returning and the cycle beginning once more. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

At midwinter, the sun appears to stand still, for three days, before rising on its ascent back up into the southern sky. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

The light changes. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Shadows grow shorter. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Our bodies and minds ascent with the sun towards Midsummer, filled with joy and optimism.

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Much of humankind has forgotten the importance of observing the heavens and being mindful of our connection to them.

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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.

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I have come to be more aware of the night sky over recent years…

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As we continue on the descent towards Midwinter, with clear, cold night skies, this can be a good time to look to the heavens.

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Midwinter will pass soon enough and the cycle will begin once more.

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The darkness will lift.

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Days will lengthen.

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And life emerge anew!

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April Snow, Bees and Butterflies

April  Bealtaine Cottage pond gardenApril weather is always unpredictable.

Snow fell this morning…in between rain and brilliant sunshine!

It was like a convergence of all the seasons in one morning!

April permaculture rhubarb at Bealtainecottage 016This time last year we were swimming in the Atlantic Ocean down by Mullaghmore Pier.

Legs and arms, uncovered for the first time in months, looked a sickly white in shorts and T-shirts.

April 2011 permaculture cottage 022The apple blossom was fully out and the season was about a month ahead of what was expected.

This year, the season is late.

About 4-6 weeks in some parts of the garden!

April  Bealtaine Cottage PolytunnelHowever, the polytunnel is really paying for itself, as I have all the fruit and veg in pots, growing big and strong and ready for when the weather settles down and all danger of frost has passed!

April Bealtaine Cottage permaculture GardensI have been hauling more and more stone from the edges of the land, into specific areas, where the passive solar heat trapped in the stone will help growth in annual crops, creating micro-climates.

As the season is late, it allows more time for me to catch up with the bigger tasks here at Bealtaine Cottage.

Always looking for the silver lining!

Bealtaine Cottage Gardens  in April 2011 001The Bats are out from hibernation and yesterday, as I walked down the lane-way, a butterfly fluttered just ahead of me, for most of the walk.

The bees are flitting from one heavily laden Ribes bush to another…their end of hibernation feast!

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An Angel in the Snow

Angel in the snow at Bealtaine Cottage

The wind howled all night as it carried snow in from the Atlantic Ocean.

The moon drifted downwards as the sun rose.

Somewhere in-between I got up and lit the stove, walked the dogs and returned to settle into a hunker-down day in the cottage.

Che Mousy Bear at Bealtaine CottageAs I write, the dogs are in their baskets and the cats are lounging on the sofas.

Animals know when it’s cold and really appreciate being indoors!

Che-Mousy-Bear is purring loudly on the sofa nearby my desk.

Sam sits opposite.

Stereo purring!

The porch at bealtaine cottageThis kind of weather often makes an appearance after Spring has been called.

The Primroses and Daffodils don’t seem to mind.

Bealtaine Cottage PorchThey know it won’t last!

The snow is soft and fluffy with little ice and no frost.

veranda at Bealtaine Cottage The wind has settled down and the sun is shining.

Today I shall work in the tunnel, sowing herbs and pumpkins…it’s Spring, even if there is snow!

Indoors I am sorting seed and making Smudge Sticks  for sale in the Bealtaine Cottage Shop.

A big pot of vegetable soup is on the menu…just the thing on a snowy day!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/BealtaineCottage

A Day Indoors at Bealtaine Cottage

It is cold and windy…quite an icy wind at that! maybe the predictions for snow are coming true…brrr!

An indoors day at the cottage…just a quiet time with some thoughts, reflections and maybe a little painting…

watch…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPaDutKYC6M

Midwinter Cottage and Solstice Celebrations

The Plants of Christmas

The plants traditionally associated with Christmas were  Holly,Mistletoe, Ivy  and Common Yew. These trees and plants have had special roles in earlier religions and past cultures.

The Celts in Ireland  had midwinter festivals to celebrate the return of the sun from the shortest day.

In the 4th and 5th centuries, 25 December was gradually adopted as the date for Christmas in Europe in order to superimpose on the existing mid-winter festivals.

Evergreens

 The Roman festival of Saturnalia was a week of public feasting, dancing, singing and gambling. Houses were decorated with evergreens and bunches of holly were given as tokens of friendship. When this festival was absorbed into the Christian calendar, Holly and the other evergreens were absorbed as well.

Fire and Celebration

Midwinter Solstice marks the rebirth of the suns power.
The midwinter fire is the  symbol of death and rebirth – going from the darkness into the light.
I celebrate the Midwinter Solstice with a traditional fire, food and drink with family and friends.

In The Bleak Midwinter

 In the bleak mid-winter 
  Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, 
  Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.        
 ~ Christina Rossetti

Ascent To Spring

The fire will burn into the night and as is the custom, I will use an ember to light the stove here at Bealtaine Cottage in the morning.
So the ritual of the Midwinter and the longest night will be over.

Tomorrow will begin the ascent to Spring and the light.

First Snow in the West of Ireland

Dawn breaks in the east and illuminates the snow that has fallen overnight.
Last night was very cold indeed, so it’s no surpise to awaken to such a winter landscape.

As I write this at 11am, the snow has begun to fall silently once more, surprising the onlooker at the sudden transformation.
Somewhere, deep within the recesses of the barn, is stored a sleigh and there’s a good possibility that it will be brought out this weekend!

Just another five days until the time of the midwinter solstice.

This lasts for about three days or so and if the weather is good, with clear skies, then the Newgrange visitors should be well pleased!

Cat Hotels and Halloween Weather…Notes from a Permaculture Cottage!

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