Posted in Bealtaine Cottage, celebrations, Christmas, december, family and friends, holiday, midwinter, Permaculture, season

Moving with Orion Towards Midwinter

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The signs are everywhere…

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Nights drawing in…

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Unexpected sunshine on frosted mornings.

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The bare beauty of trees silhouetted against clear winter skies. 

Full Moon at Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

As Orion strides across the evening sky, we draw closer to the Winter Solstice and the darkest, stillest, nights of the year.

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Winter Solstice celebrations begin on the 21st of December, a time of hope and joy for all, regardless of belief or religious observances.

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Magical Midwinter!

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Ancient tribes all over the world observed rituals around Solstice time.

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We too can  celebrate Winter Solstice, integrating it into our own traditional celebrations.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

A chance to step outdoors and observe the night sky.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture landscape

An opportunity to nurture and develop connections to family and friends.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

From this day, there are 22 days to go before the descent into the Midwinter Solstice.

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Yes, the coldest days precede the Spring, so January rarely feels like the prelude to that beautiful season!

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture landscape

But, here in the West of Ireland, with Imbolc on the first day of February, the signs are there for all to see, as new life emerges from the frozen earth.

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Posted in Abundance, Country Living, Earth, Eco-Living, Ecology, Inspiration, Ireland, Life, Lifestyle, Nature, Permaculture, Spirituality, Summer, Thoughts, Wild Flowers

Otherworldly…

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 Sunday afternoon…picking flowers in the gardens.

This feels like the full, quiet days before giving birth…

bealtainecottage.comThe force of the full moon can still be felt in the stillness of the late afternoon air.

bealtainecottage.com (2)There is an otherworldly feel to it all… Time appears to stand very still.

bealtainecottage.com (3)Bees continue in a frenzy of work on this side of the Solstice.

I have often felt a slowness as time ascends towards Midsummer…it’s as though Mother Earth is not yet ready to let go…

bealtainecottage.com (4)Evenings merge with night as daylight seems eternal in the west of Ireland…Ox-Eye Daisies reach up toward the sun, basking in summer.

bealtainecottage.com (5)Returning from Belfast and the soft hum of the city to this place of quiet solitude, this otherworldly paradise of sights and scents…

bealtainecottage.com (6)Far back from the lane, this little cottage nestles into silence, a place of tranquil tolerance, a timeless existence at midsummer.

bealtainecottage.com (7)Wood Pigeon and Cuckoo call a mantra of hypnotic sounds…a lazy Sunday afternoon…

bealtainecottage.com (8)Ground Elder, the bane of many gardeners, is allowed her magnificence here, frothy lace adorning a mantle of green. bealtainecottage.com (9)Ragged Robin dances by the wheels of an old bike.

bealtainecottage.com (10)Himalayan Musk stands sturdy by the wooden porch.

bealtainecottage.com (11)Astrantia unfolds it’s papery petals in an unending delight of pinky white and green.

bealtainecottage.com (12)Bees delight in Jacob’s Ladder as it ascends to heaven…

bealtainecottage.comAnd blue Jacob’s Ladder adorns the kitchen table in a cottage lost in time…

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Posted in Abundance, Bealtaine Cottage, celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Cottage, Country Living, Culture, Earth, Fairies, Folklore, History, Inspiration, Ireland, Permaculture, photography, Summer, Uncategorized

Midsummer Rising

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Farewell Bealtaine!

Rising on the last morning of Bealtaine and looking out the window of the lodge to be greeted by mist and sunshine.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe heat of yesterday rose in a mist over the valley and mountains beyond.

www,bealtainecottage.comRising towards Midsummer is a most magical time in the west of Ireland.

Between the rain and the sun, the jigs and the reels, the land has grown a mantle of green.

www.bealtainecottage.comFestivals are held in every village as birds, from thousands of mile away, fly low over the feeding grounds of this small island. www.bealtainecottage.comMidsummer customs prevail in much of Europe and certainly here in Ireland, where the traditional bonfire is part of the celebration.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe fire is lit exactly at sunset on the eve of the solstice and celebrations continue until sunset on the solstice itself.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe sense of abundance is quite tangible and visible at this time, helping to create a celebratory atmosphere.

www.bealtainecottage.comMidsummer  was seen as a time when the veil between this world and the next was thin, and when the spirit of the land itself held sway.

This is encapsulated in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

www.bealtainecottage.comThis year I shall be lighting the Midsummer fire with wood cut around the time of Midwinter, in honour of my  Mother.

www.bealtainecottage.com It is a time for gathering and spending time together and a celebration I look forward to…

www.bealtainecottage.comAs I walked I the gardens this morning, there arose a great sense of peace and harmony, again something which seems to be released from the very Earth herself each year, at this time of ascension to Midsummer.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe promise of a good harvest holds firm as the beautiful weather continues.

www.bealtainecottage.comHere is one of my favourite quotes by Carole Carlton…

“The festival of the summer solstice speaks of love and light, of freedom and generosity of spirit.

www.bealtainecottage.comIt is a beautiful time of year where vibrant flowers whisper to us with scented breath,

www.bealtainecottage.com (2)forests and woodlands hang heavy in the summer’s heat and our souls become enchanted with midsummer magic.”

www.bealtainecottage.com (3)

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Posted in Angels, Bealtaine Cottage, Blessing, Cats, celebrations, Cottage, Country Living, Earth, Folklore, Garden, Inspiration, Ireland, Permaculture, Spirituality, Summer, Wild Flowers

A Magical Midsummer Morning…

Solstice morning at Bealtaine Cottage 2013Happy Solstice everyone…

Midsummer morning at bealtaine cottage, IrelandIn this special year of the return of the Divine Feminine…

Angel on Midsummer morningThere will be a full moon on Sunday, June 23…

Bealtaine Cottage on Midsummer morning 2013And it’s a rather special one…

Midsummer at Bealtaine CottageThe biggest moon at Midsummer

Bealtaine Cottage on Midsummer morningIt will not only be the largest full moon of the year…

Midsummer morning at Bealtaine Cottage...and MissyIt will also be the moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2013.

Missy on midsummer morningThe moon will be at it’s peak on Sunday…

Bealtaine Cottage midsummer morningCelebrate this Solstice…it’s a rare one!

Bealtaine Lodge on Midsummer morningI’m heading to the ocean for a long walk along the Atlantic shoreline…

Midsummer morning at Bealtaine CottageMy Midsummer Treat!

Happy Solstice Everyone!

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Posted in Bealtaine Cottage, Birds, Christmas, Country Living, Garden, Inspiration, Ireland, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Thrift, Uncategorized, Winter

Kandinsky, Stars and Solstice Preparations

Bealtaine Cottage, Midwinter 2012

As the winter moves towards the Solstice and Midwinter festivities grow closer, cleaning and painting the cottage is taking up most of my time.

Doors have been painted, along with window frames and furniture.

Bealtaine Cottage PantryThe thing is, once started, painting just goes on and on, as more things look grubby alongside freshly painted wood!

This is the newly decorated pantry…with a piece of art on the wall by Kandinsky, one of my favourite artists.

Bealtaine Cottage Shower roomThe shower room, (I don’t have a bath), was also given a complete makeover, including some stencilling on the walls.

The stencil was cut out of cardboard for free.

Bealtaine Cottage VerandaThis morning here in the west of Ireland is filled with sun, clear skies and frost.

The weather has been frosty, but mild enough to keep the blooms on the Geraniums.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture midwinter 2012It’s the kind of day that should be bottled and sold as perfect Midwinter weather!

I have just started putting out food for the birds, in the form of rolled barley.

Barley grows here in the British Isles, so there is little transportation involved.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture midwinter 2012The birds love this and one big sack from the farm store costs less than 10 euros and lasts all winter.

There is plenty of food in the garden, but this is a supplement as many small birds use Bealtaine Cottage as a food stop.

Posted in Animals, Autumn, celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Earth, Inspiration, Ireland, Lifestyle, Lughnasa, Nature, Permaculture, Thoughts

Lughnasa and the Solstice…Ancient Time

At certain times today, as I was working outside, I had a distinct sense of Autumn.

The way the sun shone on a plant, the smell from the earth around my feet…it was quite tangible.

The growing cycle in the west of Ireland adheres very much to the old Celtic calendar.

It is easy to tell the season just by walking the land and watching shadows…

Autumn begins on the 1st day of August.

This cycle is in essence closely linked to the Solstices and Equinoxes of the year.

 It is the  same solar alignment that determines the correct time for Lughnasa and this is also the exact same alignment for Bealtaine.

The ancient calendar is correct, as it follows the sun and planets rather than the time of man.

I am more attuned to Natural Time as I work on the land.

I am also much happier in this time mode.

The midsummer solstice was last month, four weeks ago and harvesting is well under way.

I do believe that animals are more closely tied into these ancient seasons than we care to admit.

I have enjoyed the company of many rescue dogs and cats over the years and often observed their habits, right down to times when they will bury food.

Flo, here, is a little hobo dog and has been used to fending for herself for most of her life…

Flo is a persistent food secreter and will often sit on a stash in her basket!

On that note, I think I’ll just go and check…

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Posted in Butterflies, Cats, celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Celts, Climate, Earth, Eco-Living, Fairies, Folklore, Food, Inspiration, Ireland, Lughnasa, Permaculture, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Wild Flowers

The Magical Festival of Lughnasa…

The land approaches Lughnasa, (Lughnasadh), August and the beginning of Autumn.

Looking at the apples today on the trees at Bealtaine Cottage, it is easy to see how this is.

Harvests continue to be gathered and develop, ripening to plumpness and fullness.

Tomatoes, like the ones above, grown outdoors in areas of micro-climate warmth and shelter, continue to flower and produce.

The weather is promised good for the week ahead, as grass moves in the gentle breeze of a July afternoon…the only missing part of this picture is the beautiful Butterflies, so decimated by rain last year and almost finished off with rain and cold this summer.

There is little I can do to help this situation, other than continue to grow and plant out Buddleias and other shrubs and flowers much beloved of these fairy creatures with coloured wings.

Herbs are harvested, tied into small bunches and hung to dry in the warmth of the tunnel, with lots of air circulating, as both doors remain open day and night during summer.

Lughnasa is a harvest festival, marking the end of the period of summer growth and the beginning of the autumn harvest.

This is the time to save seed…as you can see, seed-heads have formed beautifully on the Leeks in the tunnel today.

I will save the seed of the strongest plant, for sowing next year.

Jostaberries are almost ready to harvest.

They come into season just after the Blackcurrant.

Many people think  that Lughnasa was a fire festival, but it was not.

Lughnasa was associated with water and earth, as seen in decoration of wells, making of corn-dollies, decorating and adorning with flowers, and climbing mountains.

Many of the most beautiful flowers come into flower at this time…the Crocosmia by the door of the tunnel will flower over the next week or so, as will the gorgeous Shasta Daisy!

The plant just peeping into the tunnel is Lemon Balm.

Wonderful scents arise as one brushes past it!

Wood cut last winter will be ready for the barn by Lughnasa.

It dries well when stacked like this!

Lughnasa is a Celtic cross-quarter festival, meaning it is not a Solstice or an Equinox, but falls between.

Perhaps this Lughnasa you will climb a mountain, visit a Holy Well, collect Bilberries, bring in the first potatoes…all celebrations of this special, magical, Celtic Festival!

Posted in Abundance, Bloom, Country Living, Edible Gardens, Food, Growing Food, Inspiration, Life, Lifestyle, Permaculture, Recipes, Seed-Saving, Self-Sufficiency, Tea, Wild Flowers

Making Elderflower Cordial…Summer in a Bottle!

The Summer harvest has begun in time for the Solstice…Elderflowers are in abundance and the making of Elderflower Cordial captures the energy of the summer solstice in a bottle of sweety goodness!

30 heads of flowers, 4 lemons, boiled spring water, sugar and citric acid to preserve the cordial well into the dark days of midwinter.

It’s a very simple process.

First boil the one and half litres of water you will use, then stir this onto the 1 kilo of sugar and leave to cool.

Then grate the lemons and slice into thick slices.

Add all to the cooled sugar water, along with the Elderflowers.

Stir well.

Add 50g of citric acid and stir again.

Cover and leave to infuse for 48 hours or so, then strain through muslin and bottle in sterilized glass bottles.

Mmmmm….

Any leftover flowers can be dried in a cool oven and kept in a clean glass jar for making Elderflower tea with during the winter…

This makes a delicious, organic tea!

I love the abundance of summer…

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Posted in Country Living, Earth, Frugal Living, Gaia, Garden, Growing Food, Permaculture, Self-Sufficiency, Spirituality, Sustainable Living, Thrift, Uncategorized

A Sense of Purpose

This is a month of many visitors to Bealtaine.

It is also the month of midsummer.

The ascent towards the solstice is happening.

It is actually visible in the growth all around me at Bealtaine Cottage.

Grass has grown tall and is seeding.

Nettles are almost past their prime, for once the flower heads appear their culinary use is forbidden.

Blossoms are ready to harvest, especially the Elderflower, one of the most delicate and exquisite flowers to use for making cordial, jam and champagne.

Elderflower cordial, once made and safely bottled, will keep easily for a year or more…not that I have ever kept it that long!

It is one of the best tastes of summer, if not the best!

Many of the visitors to Bealtaine Cottage are as interested in the spiritual aspects of permaculture, as the practical aspects of embracing permaculture as a lifestyle choice.

I see both as intertwined, for as permaculture is practised, spiritual awareness deepens and religious thinking diminishes.

A transformation occurs that takes the participant to a higher plain of awareness and understanding.

For me, permaculture has led me quite naturally to a life of simplicity and increasing awareness of the natural world.

It has been a tuning in process that has reached a level of comfortable ordinariness.

In other words, I get it… I feel comfortable within the universe.

There is incredible peace of mind in a permaculture lifestyle.

Most of the time, the brain is in an alpha state, with virtually no anxiety.

There is little to be anxious about, as this lifestyle choice both empowers and disregards.

With little need for money, the desire to consume is abated and diminished.

The consuming society is fast consuming itself and mostly for greed, ego or other negative reasons.

So much of the negativity which once dominated thinking, is disregarded, thrown off.

Life is embraced as a series of sunrises and sunsets and all the day in between, noticing the natural environment, planting, harvesting and simply being.

Many who are unemployed can turn to permaculture as an unlimited resource, fractionalised only by one’s own imagination.

A sense of purpose is easily attained by working close to the Earth.

Here at Bealtaine Cottage, as the night draws in and the rain scatters nourishment upon the plants, I take a final walk around the cottage before reluctantly going in for the night…

Posted in celebrations, Country Living, Inspiration, Winter

Midwinter ~ Celebrating the Solstice and Illuminating the Darkness

Midwinter. 

The sun is barely visible.

Time to light the fire and illuminate the darkness.

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The stove is lit.
The kettle sings out a tune of hot tea.
Midwinter…a time to hunker down and keep warm.

“Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, . . . . I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturb’d Retirement, and the hours Of long uninterrupted evening, know.” 
William Cowper 

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“Up rose the wild old winter-king, And shook his beard of snow; “I hear the first young hard-bell ring, ‘Tis time for me to go! Northward o’er the icy rocks, Northward o’er the sea, My daughter comes with sunny locks: This land’s too warm for me!”” 
Charles Godfrey Leland

Posted in Christmas, Country Living, Inspiration, Ireland

The Enchantment of Midwinter

bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Hot tea, midwinter and poetry. 

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Ensconced as I am in the silver light of a near Solstice afternoon, this seems a good way of passing the time.

Outside the jewels of winter hang on the pine trees and the air is cold.
Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

I hear the cars move slowly, cautiously along the frozen road.
A near Solstice Sunday.

Tables high and low in the cottage are decorated with green and candles, a celebration of this dark, still time.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

The descent towards the Solstice continues unabated.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

For a few days time will be still as the world turns  and the sun completes it’s downward drift…

Willow lies cut and ready to be stacked into neat bundles for basket-making in the early Spring.
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The tasks of winter continue to resonate around the cottage, calling me to do their bidding…

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Low lies the sun in the winter sky.

Posted in Christmas, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Winter

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!

Posted in Autumn, Bealtaine Cottage, celebrations, Celtic Mythology, Culture, Ecology, Folklore, Gardening, History, Ireland, Permaculture, Smallholding, Uncategorized

Permaculture Cottage ~ Lughnasa and the Celtic Calendar

The feast of Lugh, Lughnasa, or Lughnasadh happenssoon…on the eve, which is the 31st of July. A time for a bonfire and celebrations of the harvest…celebrations here at Bealtaine Cottage will be focused around a rather small outdoor fire but with the equivalent gusto of the eve that’s in it!

 The Festival of Lughnasadh

This was  said to have been begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast commemorating his foster-mother, Tailtu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Little changed there then, as most of the agricultural work in many African countries is carried out by women!

In days of old, Lughnasadh was a favoured time for  trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or later formalizing it as a more permanent marriage.

 Lughnasa is the first of the three autumn harvest festivals. The Autumn Equinox and Samhain, or Halloween, being the other two.

Already there is a feel of Autumn in the air and can be seen in the plant life as harvests begin and fruits ripen on the trees. The days have shortened, now over a month past the longest day.

Here, plums ripen on one of the trees at Bealtaine Cottage and nettles produce their seeds…

And…

Flowers like this Perscaria Bistorta, a late flowering perennial, begin to show a magnificence beyond their humble beginnings!

Irish calendar

is a pre-Christian, Celtic system of keeping the year and still in popular use today to define the beginning and length of the day, the week, the month, the seasons, quarter days, and festivals.

  The meteorological seasons  begin on March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1.

The Irish Calendar observes the equinoxes and solstices and has a more realistic seasonal observance…

  • Spring – February, March, April.
  • Summer – May, June, July.
  • Autumn – August, September, October.
  • Winter – November, December, January.

These seasons are much more in keeping with the observations I make here at Bealtaine Cottage and I would abide by these dates rather than any other.