Lifting the Spirits

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Midwinter is over.

For many the celebration of Christmas has begun.

Last minute frenetic shopping today and tomorrow…

The days here at Bealtaine are beginning to lengthen.

Not tangible as yet, but optimism for more daylight has taken hold and sometimes that is enough…simply knowing that the darkness has passed.

The cottage remains in a post-midwinter party state, with chairs pushed back and floor-space revealed.

It may be a day or two before this is sorted, for I want to escape outdoors, despite the stormy weather!

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The lush greenery on the mantelpiece will stay in place for as long as it retains life.

Replacing the candles daily is a small task and keeps the soft light there to lift the spirits.

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A small sadness pervades the air, now that family and friends have gone.

We all enjoyed the coming together of our midwinter feast, with music and bonfire and soft candlelight…a magical time that lifted the spirit.

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Rich food and drink will now give way to simple soups and tea…a sort of cleansing of the palette and system, together with late winter walks, to appease the feasting of recent days.

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Venturing out this morning, into the wind-driven rain, fresh in from the Atlantic, amid the sounds of birds fighting over food…time to scatter the scraps from the feast around the gravel by the cottage for my hungry and cold feathered friends.

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Parsley, Kale and Chard all continue to grow abundantly in the Potager beds…no sign of prolonged frost to diminish these green gifts.

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The Chard is particularly beneficial to the body at this time of year, as it contains generous amounts of both Vitamin C and Iron…the Vitamin C is necessary for the body to absorb the Iron.

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I use the Kale in the juicer each day…a great supplement to my diet, as it charges my energy!

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Do you recall the ground I mulched with cardboard and shreddings?

Well, here it is this morning and as you can see it has now transformed itself into a bed ready to be planted out in the Spring…how easy was that?

There are several hundred blogs on this website about mulching and preparing ground for planting using the easiest methods that I have tried and tested.

To access them simply type key words into the Search Bar at the top of this page!

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Keeping Good Health This Winter with Dracula!

Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureOne of the mainstays of good health…organically grown onions here at Bealtaine Cottage on the veranda, drying out before stringing.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Onions, Apples and Blackcurrants, organically grown, will provide an enormous amount of protection from colds and viruses and at the same time help to keep the blood free from oxidants.

All this because prevention is better than cure!

Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureA pot of tea, comforting and refreshing as well as being a powerful anti-oxidant

organic garlic, Bealtaine CottagePermacultureGarlic…not just for keeping vampires away!

Garlic at Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture garden 015Traditionally, whole bulbs of wild garlic were placed under the thatch of Irish cottages, just above the door, to keep away evil!

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It is no surprise that the writer of the book, “Dracula,” was, in fact an Irish man, Bram Stoker.

Garlic keeps the blood clean…apparently!

A slice of garlic placed on a cut will kill all infection!

rosehips Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureStudies now suggest that Rose-hip extract can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis.

Rosehips at Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureIn the past this was used to make a poultice which was then applied to painful joints in hands, knees and hips.

 Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureIt has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect and will successfully treat the inflammatory condition AND is free of any side-effects.

Rose Arch at Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture GardensThis is a very easy to grow cure and has many other uses…for example, the hips are packed with Vitamin C!

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture breadAnother case of prevention being better than cure…sunflower seeds, used in bread-making will provide a good source of Omega to the body and be powerful in the protection of good health all round.

I add the hulled seeds to bread and flapjacks.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture catsWe should enquire of the older generation what it is that has kept and continues to keep them in good health.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture home made soupHome made vegetable soup is one of the best sources of goodness to keep good health throughout the winter.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture pumpkinsI make this in batches, using pumpkins from the pantry and keep it in the fridge, along with home made bread.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture PumpkinsPumpkins will keep for the entire winter if stored in a cool pantry.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture TreesThe Elder tree was used as the mainstay of good health in village life long ago.

The leaves, bark, flowers, berries and roots were all used in folk medicine and herbal cures.

Bealtaine Cottage interior designThis is another easy to grow tree that keeps on giving…Elderflower Wine is absolutely scrumptious!

If you wish you can subscribe to the latest website from Bealtaine Cottage…”Bealtaine Cottage Good Life”…simply make a donation of 12 euros for a full year and access the long list of blogs now on site. Quote: “Bealtaine Cottage Good Life” with your donation.

(Please note that this small donation sustains the work on this website, Bealtaine Cottage YouTube, Bealtaine Cottage Podcast and Bealtaine Cottage Magical Gardens FaceBook.)

 

A Most Formidable Woman…

The stretch in the days is quite tangible…it remained light until after 5:30 today. Yesterday I wrote about the frogs in the lower pond and the frog-spawn therein…so, yes, Spring is creeping in!

I lit the stove here in the sitting room earlier as I intend to curl up with a glass of home-made vino and a book…

I am reading all about the reign of Elizabeth 1st…a formidable woman who lived in dangerous times in a world dominated by man! This biography is the best to date that I have read…it’s alive!

Just two oranges remain from the Christmas fruit bowl and these will be finished off tonight. Oranges are a treat as I get most of my daily Vitamin C from the ample supply of frozen blackcurrants I keep in the freezer from the summer harvest here at Bealtaine.

Jack is turning out to be a good dog and great company.

As I type this he sits at my feet.

Although I never intended to adopt a Collie from the Rescue centre, Jack has been a good addition to life here at the cottage!

From the 1890s on, American corporate business, in league with key institutions, began the transformation of American society into a society preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this. American consumer capitalism produced a culture almost violently hostile to the past and tradition, a future-oriented culture of desire that confused the good life with goods. It was a culture that first appeared as an alternative culture—or as one moving largely against the grain of earlier traditions of republicanism and Christian virtue—and then unfolded to become the reigning culture of the United States.

-William Leach, Land of Desire, 1993 

Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions.

– Erich Fromm (1900–1980), The Art of Loving, 1957

Permaculture Cottage ~ The Benefits of Tea

Evening turns to night at Bealtaine Cottage.

The bats have emerged from their home and are flying low around the cottage.

Lots of activity today at Bealtaine, especially around the Tunnel and Nursery beds.

Many of the Blackcurrant seedlings are now in bigger pots and moved to the plants area, where they will stay until planted out.

The nights are verging from warm and balmy to quite chilly.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see early frost, as the weather has become unpredictable.

Tea…the cup that cheers, especially at the end of the day.

In 2010, researchers found that people who consumed tea had significantly less cognitive decline than non-tea drinkers.

The study used data on more than 4,800 men and women aged 65 and older to examine change in cognitive function over time.

Study participants were followed for up to 14 years for naturally-occurring cognitive decline. (Study carried out by Leonore Arab PhD UCLA 2010).

Tea leaves contain more than 700 chemicals, including  flavanoides, amino acids, vitamins (C, E and K), caffeine and polysaccharides.

Tea plays an important role in improving beneficial intestinal microflora, as well as providing immunity against intestinal disorders and in protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage.

Tea also prevents dental caries due to the presence of fluorine.

The role of tea is well established in normalizing blood pressure, lipid depressing activity, prevention of coronary heart diseases and diabetes by reducing the blood-glucose activity.

Both green and black tea infusions contain a number of antioxidants.

Something that my grandmother always insisted upon, though she didn’t call them antioxidants, …now, how did she know?

Permaculture Cottage ~ Oregano, Hippocrates and Herbs

The hips of the Rosa Rugosa are yet to turn red.

Rugosa rose is widely used as an ornamental plant. As a seaside plant it is invaluable as it can tolerate the salty wind and storms really well.

The sweetly scented flowers are used to make pot-pourri in Japan and China,  where it has been cultivated for about a thousand years. This grows well here at Bealtaine Cottage.

The other rose growing abundantly here at Bealtaine is the Rosa Canina, or Dog Rose.

During world war two, the shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables was having an adverse effect on the nation’s health,  so the call went out for the collection and distribution of rose hips  from the hedgerows, as they provided the highest home-grown source of Vitamin C.

In response, the government organised a nationwide initiative to collect roadside rose hips which, with the help of the Women’s Institutes, were processed into syrup for babies and children.

Oregano is an important culinary herb, used for the flavor of its leaves, which can often be more flavourful when dried than fresh. It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity. Factors such as climate, seasons and soil composition may affect the aromatic oils present.

The leaves are most often used in Greece to add flavour to Greek salad, and is usually added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies many fish or meat barbecues and some casseroles. I grow heaps of this lovely herb and dry it for daily use all the year round. It is a mainstay of my cooking, especially tomato sauces!

Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments.

Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. The flowers can be dried and used in tea and as it is a good antiseptic it is useful to stave off colds during the winter.

The easy to grow corm, Crocosmia, this evening at Bealtaine Cottage. The chains of corms are fragile and easily separated, a quality that has enabled some species to become invasive and difficult to control in the garden. However, I welcome invasive flowers…less weeds!They are commonly known in the United States as coppertips or falling stars, and in Britain as montbretia. Crocosmia are winter-hardy in Ireland. They can be propagated through division, removing offsets from the corm in spring.

It’s hard to believe that this is not a garden flower…but the beautiful herb, Chives. This plant has been flowering since the middle of Spring! Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are the smallest species of the edible onions.

Chives are a commonly used household herb, frequently grown in gardens. In culinary use, chives leaves (straws) are shredded for use as a seasoning for fish, potatoes, soups, and other dishes. Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used in gardens to control pests.I think they make great border edging plants as well!

The Permaculture Daily Photo-Blog from Ireland

Nasturtiums  in bloom this morning. These are the trailing variety and will grow well in poor soil. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible and add a spicy taste to a salad. These are growing from a pot on the veranda.

Swathes of colour dot the driveway to the cottage as the Valerian, Dog Daisy and Dog Rose all come into bloom.
The Dog Rose, Rosa Canina, will go on to produce rosehips that are packed with vitamin C and are good for making syrup that is traditionally fed to babies and toddlers.


Yellow Flag Iris grows by the Lower Pond. This beautiful flower spreads each year, given the right conditions and makes such a brilliant show in late May, early June…I love this naturalized flower.


Willow through Gunnera Manicata…