Bridget

Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Bealtaine.

In Ireland, nature on May 1, 2012 at 6:49 am

Already the constantly turning wheel of the year has brought us to May Day… Bealtaine…the beginning of Summer in the Celtic calendar. The Blackthorn is in blossom now…soon it will be followed by the Maybush as Hawthorn is often known.

The Romans celebrated this time with the Festival of Floraia…in honour of the Goddess Flora…Goddess of fruit and flowers. They would feast for 5 days.

Imagine the scene in the old days in Ireland…fires lighting on every hill on the eve of Bealtaine…must have been a wonderful sight to see the hills glowing in the distance. The main fire was at Uisneach…in what is now county Westmeath. Fires in the home were quenched and then relit with coals from the embers of the bonfire.

In the not so distant past the churning of butter was an important activity on every farm. Indeed as a child I remember my Mother making butter in a round wooden churn. It was believed that anything leaving the farm on May morning could be used to “steal the butter.” People not of the household would not be allowed enter if butter was being churned for fear of malicious intentions. It was suspected that certain people regularly “stole” their neighbours butter and crops. Potatoes, being an important food crop, were often the focus of these “thefts.” The crop would be “stolen” by the “thief” leaving an egg among the potatoes. The “thief” would then have an excellent crop.

Like Samhain,  Bealtaine is considered a time when the veil between the world’s is thin…a time when, at dawn and dusk especially, we can commune with Fairy and Nature spirits more easily.

What does Bealtaine…May Day mean to you? Is it something you mark in any way? For me it is a time of an increased awareness of Nature bursting forth. Everything is so vibrant… green and alive. The fields and hedgerows are once again clothed in green…insects are flitting about doing their pollinating work. So much to observe and revel in. Even though we’ve seen it all before somehow each year we are filled with awe and anticipation at the wonder of it all.

On Earth Day…Commandments for the Earth.

In green living, nature on April 22, 2012 at 9:59 am

1.  Thou shalt love and honour the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.

 

2.  Thou shalt keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of the seasons.

 

3.  Thou shalt not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.

 

4.  Thou shalt give thanks for thy food, to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.

5.  Thou shalt limit thy offspring for multitudes of people are a burden onto the Earth.

 

6.  Thou shalt not kill, nor waste Earth’s riches upon weapons of war.

 

7.  Thou shalt not pursue profit at the Earth’s expense but strive to restore it’s damaged majesty.

 

8.  Thou shalt not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.

 

9.  Thou shalt not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.

 

10.  Thou shalt consume material goods in moderation so all may share the Earth’s bounty.

 

These commandments were written in 1990 by Ernest Callenbach.

If only we would live by them.

 

The Search for the Sacred Well. part 2.

In Ireland, nature on April 17, 2012 at 7:22 am


As the weeds and brambles were removed the old stone that surrounds the well was revealed…



and our  excitement and sense of  achievement was invigorating. Loads of baby frogs in the water here…now they can stretch their legs and swim.



As the well was revealed John was moved to recite a poem….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jtDP4W7ECo&feature=share


The men showed off by trying to move this large stone into it’s previous position. They had partial success! On another day we will return with wellies to rescue the old stone that has fallen into the well.



Being in this seldom visited spot makes me wonder…who were the last people to use this well…when last the last bucket of drinking water taken from here…did people come from far and wide to seek healing here? How long since these beautiful stone walls were built in this sacred place?


According to John’s research the well water here was reputed to be a cure for stress. How fitting in these times that we should seek it out and rejuvenate it.



Oblivious to all else a small child builds a fairy house from moss and twigs…topped by a white feather.



Reluctantly we realise that evening is creeping in…and we must return through the forest…



past the skeleton of a long dead tree…



to where the Bluebells grow.


Click on pics to enlarge.

As Spring Equinox approaches.

In nature, sustainable living on March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

As Spring Equinox approaches we are spending lots of time in the garden. It’s that time of year when the green returns and we are enthused by spending time revelling in it. In the polytunnel beds have been dug and manured ready for the plants that are growing in the seed trays. The Peach tree is in full flower. This will need to be hand pollinated as there are few insects about this early. Some seeds are sown direct in the beds: Oriental Salad Mix, Rocket, Spring Onions and Spinach.

All the manure used in the garden is from our own animals. There’s also the compost made from vegetable waste from the garden,  vegetable peelings and teabags from the house. It is full of worms, beautifully dark and crumbly.

Spring Equinox is a day earlier than usual this year because of the leap year. The Equinox ocurs about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day backwards on leap years, hence 20th March this year. The Sun will be rising earlier each day now, 6.o5 tomorrow, and nightfall will be coming later and later.

Strawberries are already flowering in the polytunnel, very early this year. This is an alpine variety, small but very sweet fruits.

At the Vernal Equinox day and night are of almost equal length. The Sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours, then sets exactly in the west. I look forward to the budding trees revealing their beautiful new leaves, the wind becoming less harsh, plants sprouting and everything being seized by the vibrancy of the Spring season. For this is the real beginning of Spring.

Everything in nature is being revived, growth really takes off  and the Sun is gaining height and strength. A great festival of awakening.

Happy days to all. May you and yours revel in the joy and beauty of it all.

As November Ends.

In Animals, nature on November 28, 2011 at 11:49 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the month draws to a close the weather has become a little colder…we were spoilt by the mild conditions of October and November. Still no heavy frost…lots of rain though. The sun is low is the sky…less than a month to go now before it starts its upward journey and the days once again start to lenghten.

 

In the garden the plants seem to have been fooled by the Spring like Autumn. I have never seen Borage to be still producing flowers into November…and this plant is outside!

 

 

 

The Fatsia has produces it’s odd little flowers…last year they were destroyed by hard frost. Daffodils and Crocus are budding early…as are so many other things.

 

The grass in the fields continues to grow which keeps the animals happy. Last year we were feeding them hay throughout November. We have hay in store so if the weather suddenly turns we are prepared. Lots of food in our own store too. We were snowed in last year for 2 weeks at end of November into first week of December. Then we had a thaw before being cut off again for 2 more weeks which included Christmas Day.

 

Daphne is looking very cuddly at the moment as she has grown her Winter coat…she’s takin no chances with the weather!

The dogs and I continue to have twice daily walks on the lane regardless of weather. The low sun gives little Lettie the shadow of a Great Dane…and me a giant. Yes…I continue to be amused by the long shadows…I’m easily entertained really!

 

In  the kitchen work continues turning the Summer fruits into jams and chutneys. I have booked a stall at the Christmas Fair in Manorhamilton next Sunday so will sell the preserves there. I will also do some baked goods…Almond Tarts, Melting Moments and Caramel Slices are always good sellers. So…a busy week ahead for me.

Ireland’s Native Trees.

In Ireland, nature on November 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Ash tree in back field.

 There are differing opinions about the number of native Irish trees. A general consensus seems to be 18. Ash is one of the commonest trees. It grows on all soils and self seeds readily. The national game of hurling is played with hurleys made from Ash. It is also a great tree for burning and can be burned from green.

Scots Pine at Lough Rynn.

 The mighty Scots Pine can grow to a height of 40 metres and live up to 300 years.  The wood is known as “red deal”…it is used fencing, in house building and in telephone poles. It is high in resin which makes it longer lasting.

Young Oak tree at Seed Savers in Co Clare.

 There are 2 native Oaks…sessile and pedunculate. The difference is in the acorns. The acorns from Sessile Oaks have no stalks while the pedunculate have quite long stalks. Ireland’s oldest Oak is at Tuamgraney in Co. Clare…it is 1,000 years old. The Oak pictured above is grown from an acorn from that tree. It is known as Brian Boru’s Oak. Brian Boru was the last High King of Ireland…he was killed at the battle of Clontarf in 1014 reputedly at 88 years old. Oak produces very strong timber…most of Ireland’s Oak forests were felled to be used in the making of ships for Britain’s Royal Navy.

Birch, Scots Pine and Ash to the north-side of our house.

 Now is a good time for planting trees, especially in the mild weather we have been having. It is a good idea to plant native trees as they are accostumed to the climate…more wildlife friendly…birds and insects are fussy and will only inhabit plants they recognise.  Check what grows in your area already. If something is not going to do well in your soil there’s no point planting it.

The complete list in addition to those mentioned:

Birch, will grow in boggy, wet soil. Rowan, also called Mountain Ash. Alder, has nitrogen fixing nodules on it’s roots. Willow, hundreds of species, grows easily from cuttings. Holly, only the female bears the red berries that symbolise Christmas for so many. Hazel, produces edible nuts that are much loved by humans and squirrels. Aspen, a fast growing member of the Poplar family. Bird Cherry, found mainly in the north-west. Crab Apple, produces small sour apples which make an easy to set jelly. Strawberry Tree, found mainly in co . Kerry. It produces fruits which look like Strawberries hence the name. Whitebeam, has a preference for limy soils. Wych Elm, mostly wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease. Wild Cherry, grows best in alkaline soil. Yew, most often associated with graveyards produces berries which are poisonous to livestock.

 If you’re going to plant a tree…do plant a native tree.

 

 

 

The days of long shadows.

In Gardening, nature on November 8, 2011 at 5:41 pm

The last few days have been lovely here. Frosty mornings followed by bright sunny days. The sun is low in the sky making for long shadows. Driving into the sun at this time is a pain as the low lying sun does’nt get blocked out by the sun visor…a small price to pay for these lovely days. The nights are long now…darkness falling by 5.30. Waking this morning I was expecting another sunny morning but alas there was no frost so the day was cloudy and dull.

Hopefully the frost will return and we will once again have diamonds glistening in the grass…

and gossamer cobwebs to be admired.

The neighbours Cows still have lots of grass to eat in the fields. The mild wet weather we had through September and October ensured continuous growth.

In the garden plants like Lamium…

and Pulmonaria ensure there is still some colour. If the weather stays mild it will be an opportunity to make more plants by dividing these stalwarts of the garden.

Rheum palmatum gives a last splash of colour before retreating underground until next Spring. Here’s hoping for more frosty nights and long shadow days.

Amongst Trees.

In nature, Off the beaten track. on October 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Evergreen Oak

Yesterday was National Tree Day in Ireland. To mark the day I went with my Mother who is staying with us for a week and my friend Saffron to Lough Rynn Estate near Mohill in County Leitrim. There is also a lovely walled garden there and the big house is now a successful hotel. But yesterday it was the trees which held my interest.

Majestic Scots Pines.

Being amongst trees is for me like meeting old friends again. There is an easiness in the relationship,  a feeling of security to be amongst them, a belonging that cannot be falsified. Maybe it stirs my primeval memories of when our land was covered in great forests.

"Eye" on Monkey Puzzle tree.

Entering a forest is like entering a sanctuary, a place of comfort and safety. A place to walk amongst nature in all its glory. It is calming and soothing to the human mind. It is so amazing to touch, to connect with these plants that have lived here for hundreds or even thousands of years. What have they witnessed? If only they could speak!

Yew with berries.

 But then, maybe they speak, it is us who are not listening. Observe their generosity. How they provide food and shelter for man and beast. Many modern medicines have their origin in trees. They cleanse the air we breathe. They shelter our homes from the ravages of weather and throw shade on a warm day. All without words, without acknowledgement from us.

Fungi on a dying Beech tree.

 There are of course people who love trees, who see themselves of their protectors. One of those people is 65 years old Teresa Treacy from Tullamore, County Offaly. For many years she has been planting thousands of trees by hand on a farm owned by herself and her sister. It was her mission in life. Three weeks ago she was thrown into jail because she would not allow an electricity supplier to clear 14 acres of her beloved forest to erect plyons. What a shame on our once tree covered country. The judge who jailed her said she would not be released until Teresa withdrew her contempt. She did not do so. She remained firm, like a well rooted Oak. Today Teresa was released from jail thanks to a huge public outcry. Hopefully she will be left in peace in her favourite place…amongst trees.