PRUNES OF DAMASCUS and jam making

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I decided to make some Damson, Plum, and Apple jam today.  It’s the first time that I use Damsons, bought them at a market a few days ago.  I ate some of them and quite liked their astringent taste.  The Damson is actually a small plum, it’s from the plum family and it has been used for centuries in parts of Europe and the Middle East.  One story goes that they were very popular grown around the city of Damascus and that is where their name derives from.  Prunes of Damascus.  They were apparently introduced into Great Britain by the Romans.  It is a fruit that I never see in the super markets here in West Cork, and have not seen so far at the farmers markets either, so I was happy to find them the other day as quite rare.

Lately I have been discovering something precious, like my grandmother and mother used to do, it is taking time, while sitting down, to get peas out of their peels, or stoning small fruits, or cutting up runner beans etc…. I find it very meditative work, it takes me back through the generations of women who would actually do this daily, drying herbs, foraging for wild foods that take much longer to prepare etc..  There was a time, many years, while working in the library, when I used to think that life is too short to be busy shelling peas ~ now I am discovering the benefit it can bring to mind and body.  Besides, food prepared with love and attention is supposed to be better for the digestion.

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LOOKING TOWARDS BANTRY BAY

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This is taken from the Caha mountains above Glengarriff in West Cork, Ireland.  The water you can see is called the Bantry Bay and goes out into the Atlantic ocean, next stop America!  The views here are superb, I love this drive, it takes you over the mountains from Glengarriff to Bonane and so to Kenmare in Co.Kerry.  During the winter the green mountains turn a lovely sepia brown, that’s due to the Ferns and the Grasses.  The forest you see in the photo is an ancient Oak forest, it is a National reservation and there are lovely walk allocated in there, beautiful to do summer or winter.  The Glengarriff river runs through it making for lovely habitats for birds and other wildlife.

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” W.C. Bryant

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“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”   John Donne

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All these fruits I have come across during yesterday’s walk, some are edible, some are not, but the earth produces generous bounty this time of the year which either bird, or animal, or human will greatly appreciate, for humans if not edible then for the beauty  and the gladness it brings to our hearts.

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“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: “Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau

A BEAUTIFUL WALK ON MY BIRTHDAY

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Today has been a leisurely day and on the way back from the town of Macroom we stopped to make a lovely walk, discovering all sort of treasures in nature, among them quite a few wild Irish Bees taking nectar from the Ivy flowers, a few Himalayan Willow Herb flowers, beautiful late summer Roses, and an area where decades ago the Electricity supply people flooded the river Lee Valley creating an amazing landscape with lots of tree stumps.  A lovely warm late September day!

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MY HERBAL COURSE ~ HAWTHORN BERRY HONEY

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Today I have tried out a recipe for Hawthorn berry honey which I learnt in my herbal course in Herb Mentor (by LearningHerbs)  So here is what I did:  I took the berries which I had harvested from the Hawthorn tree in the garden, and I smashed them a little, so that the juice could mix with the honey.  A waft of lovely rather heavy wooden scent came floating towards me while I was doing that.  It’s so simple to make, you put the berries into a clean jar and cover it with honey, making sure that it is mixed well.  Important –  Don’t crush the seeds inside the berries.  Strain after 24 hours or so, and use a little.  It is supposed to be good for the heart it says, but I am not taking responsibility for people’s individual decisions of use while on medicines or while ill.  Always consult a doctor before using such strong herbal concoctions.

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~ GOLDEN FILIGREE IN THE GARDEN ~

“The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is a possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek.”
Quote Taken from Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (via Goodreads.com)

Detail of Dandelion flowerhead

A close up of a Dandelion flower shows there is a lot more going on than just it merely being a ‘weed’.  I’ve always loved Dandelions, their bright yellow heads opening very early in spring, and making the meadows and hedgerows so attractive.  Eventually I learnt the medicinal benefits of this plant, I like it’s bitter taste and know that it is good for liver health.  This plant grows very well in my garden as the soil is of a clay type and the seeds must have been lying dormant in the top soil which we added to our raised beds.

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The Silver Birch growing in my garden was a little sapling when we took it from the side of the road one day some 25 years ago.  It’s grown tall and strong and is used a lot by all the birds who frequent the garden.

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This Pine was only a few centimetres high when we planted it, now it’s tall and doing great, Blackbirds often sing high up on it’s branches.  I know the value of those trees, without them I would not be able to attract as many birds and hear their singing from close by.

LADY’S MANTEL AND A SHOWER OF RAIN ~ CREATING MAGIC

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I love my Lady’s Mantel plant in the garden, it’s several years old.  This past summer was the first time it bloomed and I was delighted as the flowers are both interesting and lovely.  But the plant has been badly eaten during it’s last growing period, I hope that now it can revive a bit as I will be cutting down some of the damaged leaves.  Meanwhile though, it’s lovely to see the magic that the rain drops create on these leaves, and with the sun shining there are sparkles all around.

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SEPTEMBER ~ MISTY MORNINGS ~ SUNNY DAYS

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“That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
― Wallace Stegner

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“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”  Hermann Hesse

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As mornings are a bit misty and moist toadstools are springing up rather a lot, and disappear just a fast.

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These Tansy’s make a lovely display of herbs inside the house, I love it, herbs or wild flowers are my favourite bouquets, and I shall be growing these flowers for next season to enjoy.

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Bantry Bay is one of the deepest bays in Europe, it’s also one of the most beautiful.  Half an hour away from my garden.

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Just the most beautiful lacy Ferns growing all over West Cork, they even come to grow in my garden.

FROM RED CLOVER TO SWANS ~ ALONG MY WALK ~

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I took myself on a walk this afternoon.  It was very sunny and warm and I came across lots of wild plants and then discovered some swans right in the middle of our little town.  There is a narrow river running through the town, a meander of the Illen river which also runs through the town.  It’s great to see all types of wildlife even in an urban setting.

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The heart of a Calendula flower                                      And the delicate petals of a Dandelion

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This garden spider has been living in the garden now for weeks.  And plenty of Dandelion seeds for next year’s growth.

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Magnificent swan

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A signet and a beautiful duck ~ all in the town.