SORREL AND A MALE STONECHAT

In this wintery weather today, due to getting a doze of cabin fever, I took a walk along the boreen (little path) and around the block, and past the heathland where there are some Gorse shrubs also. The boreen, which is an unpaved narrow path in rural Ireland, is bordered by lots of lovely vegetation, all sorts of wild plants and Hawthorn trees, lots of Ivy growing all over the hedges, and some Gorse along the way too. Today I found young leaves of the Sorrel plant, this is good as it is an edible plant, though I would not eat it too often as it is so sour. I am taking a lot more notice of these plants right now because of the Herbal course that I am doing, and it is nice to find and identify all sorts of plants so close to home.  As it happens I checked out Wikipedia and found some interesting information on how Sorrel is used in different countries, as in soups and stews and others, very interesting.  For example;  I never realised that Toor Dal contained Sorrel as well as yellow Lentils.  In my search I came across an excellent recipe for Toor Dal by the way, with a video to follow, it looks so delicious.  It I found here:  http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/toor-dal-tadka
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A little further along the walk I spotted a bird which I normally do not see in our gardens, and which does not frequent our bird tables. It was the little male Stonechat, a beautiful little bird about the size of a sparrow. Total black head and light brown chest. It was fluttering from shrub to shrub. I tried to take a photo for the record but my mobile phone did not catch it right.  But I looked it up in one of our bird books, an excellent guide this one; it is called: ‘Ireland’s Garden Birds’ by Oran O’Sullivan & Jim Wilson.  I found the bird in there, and then went and checked Wikipedia which gave me good information too.

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NEW HOUSEPLANTS

Two new exotic plants have been added to my houseplant collection this Christmas, they were gifts. One that I know very well, it is the beautiful red flowering Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) which my daughter and her family gave me, and the other is a beautiful white flowering Madagascar Jasmine (Stephanotis floribunda). I am totally happy with both plants. The Poinsettia plants have given me lots of pleasure over the years. People are wont to give you this plant over the Christmas, it is very popular here in Ireland. Over the years, one of my Poinsettia plants, a very small one when bought, lasted for a long time. It was a most beautiful plant, more so than previous ones that I had had. I decided to give it extra attention and it just grew and grew, beautifully symmetrically. Some months later it actually produced the typical red leaves/flowers. It almost felt like a miracle to me. This plant is still with me today, it has produced many more leaves, the symmetry is gone, it has panned out into a wilder model of itself.
I’m very interested in seeing how the Madagascar Jasmine will do, I’ve read up on what it’s needs are, but I never had one. It’s great to have an experiment. In a house where the heating is off during the night, though, it may not last. I’m really curious. Between new plants, and being curious of what the new year is going to bring, I am all excited and motivated, and full of plans for when the weather improves.

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FAMILY DAY

And what excitement it was with opening presents, playing games, telling stories, singing songs, and eating lots of different little nibbles. The doll’s cradle, and the orphaned doll went down very well, and so did the wooden race track for the little cars. The girls received books and games, and all the children were given a bird house to hang up in the garden. We had a lovely afternoon. Why I found it so lovely was because not only of the togetherness, but because of the simple delightful activities that took place. The seven year old told us the story of the nativity, and another one of how the Robin got its coloured breast, she then sang one of the songs of ‘Frost’, the eight year old engaged my partner in a board game, they both sang more songs, and so did my other smaller grandchildren. My partner read one of the books to them to their delight.   What is so special about it is how children can still enjoy themselves without television or electronic games, and to see this is good.

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“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.”   Lewis Carroll – from Alice in Wonderland.

A MILD WINTER’S EVENING

Today has been very mild (around 6 degrees Celsius, with sunshine, and a little drizzle this afternoon. I was able to go out and give some attention to the garden. There were a few Kale that still needed planting out, so I did that, and discovered that the soil is improving, it has become more crumbly, though in places still very wet. Well I mulched a bit around the newly planted Kale. Took in some bamboo sticks that were still sticking in the soil, and checked how the garlic are doing. I also still harvested some beetroot which is nice and fat. There were two Robins in the garden with me, coming quite close to pick some creatures out of the soil. This evening we were treated to an amazing sunset once again, which I’d like to share with everyone.
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TRYING OUT PERMACULTURE

Having some extra time over these festive days , has got me to thinking about the 2015 growing season, and what I will actually be growing as far as vegetable, herbs, or any wild plants are concerned.  BUT

I have come to see that in my 10 raised beds there are several beds that are now well covered with wild plants such as Dandelions, Plantain, Feverfew, Borage, Cleavers, Nettles, and many more.  I don’t want to uproot these plants to make space for my vegetables, neither do I want to cover the beds with too much leaf mould during the winter months so as not to kill these wild plants (they grow wonderfully well).  I forgot to mention that we are having a very mild winter so far, we only had about two nights of frost, and the temperature is between 5 and 10 Celsius during the day.  Though I am experimenting with permaculture, and so growing everything mixed, I am not sure how it is affecting my soil to have plants growing all winter and all summer.  I am rotating the plants all right.  I think though that for the coming year I am going to experiment with doing just that, grow Bean beside Dandelion, beside Cleavers, beside Lettuce, beside Nettles,  etc…..  I cannot just destroy my valuable wild plants, it makes no sense, no I am going to use them in the kitchen.  I am already getting excited when I think about it.  Cooking with wild plants as part of providing nutrition, vitamins and especially minerals is cool.  I am doing an online herbal course and learning as I go along so it should all fall into place.  Well that is what I am thinking about for the New Year.

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WOW WHAT AN AMAZING SKY THIS MORNING

First thing this Christmas morning I looked outside at the sky, and it was amazing! From horizon to horizon it looked like a giant spider’s web, long bands of clouds with blue sky beyond it. Just amazing! For hours this went on, finally becoming more dense and white. It was a most beautiful show. I am not sure if it were Altocumulus or Stratocumulus clouds, or even a phenomenon called a Mackerel sky, though I am a sky watcher, I don’t know much about the names of clouds, if anyone can put me right, please feel welcome.
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Finally after an hour or so, the sky became more like this next photo.  Very impressive.  I wonder if anyone of my followers is able to identify these clouds, it would be most helpful to me.

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A MAGIC DAY

Between, the baking, the decorating of the speculaas (a Flemish/Dutch Sint.Niklaas spicy biscuit), making the Christmas stars, the story reading, and watching a video about puppies, the girls had a great time, we also sang some songs together and before we knew it the day was over and it was time for the girls to go home.  I’m just sitting down after cleaning up the kitchen 🙂 and now for a relaxing evening.  The stars are still drying and were not ready for taking home.  I also managed in-between to make my wreath for the front door, something that I should have done days ago.  A happy day had by all.

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TREE SILHOUETTES AGAINST A WINTER SKY

Last winter visiting near Cambridge, UK.   I was very pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the area there, I had always know the fantastic architecture of the university, churches, and other town’s buildings, it’s interesting to see the natural architecture of the trees, and compare it to manmade architecture.  I love both.
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