LAST DAY OF SPRING IN IRELAND

Today was the last spring day in Ireland, tomorrow the first of May Summer is starting! It was a glorious day, as we sat outside eating lunch I noticed all of a sudden that there was a beautiful halo around the sun, I’d never seen this before, plenty of time around the moon but never around the sun, so grabbed my camera and took some pictures.
And as is the tradition in the land of Flanders, tomorrow is the day when husbands and lovers give a bunch of ‘meiklokjes’ or Lily of the Valley, to their sweethearts. Mine are just about opening up in the garden, I adore their scent, and they do look beautiful too.
So wishing everyone a great May Day. I know that it is celebrated here in Ireland too, and it is a bank holiday. May it be a lovely weekend for everyone.
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‘Lily of the Valley’, or in Flemish ‘Meiklokje’

BITTER GOURD AND TURMERIC

Gardening outside in the past few days has not been very pleasant as the temperature has gone down a lot and the wind is icy, having said that the soil temperature in the raised beds was 15 degrees Celsius today. I also measured the light, moisture and PH, all of which were good, and PH is alkaline. Today then I did some very essential repotting inside. The Turmeric plant is doing well, exciting to see it grow. The Bitter Gourds are growing beautifully, there are white ones and green, very excited about this too, and soon I will have to make sure that they can climb on something, they are going upstairs on the landing windowsill which catches full sun (S.W.), and they will not be disturbed there. Watch this space!
The Oca tubers, Oxalis Tuberosa, are growing like cabbages not sure if I can plant them out, I think that it is too cold yet, they are a South American vegetable, my first time trying. I noticed that I have to earth them up same as with potatoes. They are also known as New Zealand Yams. I am also very happy that my Ocra seedlings are up, two of them, I sowed some more today. A lot is going on, that is for sure.
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Above, the Turmeric plant.

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Above and below, the white and green Bitter Gourd plants.

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THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL AND OTHERS

Today’s finds in a field on the Beara peninsula was the much sought after Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), with it’s small but very attractive scarlet flowers, easily found among the now lush green grass.  The day was beautifully sunny but with a strong wind  from the Atlantic.  Among the other plants I found was the Chickweed (Stellaria media), one of the Stitchworts (Stellaria) with it’s delicate small white flower, and a type of Speedwell, I think it’s Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).  All of these wild flowers and well worth looking out for at this time of the year.

There was a lot of Plantain out too and in flower, also saw Buttercups, Lesser Celandine, March Violets, Daisies, Dandelions and many others.  I love to see a fully growing and flowering meadow but you don’t see that so often anymore as the grass is cut for silage around here, the last time I saw a beautiful meadow was on the island of Naxos, the meadows there are amazing and beautifully scented.
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Above: the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Below: The Stitchwort and its leaves.

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Above: One of the Speedwells.

Below: The Chickweed.

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THIS EVENING IN THE GARDEN`

After dropping Ian at the boatyard today, where he was as happy as a pig in mud (his words), I decided to start with planting out some more Broad Beans, the plants now strong and more than ready to go into the raised beds. I am happy to see how lush everything is starting to look and there is good growth too.  The Turmeric plant is doing very well, and the Bitter Gourds are almost ready to be planted out too, must decide though where to put them! Then there are the Oca tubers, they have sprouted, their leaves look like that of a Clover. The Fenugreek, and the Okra (Lady’s fingers) has sprouted also. All very exciting, and so lots happening right now in the garden.  I mulched the Pea plants as they were drying out too fast during the sunny days, we have not had rain for at least twenty days which is unheard of around here.

Today was so lovely and sunny, all doors and windows open, I was thinking, while having a long drink of Fennel tea outside, that I could easily live outside all the time (temperature allowing).  When we were in Portugal last year, even the sink of the chalet where we were staying was outside and I loved that.  There is nothing as nice and relaxing as feeling the warm sunshine on your body.
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The Strawberry flowers are coming out already!

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Lemon Balm and Comfrey doing great!

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Flower patch, and Beans growing well.

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Part of the garden, and the foliage of the Oca plant.

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The Bitter Gourd seedling, and the Turmeric plant.

BITTER GOURD SEEDLING   TURMERIC PLANT

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CONVERSATIONS WITH A PEACOCK BUTTERFLY

Today, while waiting for Ian to finish some stuff he was doing in his boat, I noticed a butterfly caught behind the glass of the cabin, fluttering fiercely was one of our most beautiful butterflies, the Peacock.  It caught my attention. Gosh it was beautiful to get such a close up of this wonderful creature, I watched it for a long while but became worried that it could damage it’s wings even further than it had already done. After some time it settled down, I was able to gently pick it up and decided to free it into the lush fields beyond the boat yard. But how to get down the ladder with a butterfly in your hand? I decided to put it on my jumper and to my amazement it stayed there, even climbing a bit higher to just under my chin. I climbed down carefully, and it then flew off and onto some gravel which is where I made some photos with my phone (good old phone!) It then flew off further afield, I hope happy to be discovering the wider world.
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These butterflies hibernate during the autumn/winter months, usually in woods, sheds or hollow trees.  You often see these Peacock butterflies on the Buddleia shrub, I once counted many, over twenty on our bush.  Their larvae are black and often found on Nettles.  I am guessing that the specimen found on the boat was just out of hibernation, and I wonder if it will last another summer.

I got some of my information about the Peacock from the book ‘Discovering Irish Butterflies and their habitats’ by J.M.Harding.

COAST ROAD FROM EYERIES TO ALLIHIES

Views of one of the most beautiful peninsulas in Ireland, the Beara peninsula. We went there once again the other day, and this time we travelled from the mountain village of Eyeries, along the coast road with the most incredible sea views looking towards the Kerry mountains and the open Atlantic, and inland towards the Slieve Miskish Mountains.  After a beautiful journey we arrived in Allihies. I would like to share some of the photos I took along the way, even though the day was hazy and this does not make for clear photography.

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Looking towards the Kerry mountains, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, with Carrantuohill as the highest peak in Ireland.

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The open Ocean and a misty view of the Cow and the Calf islands.

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Typical Irish traditional cottage along the road.

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The road winds along the coast with very rocky views looking inland.  I think that the main rocks are slate and shale, but there could also be some old red sandstone.

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Sheep are the main farm income around here, and they grace the landscape with their presence.

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I found these cliffs fascinating and the way the waves were crashing into them!

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Looking back at Allihies village far in the distance, with the ancient copper mines behind it.

HAPPINESS IS SEEING SEEDS SPROUT

An exciting and busy day today, went to Deelish Garden Centre, bought organic compost to sow more seeds in, as the cheap soil I was using was literally useless, and I lost some seeds as a result. I also bought safe slug pellets, safe for other wildlife! But I got some surprises today, my Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) tuber has sprouted, for me it is a new vegetable, have not tried it before, so it is very exciting, I believe that it is also called New Zealand Yam though in fact it is not a Yam at all. Other good news is that there is another leaf on the White Bitter Gourd, and that the Green Bitter Gourd which is supposed to be of more worth medicinally is also sprouting. I put down seeds of many other sort, such as Okra, Fenugreek, Cucumber, Courgettes (little round ones), Yellow Cucumber, some French Beans, some Parsley, some Camomile. I am most excited about the Okra as I used to eat this vegetable in India and in Mauritius, and though you have to know how to cook it in order for it to be tasty, I got used to it, it is valuable for health. It gets a bit slimy if you cook it wrong.  And the Yacon root is up too, I planted two but one rotted, the other one has started to make long white roots, I hope that this vegetable will also grow as it is another new one for me.  It is a Peruvian ground apple, sweet apparently, I found loads of information on Wikipedia for both Yacon and Oca tubers.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yac%C3%B3n     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalis_tuberosa

Below; the Oca, This plant was cultivated for its tubers, which are then used as a root vegetable, first found in central and south Andes but brought to Europe during the 19th century.  I learnt that the roots contain Vitamin A, Potassium, Vitamin B6, and small amounts of fibre, well that’s good.
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My little Tomato seedlings are now doing very well and growing rapidly.

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This is the seedling of the White Bitter Gourd, and since this morning the secondary leaf has grown and opened up!

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The Turmeric plant doing fine and better everyday, so happy, must start off some more as I use it in cooking everyday.

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The Green Bitter Gourd is only sprouting, needs tender loving care and good warmth.

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I have some seedlings that I cannot remember what they are, can’t believe that this happened to me this year, but it did, so now when the secondary leaves really start to show I can start guessing.

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DISCOVERING FORGOTTEN AND NEW PLANTS IN MY GARDEN

This morning, heavy grey sky after a night of strong gusts of wind, I wandered around the garden and discovered some gems, some most forgotten plants about to flower, and some others really starting to thrive.
I discovered that the forgotten Quince shrub at the bottom of the garden, among debris, is in bud, I am very happy about this and plan to give attention to this shrub, it was grown originally after we discovered it as a young seedling, growing from a Quince apple in a plastic bag hanging from a nail in the shed. It was hung there after we brought it home from a visit to a friend in Belgium who brought the Quince apple with him from the Mediterranean. Anyway, it grew into a fine shrub but it got forgotten and almost disappeared over the next 25 years, and here I found it again!
These the buds of the Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) shrub.  Looking forward to the flowers.

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And these are the flowers of the Lunaria annua or Honesty plant. I was given some plants the other day and love the colour of the flowers, looking forward to lots of it’s colour this summer, and seed heads in the autumn.

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The Rosemary and Borage plants are in flower too.

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And this little Herb Robin of which there are plants springing up all over the garden is so dainty.

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I just learnt the real use of Cleavers which grow very easy, they are very useful to make tea from, as are the Lemon Balm of which there are several plants now full of new growth, we won’t be short of herbal teas this year it seems!

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This new shoot is the Lavas plant, I use it in soups, it has got a celery taste.  And I am also amazed at the flowering buds of the red Currant bush, yummy!

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My Tansy plant is growing well to my delight, I love it’s yellow bud-like flowers which later in the year I like to pick and bring indoors for decoration.   Young Nasturtium plants just planted out yesterday.

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And finally I’d like to share a pic of my Turmeric plant, it is growing slowly and with much care I hope to have a harvest maybe in a year’s time or so.    The tree rings on this trunk of the Chestnut tree branch that Ian took down to give more light into the garden.

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This Rose-hip is now finally red and big, I have been watching it since last autumn and it was so slow to ripen, unbelievable.

It was a good morning of scrutinising the growth in the garden, something that is valuable to do now and then, not only to discover gems, but also to be able to manage the garden properly and to have a good oversight of what is growing and what needs to be planned for the future.

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A WALK IN THE WOODS

Yesterday, a glorious sunny day, a few of my grandchildren, my daughter and I went for a walk in the woods, the Glengarriff woods, classified as a National Forest, and nature reserved. Some of it is ancient Irish Oak trees (Oceanic Sessile Oak), but there is a great variety of other trees too, like the Beech, Rowan, and Birch tree. The woodland is extensive, and there are various designated walks. We did the Big Meadow Walk. Some of this walk also winds along the river which meanders through this forest, the Glengarriff river. So it is very pleasant and there is quite a lot of wild-life to be seen, butterflies, and other small creatures as well as birds. We mainly saw the butterflies yesterday and they seem to have come out in good numbers due to the warmth of the sun. Peacocks, which are one our most beautiful butterflies. And the little Blues were around also, a pale small butterfly. Of the Peacock my delightful 6 year old granddaughter says that the eyes are on their wings to mislead and frighten their predators! Point well taken Alice. Alice has a great interest in nature, she keeps bringing me all sorts of insects for me to have a look at during our walk.  This woodland is a quiet place, only the sound of the river and of the birds is heard on a calm day.  It’s a place where one can experience stillness, and beauty, it is wonderful!

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Clusters of wild Primroses and Wood Anemones, and some type of Spurge.

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Some of the ancient Oaks looking very gnarled, like arthritic old men, their limbs contorted but very expressive.

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On the trees grow Mosses, Lichens, and some little plants.  I’ve also seen some young Pines growing on the branches of the older trees.  Ferns soak up the dampness where the wood is more dense.

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Willow trees or bushes starting to show their foliage, also the Hawthorn and Birch trees are bursting their buds, I ate some of the young Hawthorn shoots, quite nutty to taste.  In the undergrowth the Lesser Celandine is fully flowering.

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The white little flower of the Oxalis and more Wood Anemones of which we saw plenty.

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A woodland beetle, I think, but not sure what type.  And a Sedge plant flowering.

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Various types of Ferns growing in the undergrowth.  And the Lichens are plentiful, growing on the branches of the trees, I think that they are quite beautiful and intricate.

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There are also quite a few Pine trees in this woodland,  In 1955, ownership of 380ha of the woods passed from private to state ownership and Pines were grown for commercial forestry purposes.  Also during the sixties, seventies beautiful purple Rhododendron grew all over the forest, they had invaded and became a danger to the original forest so they were curtailed big time.  Today this forest is managed well, with lots of lovely walks, benches and pick-nick tables for families to enjoy.

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