HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

“Happiness doesn’t lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them. Happiness is clear-headed human interaction and empathy. Happiness is home. And home is not a house – home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
Dennis Lehane

Having said this, some meaningful possession can enhance a home, but are not necessary either when you really think of it, and it is the people that fill the home that really make it a precious place.  All the same, like my mother before me I like the little corners of our home that give that special feeling of authenticity.  They are often the simple things.  An old jug, a goose egg, some blue and white cups and saucers, plenty of treasured books, a sculpture that a friend made, some wild flowers, a treasured icon from Naxos island, stones picked up here and there, and on and on it goes.  And then to know that I am a minimalist in every bone of my body, but it’s the little things that give pleasure or make the place feel like home, or give that certain stamp on things that says, this is me, this is my home, and here I can express myself freely.  All the time realising how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads with so very many people homeless.  I know that it is not good to be attached to ‘things’, many people have shared wise words about his, I agree and recently read these wise words;

‘Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you’
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I will be out of action for the next few days as will be away.  So wishing my dear friends and followers a good weekend, and catch up later on next week.

ABUNDANCE

Yesterday was a most beautiful and warm day, about 25C which is rather warm for these parts, absolutely delighted! I got a lot done in the garden which at this stage is so abundant with blossoms and flowers, flourishing vegetables and ripening tender berries, that it is just a delight to be among it all. And I’m never on my own either as the resident robin and wren keep me company, often singing a little tune. There is also a stray cat lurking about with whom I am not well pleased as she/he did her business among the vegetables which I find intolerable though I guess to her it is normal. Anyway, there was lots going on yesterday and a delightful day it was. I planted out leeks, parsley, coriander, basil, sweetpeas, lettuce, and more French beans hoping that the slugs will leave us some to grow to maturity (which I am sure they will).  Hawthorn is abundantly in flower, and not only in our own garden but also in the surrounding area, which adds to our abundance.

We live here in an old terraced house in a very quiet street just above the town of Skibbereen in West Cork, South West of Ireland.  The part of our street has a lovely view towards the forested Knockomagh Hill, and towards Lick Hill which separates the town and surrounding area from the sea.  The landscape is green, flowing and pastoral.  The small town lies below, and at night especially this can be very pretty.  Though the houses and gardens are not very large, there is a lot that can be achieved and enjoyed about living here.  Certainly there is enough space to at least provide a good enough supply of vegetables during the year, and some space for flowers, compost bin, sheds, and if wanted chickens too.  It is all a matter of organisation.  I am learning to sow vegetables in succession so that the beans and peas last for longer than one picking season.  Of herbs there are plenty and more than we can use ourselves.  There is also space for experiments like the South American Oka which I am growing this year for the first time.  And there is space for table and chairs to enjoy eating outside on the patio.  There is even a small piece of grass for the moment and space to dry the washing 🙂 What I am trying to say is that one does not need to have acres of land to be able to make a go of things and totally enjoy the experience.  But I guess that it is different for everyone, and this place certainly would never be large enough to do a smallholding, that is for sure.  I am also very lucky in that, because I am retired,  I can totally devote my time to growing things.

I had an interesting experience yesterday too, after posting one of my photos of the bitter gourds which I am growing (an experiment), on the ‘Organic Terrace Growing’ Facebook group, one of it’s members pointed out to me that she could see a greenfly on one of the leafs, I had not seen it all, so I took my magnifying glass and went checking, and indeed I found five more of the creatures.  Thank goodness she spotted it otherwise my delicate gourd plants may have been in trouble and I treasure them.

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The peas doing well, and a lone foxglove plant coming into flower.  The elder berry tree I planted out yesterday.

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A chunk of wild chestnut tree which was cut down last winter has started to sprout again, too nice to use as firewood.  The young little plant is my okra seedling, it is now doing ok, it is also an experiment as never grown it before and only saw these plants in India and Mauritius.

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The sweet peas will flower soon I think.  And dandelion roots cut up and ready to be stir-fried, delicious.

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The trellis belongs to my bitter gourd plant, quite impressed with it’s art work.

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Here you can spot my invader, the greenfly!  I had not spotted it myself at all.

THE BEAUTY OF AN EARLY MORNING WALK

This morning I was up early and seeing that the sun was shining I decided to take a walk around the garden. I love these early morning walks, it gets light now just after four o’clock, and the birds start their singing. The sun rising throws a rich yellow light, diffused through the hedges into the garden. When I say that I take a ‘walk’ it might make you laugh as the garden is only thirty three feet long and not that wide either, but it is amazing what goes on in there, it’s buzzing with insects, birds, and new plants coming up or changing every day. This morning I discovered that the Jerusalem artichokes I planted way back in March have finally come up and are doing well, what a lovely surprise.  Lately in a talk on organic gardening I was told that if one cannot grow Jerusalem artichokes one should give up gardening, I was starting to wonder!

Flowers are everywhere at the moment, I find them growing among the vegetables, herb Robert, dandelions, buttercups (I know the latter ones I should pull up), wild onions, and many more. I picked a nice bunch which is now making my kitchen look cheerful.

Looking at the very back of the garden there is a wild patch where the compost bin is kept, this patch is full of the wild onions, flowering so white, and also with goosegrass which grows all over everything else. I picked quite a bit of it to put into the mashed potatoes for dinner tonight, it was delicious. So great to not only have vegetables growing which require a little work, but also to have and abundance of wild greens coming to grow in the garden without any effort, doing superby well, and providing us with valuable vitamins and minerals.

It’s after nine now and the sun is still shining! It was a warm and humid day, so very welcome after all the cold. I finished decorating a room upstairs and have now got time in the next week to do more work in the garden, lots needs to be done, apart from clearing out the sheds, there are lots of leeks to plant out, and lettuces. The bean and peas plants are absolutely packed with flowers. The berry bushes have little unripe fruits on them already, red currants and goose berries.

It’s also time that I start to gather flowers and leaves for my tea, the hawthorn tree is just about to start flowering, the best time to harvest some of these young buds to make a nice tea. Last week I was able to dry some red clover, also for my tea chest.

There is so much free food to be found all around us, and so much scope for making teas, and herbal remedies, salves, soaps, all very nice to be occupied with, but I am only a learner and I am still only trying to source beeswax which I need to make a salve out of the calendula oil I made last year. Slowly but surely!

It is a very nice way to start the day, to take some fresh air and see the beauty and abundance in nature. It is good to be appreciate for our life on this beautiful earth, despite all the sad things that happen and all the suffering of so many people.

I am humbled.
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A lovely little corner in the garden

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Early morning is so nice and peaceful, a meditative walk.

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Oeps a spider among the vegetables, better put him outside.  And the Jerusalem artichokes starting to grow!

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A lovely bunch of flowers – a beauty to enjoy.

BEAUTY OF SMALL CREATURES

“This curious world we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than used.”
Henry David Thoreau
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“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” John Calvin

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“It is interesting that Hindus, when they speak of the creation of the universe do not call it the work of God, they call it the play of God, the Vishnu lila, lila meaning play. And they look upon the whole manifestation of all the universes as a play, as a sport, as a kind of dance — lila perhaps being somewhat related to our word lilt” Alan W.Watts
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“Imagination is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees, by sharing the path, or circuits of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.”  Amit Ray
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“Beauty is the purest feeling of the soul. Beauty arises when soul is satisfied.” Amit Ray

RAIN, COOL TEMPERATURES, AND TOADSTOOLS GROWING AMONG THE VEGETABLES

Well, we are more than halfway through the month of May, and temperatures have been very cool the last few weeks, a mere 9 to 12 degrees Celsius, with lots of icy wind and rain, so wet has it been that there are toadstools growing among the vegetables. But all the same, flowers are blooming and giving a lovely show, and the beans and pea flowers especially are abundant, so looking forward to a good harvest. I was minding my grandchildren over the weekend, so the last two days I am trying to catch up with jobs in garden and home, in another two weeks my older sister is coming to stay and I am so looking forward to her visit. Together we will be visiting our siblings who live around here, and we cannot wait to see the results of their garden designs and produce. Lots of work is going on between all of us. Growing your own vegetables and herbs is becoming a real ‘family’ thing with us all. (I am second eldest of a family of eleven). Plants will be swopped and stories about the latest experiment in growing too. One of us, my brother who lives in the beautiful Caha mountains in Glengarriff, is living off grid and he and his wife practice permaculture too, they have a lovely place going there. And my three sisters have gardens to be proud of, always improving, improvising, and trying out new ideas and plants.
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THE SCENT OF BEAN FLOWERS

This evening after my grandson Ruben had gone home I went for my daily check around the garden, everyday there is something else that is wonderful and amazing. Today it was the scent of the bean flowers which I noticed while observing them, a faint sweet scent. The bean flowers themselves are doing great, it promises to be a good crop I think, lucky for us as we both love the broad beans. The overall view of my vegetable beds is one of very lush flowering now, there are several kale plants giving a bright shower of yellow, the chives are starting to flower, the marigolds are flowering profusely, and several other smaller flowers are to be seen. The dandelion though, is finished for the moment and what is happening is that yesterday two little gold finches were eating from the seeds.

I also planted out the rest of the oca plants, some flowering broccoli, and a variety of leaves for salads. The garden is more wild than anything else at this moment, and yet I am picking some greenery every single day to use in cooking, so a colourful and pleasurable,  but also a useful vegetable garden, very good for wild life and for humans like ourselves too.
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Above: the broad bean plants flowering.

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Above:  Some dill or fennel, not sure.  And the Azalea plant is flowering too now.

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Above:  Lily of the Valley, and a buttercup.

I TOOK A WALK AROUND THE BORAGE PLANTS

Today I spent some time around the Borage plants, I wanted to count the amount of Bees, or Bumblebees, if any, that would be visiting. As it was a sunny day there were quite a few Bumbles feasting on the delicately coloured Borage flowers. This year I let the Borage plants, about half a dozen of them, grow in one of the raised beds, I did it especially to attract the Bees, and it seems to be working, the plants became huge and all of them are flowering profusely. I just enjoyed staying with it for a long while and clicked with the camera, and was able to capture some of them. Meanwhile I had forgotten that I put a pot of soup on for warming up and if Ian would not have discovered it the pot would have burnt to a cinder! Oeps! Thank you Ian.

Borage is such an easy plant to grow, it basically starts growing all over the garden, where I leave it as much as is possible, I think that it is very important to grow as many wild flowering plants as possible to help the declining Bee populations.  It is also very attractive to have wild flowers among the vegetables.

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Above:  A beautiful Bumblebee

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Above:  More Bumbles, of two different types.

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Above:  and more of them I am happy to say.

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These are my Borage plants in full flower, they are next to the Strawberry plants (also in full flower)

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Above:  Detail of a Borage flower, and view from above.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN THE GARDEN

A bright and sunny day saw me planting out more beans, green ones this time, and some flowering broccoli that we bought at the market this morning. Every thing is growing quite well now and the broad beans are fully in flower. I’ve had to shift some of the wild plants that we are not using for food in order to have space for planting out the oca which has become quite big and beautiful now (it’s a vegetable though :-)) The garden is producing so much wild food at the moment that I did not even sow or plant, just comes growing there, and we are using it all in soups and other dishes.   I harvested almost the last of the spinach from last year. The English marigolds, also in their second year, are flowering absolutely amazingly and beautiful. I do recommend growing lots of marigolds, not only are they beautiful and vibrant but one can make marigold oil to use all year round. I grow them in between vegetables. The oca plants have to be earthed up just like potato plants, I did that too today, it is a big experiment, never grown those before. And finally the bitter gourd is doing very well and tomorrow they will be put in their permanent place for the summer, I believe they become very large and need to be kept inside as not hot enough here in this climate, so inside I will let them trail, I have decided on a pot and I am very curious what they will be like and if I will get fruit. Much to do in the next few days!
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Above:  Lady’s mantel early morning.

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Above:  flowers on my aubergine plant.

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Above:  Lady’s mantel and chives, and the flowers on the broad bean plants.

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Above:  A nice buttercup among the vegetables, but this is the only wild plant that I pull up from between the vegetables.

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Above:  The oca plant now earthed up, and glorious English marigolds.

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Above:  Newly planted out bean, broccoli and rhubarb.  And one of the thousand dandelions finished flowering.

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Above:  The bitter gourd doing great, lovely to see it grow so well and holding my breath!

MYSTERY IN NATURE

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Henry David Thoreau, From ‘Walden; Life in the Woods’
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Some of my recent thoughts on nature.

I just find it so intriguing, to look at the changes, not only during the seasons, but also within a day.  I was driving through a remote part of Ireland recently, I was fairly high above sea level among some rocky hills, there was a mist hanging among the rocks, it was pleasantly warm and though no sun was to be seen, the light was very special.  A moment of stillness.

At some stage in my life I used to think that observations about nature and the earth were perhaps a little mundane, there seemed to be much more important things to keep busy with, but not anymore, now I know the value and the joy that everyday observation can give one, and how intricate everything is.  Earth science is a mighty large field, so interesting, just even to learn about the composition of the soil, wow!  And that’s not to speak of the beauty of it all, I am amazed every single day about what I notice in the minute details.

What a truly wondrous planet we live on.  And how much joy to be had in observing all this beauty, it sure makes the heart feel thankful.

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