WINTER TREES

With the very wet winter we are having here in West Cork, it is rather showing up some beauty all of it’s own, it is how the trees look fresh, bringing out the colours of the trunk and branches, stark against a sometimes grey sky but now and then against clouds and sunsets. We have five trees in the garden, and these photos I took either from behind the glass if heavy rain, or outside, each brings out different aspects in the photo. Some bring out a rather foggy mood, some are melancholic, but some others bring out a bright clarity, it reflects the way that the mind is affected by the dampness, and according to Chinese traditional medicine, the mind is affected by the spleen, and the spleen is in turn very much affected by dampness, cold dampness, and that is what we get here in winter. It follows then that during these winter months the mind might become a little foggy if not careful, CTM advises us to eat warm stews made from root vegetables, with plenty of ginger to counteract this dampness inside… but that is going away from the trees a bit.
I love trees, I might even be a tree hugger, always want to touch their bark and admire their beauty, and beside that there is nothing as nice as using wood in the kitchen or wherever, the feel of it so smooth after it has been sanded, the lines and colourful markings are very nice too. I have wood on the ceiling and wall in one of our rooms, it often gives me pleasure to take in the many knots and lines visible to the eye. The scent also of wood is so pleasing.
Right now our trees are blowing in the wind, it is quite stormy and has been all winter, but they seem able for it. The silver birch moves most of all, it’s high and thin but the branches are very flexible. The Hawthorn moves very little – that is why the birds like to hide among it’s branches. The oak and the pine sway as if to the sound of their own music, while the chestnut watches over it all, stiff and majestic, even despite it has lost some of it’s branches last summer after we cut some down as they were making the garden far too shady. My trees are very much alive to me, I sense their moods, they are powerful and nothing fazes them, but they do like me to touch them when walking around the garden.
The trees, they give me much pleasure, I feel they are a blessing in our garden, and I am very appreciative.

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ST.BRIGID CROSS SYMBOL OF EMERGING LIGHT

Making a St.Brigid’s cross, is an ancient tradition in Ireland, people young and old make these crosses from rushes of which there are plenty growing around the country. Tradition has it that the cross will protect the house from fire, hunger and evil if hung above the door. You can often still see them hanging in halls of houses. St.Brigid or as she is known “Mary of the Gael” is the patroness of Ireland, she was born in 450 A.D.

It is also suggested that this cross has pre-Christian origins and is related to the sun cross. The first of February is when St.Brigid’s day is celebrated, this is also the ancient Irish celebration of ‘Imbolc’ which marks the beginning of spring, and indeed spring starts on the first of February in Ireland! (According to the behaviour of the birds this morning in our garden, this must be about right).
Actually Wikipedia gives a real good write up about St.Brigid cross and that is why I am adding a link to it, far more information than I could know or share here, so enjoy if you are interested.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid%27s_cross

I have added some photos to show how the cross is made on request of some of my nice friends that follow my blog.  I made some of these crosses tonight. Went to pick the rushes earlier and kept them from drying out, this is important to work with them easily if not using straight away.

So here goes, I will do my best to describe:
First you hold one rush vertical in your hand, and you add another rush with your other hand bending it in the middle and sliding it across the vertical rush as seen in pic 2.  you then turn the vertical rush either clock-wise or anti clock-wise depending on whether you are right or left handed.  You keep adding one rush at the time constantly turning the original rush, you keep a tight hold of them.  When you have added enough and it becomes like pic 6 then you have to cut the ends but be careful as the whole thing might jump loose, so hold tight, fix an elastic band around the end and repeat this with all four sides.  Your cross is now ready to hang up.

I hope the explanation will do, and if you try I hope you have much fun.

The rushes or reeds used to make these crosses are called;

Soft Rush or Juncus effuses.     http://www.irishwildflowers.ie/pages-rushes/r-07.html

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THE SUN CAME OUT TODAY

Yes the sun came out today, and it shone over the valley here in Skibbereen, it was glorious and so welcome after all the days of mist, rain, and stormy weather. So I took a walk along the boreen* and found a few wild flowers making colour, their therapeutic effects did not stay behind, I felt so energized after that walk.

To find the red clover in flower was probably early in the year, but then the temperature is warmer than normal, it has been a steady 10C for a while now and today in the sun the temperature went up to 15C even despite a cold northern wind.
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This beautiful little fern grows along rocks even in urban settings all over Ireland.  It’s most delicate and very hardy.

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The gorse usually flowers twice a year, once in February,  and once in the summer.  It’s probably early this year, but I did not get any of its scent, we need stronger sunlight for that.

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I took this photo behind our houses, it is waste land, the sedges are lovely, I like this sort of landscape too.  Soon St.Brigid will be celebrated in Ireland and people will use the sedges to make St.Brigid crosses, I used to teach people in the library to make those, it’s fun to work with the sedges.

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It is getting time that I start planning my garden, I have not done anything about it really because the weather has been so wet.  Today I started to take stock, and some of the raised beds wood surroundings have rotted!  The soil is still very wet.

Roll on warm and dry weather!

*    Boreen is an Irish word for a path in nature, (Irish: bóithrín,  pronounced [bɔːˈriːn]) it is a rural walking path.

FANLIGHTS IN CORK CITY

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A fanlight is a feature of Georgian architecture, it is found of course in England, but it is also found in Ireland, and I think it is a beautiful feature.  It is a semicircle window above a main door, it is called a fanlight because several panes radiate like a fan outwards.  While it is a useful addition to any hall, it is also very decorative and in Ireland efforts are made to preserve these features in the many Georgian style houses.

While I was in Cork city the other day, I took some photos with my mobile phone.  I think these features are so nice and interesting.  I had to go and look up information on them and did not even know that they were called fanlights, I only knew that you see these features a lot in Irish cities.  Fanlights originated in England during George I (1714), and fettered by the year 1901. But in Ireland, the use of these fanlights lasted longer. Especially in the eighteen hundreds though they were a frequent architectural feature to be seen in Dublin, also in Cork and other cities.

During the nineteen seventies a poster was produced featuring some of the beautiful fanlights in Dublin, it is very popular to this day.  There are still many Georgian houses found in Dublin, also quite a few in Cork, fanlights only being one of it’s Georgian features of course.  Many of these houses are now neglected and some are almost derelict, efforts are being made to restore them, many, however have been demolished in the past.  But equally many have been restored and there still remain quite a variety of fanlights and they are very appealing to the eye.  It is also good to know some of the history behind it.  The fact that they started out as a useful feature, then became a decorative feature and remain like that today.  What I see today in modern doors is that the idea of a fanlight is actually build into the door and in this way throws light into the hall, that is, of course, not half as beautiful (just my thought).

I took my photos along the Dyke Parade in Cork city.  At some future date I would love to explore the city much more and make many more photos.

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EMERALD GREEN FOLIAGE

Sometimes Ireland is called ‘the emerald country’, and it is no wonder, it is called this way because of the regular rain, this green is always a most beautiful, fresh and profuse colour. Seen from the sky the landscape does look like an emerald jewel.

So it was no surprise that I found young green foliage today along the side of a country road.  Though early in the year, there are signs of a rebirth, and of green in the hedgerows.  The Fuchsia hedges have brown branches with here and there young leaves opening up.  The ferns are enjoying this particularly wet winter, a delight for the eye, their lacy leaves unfurling with a vigour that would surprise you, though having said that, some of the leaves had fringes of brown.

Nature is waking up slowly, spring can start very early in South West of Ireland.  Even the birds songs are changing just lately.

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The lesser celandine plants are almost ready to flower.

NEW BEGINNINGS

Though colder the last few days, we are experiencing some sharp frost and even snow not too far away, there are nevertheless signs of early, very early spring and new life.

I took a stroll through the garden today, underfoot the grass is still very wet, because of the very mild but wet winter so far the slugs have not hibernated in great numbers and have been eating my kale with a relish, meanwhile creating real pieces of lacy art.

I found some white fungi on logs that are lying around waiting for dryer weather and to be stored properly.  Our little Korean Fir is back outside after the Christmas festivities, there are signs of new growth, fresh and delicate, a delight to the eye.

The sprouts, leeks and parsley are doing great in the garden, the rhubarb though, has disappeared, and as a result of all the damp and wetness there is moss to be discovered, beautiful bottle green moss, growing healthily and bountifully.

Normally during January I start to get a real early ‘spring’ feeling and it releases a lot of energy, the last few years this did not happen, however, this January I got the feeling back again, my energy is on the up, full of plans and excitement for the coming year, whether it is in the garden or in the house, the plans are being laid.  I have always like this saying:

Early in the year, early in the week, early in the day…. that is how I like to get things done, it works for me.  At the same time, life is not all about ‘doing’, it’s much about ‘being’.

I guess a balance in everything is the best.

 

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Korean Fir
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Korean Fir new leaves
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Hydrangea buds
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A fungus in the garden
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Bud on the Woodbine
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Winter Brussels sprouts
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Kale leaf after slugs
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Moss in the garden

RECYCLING AND THINGS VINTAGE

Sunday is my day of rest, I indulge in all sort of frivolous pastimes. Of late I have taken an interest in recycling crockery, our town here has six charity shops and there is always something to find, some treasure. I like to buy cups and saucers with patterns in blue and white, they look clean and cool. So I snapped some photos of my acquisitions.

The fine blue flowers of this cup look delicate against the shiny white porcelain, I found the cup and saucer separate from the plate, this was lucky.  The porcelain was made in Bavaria, Germany.  It’s called Winterling Renaissance Pattern China.  I use it everyday as I do not believe in saving or storing things away.

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Some of the other cups and saucers I obtained were made in England, in Staffordshire and they are Ironstone.  It is a type of vitreous pottery, it was  first made in the early 19th century.  You can plainly see that it is different from the Bavarian porcelain, more robust, but I like both.  They are called Ironstone because of their durability.

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I particularly like this design, it’s also Ironstone, made in England.  For some reason my grandfather in Belgium had a tea set of this, the cups are larger than average and I remember the black coffee that was poured out of the everlasting ‘koffiepot’ which was constantly on the stove brewing, the coffee beans having been grinded in a ‘koffiemolen’, and put in a cotton bag that was hanging in the pot, a delicious aroma filling the room.  Good memories.

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Here is another fine pure white cup and saucer, incredibly I found both cup and saucer separately again.  It is a rather small cup and it has no markings on it whatsoever.

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More Ironstone ware, all found separately and paid less than €1 for the lot.  They get used everyday, and great pleasure is got from the colour combination and a cheerful table setting.

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Here are a selection of plates and saucers.  The colourful porcelain plate has markings which places it in Bohemia.  The others are English Ironstone.

I particularly like the idea of recycling as much as we can, it’s fun looking for the stuff, and it really does save resources of the planet.  Seeing that a town of 2000 people can have six charity shops where people constantly get rid of their surplus ‘stuff’ it shows that there is an enormous amount of surplus around.  Re-using things is a good idea.

Apart from all that, I must say that I really enjoy hunting around in the charity shops, having decided that I need such and such items.  At this moment I am still on the look out for blue and white patterned crockery, it will give me innocent pleasure for a while yet.

 

MEMORIES OF FLOWERS

What better to think about and plan while the weather remains wet and stormy, and yet we feel that the new gardening year will soon enough be upon us. Flowers, wild and cultivated, beautiful and colourful, reminding us of summer, of sunshine and warmth.

Looking back at many of the flowers we had in the garden last year, I know that some of them I will certainly repeat this time around. The sweetpeas gave us such pleasure, we picked bunch after bunch, the scent was heavenly and made for a very cheerful breakfast table, so that is a definite Yes. The coriander and oregano  are also a definite Yes! These are herbs my kitchen simply cannot do without, and the flowers, though small are pretty, when plentiful they can be used as part of a herbal flower decoration. The nasturtiums are always there also, I sow them yearly, they are pretty for their flowers but I also use both leaf and flower in salads, or I might eat some of the leaves while walking in the garden. As for the hydrangea, I have four different bushes growing, a deep lapis lazuli blue one, a pretty pink one, and two pure white ones. Some years ago I tried to change the colour of one of my white hydrangeas with a product I bought in the garden centre, but I did not succeed, and it did not matter, I will try again some time. The Ph of the soil here in my raised beds is 7, so total balance between alkaline and acid, and the colour depends on the Ph of the soil.
Marigolds grew profusely in the garden last summer, they just kept on flowering, I like the orange types, they are definitely on the list for this season also.  The poppies are self seeding, they are beautiful and great for the bees and other flying creatures, but they do have a habit of coming up among the vegetables and become too large sometimes.  The fuchsia flowers are seen all over West Cork, in a good year some of the hedgerows are coloured red with them, lovely.  They flower from May onwards, and might still be in flower in November.  I have them only at the back of the garden, in the hedge.

The big bright yellow flower was going to be a lovely round pumpkin, only last summer all my pumpkins rotted, so while the promise was there in the flower, it did not come to fruition.   The blackberry flowers are frilly and white, they also just form part of the hedge and I let them grow mainly for the bees and butterflies.  It is great to see all the insects and butterflies come and feed in the garden.

Finally after about three years my wall flowers have started to produce lots of dark rose velvety flowers, nice, and they give off a faint scent, it brings me memories of gardens and flowers in another period of my life, precious memories of flowers.

A WATERY WINTER SUN

The garden’s trees as seen through a rain drenched window today. And a watery sunshine illuminating the rain and storm clouds in the early evening sky.


The Rainy Day by Rabindranath Tagore

Sullen clouds are gathering fast over the black fringe of the
forest.
O child, do not go out!
The palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting their heads
against the dismal sky; the crows with their dragged wings are
silent on the tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the river
is haunted by a deepening gloom.
Our cow is lowing loud, ties at the fence.
O child, wait here till I bring her into the stall.
Men have crowded into the flooded field to catch the fishes
as they escape from the overflowing ponds; the rain-water is
running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who
has run away from his mother to tease her.
Listen, someone is shouting for the boatman at the ford.
O child, the daylight is dim, and the crossing at the ferry
is closed.
The sky seems to ride fast upon the madly rushing rain; the
water in the river is loud and impatient; women have hastened home
early from the Ganges with their filled pitchers.
The evening lamps must be made ready.
O child, do not go out!
The road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is
slippery. The wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.