SUMMER SHADOWS

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“It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.”
From John Koethe’s ‘Sally’s Hair’.

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Breakfast under the Hawthorn tree is such a summery pleasure, birds singing in the trees all around us, what a beautiful start to the day.

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Today I was inspired by the shadows of some trees along the road to town, what I saw reminded me of some of the impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, and others, also more modern painters like Marc Hanson or Terri Ford.  I have always loved the way these guys painted the shadows under the trees, and indeed I love walking under trees during sunny weather for the same reason, the sun playing among the leaves, the shadows in all shades of grey, the dappled sunlight interesting and playful. The shade under the trees giving perhaps cooling to an overheated brain.

How I wish I could paint these shadows, and that light.

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INISH BEG GARDENS SKIBBEREEN

On the road between Skibbereen and Baltimore, West Cork, there is a most beautiful garden, it is the Inish Beg Estate and recently Ian and I visited it together with my daughter and my five grandchildren, it was a lovely afternoon and being the month of May so many flowers were in bloom, the gardens were looking so very beautiful, the many trees with fresh green foliage, the Rhododendrons, all varieties, were flowering. From a herb and kitchen walled garden, to a fairy house among the trees, everything is thought of.  The children enjoyed it very much too, running along the paths and discovering all sorts of things including sticks which they then ended up comparing with Ian’s walking stick.  And of course they loved the fairy houses.  These gardens comprise 97 acres of woodland, organic pasture and farmland, formal gardens including a the before mentioned walled  garden.  There is an orchard, a bamboo grove and a sunken garden.  And something I did not know about but is mentioned in the brochure of the ‘West Cork Garden Trail’ is that there are 4km of carriage drives.  There is a lot more to this garden and it would be worthwhile to look it up on-line if you are coming to visit West Cork I think.  We just enjoy it as it is so close to where we live.  The birds were singing their hearts out, everything was so very peaceful and beautiful.  We were lucky with the weather, I think that this is Ireland at its best.

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LILIES OF THE VALLEY

While doing some gardening today I discovered that the lilies of the valley were flowering, such a heavenly scent. I picked some for the house and got to play around with taking photos, then experimenting with editing, it is after all the weekend, we worked hard all day, and anyhow I have got writer’s block right now. I have one favourite among these pictures, I wonder would anyone guess which one. 🙂  Have a lovely weekend everyone.

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OPPORTUNITY AND DETERMINATION

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Today’s gardening with my grandchild, so lovely, we cleared moss and grass from cement on the path to the front gate, she with her new wheelbarrow that she was given for her birthday, proudly wheeling it to a ditch to dump the stuff, loving it all.  All we left was this little bunch of daisies as it was such a brave and beautiful little plant to grow where it does.  We left it to grow in its own place where it had fought to be, it had seen an opportunity to grow on a little bit of soil between the cracks of the cement, and the rain had given it water.  Always lovely to see this happening.  Resilient little plant, brave too.

 

NETS OF ROPE, AND COLORFUL PLASTIC

Yesterday we walked for a while along the fishing boats in Baltimore. I noticed the many types and colours of the nets and other items necessary these days for sea fishing, it inspired me to take photos. I loved the many different textures too that I noticed, the colours really catch the eye on the otherwise dull grey cement of the quayside. So it was a pleasure and delight to see. Even though a lot of these fishing nets are made of plastic, a material not as nice as rope. Baltimore is a small fishing village which attracts a lot of visitors, it is a delightful place to go on a warm summer’s evening and enjoy a cool drink out in the open with a view of Sherkin island in the distance. Very relaxing.
 

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THE GIFTS OF MOTHER EARTH

Just when I thought that it could not get any better, and this while I was taking delight in the garden the day after we arrived home again in Ireland, mother nature has given me another two beautiful surprises, first I discovered that there were several patches of forget-me-nots flowering, their blue a delight to the eye, then I discovered that there are several lilies of the valley flowers almost opening, how truly magical! I had not known what to expect of the garden on our return, no sooner were we home than I went to inspect, and that’s when I found lots of surprises, vegetables wild and not so wild, and waiting for me to make soup of them, kale and leeks and other goodies, they were not ready when we left in March, but now they are just waiting to be made into delicious dishes. Herbs too are doing well and looking very lush, the lemon balm has never looked so good, rosemary, lavender, comfrey and others are all ready to be used. Then I saw that the cold frames looked a bit bulky, and checked it out, to my amazement there was one plant of lettuce which had grown to become a monstrosity, the leaves so huge that one leaf would do a whole meal 🙂 Not sure what happened there!  Some grass had also grown large inside. Lots of work to be done that is for sure, but I already have helpers lined up, my grandchildren, one of them had a birthday today, she is now four, and she wants a wheelbarrow, she wants to do gardening, and no fear of that, because she is small she can fit into the cold frames easily so she can do the weeding in there if she likes, looking forward to that. Anyway we are back in West Cork, and we are now already fully occupied with our work here in garden and house. Plans have been made for later in the year when we will be returning to the island of Gozo where we spent a wonderful two months, a time that will stay with us for very long.

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On the last lot of photos, some onions which I had left in the kitchen sprouted, and are now ready to plant out.  Also I had some oca tubers in a pot and I found the shoots creeping through a hole in the lid and the whole pot filled with sprouts, how funny!

FARE THEE WELL XLENDI

It is a fond goodbye to Gozo tomorrow morning early. I did my last walk along the cliffs this afternoon, noticing things that have given us so much joy, the sun most of all because we lack it so much back in Ireland, the flora and the fauna, the beautiful limestone rocks, the other visitors, most of them with smiles on their faces obviously enjoying similar sights to us, the colour of the sea which changes with subtle weather conditions, the sounds of the peacock, the geese, the starlings, and the crickets, the vantage point from our highly perched flat which has given us a fantastic eagle’s eye view over the sea and the village below. We have seen the sea boiling, producing white heads by strong winds, and we have seen the sea calm as a mirror, with colours of the water ranging from deep royal blue to a beautiful turquoise or azure blue. Here it has been a feast for the all our senses, we are very grateful that we had a full month of this soul nourishing holiday.
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FRAGMENTED LIGHT

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The sea was playing magic, shimmering in a thousand  sparkling mirrors of itself,

the sun, movement like a vibration, disappearing on the horizon,

two people appear out of this fragmented light – in a canoe –

they move fast into the still and aquamarine waters of the cave,

leaving no trail.

ALL THE GOOD OF LAND AND SEA

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Today I did a spot of cooking, but first I took the bus to Victoria, only ten minutes away, and I searched for and found the Fish Shop where I bought one large steak of fresh tuna, and two fillets of ling, the man in the fish shop offered me a recipe for cooking the tuna, it’s a great recipe he said, you will need oregano and other items, and as he said it he added a bunch of fresh oregano to the bag of fish, all for only €7 which I thought was very reasonable.  I then visited a vegetable stall, in Victoria these stalls are at the large car park near the bus terminal, and they are there most days.  From what I can see the produce is very fresh.  A friendly man helped me to a number of vegetables, as well as lemon, parsley, and an orange that I needed for my recipe.  He added a bunch of free celery leaves to my other shopping free of charge, the herbs and vegetables smelled good.  I love cooking with fresh herbs, and that is why I am enjoying the cooking quite a bit here, fresh fragrant herbs, especially oregano, rosemary, mint, basil, and sage, as well as tomatoes, olive oil, lemon, garlic, broad beans, green beans, and fish.  I may add that the long type of onions also are delicious, I’ve been enjoying those here.  To finish the tuna story, I made the marinade as instructed and cooked the fish  according to the recipe, and it was really delicious.

The man at the vegetable stall also informed me that the local produce would be best if I was looking for organic, which of course I was and I told him that, and he was selling a lot of local produce which is very nice.  Why would one import foods when they can be grown at home.

I was in a sort of garden centre shop as well this morning as I wanted to check what the situation is in Gozo regarding the use of ’roundup’ seeing that now it has been recognised by the WHO that the Glyphosate contained in roundup is a cancer causing ingredient.  The nice girl that I was talking to did not know about these matters, she did say that yes they sold roundup and that it is needed as it is very hard to grow produce on Gozo, and this is the second person that tells me that.  Some people that I encountered in the last few days have also told me that it would be impossible to grow organically on Gozo because of the drought, I wonder if I am overlooking something, as I never realised that you need more water to grow organically than with using fertilizer/pesticides.  It is all very interesting to learn how other countries/people think about these matters.

The produce that we have enjoyed here a lot are the local honey.  Depending on what month of the year it is, the honey will taste different and come from different plants.  The prickly pear jam was something new to us, for me it is too sweet, but I just got to try new things, so we bought some.  The basmatic vinegar of Gozo is delicious, I love it in a tomato dish.  The capers, which are grown locally too, are lovely and add a kick to the mixture which all people of the Maltese islands love on toast.  Joso, a nice woman I got to know in Malta, a neighbour of ours there, gave me this recipe for a nice breakfast, she told me to cup up some nice tomatoes, or use tomato paste and put that on toast, then add capers and some basil, it does taste delicious.

Another woman in the shop the other day showed me how the Gozitans use their herbs, also mixed with tomatoes and olive oil, left for half an hour to soak it all up, and then served with capers and toasted bread.  I am sure that this food is all very healthy, it does taste nice that is for sure.

I still wanted to add some photos of what we were discussing in my last post, about the swales, because today I took some pics in the park which is in the middle of the town of Victoria.  A lovely and well kept place where it strikes you how much attention is given to each individual plant or tree.  I saw how they use the swales, and water harvesting.  They dig a ditch around the plant or tree individually, which then keeps any water near the roots and lets the plant utilize the water to the full.  They also make ditches along plants so that even more water is harvested.  Though these photos I took in a park, I am sure these methods are being practised in general.

Just a few examples above.  Below an example of terraced crop growing, where the water will not just run down the slope but will stay on the terrace watering the crops growing there, or in this case the crops that will be sown here.

Terraced small fields at Xlendi
Terraced small fields at Xlendi

I’m enjoying all this getting to know about the life here, so interesting, but also what it does to me is, it makes me think more, and ask more questions to how things are done back in Ireland, where things are on a far larger scale because of the size of the country and the larger population, but still comparisons may be made in certain areas.

One question I still have for Gozo, I still have not seen any cows, sheep, pigs, only three goats, and one chicken, where is all the smallholders livestock?  Are they really all inside like I am told?  And if so how are they fed.  It seems most unusual not to see cows or other livestock on the land.  I look forward to getting answers to those questions some day.