MIDSUMMER IN OUR IRISH GARDEN

Well it is midsummer now, there has been a stillness in the air all day, now as the sun slowly disappears behind Mount Gabriel, the swifts are making merry above the houses here, probably the coolness of the evening has allowed the insects to dans around making easy prey for those happily swooping birds.
It is wind still.

How nice after the emotional and exciting last two days after voting results came out, Brexit is out….. will chaos follow, or not!

I was out in the garden today, looking at what is growing, and was pleasantly surprised with the flowers and the herbs, there is not much else growing as I did not plant any vegetables, but there are quite a few wild edible plants which I am using. I did not sow nor did I plant this year because this coming autumn we are going away again, but more about that another time. There are some berries growing and producing, strawberries, red currants, raspberries, are all doing really well. The herbs too have never grown better, makes me very happy.

Though I am leaving every single flower wild or not, I am disappointed with the lack of bees and other insects, despite there being a beehive just in next door’s garden! I still have to see my first butterfly too this summer, even though I spent days in the midst of nature last week. I hope that will change soon.

SUMMER GARDEN IN WEST CORK

In the last few weeks we have been visiting some of my sisters and brothers, those that live close enough by, and of course it being summer, we naturally gravitate towards the gardens. This garden that I illustrate in my blog today is well established, it is one of the older ones in the family, my sister Brenda and her husband Shaun have created it over many years, it is a space full of the most beautiful shrubs and trees, flowers and ferns. From an almost forested area, where there used to be an ancient orchard, to a manicured lawn surrounded by interesting shrubs and beautiful mature trees. Her Japanese Dogwoods, Abutilons, and Azaleas’ and some more shrubs of which I do not recall the botanical name, are all fully in flower. The Hydrangeas are almost open, and the Laburnum is almost finished. This all creates a magnificent array of colours and textures, rich and summerly scented. A real summer feeling abounds. There is more, there is a rockery which is also a place for wild flowers to grow to feed the bees, and an area where my sister feeds her many wild birds, attracting a lovely variety including bull finches, jays, siskins, and even a sparrow hawk who sometimes comes to see if he can catch something for his lunch! I loved our garden visit at the height of summer, and I hope that you too will enjoy the photos of so much beauty.
Thanks to Brenda and Shaun for permission to use their garden in my blog.
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THANK YOU FOR THE ROSES

Yes, thank you for the roses, the beautiful sweet scented wild Irish roses that have been planted along the road, the link road in Skibbereen. What a foresight the town-planners had when they decided on what to plant along this road, the shrubs too are interesting and lovely, but most of all I love this time of the year because of the luxurious roses, what a delight for the eye and much nourishment for the mind and soul. I went for a walk today along this road and back through North street, I found more roses along a stretch there too. Could not resist illustrating this blog entry with full sized photos (phone pics)  just to feast our eyes on these roses.  Please enjoy this blessing.

“And the shower of roses spun around me, inviting me to take part in their ever-present waltz.”
Gina Marinello-Sweeney

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DISTRACTED BY LIFE

As it was an overcast but still very nice day, I decided to do some work in our own garden. I cleared one raised bed ready for growing some plants, but I am delighted with what is growing there already, there are plenty of herbs, such as rosemary, lemon balm, lavender, evening primrose, oca, oregano (two types), and of all things some Jerusalem artichokes have come up too. So I just took out some grass and some other stuff that was smothering those plants. Ian decided to come and work with me, so he cleared the path on his knees with a small little knife, no easy task to be sure.  Now and then we took a rest, either for tea or chat, or to admire the creatures flying or crawling around.  Meanwhile I took a few shots of them.

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These are three wild plants that I am keeping my eye on very closely, number one is a huge thistle, it is almost in flower, I know that the seeds are what the gold finch feed on and that is why I want to keep it, to attract these birds and see how it goes.  The second one is our comfrey plant, it’s flourishing and what I am watching is the amount of insects that are using it, most of what I see are the bumblebees and I would love to see some honey bees on the comfrey too, of course.  The third plant is two years old, I grew it as a salad plant but it was so beautiful that I did not want to eat it, so I let it grow, and when we returned from Gozo it was so large and I recognised it as a plant you see a lot around here in the wild, a type of sorrel perhaps.  These three are on my watch list.

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And this is a view of our garden, we have had the pleasure to sit under the hawthorn tree all week for our meals, in the dappled sunlight with the garden scents all around us and the birds singing, what a perfect summer weather, aware that for people in other lands, not as lucky just then because of rains and floods.

Always nice to appreciate what we have in the moment.

COMMUNITY GARDEN IN SKIBBEREEN

Today a few of us went to work in our Community Garden in the town of Skibbereen, which is a little town in the South West of Ireland. Some years ago a local group of the GIY organisation was set up in this town and monthly meetings were held, discussions, seed swapping, information nights and more were organised and it was real interesting and encouraging. Around the same time I also started with my own organic garden following permaculture principles, so I learnt a lot by attending these events and meetings. Now with the warm weather and the long evenings we meet regularly at the Community garden and we do some work. Part of the work that is done in Skibbereen is to facilitate school children to learn a bit more about growing vegetables, something that I have become involved with this very day. We had a class of about twenty-two 9 or 10 year olds from the girls school, they came with their water bottles filled (not just for themselves but also to water the plants), and they looked enthusiastic and happy. The day was hot, the sun blazing down on us. I was allocated my little group of about 7 girls and after introductions we started with looking at our plot and discussing what we were going to do, in fact we were going to plant some chive plants, but first we had to take away some weeds, then we had to add just a little lime and we had to water the very dry soil, I explained how important it is to prepare the soil before we plant anything in it. There were some herbs growing in the plot too, so they all had to smell those and tell their stories of how their mums or baby-sitters did or did not use oregano and rosemary in their cooking. Next the planting was started and they all got a go of digging a hole and putting in the chives, hardly a scream was heard when they encountered an earwig or a snail, anyway to make a long story short, we then pulled some grass away from the edges, and they watered their newly planted chives, we also discussed the beautiful purple flowers of the chive plants, they all loved the colour purple (surprise!) they all agreed that the flowers were beautiful.

Lots of fun was had while all this was going on, they were very well behaved children, they were very kind to one another and took turns with the work.

Afterwards we did a tour of the rest of the garden, lots of stories about vegetable use and some home traditions were coming from each child, I was impressed, quite a few of the girls knew bits about the plants, the fruit trees, and the berry bushes, so nice to see this in children.

We also helped a hazelnut tree along, by stamping on the high grass around it, covering the grass with cardboard, and then again with some grass, in this way the water is retained and the trees are getting extra compost when it all breaks down (I think – I’m still learning too).

A lovely morning was enjoyed by the children and adults alike. It is so nice to see the children soak in the knowledge and to see them get their hands in the soil and getting in contact with the earth.

For me this is a newly discovered joy, I worked with children before during my library work, story reading, and St. Brigid’s cross workshops, or helping them pick books. I also worked with children in India, helping them with their English. And I have five delightful grandchildren who I love to have around and teach them about nature or art, so I would like to continue my involvement with this Community Garden in a small way, share what I know, and learn as I go.
COMMUNITY GARDEN 3 JUNE 2016