HEALING FOREST AND WILD PLANTS

What is nicer and more calming than a walk in a forest. Listening to the sounds, the wind rustling in the canopies, smelling the trees and the herbs, looking at all the different shades of green or brown, feeling the roots or the rocks underfoot. Walking in a forest can be the ultimate sensory experience. When I walk in our local forests with my grandchildren I see them clambering over branches and rocks, paddling through some of the muddy paths, picking up pinecones and twigs with lichens or piece of old bark, and the youngest girl picks up and carries with her any dead branches and trails them behind her all along the walk. Their young minds are open to everything they see and experience no matter how often they actually do these walks. My daughter and son-in-law are real nature lovers and outdoor people and they take the children out on hikes, walks or beach days whenever they can. West Cork has good opportunities for this, and even the unsettle weather or rain does not faze them.

Right now the Irish native forests are full of new life, young plants, flowers and mosses. There are still night frosts and it is still a bit chilly but the sun is getting stronger by the day to our delight. We have had a real light April shower yesterday which refreshed everything and was good for growth. In the forest the spurges are giving a lovely show, the celandine, wood sorrel, blue bells, violets, stitchwort, and wild strawberries are equally blooming. The willow trees which are among the first to provide blossoms for the bees are now almost in full leaf. And already the bumblebees are buzzing!

I find a walk through the forest very calming but also refreshing, I think that it is the good air provided by the trees, the extra oxygen. But there is something more at work, Erich Fromm called it “Biophilia.” which is a love of life, an instinctive fondness for all that is living, our fellow humans, the plants, the trees, the animals. Our human brain craves greenery and an interaction with other living things. I read that we are naturally drawn to natural settings, and apparently things like ‘forest bathing’ can reduce our blood pressure, heart rate and lower our cortisol levels. But most of all it relaxes us and can quieten our often overstretched minds.

From a young age I have found it a need of mine to be surrounded by plants, whether it were houseplants or garden plants, now-a-days to see the green fields from some of our windows gives me great pleasure. But to actually be out in nature and get the full benefit of it has got to be far better still.

I hope that everyone is enjoying either spring or autumn seasons and also looking forward to less restrictions all over the globe.

INTERESTING SURROUNDINGS

On a bit of a ramble in our immediate area I enjoyed some spectacular sights and afterwards I researched some interesting little bits of history and knowledge of the area here.

I thought that I would take a drive as far as Traguma (Tráigh Omna), this beach is backed by marsh land and a small lake called Lough Abisdeally, this small lake (in the photo), is a real beauty it is very sought after by birdwatchers. This was a rather pleasurable attempt to get to know more about my immediate surroundings.  Tragumna is supposed to get its name from the stumps of oak trees dug up out of this strand. (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0298, Page 061). Sounds rather interesting!

On the way there I took a wrong turn and kept driving along narrow lanes and got totally lost. Long ago there was a time when I wondered about all these myriads of little roads crossing the country side until I learnt about the famine roads. The Irish peasantry were made to build roads in order to get food under the strictures of the poor law during the famine. These included random and unneeded roads. That is what I am told. Anyway my journey became a little longer than expected. It was raining lightly and I took some photos out of the car window.

These are some views of the landscape that I passed, it was wonderful of course.

Then the open ocean, here to see some caves and rocky shores. And rain streaming down!

And that was it, what was going to be a within 5km (just about) drive to help with my cabin fever turned into a tour of the little roads around the countryside. I felt so good after it, ready for another week back into the cabin (which of course I do love very much too). Mental health is so important and it is our responsibility to take care of it 🙂

SAVOURING SPRINGTIME ~ SIMPLE JOYS

The days are lengthening, everywhere flowers are appearing, it is that delightful and energising time of the year again. Still under strict lockdown here in Ireland, many of us are giving full attention to our gardens, it is also the right time of the year for it, and the pleasure that being busy with plans and engaging in the actual garden work must not be underestimated. And so that is what I am doing too. We can still only go out 5km from our front door and although I have plans to go further afield and I have things in mind to photograph and write about, this will have to wait. Latest news is that maybe lockdown won’t be lifted until the end of April. Meanwhile everyone’s hair gets longer and longer! 🙂
Here is my mood board for this summer’s flowers in our garden. As you can see I am planning to grow a lot more flowers, some of which I have just sowed yesterday. But central to my plan are a few perennials, to start off with I plan to buy a Daphne shrub and a dwarf lilac tree . I love their scent. I have this vision of a bench surrounded by flowers and I’m hoping for a lovely warm summer, so that Ian can enjoy sitting in the garden and soak up the beauty of it. To me it means creating, in cooperation with nature of course, and creating is good for the soul.
Seed packets ready for sowing.

I also hope that nobody minds my photos of the spiders, these are Steatoda grossa, although I think the light coloured one is a Steadoda nobilis. They also live in our shed and I have become quite fascinated by them. There are at least a few of them.

I hope that everyone is keeping well. I think that I am very behind again with reading all your blogs, so from tonight onward I will make a start with that again, looking forward to connect.

MEETING WITH THE OMBU TREE

I hope to re-blog some of my earlier posts, this one about a tree I got to know while we were staying on Gozo.

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While on the island of Gozo I took notes of and enjoyed some of the trees unfamiliar to me. It is nice and interesting to find out what they are called and then to search on Google about their uses, growth, country of origin and so on, it keeps me quite busy at times. Then I will take many photos of all the different attributions, leaves, flowers, seeds, seed hulks, shoots, trunks etc. And of course I like to share this in my blog, my blog is after all a celebration of all that the earth so generously has to offer to us and to life itself. And so here goes, I hope you enjoy.

The Ombu tree, or to give it its proper name the Phytolacca dioica L. is an attractive tree. I found it growing in the area of Ghajnsielem along the main road. I was amazed to…

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WINTER ACTIVITIES, PLEASURES AND PERSONAL GROWTH

Hard to believe that we are already getting close to the middle of February. Winter is giving way slowly to early spring, though today you would not think so. We are experiencing a bitterly cold wind from the East and lower temperatures than is normal for this part of the country, which usually has mild winters.

This beautiful landscape, colours natural and not edited. Taken on a very recent walk close by.

But while the cold spell lasts there is plenty of planning and creativity going on inside. I made a true to scale plan of the garden so as to have a good oversight of it (and for the fun of it too). And I tested the soil on all of the 12 raised beds and found that they are poor, some beds depleted even in Phosphorus, and Nitrogen, but did a little better on Potash. So now I know what to add and where. I’m also cutting out snippets from gardening magazines that apply to our garden in particular. I do have some good gardening books but I find this somehow more personalised as I only keep what applies to my experience here.

Primroses are all the go here in the shops and we are all buying them as they herald spring and hope.
And so this year I am getting on well with clearing our garden sheds and I am finding quite a bit of wildlife while doing so. This most perfect example of Peacock butterfly I accidently disturbed but I am happy to say that it went to sleep again a bit further into the shed, I guess that it realised it was too early to go flying about. ~ Be warned about the next photo as there is a spider in it!

Here in the small market town of Skibbereen a spice and exotic vegetable shop has opened and it did not take me long to go and check out the vegetables with which I learnt to cook in both S.India and in Mauritius. The delicious meals made thereof and the pleasure of the memories got me to buy quite a selection and for a whole week those dishes were on the menu. Among them okra and bitter gourd would have been most know to me, also the chayote squash. Some of the vegetables did not make it into the cooking pan as I want to root them and I was lucky enough to see a shoot coming out of both the taro root and the chayote squash, this is an experiment. Once before I grew a large plant from a taro root but it died when I went travelling.

A selection of my first purchase

And then there is the garden! Well we have had so much rain now for many weeks that the garden is saturated and I am hoping that this present wind will dry the things out a bit. The garden looks forlorn at the moment and I am not doing much in it until the weather turns. I have lots of spring bulbs coming on though and they are a pleasure to see. (in my home-made small greenhouses to protect from heavy rains). There are still quite some vegetables ready for use, the cut and come back Kale and the leeks among them.

Our daffodils stay in the soil all year round, they are doubles.

And to finish off a picture of how cosy it is inside while out there the icy wind rages, throwing lashes of hail and sleet against the window panes. The wood burner keeps us nice and warm.

I’m finding that although we are quite isolated here and especially so with the current lockdown, I am making very many interesting contacts online, being invited to interesting social media groups on culture and art and on growing in calmness, quietness and reflection. Some of these groups are in my mother tongue (Flemish) and I enjoy that very much. Making new friends and maintaining existing connections with old friends. I was also invited to become part of a meditation group. It all goes to make this lockdown time quite interesting and a place of growth for me.

I hope that all your activities and experiences are keeping you inspired too.

Much love to all.

MEETING WITH A SPINDLE TREE

It was quite unexpected that I came upon a Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus), I first noticed the red berries now mostly decayed in the mud, and recognised them as being spindle berries. When fresh they are so very beautiful! So I looked out for the tree and found it growing beside a much thicker trunk of a tree unknown to me. Part of it had fallen down and is probably dead. The crown of the tree though was still full of the berries. Do some of the birds feed on them? I do not know. The first I ever heard of the Spindle tree was from a Dublin lady called Hilary. She used to read out her essays on nature on Sunday morning in a radio program called Sunday Miscellany. Although I was fascinated this was before the internet and Google search. So I never really bothered to look up something about what was said to be a very beautiful and also a native tree to Ireland.

Apparently it’s easy to grow from its seed and I might try it. I found quite a bit of information on how to go about it. Germinate Seeds from Spindle Trees – BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine

And here is another website link, it is full of information about this interesting bush. Tree Lore: Spindle | Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (druidry.org)

Finding this to me new and interesting tree was the highlight of my week, we might be in lockdown but there are still always new wonders to discover.

I just want to add a little note here. I am not being very active at the moment both in posting and in reading posts from others. I am very busy but also my inspiration seems to have taken a downturn. I know this won’t last so I am just going with it. It is good to have a period of reflection as well as a period of posting a lot. I’ll soon be reading all your blogs again dear friends and followers and I wish you all the very best. Thank you for reading my words.

MAGICAL WINTER WALK

First I would like to wish all my friends and followers a beautiful new year ~ Let 2021 be a year filled with hope, many blessings, happiness and good health. That is my wish for everyone of you.
My walk took me around our little town on the ring road, this road is relatively new and is flanked with interesting shrubs. It also gives lovely views towards the town and behind it some the hills that surround us. At some stage the road crosses the river Ilen. The view is always spectacular, the river is tidal, today the tide was high which saw the sun sparkling in the water.

I am hoping that you all stay healthy and happy during these frequent lockdowns. Sending you all much love. Let 2021 be a year full of hope and happiness.

CHRISTMAS EVE IN IRELAND

This Christmas eve we are cosy inside, candles are lit and nice music fills the room. I am still inclined to go with the Flemish way of celebrating Christmas on the eve of the 24th. However, Ian being British has hugely different traditions and I try to do a bit of both, I find though that we celebrate Christmas totally in our own special way. I guess like everyone else we like to build memories and this of course also involves family. But this year Christmas is different, there is no family gathering for most people. We are lucky that we can have one set of grandchildren coming to open presents and enjoy the customary meatballs with red cabbage and apples. Many people are not so lucky and so we are grateful. As I have never cooked a turkey in my life, and don’t know how to make a Christmas cake or pudding I usually buy a good quality one for Ian and make him sweet white sauce to go with it. For me most important at Christmas are people, candles, music and the scent of pine and spices, oh and a walk in nature. So this afternoon the sun was shining and though bitterly cold it was a great opportunity to get some fresh air. Yesterday there was snow on the hills surrounding the town and I wanted to check if I could get some pictures of them, unfortunately the snow was mostly gone again. I came across so much fresh green, little plants that are either still growing from last season, and new plants like the foxgloves. These are the darkest days of the year but already I can feel fresh energy building up which once it is January will burst forth and there will be no holding it. January is my most productive month, my energy at its highest. But for now I seek peace and quiet, it’s too early to give way to high spirits.
View overlooking part of the town and surrounding hills, one of which is still snow-capped.
After a lovely walk the sun was setting over some houses, a beautiful day, a peaceful Christmas eve.

As an afterthought, this evening I received from my sister two Christmas card dating back to 1920, my grandmother and grandfather exchanged those back then. I found it so touching and they are beautiful, that’s why I am sharing them here with you all. A great present from the past.

I would like to wish all my dear friends and followers all over the earth a blessed and joyous Christmas time, or Yule time, or Solstice, or end of year or mid-winter celebrations. I love a good story and am very interested in traditions from all over the world. How do you like to spend this time of year?

IT MADE ME COME ALIVE

On the way home, a very scenic view in the village of Leap.

A beautiful evening at almost mid-winter time of year. Today saw me driving the 91 km to the nearest city from where we live. Cork city is beautiful and as I had to drive through some of the oldest part of it in the area of the Shandon tower and the butter market, I was absolutely delighted to have had a reason to travel up. It does not happen so often these days, partly due to all the lock-downs and partly because I do not like to leave Ian alone for too long. It takes about one and a half hours one way from our little town to the city, and along the way you travel through two other small towns. What I noticed today is that these little towns are growing rapidly, but they also have lovely older areas with interesting architecture.

But to talk some more about Cork city, it is a place that I love, I learnt my English there originally. There are so many interesting places to see and take in. Today I could not stop to linger where I wanted to take photos and just admire the old quarters as I had an appointment for a Covid test, routine before any procedure in hospital which is to follow on Thursday. The test centre was right up the hill through a residential area, many of these are small one story Irish houses, some of them have interesting features of Irish vernacular architecture. (taking a note to come back some time with my camera). The streets were fairly quiet which I was happy about as I do not drive often in the city. I felt relaxed and glad.

It made me realise that in these troubled times where for most of the year we have all been very restricted in our movements, it is so uplifting to be among people, to feel the buzz of the city, to admire the beauty of it all. It made me come alive and it energized me.