SEASONS MIXED UP OR IS IT ME

So right, we live in S.W. Ireland, and that means that we experience a micro climate due to the gulfstream passing by these shores, and normally we do have a mild winter, it seldom snows or freezes here, though we do get some light frost during or after January.

Even though it is quite cold just now, and the mountains in the distance have their tops covered in snow, in the garden the plant growth reminds me more of early spring. The temperature of the soil seems normal enough, it was 6 degrees Celsius the other day, and at night the outside temperature is between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius. And even today the cold wind made it feel very chilly. But yet something seems out of kilter, and I cannot actually put my finger on it clearly. Questions like; Is the planet really warming up? Is the climate changing? beg for answers everyday and all around us now. Here are some of my own observations.

And taking stock of the garden the other day here is what I found.

And even while you would not think so, it is late autumn now, another few weeks and it is Christmas. Am I perhaps imagining that the season is out of kilter? All the same I am delighted with so much growth in the garden. As it stands I have not been able to work in the garden since September because we have been working inside the house and I have had no time. Needless to say I cannot wait to get going again, meanwhile I am using my herbs in my cooking. Oh and I bought a Camelia shrub yesterday, can’t wait to give it a lovely spot where we can see it bloom from the window later in winter.
Have you been busy in your garden my friends? I’d love to hear your stories.

PS actually Oca is only harvested after the first night frost, they are a reddish sweetish little potato-like vegetable. I have found them relatively easy to grow but hard to peel or clean before eating. They are a nice plant though. Check this website if you are interested in them. https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/how-do-you-grow-oca-3113951-Dec2016/

SPONTANEOUS ART IN NATURE

While waiting for a lift with my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren to travel today I spent this time taking some photos of knots in the Chestnut and Pine trees lining the little park on the outskirts of our town. I also wanted to take some photos of the lichens growing on their trunks, and so I did that too.
It was a glorious and still Sunday morning.
Some high Pine trees grow side to side with the Chestnut trees. Lichens and some mosses cover their bark.

AFTER RAIN

”Colours shone with exceptional clarity in the rain. The ground was a deep black, the pine branches a brilliant green, the people wrapped in yellow looking like special spirits that were allowed to wander over the earth on rainy mornings only.” – Haruki Murakami

”Nana always said the rain was nature’s way of adding sparkle to the outdoors.” – Mehmet Murat Ildan
”Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore
”The purpose of this glorious life is not simply to endure it, but to soar, stumble and flourish as you learn to fall in love with existence. We were born to live dear, not merely exist.” – Becca Lee
”Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” –  Ashley Smith

LIFE THIS AUTUMN

At this time of the year, in this part of the earth, nature is full of vibrant colours, this is just one example of our colourful garden at the moment, .
Around the end of October here in Ireland people celebrate the ancient Halloween, and lots of different pumpkins are for sale, this delights me as I love the soup that one can make using them, and also they are very decorative so when used in that capacity for weeks in our kitchen they paint a lovely picture.
I love our hydrangeas, and have now built up a variety of colours, from lapis lazuli blue to baby pink they flower well into winter here.
Morning dew on the spider webs creating a fairy-land picture, however it also shows us how many active spiders are around us playing an important role in the ecology of things.
Shorter days, longer nights, and lovely sunsets are all part of autumn.

We have been experiencing very wet weather with strong winds during the past two weeks, the front garden is now full of leaves which I do not want to gather yet, they will be used as mulching on the vegetable beds, but I have also recently learned that they can be the homes of many different little creatures and so I want to give them a chance at survival and only carefully lift them at a later stage. I’m also happy to see that our winter birds have returned to the bird feeder, the finches, sparrows, robins, jackdaws, collared doves, all the various tits and the dunnocks are back, and to my delight I’ve spotted a very active wren, one of my favourite birds. Yes for sure this is a great time of the year! Happy autumn to everyone, I hope that you enjoyed the little peek into my life at present.

THE BURREN ~ COUNTY CLARE

Some while back we drove through the area of county Clare called The Burren. Geologically speaking this is a fascinating place, also for botanist. This area is known for and covered in karst, limestone that is so weathered and cracked that several small plants and flowers grow in the cracks, some of the plants are only found in the Alpine and Mediterranean regions of Europe. Now we did not do any trekking or hiking, we just drove through the area and mainly looked at the interesting landscapes. Partly along the coast, and partly inland.

So here is a photo of what the limestone hills look like in the Burren, it is beautiful and to me it looked like it had been snowing. It’s very impressive though to think of the actual limestone exposure, quite amazing in fact.
On this small stone beach I found different rocks, some where large slabs I could walk on, others were pebbles and still others were small crumbled rock.

A typical and fine example of Karstic landscape. Karst is a special type of landscape that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, in this case limestone. Whole landscapes are formed in this way and the Burren is one of those areas, as seen in the photo below.

We decided to stop for lunch in Kilrush at a traditional Irish pub for some much needed nourishment.

The name ‘Burren’ in Irish is Boireann, meaning “great rock”.
Interesting rock formations.
Even though County Clare, and especially that part which is called the Burren is very rocky, there is a softness to the landscape and some of the hedgerows were showing a lovely autumn-like abundance of ripe fruits. The colours were brilliant.
Hawthorn, blackberry, and some black berries of which I am not sure what they are, in full ripeness.

This is just yet another part of Ireland that’s nice to explore. There is plenty of interest there for anyone liking or studying geology, botany, or archaeology. We did not even scratch the surface. I hope it gave people a taste though.

CONNEMARA MEMORIES

I would like to continue with some more scenes of Connemara, I hope that it captures for you the rugged beauty that Connemara is. Situated in the West of Ireland it is a most fascinating place for lovers of archaeology or geology, or just for lovers of peace, quiet, and a special type of beauty. This view is of a stone beach near Galway city, it was a paradise for me.
Inland the landscape is quite barren with bogland, rushes, and low growing gorse which gave a yellow hue to the most fantastic shades of brown and ochre all around.
In all its barren land, there is lushness to be found too, the tender young green here of rhododendrons.
Dull days, showers of rain, mist. And as a little diversion some cattle being moved to another field. I love cows in a landscape, in paintings of pastoral life they often make the painting work I think.
The variety and beauty of the rocks at this beach was amazing.
Peaceful lake, lovely scent of autumn, and the air as fresh as is possible to imagine, you could taste it on the tip of your tongue, delicious!

These are lovely memories of our time spent in Connemara. I hope you enjoyed a bit of our journey too.

MYSTERY IN THE GARDEN – A WORK OF ART

Today while pruning the rosemary bush my eye caught something unusual, excitedly I grabbed my camera to try and see more of what I was seeing. It seemed to be something like a cocoon, with a perfectly round opening. And when I looked inside I saw an earwig! That is I saw what I think was the body of an earwig, it did not move, and another bit of a darker body but I could not see that properly and did not want to disturb the creature (s). I took several photos hoping some of them would show and give us more info.

Here part of the earwig can clearly be seen.
I particularly like the underside of the cocoon, it is intricately made using the pieces of fern leaf. A work of art.
Notice the intricately woven cocoon, it’s beautiful and has totally woven a leaf of a fern that grew under the large rosemary bush.
This is a very close up picture and not great but the best I could do. You can clearly see the earwig to the left I think, and some black creature to the right.

I do not know what this is that I found, I was under the impression that earwigs have nests in the soil. I’ve never come across a spider hole like this either, so it’s probably not a spider having sucked the life out of an earwig and taken it into his lair. The cocoon type of thing is only about 3cm wide.

I am really hoping to get some feedback on this, on what this is. All my life I have had to overcome a bit of a phobia about earwigs, they would always come to me, cling to me, I saw them everywhere and my washing was always full of them and I would hate finding them while ironing. But now-a-days I am very interested in finding out more about them, their lifestyle and as I hardly every see them lately, it fascinates me to find one in this position. Please if you have any ideas about what is going on in my rosemary bush do tell me in the comments 🙂 I cannot wait to hear what you all think.

Here is a little update then. The day after I took photos and wrote about this I checked and found that the earwig had disappeared. I can now only see what appears to be a chrysalis and like Eliza and Marylou mentioned in their comments, it is very likely the chrysalis of a moth. My plan is now to take it inside the conservatory and keep an eye on it. I am really curious about it now. Thank you all for your interest and input.

A JOURNEY INTO CONNEMARA

Connemara

Connemara was not as isolated and remote as I expected it to be. At least the part of it that we toured was not so. Even on narrow roads that literally just lead to the coast over several causeways, houses and schools were frequently dashed over the otherwise barren landscape.

Connemara was magical, the more so because the mountains were half hidden in the mist and in low clouds, throwing an un-earthly light over the bogs, highlighting the rusty colours, the sepias, the deep chocolate browns, the ochre.  Sometimes the sun would briefly take away the veil that covered the land, at other times the sky would darken and a very heavy rain would pour down on us.  But the rain did not bother us, we were after all on honeymoon and it was hard to take the smile off our faces.

The old cottages dotted here and there took my interest but the roads made it so that I could not stop easily to observe them better.  I did take in their oblong shapes however, many seemed to be empty and ruined, others were still very much lived in.

My favourite area was the road (R344) we took from Kylemore Lough, on to Recess.  On our right were the Twelve Bens, a very beautiful mountain range which unfortunately was mostly hidden in the clouds, and to our left we saw some of the Maumturk mountains. Rusty bog land, softly covered in pale lilac heathers, and in strong yellow gorse, drew the eye further along to some lakes and more bogs.  This was for me one of the highlights of our journey, the beauty and serenity that I felt there was incredible and filled my heart with joy.  The scents of autumn-like growth and fresh mountain air were invigorating.  My excellent navigator and new husband Ian had suggested this road, and I am so happy that we explored this area of Connemara.


A little fishing village called Roundstone lies on the R341 coast road, it is such a picturesque village, one that you would want to stay for a week and just soak up the atmosphere, and the views.  We had a lovely lunch there in a little place overlooking the harbour. 
Connemara has a lot of small peninsulas, connected by land via causeways.

A MELLOW EARLY AUTUMN WALK

I strolled around the block this evening. Around the block in this urban area does not mean that I walk totally among houses, no, for a start I walk through the Boreen which is a narrow path where a lot of wild plants and shrubs grow. This 15 minute walk also takes me along a fairly new road which is mostly surrounded by fields. Here I also see a lot of wild flowers, plants and wildlife in general. So it can be quite an interesting walk and all I need is the discipline to do it more often. Today I set off in a mild Irish mist that was softly falling and was hydrating my face, it was gentle and refreshing.

We have been experiencing lovely mild and sunny weather lately, making us think that it is an Indian summer. However, autumn signs can be seen and the lovely bright colours of the berries and the leaves are a pleasure to behold. A mellow early autumn walk was just what I needed after a hard day’s work in the garden.

I was glad to discover that there is plenty of Ivy this year, I always use this to make flower pieces at Christmas time. Apart from that there are moths and butterflies that lay their eggs in Ivy. An important plant. The blackberries are plentiful too and ripening fast now, they are plump and delicious.

Talking about the Boreen, this is the Irish word bóthrín, which is a diminutive of bóthar, meaning ‘road’. It is used to denote a narrow country path often surrounded by hedges, or sometimes by stone walls. Here in Ireland you might often see these paths very overgrown, because nature does take over and if the paths are not used regularly they just close more or less with overgrowth of brambles and other wild plants. However, what is very important about these Boreens is that they are ancient, and in this way they often still contain many native plants. This is important for biodiversity. In this particular Boreen I have found the creeping Hypericum plant, and this evening I checked and found that it is thriving. There are also a few different Ferns, and common Violets. Lots of Ivy, Hawthorn and also some Gorse. All of these are native plants or shrubs. I know that some well-meaning people use the strimmer on this particular Boreen several times every summer and it saddens me, I wish that at least they would let flowers come into seed before strimming.

Meanwhile in the garden lots of work is waiting for me, I did three days of it in the past week, it has only scratched the surface of it. I love autumn though, lots of tidying up, taking notes, and making plans for the next season. All good fun and a great work-out too, especially with nettles that I allowed to grow to 3 meters high!

Sending many thanks this way to all the blessed wishes from everyone on our wedding day.