Due to all the rough weather we have been experiencing lately, and also due to the indoor work which we were completing I had not been much in our garden to check on things and certainly did not do any work in it. But between the two latest storms I did go out and took stock of what needs doing and what is growing right now and it seems that we have quite a bit going for us, there is more food to be found there than at first one would think. And so I have become encouraged and excited to get going. I plan to grow as much as I can fit, because my plan is to preserve some surplus harvest and to that end I bought some Kilner jars today. When I was growing up every housewife used to preserve a variety of foods in those jars. My mother did this until she was well in her eighties.
Along the seacoast of New England somewhere between New York and Boston lies the charming town of Old Lyme. It is a very peaceful place surrounded by beautiful mature hardwood trees and the river Lieutenant, which flows past this town adding to its total charm.
Old Lyme is also the place where Florence Griswold lived in a large house with an impressive façade of four tall columns capped with Ionic capitals. The extensive gardens, bordering on the same lovely river, where reeds are growing along its borders, make it a very pastoral setting.
I visited this large house, now a museum and was shown around on a guided tour. The moment that I learnt about the life of Florence Griswold, this amazing 19th century woman, I became a great admirer of her. A single woman, she decided to supplement her income by opening up her large house by taking in lodgers.
A New York artist, Henry Ward Ranger was one of the early lodgers in her place, and he brought along more artists, all of them were tired of modernist painting and they wanted to experiment painting rural life, in and out of doors. Soon an Art Colony was set up and more painters from all over the place came to stay and to paint, to enjoy each other’s company, and no doubt to compare and discuss their painting styles. In the early days many painted in the Tonalism style, in rather dull colours and tones, often giving a rather misty and perhaps poetic mood to their subject, i.e. the surrounding rural landscape of Old Lyme. Florence’s house has many examples of this style of painting as the artists enjoyed some of their time with painting all wooden panels of doors and walls in this large house. It is interesting to see the contrast with the impressionist style used in many of the later paintings.
It was in a visit to the Krieble gallery, which is found in the same grounds, that I learnt more about how these artists came to start to change their painting style and how they were influenced by French impressionism via contact with Giverny in France and the painting colony there.
In the Krieble gallery found in the grounds of the Florence Griswolds museum, there was an exhibition running (till 27th July 08) called “Impressionist Giverny – American Painters in France, 1885 – 1915”, which showed over fifty works that tell a story of an artist’s colony in Giverny, the village in France where impressionist painter Claude Monet lived.
A little about Giverny and its Impressionist art colony
Giverny welcomed very many artists in the late 19th century, early 20th century. Claude Monet, who had moved there, acted as a magnet and attracted many other artists to come and stay or live in and around Giverny. Artists came from all over the world, but especially from America. They enjoyed painting in the village and the area around it, and enjoyed a busy social life too. Parallels have been drawn between Giverny and the town of Old Lyme in Connecticut as they both shared a similar history, in both places there were artist colonies, impressionist’s painting of and in nature, and enjoyment of each other’s company. The link between Giverny and Old Lyme became stronger when the American painter Willard Metcalf, who used to be part of the Giverny colony, went and lived in Old Lyme, joining the artists there at Florence Griswold’s boarding house, naturally he, among others, brought influences from Giverny impressionists to Old Lyme, and to American impressionism. This was an important development.
I enjoyed this exhibition very much, especially as I wanted to become more acquainted with American artists and art history. While enjoying this exhibition, my attention was drawn to the amazing “Studies of an autumn day” a series of 12 paintings of a haystack showing the changing light and shadows during a day, by John Leslie Breck. In truth this is a reminder of Monet’s many paintings, showing a haystack in all sorts of light. Among the paintings exhibited were also some beautiful garden scenes with people, and of flowers.
In the gardens, are a fantastic variety of mature and large beautiful trees, and the meadows leading down to the river, the stylish and typical American wooden houses, they all do give the area a lovely and rich atmosphere, stimulating the artistic imagination.
I spent two wonderful days here, having a love of art and of nature, visiting this amazing place was for me a very enjoyable learning curve. And even when my visit has been a decade ago, it still gives me lovely memories. I never did get to go to Giverny in France to explore the area and le Musee des Impressionnismes there, but well you never know it might happen yet.
On this fine Saturday afternoon, two of my grandchildren and I decided to go for a walk on a land that leads towards the townland of Milland and to Russagh Mill Hostel. It was a fine distance and totally in pastural land. Ruben had come with his binoculars and his notebook, he wanted to draw some pictures of what he would see and find. Alice wanted to take photos of anything that would please her eyes; leaves, trees, plants and ourselves. I merely wanted the walk in nature and to see plenty of green countryside. (and take phots of course). We were not disappointed and between climbing some roadside trees and rocks and walk at leisure we had a wonderful time. I did not climb the trees though.
I was delighted when Ruben got out his copybook and pencil and started to draw what he saw, though I had to watch him as he plonked himself into the middle of the laneway at first and there might be the odd car passing. He was totally oblivious to all that, just wanted to do his thing. He is such a delightful boy.
Our walk took us over two hours and was well worth it. Towards the end Alice picked some dandelion leaves which she wanted to give to our two new canary birds. We came home and made a big pot of spaghetti Bolognese which was soon emptied by my now hungry grandkids.
What better to do on a January Saturday 🙂 we loved every minute.
New to our bird feeder is the blackcap bird, a female. She has been visiting the garden now for several days running. The first thing that took my notice was the hump on her back, I thought oh what an unusual bird, maybe it is deformed, but then I also noticed the sharp beak and the chestnut brown cap on its head, and I immediately knew that we had a bird not seen on our feeders before. I have not yet heard it and am curious how its song will sound as people tell me that the Blackcap has a nice song, and the guidebook describes it as a series of melodious warbling notes.
Yes she does like the seedcake and I see her more on that than on the peanut feeder. I read that she will have one or two broods per year, laying four to six eggs at a time. What I found interesting is that this little bird would be a summer visitor from Africa and that over the last 25 years Blackcaps have been overwintering in Ireland in increasing numbers, but apparently they come here not to overwinter from Africa but from other colder European countries, meaning that they are a different breeding population. These Blackcaps from the population that breeds in Central Europe migrate here to Ireland to spend the winter.
Even here in this country they will breed in mature hedging which is exactly what surrounds our garden, so I hope that they will indeed breed. Blackcaps are found where there are a lot of Ivy berries and indeed in our Boreen close by there is a wealth of Ivy and the berries are plentiful this winter.
Birdwatch Ireland also tells me that the majority of the Irish Blackcap population migrate south to winter in Iberia and North Africa. But that there is a small wintering population, mainly in the east and south of Ireland, and it appears that this is what our female Blackcap is a part of.
January is a good month around here for birdwatching and as we are feeding them we see a lot of them in the garden. We have residential Collared Doves, many Finch, many Blue Tits, Dunnocks, Sparrows, Robins, usually at least one wren, Blackbirds, Jackdaws and Starlings. Overhead are flying Seagulls, rooks and hooded Crows. It is amazing the diversity found in an urban garden. One type of bird that I would love to see more of are Thrushes, but they sadly disappeared from our gardens years ago.
These brown and white false turkey tail fungi are presently growing on the cut off but very much alive trunk of our chestnut tree. They surprised me this Sunday morning while taking a stroll around the garden, and I thought they looked beautiful. The garden at present is very wet, but to my delight tender new growth is appearing everywhere.
Revisiting one of my earlier blogs while we stayed in Malta.
Well worth to go see, and very interesting during a visit to Malta are the Hagar Qim temples in the SW of the island. It is a well worked archaeological site, some of the features are copies and the originals can be found in the archaeological museum in Valetta.
I always try and get the ‘feel’ of the place when visiting an ancient site, but here I felt nothing special. The site is very close to the sea, and very windy . There is a lot to learn about these megalithic temples, the site consists of a group of monumental megalithic buildings dating back to the late Neolithic period around 5,000 years ago. As stated in a leaflet available at the visitor centre, there is little know about these buildings. I for one wonder why there were altars, what were they used for? Another question is whether the courts had corbelled…
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Our garden does not know whether it should be asleep or begin to wake up. On this peaceful and last Sunday of the year 2019 I took a little stroll to check on my vegetables and herbs. So far it has been a mild winter except for one morning when all was white with frost. We did have more than usual rain though, and one or two real destructive storms which blew over our bird feeder and destroyed it.
I found that the few bean plants which survived being served as someone’s dinner (the slugs), are doing rather well, the spinach and the kale are doing great too. Among the herbs the oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all thriving. The rosemary is even flowering, but then it flowered all summer too, perhaps it is an everlasting flowering type 🙂
The Camelia that I planted out weeks ago has buds and seems happy where I put it. The Californian Lilac is also doing great and I cannot wait to smell its flowers, and to look upon the red Camelia flowers later when spring comes along. Bulbs are pushing through the still very wet soil. And the young Californian Poppy plant I found fresh and green, early flowering is expected. It is always nice to take stock of the garden around the start of a new year I think, and to start planning.
A tender young Lupin plant has pushed through some leaf covering. And the Rudbeckias that I have been carefully tending since last spring when I sowed them, are so far doing fine, I hope that they will become strong plants and I know that they will last for years as I used to grow them before.
But I wanted to look a little further than my own garden today and took a walk through the Boreen and further-a-field. Planning has been received and work has started on building 50 houses for a social housing scheme. This will mean that from next year onward we will be surrounded by houses, whereas up to now we still had so many fields. But I understand that housing is needed badly and that the plan for rural Ireland is to have satellite towns and not much housing in the countryside, this to give easy access to all utilities without too much need for new infrastructure. Anyway that seems to be the plan for the future and the future is now. While walking the Boreen I found beautifully fresh and healthy Yarrow plants, I also found that the Gorse was flowering, and that the sweet little plants of creeping Hypericum are still intact and have not been affected by the wet weather.
There had been a certain quietness around the place here with some neighbours away over the Christmas period. The land was also quiet this afternoon apart from some starlings, a wagtail and a thrush that I saw along my walk. Year’s ending has that certain feeling about it in nature, a stillness that is a promise of new life and activity to come. I like it.
Along my walk and in the Boreen, Yarrow, Creeping Hypericum and flowering Gorse.
And so we enter the last days of this year. Tomorrow my grandchildren and their mum and dad are coming to open presents, that will be lovely. The rest of the week will also be spent with family visiting and so we will enter the new year surrounded by loved ones.