ICE FLOWERS AND LEAVES

We woke this morning to an icy cold and beautiful sunny morning, yes it had frozen even here in usually mild West Cork. So I could not wait to get out and feast my eyes on all this frozen beauty, and I was not surprised to find that everything in the garden was gleaming in a sparkling white coat. Yes, old man winter had walked the land that was plain to see. The temperature was 4 degrees Celsius. But the sun had already come out and I could feel its warm rays on my skin, I had gone out without a coat or boots and soon my feet were freezing. The bright, beauty of the morning filled me with energy, it is such a change from all the rain.

This Rudbekia a plant which I sowed early last spring has finally flowered, and what a day to choose for it. Beautiful.
The leaves of the Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethopica) never fail to look good any day but especially this morning they looked wonderful!
I’ve been thinking what to do with all the many young Foxgloves plants coming up in the garden, now I am happy that I left them as the frost has decorated them so brilliantly.
This is the sort of photo that stops me starting to paint again, why would I paint if art is show me in nature just like that. How could I ever make it more beautiful.
And so another evening has arrived, and I made use of my extra energy to clean up the front garden as this was very overdue. The leaves of two smallish trees had nearly covered the cement tiles, and the Buddleia needed trimming. This was a rather slow job as the branches had overgrown and they all had to be cut and cut again in order to be brought through the house to the back garden for shredding. But recently I have found joy in doing jobs slowly, or rather in doing slow jobs, they are like a meditation and I know that I benefit from this. Also I have noticed this tendency in my reading habits, these days a really tick book does not put me off anymore, on the contrary I seek them out and relax into them for days, savouring the story. Same with cooking, I now very much prefer to cook totally from scratch, enjoying the extensive cutting up of vegetables, or shelling of peas.
I am grateful to have the time for all of this now that I am retired.

My dear readers and friends I hope that wherever you live, keep warm or cool as the case may be, and enjoy the moment.

BRACKEN IN THE IRISH LANDSCAPE

Around this time of late autumn, and along the Irish country roads, there is a wealth of bright colours and especially after the many days of rain we have had recently the colours are brought out even more. It is refreshing, bright and yet mellow. I’m inclined to romanticize whenever I’m in nature, colours become very vivid in my eyes. I stopped the car about seven times while on an errand to the next village, it was evening, but not yet sunset time, everywhere was so beautiful.
Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, turn this lovely rusty colour after the first frost during autumn, and during the last cold spell we have had a little night frost. Bracken is found all over Ireland, probably due partly to the damp climate here. Being a very large fern it is not something to grow in a smallish garden, though I do like some of the other fern species as they can be very beautiful. No this species does belong to the mountain areas and typically to the side of the country roads.
The water is actually the river Ilen almost at the point where the river ends into the sea at Baltimore.
Bridge at Skibbereen town, and close to the potato famine graveyard. This is a most attractive bridge going back a good many years and featuring the lovely arches that you see here all over the place. The bridge spans the same river Ilen.
I so enjoyed my little journey today even though I was driving and not walking every now and then I stopped the car to enjoy the views, to get the scents and to listen to the blackbirds. A lovely late autumn day it was.
I arrived home to a cosy atmosphere where Ian was tinkering away on one of his projects. Soon it was time to turn on the light and draw the curtains, these days are very short now – another thing I thoroughly enjoy…….for a while.

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.