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.

HUMBLE WINTER VEGETABLES TELL A STORY

Kale, or to use its botanical name Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala, belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It is considered closest to the wild brassica plants. Wandering Celtic tribes most probably brought knowledge of its use to Northern Europe from the Mediterranean regions where it was cultivated even before the middle ages or long before that. These days it is a popular autumn and winter vegetable for the kitchen garden. It grows easy and is a pick and come back plant, it does not crop and leaves can be taken as needed. The Kale plant is full of vitamins, minerals like calcium or potassium, and it is said to be very beneficial, all though people with certain medical conditions should only eat it in moderation. Kale is also high in oxalic acid but that can be reduced during cooking.

A traditional dish in Ireland is called ‘Colcannon’, it is a mixture of mashed potatoes and kale. At Halloween it is served with sausages. I cannot remember ever having had kale in Belgium, not the present day kale as we know it here, but we did have ‘boerenkoolstampot’, this was a dish made using a very large dark green type of curly cabbage which was used in a similar way to Colcannon. It was mixed with mashed potatoes and served with fried bacon or worst. It was consumed when it was very cold. I remember seeing these dark green cabbages in our garden, covered in snow.

Beat leaf, or chard as it is known (Beta vulgaris) is a plant belonging to the family Amaranthaceae. I find that interesting, to think that chard belongs to the same family as the Amaranth. It is also full of vitamins and minerals, Iron being one of them. Chard was already grown 2500 years ago in the Middle East and spread from there all over the Europe and America. Again Chard is said to be high in Oxalate, the older leaves having a higher content than the younger leaves.

This season I have grown a Russian red kale, but decades ago we used to grow curly kale and ate from it all winter long. I’m also growing swiss chard in smaller numbers (only three plants).

This type of kale grew extremely well and so easily. It took very little attention or looking after. At some stage during the summer though I had to take off many caterpillars, and they did eat a good bit of the leaves but I had grown extra plants just for that reason.

Kale and chard is not only easy to grow, it’s very easy to cook and delicious too. Full of vitamins and minerals and adds a lovely fresh dimension to any dish. Today I made meatballs and mashed potatoes to go with this great greenery, it was a success with Ian. While washing these greens I had to rescue two earwigs and three shield bugs! Thank goodness I discovered those before cooking! They continue to live happily in the garden 🙂

“I’M SO GLAD I LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE ARE OCTOBERS” L. M. Montgomery,

It was a mellow October afternoon and I decided to plant out some spinach seedlings which I still had growing in a pot. I had a wander through the rest of the garden and saw that there is actually quite a lot of winter produce doing well, and it pleased me. I also saw how beautiful everything looked, the colours, the autumn shades which are wonderful. An October sun illuminated everything. It was a perfect afternoon.
Glorious colours of the hydrangea even after the summer.
Pleasure can be gained both from tending to the garden and growing some things, or from just having a wander around.

Enjoy a lovely weekend everyone, and I would love to hear about your autumn garden too.

AN AUTUMN DRIVE IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

A week or so ago we took a drive along the road taking us over Lick Hill and further along towards Ballyalla lake and Trabano Cove. It was a pleasant drive and it was something that I wanted to do for a while, mainly because it’s rather trilling to know that the Atlantic Ocean lies a little way beyond this hill.

A few kilometres further we reached Trabano Cove, to the right we could see Bullock island which lies at the entrance where Loch Ine enters the ocean via the rapids. Loch Ine is a Marine Nature Reserve.
People enjoying the kayaking or swimming in the cove.
The young people set off on a kayak spin towards Loch Ine.

I have been looking up more information on the hills surrounding the town of Skibbereen. I found some interesting facts about Lick Hill but that is for another blog post, I will do a bit more work on this. While it is recommended that we travel no further than 5km from our homes for the next six weeks, I am taking even more interest in my immediate surroundings. Might as well.