A windless morning in the garden. A lone robin is singing in the birch tree. Some sounds are travelling up from the town in the valley. I’m having my morning coffee outside on the patio and enjoying this beautiful and peaceful scene. Our foxgloves are almost totally in seed now, only the tops of their long stems are still a beautiful pink, they have been very good for the pollinators. This morning only a few bumblebees have visited. Seagulls and crows are flying over our airspace shouting confident cries. Sparrows are chirping in the hawthorn tree, many of them. How I love all those sounds.
Of the usual two dozen that years ago were, there are now only four swifts visiting in our area, I so miss their summery sounds above our houses and gardens.
How I enjoy all this activity in nature, and this morning is a rare break in my own daily activities, a solace to the soul, a much desired rest for the body. And yet it is there for the taking – whenever and free. A true blessing.
Some weeks ago my sister Josephine stayed with us, it had been three years since she travelled to Ireland and we were overjoyed to see her. With her she brought me this beautiful gift. A little special notebook that she bought at an exhibition of works by Gustaf Klimt in Brussels. It is so beautiful that I decided it can only contain words about beauty, and so the thought came into my mind to use it to note down some of the observations of my quieter moments. Observations in nature and in daily life. I like to share them with you.
17 May 2022
Today, in the garden I enjoyed the wild freshness after rain. I saw that our elderberry tree is about to come into flower, and that will be the first time since I planted it. The foxgloves are opening pink and beautiful. There are buttercups among other wild flowers, everywhere the growth is abundant and the trees, we have four, are looking very lush, their leaves still somewhat laden down with drops of rain. The hawthorn also has started to flower and there is a faint, delicate scent in the air. Birds started singing. I felt a breeze and now and then rain fell from fast moving clouds. These were perfect moments, I love the scent that rises from the earth after rain, it is so refreshing.
19 May 2022
The intense colour from the cineraria flowers in the Ilen street in town, the deep sky blue was a sight to behold. The scent was faint, it just caressed my nostrils and soothed my brain. Early morning in Skibbereen, the sun has just started to warm the cement of the colourful town houses. I feel good in expectation of the day ahead.
20 May 2022
It was while on my course on biodiversity with Wild Work. We were having a conversation about native woodlands and native wild plants. What took my special interest was a little wild plant that I had not seen growing here in West Cork before, it is called Sanicle (sanicula marilandica). It’s native and a woodland plant, it belongs to the carrot family, we found it on the grounds of a large woodland area.
21 May 2022
Today we cooked with aromatic spices and lentils, an Indian recipe. Alice and I enjoyed seeing all the spices come together and release their aroma, the dish we cooked was dahl. So delicious and an good dish for vegetarian Alice to learn to cook, she loved it. Earlier I was very pleased to see how well our oak-leaved lettuce were doing in the garden, the brightness of their various shades of red was invigorating.
22 May 2022
From my kitchen window I noticed the unripe fruits of the krentenboom (Amelanchier lamarckii), and it reminded me of the cycle of life; Just recently the flowers appeared, then the leaves turned the tree quite green, and now the fruits are already ripening, slowly they will become red later on in the year. I could see the parallel with our own lives and the thought that our times are fleeting moments in the greater cycle of things, of times. It is a very natural happening.
23 May 2022
While opening our front door, I looked down to the yearly new growth of the lady’s mantle and it inspired me, very beautiful and delicate, its veins like capillaries in our own bodies, green instead of red, dark green actually on the light green leaf… spreading out from its twig. Perfection!
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse in my little book of observations, it has been a pleasure to share them with you.
It’s that time of year when work starts seriously in our gardens. But the first outdoor job for me is to walk among my plants, see what is growing, analyse and decide what to leave and what to move or remove. And that’s what I have been doing during the week. Lots of delightful discoveries came my way. Many self-seeding plants had already come up during last autumn and survived our mild winter, others are still only appearing, delicately but vigorously. Foxgloves for example have self-seeded last autumn and have shown strong leaves even after the frosty nights. The garden is full of them, I’ve moved some of the young plants to other areas as they packed out the vegetable beds, but many I left where they came growing because of the beautiful natural arrangement they made. The base leaves of the foxgloves are very nice, very symmetrical, so satisfying for the eye. At this time of the year the leaves look fresh and vibrant.
Three-cornered Leek is another wild plant that is flourishing right now, loads of it, and even while I use it in cooking, it has overgrown some of the vegetable beds so a decision has been made to eradicate a lot of it by pulling the little bulbs from the soil. Many Dandelions are now in flower and feeding the pollinators. Most of these bright yellow flowers will stay, some to be used in salads later. Young nettles are starting to make an appearance too, I picked some for tea, some I removed but others I will let grow as they are an amazing food filled with minerals both for humans and plants. Borage and Feverfew are growing nicely, and the comfrey (for compost) are all appearing healthy and robust, in fact the Borage is coming into flower already.
Most of my herbs are starting to look healthy but apart from Sage, Rosemary, Bay leaf and Mallow they are still to tender and young to use in the kitchen. My Lemon Verbena died during the winter, I should have grown this plant in a pot and taken it inside as it is not frost-proof, I now realise. It makes a wonderful tea so I will buy a new plant and pot it up.
All the flowering shrubs are starting to look more vibrant now, some, like the white Azalea, the Daphne, and the Californian Lilac are already in bud and the Viburnum is fully in flower and spreading its scent over the patio, wonderful! I was looking for signs of the Houttuynia but could not see any yet. The Hypericum on the other hand is showing strong signs of life and even the Spiraea is carefully starting to show some leaves. Our Forsythia is finally giving us some lovely flowers but our Camellia has not flowered for several years, it needs attention. Then there are the perennials some of which I bought, some I sowed last year. Here Erysimum is a wonderful plant, it has been flowering from early spring last year until well in the winter and already it has started to flower again. I think we used to call this plant a wallflower. The small blue flowers of the Lithodora have flowered most of the winter, this is a wonderful border perennial. Marigolds are self-seeded in our garden and are always around, I use the petals and I love their bright and cheerful colours. I also found quite a few young Herb Robin and Willow herb plants, some of those I leave as they are rather nice and very good for the pollinators. One of the plants in our garden that attracts most pollinators, bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and others is the white little flower of the oregano plant. Different spring bulbs are flowering too giving plenty of cheer in the awakening garden.
And among all these there are still last autumn’s Leeks, Kale, Broccoli and Spinach to be found, we are eating from those.
Now it is a case of finding space for our potatoes which are presently chitting inside. Other vegetables have been sown and are sprouting well. The abundance of plants, wild and cultured is welcome and amazing, and lording it over it all our Hawthorn, Birch, Chestnut and Oak trees are filled with the sound of finches, sparrows, black birds, a wren, a robin and a dunnock singing, chattering and mate calling… our wild garden… it is a wonderful place to work in or sit with a cup of tea taking a rest, admiring all this growth.
No matter how small, our gardens can be an oasis of rest and replenishment of our energy, and giving us solace for our souls.
On my walk today I noticed an old rusty barn in the middle of a large field. It looked interesting and colourful in the landscape. The long valley in which Skibbereen town lies and where the river Ilen flows through on its way to the sea at Baltimore was this morning filled with sunshine, a beautiful early spring day. I was thinking that this barn would have had great use in the olden days, or maybe it is used still. It has its own beauty. I wonder at its story.
Signs of spring are also upon us, the buds of trees are to be seen all around. I think that it is a little early in the year to talk about real spring as it can still get very cold in February and March, but this winter has been mild and we have not seen the usual stormy and very wet weather. That the daffodils are open is normal for this time of year though.
A nice short walk and yet so much to be seen even at this time of year, a real pleasure showing that things do not have to be perfect for us to enjoy them and that older building can have a beauty all of their own.
I feel that the old barn does make this landscape beautiful even in all its imperfection. Its colours blend perfectly into its surroundings. Along a modern highway it connects us with the past and with the people that were working the land, and maybe still are. I am particularly interested in the older buildings around town and around the area, always wondering about their story and the story of the people that lived and worked and built those buildings.
While preparing this post I came across a quote by Diana Athill which spoke to me so strongly, I know that what she is saying has been true for me and so I never take anything special that I see for granted. I have a large collection of these hidden gems in my mind that I can access anytime I want and I do and I find it very beneficial.
Here the quote: “Looking at things is never time wasted. If your children want to stand and stare, let them. When I was marvelling at the beauty of a painting or enjoying a great view it did not occur to me that the experience, however intense, would be of value many years later. But there it has remained, tucked away in hidden bits of my mind and now it comes, shouldering aside even the most passionate love affairs”. Diana Athill
The other day saw me taking the bus up to Cork city, it had been two years since something like this happened and it excited me more than a little. A bus ride always reminds me of travel and of course that is what has been missing in most of our lives and especially in mine. The unromantic reason for the journey was an hospital appointment, but I did try to look upon it as a little adventure, and yet I did not expect to feel so free and refreshed by walking through the city, it had not been my intention!
It was a journey of necessity, it turned into a pleasant and relaxing experience.
Early one morning about a week ago there had been a night frost. Everything in the garden looked sugar-coated until the first rays of the sun touched the plants. I took my chance to go out and enjoy all the beauty while shooting some pictures to share here, an enjoyable activity first thing in the day ! We have had a few small roses flowering since summer, this bush was a potted plant we received as a gift and I eventually transplanted it into the garden. It is doing very well. The young camellia bush does not seem to have large buds yet, but then it is only January. It only gave us one flower last year so I am hoping that in another few weeks we will get a nice display.
Iced grass blades, and a look down the garden
Somewhere in the back of the garden I discovered this beautiful summer flower, still in full bloom and beautifully covered in crystals.
My thoughts at this time of the year turn to plans for next season’s growth, and this year I am going to revert back to what I did a few years ago – letting the wild plants do what they want to do – grow. I’ve made a list of over 38 herb and wild plants, some of which I use for food, that are growing now in our garden. And another list of a few that I need to buy at the market.
Plants already established are: Feverfew, Borage, Nettles, Mint (3 different types), Rosemary, Bay leaf, Lavender, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Herb Robin, Dandelion, St. John’s wort, Lemon balm, Plantain, Sow-thistle, Tansy, Three-cornered-leeks, violet, comfrey, Lemon Verbena, Mallow, Rue, Cleavers, Wild Rose, Nasturtium, Willow herb, Calendula, Solidago, Shepherd’s Purse, Clover, Purple Loosestrife, Ivy, Dock, Mullein, Groundsel, and wild garlic. Quite a few of these self-seed every year, and some of course are perennials.
And those that I want to buy are: Yarrow, Fennel, Parsley and Evening primrose.
Most likely we will be seeing some of the larger purple Thistles which are good when they come into seed as they attract and feed Gold finches.
It is a time to get very excited about seeing all the wild plants and the herbs doing so well despite it being winter. I am looking forward very much to enjoying them all once spring starts, but for the moment I let them be dormant and let them enjoy their winter rest.
So how is your garden doing my dear readers? I will be most interested in reading your comments.
It is the 26th of December today and we are only moving towards the end of the year – so no I was not looking for signs of spring, it’s a little too early and as well as that I am trying to rein my energy in. Every year about the beginning of January my energy peeks and, like a run-a-way train, it is hard to hold it! So no I was not looking for signs of new growth but nevertheless I found fresh young plants growing all over the place. It was a mild and sunny day, beautiful weather for a walk. I woke up feeling full of the joys of life and found that the birds outside had similar thoughts, the sounds of the sparrows, the starlings and the crows was overpowering for some time during the hours of brightness. So here I was trying to experience the darkness of midwinter in order to get into the fullness of my energy once the new year would start and get going, but similar to what nature seems to be doing lately my internal clock seems to be a little mixed up. Hence I forced myself not to look for signs, signs of new growth, signs of an early spring.
I have not written or produced many blog posts during the past year, something that I have missed doing. I know that it is partly due to a changing pattern, first with the lockdowns, and then with being out of the habit. With practically staying inside the home, garden, our little town and just the very immediate surroundings. I have to use a lot of imagination to be inspired to keep writing. During the year I started researching more of the local history and joined the historical society. We explored one village recently which I found very interesting. I hope to continue with my research of local history and of reading the old maps of the area. And writing about what I find or learn.
Wishing all my friends, my family, all my dear followers here on WordPress a really wonderful 2022, filled with good health and happiness.
And thank you all for your great support for my blog.