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.

agoyvaerts

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.

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.

“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.

FURTHER RESTRICTIONS….BUT MEANWHILE

Dandelion coffee

Yes we are all experiencing more restrictions because of a recent increase in covid cases. We find ourselves living in quite a changed world these days, but the most important thing now I think is to look after our mental health, and the mental health of our loved ones and of the wider community if we can help in any way. Staying positive and finding things of interest to do where we don’t have to travel, as even taking a journey to other areas of Ireland is now not possible. And this is something that requires some pondering over, and adjusting to, for many of us.

So far for us personally it has not caused a problem as it seems we don’t get time enough to do all the things we want to do. Ian has started on his book again and bought some new software to help him understand more about writing using characters, personalities and settings. It is complicated and hugely interesting he says, and he is busy with it all day. His book is progressing well and he’s enjoying himself.

Last year I let our garden do mostly its own thing. No wild plants got pulled up and it all ended in a delightful wilderness. It also ended up in quite a bit of work and in a huge pile of compostable plant material. I decided to keep a little more order in the garden this year and have been pleased that I am finding quite a number of wild plants still growing which I am now learning about. Plants like plantain, cleavers, nettles, mullein, evening primrose, borage, dandelion for example, are all there for the picking. I find it such a luxury, and it makes it easy for me getting material for my herbal course. We study the plants in detail, having to draw the different parts of the plant which makes us more familiar with the whole structure, including roots and seeds. A very absorbing activity it is.

So that is one small part of our lives here in West Cork. I hope that wherever you are, all my dear readers and friends that you are well and that you stay well.

Blessings

Oh and I enjoyed that cup of dandelion coffee very much indeed 🙂

A LATE SUMMER EVENING SKY

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, like a dream, glides away.     
Sarah Helen Whitman

I took a walk this evening and felt a real bit of a chill in the air, but it was still lovely and the breeze was actually refreshing after I spent the day painting inside. And I did find some time to check a few herbs in the garden. I also include a couple of photos from a few days ago. I’m busy with my new herb course. I am also learning more about the wild plants that come growing into the garden, at this time of year the woundwort is still in full bloom and much desired by the bumblebees, lots of them. The flower bud on my ginger plant has not changed for the past two weeks, I wonder if it will reach actual flowering but I fear not as already there is not enough sunshine and we are slowly heading into the fall season.

Stachys palustris – Marsh Woundwort
Tagetes Lucida, Mexican marigold ~ I think.
Our endive plants are flowering, a lovely blue display.

ON A HUMID SUNDAY AFTERNOON

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

There is a light breeze gently moving the tops of the trees, but otherwise it is very quiet on this restful day. West Cork has seen warmer than usual weather recently, though the last two days we have also seen very much rain. The humidity is high of course and I quite like that. You go outside in the garden and the scents and colours are intense, everything is fresh from the rain and the heat makes it almost feel as if steam is rising from all the plants and foliage. The garden is very lush at this time and I counted very many bees, hoverflies and some butterflies while I was out earlier. Autumn is actually not far off and the garden spiders are busy. Some of the decorative trees are already shedding their leaves. The hawthorn and the chestnut tree are beginning to look a lot like autumn too. The ‘turning of the seasons’ is starting to happen.

Ian is back home, his troubles are not over yet but he is slowly feeling better. It’s great to have him home, he’s my soulmate and the best of companions.

REMEMBERING

On this beautiful, calm and wind still morning the garden has been transformed into what reminds me of fairy land, the reflexion of light in the dew drops makes the spider webs shimmer and reminds me of fairy lights, or even the Christmas tree and brings me back to early childhood days, to innocence and happiness. I wander around the garden taking in this beauty and allowing these feelings to be. Autumn leaves have been brushed up yesterday, but it is the spider webs that really herald the beginning of autumn here in West Cork. There is not a sound to be heard, all the neighbours are still asleep, then a robin takes the floor and cheerfully sings its heart out.
Wind still and glorious, another day has begun.
My heart fills with gratitude.

I wrote these words some years ago but because we have recently been living with so many raindrops, not dewdrops, and we are all quite saturated with the damp and the darkness ~ I decided to give life to this post again as the beauty of watery drops really is something incredible and we might as well enjoy them.

MEMORIES OF AN OLD FRIEND

This time I am sharing a tribute to the man I was married to for 31 years and also the father of our lovely daughter Tjorven and grandfather of our five wonderful grandchildren. Ron died from cancer on Monday the 11th of May. He became very good mates with my husband Ian and he was a regular friend to our house, Ron and I remained friends.

I would like to share a tribute from the West Cork Chamber Music Festival team, I quote;

“We are sad to hear that one of our earliest supporters and volunteers, Ron Victor, has passed away after a long illness. He was an integral and much-valued part of our team for many years.

In the early days, he and his then wife Agnes were generous supporters of West Cork Music and Ron then became the man who took care of moving all heavy equipment at the West Cork Chamber Music Festivals. So much goes on behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the Festival concerts and Ron’s contribution was vital. He made sure that everything which was needed in Bantry House, whether pianos, chairs, box office tables or boxes of wine, was there. Everything he did was with enthusiasm, energy and a smile which we all remember with great fondness.

Ron had a deep love of Baroque music and he spent so many hours listening to it while driving thousands of miles in his removal van, that he developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the repertoire by ear. It was his passion for Early Music which influenced Francis Humphrys’ decision to include it in the Festival programme.”

For a number of years, the Cork County Council harpsichord was transported to ten schools for a week of Baroque workshops in January and it was Ron who made this possible, moving the instrument carefully from school to school while seeing the music he loved being played for a new generation of music-lovers.

Ron was introduced to early music by his friend Antoon Tandt at age 18. The first composer he became familiar with was Heinrich Schutz, and especially his ‘Psalmen Davids’, during our time together it is what we shared most of all, our love of early music, it was a huge factor in our relationship and our daughter was brought up in a home resounding of music by Bach, Buxtehude, Schutz, Ockegem, Tallis, and many other fine composers.  Eventually Ron became involved with West Cork Chamber Music Festival and later with the East Cork Early Music Festival which he enjoyed very much. His love of beautiful music knew no bounds, he listened to it until close to the time he died. 

The team at East Cork Early Music Festival were also greatly saddened to learn that Ron Victor passed away. They said he was a great lover of early music, always smiling and was so helpful to our festival over many years.

Ron’s grandchildren also contributed some memories of their grandpa, I will just give a flavour of their thoughts. Hazel who is 13 years old said that she remembers her grandpa as an amazing, kind and funny person. Alice who is 11 has memories of all the gifts and sweets that her grandpa would bring back from his travels. Ruben who is aged 9 thinks of his grandpa as a superhero, he recons that he made the world. Jasmin aged 8 thought grandpa was funny and nice, she also thought that he was wise and she remembered his 70th birthday party and all the nice cake. Willow is only five and she remembers grandpa as being ‘young’, she also remembers that he took a lot of photos. It is lovely to hear the tributes of the grandchildren for their grandpa.

Ron ended up living in the Philippines where he had a new relationship towards the latter part of his life. He loved the life there, the natural world and the climate. He returned to Belgium for a visit and to organize some things. He was subsequently diagnosed with cancer and he remained with family who very kindly looked after him while he was undergoing treatment.

So we have been busy organising the funeral service in this time of Corona virus when people cannot travel or indeed when funerals are very private, that is no problem in its own and we were able to attend and all be together during Ron’s funeral service at the crematorium in Kortrijk via live video. I had the privilege of picking the music and choose some lovely pieces by Bach and Purcell. Many family members wrote beautifully worded farewell pieces. It was a beautiful service. A good send off to Ron and a solace for the family.

Rest in peace Ron, there will be many people who will miss you.