HAGAR QIM TEMPLES

Revisiting one of my earlier blogs while we stayed in Malta.

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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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THOUGH NATURE IS MEANT TO BE ASLEEP, I SEE MANY SIGNS OF LIFE

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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/

MYSTERY IN THE GARDEN – A WORK OF ART

Today while pruning the rosemary bush my eye caught something unusual, excitedly I grabbed my camera to try and see more of what I was seeing. It seemed to be something like a cocoon, with a perfectly round opening. And when I looked inside I saw an earwig! That is I saw what I think was the body of an earwig, it did not move, and another bit of a darker body but I could not see that properly and did not want to disturb the creature (s). I took several photos hoping some of them would show and give us more info.

Here part of the earwig can clearly be seen.
I particularly like the underside of the cocoon, it is intricately made using the pieces of fern leaf. A work of art.
Notice the intricately woven cocoon, it’s beautiful and has totally woven a leaf of a fern that grew under the large rosemary bush.
This is a very close up picture and not great but the best I could do. You can clearly see the earwig to the left I think, and some black creature to the right.

I do not know what this is that I found, I was under the impression that earwigs have nests in the soil. I’ve never come across a spider hole like this either, so it’s probably not a spider having sucked the life out of an earwig and taken it into his lair. The cocoon type of thing is only about 3cm wide.

I am really hoping to get some feedback on this, on what this is. All my life I have had to overcome a bit of a phobia about earwigs, they would always come to me, cling to me, I saw them everywhere and my washing was always full of them and I would hate finding them while ironing. But now-a-days I am very interested in finding out more about them, their lifestyle and as I hardly every see them lately, it fascinates me to find one in this position. Please if you have any ideas about what is going on in my rosemary bush do tell me in the comments 🙂 I cannot wait to hear what you all think.

Here is a little update then. The day after I took photos and wrote about this I checked and found that the earwig had disappeared. I can now only see what appears to be a chrysalis and like Eliza and Marylou mentioned in their comments, it is very likely the chrysalis of a moth. My plan is now to take it inside the conservatory and keep an eye on it. I am really curious about it now. Thank you all for your interest and input.

WILD SUMMER GARDEN ~ INSECT PARADISE

A look at our garden through the conservatory window on a rather dark day this summer, but it’s all good. This spring and summer I let all the wild plants grow wherever they wanted as first and foremost on my list was to give as much food as possible to the insects. It has worked too, we never had so many insects before. Some of the thistles at the back of the garden are now taller than myself, as are the poppies and some of the foxgloves.
It has worked, yes. At first we had a huge quantity of borage, then the kafir lilies started to flower and the marigolds, then in the beginning of May so many more flowers followed. Soon bumblebees, bees and hoverflies started to arrive. Honey bees seem to favour the kafir lilies, the bumblebees are partial to the foxgloves, the comfrey, and the borage. By now the lavender is also visited by all the insects.
As you can see, the garden is rather wild. My patch of garlic is totally overgrown with foxgloves and thistles. Unused leeks are growing and coming into flower soon, they are allowed and I am looking forward to see what they will add to the garden.
Apart from the kafir lilies we are having a super crop of red poppies which we are enjoying very much, as are the insects.
Foxgloves grow wild in Ireland, and so they just come to grow in the garden too. I love them and they are never without some insects visiting them.
Mostly herbs here, sage, oregano, lavender, Melissa, thyme, and some celery too.

ROCKS AND FOSSILS ~ A FASCINATION

Stones…..over the years I have gathered a huge collection of rock samples, of stones. I’ve had an interest in stones, in rocks and fossils ever since I can remember. I’ve always had this connection with the earth , and to me a stone was never a dead thing, no, rocks are alive, definitely in the sense that they evolve, they change, over millennia they change, and what is a millennia in context with the unfathomable, expansive, and the immense timescale of the cosmos. And so, yes, I think rocks are alive. And I’ve always had this affinity with rocks, but also with sand, and what other is sand than tiny pieces of rock, and what does sand do under pressure and given time but change into rock.

I was, for a large part when I was young, living in that part of Antwerp where sand had been dredged up from the river Schelde, this sand that we had in our gardens and everywhere else, was sea sand, and it was full of pieces of shell and other sea creatures. In a way it was like living on the beach. One day while on a walk with my family I happen to see something curious, I picked it up and identified it as a fossil, a fossil of a conch or some type of sea shell. I was eleven years old. It was the start!

And yet I did not end up studying geology, but in later life I did do a geology course with Tel-Aviv University and I loved it. At the time we were living in Gozo and all my research was done on the geology of the Maltese islands. I’m retaking this course in September but doing my research around West Cork. That’s the plan.

I always said that I would label all my rock samples when I retired, but to date, and after several years, this has not happened, that is until a few days ago when I had to move all the samples out of an old glass press in order to redecorate the living room. So, they are all spread out in the conservatory and now demand my attention totally. Some of my smaller samples I brought back from India, Mauritius, New England, Spain, Gozo, France, Uk, Portugal and Naxos. And of course I have some very interesting samples of Ireland itself. Among my many samples are limestone, basalt, quartz, marble, malachite, soapstone, etc.

A little sample of copper ore in quartz, from the ancient disused copper mines in Ballydehob.
Not too sure if this is actually weathered corral or rock?

Over a life time I found more fossils too, and I found crystals, as it’s not only rocks I’m interested in. It is a fascinating subject to be sure and there’s always plenty of rocks and fossils around. When we were in Gozo, I found the most beautiful citrine crystals, but I left them where I found them, like wild plants I don’t think I should indiscriminately just take away natural treasures from wherever I go. But I always take photos of course.

Our earth sure is a fascinating place and I mean to enjoy another bit of what it has to offer so freely, for us to admire and examine, study and enjoy.

Part of the collection of samples

WINTER GARDEN

taking stock of garden winter 2018

Beginning of January, and even though the days are still quite dark, there is a change to be noticed and it does the soul good.  The mist and heavy clouded days have left us for the last few days, and though we have still not seen any sunshine, there seems to be more light in the sky.  It is good, I think that one could learn to live without any sunshine, though it is hard to get used to it – it seems to be here to stay!

This morning I went into the garden and took stock of what is happening, and there is lots!  There are the strong rigid and juicy looking leeks, the bright red and colourful chard, the celery and the cropping cabbages.  There are also the many different herbs which are flourishing right now, oregano, thyme, lavender, sage, feverfew, dandelion, mullein, broad leaved parsley, three-cornered wild leeks, young cleavers, and even some young and tender nettles.  It’s a very mild winter here, though we had very much rain during October, November and part of December.  The temperature has not gone much below 10 or 11C and the soil temperature has only just now reached 10C whereas it kept to a steady 12 to 15C before Christmas.

The days for planning my garden for the next season are now, that is always very enjoyable.  This year my plan it to grow many more flowers, wild and cultivated, so that as many as possible insects will have food.   For ourselves I plan to grow some flowering shrubs that will cheer us during winter.  Bright yellow Forsythia comes to mind, but more research is wanted.

What I take away from this winter is that there are certain vegetables that will grow easily and that we eat every day, these would be leeks, kale, chard, and herbs, these I will grow again and more plentiful next winter.

I wish those of us who garden a great season and much fun and happiness in their garden! 🙂