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.

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.

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.

A MELLOW EARLY AUTUMN WALK

I strolled around the block this evening. Around the block in this urban area does not mean that I walk totally among houses, no, for a start I walk through the Boreen which is a narrow path where a lot of wild plants and shrubs grow. This 15 minute walk also takes me along a fairly new road which is mostly surrounded by fields. Here I also see a lot of wild flowers, plants and wildlife in general. So it can be quite an interesting walk and all I need is the discipline to do it more often. Today I set off in a mild Irish mist that was softly falling and was hydrating my face, it was gentle and refreshing.

We have been experiencing lovely mild and sunny weather lately, making us think that it is an Indian summer. However, autumn signs can be seen and the lovely bright colours of the berries and the leaves are a pleasure to behold. A mellow early autumn walk was just what I needed after a hard day’s work in the garden.

I was glad to discover that there is plenty of Ivy this year, I always use this to make flower pieces at Christmas time. Apart from that there are moths and butterflies that lay their eggs in Ivy. An important plant. The blackberries are plentiful too and ripening fast now, they are plump and delicious.

Talking about the Boreen, this is the Irish word bóthrín, which is a diminutive of bóthar, meaning ‘road’. It is used to denote a narrow country path often surrounded by hedges, or sometimes by stone walls. Here in Ireland you might often see these paths very overgrown, because nature does take over and if the paths are not used regularly they just close more or less with overgrowth of brambles and other wild plants. However, what is very important about these Boreens is that they are ancient, and in this way they often still contain many native plants. This is important for biodiversity. In this particular Boreen I have found the creeping Hypericum plant, and this evening I checked and found that it is thriving. There are also a few different Ferns, and common Violets. Lots of Ivy, Hawthorn and also some Gorse. All of these are native plants or shrubs. I know that some well-meaning people use the strimmer on this particular Boreen several times every summer and it saddens me, I wish that at least they would let flowers come into seed before strimming.

Meanwhile in the garden lots of work is waiting for me, I did three days of it in the past week, it has only scratched the surface of it. I love autumn though, lots of tidying up, taking notes, and making plans for the next season. All good fun and a great work-out too, especially with nettles that I allowed to grow to 3 meters high!

Sending many thanks this way to all the blessed wishes from everyone on our wedding day.

HENHAM REVISITED

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Autumn can conjure up a variety of different colours and heart warming scenes, and this past October has been more mellow and beautiful than most. And a lovely golden sunshine has illuminated everything that it has touched.

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We have been staying in the ancient stables of the parsonage in the village of Henham in Essex. The cottage is lying next to a fine church built with use of flint stone. A fine square tower rises against the blue sky, and surrounding, the magnificent trees shed their leaves over ancient graves. Ugly gargoyles feature here and there, some almost completely erased.

The trees are most lovely this time of year, colours varying from deep dark red to pale yellow , gold, ochre, or sepia, a beautiful pallet. But it’s not only the colours that are like velvet to the eye, it is the shape and size of the ancient trees that attract the attention.

The architecture found in this village has always fascinated me, the thatched roofs, the variety of cottage styles, the village green, all make for a picture card scene. But that is only me romanticising because this village is also a vibrant and dynamic community and that has perhaps got to be of more importance for the people living here.

 

SHADES OF AUTUMN

The colours of the autumn season, in all their different browns have all got beautiful and inspiring names I think, as inspiring as their shades  differ in hues and in the energy they emanate. I guess we associate browns very much with the mellow and misty autumn season, the shades of amber, ochre, sepia, chestnut, burnt sienna, russet, bronze, copper, and tawny to name only a few can usually be found in a variety of autumn leaves, a beautiful pallet.  Many painters have used browns to good advantage, among them Caravaggio of whom I recently admired two original works in the cathedral in Valetta. He very effectively used browns to create his wonderful shadows.  Anton Van Dyke used browns also, he used a brown called Cassel Earth, it was made up mainly of decayed vegetable matter. Iron oxide though is the most common ingredient in brown pigments, but also manganese oxide.

I read a fascinating book last year about colours, about the origins, their historical uses and much more. The book is called “Colours: Travels through the paintbox” and is written by Finli Viktoriya. It sure takes one travelling, and also back into history, a great read.
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AUTUMN MIRTH

“To-day I think
Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.”

From a poem called DIGGING.”
Edward Thomas, Collected Poems

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GRANDPA SCRATCHY

What a mellow, mild, and wind still autumn day it was, so nice to spend time outside in the garden today. And Ruben came, and Ian felt like splitting some of the larger logs, so a lot of activity was happening in the garden. At first Ruben and I were pruning soft fruits, Ruben was collecting the leaves and twigs, then we went and dug out a forgotten potato plant, Ruben got one big potato and some babies which he was very happy about, then there were broad beans to pick and gather. After that I lost my little helper to Ian who came out to split his logs. Ruben takes such an interest and is learning all the time, he gathered up the logs as they fell, with the biggest of smiles on his face, he just loves helping Ian. He even had a little go at letting the hammer fall on the axe, under the eagle eyed supervision from amma (that’s me) of course, and grandpa scratchy too. Grandpa scratchy got his name from his little grandson, (because of his beard), and now he’s grandpa scratchy for my grandson too. We are both very fond of Ruben and love to see him grow and do so well with everything he learns about.
To end the day we all sat down for the usual cup of tea, a worker deserves their break isn’t it, it is a ‘thing’ between Ruben and us, the cup of tea while having a rest from working in the garden. A good feeling.

These beautiful mild autumn days are just what we need here in West Cork after a wet and cool summer. How blessed we really are.

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Sorting the garlic for planting,    And playing with his block, trucks, and grandpa scratchy!

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THE LONG STRAND AND SEAWEED

A very refreshing walk on the beach at Long Strand this Sunday held a pleasant surprise for us, apart from being just wonderful as it was a mild, wind still day. The beach had just a few people and dogs walking on it, and there were some surfers playing on the waves, it was relaxing and very tranquil. And to our surprise we found a lot of loose seaweed lying around, the tide was coming in so we took some of it over to the car, to use in the garden, when it is well rotted and the salt is removed. So I have now got it soaking in the bath. I am really happy about finding the seaweed as it is priceless for use as compost. Nature is so bountiful, everywhere you turn it gives us rich pickings for use to improve our soil. The other day I gathered the brown leaves from the front garden to make it into leaf mould which is extraordinary stuff to use.

This new week is going to be a busy one in the garden, planting garlic, dealing with the seaweed, some pruning (got a book out from the library), taking down the last of the bean plants, taking out old strawberry plants, and much more… hopefully the weather stays calm and dry. This is a most beautiful time of the year, full of beautiful and vibrant colours and earthy scents, I love it so much.
A time to celebrate harvests of all sorts, and to be thankful for so many blessings.

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