Summer has been long, warm and dry, how lovely it has been this year and still it continues though it is almost the end of September. The beautiful warm sunshine illuminates the now autumn colours. Day by day the leaves are turning red, yellow and all shades of brown. Pungent scents fill our lungs, it is a delight to our minds and souls.
My sister and I were discussing food for the soul the other day and while giving it deep thought I know what it is that often feeds my soul; it is what I find and observe in nature, meditation on it and thankfulness for it.
Last weekend my daughter took me to Killarney in Co. Kerry and one of our plans was to walk in the national forest which is one of the remaining ancient forests in Ireland with many native trees. The two days we spent there were very restorative. The beauty of the trees laden with their seeds at this time was what inspired us, we talked about it, it made us cheerful and light-hearted. We rested for coffee and cake at a thatched roof cottage and sat out in the sunshine with leaves lightly twirling around us, our conversation deep and yet full of excitement at being in a place where we felt not a care in the world.
Though this was the first time I had a break since before covid time, I have gathered quite a collection of photos over the summer that are now waiting to be used and written about in my blog. So watch this space! (I will as well 🙂 )
While we are well into November we are still experiencing mild, dry, and even windless weather which is a little unusual for West Cork at this time. What I observe in my garden is young growth all around, the garden is bursting with life! It promises to be an abundance of wild plants next spring and summer. I see strong young plants of foxgloves and borage, sturdy young nettles, feverfew, and tansy plants, mullein and forget-me-nots, comfrey, evening primrose and lemon balm, lemon verbena too. And fabulous displays of herb robin! The variety of green shades is wonderful and the vibrant energy coming from all this young life is super! I’m not worried that these plants will die during the winter unless we have an extra cold one, as this growth happens every autumn and you can see what you have in store for the following season. I might have to thin out some of the foxgloves even as there are so many of them coming up. I did not sow any of these plants, they self-seed, they get on with their own lives and I let them be. Such a pleasure to see them grow.
Flowers are still brightening some spaces in the garden which is important for any pollinators that are still around. We saw bumblebees well into October this year, it was so mild and there was very little rain and wind. This summer, late summer I should say as they did not arrive until August… there were more butterflies than I normally see in the garden. In the beginning I only saw the whites, but then it was mostly the tortoise but also some admirals and peacock butterflies. I will be making a better record next season after I recently read a book on butterfly conservation, I will also leave some branches at the back of the garden which I was planning to clear. Nature gives us less work if we start to understand it properly!
Some inside snaps, as the days draw in our attention also goes inside the house a little more. I am lining some of the curtains with thermal lining. Ian is working on his project, while I am enjoying my study very much too, it is cosy and we both enjoy each other’s company and are excited about our separate projects.
We have started to feed our wild birds again too, we are still waiting for the chaffinches to arrive. Last winter we had one or two with the dreaded disease trichomoniasis, it was sad to see this. We are really looking forward to their return soon, some of them are migrants, some are home-birds. Apart from a whole host of wild birds we have three collared doves that feed everyday in our garden.
Well, this is more or less what is going on during this first part of November. I wish you all a good autumn, enjoy and hope you are well wherever you are.
This morning over breakfast my attention was drawn towards the hills and I noticed a change in their colours. This lead to a pleasant conversation over our coffee, a positive change from our usual topic of… what’s going on in the world… so we were discussing what makes these hills change colour in the fall. It is a well known phenomena in these parts. I first remember seeing this in the landscape around the village of Glengarriff, a seaside village lying a bit more to the south of here on the Beara peninsula, it is almost surrounded by quite high hills, Sugar Loaf being the highest at 501 metres, and I remember, while I spend time there, that the hills took on a beautiful brown in the fall. Not only that but the lower lying parts would show a most beautiful beige, almost blond shade. And why that was is easy to explain as it is of course due to the foliage of plants growing on the slopes and higher up changing their colours.
The colour palette of browns is very attractive, browns like sienna, russet, or burnt umber are surely seen in this autumn landscape, and during the winter the shades might be darker, like deep coffee brown which is a rich, dark shade. These ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) but called bracken around here, are a very wide spread fern in Ireland, they grow all over the hills and tree-lined roadsides, they even came growing in our garden. I think that it is the damp weather that makes them thrive so well. They are beautiful especially when their leaves unfurl, or like this in the autumn season.
In this photo the grasses, which have the lighter colour, can be seen higher up on the hill. These grasses of which I do not have a photo at present, are very beautiful and growing along the road at the slopes of Priest Leap mountain also in Glengarriff, they give the best show of all our surroundings when it comes to colour. I am trying to think what the best way is of describing their shade, it is between straw, cream and beige, you could almost call it blond! It is very bright and light and gives the landscape a wonderful glow.
Yes, that is how I remember seeing them, a wonderful glow that is very easy on the eye.
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.
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.
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.
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.