BUTTERFLIES, HONEYBEES AND THE NEIGHBOUR’S CAT

A happy Monday morning wishes to all, hope that your week has started well. My week could not have started any better when early on I woke up to glorious sunshine. I happen to glance out of the window to the front garden and the buddleia bush and there I saw the most beautiful butterflies, five different species. They were fluttering among the honeybees of which there were over half a dozen.   I stood watching them for a long time and only then thought about taking some photos and I’m glad that I did because in a way I feel that I have captured their beauty to share with so many others, and that makes me happy!

What a beautiful time of the year it is!
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This is a peacock butterfly, it is found all over Ireland. It hibernates during the winter. It’s got to be the most beautiful of the butterflies in Ireland.
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This was amazing, so many species on the one flower spike, there is the red admiral, these feed on over-ripe fruit and also in particular you see them on the buddleia bush. There is also a painted lady and a small tortoise butterfly.  Not to forget the lovely honeybee, it’s so nice to see many of these around isn’t it, knowing that they are on the decline.

Painted Lady butterfly
Painted Lady butterfly

After I had stood there for a long time watching them, there came a neighbour’s cat and she could think of nothing better to do but to try and catch the butterflies, she managed to get hold of one branch of flowers and destroyed that, but the butterflies were able to escape and of course, much as I love cats, she got chased away very quickly by me.

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MY GARDEN UPDATE ~ JULY

It has been a while since I did serious work in the garden, seeing that I had not sowed nor planted anything this season, I had let the garden be for the bees and the insects, they of course took full advantage of the wilderness, and though there were not as many insects around this summer, I was still able to find some today. I had my little helper with me all day, Ruben, my grandson, came over and we both put on our wellingtons and out we went, we soon started to pull some of the overgrown cleavers away from other plants, also some of the ivy was removed. The two cold frames were totally overgrown some of the plants were pushing up the plastic and some had grown through it! Ruben, being almost 6 and a very enthusiastic worker was lifted into the frame and soon had pulled all the ‘weeds’ out, they then went on to the compost heap. We covered the earth in one of the cold frames with comfrey leaves, that will be good for the soil.

Ian came and cut the grass so we could use this for mulching as well.  We spotted quite a few insects and I am happy to say that Ruben does not mind them at all, he is just very interested in the little creatures and seems to quite love them.  Here is one beauty sitting on the flowers of a parsley plant, there were several others on the same plant.

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Then there were all these weevils, and several different types of beetles, spiders, and caterpillars, lots of woodlouse as well. And the snails and slugs could not be counted, so many.

We have at this moment quite a few of these most beautifully scented white clover growing, I sowed them last year to improve the soil and they are giving a lovely display this summer.  They will be good for the soil.  The flowers of the parsley are quite beautiful too, they seem to attract many different insects.

And so the summer is moving along, there is more work to do, is lots to prepare before we leave for Gozo in autumn, though the garden will not be unattended while we are gone as there will be people in and out of the place all the time, still, I must make sure that when we return the garden will be ready for me to start more planting.

MIDSUMMER IN OUR IRISH GARDEN

Well it is midsummer now, there has been a stillness in the air all day, now as the sun slowly disappears behind Mount Gabriel, the swifts are making merry above the houses here, probably the coolness of the evening has allowed the insects to dans around making easy prey for those happily swooping birds.
It is wind still.

How nice after the emotional and exciting last two days after voting results came out, Brexit is out….. will chaos follow, or not!

I was out in the garden today, looking at what is growing, and was pleasantly surprised with the flowers and the herbs, there is not much else growing as I did not plant any vegetables, but there are quite a few wild edible plants which I am using. I did not sow nor did I plant this year because this coming autumn we are going away again, but more about that another time. There are some berries growing and producing, strawberries, red currants, raspberries, are all doing really well. The herbs too have never grown better, makes me very happy.

Though I am leaving every single flower wild or not, I am disappointed with the lack of bees and other insects, despite there being a beehive just in next door’s garden! I still have to see my first butterfly too this summer, even though I spent days in the midst of nature last week. I hope that will change soon.

DISTRACTED BY LIFE

As it was an overcast but still very nice day, I decided to do some work in our own garden. I cleared one raised bed ready for growing some plants, but I am delighted with what is growing there already, there are plenty of herbs, such as rosemary, lemon balm, lavender, evening primrose, oca, oregano (two types), and of all things some Jerusalem artichokes have come up too. So I just took out some grass and some other stuff that was smothering those plants. Ian decided to come and work with me, so he cleared the path on his knees with a small little knife, no easy task to be sure.  Now and then we took a rest, either for tea or chat, or to admire the creatures flying or crawling around.  Meanwhile I took a few shots of them.

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These are three wild plants that I am keeping my eye on very closely, number one is a huge thistle, it is almost in flower, I know that the seeds are what the gold finch feed on and that is why I want to keep it, to attract these birds and see how it goes.  The second one is our comfrey plant, it’s flourishing and what I am watching is the amount of insects that are using it, most of what I see are the bumblebees and I would love to see some honey bees on the comfrey too, of course.  The third plant is two years old, I grew it as a salad plant but it was so beautiful that I did not want to eat it, so I let it grow, and when we returned from Gozo it was so large and I recognised it as a plant you see a lot around here in the wild, a type of sorrel perhaps.  These three are on my watch list.

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And this is a view of our garden, we have had the pleasure to sit under the hawthorn tree all week for our meals, in the dappled sunlight with the garden scents all around us and the birds singing, what a perfect summer weather, aware that for people in other lands, not as lucky just then because of rains and floods.

Always nice to appreciate what we have in the moment.

SUMMER SHADOWS

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“It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.”
From John Koethe’s ‘Sally’s Hair’.

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Breakfast under the Hawthorn tree is such a summery pleasure, birds singing in the trees all around us, what a beautiful start to the day.

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Today I was inspired by the shadows of some trees along the road to town, what I saw reminded me of some of the impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, and others, also more modern painters like Marc Hanson or Terri Ford.  I have always loved the way these guys painted the shadows under the trees, and indeed I love walking under trees during sunny weather for the same reason, the sun playing among the leaves, the shadows in all shades of grey, the dappled sunlight interesting and playful. The shade under the trees giving perhaps cooling to an overheated brain.

How I wish I could paint these shadows, and that light.

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THE GIFTS OF MOTHER EARTH

Just when I thought that it could not get any better, and this while I was taking delight in the garden the day after we arrived home again in Ireland, mother nature has given me another two beautiful surprises, first I discovered that there were several patches of forget-me-nots flowering, their blue a delight to the eye, then I discovered that there are several lilies of the valley flowers almost opening, how truly magical! I had not known what to expect of the garden on our return, no sooner were we home than I went to inspect, and that’s when I found lots of surprises, vegetables wild and not so wild, and waiting for me to make soup of them, kale and leeks and other goodies, they were not ready when we left in March, but now they are just waiting to be made into delicious dishes. Herbs too are doing well and looking very lush, the lemon balm has never looked so good, rosemary, lavender, comfrey and others are all ready to be used. Then I saw that the cold frames looked a bit bulky, and checked it out, to my amazement there was one plant of lettuce which had grown to become a monstrosity, the leaves so huge that one leaf would do a whole meal 🙂 Not sure what happened there!  Some grass had also grown large inside. Lots of work to be done that is for sure, but I already have helpers lined up, my grandchildren, one of them had a birthday today, she is now four, and she wants a wheelbarrow, she wants to do gardening, and no fear of that, because she is small she can fit into the cold frames easily so she can do the weeding in there if she likes, looking forward to that. Anyway we are back in West Cork, and we are now already fully occupied with our work here in garden and house. Plans have been made for later in the year when we will be returning to the island of Gozo where we spent a wonderful two months, a time that will stay with us for very long.

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On the last lot of photos, some onions which I had left in the kitchen sprouted, and are now ready to plant out.  Also I had some oca tubers in a pot and I found the shoots creeping through a hole in the lid and the whole pot filled with sprouts, how funny!

NATURAL DIVERSITY ON GOZO

I walked up a rocky path along the deep blue water today.
Lizards were scuttling about all over the place. Their green skin beautiful. It was sunny and hot, very hot, water dripped from my cap and down my forehead. I saw so many wild flowers and plants around me and I wanted to record them all, like I usually do. It is then I saw the black bees, lovely, a type I do not know.
People are swimming in the creek this afternoon, and snorkelling and diving. The walk takes me up along the hot rocks, and then down to a small cave and to the water. The views are magnificent. The rocky outcrop consist of limestone in white, grey, black, and brown. I take photos, lots of them. The rocks are quite eroded in some places, making for interesting shapes and hollows.

GOZA’S NATURAL HERITAGE

This morning we made our first walk in Gozo. We are staying in Xlendi which is a little place on the South-West of the island. It consists of what looks like a ravine, or a mini-fjord, and is flanked on the one side with apartments built in honey coloured limestone, and with rocks and short shrubbery on the other side.

DSCF4526We are staying in one of the apartments, ground floor at the front door, but a very high fourth floor on the opposite side where the balcony is.

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The apartment does not get much sun as it is NW facing, only when the sun is about to go down do we see any of it, nice to get the setting sun, however, it does make the place here rather chilly for the time of year, and for the first time since we arrive on the Maltese island have I had to wear thermals inside. Outside, though it is glorious, lovely and warm in the sun, and the sky blue without any cloud. Obviously we are going to be outside most of the time, soaking up the sun as much as all the history and architecture of the island, but this morning I concentrated on the natural heritage which is simply amazing and so interesting.

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We walked down a path only a stone’s throw away, and discovered a wealth of wildlife and flora, we also saw the most beautiful blue sea and rocks stretching as far as the eye could see. I got working with taking macro photos of the flowers and insects while Ian strolled on and sat resting on one of the many benches. One of the most pleasing factors was the sea breeze which was both refreshing and warmly scented.

The flower of the Mallow plant, and an ant lost on the large hot rocks. The shrubs and wild plants are low and stay small mainly because there is such a water shortage here, it is April right now and the people have not seen any rain since the New Year. The rocky soil also contributes to the stunted growth of the plants. Everywhere we see lizards, beautiful little creatures, very fast, though they love to just sun bathe, difficult subjects to take photos of.  Their colour varies, but like this one green seems to predominate.

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There is a steep road down to the little harbour, apparently at some time there are many of the Gozitan fishing boats anchored there, but now, now we only saw clear aqua marine water and fish of which I do not know the name.

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This is the path leading down to the sea, there is also another path that leads over the hill towards the tower seen on the left and to some of the salt pans. But that is going to be a walk for another day.

 

 

In the photo on the right, Lichen, these lichen are growing colourfully on some of the rocks, the rocks are mainly limestone, with plainly to see fossils.

Here is one of the fossils, they are so interesting and make for an exciting walk, to think that these creatures are the makings of the sedentary rocks surrounding us.

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One of my favourite photos and views of the morning was this flower, the name of it escapes me totally, please if someone knows can you tell me.  It was delicately scented.

DSCF4590Among other plants and trees I’ve seen are the African Tamarix trees here, they are considered an endangered species, but seem to do well here.

And yet another creature I came across, a type of beetle I guess.

I know that there is a lot more to explore in nature here, this is only the first day and we have a whole month here.  I hope to keep writing about what I discover and illustrate with my photos.  Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed.