BEAUTY OF FUNGI

These brown and white false turkey tail fungi are presently growing on the cut off but very much alive trunk of our chestnut tree. They surprised me this Sunday morning while taking a stroll around the garden, and I thought they looked beautiful. The garden at present is very wet, but to my delight tender new growth is appearing everywhere.

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.

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

TENDER SEEDLINGS AND ROBUST SHOOTS

After a full two weeks of sunshine and mild weather, we are now experiencing some crazy April showers! Heavy rain is drenching our valley and wind is tearing at the blossoms of our trees.  For now the frosty nights we had lately are definitely over.  Inside, however, there is plenty of activity and the conservatory cum dining room, half of the kitchen, and part of my bedroom are all taken up by tender young seedlings or robust shoots.  Pots are everywhere but it is a delight to see.  Ian too is sleeping between all this young growth.

I have learnt an important lesson this spring, to date I have always bought my plants at the market stalls and put them straight into the garden, except last spring when I sowed French beans, spinach, and radish as part of an experiment and course with GROWTH.

This January, however, every time I went shopping I came home with at least one packet of seeds or bulbs and doing this cheered me up no end.  Come the beginning of March I could contain myself no longer and started sowing, indoors obviously.  And this was a mistake….some seeds came up after a week or more but did not thrive, most came to nothing.  A few days ago I did another larger sowing and the seed came up almost overnight and so far they are thriving!  Lesson learnt!  Do not sow before April in West Cork!

So far the slugs seem to be still asleep, I find them underneath pots and planks in the garden, unmovable.  Inside is quite another matter….they are travelling leaving silvery trails in their wake over pots, carpet and table, but so far very little damage has been done to plants.

I did plant some old English marigolds outside and I put empty water bottles over them as protection and they are doing fine.   The irises will have to be planted out soon as the shoots are coming on strong, as are the dahlias and begonias.  I’m so looking forward to my first time growing agapanthus.  Furthermore I’ve lots of different rudbekias coming on, I used to grow these and love them, also the time of year when they flower.  Seedlings growing at this moment are petunias, red poppies, ixia, cosmos, zinnia, freesias, eliopsis scabra, and phlox, they are all new plants to me.  Irises I used to grow when I was a teenager, they were blue.

I’ve also sowed marrows, cucumber, basilica, African marigolds, spring onions, chives, lots of heirloom fragrant sweet peas, and the wild bee flower seeds which I bought because they were recommended to help the declining bee population, the sunflowers and the cornflowers.

The local (Brown Envelope) seeds of the garden peas are also coming up beautifully.  There is a lot to be said for sowing locally sourced seeds – plants resulting from them will be more tolerant of local climate.  There remains to be sown my own seeds which I saved from last year’s harvest and these are;   Thistle, catnip, evening primrose, oregano, basil mint, and purple loosestrife, some of these seeds have already self-sown outside. 

The wealth and abundance of nature is a wonderful thing to behold, something to be very grateful for, day by beautiful day.

If, my dear friends, you have continued to read to the end of my notes this time, I congratulate and thank you.  Have a nice day.

Every bit of space where there is sufficient light is taken up by seedlings
Dinner is served on a tray for today!

WALKING THE CUTTING

Mural of the old steam train leaving the street behind in order to drive through The Cutting.

Skibbereen town has something preserved from the past that is quite interesting and has always appealed to many. This market town of old used to have a station, and a train line to Baltimore, a small seaside village, and to Cork city. It also had a narrow gauge line to Schull which is another small seaside village in the area. In the sixties the trains lost their use to bus routes and that was a great pity. And so we are left with some relics from this glorious train travel era. And one such a relic is what people here call ‘The Cutting’, and it is around this that I mapped my second walk. It was not a long walk, just 45 minutes and about 4000 steps. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when I stepped out, I had the sun behind me as I walked along the Baltimore road. Passing many mature and beautiful gardens I then turned right and looked straight at a cottage that must have been associated with the railway I think, that’s what it looked like, maybe there was a level-crossing there. The road turns right again and passes lovely trees, birds were singing high in the branches, bluebells were in bloom even though it was only the end of March! Primroses, buttercups, wild strawberries, and long stemmed daisies were to be seen here and there. The other side of the road was mainly walls, some plastered but others lovely local stone and probably quite old behind which I could see some beautiful trees. I also saw one interesting ancient gate, I love those and always imagine what story they could tell us.

Road signs here in Ireland are in both English and Irish.
I hope whoever lives there won’t mind me using my photo of their lovely place.
It’s early yet for buttercups to flower, yet due to the very mild winter no doubt everything is early this spring.
In someone’s garden…..silhouette of yet another amazing tree, is it alive or dead, too early in the year to see.

And then after passing the sign for Swanton’s Garden Centre, all of a sudden there it lies before you, The Cutting! A road sliced through the rocks, stark high rock walls covered in mosses, ivy, wild plants and even trees, everything seems to be growing out of these rock walls, rainwater drips down here and there, I walk on in the shadow and find it refreshingly chillier. Towards the end of the Cutting, the town’s houses come into sight, here we are at the Bridge street end of the town. Just a little while further there is the iron railway bridge – part of the now West Cork Hotel, and still further along there is the old station on the Marsh road. But before coming to this I found this most beautiful mural of the old steam train on the wall of a disused pub. I then walked back to where I left the car at Drinagh car park. I enjoyed this walk very much, it’s very easy and not long. Footpaths all the way.

Different types of mosses are plentiful on these rocks.

From where we live I can see the hill that overlooks this walk, it is to the West of the town and its a long gentle hill. One of my future walks will be over this hill, the views are great from there, but that’s a story for another day.

SHORT WALKS

Gorse growing in the West Cork landscape along the road leading from the town of Skibbereen towards the coastal villages of Castletownsend or Unionhall. I walked only as far as Russagh Mill Hostel which lies about 2 km from the town. The walk is a pleasant one even though it is along a busy enough road, there is a footpath most of the way which makes it quite safe.
I found that along the road there was quite a bit of wetland, and also a small stream, ducks flew up when I approached. Though my reason for taking the walk was to become fitter, I enjoyed finding so many wild plants and spring flowers by the roadside, among them were two types of wild geraniums.

To my right was Lick Hill, a long hill which is so familiar to me as I can see it from the upstairs window where I live. Its bedrock is made up of purple mudstone and siltstone, behind it and to the South lies the sea, the wild Atlantic Sea. A little more towards the S.West lies the famous Knockomagh Hill, at Lough Hyne. But walking further along this road I passed some lovely green fields, very green, like you only get them in Ireland, typical with Gorse, Hawthorn, and Blackthorn growing in the hedgerows. And today the sky was blue, dotted with woolly white clouds, what a lovely contrast.

Above – Looking back towards our houses, with hawthorn hedging and wetland in front, and then the walk goes on past Liss Ard Estate where I found lots of native trees growing, their buds bursting in the warming spring sun, and birds singing their hearts out for sheer delight.
Also along my walk, and I love to see this, were stone walls, beautifully built from local stone, purple mudstone, shale and I even saw some quartz here and there. These are often grown full of little ferns, mosses, and other wild plants, this one in the photo must have been built fairly recently though.

And in people’s gardens, a magnificent Camelia bush in full bloom!
I also came across this beautiful blue door, the colour of it dazzled me!
Last, but not least, this little ladybird was sunny itself, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen at least a dozen over the last few days.
I have marked out at least seven walks in the vicinity of Skibbereen town, I’m doing this for my health, both body and mind. This particular walk took me 50 minutes and all round it was about 4km in distance. When we used to spend our winters on the island of Gozo I used to walk everywhere, exploring the whole island and all it’s little villages, and it was such a delight. I have missed this very much in the past six months and so I decided to make the best of it by mapping out some do-able walks around here and exploring nature or architecture or whatever I can find to interest me, and reading up on it all. The beautiful sunshine of the past few days has helped greatly to encourage me and inspire me, and off to a good start it has been. I am truly grateful.

NATURE AT MIDWINTER

I went for a little walk today, it was misty but very mild. At about three in the afternoon I stepped out wanting to enjoy the birdsong along the way. There is a little boreen (path) close by, which is flanked by rock and hedge on both sides. I find the nicest little plants there and today was no different even if it is mid-winter. The temperature is 11C which is quite normal for the time of the year here in sub-tropical West Cork (due to the gulf-stream bringing warmth to our region). There was a slight smell of some coal burning chimney’s but only slight as the breeze carried the smell away. It was great to feel the fresh breeze on my face and give my legs some movement after all the sitting down at my study the last few months. I finished my course now and I found it immensely interesting. Thank you Yale University and Coursera. I learned all about the development of Gothic architecture in Cathedral building, and read some medieval literature and history. I feel so enriched by it all and enjoyed every minute of it. It is now back to my blog writing and to my garden! Wishing everyone of my friends and followers a relaxing day and a nice Christmas.

GREEN-VEINED WHITE – Pieris napi

Today while gardening a lovely butterfly came to check out some dark pink Oxalis flowers, it was a warm and sunny day here in West Cork, and because the two previous days we experienced soft Irish rain the garden was fresh and beautiful. The colours and the green shades were easy on the eye. And since we have quite a few wild flowers in bloom, we are visited by a good variety of visitors from the insect world. But today it was the butterflies that took away first price.  Yes, since I started reading the book “The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals” by Patrick Barkham, my interest in butterflies has intensified. Patrick Barkham first went butterfly spotting as a child with his father in Norfolk. His book documents his search for different butterflies found in the British islands. It is a slow read but quite interesting, I am hooked.
I think that the butterfly in my photos is a Green-veined White (Pieris Napi).

Biodiversity Ireland is holding a Butterfly Bash this week and we are sending records of all the butterflies we see into https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/start-recording

Lovely to have seen this striking butterfly today and I will be on the look out for more. I hope you enjoy them too.

DSCF2218

20180522_143332

“WE ARE ALL BUTTERFLIES. EARTH IS OUR CHRYSALIS.” LeeAnn Taylor