SPECTACULAR SKIES

“Our mind is a limitless sky, and we can only be an albatross flying in the vast expanse to occasionally discover the joys of sublimity!” – Avijeet Das

“Bursts of gold on lavender melting into saffron. It’s the time of day when the sky looks like it has been spray-painted by a graffiti artist.” – Mia Kirshner

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” – Anton Chekhov

the summer of the grasses

Ireland has around 100 different types of grasses, including native and non-native grasses, a fact of which I was not aware, but recently I bought a guide on grasses from Ireland’s National Biodiversity Data Centre and now I am learning about them. I have always found that many grasses are beautiful and decorative and there are always plenty of them around. Especially this summer the back of our garden is full of them, full of different types and they are growing nice and tall with lots of seeds to show. I don’t know all the different names yet but am looking them up one by one.

Our garden has been left to grow all the wild plants that were willing to come up this year. There were plenty of foxgloves, thistles, sow thistles, dandelions, nettles, buttercups, borage, evening primrose, herb Robert, plantain, and many more wild plants, and of course grasses and I’ve let them all grow. This means that things were a bit overgrown the last few weeks and now I have a helper, Dave, who is moving some plants and shrubs around for me so that I can plant our winter vegetables soon.

So here follow some photos of our grasses, I find them all very beautiful and am eager to learn more about them.

And so the summer is moving along and plenty of plants are already in seed including the grasses. The wind is dispersing the seeds and it follows that next year we will probably have even more grasses, these grow at the very back of the garden on a piece of uncultivated land which I want to keep wild. Leaving the wild plants and flowers to grow has been successful and we are seeing butterflies and bees of all sorts. There is always lots to discover even in a smallish garden and that is great for the nature lover who is house bound for part of the time. It is also great for anyone.

Dear friends I hope that you are enjoying this lovely summer, or your winter and especially that you are enjoying whatever blessings that nature gives you in your own surroundings.

MIDSUMMER

A windless morning in the garden. A lone robin is singing in the birch tree. Some sounds are travelling up from the town in the valley. I’m having my morning coffee outside on the patio and enjoying this beautiful and peaceful scene. Our foxgloves are almost totally in seed now, only the tops of their long stems are still a beautiful pink, they have been very good for the pollinators. This morning only a few bumblebees have visited. Seagulls and crows are flying over our airspace shouting confident cries. Sparrows are chirping in the hawthorn tree, many of them. How I love all those sounds.

Of the usual two dozen that years ago were, there are now only four swifts visiting in our area, I so miss their summery sounds above our houses and gardens.

How I enjoy all this activity in nature, and this morning is a rare break in my own daily activities, a solace to the soul, a much desired rest for the body. And yet it is there for the taking – whenever and free. A true blessing.

OBSERVATIONS

Some weeks ago my sister Josephine stayed with us, it had been three years since she travelled to Ireland and we were overjoyed to see her. With her she brought me this beautiful gift. A little special notebook that she bought at an exhibition of works by Gustaf Klimt in Brussels. It is so beautiful that I decided it can only contain words about beauty, and so the thought came into my mind to use it to note down some of the observations of my quieter moments. Observations in nature and in daily life. I like to share them with you.

17 May 2022

Today, in the garden I enjoyed the wild freshness after rain. I saw that our elderberry tree is about to come into flower, and that will be the first time since I planted it. The foxgloves are opening pink and beautiful. There are buttercups among other wild flowers, everywhere the growth is abundant and the trees, we have four, are looking very lush, their leaves still somewhat laden down with drops of rain. The hawthorn also has started to flower and there is a faint, delicate scent in the air. Birds started singing. I felt a breeze and now and then rain fell from fast moving clouds. These were perfect moments, I love the scent that rises from the earth after rain, it is so refreshing.

19 May 2022

The intense colour from the cineraria flowers in the Ilen street in town, the deep sky blue was a sight to behold. The scent was faint, it just caressed my nostrils and soothed my brain. Early morning in Skibbereen, the sun has just started to warm the cement of the colourful town houses. I feel good in expectation of the day ahead.

20 May 2022

It was while on my course on biodiversity with Wild Work. We were having a conversation about native woodlands and native wild plants. What took my special interest was a little wild plant that I had not seen growing here in West Cork before, it is called Sanicle (sanicula marilandica). It’s native and a woodland plant, it belongs to the carrot family, we found it on the grounds of a large woodland area.

21 May 2022

Today we cooked with aromatic spices and lentils, an Indian recipe. Alice and I enjoyed seeing all the spices come together and release their aroma, the dish we cooked was dahl. So delicious and an good dish for vegetarian Alice to learn to cook, she loved it. Earlier I was very pleased to see how well our oak-leaved lettuce were doing in the garden, the brightness of their various shades of red was invigorating.

22 May 2022

From my kitchen window I noticed the unripe fruits of the krentenboom (Amelanchier lamarckii), and it reminded me of the cycle of life; Just recently the flowers appeared, then the leaves turned the tree quite green, and now the fruits are already ripening, slowly they will become red later on in the year. I could see the parallel with our own lives and the thought that our times are fleeting moments in the greater cycle of things, of times. It is a very natural happening.

23 May 2022

While opening our front door, I looked down to the yearly new growth of the lady’s mantle and it inspired me, very beautiful and delicate, its veins like capillaries in our own bodies, green instead of red, dark green actually on the light green leaf… spreading out from its twig. Perfection!

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse in my little book of observations, it has been a pleasure to share them with you.

A LITTLE DETOUR

Bantry Bay

Yes a little detour in this remote part of Ireland is always exciting to say the least, I knew that I was going to do it, I knew that I was going to take photos and I also knew that it was going to be a lovely break. So after my appointment in Bantry I drove into a little side lane off the N71 and followed it down to the rocky seashore. Magnificent views of Bantry bay with the Caha mountains in the distance greeted me. I strolled along the path leading beside the air-strip, quite a few people and dogs were walking there and one man had his fishing rod out into the sea. The rocks were colourful. The air smelled of seaweed and was very fresh. Somewhere far away I could hear a blackbird singing, one of my favourite birdsongs. When I walked back to my car this last view surprised me, I thought that I could easily have been in Canada probably because of the lovely pine trees. Peaceful and at the same time invigorating, this little diversion to my day gave me plenty, I realised all of a sudden that I had been doing an exercise that my recently bought book on photography in nature advised me. That is, spending 10 minutes in nature, breathing deeply, really observing nature, taking note of what you see, hear, smell and how that makes you feel, how that affects the photos, and all that even while I often spend much longer in nature, but then I probably don’t always take it in so intensely.

View towards Shrone Hill
Sugarloaf mountain to the left
I’m actually totally in love with these mountains and hills
Beautiful Bantry Bay
This view gave me much pleasure

This book I am currently using to inspire my nature photography, only just started it and finding it helpful and enjoyable. (translation title… Grip on creativity, developing your own style in nature photography).
It gives me a new perspective on the endless photos that I take. It is mainly about creativity. I will talk more about this book when I have read and practised a bit more of what it teaches. Here’s one of my try-outs.

A PEEK INTO MY HOUSEPLANT COLLECTION

Even as a young girl I have always loved keeping houseplants and our mother allowed me to take care of those we had at home. Our collection consisted mainly of clivia’s and sansevierias, also busy lizzies and geraniums. Later after my husband and I moved to Ireland and lived in a lodge house, there I started a new collection. Houseplants were not so much on the agenda here and so in the beginning I grew mostly geraniums and primulas which I grew of my own seeds or cuttings. I always had houseplants except during the years when I was travelling a lot, then it was not practical. At some period I had a whole collection of cacti and they flowered beautifully. Now I like to vary my collection, my most recent addition are some bromeliads, small ones which I bought in Lidl. Some of the plants were gifted to me, or came as cuttings from friends and one of them even came from a long way away. Having them around me in my kitchen never ceases to give me good feelings, every time I pass they fill me with joy because of their beauty. They grow by artificial light because our house is fairly dark and this light needs to be on anyway all day. I need plenty of light myself to function! I also cultivate some orchids, peace lilies, a money plant and an Easter cactus. So here I am sharing some of my plants with you all and hope that you enjoy.

These small bromeliad are so beautiful

My dear readers, friends and family do you have plant collections too? I would love to hear what collections you have. I’ve enjoyed sharing mine with you.

IN THE ABSENCE OF INTENTION

It’s kind of beautiful to sit inside a bus and see a city from the windows. Yung Lean

The other day saw me taking the bus up to Cork city, it had been two years since something like this happened and it excited me more than a little. A bus ride always reminds me of travel and of course that is what has been missing in most of our lives and especially in mine. The unromantic reason for the journey was an hospital appointment, but I did try to look upon it as a little adventure, and yet I did not expect to feel so free and refreshed by walking through the city, it had not been my intention!

The colours on this cold by crisp January day were vivid, it pleased me very much.
There have been colourful changes in Cork city, much more eat and drinking places outside, very continental
This was the time of day when not that many people walked around
The river Lee and the quays never changing, always there
I came across some very contemporary architecture, that was interesting too
Striking colours and lines
River Lee is also the homestead of the many gulls

It was a journey of necessity, it turned into a pleasant and relaxing experience.

THE SEASON CONTINUES

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.

SURPRISES IN A LATE SUMMER GARDEN

Not having worked in the garden for over a week, I am being surprised and delighted with all sorts of late summer growth. Our pumpkins (if indeed they are pumpkins) have really come on well, apart from having the most beautiful flowers, they have a subtle scent, and then there are the actual pumpkins that keep appearing among the foliage and surprise me with their fast growth, spreading over paths and over our bit of lawn, they are a joy to behold and I am thinking… pumpkin soup! In Gozo, while we were there, I used to make it often. The shops there are full of pumpkins during the winter and they sell these in slices so that you can buy a fresh supply everyday, it makes the most delicious soup.

The flowers are almost golden, such brightness cheering up an overgrown and sometimes tired late summer garden.

Pumpkins surprising me everywhere between the foliage, and many more in the earliest stage of development. If the weather stays kind then we should have a good harvest. Last year I saved seeds from a pumpkin that I used in cooking and these plants are the result. They actually don’t look to me like the orange pumpkins that I know but we’ll see what they turn into. It’s an experiment. The little yellow one came up as Lemon summer squash on Google.

A willow herb (epilobium hirsutum) that came growing beside the patio has almost totally covered the path down to the rest of the garden, but this wild plant has been so beautiful all summer and it has attracted so many insects. The large daisies were a gift from a kind neighbour, these will be lovely in the border next summer, they grow well here and multiply fast. The oregano I grew in an old bottomless bucket and it’s given us much joy all summer. A lone rudbeckia flower has a beautiful dark pink colour, and a tiny little bumblebee is taking nectar from a marigold.

Above are the variegated oregano. Some marigolds, one of our wild purple marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) and the wild scented roses have finally flowered and show some lovely red rosehips now. The gladiola is flowering for the first time and that was another nice surprise for me. The mallow I had planted this past springtime and it’s nice to see how this has spread and flowered all summer.

A little word about our variegated oregano (origanum vulgare) plant. I planted it about five years ago, it flowers during august and it attracts an enormous amount of insects, from bees to hoverflies, a variety of bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, drone flies, and many more lovely creatures. Oregano stays green all winter long although it dies down a good bit, the climate here is mild in the winter (so far so good) and that is why the plant survives so easily. Until I looked it up I never realised that oregano is a plant from the Mint family. Looking at it closely I can see it alright. It is a culinary herb but I don’t use it quite enough, I usually leave it to the insects.

Another nice surprise is that several young plants are now appearing by themselves, from experience I know that they will survive the winter and will flower beautifully next spring and summer. So far I have come across borage, foxgloves, comfrey, and feverfew, too many of them to leave them all grow, all of them self-seeded. Last year I had several evening primrose plants, but this summer they did not show up. My kale plants that I grew last winter is also self-sowing and some young plants appearing here and there. Last month I have planted some autumn leeks and they are doing well. Our potatoes were a disaster so hopefully next year better. In the next few weeks I will plant some more winter vegetables when I get to the market to purchase the plants.

Plenty to think about and to plan, the garden, as ever giving us much pleasure and also quite a bit of work, but that is good for me.