WINTER GARDEN

taking stock of garden winter 2018

Beginning of January, and even though the days are still quite dark, there is a change to be noticed and it does the soul good.  The mist and heavy clouded days have left us for the last few days, and though we have still not seen any sunshine, there seems to be more light in the sky.  It is good, I think that one could learn to live without any sunshine, though it is hard to get used to it – it seems to be here to stay!

This morning I went into the garden and took stock of what is happening, and there is lots!  There are the strong rigid and juicy looking leeks, the bright red and colourful chard, the celery and the cropping cabbages.  There are also the many different herbs which are flourishing right now, oregano, thyme, lavender, sage, feverfew, dandelion, mullein, broad leaved parsley, three-cornered wild leeks, young cleavers, and even some young and tender nettles.  It’s a very mild winter here, though we had very much rain during October, November and part of December.  The temperature has not gone much below 10 or 11C and the soil temperature has only just now reached 10C whereas it kept to a steady 12 to 15C before Christmas.

The days for planning my garden for the next season are now, that is always very enjoyable.  This year my plan it to grow many more flowers, wild and cultivated, so that as many as possible insects will have food.   For ourselves I plan to grow some flowering shrubs that will cheer us during winter.  Bright yellow Forsythia comes to mind, but more research is wanted.

What I take away from this winter is that there are certain vegetables that will grow easily and that we eat every day, these would be leeks, kale, chard, and herbs, these I will grow again and more plentiful next winter.

I wish those of us who garden a great season and much fun and happiness in their garden! 🙂

 

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.

 

READING THE LANDSCAPE

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The landscape that I am thinking about if not some wild stretch along the coast or hill side here in West Cork.  It is, rather, my immediate surroundings – our garden, where I have access any time of day or night and can make observations in any season of the year.  Let it be during my early morning stroll past the vegetable plots to the back where everything is disorderly and where wild things grow, or let it be during the height of day when the sun is streaming through the tree canopies, or at times when Irish mist engulfs us and brings the clouds real close to the earth.  Night time too is good to find and learn to understand the many creatures that are about.

Our garden is small, it slopes down slightly and it has four mature trees giving shade, a chestnut, silver birch, hawthorn, and a Mediterranean oak.  These all provide shelter for the many birds that frequent on a daily basis, from the little wren to the hooded crows – all are very welcome.

I find it a source of immense pleasure and joy to observe not only all the plants that grow, but to see and know all the wildlife – every little creature, to find out their species, their lifecycle, their name.  To take photos of them helps me sometimes to study one or other aspect of them in more detail.  There is always more to learn and discover, and I find a lot of information on Google as well as in books.

Why my garden, and not the larger landscape around me.  Well it is down to logistics really, my garden I can go into at any moment, it is a daily ritual, a meditation that I have got so used to that it would be hard to live without it.  The wider landscape does get observed too, but not that frequently.

In the garden next door the people keep a pony, this attracts a certain amount of flies to the neighbourhood and that is good.  The other neighbour keeps a small hive of bees, and it is nice to have those come into the garden at times.  Behind our dilapidated sheds at the very back, where some rotting wood also gives shelter to a variety of insects, the ground, covered in wild plants and grasses, slopes down towards the town, well below us.

And so this small bit of nature, filled with wild plants and herbs has an eco-system all of its own, rich in variety and brimming with creatures, a goldmine for anyone with an interest.  Great joy can be found in reading this landscape and finding new discoveries every day.  The changing seasons, even the high temperatures and drought recently brought about unique or forgotten surprises, like the very large wasps that we had not seen for many years.

I watch, and listen, and observe, and I find that the natural world is a great source of joy!

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Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta,

Aglais urticae - small tortoiseshell

SUMMER IS UPON US

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I saw a heart in the sky the other day, and I would like to wish all my friends and followers love and kindness in their lives.

Lots is happening in the garden of course at this time of the year, wonderful things;  strawberries ripen, some are eaten by the birds who then give us their beautiful singing in return.  Basil mint is about the nicest scented mint I ever smelled, I am glad to have been given a pot of it.  The empty beehive on the little roof in our next door neighbour’s garden has of today received a swarm of bees.  We have to find out yet what type they are, they came buzzing around my head quite aggressively while we were drinking tea outside, so I wonder.  The comfrey flowers got destroyed by a week of wind and rain and it is now all manure on some of the raised beds.  There are but few flowers left in the garden at present but more are on the way to blooming.

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I think that there is something so nice about seeing clean linnen blowing in the wind outside, the will be so fresh when I take them in.

But more importantly here is an small update of my experiment in plot 1 and plot 2.

In Plot 1 the beans are finally growing better, they are well established and are climbing up the poles.  The spinach on the other hand are bolting, though they are growing leaves too.  There is a lot of wild plants growing in between the beans beside the spinach, the beans, and the radish (for the experiment).  I have found double poppies and also borage plants which I want to keep so I am not touching them at the moment.  In Plot 2, and there is a huge difference, there is nothing growing from under the leaf mould.  I am still giving this plot seaweed fertilizer every week.  I have sown radish there also.  The bean plants are doing ok but they are only 42cm high whereas the ones in plot 1 are already 82cm high.  So there is a marked difference between the two plots already.  In plot 2 also I have found a few flowers on the beans.  When not raining I give both plots water.  I have also noticed that now that the leaves on the trees in the canopy above my two plots are throwing a huge amount of shadow – I think that this is interfering with the growth of my plants.

And here  in the following photos are some of the other vegetables growing such as asparagus, onion, marrow, rhubarb, chard, kale, leeks, orka, several different types of herbs, and finally runner beans and broad beans.  If they all do well we will not be stuck for vegetables next winter.

This beautiful Cinnabar moth was on the leaves of the lemon balm.

CINNABAR MOTH - TYRIA JACOBAEAE

I was given this lovely window hanger by my daughter, I like it very much.  White and blue (in this case the sky) are some of my favourite colours.

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And so ends my present story of my garden.  I’m in the garden everyday, planting out young vegetables and tending to seedlings.  I love it very much.  The birds are singing, blackbirds have nests quite close by and are feeding their young.  I find that the closeness to the earth and the soil is what gives me solace and is what keeps me very happy indeed.  I can only say one thing about it….

IT IS PURE MAGIC!

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.

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

FLINT STONE AND CLAY BRICKS

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I guess it is because I had become so used to the lovely honey coloured limestone on Gozo that I am taking so much notice of the red brick that is used so much in England and especially in Norfolk, it has its own beauty and is as natural as limestone seeing that the bricks are baked clay (earth).

And in Norfolk much use is made of flint stone in combination with red brick, the flint is found naturally in chalk, with layers in various shapes and sizes, flint is almost pure silica.  There is black flint and grey flint, the colours are due to impurities.  There is also rounded beach flint.  The flint has been used as a building material in Norfolk since ancient times and many archaeological material has been found in the surrounding areas made out of flint, it was a very useful material because of its hardness and sharpness.  Norfolk is also rich in clay and from the 13th century onward clay became an important building material in combination with the flint, giving the beautiful finish you see all over the area now.

And still in Norfolk, just a few days ago an abundance of wild flowers were already in bloom, like I showed in my last blog entry – GREETING SPRING – these are wild flowers and found while walking along the road-side. I was happy to see the first wild chestnut tree in bud and already showing the beginnings of a flower.

And so it goes on, ever discovering new things and rediscovering old ones, life is so interesting and fulfilling.

Meanwhile I am back home and working on my latest house improvement project (a little one), lining a walk-in wardrobe with wall paper to stop dust falling down.  And discovering that mice had eaten away some of the wiring covers….my little project has just become a very big one.

This is a very old house indeed.

 

FAREWELL GOZO

It is that time again, the time to say goodbye and to move on. West Cork is calling, my grandchildren cannot wait to see me again, and the garden is definitely in need of lots of tender care. I’m also dying to meet up with my family, friends and to reconnect with the art and social scene in Skibbereen. I’m restless and cannot concentrate on writing my blog, I’ve had little time for it also because for the past week I have been sorting and packing our stuff together, 20kg each. Winter clothing is heavy and large, books are heavy too. As I’m minimizing everything I own, I do not want to take extra stuff home, and even if I wanted to – there is no space in the suitcase. It is the weight that matters most in our case, and I bought one of the digital gadgets to weigh a suitcase but I cannot use it, simply because I cannot lift the case to hang it on to the scales! Hopefully we are going to be all right. Everything is sorted, organized and packed. Four days left, time for relaxing and for a last chance to soak up sunshine, because we are going to the land of rain and gray skies. Goodbyes have been said at my lace-class, book-club, library and friends here. Our last few walks have been beautiful.  I know that I shall miss all this glorious sunshine, and I am grateful that we had the opportunity to spend some months here enjoying this lovely island.

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MEMORIES IN PICTURES

Yesterday my sister left Gozo to return home to Lier in Belgium. We enjoyed two weeks of chat and sightseeing, though I must admit a lot of our time was spent enjoying coffee and cake in a variety of places around the island. Nevertheless we did manage to fit in walks and visits to various sights, but mainly we soaked up the spring feeling, the massive amount of wild flowers and the charm of Victoria’s historical narrow streets. As there is only one year between us we grew up quite close and shared a bedroom most of our childhood years, at night my sister would tell me stories which at the time fascinated me, they were of adventures we would find ourselves in. She still always brings me books, and much of our chats would evolve around book discussions, the love of reading we both share. We also both spent our working lives with books and people, she as an editor working for a magazine catering for libraries, and I as a branch librarian in a small town in Ireland.  Both have been very rewarding and enjoyable jobs.
20180304_143113-EFFECTS.jpgAmazing to see the banana trees on Gozo, Josefine could not believe her eyes.

Two sisters, Josefine and myself among the Mimosa flowers which are now opening.

St.Georges square where we spent time drinking coffee and listening to the bell ringing.

Tower of St.Josephs in Qala, and an example of a roundel found on a house in Ghajnsielem.

The fig tree already showing fruit and opening its leaves, poppies are flowering now too making the meadows very colourful, and a hoverfly on a lovely sunny day.

This Gozitan lady working her lace in the doorway of her house, a lovely sight.

More wildlife, this on a narrow pathway at Mgarr.

The narrow alleyways in Ir-Rabat never fail to charm anyone.  Josefine too loved them and we spent quite some time walking them, every time you do you discover more things of interests.

It’s quiet now around here, Ian and I going about our various tasks and peacefully enjoying the life.  The excitement of Josefine’s visit is over, a space is now empty, but memories will stay and lots of thoughts remain of our various chats and discussions.  A rewarding time it was, that is for sure.