THE RAILWAY BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER ILEN

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This now unused railway bridge runs over the river Ilen in the small town of Skibbereen, West Cork, in Ireland.  This market town used to have a rail connection between it and the large city to the East, Cork.  The railway extended also to Ballydehob and Schull, and to Baltimore.  I have heard it said that in days gone by sugar beet was cultivated around Baltimore, a seaside place close to Skibbereen, and that daily the sugar beet would be transported by train all the way to the factory in Mallow, a town which lies much further inland.

Sadly the railway is no more, neither is the sugar beet production.  The old bridge stands to this day and is part of the West Cork Hotel.  I happened to pass there today and immediately saw that the reflection of the bridge was perfect on the water, so took some photos with my phone and played around a bit with editing.  I wanted the bridge in black and white, but I found that in colour – especially boosted a bit, the result was fine too.

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Skibbereen is a small town in the South-West of Ireland, I plan to explore it more in future and also to learn more about its history.  It has many interesting corners, and lately I am discovering new walks.   Time to start a little exploration!

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

BALMY SUMMER DAYS

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You have got to love these balmy summer days, when the wild roses are flowering along the hedgerows, and the dark yellow of the ragwort is blending in with the straw-coloured grasses now dried out from sun and water need.  And the bright red of the fuchsia bells against the dark green foliage of the hedges all along the country roads.  And the evenings when the scents fill the air, scents of night flowers, of grasses and trees, of the soil, delicious are the fragrances of the land as the earth cools down as the sun slowly disappears.  How lovely these long and light summer evenings, stretches of brightness seen along the horizon as late as midnight – to reappear as early as four in the morning when the sky lights up again.  I used to set my alarm to witness this magical moment to see the new morning appear, glad for another chance at life and anticipating a wonderful day.  These are the restoring days of the year, the sun brimming with health giving vitamin D3 (well at least our bodies can avail of the sun to make it).  It has been since 1976 that Ireland had a summer like this, with higher temperatures than we get here normally.  And as the heat continues there is said to be a water shortage and resulting ban on using the water hose in the garden, so I’m keeping all my grey water and what is left in the rain water barrel for my vegetables.  The dry earth soaks up the water eagerly.

At this moment I am very much out of routine, seems to be like this for a while now, my regular blog reading and writing has diminished.  I miss it, but too much is happening and I’m getting little done.  It is just that type of a summer I think – a summer of laziness, but also a summer of beauty and of enjoyment, of scents and sights.

I do hope that it is full of goodness for everyone of you too.

 

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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.

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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!

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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SPRING IN THE AIR

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
Pablo Neruda
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“I love the smell of rain and growing things.”
― Serina Hernandez
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“And the birds sang their songs of love. And the flowers serenaded with their sublime fragrances. And the whole world fell in love in spring!”
― Avijeet Das

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
A.A. Milne

“The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse – neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension.”
Amy Seidl

2018-02-04 15.06.12“Spring is not a season; it is a mysterious illusionist who sets off fireworks in the depths of our soul!”
Mehmet Murat ildan

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”
Charlotte Brontë

A NEW YEAR BEGINS

On this first day of January 2018, I see a beautiful blue sky and blazing sunshine, I decide to walk in a different direction.  My walk takes me along the cliff road from Ghajnsielem towards Hondoq Ir-Rummien on the South coast of the island of Gozo.  It’s an easy road and it is no surprise that there are quite a few people walking.  The man from next door with his little dog is there too and we exchange a few words.  People pass and say hello or nod.  Today I went out not only to connect with nature but to make sure that on this first day of the year I connect with people.  Being far away from family and friends makes itself felt on days like today.  Luckily nature is a great solace, a balsam to the soul.

And first and foremost today was about exploring yet another part of the island.  So I took a totally different direction, and walked where I had not walked before.  The road stretched out before me, lined with wild flowers, plants and trees, a delight to the eye, beyond that the rocks going down steeply, and then the sea, the Mediterranean, sky blue with only a few white horses disturbing its surface.

The road was climbing, lined with stone walls, bright limestone locally sourced, built by men long ago, sturdy and functional.  Due to the most recent rain plants are green, sharp new growth, buds of almond blossom and giant fennel are fat and ready to burst.
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I see lots of wild flowers, a delight to the eye, colourful and bright they are fierce and upright even if the strong wind tries to blow them down.  My hair flies all over the place and I have to keep it back in order to look through my camera window and take a steady photo.  I relish the freshness and feel all the spider webs disappearing, all last year’s less beautiful happenings fade away, even all the problems of humankind, all the suffering and pain that people go through, all disappear for the time being. A new year starts and one hopes that it will finally bring Peace to the earth and with it kindness and happiness in every soul.  I know that is wishing for a lot but I still wish it.

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The road winds its way up the hill, I see houses, signs of life.  I think that I am coming to a hamlet but I don’t know what it is called.  It seems very nice and the views over Comino island and over Malta and the sea are wonderful.  I’m almost enticed to go into a tavern to have coffee but then I see that the sun is getting low in the sky and it is still a long walk back home so I decide to retrace my steps.  Such a beautiful place this is, I intend to walk this more often and check out more of the wild plants as the months go by.  It’s all down hill now, the sun is low in the sky, I see church towers of all the surrounding villages, there is Nadur, and Xewkija, and Ghajnsielem churches, the spires high toward the sky, the domes silhouetted against the setting sun.  I notice that all those villages are on heightened ground, hence they can be seen from far-a-way.  In my mind I can walk all over the island, it does not seem far!  In reality it would take me a long time, but it is good to dream at times.

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I get home before dark, but not before I take a few more shots of these lovely surroundings. I see the ferries busy and many cars waiting in line, all on the way to Malta where life is eager to get back to normal after all the festivities. I make a mental note of what I will do tomorrow, another year is starting and I am wanting to jump right in. Like one of my friends said today, we are going to make a good one of it, we are going to enjoy each moment and live to the full.  Grateful for another chance, another opportunity, to be kind.
Happy New Year to all my dear friends, wishing you a year full of Blessings and Love, Peace and Goodwill.

THAT MOMENT WHEN THE SUN RISES

I was waiting patiently early in the morning, the sky had already begun to have a glow but nothing yet had appeared on the horizon, until all of a sudden there was the first glimmer of a sun.  The moment was magic, and I felt my heart fill with happiness, joy and gratitude, there was another day about to start, another day was breaking and in what a glorious way!  What a powerful moment!
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20171018_154801 Another day has started in which to explore, and see the beauty around me, and be intrigued by all the little adventures that this day would bring.

The gray-green leaves of the Olive tree, a beautiful flower, the bright colours of the Luzzu boat.

20171025_180121The view out of the window of my lace making class in Victoria.

20171025_152530The humour seen in this proud dog trotting beside its owner in the funniest way.

20171025_151014And the funniest of all, me taking the wrong bus on my way to Victoria for my lace class and ending up doing a tour of almost the whole island before I got off the bus in Xaghra and taking another bus to town.  I so enjoyed this little detour and could only laugh at my own mistake!

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And when the day is done and a glorious sun is setting, painting beauty for long moments more, then, well then it’s time to happily be grateful again.