THE BEAUTY AFTER THE STORM

Beautiful raindrops shimmered on the flowers and leaves in the garden this morning, everything sparkled after last night’s rain and thunderstorm. There was a freshness about the garden and the scent was earthy. Soon the sun burned the mist away and the breeze dried out the raindrops but not before I had enjoyed their beauty. A fine summer’s morning in West Cork.
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CHERISHING THE MOMENT

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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During the last few days I visited one of my dear friends, it had been too long since we caught up with each other, and it has been very necessary and a great joy and pleasure to make that time for her yesterday.


Since there was such a super crop of raspberries in the garden I have made plenty of jam, but also the cherries were cheap in the shops, but it’s not as easy to make these into jam hence they turned out runny and we are using the result on ice-cream and in porridge. Delicious!

Summer flowers, it’s good to concentrate on the beauty of nature, especially during days of sadness.

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”
― Maya Angelou

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It has been a sad start to the week here with one friend passing, and a joy later on in the week with visiting a precious friend who is very ill. It makes for quietness and reflection in my own mind. Realising, of course that nature, the beauty of nature, the flowers, the insects, the summer sun and evenings, the delightful scents in the meadows, the nearly full moon in the sky right now, the ripe red berries in the garden, the stillness of the river reflecting lush summer trees found along its banks all help to make life beautiful and meaningful. Letting go is an essential part of growing a little older too.

DISCOVERIES IN A NEGLECTED GARDEN

A longwinded journey brought us from Gozo back to Ireland, via visits to family in Henham, Hertford, and Cambridge which was, of course, much enjoyed as was the mild spring weather and all the beauty of the English countryside this time of the year, but more about that in another blog.
So we arrived home here in West Cork greeted by my daughter and lovely grandchildren, that was a beautiful moment. Next day and after unpacking all our suitcases I went for a leisurely walk around our garden. Neglected as it was, it has not become totally overgrown yet and I was able to find many treasured wild plants and even vegetables among the grasses and on the beds. So I enjoyed myself with these discoveries, taking note of what I will be cooking in the next few days, and which wild plants I’ll be using, and also taking photos.

I found a little plant that is new to my garden, it grows wild around here in West Cork on walls, but here it came to grow in an old flowerpot, maybe birds dropped its seeds.  It is the little Ivy-leaved Toadflax.

Cymbalaria muralis - Ivy-leaved toadflax
Cymbalaria muralis – ivy-leaved toadflax
Forget-me-nots in flower
Myosotis arvensis – Forget-me-not

And a left over from last year, the lovely blue Forget-me-not I found blooming.

As far as herbs go, West Cork, because of its mild climate is good for growing these.  I found the Melissa doing just fine, the Oregano coming up, the Rosemary and Lavender doing really well.  So maybe it is time to add a few more herbs during this summer.

I was pleasantly surprised by the numerous Borage plants coming up all over the garden, even in the cracks of the concrete path.  The bees will be very happy about this.  The Chives are ready for cutting, and Nettles ready for the soup!  And I nearly forgot all the three corned wild Garlic which are just everywhere, so delicious in salads and mixed in an omelet.

Three cornered wild leeks
Three cornered wild Garlic

Delighted to have found a Mullein plant, this is also a medicinal plant of which I sowed a few last year.  And of all things I found a young silver Birch, well I know it was there as I put it in a pot to share with someone after it came growing in the garden, a baby of our large Birch.  The only damage during the winter was to our small greenhouses, wear and tear you could say.  I also found that the massive seedpods of my Evening Primrose plants had survived all the storms, these plants should be coming up soon by themselves I think.

Salad leaves are ready to eat.  Bay leaf tree is growing well and full of very green leaves which will be uses in soups nice and fresh.  I also found several broad bean plants in flower and all, Ian will be very happy about that, his favourite vegetable.  Leek plants which I planted out toward the end of last summer and just before we left are growing.  And finally, but not really finally as there is no saying what else I might find, the bed with the berries is absolutely full of flower buds, it promises to be a good summer for soft fruits.  The water barrel shows that here has been no shortage of rain!

I am totally happy with what I found, it is lovely to come back to my garden, and looking at the evidence, the garden has benefited from being left to itself for a while, there might be something in Permaculture after all.  It feels like nature is now growing what it likes to grow, and the soil in my garden is showing me what will thrive best.

I am taking note!

FAREWELL GOZO, for the moment.

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A beautiful Red Admiral butterfly came across my path the other day, or was it I that came across its path.

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It is no wonder that we see bees and butterflies these days, the abundance of flowers is breathtaking, such a joy for both insects and humans.

Both in the wild and cultivated the delightful colours of flowers greet one, every inch of towns and village are made beautiful by these displays.

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In another day we are leaving Gozo for the summer months, we are already looking forward to coming back though I must say that we are also looking forward to spending the summer in Ireland and seeing everyone again.  Most of all we are just grateful for everyday we can live in peace and in beautiful nature among family and friends.  Living in the moment is the best way to enjoy life.

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We will leave some friends behind and the many people we interacted with the last few months have been lovely and very generous with stories, information and their time.

I’ve had a lovely and interesting time with my Gozitan bobbin lace making class, my great teacher, and fellow students, it was very enjoyable and I learnt a lot, and discovered that making lace can become addictive.

Ir-Rabat has been a wonderful place to live in and explore, all the artistic corners and the lovely ambience that is tangible in this great town have been top class, and the Citadella has been top of the list as have the little alleys around St.George Basilica and St.Francis Square too, and of course the library there.

Gozo has had so much to offer us, nature, people, art and culture, all much enjoyed.

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We are very grateful, that is Ian and myself, for having found a flat in Ghajnsielem for next winter, the view from the place is incredible, more and new adventures await, all being well.

Feeling very grateful and appreciative to avail of this opportunity.  So for now it is back to Ireland and to West Cork.  I must have taken thousands of photos while here and in the coming months will still be posting stories about Gozo, that is for sure.  But for the moment I am taking a week off from blogging, we will be with family in UK for several days, I will not be near WiFi perhaps.  So I wish all my dear friends and followers a good week, thank you for reading my blog, and see you soon.

A WILD FLOWER WALK

Yesterday I decided it was time to explore one of the cliff villages of Gozo. Ta-Sannat, and Il-Munxar were on the program, then to walk back from there to Ir-Rabat. It was a beautiful sunny and warm morning. Not sure what to expect as I had not read up on these villages, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of wild flowers that were in bloom, it really did fill out my inventory and photos of wild spring flowering plants that I have encountered so far here on Gozo. I was rather overwhelmed at the diversity, never having seen such a variety yet around the other villages, but that could be because the further in spring we get, the more flowers will be opened. The bees were buzzing, probably because the sun was rather hot, birds were singing, including the canary birds that many people here own and give fresh air whenever they can. Ta-Sannat also proved to be the first village where I heard a cock crow and saw horses and cattle outside. I got a lovely feel of the place, it is situated high enough for one to see the surrounding villages, like Ix-Xewkija, and Il-Munxar, I could also see the sea at L-Imġarr (Mgarr) from where I stood, and part of Victoria. A wide horizon is visible, and virtually the whole island of Gozo can be seen. The village itself was quiet, I was chatting with a lady in a small shop, apart from that and from the usual vegetable van which I had encountered on most of my village trips, all was still.
I know that there are quite a few things that I missed seeing around Ta-Sannat; the cliffs, the dolmen, the temple, and the ancient car ruts, but these were all outside the village and I did not like to go and see them on my own. I have a plan though, next time we spend the winter in Gozo I will link up with some friends to do things I do not like to do on my own, these activities will be on that list, I will organise that.
After taking many photos of the wild plants and flowers I started to walk toward the village of Il-Munxar. This is a very pleasant walk, it takes one along a whole stretch of farm land, land at this moment full of vegetables and here and there a farmer tending to his plants, heaps of manure were also to be seen lying ready to be spread out on places that were bare. I had a chat with one farmer who was obviously enjoying being on the land on such a sunny morning. Il-Munxar is another small village lying between Ta-Sannat and Ix-Xlendi, there is a walk that takes one from the Ferry Port of L-Imġarr (Mgarr) along these coastal villages toward Ix-Xlendi, the walk must be so beautiful as all along there are to be seen the highest cliff of Gozo. In Il-Munxar where I walked some bit out of the village, I saw meadows so full of flowers, like a painting with full blocks of bright yellow, so cheerful I just sat and watched it all and tried to take it in so I could take it away in my heart and mind, such a beauty!
Eventually I kept walking toward Ir-Rabat (Victoria) and reached there well in time to share lunch with Ian who had been at home meanwhile and working on writing his children’s book. We both excitedly shared our mornings adventures and decided once again how much of soulmates we really are and how thankful we can be for all that we are given day by day.

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MEADOWS FULL OF FLOWERS

A very peaceful afternoon, the sun blazing down and smiling over mother nature and humankind, the birds singing, but otherwise stillness over the land. This was my walk yesterday. I decided that I would go see the meadows that surround the town of Victoria and see close up what is growing and flowering there. The views that greeted me were glorious to say the least, the colours a balm to the eyes, and not alone the dark and different shades of the green grass, but the way this brought out the bright yellow of the various flowers. My eyes had a feast. The warmth of the sun relaxed me and brought more than one smile to my face, oh the good that this does to the mind and the body! A few lizards were of the same thought as they were basking on the warm stones, but scuttled away before I came close.  It was lovely to see bees buzzing around, and little snails out in full strength.  The sun had encouraged nature to become alive again!

The air was pure, even so close to a major town. I could get the scent of the greenery, with a subtle whiff of flower perfume carried on the light breeze. I stood and enjoyed this for a long time. Spring is always nice, and meadows have always been my favourite, I used to watch a painting while still at school, it were a few children playing in a meadow filled with flowers. It gives a certain feeling of total peace. That peace is still with me and is heightened when I find myself among wild flowers and meadows. Our mum used to take us to a meadow when we were very small, I remember it though was only a toddler, she would sit with us among the flowers and we were allowed to pick some. Glorious days of the past, but yet with us always, renewed in the present day every springtime again and again.
Nature has so much to gift us, feelings of bliss and renewed strength at the end of winter.
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A Maltese bee getting nectar from the Cape Sorrel.

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Some of the wild flowers found in the meadow and along the road side too.

Below are some of the wild herbs I found yesterday, there is the Goose grass which in Ireland grows plentiful and which I use in soups, there is the Fumitory which is supposed to be a ‘liver’ herb, the Fennel of which there grows a lot around here, Borage which can be used in all sorts of ways, and the Nettle which is a real health giving herb and I use a lot of it in soups etc.  It is nice to see all the wild herbs growing very healthy.

MGARR HARBOUR MUSINGS

Yesterday we had took a lovely walk around the harbour of Mgarr here on Gozo. It is the first village that you get to see when you arrive on the island because the ferry docks here. I love this fishing village as it is overshadowed by beautiful rock formations, plenty of lovely greenery and wild flowers too right now, and colourful fishing boats, besides yachts and ferries of all sorts to enable visitors to visit some of the other smaller islands and take a cruise around Gozo.

Yesterday it was quiet, or else it was the quiet time of the day (which runs from 12:30 until 16:00hrs. Some men were sitting on the stairs of a lovely old building, reading the newspaper and chatting. The ferry station was busy whenever the ferry was due to arrive or to leave.

We took coffee at a kiosk right down by the water and sat for a long time watching the few activities taking place, and enjoying the sun. It is a quiet place during winter, a peaceful place. We then walked along the original part of the harbour where the first ferries from mainland Malta used to arrive long ago at the time when the harbour was still undeep, and walked along the promenade, which for both of us had plenty to offer, Ian loves looking at the sea and the boats, while I looked upwards direction Ghajnsielem at all the wonderful rock formations, the plants, and even the few farms where I saw tomatoes ripening in the sun, and that during January!

We spent the rest of the afternoon just walking, resting, enjoying the sunshine and taking in the peace and quiet of this lovely little harbour, and it wasn’t even cold.

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A VILLAGE WHICH LIES STILL AND TRANQUIL.

Zebbug is a village in an elevated area on the North coast of Gozo. It was a Wednesday morning when I visited, everything was quiet, I saw no one when I got off the bus and I was the only person riding on the bus too. So tranquil was this place, everything was shut, that is except the church for which I headed, crossing over a large empty square I reached the steps leading up to an impressive Baroque façade of the village church, I was on a mission, to go and see the beautiful interior which is made up mainly of locally quarried brown Onyx stone, and the book where I read about it did not let me down, I was very impressed and delighted to be able to see this, and to touch this semi-precious stone. I found myself looking at the altar, the confession chair, the pillars, holy water container, a statue, the chairs for the priests, everything made out of Onyx stone, it looked amazing. Yet again I am finding that the ‘stones’ or rocks found on Gozo are very pleasing to the eye!

So I walked on along one of the streets and took in all that was to see, soon I got glimpses of the sea and the beautiful green agricultural landscape along the coast, I found it interesting to see lots of fields like patchwork, the land was being worked by some farmers I noticed. I read that Zebbug derives its name from the Maltese word referring to the Olive tree. The village is also known for its lace making, its weaving and its woollen blankets, but I did not see any of this when I went, no shops were open. The village was quiet, there was a vegetable van driving around, I bought a very tasty orange from him, a few people were gathered around this van buying stuff. There was also a gas delivery truck driving around blowing the horn at intervals as is done here in Gozo. It was when I saw a bread van that I decided to check out if it carried ‘Ghazziela’ I had read about it and had to see one, it’s a biscuit in the shape of the ‘M’ for mother Mary, tradition is to hang it behind the door of your house in order to protect the place from storms and lightning. These biscuits are blessed after they are baked. Of course the bread van lady did not have them, they are not for eating! However, a kind lady standing beside me and hearing me ask for the Ghazziela offered to have a look for some in her house, she did come out with two of them and gave them to me, we had a chat after that and she and her sister really made the visit to Zebbug a very memorial one, so kind and helpful people are, I am experiencing this all the time, it warms the heart. The kindness of these two ladies will not be in vain, it has touched me and showed me once again that people have such good hearts, humankind is not a failure, if we let our hearts speak then kindness has no bounds, it made me happy to mull over these thoughts on my way home.

I took many photos, some of which I will share here, but there is still much more beauty to find in this tranquil  village, I’m so glad that I went there.

The two Ghazziela gifts I received from the kind ladies, and on the right this is the inside of a Prickly Pear cactus leaf, people use this material in making jewellery.

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A street leading towards the blue water, and butternut squash drying in the sun.

These four photos are of the village church and its Onyx interior.

I saw grapes hanging over the wall in a village street, and little country lanes lead out from the village to the pastoral land below in the valley.

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This village has its fair share of arches which I love so much, I hope that they can always be preserved.

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Greenery looks so nice against the limestone walls.

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This cat did not have to say much for herself, she was just soaking up the few rays of sunshine on this winter day.  You are never short of cats on Gozo, and they are beautifully coloured animals.

GGANTIJA TEMPLES

It has been quite a few days since I wrote in my blog, so now I am back and with pleasure. My sister was with us and we had so much to see and talk about that nothing came from writing. It was, of course, a very valuable time.

Gozo is still a place where, now after nearly two months I’m totally happy, relaxed, and feeling joy in everyday walking around the beautiful limestone houses, churches, other buildings and landscapes. The flowers, plants and insects are very attractive to me and to learn about them is a delight. The people are friendly and very nice. I have now attended two of my pillow lace making classes and have become friendly with the women there, delightful, and I just totally adore making the lace – well that is to say – learning the first stitches. It is a very relaxing activity and the work is beautiful to look at.

With December coming up there is a lot of activity planned by the local people to celebrate Christmas, religion is still very much part of it, which is only normal in my view and it is refreshing not to be in a total commercial way of celebrating Christmas. It is warm, feels like it is around 20C and sometimes over 20C. We have had thunder storms and one week of much needed rain, you could see the fields becoming greener as the days went by. Now I see farmers tending to their vegetable plots.

I cannot help taking photos, some of which I hope to use in starting to draw in pencil, and I like to share them too. This place is a photographer’s paradise if you are interested in architecture – which I am too. But also if you just like to document the local flora and fauna. I know that in the coming month I will have the opportunity to photograph people at their festivals and that too will be interesting.

And so I will share our last day together. My sister and I delighted as we visited the ancient temples in Xaghra and walked for two hours around that really charming town. We had a lovely lunch in the square as well. And we descended 10 meters down into the earth to look at caves, it was a strange feeling being in the bowels of the earth, very strange and my first time being in such a low cave, our heads nearly touching the ceilings.

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Man selling little jars of Carob syrup or honey on the way to the  temples.

Views of the Ggantija temples which date back to between 3600 and 3200 B.C.  The outer shell of the temples has been well preserved because it has been made from Coralline limestone which is hardwearing, while the inner structures like doors or altars had been made in the softer Globigerina limestone.

Lunch at a nice little eating place near the church and in the square was delicious.  We walked for hours along the narrow roads of this town, we saw beautiful lacy curtains on the double doors which is traditional here.  I love the arches, the different features in the architecture of the houses, and the use of a little colour is striking as seen in the blue paint on the gold stone.  Often people may be sitting on a bench or chairs and enjoying the peace of the place here in Gozo.  My sister Josefine posing near a beautiful historical door.

Inside the caves.  Though fascinating it is not totally my cup of tea, I was too aware of being so deep underground.

We came across this man making his lace.  My teacher later told me that he is the only ‘man’ in Gozo that makes lace.  His work was so very neat!

And this are the leaves, bark, fruit, and flower of the Carob tree (Ceratonia silique), and evergreen tree the pods of which are used here to make a syrup used for cough and sore throats.  Originally also used as animal fodder, the tree belongs to the pea family.

I hope to be back now to writing as I have so much to share of this amazing place.  All my senses are at top performance to take it all in and reflecting on it is what my blog at the moment is all about.  I hope my friends and followers will enjoy some of it too.