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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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.

SUMMER SHADOWS

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“It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.”
From John Koethe’s ‘Sally’s Hair’.

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Breakfast under the Hawthorn tree is such a summery pleasure, birds singing in the trees all around us, what a beautiful start to the day.

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Today I was inspired by the shadows of some trees along the road to town, what I saw reminded me of some of the impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, and others, also more modern painters like Marc Hanson or Terri Ford.  I have always loved the way these guys painted the shadows under the trees, and indeed I love walking under trees during sunny weather for the same reason, the sun playing among the leaves, the shadows in all shades of grey, the dappled sunlight interesting and playful. The shade under the trees giving perhaps cooling to an overheated brain.

How I wish I could paint these shadows, and that light.

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MY SISTER JOSEFINE’S TOWN GARDEN

Lier is a small but beautiful town in Belgium. Most of my immediate ancestors come from there though my mum and dad were born in Brasschaat and in Diest respectively. Goyvaerts is not a common name in Belgium, but in Lier you see quite a few signs with this name on it. I feel at home there, it’s a lovely typical Flemish town with a huge car free ‘grote markt’ and a beautiful cathedral, its bells and Carillion chiming out over the typical town houses. A most interesting beguinage dating from the 13th century, a fine library, a large school of music, the Zimmer tower with it’s astronomical clock, on it’s façade it gives the times from all around the world. And many more special cultural and scenic corners.

Anyway, my eldest sister still lives there and she has a small town garden in which I went to take some photos recently. It’s a neat garden, she has one raised bed where she already had a crop of herbs last summer, but trouble with cats is making her hold back this year, so we discussed how to make it so the cats cannot use it as toilet. But there are many beautiful shrubs and flowers in her garden. Since the soil is quite sandy and of course Belgium gets quite hot in the summer, her lavender is doing extremely well, so we did harvest a lovely bunch of these flowers to dry and use later for making sachets to use as presents. There is Turkish sage – Phlomis russeliana, growing in her garden, growing tall and showing bright yellow flowers, much loved by the bees!  Along the verge of one of the flower beds it is full of ripe wild strawberries, very sweet and tasty. An arch made of willow twigs lets you enter the rear end of the garden, a woodbine trails along it and is also in flower. Some beautifully scented roses together with the privet hedge in flower make this garden full of wonderful scents, a garden that anyone would love to sit in on a summers day.

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Phlomis russeliana (Turkish sage)

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LUSH SUMMER GARDEN

Yesterday I nearly had a disaster with my blog, not realising that if you delete photos from your media library, that they also disappear from your actual blog entries, I started to delete very energetically. Luckily I discovered in time that something was not right. I was told to up-grade – my kind partner Ian treated me to the update for the year, I am very happy that I can keep going, and also I only need to replace photos of my first month of blogging which was August 2014, that is easily done. So now I’ve got 13GB instead of 3GB to play around with.

Today it was quite nice out despite the soft rain and heavy clouds. I went and looked at my overgrown garden to check what I needed to do first, so I set to trimming the overgrown hedge along side one of the raised beds that I am also putting in order. This year was my first year in permaculture, not sure if I got it quite right, since I was not able to do much gardening (instructing and keeping an eye on my wild plants that like to grow more vigorously than my vegetables), due to family visits and reunions.
There has been a lot of growth, a lot of the larger herbal plants have been trashed down by rain and wind, so it all looks a bit messy. I am reluctant to cut down the large comfrey as it is full of flowers and bees visit constantly, this is important. The feverfew is beautifully in flower, but the wind has also slashed it down, and the lady’s mantel the same. I cut one hedge and got rid of the branches and leaves on the compost heap. Then I got side tracked into the shed, as anyone can remember I am making a big effort to clean out my two ancient sheds. One was used by my now ex-husband when he still had the roofing business, there is still stuff in there that needs to go. I got quite a bit sorted, and while dealing with an old press riddled with woodworm I came across this spider. I thought that it was a lace web spider but I could be wrong. So took some photos. I then discovered that a lettuce which had gone to seed had black lice on the stem, and found that there were also quite a few ants running over them, maybe they eat them?

Yesterday I also noticed that I am getting flowers on my bitter gourd plants which delights me, one experiment going real well 🙂

This blog entry is a ramble, and that is exactly how I feel about my garden right now, it’s overgrown and so lush and green, it’s amazing, making me feel a little puffed and wondering will I ever get it sorted again, but then it is good the way it is, so much to discover, so full of life. It is all good. It’s a job finding some vegetables among it all though, but slowly things are coming along (those that were not eaten by you know what!)

And that brings me to some new books I got in the library this morning. They both look interesting. The one about the companion planting especially will be useful, the other one is just for inspiration. I find that books always inspire me so much, I let them too, and choose them carefully. We are lucky to have a good library, and of course there is always Amazon, and second hand bookstores around which are lovely to browse through.
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Lush summer growth flattened by wind and rain.

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Black currants, and some of my sweet peas growing among the edible peas.

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Garlic nearly ready to harvest, and the peas which also suffered from the rains but are doing fine.

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Variety of herbs, all fighting for space it seems.

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So blessed with a good library!

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One of my precious bitter gourd flowers, and the hypericum flower.

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The black lice with the ants, and the lace web spider (I think)

REFLECTIONS ON THE SEASONS

Either I do not yet understand or know the seasons in this part of Ireland, something that one needs to know well in order to get a productive vegetable garden, or the climate is changing a lot these days. But then maybe I have not been observant enough about the weather all the years while I was working in the library and interacting with books and people in a large concrete building with underground heating. Growing vegetables does require one to be observant of temperature, rainfall and a whole lot more, in other words understanding the local climate. The fact that my French beans just would not do well and died off is probably because the night temperatures were still too low when I planted them out. So as the months go by I am having to rethink a lot about what I grow and about the timing of my sowing and planting out. Some of my raised beds retain moisture more than others, another fact to take into account.

And so my garden develops and I become wiser through experience, but also through picking up information from others and from books.  I am reading Monty Don’s ‘My Roots’ at the moment, I would say if one never read another gardening book, then it must be this one. A philosophical work interwoven with a lot of great tips, very valuable stuff, more a memoir, a journal through a decade of gardening than a practical guide. I am loving it.

I’m not sure what to think of the climate here lately, last year we had a warm summer that started late but lasted many months. This year, after a mild but wet winter, April was unusually dry and warm, and May was cold and wet with an icy wind coming straight from the Artic. Growth has slowed right down. And now a heat wave is forecasted.

My garden needs a considerable amount of attention at the moment, just when my older sister is here with us for some weeks, and we two are enjoying non-stop chatting, and I am suffering from a cold, and we are nipping over to Belgium for a week later in the month.

But all is good, and all is abundant, and life is rich with experience and fascination.
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The mess my pea plants became after the storm and rains, but I sorted that out yesterday and they are now secured properly.

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A very wet garden, and a book that I am really enjoying very much indeed.

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At night the stove is great to have.  And making nettle tincture to use as a hair rinse later on in the year.

LAST DAY OF SPRING IN IRELAND

Today was the last spring day in Ireland, tomorrow the first of May Summer is starting! It was a glorious day, as we sat outside eating lunch I noticed all of a sudden that there was a beautiful halo around the sun, I’d never seen this before, plenty of time around the moon but never around the sun, so grabbed my camera and took some pictures.
And as is the tradition in the land of Flanders, tomorrow is the day when husbands and lovers give a bunch of ‘meiklokjes’ or Lily of the Valley, to their sweethearts. Mine are just about opening up in the garden, I adore their scent, and they do look beautiful too.
So wishing everyone a great May Day. I know that it is celebrated here in Ireland too, and it is a bank holiday. May it be a lovely weekend for everyone.
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‘Lily of the Valley’, or in Flemish ‘Meiklokje’

HYDRANGEAS FEAST

I thought it a good idea to just flood today’s blog entry with brightly coloured Hydrangeas. The weather is dismal, and I am so fighting a chest infection, without much success, that I just want to share beautiful flowers, it’s uplifting.
So I wish that everyone else enjoy them too. Hydrangeas are a lovely shrub that is more and more being used in Ireland as a road side plant, this is good or at least it is very beautiful, and in urban areas this can make a lot of difference to the landscape and the beauty of the area. The colours are amazing, from deep blue to deep red, or some pastel colours too. Flowering all summer and well into autumn.
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PONDERINGS

“THE EARTH LAUGHS IN FLOWERS.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“I WILL BE THE GLADDEST THING UNDER THE SUN!

I WILL TOUCH A HUNDRED FLOWERS AND NOT PICK ONE”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Two of the flowers that made my garden extra lovely during last summer ~

So happy about this.