A Springtime Walk in Connemara

Walking the dog this morning, I was enjoying the soft spring day and feeling optimistic, fresh and energised.  The Spring Equinox is almost upon us and we should be feeling balanced and in harmony and ready for anything, as there are so many spring tonic herbs available at the moment.   I decided on my walk to stalk Nature, to creep up on Her and see what She was up to.  She was up to quite a lot – it is amazing just how many opportunities there are for health and well being along the boreen that I walk.  Some of the wild herbs are in my book The Weed Handbook Volume 1 and others are in my new book, The Weed Handbook Volume 2. (Both available from this web site – just a hint!!)

As I walked along I came across lots of Dandelion, shining very brightly despite the grey, overcast day.

Thanks to so many people getting the word out, I suspect almost everyone now knows that the Dandelion is a vital food source for the bees recently out of hibernation, not to mention how good it is for people.

 

Look at how bright and juicy these Blackberry or Bramble shoots are!  Just brimming with life and very tasty in salads and juices, a real spring tonic.

 

Another spring tonic,  the lovely Nettle.  Full of chlorophyll and lots of nutrients.  A perfect plant for building the blood after winter.

 

This is Honeysuckle or Woodbine.  Honeysuckle is a powerful anti-viral so if you have a cold or ‘flu, collect some leaves and make yourself a cup of medicinal tea.  You can find out more about her in  The Weed Handbook Volume 2. I think last year she was in bud earlier so I am wondering if we can expect different weather this summer.

 

This little flower is known as Day’s Eye or Daisy and she is closing up as the day is so overcast.  You can see the edges of the petals are tinged pink.  My lovely aunt used to tell me, when I was a small child, that the pink was the remains of the flower’s lipstick after she had been to the Flower Ball.  What other explanation could there be?

 

Usnea is a lichen that grows on trees here in Connemara thanks to the lovely fresh, clean air we enjoy and is a very powerful herbal medicine, treating all manner of infections as he is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial.  There is really no need for anti-biotics if you get hold of some Usnea tincture.  You can find out more about it here:-

www.herbalremediesadvice.org/usnea-herb.html

 

This is Cleavers, one of my favourite herbs.  Another spring tonic, Cleavers removes metabolic waste from the lymph system and from the blood.  She is also making her appearance a little later than last year, in my neck of the woods. It pays to keep an eye on things I think , if we want to make any sense of the weather we are having these days.

When I arrived home I decided to have a look around the garden to see how things were coming along.  Trees are in different stages of budding and it is so exciting looking at them.  The cherries seem to be the earliest in my garden.  I have Sour Cherry,

 

and Weeping Cherry,

 

and Wild Cherry, which is already in leaf!

 

This tree also has a fully opened flower.

 

I am in such a state of anticipation!  I took lots more photographs – of Forsythia and Lilac, of Rowan buds and Guelder Rose.  All the buds are so sweet and innocent, so vulnerable but SO full of potential too.  It is no wonder we use the term “budding” when we refer to someone who is on the verge of becoming something wonderful.  Nature is wonderful.  It is hard at the moment to envisage the garden being colourful and vibrant again, but the tree buds and the stirring hedgerow greens bestow optimism and hope and that thrill of excitement that something is going to happen!!

Any trees in your garden in bud or flower yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Bhean Feasa – Beds, Bees and Ox-Eye Daisies!

I am so, so grateful for the wonderful weather we are having as I write this post.  The garden is truly blossoming and I have been working outside every day, planting and re-potting and weeding,  (although that last job will never be done!!!!)  and making a new bed to accommodate all the seedlings that have germinated.

This is a potato and onion bed that I made at the beginning of April using the “Lasagne” method.  It is simply made from layers of organic material. I strimmed first, put down cardboard to smother any perennial weeds and then built up layers of manure, cardboard, grass cuttings, cardboard, top soil, seaweed and then home-made compost on top.
Here is the same bed today,

Just behind it, I finished another bed yesterday.  I started with the cardboard,
Then I added some farm yard manure, courtesy of my kind brother, then added another layer of cardboard.
Grass cuttings followed by cardboard and bark mulch.
Following with more cardboard, courtesy of John Stanley of Clifden, I finished with home-made compost.  I didn’t have quite enough this time so I had to add some shop bought compost.
For some reason, I have gone crazy sowing brassicas and beetroot which I have planted out into this new bed.  There are more to be planted out yet as well as spinach and coriander.  The strips you see around the bed are copper, cut from an old hot water tank.  Hopefully they will keep the slugs and snails from accessing the tender young vegetables.
So, you can see that I have been quite busy.  Walking around the garden I am delighted to report that thanks to the fact that we use NO pesticides, NO herbicides and NO chemical fertilisers, I can see lots of insects.  There are lace-wings, hoverflies, dragonflies and many types of bees, bumble bees and the native Connemara bee.

A Bumble on a Comfrey flower.

One of many on the Raspberry bushes,

More!
I used to think that planting flowers was a bit “surburban” and that I was a “serious” vegetable grower until a very good friend, Colette, pointed out to me that we must plant flowers to ensure that the bees and other pollinators are fed and have habitat.  I am so glad because secretly I always wanted to plant flowers, I just thought flowers were an indulgence.  Now I understand what an important role they play.  Whether they be planted by me,…………

Borage.

Valerian – Valeriana Officinalis

Rose, Rosa Rugosa.

Jacob’s Ladder – with a bee or two feeding on it.
Or perhaps they were strewn as gifts from Mother Nature,

Here you can see that She has provided us with Herb Robert, Speedwell, and Buttercup.

A meadow full of Buttercup, Red Clover, Ragged Robin, Orchids and Self-Heal,

Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens
And of course, the Ox Eye Daisies

Flowers bring beauty to a garden and to our senses of sight and smell and beauty means love.  If we can appreciate the beauty of our wild flowers, (“weeds” to some), we can love them and recognise them for all they offer.  It is so good to know that so many of them have medicinal qualities or provide food for us AND for the bees.  Thank the Goddess for flowers.
What is your favourite wild or garden flower and why?  Let me know by leaving a comment in the box below.

Magical Seeds of Life – The Thrill of Seed Saving

IMG_2131Coriander Seed

One definition for seed is

” …the fertilised ripened ovule of a flowering plant containing an embryo capable of germination to create a new plant…”

 Seed saving is absolutely vital for a number of reasons and this age old tradition (and necessity) is under attack in our present world.  Only recently, the European government pondered on new legislation to prevent ordinary people like you and me from saving our seeds, from swapping, sharing and giving away seeds.  Having been lobbied by huge agri chemical businesses such as , yes, you’ve guessed it, Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, the legislation was only stopped by people power.  The Irish Seed Savers Association and their compatriots in Europe, along with the public who signed petitions and wrote to our MEPs managed to stop this legislation.  We must all remain alert and vigilant that such crazy ideas are not to  be enshrined in law in the future.

IMG_2121Mullein, Nigella and Nasturtium

We started our garden about seven years ago, as we became more concerned about food security and sharing the belief that growing our own food is a revolutionary act.  We cannot trust governments to protect our food sovereignty because they are so exposed to powerful lobbyists . We are taking responsibility for our own well being  and we are growing nutritious fresh food.  Only yards from field to table.

IMG_1977A portion of our harvest

Now I am taking things one step further – I am saving seed.  At the moment I am only a beginner, saving seeds that are large enough and easy enough to access.

IMG_2124Poppy, Coriander, Marrow, Lunaria, Pea, Mullein, Pink Campion, Calendula, Nigella

I have also saved Kale, Perennial Cauliflower, Purple Sprouting Broccoli various lettuces and Columbine.  Some of these are flower seeds.  I once thought that growing flowers was self-indulgent but now I know that flowers are vital to attract the bees and other pollinators so that my vegetables are pollinated giving me the seed for next year. Saving seed brings us one step closer to Mother Earth and further realisation that we are indeed,  connected to everything – the bees, the insects, the plants, the food,  the planet.

IMG_2127Fennel seeds ready for drying

The thrill of opening a seed case and releasing the seeds into a bowl or container is just fantastic.  It is indeed a thrill to know that by collecting and saving seed I am part of the cycle of life – I am contributing to LIFE and to bio-diversity.  I am happy to know that I am doing something positive and beneficial for the planet.

IMG_2126Pink Campion Seeds (on plate) and Evening Primrose Seeds behind

Saving seed is a time consuming job but it is so worth it.

IMG_2130My box of seeds – a treasure chest!

Seeds can also be metaphorical and we can think about the “seeds” we want to plant in our lives; what do we want to harvest in our lives?

If you would like to purchase any of my seeds, they are 2euro per packet.  Let me know which seeds you are saving by using the comments box below.