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 – A Capricious Spring!

It is said that if  Brigid’s Day is cold, wet and stormy, then the Goddess of Winter, An Cailleach, stays in bed and sleeps on not noticing Spring creeping up on her.  However, if the day is fine on 1st February, the Cailleach gets up to collect more firewood as she means the winter to go on.  This year, here in Connemara, the weather was mixed and we are finding that Spring is very capricious.

 

IMG_2553

Rainbow and rain clouds
During the first part of February we had “never ending” rain which seemed to go on forever and people were questioning how much more the land could take.  Then we had a day of sunshine and I was working in the garden enjoying the warmth of the sun when I noticed the dog was very busy with something under a Hydrangea.  I went to investigate and found this:
IMG_20180220_165127
Can you see the Bumble Bee in the Crocus?

 

She must have been one of the first bees out of hibernation but our Ribes haven’t flowered yet, nor has the Blackthorn and there are few Dandelions. I hope she was able to feed from the Crocus before it closed for the evening and wrapped her in purple silk.
The light in Connemara is very special – even magical and you can always tell the season from the effect of the light on the landscape.

 

IMG_20180227_125635_1CS

 On our walk we saw Daffodils standing proud, golden trumpets wrongly foretelling that warmer weather was coming.

 

IMG_20180224_120150

Vinca Minor – a beautiful and medicinal plant is already in flower.

 

IMG_20180224_120632

The other signs of Spring were the Monbretia coming up through the grass in a truly bright shade of green.

 

IMG_20180227_125730

One of my favourite things to see on a walk, and can be seen all year round, is Moss.  So velvety and soft and so varied.

 

IMG_20180227_125910

It makes me feel as if I am looking into a magical otherworldly realm.

IMG_20180227_125839

After the brief sunshine, the ominous clouds returned and plunged us back into that miserable greyness.

 

IMG_20180228_094431

The wind began to rise and it was bitterly cold, more so than previously.  The Crocuses closed up and the poor Daffodils were beaten down. One of the benefits of the wind is that it dries up the land – but also my face when I’m outside!! Not so pleasant.

 

IMG_20180228_094445

 

The rain returned.  There was talk of snow and storms.  We poo-pooed the warnings here because we rarely get snow and we are on the west coast, far away from “The Beast“!!  But the snow did come.  Certainly not as badly as elsewhere but enough to engender a frisson of excitement.

 

IMG_20180228_095256

IMG_20180302_123235

I hope the Daffodils will spring back when the snow melts.  Strange to think of this happening outside when inside the polytunnel lemons are growing!

 

IMG_2613

Is this because the polytunnel is very effective at creating a micro climate or is such variation due to climate change?  Perhaps it’s the end of the world as we know it, in reference to St. Malachy’s predictions.  It’s a sensitive subject and creates a great deal of debate.  What do you think?  Use the comments box below to let me know.

“Plant Wisdom and The Goddess – Wise Woman Training”

One of my missions in life is to spread the word about the wisdom and healing power of plants.  I want everyone to know how beneficial plants are when we are feeling unwell or out of sorts; if we have the ‘flu or we are feeling anxious.  There is a plant remedy for every ailment and upset.

plant medicine

As 80% of humanity uses plant medicine as their primary source of health care and as more Westerners return to herbal medicine, the healing power of plants is well known.  Not so many people know about the wisdom of plants.  Few know how the plants can be our allies in life and how they help us to connect on a deeply spiritual level with the Goddess, our Mother.

mother earth and plants

The plants were Her first children and as our elders they are ready to bring us on a magical journey to remind us that we too are part of nature.

So, back to my mission….to share other aspects of plant healing.  I now feel that it is time for me to offer a course of Wise Woman training.

“Plant Wisdom and The Goddess – Wise Woman Training”

is a one year course from Samhain to Samhain during which time we will travel the Celtic Wheel of the Year meeting with our plant allies and with the Goddess in her various forms.  We will celebrate the eight fire festivals, weaving myth and reality in this world and in other worlds, rekindling a love for and a relationship with our land and with the Earth.

celtic_year

We will recall our Celtic heritage through folklore, story and music, remembering how our ancestors respected the Goddess and we will come to understand that everything is alive and filled with spirit.  We will spend time in Nature here in Connemara, walking the land, wandering the sea shore and observing the plants. The land in Connemara is imbued with an unseen presence that can be felt when walking with gratitude for the Beauty of Nature.

20170111_115051

We will craft our various magical tools, (beginning with our Crane Bag), at each of the fire  festivals and you will learn how to journey with the Drum and with Dance.   We will practise ritual and ceremony and you will learn how to make an altar, how to work with gifts from Nature as you prepare for a Vision Quest that will take place at the end of the course.

dsc_0027

At every step, the plants will be with us, forging our reconnection to Mother Earth.  As we journey with the plants to the Goddess we will undergo personal transformation, remembering that Love is all there is.

If you feel that this training is calling to you, please feel free to contact me for any further information or to ask any questions that you may have.  If you know this course is for you, go to the Workshops Page where you can sign up for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food

IMG_1914

Yet again it is a gloomy, windy day here in Connemara so I thought I would take  pictures of some flowers that are nevertheless, looking very bright.  I realised as I was snapping away that many of our garden flowers belong to medicinal plants as well as to plants grown for eating.  I was reminded of Hippocrates who suggested that our food be our medicine and our medicine be our food.  With some plants it is not difficult to achieve that recommendation.

IMG_1913

Nasturtiums are blazing brightly on this grey day and also add bright colour and a peppery taste to your salad. They are quite delicious as a food and also, due to their high vitamin C content and anti-bacterial qualities can be applied as a medicine! I love making these connections.

IMG_1906

Raspberry is obviously a food and it is probably my favourite summer fruit and of course it has a vitamin content which is beneficial to our health but the leaves too are medicinal.  The leaves are astringent and cooling and have traditionally been used during pregnancy to tone the uterus and for reducing the risk of haemorrhage.  The leaves can also be used for diarrhoea, mouth ulcers and inflammation of the gums.

IMG_1907

Borage is a plant with bright blue flowers, (sometimes the flowers can be pinkish) and it is the flowers that are used in salads and in drinks.  In times past the flowers were used in the brewing of ale to make the drinkers merry.  The Celts used Borage to increase courage before a battle or a quest.  This food is a potent medicine when used for adrenal stress and can be useful during convalescence.

IMG_1910

I put these Pink Poppies at the entrance to the poly-tunnel to attract pollinators and just because they are beautiful. Their latin name is Papaver Somniferum aka the opium poppy. While they are food to the eyes because they loook so beautiful they can be used as an analgesic or painkiller and for diarrhoea.  I would not recommend any one try this medicine  at home as poppies are very addictive and therefore can be dangerous. Enjoy looking at them and saving the seed for bread making.

IMG_1911

The cheerful Calendula or Pot Marigold flower petals are delicious added to salads and give a lovely colour to a green salad.  As a medicine, it pretty much does almost everything from  cleansing  the lymph system, normalising the menstrual cycle, reducing inflammation and improving digestion.  It is also an anti-fungal and is beneficial to all kinds of wounds, bruises, burns or sprains.  When making natural skin care remedies and cosmetics it would be the first herb I would reach for.

I have taken some liberty with the meaning of Hippocrates’ quotation (as he meant that if you eat well, your food is a medicine, keeping you healthy) to make the point that some of the plants we see as food plants only, actually have medicinal properties as well.

IMG_1908

This final plant, Rose Campion, is NOT a food plant and is NOT medicinal and NOR can I find any magical correspondences for it; but it really does brighten up a grey day so here it is.

If you would like to know more about making your own herbal preparations, I run a workshop every month here in Connemara on the Wild Atlantic Way.  Check out the Workshop section of the website.

 

Mid Summer – An Abundance of Beauty

I always find June to  be quite a wet month (today is no exception) but a sunny Monday and Tuesday led into a dry Wednesday, 21st June, the high point of the Summer Solstice and we were able to enjoy a bonfire last night with some good friends who arrived unexpectedly.

bonfire

I was celebrating the beauty and abundance of Mother Nature and celebrating the fertility of the land. Giving thanks to the Sun for the warmth and light that enabled the plants to grow.

IMG_1865

 

Looking at the meadow where we had our bonfire, you can see many wild flowers including Buttercup, Sorrel, Red Clover and Self Heal as well as the ubiquitous  Ox-Eye Daisy.

I was also giving thanks for the growth of the many plants that I have sown or planted and that are full of mid summer energy and ripeness.

IMG_1852

The bee on the Passionflower is very happy too. Mid summer is the perfect time to harvest herbs or medicinal plants as they are full of healing energy.  My house is taken over by plants drying.

 

IMG_1874

They are hanging in the kitchen,

IMG_1886                   IMG_1871

They are all over the therapy room, on the plinth,

IMG_1882

on the floor and even on an armchair in the living room.

IMG_1887

There are more, already dried, that I am chopping up very fine to make into teas and as you can see, many bags to get through.

IMG_1876

Mid summer is that most perfect time of year here in Connemara, when the colours of the plants are so vivid and the scents of plants such as Honeysuckle/Woodbine, Lavender and Rose are so delicious. This is the time when Mother Nature’s abundance becomes really visible and the hard work of transforming her gifts into edible delights and medicinal tonics begins.

 

Welcome to An Bhean Feasa – My Life in Connemara

Welcome to my blog!  I am very excited to be starting off on this adventure and I would like to explain what my objectives are and where I started from.

north-eastGrowing up in an industrial town in the north east of England made me yearn for Connemara.  Every time we visited my dad’s home place something deep inside of me was calmed and satisfied and at peace.  Looking out one way, there was a ruined castle, (which to my child’s imagination was just magic) and looking out the other way was the view of the majestic Twelve Bens. Playing out from dawn to dusk, running through green fields and along golden beaches was paradise for a child from a dirty old town.  As a young adult I became aware of environmental issues – to be concerned was the right thing to be but I was naive and didn’t really know what to do and of course, this was long before social media.  When I bought a little house, two up and two down with a back yard, I tried to created a beautiful garden in that cramped space.  I even planted a tree.  It seemed to be important and only natural to encourage plants to grow. Our visits to Connemara continued and moving back was always on my mind.  Finally, in 1994 I sold up and came to live here in Connemara.

My dad very generously gave me a site for a house and planning permission was applied for.  Our little cottage was built in 1998.  Once we settled in I wanted to start growing a garden, growing vegetables and being self sufficient as my ancestors had been.   I thought my two little girls would love to have their own garden patch to grow what they wanted.  One daughter was not interested in gardening then and the other one developed hay fever so found it difficult to be outside in the summer months.  It was just me, and only occasionally because real life kept getting in the way. The “garden” was pretty neglected.

Eventually after various jobs and a long spell at teaching and after meeting my new husband, I was inspired to open a health shop.  Something prompted me, whispered in my ear, pestered me until one day I jumped out of bed and said to my husband, “I’m going to open a health shop and call it An Bhean Feasa”.  That is Irish for the wise woman and  that was the start of a new chapter in my life. today-3-035