Celebrating the returning light.

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We were very fortunate this year as the sun was shining when we headed off to county Sligo on the morning of the 22nd of December. Our destination was the Carrowkeel tombs, a Neolithic site between 5400 and 5100 years old. We visited three of the fourteen passage tombs situated on a mountain range above Lough Arrow.

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It is difficult to imagine a more fitting place to welcome back the sun and the lengthening days after the winter solstice. We were able to enter two of the tombs by crawling through the narrow entry passage and here you can see the ingenious stonework that now has lasted longer than the pyramids of Egypt. One of them has a flat piece of rock set at an angle on the inside wall, making the same shape and set in the direction of  the Croagh Patrick mountain in county Mayo, that can be easily viewed from the site on a clear day. The tombs all have a central chamber with three equally spaced side chambers. Once you crawl into them the space is quite big and you can stand up.  Just like in Newgrange, the famous megalithic site in county Meath, the tombs are placed in a way so the correspond with the light on certain time of the year, like the summer and winter solstice. We believe the people that built them celebrated the seasons and the returning light in a much deeper way than we do today. Many people  live quite removed from nature today, not paying too much attention to the changes of the year. We feel very fortunate to live on our small piece of land, growing as much of our food as possible and spending time outside, almost every day of the year.

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A short walk away from the tombs is a deep natural hollow with a very large cave at the bottom. By natural phenomena, the low light from the sun at midday illuminates the back wall of the cave for a short while, only on the days right around the time of the winter solstice.We all made the steep climb down the hole and into the cave and had a chance to view this beautiful spectacle first hand. Unfortunately it is difficult to see how astonishing this place is in the pictures. It is really worth a visit. The cave is big and would easily fit one hundred people.

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We had an experienced guide and friend with us and the day turned out to be lovely, meeting some new people and spending time out on the mountain side in the strong cold wind as well as sheltering for a while in one of the ancient tombs. We clapped, drummed and listened to Paul play the penny whistle. It is hard to describe the feeling of calm and safety inside the tomb, you really feel a strong connection to the land and time in there.

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On the drive home we visited Moygara castle above Lough Gara, another beautiful site full of history.

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We came back home feeling refreshed and ready for the new lighter time ahead, but also tired from all the fresh air.  All of our four teenagers agreed it was a day well spent and we all slept soundly that night.

A stressful December?

There were a lot of big plans for December blog posts in late November. One was to be about green natural decorations for your house and garden. How to put together wreaths, mantelpiece swathes and other beauties from Ivy and found plant materials. Another post was to be about Scandinavian paper Christmas decorations for the tree, such as woven hearts and something frilly that translates as a Christmas tree sweet or Christmas tree cracker.


But somehow those posts did not get written. We moved into our new extension early in the month and we had grossly underestimated the amount of work involved. Everything in our combined living and bed room had to be moved out, sorted through and made to find new spaces in the extension.  The recently vacated mottled green room was not to our teenage girls liking. It also looked a bit worse for wear so had to be painted; ceiling, walls, shelves, radiator, window frames etc…  Everything needed two or three coats of paint. Now it is a dream in Venetian white and a grey-blue colour called Robin egg. The girls are happily moved in but to get them to help out with the room they until recently shared with their sister is a different story. Three teenage girls can accumulate a huge amount of stuff and now all of that needs to be sorted through and moved before that room can be painted and decorated for the remaining inhabitant.

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We also had five big crates residing in the kitchen full of the stuff taken off a shelving unit we had to move out in order to build the walkway through to the extension. They were very much in the way in our small kitchen and are now in the process of slowly being sorted through. So to make a long story short, almost everything in the house is being moved around. It is like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are hard to find and even harder to put together.


December can be a stressful month at the best of times, but all of the above in combination with all the holiday must do’s and should do’s has made this past few weeks quite difficult. Slowly the tension has been building up and time has been slipping through our fingers, disappearing fast. And at the back of our minds the thoughts have been gnawing away, we must find time for the blog posts, and time to write the Christmas cards and time to find the Jamie Oliver Recipe cards for the Christmas dinner, and time for this and time for that until there has been no time to enjoy anything anymore.

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It was high time to put on the big brakes. How much fun is Christmas with six grumpy, tired and irritable individuals? So now we are relaxing as much as possible. We had an evening together last week and dressed the tree. It will be the only decoration in our house, but we are ok with that. The room that needs painting will still be there after the holidays, and so will most of the mess in the house and all the weeds in the garden, but does it really matter? Is it good to have cleaned sparkling windows but no time to sit down and talk to each other?  Is an hour spent cleaning worth more than an hour visiting a lonely neighbour or a friend? We might still make some paper decorations for the tree and write about it here but only because it is fun and not because we have to.

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We leave you now with a few pictures from our lives in December and we wish you all a calm and happy time over the holidays.

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The beauty of November passing.


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People often think of November as a dull, grey, wet and cold month. That November is something that has to be endured rather than enjoyed. We beg to differ. As the garden and nature in general slows down and moves towards a more restful time there is beauty everywhere. From the fireworks display of leaves and flowers to the stark forms of the remaining artichokes, if you look you will find it.

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Spring is often seen as a joyful, bright and uplifting time but is it really so different from autumn? We believe all parts of the wheel of time should be celebrated, enjoyed and looked upon in awe. Without the plants dying back, withering and resting there would be no spring spectacle to behold.  No new leaves unfurling or apple blossom to marvel at.When the sun comes out and shines its low rays across all the colours in our garden in November, it feels like a miracle not very different from looking at the first butterfly or bumblebee of spring.

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It has been very wet and windy over the last month in the West of Ireland and we have been busy indoors, finishing work on our extension, so the garden is in a state of some neglect. There is much planting, weeding and some moving of plants to be done. We always plant things as soon as we can and if something turns out not to thrive in its allocated position we move it later. A year of growth in the ground is almost always better than a year waiting around in a pot to be planted out. Our planting of ornamental grasses that we created in the spring is coming on nicely and is starting to fill the space.

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Our paths are in need of attention. We put down a lot of mulched Leylandii and thatch from an old cottage when we established the garden but after two and a half years the paths are getting worn down, starting to break up and have some weeds creeping in. It is now time to move all this old, rotted down material and use it as mulch around plants all around the garden. We will dig out the main paths quite deep, put in some drainage pipes and replace the path with maintenance (quarry dust). This should last a lot longer than the thatch and mulch. On higher ground, where water logging is not a problem,  we are planning to just have cut grass.

The rain over the last month has led to our stream being very full of water.

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Every month we show pictures of the garden taken from our main circle in the four cardinal directions. You can see how the garden changes and evolves over the year in the category elemental circle. The artichokes have mostly died back now and will be cut down shortly, shredded and used at mulch back on the bed again. We are looking forward to what next month brings.

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Roses in December?