Today we took some time to drink in the beauty of the season. Walking slowly around the land and snapping a few photographs here and there. This video is the result. We hope you enjoy it!
It has been a very busy year with third level studies, house and garden maintenance and an abundance of creative projects. We miss updating the blog on a regular basis but sometimes we need to slow down and just be in the here and now. Hopefully there will be some more in depth posts in the not too distant future…
We usually write a post at the start of each month, summarizing what has happen on the land and sharing a few pictures. Our camera gave up the ghost sometime in June and since then we have been using a phone for taking photos. Unfortunately there have been a lot of hiccups with uploading them to any posts and we have had to try to work around this problem. That is the biggest reason we did not post much in the last couple of months. We have hopefully found a system that works now and will post on a more regular basis.
In July and August the land was very generous and the seeds we planted in spring grew and supplied us with a bountiful harvest. All our perennial plants have also been great and we had more berries than any other year. This year we have also spent a lot of time harvesting herbs and other plants for drying and using in mixes for teas. We wrote a post recently with a few of our favourite mixes and their benefits.
Around our main circle we have admired and cherished all the colours, smells and sounds. As you probably all agree this year has been very different from most and the land has supported and nurtured us through these unchartered times and kept us from falling into despair. What can be more calming and reassuring than resting your senses in nature.
We never got the chance to finish writing this post earlier as uploading the photos kept on being a problem but now we have worked around it and wish to share these pictures of sunnier days with you. It was a glorious summer despite the strange circumstances.
Please feel free to share some photos from your special summer in the comments if you like.
We are fortunate to have an abundance of herbs, wildflowers and trees on the land. This year we decided to dry as many as possible and make up some herbal tea blends for winter. We are only starting to delve into the fascinating world of healing herbs and there is so much to learn.
We are very fond of the American band The National and decided to name our different tea blends after a few of their songs. To tell you the truth we are not sure we would have survived all the hundreds of hours of work on renovation and building our house if it was not for the silky smooth voice of the lead singer Matt Berninger keeping us company. Like dark chocolate, deep ruby wine and coffee he has kept us sane and safe. So this tribute makes a lot of sense.
We dried all the different ingredients in our dehydrator. Here in the West of Ireland it is difficult to dry them any other way as our summers are always a bit unreliable. Our first blend is named after the song “Sleep well beast” and as the name suggests it brings you relaxation and good dream. It consists of lemonbalm, lavender, camomile and rose petals.
The second blend is for regulating hormones, alleviating hot flushes and improving moods and would be beneficial for most women and in particular anyone going through the menopause. We named it after the song “Wasp nest”. It consists of fermented raspberry leaves, lady’s mantle, sage, fennel, red clover and honeysuckle flowers.
To chase away cold and flu and to alleviate any symptoms if you do get ill we made up a mixture named after the song “Cold girl fever”. It consists of meadow sweet flowers, lawn daisy, fennel, plantain, mint, sage, yarrow, honeysuckle flowers and raspberry leaves.
Our next blend is named after the song “Racing like a pro” and as the name suggests it gets you rearing to go. For this blend we added one ingredient that we did not grow or forage ourselves. It is the South American plant Yerba Mate that has many health benefits and contains caffeine for a nice lift but it leaves you less jittery than coffee. To the mix we also added lemon verbena, rose pelargonium, calendula, mint flowers and leaves, sweet cicely, strawberry mint and fermented black currant leaves.
If you plan to make your own herbal tea mixes we suggest you do some research as some herbs might not be suitable for everyone. For instance if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication, you will need to look into if certain herbs are off bounds.
We did make up one last blend that is brilliant for detoxing the body and is named after the song Bitters & Absolut. It consists of Birch leaves, dandelion leaves and nettle tops. With all the different herb teas it is important not to drink the same one every day for a long time. Take a break now and again and swap between the different mixes. Although it can be tempting to display your teas on a shelf in the kitchen, the best place for them is in a dark, dry and cool cupboard where the medicinal properties will be preserved.
June saw a lot of wet and windy weather and there was a great risk of blight forming on any crops in the potato family. We decided to try out a natural all in one tonic and remedy. You start by picking a bucket full of horsetail plant and let them steep for a week in water. We used a large flat stone to keep all of the horsetails submerged and ended up with a very smelly mixture. We strained out the horsetail and boiled the liquid for about ten minutes to prevent any spores from growing. Horsetail is an ancient and fascinating plant.
May has seen an explosion of colour on the land and plants and wildlife woo equally for our attention. An inquisitive young Coal-tit found his way into the conservatory and had to be rescued. He spent a few moments relaxing outside the door and was a great target for the camera before he flew off on new adventures.
Like many of you we have moved through April at a slower pace than usual. There are so many treasures to marvel at in the natural world and we hope that at the end of the current situation more people will be able to connect with nature at a deeper level. It is time to stop abusing the planet and to understand that we are only a small part of the web of life.
It has been a beautiful month in the garden and now more than ever we realize the importance of supporting the local eco system by encouraging nature to run wild in most parts and use part of the land for growing food and medicinal plants. With the increasingly grim reports of the virus ripping through communities and countries, we have found solace in the simple acts of engaging with wildlife and plants. We believe that life cannot go back to the way it was before this pandemic as capitalism has stretched the natural resources well beyond limits. This is the time for starting a more harmonious relationship with nature and we are great admirers of Mary Reynolds and her ARK project that is gaining strength throughout the word. You can read about it here.
We think humanity has a real opportunity to steer away from mindless overconsumption and build strong communities by producing food locally, eat what is in season, have holidays close to home, work from home when possible and share ideas and skills in new and creative ways. Many small local businesses are struggling at the moment all across the world but when the lock down is lifted we need to support all of the wonderful people who work hard to create a sustainable and vibrant local community. We must put Mother Nature first. We believe it is time to shift our aims and values away from “what can I get?” and concentrate on “what can I give?” We think Jane Goodall sums it all up pretty well in this video.
In February over one hundred frogs came back to visit our small pond where they were born and now the water is absolutely teeming with tadpoles.
In the annual vegetable garden we have been harvesting kale and sprouting broccoli every day for the past three weeks and started to clear the beds for the spring planting season. For many years we lived in places without a garden and back then we “grew” most of our vegetables inside. Sprouting is a great way to add nutrients and colour to our diet and we wrote about it in a post a few years back. For information about sprouting and tasty recipes please visit the wonderful Sproutpeople website. If you are at home this might be an ideal time to explore this easy and cheap way of producing food.
The lockdown in Ireland has given us time to study from home but also all work together on putting up a small poly tunnel for tender crops and seedlings. It has been lovely working together for a common goal.
Around our main circle spring is well on its way and we have been busy weaving a low fence around our cardoon and artichoke beds. We cut back a lot of our bamboos and coppiced some ash trees for materials. This should stay in place for at least five years. We still have one fence to complete.
We hope you will all stay safe and well in the challenging weeks and months ahead. Our hearts are with all the frontline workers in hospitals and in food production and distribution. We are staying at home and living as self-sustainable as possible to try and stay out of their way. It is not a sacrifice but a privilege to spend time close to nature and with each other as a family. We are very lucky to have running water, a home to call our own and a piece of the earth to be the guardians of. Many many people in poorer countries are not so lucky and for them the crisis of this virus will be much more devastating. We need to give them as much solidarity and help as possible.
We believe February was the wettest month we have experienced so far on the land in the seven years we have been here. Most days saw a mix of sleet, snow, rain and lots of windy gusts. Our stream is at an all time high.
The year of 2019 has come to an end on the land and we wish to summarise it like we usually do, with a photo from each month. It is a huge privilege to live in close proximity with the natural word and we would like to celebrate that here with a photographic journey through the year from the small patch of earth that we are guardians of.