Be a bit more friendly towards the wild things

I know the neighbours despair of my nettle border and my overwhelming gorse mountain but I can't resist including them all in my mixed up wild, cultivated garden. There are so many parts of the country where the verges and the hedgerows are devoid of life. Grass grows, but the diversity that is natural to our Irish landscape has been extinguished. I hate to see those burned patches of ground where farmers have sprayed pesticides. Luckily the immediate boreens around here escape. Most of what I photograph in the wilderness is within a 5 minute stroll of my back door. There are still lots of pockets of this natural beauty in between the lovely formal gardens which now dominate the country both in urban and rural settings.

A combination of hand weeding and mulching takes care of my "garden" proper, where I am trying to grow flowers and pretty things. They have to be protected from the creeping buttercups and the rooty strong grasses, but I am not too fussy about order and grow vegetables, flowers and "weeds" together. Yes I am a lazy gardener and I am pest friendly but I am rewarded by lots of bees, butterflies and other "pests"which make the garden a lively spot! A very chilled approach.......

This evening I am showing off my "garden" and neatly editing out the compost heap and the seeding nettles. Seriously proud!


It's Midsummer!

In Sweden they really like to celebrate the summer solstice.  Families and friends gather for special crayfish parties which go on well into the bright night. Swedes are also fond of summer swimming in the inland lakes and at the archipeligo in Stockholm as well as the Baltic Sea. In Ireland we are are very cautious about lake swimming and it was only when my Swedish nephews came to visit me here that I followed their lead and jumped into the lake for the first time.

What amused me most was that we had no running water at the time, (another story) and so they naturally assumed we would bathe and wash in the lake. Without batting an eyelid, they walked off through the meadow, towels draped over their arms and wash bags at the ready! Ten years later I am now a confident lake swimmer. I have even had the pleasure of meeting a large trout eye ball to eye ball when he popped his head out of the water and looked at me for a moment......

Lake swimming is like the best outdoor spa in the world (although to be fair sea-swimming is the very creme de la creme). The water is soft and surprisingly warm and the scent of wild mint trodden underfoot adds to the spa vibe! The sounds are wonderful too, the breeze whistling through the reeds, the lapping of the water on the shore, and the birds and bees joining in. My favourite part is watching the swallows ducking and diving to sip water from the lake while always avoiding your head, or the heron flying across and calling like some prehistoric creature.

This summer solstice I will have a late lake swim to celebrate. I send best wishes to all the inspiring and supportive bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, friends and family who have been supporting my work since I started to blog in February. But a special wave to all my lovely (gorgeous looking) Swedish family and friends, have a wonderful Midsummer Solstice. What will you do to celebrate?


Blackberries start out as the sweetest blossoms

Blackberries are one of our most universally loved wild foods. As a girl I gathered them and stuffed my pockets only to be reprimanded for ruining all my clothes with their dark juice. To this day I can't resist them and in the late summer and autumn they transform my walks into a slow dance through the fields bending and stretching through thorns and nettles to get the best ones.

At this time of the year the hedgerows are teeming with their white understated blossoms. They don't last too long and it is only since I have been trying to photograph bees that I have noticed how beautiful they are. Bees don't hang around but on brambles they are so engrossed that it gives great opportunities to capture them.

The blackberry bramble is a common plant but few of us have them growing in our gardens. Luckily Paddy loves them and is inclined to leave them to grow through the other fruit trees and vegetables with great tolerance. (We both have a huge tolerance for wild things which most people would just call "weeds") I'm afraid Alan Titchmarsh would not be too impressed. Our poor manicured lawn neighbours down the lane have been offerring us a strimmer which I assume is a big hint to tidy up the wilderness, but they have no hope!

Although I love bees I am still not too good at distinguishing one type from another especially amongst the bumblers. Is this one the White-tailed Bumble Bee? If you are keen to observe them check out your local blackberry bush and for further information see Bumblebee Conservation and Dublin Beekeeping Services websites.


Nature takes no notice of my mood!

Approaching mid-summer, every wild plant is coming into it's prime. But this morning as I set out to walk, I felt some sadness at the way the earlier lime greens are already turning deeper and the landscape is beginning to clutter up with tall grasses and leaves. I trundled through the rain reprimanding myself a bit for wanting the world to stop turning, for hoping the foxgloves would last a bit longer, for wishing that the light would extend rather than shorten. In a gloomy mood I walked past everything that was happening thinking I am done, there's nothing else to say or see.

Interesting how nature takes no notice whatsoever of these doubts of mine! As I passed a small wall of moss and lichen I started to notice the tiny flowers and ferns in the fairy gardens between the crevices. Cranesbill, yarrow, vetch, and others that I still don't recognise.  I looked at the hawthorn that I photographed in May and saw that the haws were starting to form like small candles. On the blackthorn the sloes are green but well developed. The rain stopped and I persisted with the walk, continuing to see things that I have never even noticed before.

On my way back I was looking forward to the rest of the summer. Visitors coming, swims to be had, courgettes for the first time surviving in the garden. With the camera under my raincoat I increased my speed thinking about the lovely coffee, fried duck egg and spuds that Paddy would be cooking for breakfast. Gratitude was beginning to return....


Honeysuckle yes, but it's not a post about flowers today

Honeysuckle. Divine. But this is not a post about flowers today.

It's another rainy Sunday and some time to think.

Ken Robinson is an inspiring writer and speaker who promotes the need for creativity in schools and for each of us to find how to be "in our element" in what we do. It's about that thing that we do where we become our most abandoned, focussed and oblivious. It's about when we are working on something that is not like work, so much so that we would do it for nothing. It's doing and being "me" at some deep level, so it's not an effort or a pretense or a trial. If you have never listened to Ken Robinson then you have a treat in store and here is the link. Ken Robinson TED

Achieving in this zone is rewarding and life enhancing. It doesn't mean that you don't have to learn skills or work hard because if you are in your element you will already have a talent and a desire to pursue the work. You will know you are on to it if you are blogging when you should be doing other things!

There just aren't enough hours in the day for creativity. When I am working on my own stuff the house falls down around me, my job fades into the background, my family and friends are forgotten!

I know that one of my own earliest projects was a little copybook full of poems with illustrations, I had just started school. Another was my ballet class but this passion ended when I pulled the barre from the wall with my other 12 year old pal. Yet another was collecting snails, giving them lectures about a variety of subjects and lining them up on the garden path as my audience. My poor sisters had to endure my fantasies about being a teacher sitting in the garage for hours reading aloud the letters off a big For Sale sign. Hints for my future? I think so.

Rainy days like this can provide precious hours of guilt free enjoyment when I am in my element producing and creating. How about you. When are you in your element?


A love affair between bees and flowers

I spent the evening following the bees in my own garden. They like the Catmint. It is in full bloom and laden with buzzing busy bees. Since trying to photograph them I have become aware of just how fast they move! Most of the photographs were very out of focus because of all this flitting. There are 14 types of Bumble Bee so I can't tell you which one this is. Any experts out there?

Check out Louie Schwartzberg give his TED talk on The hidden beauty of pollination here. He describes the love affair between flowers and bees which has been evolving for 50 million years. The film he shows will really knock you out!

News from Helen Carroll via twitter it's actually a Bombus Pascuorum a Ginger-tailed Bumble Bee. Thanks Helen.


Ever seen the Marsh Cinquefoil?

Have you ever seen this lovely wild flower Potentilla Palustris otherwise known as the Cinquefoil and in Irish an Cno Leana, I never had until this weekend. It grows in marshy fields and lakesides, so has perfect conditions in the boggy field between us and the lake. It caught my eye immediately because of it's smokey deep dark crimson colouring. Again the wonderful website www.irishwildflowers.ie answers all my questions, and tells me that it is declining in numbers in the South.

It is interesting how although we don't always know the names of wild plants we are aware of their presence and give them our own names. It is that special time of the year here when wild plants are coming into their prime and this year I intend to get to know them a bit better. I won't forget this rare beauty in a hurry!


I said be prepared to swoon!

When I said be prepared to swoon I didn't think it would mean "that's a bit weird." But there you are. When I went in really close these fellas seemed to mean business. Not quite the end of the romance yet though. Have camera will continue to photograph! I am a foolish romantic about Foxgloves and it might be the two beers talking but there's plenty more swooning to be done over this lot........

The real summer just arrived

Not too much to say just have to get out there and be part of the lovely real summer while it lasts.