I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the very best for the year ahead. May your spuds sprout early and your snails drown in beer.
26th December 2020.
I added some Christmas cheer to the garden this week. Bowls of cyclamen, ivy, Jerusalem cherry, primrose and tiny conifers have been beautifully planted up (by someone other than me) to add to the occasion.
It has been an Annus Horibilis, yet I take this opportunity to wish all my loyal subjects across the shrinking empire a happy and safe Christmas. Having got that out of the wayslí, my floral additions below come with some thoughts for this very special time of the yearbliain.
It’s late Christmas evening final edits time, so I’m moving one beyond six. It’s a Magnificent Seven. I made a promise to live on the edge. I’m sure Jon Propagator will agree that it’s the season for love and understanding. All other garden writers will be popping links (Six, I’d imagine) to what’s going on in worldwide Gardens today so do pop over for a look.
I’m dreaming of… a Coronaviris-free world. I hope it will happen very soon. The year has seen unnecessary death, misery, and stress. So, join me please by doing the right things to help keep ourselves and others safe.
I dream also of a Trumpless administration. Wear your mask, wash your hands. There will be no pardoning of gardeners.
I’m dreaming of… an end to homelessness. The very idea of a person not having a home is so very sad. Home is a place that allows us to find the strength to fight adversity, to love and be loved, to be creative and, in our case, to plant a garden as a hope for the future.
Dreaming doesn’t really help, so I’m pledging to decide how action on my part in 2021 will help. Actioning activates dreaming.
I include in my thoughts those who have a home but are unable to be there because of travel restrictions. Even in a world of Zoom, there’s nothing quite like pulling a cracker.
I’m remembering… my brother who passed away at the young age of twenty-eight. I’m remembering also all those from my extended family who are no longer with us to celebrate this Christmas, and I expand that thought to include your departed loved ones.
I’m patiently waiting for… a new bike. It will not arrive until mid-May because of supply-chain issues. Whatever you’re waiting for in 2021, may it bring you joy and contentment. Rule 29.b.2 is important here. Waiting is exciting, knowing that by doing the groundwork, the end result is almost inevitable.
I’m grateful for… the peace of mind that my gardening has given me. There’s been a lot written this year about the mental health benefits of gardening. In my case, I know that to be very true, not just this year.
I’m hoping for… continued gardening through these bleak months. There’s not much doing at the moment but plans are afoot. After the Christmas pudding and presents I assisted with the cleanup prior to a cold afternoon cycle and spent a while looking through my seed packets while watching The Incredible Showman. The propagator will appear from the attic on New Year’s Eve.
I watched the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter during the week. There’s some theory or other that this would be the best time to plant something or other sa gáirdín, but I’m not a believer. This coming together of the two superballs is the closest since 1623 and will not happen again until 2080. In the meantime, it’s a Nollaig Shona from me here in South-East Ireland. I wish you all the very best for the year ahead. May your spuds sprout early and your snails drown in beer.
ALERT: This article is an edited version of today’s earlier one (Halloween), with added thoughts, some of which you may find distressing.
The first storm of the season will be racing through today. Storm Aiden, I hope you behave yourself! In advance, I tucked a few wobbly plants away in a corner, particularly my two new Agastache. It seems I’ll be able to read many of the lovely SOS updates any time during the day because there certainly will be no going outside. How exciting!
Only once during the past five months have I included a photograph taken in the Front Garden, so today I intend to make amends. I suppose it is under-represented because I have no interest in gardening for the neighbours. My castlecaisleán is out the back. A YARD, as some of you lovely gardeners would call it! My conumdrumtrioblóid now (Wednesday, 9pm) is to find an angle to link my unseen front-of-house with some rambling thoughts on an important topical issue. More coffee…
Thursday, 9pm. Ireland prepares to have its Front Garden hidden again! Five years ago a Commission was set up to investigate Mother & Baby Homes, and to record testimony from survivors. Finally, the report is due this week. These institutions/”homes” were prisons for pregnant unmarried women, run by religious authorities on behalf os the State. Government inspectors had tea with the nuns and manyturned a blind eye to the abuses. The women worked for their keep, generally in laundry operations. Their babies were separated shortly after birth, were fostered and sometimes sold for profit. It also transpired that hundreds of infants died of neglect. In one case, the remains of an estimated 700 have been located in a septic tank. Staggering as all this may seem is, it seems our Government has decided to archive much of the information for thirty years. That’s a very long lockdown. Yes there’s spin and misinformation, confusion and anger. Seems to me like an arrogant two fingers to Joe & Mary Public.
1. Above and Below
Outside the front door is a pot given to me by my neighbour Joe. It has been a standout welcome-to-our-home all summer, filled with marigolds and begonia. I planted these around the edges, but the not centre because there’s a basket of daffodils hidden below soil level. I know they are there. I have written the nameainm in the ledger and I know how many are there. All of this information is available to anyone who asks. I will not be part of hiding my Front Garden.
2. Verbena bonariensis
We have a narrow section of loose stone beside the boundary wall, again planted for the summersamhradh with some annuals. Several years ago we had planted three Verbena bonariensis on the other side, and they seeded among the stone everywhere. They are loved by butterflies and me. Every time I see a butterfly land on the flowers, I imagine the spirit of a small infant set free of the torture meted out by cruel moral-protectors.
3. Sacred Ritual
It’s everywhere, this beautiful bonariensis. It cannot be ignored. Imagine the horror if I were to collect these seeds and lock them away for thirty yearstríocha bliain. I sought out more information about Verbena. The Latin word means Sacred Bough, used in rituals to cleanse and purify homes.
That’s enough now. Come through the house with me to my castle behind. Wear your mask and use the bleachhand-sanitiser. Let us be aware of everything that has been hidden, but let’s take a peek. Firstly, I’ve got something for Halloween. In a way, it’s slightly related to the Hidden Ireland theme.
At Halloween, it was believed that the fairy chambers spill open, and the vast, uncountable multitudes of fairies have free passage on this earth. The very thin space between our dimension, and the dimensions of the dead, becomes thinner, allowing our ancestors to return for one night.
I wrote about The Manic Fairy back in February ’19. He caused constant trouble but as I write now I’m angry. I did not intend this Fairies mullarkey to further remind me of lost souls in our Hidden Ireland. Halloween is a time of remembrance. Its a new beginning. It was the ancient Celtic New Year’s Day.
For my fifth today, I’m reminded that three years ago I planted thirteen heathers in three areas near the one and only glasshouseteach gloine. You’ve not seen them yet. I’m waiting until winter to feature them. I got three more last weekend and I’ve decided to put them on the Sunny Rockery near the Budda Man. For the moment they remain hidden, so the photograph remains on my phone, unpublished. It will emerge a lot sooner than the cloak-and–dagger shenannigans leading up to the unfortunate thirty-year camouflage.
In the absence of visual evidence, and in the interest of balance, I thought Wednesday’s Irish Times article would allay my fears but I simply do not believe what they’re promising. I do understand the reason why our President signed Bill and I feel he is not in any way to blame. I’ll explain if asked.
5. Salads in Season
The glasshouse is brimming with enough salad leaves for three weeks. I’ve got a second boxbosca that is just three weeks behind, so guess what? There will be no loss of service. I’m waiting a bit longer to sow the next batch because with falling temperatures, growth of batch #2 will be slower. There are scallions and a hardy lettuce outside. I do not need much more. I’ll be able to have a la carte salad menus. There is no hidden agenda here, just me enjoying growing healthy food.
Over To You
Has there been anything similar where you live?
Do you have troublesome fairies at back of your garden?
Here’s an excerpt from The Manic Fairy back in February… The little fairy tapped on the window while I was having coffee.
Didn’t you think about it? The powerwasher kept cutting out, she said. Was it you?, I asked. Well, to be honest, no. I wouldn’t do that. But Mikey the Manic Fairy was all riled up yesterday and he said he was going to cause trouble. What riled him? You bought that Fairy Door in New Ross last week, and you just moved it to Abbeyside without asking. What? You can’t be just moving fairy doors wherever you want. Mikey was all set to help Wexford score a few points in the hurling, and you took it all away. He’s here in your flippin garden and he’s not a happy fairy. What can I do? Well, if I was you, I’d face him head-on, coz he’s a crazy fecker.
Would you like to read about many other gardens around the World? The following are well represented on the Six-on-Saturday thingymebob created by The Propagator: England, Belgium (welcome aboard Sel. Fáilte isteach. Kia ora!), America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Read all about it and follow gardeners’ gardens. You may join in free gratis (free of charge), saor in aisce. Ireland has several keen enthusiasts, and I’m happy to be among them.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article this week. If you’re new here, I do hope you’ve enjoyed been shocked by it enough to return next week. Regulars here are regular for a reason, and I thank you all so much for your regularity, fun, interaction and your knowledge. I’m learning gach seachtain. Alas, there’s been only a little fun & mischief this week. I’ll be hoping to report on some further mischief after the US elections next week. Slán go fóill.
Having to negotiate the ups and downs of my mind is regularly problematic. Now that my website is living as two separate entities, I’m caught between TWO minds. Do I continue here until such time as the NEW location is as I want it, and do I stay here afterwards?
I have some teething issues, one of which had been pointed out to me only today. It is this: What happens to the 124 subscribers to my website here? Does a subscription follow across to the transferred domain? How sensible would it be to keep both websites alive? I am torn, but the answer is… get out to the garden!
The Vegetable Bed and the Holding Bed are ready for winter. On the left, all my cuttings are safely tucked in under glass. On the right, I’ve got onions coming up slowly, plenty lettuce & scallions, and space to get the peas in very soon.
Until I retired in 2013 I had lost interest in my garden. The love of gardening that was there 30 years ago vanished amid the stress of work. Now, I’m back in full flow and loving the time I get to spend a few hours pottering. Some days I’ve got a plan in my head but most days it’s a case of seamlessly moving on to what I notice needs doing. Of course, there’s also a helluva lot more time to relax, have a coffee or take a nap.
In all this, my good (best) wife Marion leaves me to my own devices. She sees the satisfaction it brings me and likes what she sees. She did have two long-term requests: a water fountain and a Budda. So, in line with my Happy Wife Policy (Rule 1.1.2b), we added both during Covid-19 lockdown. We are happy together.
I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching.
5th September 2020.
For thirty-five years I returned to work during the first week of September. It marked the beginning of the new school year and put a halt to my summer gallop. My wife and I slowly stopped going places, we began the slowing-down process in preparation for winter stay-at-home coziness. This semi-hibernation lasted each year until the end of February, and although I no longer work for a living, our summer still finishes at the end of August. The first of September is like New Year’s Day.
Our only staycation this year was in County Wicklow the week before last, and I include memories here to look back on in thirty years time, using the nursing-home-supplied iPad. I’ll be 92. Come along with me on a magical journey to the National Gardens Exhibition Centre in Kilquaide, County Wicklow on the east coast near Dublin. As with the recent storm-force-Francis winds, I’m bending the SOS guidelines very severely as these images are sixteen days old.
1. Move along, move along…
Step from one garden into another, similar to moving from one season into the next. Life moves along and changes, sometimes seamlessly and at other times abruptly. There’s a step up this time. In other cases, life throws in a step down or even a steep drop.
Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. - Yoko Ono
2. Let there be darkness…
We visited in mid-afternoon, following forty-eight hours of rain and wind. The weather was just beginning to brighten, yet there was a darkness very uncharacteristic of August. I am reminded that life brings such dark moments when we least expect them. Embrace life in all its strange times.
3. Think beyond…
On a more positive note, this little nook brings to my mind the beauty of looking beyond the present. There is light beyond the darkness. This time will pass.
4. Creating from nothing…
Whoever created this scene obviously started with the stone steps and planted around them. I’d like to think that the creator is able to see the beauty that has resulted. A vision to create beauty from within.
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
5. Shade and Light…
I was struck by this scene. Life brings us moments of bright sunshine and darker times. The trick may be to realise that everything is constantly changing. Rotha mór an t-saoil. The wheels of life keep turning.
6. New arrival. ..
This is the Wicklow Budda. I’m told I should rub his belly every few days. Marion has waited a long time to find the right one for this spot. I did mention that a Fitbit would look good on his wrist but she knew I was only being half-serious.
7. On a personal note…
Throwback to this time seven years ago. My retirement clock. I’ve been #busybusy ever since. Busy also finding time to do the things I love. Cycling, gardening, writing and lots more. I’ve heard it said that men don’t do retirement very comfortably, and there have been times I’ve felt a bit lost, but by and large, I’m very happy not to be clock-watching. Here’s to the next seven. I’ll be 69.
That’s my lot for this week, a cháirde. I’ll be back with more an Satharn seo chugainn. In the meantime, please visit Mr. Propagator’s garden blog where you can find many more Six on Saturday offerings from around the world, together with details of how to participate if that’s your thing. I’ll be spending some time today, tomorrow (or perhaps even yesterday?) reading articles by so many others, and I’ll not be clock-watching ar chor ar bith. I hope you have a great week, be it in the garden, the potting shed or elsewhere. Slán go fóill.
My intention to link what’s happening in my garden to everyday life brings me to record my trip to the hospital in Cork yesterday. Suffice it to say that all is well. No kitchen tiles were damaged in the fall, the staff here are good, food is good and I’ll be cycling heading home shortly.
I’ve been very comforted by the fact that I’ve had to confirm my identity and date of birth upwards of a dozen times. Purely from a health & safety viewpoint, they want to be sure they send the right person home!
Readers will understand that the photo above is not current. I will be looking forward to tasting some delicious tomatoes very soon.
With time on my hands, my desire to find a positive slant to a negative event brings me back to my colouring app. I can’t go weeding, planting or gardening of any kind until tomorrow, but I pass away a few hours reading, writing this and also using my HappyColor. It’s called happy for a reason! I found an interesting flower.
Our lives, like our gardens, are made up of the crisp clear images we portray to the world, together with our darker blurred backgrounds.
Saturday, 25th July 2020.
Marylin vos Savant is very wise. She is an American magazine columnist, author, lecturer and playwright. She is known for many other things, one of which is that she rates as having the Guinness Book of Records highest IQ title. I am learning about her. She has said many wonderful and practical things. A selection of her various words of wisdom advises that you should:
be able to cite three good qualities of every relation or acquaintance you dislike
be able to decline a date so gracefully that the person isn’t embarrassed that he or she asked
be able to hiccup silently, or at least in a way not to alert neighbours of your situation. The first hiccup is an exception.
I have been practicing depth of field photography, and one of her quotable quotes makes the link I’m looking for.
The length of your life is less important than its depth.
Marilyn vos Savant
Enough of this in-depth introduction. Let’s get to the most important aspect of the situation deep down to the nub of the matter. Here I go again with my six this Saturday…
Uimhir a h-aon:
Buzy Lizzies and Privet stand out against the darker blurred background. Prizes for the first five who can identify the background plant on top right.
Uimhir a dó:
I do love grasses and this one has been catching my eye all summer with is tiny purplish tinge. There’s a lot going on behind.
Uimhir a trí:
The upside-down flower, Liatris spicata was featured on Instagram last week. Here it is again, one week on, opening further down. I watched a single busy bee stay on this plant for about twenty minutes a few days ago.
Uimhir a ceathar:
This is a rescue Acer. It had been in the neglected front garden. Now it is being tended carefully and the new growth has made the work worthwhile. Again, there are prizes on offer if you can identify the bike stand. Simple yes or no will suffice. The purpose of the bike-stand is two-fold as explained yesterday.
Uimhir a cúig:
The zonal pelargoniums are in focus amid the other varieties. Some dead-heading is required and these plants will need a long soak in the soak tray. After they’ve had a long soak in the soak tray, I will drip feed them from overhead. Likely, they will need to be checked individually because when potted plants are packed so tightly they suffer because of lack of air blowing through. All of these little tasks are on the early-next-week list. It’s Rule 42b for July and August.
Uimhir a sé:
Rosa ‘Korresia’ wafts its scent as I walk nearby. The flowers are short-lived, but new replacement buds quickly appear go tapaigh.
That’s my Six on Saturday. I hope you pick your favourite in the comments. Feel free also to win a prize or to outline any deep thoughts that come to mind.
Deep Saturday Thought
On the basis that depth of field photography highlights the foreground and blurs the background, would the image be interesting if the background was not there? Our lives, like our gardens, are made up of the crisp clear images we portray to the world, together with our darker blurred backgrounds.
Spoiler alert: The answer is 42. Don’t go there, unless you’re a fan of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.
For easier browsing, why not take a look at what my gardening friends are showing this Saturday by visiting The Propagator? You’ll find details about how to participate there too. And now it’s goodbye from me, but the story continues next week. Slán go fóill.
My bike-stand has served me well. When it’s not in use for washing my rothar, it doubles as a bird-feeder prop. Included also is the warped & wobbly deadwood, varnished to extend its death-life.
This bike-stand, although not used as a bike-stand as often as it should, has served me well. Last night was proof of the cleaning when I participated in my club 20km time-trial. My personal best back in 2017 was 36m30s and I clipped 34 seconds off that, coming home in 35:56. Time to clean the bike? Not yet, I’m thinking. Time to relax in the gáirdín and enjoy the summer. Every time I look at the bird-feeder I’ll do so with satisfaction!
Every so often, I notice a plant that is struggling. One of the very obvious signs is severe dehydration. It droops noticeably, and would sink into a deep state of illness if the issue were not rectified.
This is NOT my usual gardening style article. It came to be as I thought about what to add to my July Instagram write-every-day challenge. The theme for the day was “Pink and Green”, but rather than find something in my garden, I photographed my winter wellies and added a quote. Pink sock, green welly.
The author of the quote is unknown, yet I feel it was a man. In my mind, I choose to think it was a man, and for the purposes of this blog-thingy article I choose to attribute it to all men.
Here are some insights about me which I wrote on my About page when I started this website:
Writing is good for my head. When head is good so is everything, including some fast biking and slow gardening
I write when I’m well, go quiet when I’m struggling. Maybe it needs to be the other way round?
I have seasonal depression (in spring ffs)
I love when folks respond to my writing, but it is primarily therapeutic.
I chose to get this written simply to focus myself, through all my writing here, on the importance of the writing process. My garden is the subject of all my writing, yet the underlying impetus is the writing itself. It is my medication and my meditation. It works for me!
As with millions of others, I’ve had my struggles. Personal issues throughout my life sometimes became too difficult to handle, and mental overthinking went into overdrive. I regard myself as being incredibly blessed (in a non-religious fashion) by the support of my close family and a few close friends. This support has enabled me to overcome temporary roadblocks and has given me with an attitude of gratitude. Indeed, it had brought me to an important realisation (better late than never!) that it is in giving that we receive.
Lessons Learned in the Garden
For a moment, let me attempt to relate all this jumbo-mumbo to my garden… Every so often, I notice a plant that is struggling. One of the very obvious signs is severe dehydration. It droops noticeably, and would sink into a deep state of illness if the issue were not rectified. Simply by watering, the poor thing recovers.
Watering is a simple first-responder solution. However, the underlying issue may be deeper and other solutions may be necessary. Talking is one therapy that works, and it works for plants too. Charlie is actually right! Here are two YouTube videos that explain how trees “talk” to one another:
Therefore, if talking has therapeutic benefits for the plant community, why not for humans? Specifically also, why not for men? We love to talk shite, frequently while sitting on a bar-stool, yet will refuse to talk about stuff that needs to be said and listened to.
Back to my garden once again…
I went searching through my older articles and came up with this from February 2019. Click the picture to read the original. Depression, cycling, writing… It’s all there, and a nice story too of a good day out.
In winter, I will wear thick socks and wellies when the weather is wet. Not so in summer. Pink socks? Yes, I have been known to wear just one, but it keeps falling down. My mam used to advise that blue and green should never be seen together. In the case of the fallen pink, it remains unseen. Men need to talk about these things. Because it’s hidden to others, men keep these things all bottled up. Not good.
In relation to bottled up, I’ll finish with a summery image from 2018. In this case, I can vouch for the beneficial use of whiskey. Relaxation in the garden is great. I don’t need the whiskey to say what I need to say.
It’s about being alive. About noticing all the little things, because no one ever knows if it’s the last time they’ll see them. (Tamara Ireland Stone)
13th July 2020.
Also known as Just Three Things or Three on Tuesday.
My morning inspection yesterday filled me with immense satisfaction for several reasons. My friend delivered two dozen double-yolk eggs, two of which will be enjoyed shortly. Two doubles, that is. Known also as killing two birds with one bite. You’d be forgiven for thinking this will merely be a Two Little Things article, whereas in fact this is the introduction to the two things that caught my eye and the one pointed out to me by my OH.
First, there is a fine strong sunflower which obviously seeded itself tidily from the bird-feeder. You’ll notice also that it is not exactly there only since yesterday. I did notice this three weeks ago and deferred adding it to my list of three until now. It is a late developer, and I’m not sure what height it will get to, so I shall do an update next month.
Second in my line of sight was the spinach. This is from my second sowing and very tasty it is too with my morning omelette on days when I tire of boiling eggs, be they single or double. I rarely have spinach with dinner. That’s just something about myself I’m OK to share.
Finally, take a very close look. The bindweed is not yet gone. It’s back to tempt me into cursing violently. However, I shall not do so. I’ve got it and myself under control. I will keep an eye open for surprise appearances of this troublesome plant and be vigilant in binning it carefully. It will not spoil my day. Curiously, it was Marion who spotted this. Even so, nothing could spoil my birthday.
Three Little Things that need doing:
List is unordered. Completion by time frame is suggested only.
Bin the bindweed (after breakfast).
Measure the sunflower today.
Sow a third batch of spinach later this week.
Readers interested only in gardening should stop reading NOW.
Theee Little Quotes about Little Things:
Two are from well-known names, the third longer and less so.
You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
You do realize the message of this play, right?” Tyler asked. “Sure.” My arm was still over my eyes. “It’s about life on a farm and falling in love and watching the people you love die. So, you know, that’s awesome.” He ignored the sarcasm. “It’s about being alive. About noticing all the little things, because no one ever knows if it’s the last time they’ll see the.”
Tamara Ireland Stone, Little Do We Know.
It was my birthday yesterday.
Marion bought cake & cooked steak (yesterday)
My writing has been described as being deadly & peculiar. I know that’s only two, but enough is enough. Sin a bhfuil. (Yesterday, today and…)
Just Three Things (sometimes called Three on Tuesday, only if…yes you understand!) is a regular part of my garden writing. Today, I take the liberty of renaming it Three Little Things in order to remind readers & myself that it is in fact a virtual trilogy. That’s enough three thinking this Tuesday. Today.
Dear Reader: if you like peculiar writing, you’ll not regret following this blog-thingy. I try to be consistently peculiar. My gardening and my writing are specifically so that when I’m in the nursing home in 2050 I’ll be able to look back on all the fun stuff. Use of an iPad will need to be negotiated. That’ll be deadly!
Finally, the deep meaning of GrowWriteRepeat is explained over at the About Me page.