Preparing for the growing season to come

As I write the title of this I am consciously aware that it is applicable on two levels.  One, to the garden, and the winter prep I always enjoy for the growing season to come. And two, to myself. I'm still trying to not kick myself over a short but very disappointing relationship I entered into last Autumn.  I know I needed to learn some things, which I have, and am better for it.   I'm trying to be gentler with myself.

We've had a very mild winter in Dublin and it shows.  There's a rose blooming in the front, south facing garden as I type this.  In January.  Its not uncommon to see roses blooming up until November in my neighbourhood but January is a bit of a stretch.  I don't think the temperature has hit freezing once all winter.  Usually in Spring I watch for the temp to remain above 5 celsius for a week before planting anything out.  This winter I don't think we've gone below 5c at all.

Because the weather was so mild and the sun was out all day, I …

2018: My Year in Review

The transition from one year to the next is a great time for reflection. On where I was last year, what I've accomplished since and what I've failed at.  Its okay to fail.  Without making mistakes and failing we would not have the capacity to learn and grow.  On seeing where am I now and what do I want to attract to my life in the new year?  Its very easy to get mired in the day-to-day so I thought I'd look at some of the highlights of my past year...

2018 started with me having a bright idea that I'd completely redo the sitting room and kitchen.  I bought this house in 2013 and brought all my furniture with me and some of it was 10+ years old.  Perhaps I've watched too many Grand Designs and looked at Houzz too much but I felt a change was due.  I did everything myself, so I do take some pride in that and I'm much happier with the way things look and feel.  Also delighted to have assembled a proper homework/art desk for my daughter, which has been very handy.

Enjoying the dark tranquility and ethereal light: Winter Solstice 2018

The longest day of the year approaches. I adore Winter and the dark but I realise I'm definitely in the minority on this. Truth be told, I find the nearly endless light of the Summer solstice hard to take but hey - that's me. As much as I love Winter, I am enchanted by the changes of every season and delighted to see the daffodils and tulips are already sending up proper shoots. The hyacinths are not only shooting but have started to send out blooms, giving the garden some much needed colour, even if only I can see it at the moment.

I had surgery on 7 December and have had to take it a bit easy since, but yesterday I was happy to finally cut the grass in the front garden, at the side of the house and do some winter tidying.  As much as I'd like a few more evergreen plants and winter flowering plants, I do enjoy the starkness of my garden in Winter.  Its makes the blooming of Spring and abundance of Summer/Autumn all the more miraculous.

I'm overwintering vegetables as…

Samhain 2018: Ísland, na "huldufólk" ach gan síoga i mo ghairdín i mBaile Átha Cliath

Samhain is the Irish word for November.  Oíche Shamhna is the Irish for Hallowe'en. Of all the cross-quarter days - Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain - only Imbolg has a different name for the month (Feabhra).  All the others name not only the cross-quarter festival but the month themselves (e.g. Bealtaine is the name of the old beginning-of-summer festival AND the month of May).  Nov. 1 heralds the old start of winter although more commonly people would see winter as starting as Dec. 1. I like that its variable. Growing up in the US, I always (even as a kid), thought that using the solstices and equinox to start seasons was ridiculous.

This year, on Oíche Shamhna, my daughter and I flew to Ísland (not to be confused with the Irish for Iceland, which is An Íoslainn) and spent a couple of nights during her midterm break amongst the hidden people.  Iceland's huldufólk sound strikingly similar to Ireland's sidhe/sí/fairies.  They are both supernatural beings who look af…

Living Sober: it gets better

I regularly talk about being in recovery (since July 2003) and being sober (since August 2011 - I had a slip in 2004 and a series of relapses from 2009 - 2011). Which is important to me because while I had a lot of shame when I was drinking, I don't need to carry that shame around anymore.  It takes a huge amount of courage to change one's life fundamentally and be honest about it.  The reason I talk about it publicly (and privately) is because I need to.  If I didn't, I would feel like I'm holding onto the shame I carried around for so many years and today, I choose a different path.

So, after being sober for a good amount of years I want to share that it definitely gets better with time. Early sobriety is tough, namely because for those of us with the affliction of addiction, we are both losing the love of our lives and simultaneously have to find a totally different way to live. Even if our addiction has brought us so low that we truly desire to be free of it, the…

Who wants to live in Ireland?

When I first moved to Ireland in the Autumn of 1995 there weren't many Americans living here.  Maybe a few, here and there, students and people who'd fallen in love with Irish citizens and/or the landscape itself, but not many.

In fact, while American tourists have always been a thing in Ireland I remember constantly being viewed as a curiosity by locals and asked why I lived here.  "Why would you want to live here when we all want to go there?" was an extremely frequent comment.  I never hear that anymore.

I started to notice in the early 2000s that Australia and New Zealand were eclipsing the US as 'immigration destination of choice' amongst young Irish people. I don't think the US has ever recovered, although there has been and will always be, to some extent, close ties between our two nations.  And that was happening before the current xenophobic climate in America really took hold.  I'm sure certain cities like New York and San Francisco will a…

Buíochan An Fhómhair

Welcome to Autumn.  The days are noticeably shorter, there's a chill in the air and occasionally I get the wonderful smell of people lighting their fires. Tá sé iontach ar fad.  The Irish word for harvest is "fómhar", which also lends itself to the names of the months of September (Meán Fómhair - middle of the harvest) and October (Deireadh Fómhair - end of the harvest).

By the looks of it, beidh sé fómhar fairsing.  The late cold snap in Spring and drought in Summer might have delayed the growing season, but we're definitely making up for it now.

The autumn veg and perennials are doing particularly well.  Summer veg (such as peas) didn't have a great year but a late planting produced a good crop of fresh snacks throughout late July and early August.  The drought did favour some crops - the tomatoes have been growing like the clappers, I've never seen anything like it.  Its the first week in September and they're still flowering.  The temperature has dr…