Saturday, 8 June 2013

Letting the light back in

We held our breath for such a long time here in Ireland. We waited, we hoped, some prayed, others took to soul searching. Some took the approach of positive outlook while others grumbled and were ready to take the pain, again. Whatever the outlook you can never be sure until the moment has truly and finally arrived. What is that I hear your curious minds asking. Well, summer of course!

Evening summer sun -
it has to go to come back!
It all started about a month ago really - around the last time I wrote to update on the floral developments in the Holly Cottage garden. At that time - about four weeks ago, a lifetime in some ways - I was embarking on a bit of a tour of Ireland. There was Mayo for wonderful wilderness and Dublin for trashing out EU policy for Biodiversity, and then Cork to catch a plane off this rich and green island. That second week in May was cold and wet in Mayo, with torrential showers mixed with hard winds. I was dressed to the last in winter wet gear. It was great though - you can't beat a trip to Westport and lingering looks across Clew Bay in the morning light. But, yes, it still felt like the wintery summers of the last four years. Then a skip, hop and a jump to the capital and it seemed like the residents there were starting to warm up - people eating on the street and not shying from buying and wearing summer t-shirts and sandals. It was looking good. I spent two days in the regal Dublin Castle with a gang of heads from all over Europe - it seems strange to be setting research targets for biodiversity conservation and restoration inside a cold and regal building - not a butterfly or wildflower in sight - but I guess needs must?

My kind of motorway ;)
That was when we abandoned ship in the bid to find summer elsewhere. After tucking Holly in with two new friends - a cantankerous chihuahua and a less threatening looking King Charles, we boarded a cheap flight in Cork and set off for the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. After a worryingly wet first day in Girona for the festival of flowers, we were quickly reminded of how summer used to be in Ireland. The hedgerows near our rented house on the back roads half an hour from anywhere were filled with poppies and borage, wild grasses and plantains, and butterflies frolicked in the quiet back roads and tracks that criss-cross the Catalan Hills. It brought me back to childhood days when it was time to bring the hay in and the only shelter from the heat of the Irish summer was behind three bales stacked in wig-wam style and thirst was quenched by bottles of orange flavoured water out of mi-wadi bottles. Now that was summer ;) More on the wonders of the Catalan countryside and coastline for another day but let me give you a flavour of what happened on our return...

Well, summer happened! For the last two weeks morning begins at 4.30am when the darkness in the room begins to lift and the birds outside in the hedges and gardens and across the road in Charleville Estate provide us with a cacophony of dawn chorus - deafening in ways, but rivalling any Vivaldi piece on summer. From about 5am onwards, we are blessed with blue skies and early twenties in temperatures up until at least 11pm at night. And we have the longest day yet to come! There's no more heavy fleece getting into the car to go for work, no more socks (happy feet!), no more bracing the wind at the morning walk in Lough Boora and the promise of food cooked outside on the BBQ every evening, nicely charred and wonderfully flavoured and appetising with the taste of the summer evening outdoors. 

And all that glorious light is reaching every part of us that has been covered in darkness and cold for the longest winter in a long time. And we might even forget the difficult cold and damp days, and the struggle to keep our heads up and spirits lifted. The light has a way of doing that, it brings us back to ourselves and everything is illuminated. A time for revelation. There is of course a time for the dark of course - and I welcome that too, but everything in balance! 

The garden is coming on in leaps and bounds everyday - early spuds are flowering, broad beans are scaling lofty heights and packed with flowers, peas are looking a lot greener than last year's sickly yellow, tomatoes are tucked into their cosy growbags, cucumbers are trailing, basil and herbs are packing flavour and aroma in every corner, rocket has..well, rocketed, and lavenders are providing a sweet hang-out for bees and all sorts of things creepy crawly. The strawberries are not quite there yet but we will definitely have to make some room amongst the bags of frozen broccoli to preserve their sweetness for the year ahead. There's talk of a polytunnel to help bring things forward a bit next year, but we'll have to see....
Lilac dreams

And what about Holly? Well, true to form - having recovered from the shock at being dictated to for a week by a dog the size of her head (the chihuahua) - she is just basking in the glory of the summer heat and taking every moment as it comes. We still get to walk in the cool green of the Charleville woods every evening until late, and the bluebells and wild garlic are still packing a punch in the colour and fragrance departments. Long may it linger!

There's still work to do here (apart from the day job of course) - cabbages and sprouts to be transplanted and sunflowers to be re-housed, a spot of weeding (just discovered the back saving attributes of a hoe!) and of course everything to be enjoyed. More to come on our Catalan adventures and a few nuggets of wonder from Mayo and a day in Kerry where luck crossed my path in the shape of Rua the leprechaun...there's magic in Kerry you know! In the meantime, have a great weekend and be sure to soak it all up - word is there's rain on Monday, but just enough to refresh the daisies and down the dust ;)

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