Monday, 11 July 2016


Life is a tad busy here at the Holly Cottage. Have I adjusted to being at home 24/7? Yes. Am I glad to be a full time domestic goddess? Sure. Is everyone happy and healthy? Gloriously and thankfully. Am I on holidays, as so many casually refer to maternity leave being? Absolutely not - far from it. Hats off to stay at home parents! Forget the midnight and early morning feeding sessions for the new arrival, herself is also up at the crack of dawn and she definitely qualifies as the duracell kind. Wow. Where does all that energy and enthusiasm come from? Poor mumzy sadly laggs behind - must be those midnight feeds. It's certainly nothing to do with midnight parties.

And so, all are busy. The 8 week old being his cutesy self, the near 3 year old being her adorable threenager self, Holly being...well, Holly. And the rest of the residents? Just being, watching on in a surreal blur of parenthood.

Bee heaven, HC 2016
Busy as bees. And they - the bees - certainly are busy. And not a cry of complaint sounded. Thankfully we seem to have a very vibrant and healthy population in our garden - my next job is to set to identifying each of the different species present. And figure out how many of the 97 species - yes!! 97 different species in Ireland - are frequenting the Holly Cottage garden. Luckily there are some online resources available to do this - thanks to the great work of the National Biodiversity Data Centre based in County Waterford. Bees are important for our lives, not least for the delicious honey they create and which we seem to consume a lot of here in the Holly Cottage. Beware of what type you lift off the shelf in the supermarket though because not all honeys are created equal. Blending and processing can remove most if not all of the goodness (proteins, natural superpowers etc.) - so best to buy local and possibly even direct from your friendly suited beeman or beewoman. 

Red-arsed bumble bee....awww.
Listed as vulnerable to
 extinction in Ireland...double awww.
So how important are they and what are we doing about the widely reported global decline? Well, some clever economist/scientist types have estimated that the work of the bees is worth millions...more would say priceless. Our cute little black/amber/ginger/blonde winged friends are of enormous significance in terms of pollination and provide an altogether free service to us to pollinate food crops for our human family. What would happen if we lost them? Global famine? Global collapse of economies? Let's hope that doesn't happen, but it might. And the pollination of cherry blossoms by hand, as has to happen in regions of China, may have to be carried out by us clumsy and ground-bound humans in a ridiculously more widespread fashion. 

Thankfully we have a National Pollinator Plan in Ireland (of which I was humbled to be even a small part of its creation) which we hopefully will see the fruits of (pardon the pollination pun) in years to come. On a local scale, and I guess you can't get more local than your own garden, pesticide free and a generous planting of wildflowers will do the job. Nothing too fancy, as bees are less fussy than us in what they might consider worthy - dandelions provide the forage food for the hungry gap in May and clover species are also a significant food source. Basically, less weeding!

A Humble Bee made this :)
On a more sensory front, we have also discovered a very sweet and beelicous way of supporting the local bee economy. And it comes in a very attractive and tempting way - honey cake! The talented work of the Humble Bee company has given life to what may be one of the most interestingly irresistible cakes to be tasted outside of our own kitchen for some time. Made in County Offaly, this is one to watch out for. Simply beelicious to paraphrase a well known Corkonian domestic queen! Watch out for it. And in the meantime, spare a thought for the busy bee. We need them a hell of a lot more than they need us.  

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