About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

04 September 2014

September garden

The garden looks wonderful this September.  The rowan trees are full of berries, the packet of wildflowers [free with a tub of butter last spring] has delivered with two kinds of red poppies, cornflowers, pink flowers [as yet unnamed] which mix joyously with the invasive but 
undeniably pretty convolvulus.

I love the garden in September on days like this; the sky and the sea meeting seemlessly, bee's droning as they go about their business and butterflies dancing on the trees.

The sight of a specklewood butterfly sunbathing on the leaves of the sumach tree has always enthralled me; they were a favourite of Mum's, she always associated them with balmy autumn days.  

I love the garden, and I love this garden.  It was a granite quarry from the 1700's tgo 1866 [approx.] and when the quarrymen moved out, my great-grandfather and great-great grandmother moved, literally, up the cliff and into the cottages with a 99 year lease and a measure of security for the  twelve children they were eventually to go on to have.  Eight of them survived; the youngest, my Grandfather, with his father, founded the dairy farm that was the family business for the better part of a century.  The lease was eventually bought out and, today, my branch of the family lives where the dairy farm once was.

Over the years, since it ceased being a dairy farm in 1958, Mum created a garden at the side of the house, wherein she grew fruit and veg and flowers.  We still try to maintain the flowers in her garden

and today Himself is giving it a thorough tidy.  We are in Galway today...not...but that's another story and the betting is on for Monday being Galway day.  In the meantime, the garden is not suffering from our absence.  He's tidying the garden, and I'm doing the indoor chores.  

The surplus jam and chutney she sold at the local shop in the village, I can still see her hovering over her "jam-pan" with a red gingham apron tied around her waist; "Country Living" or "Period Living" personified.  Her dahlia's won prizes at the various horticultural shows and her white soda bread frequently walked away with the challenge cup at the nearest annual agricultural show.

In my childhood, "Bleak House" would have been a better name for here, with arctic winds sweeping down from the north and eastern howlers in from Wales, and only gorse and cotoneaster for shelter.  She managed to keep two flower beds surviving under the front windows of the house, ablaze with peacock tulips, marigolds, pansies and daffs in spring.  Lupins, penstimon and nasturtiums in summer.  Those were the days when she had more time for gardening, limited by areas of bare granite.

Mum and Dad planted a blue cedar in 1967 and in my mind's eye I can still see them seeking enough soil to dig a hole to plant the sapling.  She in a yellow sleeveless linen dress and he in khaki trousers and soft cotton shirt.  After Dad died on 22 March 1970, the night Ireland won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, Mum went back to teaching full time and the garden took second place to her work and her various groups, such as the ICA  which is the Irish version of the Women's Institute, and her grand daughters.  Various pine trees had seeded themselves, the ubiquitous gorse had crept even closer to the house and brambles ran riot.  For Frances and Edel, "Gran's" was a wonderful jungle in their childhood, just as in mine when it was the "high mesa's" where in we played  "Cowboy's and Indian's" among the granite rocks.  My pal Alex and I were always the "Indians".

On 22 March, 2008, Mum quietly went to Dad, reunited after 38 years and Himself and I took over.  Bit by bit Himself cut, sawed, chopped and fought his way through the land that time forgot.


Before and after

Blackberries grow where we want them to now

Instead of briars

Cyclamen on the bank 

Successive gorse fires had made for healthy fertile soil where once there was bare granite.  We had firewood out of it for the range for five years.  All over the years the Blue Cedar, now well over 60' high, kept watch over the house.

Himself has the huge lawn he always wanted, I have my woodland areas where frttilaria's dance in spring breezes, shaded by the blue cedar, alive with birdsong from the other trees.  Fat wood-pigeon graze the lawns where once dairy cattle waited entrance to the milking parlour, magpie's thieve food buried by our handsome fox.  At the foot of a small cliff blackberries grow and Himself and I have enjoyed blackberry and ice cream for the past few weeks.  On top of the cliff, ling and heather have returned and the gorse is firmly controlled acting as a boundary barrier.

There are rifts of wild grass and rose-bay willow herb, orange lillies grow along the small dry stone walls Himself built, a reminder of my Kerry ancestry.  The blue cedar still hovers over the house.  This year, because of the winter storms, we have halved it's height and cut dead limbs off, lightened the length of the healthy limbs.  She is, once again, the supreme queen of our garden.

Last night at dusk, as I pulled the curtains across the study window, I swear I saw Mum and Dad standing beneath the blue cedar smiling lovingly at me.

Mum's virginia creeper still going strong


Chris Stovell said...

I love how you weave so many threads into your blog to produce such a rich tapestry of life. It must have taken some determination to create a garden in those conditions - we're high up here and it's colder so growth is slow - I'm sure your parents are watching approvingly as you keep up the good work. The photos are lovely too. I hope more people discover your wonderful writing through your blog because I'm sure they'd all feel a bit lighter for reading it.

Frances said...

Irish Eyes, I am so glad to have the company of this beautiful post as proceeded leisurely through a delicious Saturday morning breakfast. Later this morning, I will step up my pace and head downtown to work, but for now...I am wandering around your garden with you.

I hear your voice, I think about the years and years that your family has lived on this land, and learn so much about tradition. I also learn so much about love and spirit and what steady effort can bring.

Thank you so much for sharing all this with us. My own life is enriched by knowing you.

Yes, Galway can wait another week.


Pondside said...

I'm one who believes that land holds memory, so the thought of your parents being glimpsed near the cedar doesn't surprise me at all.
This is another lovely piece of writing, bringing to life the bit of the world that your family has had a hand in shaping.

Irish Eyes said...

Thank you all for your terrific support. I really appreciate your comments, gives me the courage to spread my wings. Xx