Nature Journal

Summer Solstice - Lughnasa.

 
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Moons & Astrological Phases

  • New Moon in Cancer 2nd July

  • Full Moon in Capricorn, 16th July.

  • New Moon in Leo, 1st August.

    Mercury Retrograde, 7 - 31st July.

Plants

The Wild Rose / Dog Rose Feirdhris (Rosa Canina spp., Rosaceae) is a thorny shrub producing a flower with five petals which look like little love hearts. In the centre of the flower, yellow stamens burst open like sun rays. The petals are usually pink and occasionally white varieties can also be found. The arched branches of the Wild Rose can grow quite tall if left to their own devices (ours are about 6m tall at the moment). They have pretty pinnate leaves like small feathers.

The Wild Rose is not to be confused with the ‘Japanese’ or ‘Beach Rose’ (Rosa rugosa) which is a much larger Rose variety, bearing larger deep pink petals and much larger fruit (hips), the scent of this Rose is also stronger than the Wild Rose. Whilst the Rosa Rugosa is better for culinary preparations, given it’s stronger scent and flavour, the rosa Canina is my preferred variety for medicinal, health and wellness formulas - Its subtlety works well on a deeper level.

The petals, hips and buds of the wild rose can be used for herbal preparations as well as for culinary uses. The petals have a subtle yet intoxicating scent. They are cooling, drying and a little astringent and anti-microbial.

Rose is one of my go to plants to nurture the heart space. It is also a traditional aid for women during times of challenging reproductive issues as well as being a well documented aphrodisiac/love ally.

“The flowers are often combined with lavender (Lavandula angus-tifolia) and hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) blossoms to help with grief and loss. Rose is also used topically to heal sunburns, rashes and stings”. Chestnut School Herbal Medicine.

Most of the flowers of the Wild Rose had disappeared by the time Lughnasa was upon us, I noted that there were still a few left on the last new moon though, the 1st August.

Other plants during this time were:

  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium spp.,Asteraceae) - growing alongside meadowsweet in many places around Baile Mheiriecá.

  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria spp.,Rosaceae) - In full bloom for the whole cycle.

  • White Clover (Trifolium repens app.,Fabaceae) - Lots of it this year.

  • Lavender (Lavandula spp., Lamiaceae) - Began to flower around the first new moon.

  • Wild Carrot (Daucus carota spp.,Apiaceae).

  • Heather (Calluna vulgaris app.,Ericaceae) - Began to flower around the Full Moon.

  • Bog Myrtle (Myrica Gale spp.,Myricaceae).

    Note, seven different plant families.

The Willow trees began to change their colour during this cycle. The first trees to do so. a few leaves also began to fall during the last week before Lughnasa, that being the last week of July.

Light/Weather

The weather was quite hot on the first new moon with pleasant sun and cloud and a bright light to the sky. It turned cooler, especially at night as we approached Lughnasa, and the shadows began to get longer.

Sounds

  • Birds, So many birds, our house is surrounded by trees and shrubs full of nesting birds. the Swallows were still around and there was the last of the Cuckoo calls.

  • Sheep

  • Bees

  • Flies

  • Butterflies - It’s a pity they don’t make a sound.

  • Grass - Lots of grass noises I can’t identify.

Scents

  • Lavender

  • Grass

  • The Lakeshore

Insights

It was a time of creative change and transformation ruled by the heart. I was compelled to turn inwards and think radically. Having to make tough decisions. This meant a lot of thinking and having to make brave decisions.

It was an uneasy cycle for this reason, most of the transition was self analysis and deep thinking, moving toward an urge as we approached Lughnasa for action, ‘doing’ and ‘changing’.

Medicine

  • Rose Tincture - For the heart

  • Adaptogen Elixir - Aiding sleep and alleviating stress.

 
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Nature Journal

Bealtaine - Summer Solstice

 
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Moons

  • New Moon in Taurus 4th May

  • Full Moon in Scorpio, 18th May.

  • New Moon in Gemini, June 3rd.

  • Full Moon in Sagittarius, June 17th.

Plants

The most prolific plant of this cycle has to be the Hawthorn Sceach gheal; Crataegus spp.Rosaceae and her flowers

The Hawthorn is a very common plant in the west of Ireland, a small thorny tree in the Rose family.

In Irish culture the Hawthorn is a noble tree, also known as the ‘Fairy Tree’, a sacred tree associated with the ‘otherworld’. They are often seen beside ‘holy’ wells and sacred places.

There are many hundreds of species in the Hawthorn genus. Most botanists are not so concerned with specific species however, due to there being so many! All species are edible and medicinal which probably precludes the necessity for individual concern.

The Hawthorn has been used by many cultures, both east and west for hundreds of years for it’s medicinal qualities:

“There is ample literature on hawthorn’s use as a cardiotonic, with its wide variety of flavonoids present in the fruit, flowers and leaves. The flowers and berries are also used for more energetic heart maladies, including grief and loss.” (Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine)

The flowers of the Hawthorn are prolific and in full bloom during this time between Bealtaine and the summer solstice, they beam with beautiful pink and white blossoms scattered over every townland. There were so many reddish pink flowers this year to be seen on the landscape.

The flowers are alluring offering a glimpse of hope, security and brightness. There is something very solid about these fragile looking beautiful blossoms.

At the turn of Bealtaine the flowers were bursting into life, as we approached the solstice and by the last full moon of this cycle they had all but gone.

Other plants around Baile Mheiriceá that made themselves known to me between Bealtaine and the Summer Solstice were:

  • Calendula

  • Lemon Balm

  • Elderflowers

  • Red Clover (beginning to appear)

  • Foxgloves (appeared around the first full moon)

  • Meadowsweet (just beginning to bloom on the last full moon)

  • Pine Cones

Light/Weather

There is something about the light in May that never fails to stop me in my tracks, especially that beautiful unique, low golden romantic evening glow - It is full of possibility.

The first week after Bealtaine there descended an eerie daytime silhouette light as the weather turned cooler and unsettled, this lasted for most of the time until the solstice.

Sounds

  • Birdsong / the Dawn Chorus

  • Bees

Scents

  • Soil

  • Elderflower

Insights

Retreat, grow and blossom. I found this to be a great time for observation, there is so much to see and so much energy to harness during this cycle, nature is well and truly ALIVE all around us.

It is a wonderful time for deep learning and to develop an understanding and connection to the natural world and plant realm.

The ground was buzzing with an energetic fizz of growth and development. Towards the end of the space between bealtaine and solstice as the last full moon appeared, there was a sense of levelling, a strong feeling of being even, grounded, content and GRATEFUL.

Medicine

  • Hawthorn Blossom Tincture

  • Pine Cone Flower Essence

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Two Things:

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1.

G O R S E Ulex europaeus, Fabaceae. Such a misunderstood plant. It is prolific in the West of Ireland and all around Baile Mheiriceá and Connemara. For a native wild thorny plant it offers such an exotic, subtle and sophisticated flavour. Once you brave and pass the thorny spikes, this plant offers the most delicate, sweet smelling tropical blossoms.

For the past two years the Gorse flowers have bloomed earlier than the previous 4 years. They have been at their fullest bloom around February / March and have begun to disappear and go to seed in April and May. Since Bealtaine and during this moon cycle the flowers of the Gorse have nearly all dissapeared, especially those growing near the coastal areas around south Connemara. Between 2013-17, we would still have be picking Gorse flowers well into June.(FYI our last batch of Wild Gorse Syrup for this flowering season is now available online and in our Tasting Room).

2.

B O G M Y R T L E Myrica Gale, Myricaceae. Bog Myrtle, along with Gorse will be a plant which we will focus on for our Wheel of the Year notes. The image above, taken in early April captures the illustrious orange catkins of the plant. Now we are in May, Bog Myrtle has developed green foliage and has become more camouflaged amid the local terrain.

With each year comes more of an appreciation and deeper understanding of the beauty of this plant and its aromatic, resinous charms.

The Wheel of the Year

One thing that we have learnt from folklore is that those who came before us were deeply rooted in celestial patterns and the rhythms of nature. We have dis-connected. I believe that in our modern world there is a need to re-connect with these simple, nourishing natural rhythms. Living a conscious life in tune with the natural world brings us clarity, connection and space.

As part of this Journal we will delve deeper into the cyclical change of the seasons, the ‘Wheel of the Year’ and observe how nature behaves throughout the seasonal cycle. We will be keeping notes on plant behaviour during each cycle - what grows and how, the moon cycles, daylight, darkness and moods…