Sometimes all it takes!

The rain has stopped.. for the moment and the wind though still stormy, is not as cold

but the accumulation of rain over the last week or so has filled the mill pond – or what I think is the old mill pond, something not usually seen unless there has been torrential rain.

Sometimes all it takes is a brightness, something dazzling – in this case, a bright red leaf to bring joy.  It reminds me that not just in nature but in the human world there are people who stand out – for the good reasons. They don’t have to be well known or powerful, in fact better that they are not,  but they make a difference. so a tiny red leaf is mesmerisingly beautiful on an early March morning.

Then, the sun ventures out for a short while, the violets try to climb the hedgerow to keep their roots out of the water and the birds respond with song. Rosie searches for new scents and an exquisite bud just presents itself to be photographed! The scent of fox wafts in the air and I am reminded that there are still the wild creatures out there, not everything has been destroyed – yet. And the trees that take the barbed wire that has been stretched across them for many years, pulling and cutting their bark, grow with elegance and gentleness. I’m just not sure I’m so forgiving.

Meanwhile at home, George, the cat, incubates the chitting potatoes.

Brightness in the dark winter days

After snowdrops now a lesser celandine – a little ragged and the only to be seen on the lane at the moment. Bright colours which lessen the darkness of winter mornings. Hazel catkins hanging in glorious mustard yellow tails against the darker greens of the woods and a thistle holding as much dew as it can in its open leaves. A bright start to January.

The beauty of decay

This time of year as the days become quickly shorter and the temperatures fall there is a different beauty. A beauty of change and decay. The lack of warm, sunny days has shocked George the cat who can no longer lounge for long periods in the field, hunting butterflies.

Leaves that a few months ago were green have now turned into deep reds and magentas, oranges and ochres and with rain they contrast with the the brilliant emerald greens of moss and grass. The shapes of the leaves, often the small ones are worth examining closely as their detail is exposed.

The weather has been very mixed here on the lane. We have had warm days with balmy breezes, warm enough to sit out in – in November! Heavy rain which has sent the peat brown water chuntering and growling down the mill stream, almost to overflowing followed by stillness. Short, sharp frosts which leave the fields with an ethereal lightness, as everything is caught in the moment and leaves, browning and decaying are shown in their beauty – the veins and shapes, subtle colours. There is a beauty in this decaying world.

The hedges on the field sides have recently been cut back and now the brambles and the ivy have been cleared away leaving the skeleton hedging looking rather self conscious with just a lace work of ivy holding the hedging together. If there is snow it will easily blow through the trees and hedging onto the lane. There are no bramble and ivy branches to hold it back and confuse it.

George the cat thought that he had ‘sorted out’ the neighbouring fields – tracked the birds and small creatures. Now he is annoyed as the spread of undergrowth has been chopped away. The fields have changed and he has to command order again. It may take him some time…

The bright light of Autumn

The light is so bright coming down the lane that it blinds. The low sun forces itself through the trees where leaves are now falling so thick and fast that Rosie the dog is quite disconcerted by them.

Although not raining there is a moistness, a leaf litter scent, grass and leaf fall, and fungi making a natural compost. Dark browns and golds and also vibrant red and orange leaf stalks among the mossy ground with broken rose hips spewing out their seeds. 

There is a lot of ivy on the lane: over walls, up walls, around trees and hedging andI it is now in full flower with some flowers beginning the transformation into berries. The flowers are attracting a lot of interest from insects. I had never realised or perhaps had an interest in knowing, that the difference in the shape of ivy leaves related to their age. Now I can see it clearly. The mature ivy has oval or heart shaped leaves while the immature ivy has three lobed leaves. Both are a beautiful glossy green but only the mature plants will bear the flowers.

When the devil spits!

The sun has that bright harsh light that cuts across the lane and makes me shade my eyes when I meet it. The temperature is lowering and the leaves fall more readily from the trees in the swirling wind. One field in particular is coloured in the soft greens and browns of ferns, bracken and grasses. Although we’ve had some rain the ground is dry and the stone walls still don’t look as though they’ve recovered from the hot weather. The moss covering they normally have is falling back in places, stones have tumbled off  and on to the ground and holes have appeared. The small holes however I’m pretty sure are used by small creatures but the mossy shapes still look like faces to my way of thinking.

Elderberries still hang in clusters but are fewer now – and our elderberry wine is fermenting!

It is now Michaelmas and according to tradition blackberries shouldn’t be picked after this date as the Devil has spat on them. He is said to have landed on a blackberry bush as this was his revenge. They are certainly less juicy and attractive.

Some of the less well known trees are now in berry – the guilder rose behind the mill, close to the old water wheel and the spindle trees with their strange pink berries that will eventually show their orange fruit – poisonous. The snowberries or their other name, corpseberries are now full of their ghostly white berries and act as small lanterns lighting up the lane.

The clarity of rain

You would think with rain that everything would be a little cloudy, less sharp. But the sky this morning is that greyed brightness that almost hurts your eyes and all on the lane is in sharp focus and scents are held as though captured in the moisture.  A feather lies softly on top of a leaf dropped on some flight path across the woods and fields – a fluffy under feather. Moss is building up on the lane and the stones giving it a bundled, winter warm look. While the rain drips onto the leaves and then falls onto the already mossy branches and then down to the grass  it forces a focus on the ground. I had noticed one apple yesterday near the old mill and assumed that it had been dropped by someone but today I looked more closely. Apples everywhere – on the ground and still high on the tree. I hadn’t realised the beautiful moss and lichen covered tree leaning over across one of the tumbledown out buildings was a very old fruit tree. 

Hip Hip Wasp

Early morning and a blackbird sits on the ivy covered branch. There are still some blackberries left though they are smaller and less attractive looking when it comes to picking them.

In contrast the hedging of the fields are full of bright red rose hips and some of the smaller elderberry trees have branches weighed down with umbrellas of black and ripe berries.

There are several conversations going on in the mill stream this morning. There is the broader rush and flow moving the water across the wider reaches and down the hill and then there are the low sometimes light notes as the water is moved through moss covered rocks and overhanging branches now dipping into the stream. The stream quietens when it is corralled into the small, still pools before it is pushed, noisily, over the many tiny waterfalls, finally merging in the lower levels close to the main road.

The colours on the lane are changing generally as the glossy greens of the holly and ivy predominate. It is clear that we are moving swiftly towards the returning power of the Holly King.

Spiders’ webs catch on the spikes of the holly leaves like small fairy hammocks. The ivy flowers with their intricate structure are full of nectar – a great source for birds and insects at this time of year as can be seen with the wasp.

I know wasps get a bad press and they can be aggressive but they also hunt flies, aphids and caterpillars – all of which I want away from the garden.

While the greens are deep and glossy there are also the subtle, almost ‘unnatural’ colours of magenta on leaves and the bleached white creams. Occasionally there are beautiful combinations on leaves which seem to mimic exotic butterflies. It is all in an Autumn day.

A fast stream and a sloe harvest

The mill stream is now rushing down the hill, tumbling over itself in the rain in what seems like a race to get to the bottom where it reaches the Sligo road. It must then be carried under the road to allow it to continue its journey and around the area you can still find pieces of fossilised coral. There is something very different about this part of Fermanagh.

The sloes, now much more visible in the bushes are turning to a beautiful mauve colour. They still need to darken further when they will be picked and sloe gin made from them. The blackberries we’ve already picked have been turned into muffins, jam and blackberry liqueur.  It’s always important to know what you are picking! There are the poisonous and inedible as well, lurking in the hedgerows. Honeysuckle berries, Tutsan and Snowberry being a few of them.

This is also the time of year for fern spores to disperse and on the lane in the darker, woody areas there are plenty of them, particularly in the steeply wooded area close to the top. The white petals of some bushy roses are still flowering valiantly even through the rain. They are not wild roses so were probably part of of an old garden, long since abandoned.

Leaning towards the light


Spider webs woven low across the grasses and plants in the early morning look like a smokey mist in the strangely warm, wet morning.  The rain drops are heavy. catching in the skeletal stems and seed heads while the leaves and petals shiver and shake as the drops land.

Sycamore leaves can now be seen covered in black spot. This is the month to notice it. This virus – tar spot – can cause premature leaf fall but not long term damage.  It has always reminded me of R.L Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the black spots which were handed out to pirates when a verdict of guilty was pronounced. Something slightly disconcerting about the spots.

Along the path the leaves of the hazel, the ferns, sycamore  and brambles are all turning towards the light, some parts of the lane are dark and it is as though they know the seasons are changing and they want to keep the light for as long as they can.

Blackberries are now full and just ready for picking. At home there is now a kilner jar of them mixed with sugar and vodka. By Christmas it will be a very pleasant liqueur!  Blackberry muffins have also become another way of using this wild bounty.

I’m working on two paintings at the moment – one, a landscape is full of blues and greens, wild clouds and wind. The second is a portrait of a garden, a walled garden – with animals! Both have some way to go and walking up the lane helps me to work out different ideas for the canvases.

Today on the way back home an unusual creature was lurking in the hedge. George, the cat had been spying on our walk!

walking the lane after rain

The heavy rain has made the mill stream begin to flow again, gurgling and gushing its way down the hill over the stone steps. There seem to be more and more hart’s tongue ferns in their livid green crowding the banks of the stream. The pigeons who come low over the water and the grasses are disturbed by Rosie, the dog and I as we walk up the hill. Their wings flap and make a cracking sound as they fly hurriedly through the low hanging branches into the wood.

The bramble stems now stretch out across from the hedgerow, reaching out their thorny arms to catch and hold anyone daring go past. Caught, I stop and look around while I disentangle myself. The boulder shaped stone which lies below the mill grain store looks like a fallen standing stone but I think it is just one of the boulders that were left behind thousands of years ago. It makes a good place to sit and look across towards the lough and the land beyond – a mysterious place.

Vetch seed pods now shine black and glossy in the hedgerow looking like highly polished nails while the haws are now turning to red amid the cerise of the willow herb. There will be more seed pods and fruit to look out for now.