Monthly Archives: January 2018

Spring and blue moons

Is spring just around the corner?



Here in Ireland, many consider the 1st of February, St Brigid’s Day, the first day of spring. And there are certainly signs out there. Daffodils leaves beginning to show, even the first snowdrops and crocus flowers are on show. The birds are more vocal in the morning and there are even signs that they are beginning to pair up.

Tonight, if the rain clears, we may even get a super blood blue moon! The ‘blue moon’ refers to the second full moon in a calendar month. The ‘super moon’ as the moon will be 14% brighter (as it is closer to the earth this week). The ‘blood moon’ because there will be a lunar eclipse when the moon will fall under earth’s shadow. Unfortunately we will see less of the “blood” than those of you on the west coast of the US!

Happy moon watching!

Moonlight over the pond

Moonlight over the garden pond

Bumble bees

This week’s weekly photo challenge is Variations on a theme. So I felt it was a perfect excuse to show some bumblebee photos. As many of you will know I have a soft spot for this amazing creatures. The queen’s are currently hibernating and it will be another six weeks before we see them (usually around Saint Patrick’s Day – 17th March – here in the west of Ireland).

When the queens emerge from their winter sleep they need to find food. Early spring flowers and shrubs like dandelions, willow catkins, crocuses and flowering brassicas are good source of pollen for them. A simple way to help bees in your garden is to allow dandelions to bloom before you start cutting the lawn.

The gallery above shows a variety of queens, workers and drones from a number of different bumblebee species.



Heritage in Schools

Heritage in Schools is a scheme run by the Heritage Council, here in Ireland. I have recently become a member of the Heritage in Schools panel. This panel is made up of individuals with expertise in various heritage subjects including science, geography, history and culture. Primary schools are encouraged to invite members of the panel to visit their school so that the children may develop a greater awareness of Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage. The children have fun learning outdoors and get to enjoy many different aspects of heritage and the environment.  The cost of the visits are subsidised by the Heritage Council.

My own workshops will focus on biodiversity, pollinators, Ireland’s wildlife, and school gardens. Workshops can be tailored to the needs of the school or the individual classes.
I am looking forward to working with schools here in the west of Ireland.
For more information click on any of the following links:
Or alternatively contact me here.

18 goals for 2018

I have decided this year to have a simple list of 18 goals for the year. They are an eclectic mixture of fun, professional, personal and well whatever came to mind.

So here they are in no specific order –

1 – Finish the 1000 piece jigsaw we started just after Christmas.  It is hard and a few times I have been ready to give up. So it may be a goal that is completed next Christmas!

2 – Complete five Heritage in Schools visits. Will post more on this shortly.

3 – Each year in the past three years my blog visitors and views have increased. I would like to maintain this growth but without having to feel pressured to achieve this,  otherwise what is the point in blogging.

4 – Continue to create wildlife friendly habitats in my own garden and encourage others to do likewise.

5 – Have fun days out with my family. Setting no limits here!

6 – Growing food is just something I enjoy doing, and I want and need (for my own well-begin) to keep it up. While we may never be self-sufficient in fruit or vegetables my aim is to grow as much as I can.

7 – Reading is something else I love to do.  These days I seem to spend more time reading children’s books to my two and will certainly continue this because they are many great children’s authors. But my aim is to read 18 books, for myself. A mix of fiction and fact.

8 – Clutter, so much clutter. Over the Christmas holidays I have cleared out my kitchen cupboards, and you know it does give a sense of satisfaction to be able to open a cupboard and find what you are looking for! The chickens are also enjoying a feast of out-of-date foods like risotto rice, Bulgar wheat etc. So more clearing and tidying is on the cards!

9 – Friends are so important. Last year I missed a few of my friends birthdays so I am going to update my calendar and make sure I don’t miss any this year!

10 – There is always more we can learn about the world around us. So I am going to concentrate my efforts on learning to identity more bugs and plants.

11 – I am probably not the best person for challenging myself to do something new. I tend to stick to the same reliables. So I am going to find something that will challenge me in 2018.

12 – Reduce use of plastics, by being more careful about what we buy (thinking packaging etc.) and where and how we used plastic in the home.

13 – I enjoyed crafts but don’t spend much time doing them. So this year I would like to do a couple of crafty projects. I am still thinking what these will be, so am open to suggestions.

14 – January always gets me thinking that I need to get more exercise! And I am probably not alone, but must try harder!

15 – I am not the most organised person in the world. I need to find better ways of prioritising my work, while at the same time having good work/life balance!

16 – There are certain appointments that I will gladly put off (think dentist etc.). So this year I will try and keep these!

17 – Try and record another new species for the garden list.

18 – Last year I aimed to do ten bee and butterfly transects and only manage 9. So this year I am going to try and do ten again!

So that is it. My 18 goals for 2018.









Clare Island

Visiting Clare Island off the west coast of Ireland has been on my bucket list for a couple of years. We recently had the opportunity to visit the Island and even though it is January we decided to go. We were not disappointed.

Clare Island, is approximately 7km long and 4km wide, and lies 5km of the west coastal of Ireland.  The highest point Knockmore (“An Cnoc Mór” in Irish, meaning great hill) is 462m. Today, there is a population of about 160 though many of the houses on the island are holiday homes.

We took the ferry from Roonagh pier, just outside Louisburg, on a cold but bright morning. The sea was choppy and hopping from the pier steps into the ferry had to be timed with the swell. Once all the passengers were safety on-board, the crew hoisted a trailer full of hay with the aid of a small crane. This was quickly followed by an ancient jeep.


Clare Island

In less than half an hour, we found ourselves alongside the Clare Island pier. We took the road heading west from the harbour, and part of the Clare Island loop walk. Looking inland the land rose to Knocknaveen. Out at sea, we could see the smaller island of Inishturk.


The mainland from Clare Island

At this time of year, many of the facilities are closed but thanks to the hospitality of a local family we enjoyed some tea and hot chocolate,  and also learned a little of Island life. There is only a primary school on the island so once children reach their teenager years they leave for secondary school on the Monday morning ferry, returning to the island on Friday evening.


12th Century Abbey

We continued our walk, pausing for lunch, at the island abbey, unfortunately also closed for repair. There was then a steep climb along the road as we headed inland, but we had an extra treat of seeing an Irish hare! The land is grazed mostly by steep, with a few cattle, donkeys and ponies.

After crossing the interior of the island, we headed south-east back toward the harbour. Close to the pier stands a Tower House once owned by Grace O’Malley the famous pirate queen (whom I have written about previously).

We left the island on the 16.15 ferry back to the mainland.  We were further blessed with a magnificent sunset over Inishturk and the sighting of three bottle-nosed dolphins (too far off to get a decent photo). I can safely say that we were all take by the beauty of the island and the hospitality of it’s inhabitants. And we hope to make a return journey later in the year.


Sunset over Inisturk from the Clare Island Ferr

Final – 17 for 2017

Last January I made a list of what I would like to do in 2017 and below I list what I have achieved, or failed to achieve in some cases!

17. Help seventeen people learn more about their environment.

Completed with numerous pollinators course, work with community group and schools.

16. Send sixteen mammal records to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Fell short here. Six sent plus two (a hare and a fox) seen last week of December, but still to send in.

15. Give away fifteen homegrown flower or vegetable plants to worthy homes

I may have fallen short here, but I did also give away some wild flower seeds I had collected, to some worthy community groups I worked with over the year.

14. Fourteen fun days out with the family

Union wood, Enniscoe House,  Longford Demesne, Ross beach x 3 times, four days out in Wales, Beltra beach in October,  ice skating in Christmas rink just before new year, Belmullet bee day, Foxford Riverfest and Belleek woods,  which make 15.

13. Learn thirteen new words

I think I can claim 11 new words. I will publish as separate post.

12. Write twelve blog posts (ideally one a month) on an environmental topic

So having looked back at my posts for the year I think I can claim 10 to be environmental.

11. Read eleven new authors

Complete, click here to see.

10. Complete ten butterfly and or bee monitoring transects this year

I completed nine in the end.

9. Find 9 ways of encouraging more wildlife into our garden

One new small area of flower meadow, and two new flower beds. Have also tried to enhance area around pond with more flowers and less rushes. A new brash pile for insects. The wet weather this autumn and winter though have stopped me doing anything else.

8. Discover 8 new things

Again falling short. Two from before. We got a great new game for the children – it’s called Discover Europe and the aim is to make your way around the board which is a map of Europe in the shortest possible time. It’s good fun and educational, though you can find yourselves heading for Reykjavík when you want to be in Athens!

We also found two new walks, both in County Sligo, but not too far to drive.

I am sure there were other new things, one is always learning after all, but I haven’t recorded anything else, and despite racking my brain can’t think of any others!

7. Send seven letters to friends

Completed for Christmas.

6. Try six new recipes

Right failed on this one last year and only did a little better in 2017. But have adapted a recipe for thai fish cakes which is going down well. Have also adapted my gluten free mince pie pastry recipe and it was the best yet. Have also been experimenting with almond flour pancakes which just use a small amount of wheat flour.  We had a productive bean season, so I tried pickling some beans which was quite successful.  I think if we have good bean season in 2018 I will play a little bit with the recipe.

5. Have five swims

I think there was only 3 at most 4 – very poor show!

4. Find four positive ways of helping those in need

Together with my brownies we did a food collection for Saint Vincent de Paul for their Christmas appeal. And I also made some donations of clothes and children’s toys that my two had outgrown. But would like to do something a bit more meaningful.

3. Plant three new vegetables or fruit that I did not grow in the garden last year

I stuck with the old reliables this year!

2. Record two new species for the garden

Completed. In fact there was three as the Irish hare was also a new “garden” record too!

1. Attend one cultural event

We accidentally came across a street  festival when we were in Wales and went to a play. While it was for children, like all good productions, it was entertaining for the adults too! It was called Two can the Toucan and was based on a children’s book by David McKee.


So that is it. There are some of the above that I would like to do again this year but I am planning a different type of list. Watch this space!


Walk, Co Sligo

Walk, Co Sligo