22nd May is International Day of Biodiversity. Here are just a few of the recent highlights from the garden and further afield. There is so much wonderful biodiversity out there. Go and explore.
Enniscoe House and Estate can be found near Crossmolina in Co Mayo, on the shores of Lough Conn. Steeped in heritage the Georgian house dates from 1790 and today is run as a family hotel. We visited a couple of weeks ago to take part in a bumblebee workshop (held by the National Biodiversity Data Centre). The second half of the day involved looking for and identifying bumblebees. It also allowed us to enjoy the grounds including the beautiful woodland, but especially the organic walled garden. The garden is divided into two; first the formal garden or pleasure grounds, and secondly the vegetable and impressive fruit growing area. Strawberries, apple trees and currants were all in bloom. The garlic was huge in comparison to my own! And the potatoes were coming on very well.
Enniscoe is also the location of the Mayo North Heritage Centre, where people can go and explore their North Mayo ancestors / genealogy. There is also a looped walk, a museum and all important tea rooms.
The simple beauty of mother nature.
So it is a new year. And I intend to start with an attitude of hope, that we are heading for a year that will bring, as a friend said, some calm. What can I do for 2017? I’ve been mulling over this question for a few weeks now and here is what I have come up with. (If you are interested this was my 2016 list and how I did).
17. Help seventeen people learn more about their environment.
As some of you may know, I do help run pollinator courses and I am sometimes asked to give wildlife walks/talks in a voluntary capacity. What I would like to do is reach seventeen people through these means and help them learn more about the natural world.
16. Send sixteen mammal records to the National Biodiversity Data Centre
Last year my goal was relatively easily reached so this year I want to make it harder by concentrating on mammals, and upping the number of mammal records I send from the 10 in 2016, to 16 for 2017.
15. Give away fifteen homegrown flower or vegetable plants to worthy homes
Last year it was twelve so I should be able to manage 15.
14. Fourteen fun days out with the family
There is nothing better than finding somewhere nice to enjoy for all the family.
13. Learn thirteen new words
English words or even some foreign words I am not going to be too fussy!
12. Write twelve blog posts (ideally one a month) on an environmental topic
Many of us are aware how much our environment is suffering, so I hope to post blogs that will raise awareness and maybe give examples of things we can do as responsible citizens
11. Read eleven new authors
This year I’d like to read books by authors I haven’t read before. These could be new authors or just ones I haven’t previously read.
10. Complete ten butterfly and or bee monitoring transects this year
I have not changed this from last year as firstly I can’t think of a new number 10 plus this is something I want to continue to do, so I feel it is important that it remains.
9. Find 9 ways of encouraging more wildlife into our garden
8. Discover 8 new things
This has been inspired by Cathy at (https://nanacathydotcom.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/17-for-2017-the-beginning/). It could be anything but I would like to focus on health and researching a couple of health topics that affect our family.
7. Send seven letters to friends
Proper letters, not just emails!
6. Try six new recipes
Okay as I failed miserably last year on this one, so I have lowered the number and will hopefully achieve a few more this time!
5. Have five swims
Ideally in the Atlantic – I hope the weather is good this summer!
4. Find four positive ways of helping those in need
3. Plant three new vegetables or fruit that I did not grown in the garden last year
2. Record two new species for the garden
1. Attend one cultural event
A play, concert or something like this.
The weather has been kind this Christmas holiday so Tuesday was the perfect day for a winter walk. I have featured this walk before two winters ago (how times flies!). The walk is part of the Foxford Way and the area is called Laughil, near Pontoon here in Co. Mayo. There are lovely views of Lough Conn from the track.
Over the years we have been walking here the birch and willow have been growing fast. It’s nice to see this natural regeneration. There is also quite a bit of holly too. Further along the track there are some stunted old oak trees. The trees are festooned in amazing ferns and lichens.
In one place much of the path is covered in fallen oak leaves. Here the low winter sun creates long shadows where there are planted conifers on one side of the path with the more natural woodland (mainly large oak) on the other side.
A lovely, pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
With the end of the year looming, I thought it time to start a little review of my 16 for 2016. I thought I would start with number 15 which was to read fifteen books in the year. I have been an avid reader since childhood, so in truth there is always a book by my bedside. I enjoy fiction, autobiographies and fact especially when based around natural history.
One of the best, if somewhat depressing nature books I read this year was The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy. A British environmental journalist of note, McCarthy writes about many of the losses mother nature has suffered at the hands of the human race. However, he also asks us to remember the joy nature brings us and reflects on how in many ways nature has been his own “guardian angel”.
Corvus A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson is the very engaging tale of how Esther and her family have raised various orphaned crovids (e.g. rooks and magpies) over the years. She writes eloquently of how these bright, intelligent birds changed her own life. I have previously blogged about Dave Goulson’s A Buzz about the Meadow which was another firm favourite.
Novels I have read include The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a sort of realistic fairy-tale set in Alaska in the 1920’s and Irish author Anne Enright’s The Green Road. Castle Book Shop in our local town Castlebar often has some great bargains and this is how I came across Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. I had loved her other book “The Secret Life of Bees” and this second book did not disappoint. The book gives a fictionalised account of the lives of the Grimké sisters in America and one of their “fictional” slaves. The sisters were among the first female abolition agents in America and were also two of the earliest feminist thinkers.
It is some years since I read Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mocking Bird” and I was looking forward to reading her second book. While I did enjoyed Go Set a Watchman, it did not stay with me as much as her first book.
The Book Seller of Kabul by jounalist Åsne Seierstad had been on my list to read for some time, so when I saw it on sale in the local book shop I snapped it up. The book tells about the life of a book seller and his family in Kabul in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. Besiege: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street, written by Barbara Demick was an eye opening account of the affects of the war on the people of the besieged city. It was a real tribute to the people of the city and their determination to survive.
Other books have included:
- The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
- The Love Song of Ms Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce
- Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell recommended to me by Melissa from https://melissashawsmith.com/
- 438 Days by Jonathan Franklin
I am currently reading Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
I also read to the children most nights and our range is pretty diverse. The local library is an excellent resource and we use it as much as we can. This year we’ve made our way pretty much through their Dirty Bertie collection. Bertie is always getting into trouble even when he doesn’t mean too! We are steadily making our way through Holly Webbs books too. Many of them are stories about cats and dogs and they always have a happy ending. Mr Stink by David Walliams is a book that particularly sticks in my head. It’s about a homeless tramp and his friendship with a lonely young girl. We’re currently all enjoying Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine.