Many days Johnny and I can be found toiling about our garden, working together separately. With bent over backs, we handle the earth, only speaking when necessary. Perhaps because we rarely have silence in our full house. Or because in the openness of the land, sound travels so easily. With the constant island breeze, the birds might carry our intimate, personal conversation to the ears of neighbours and passing strangers. Better to not risk it. After all, if we can hear them, chances are they can hear us. Although both of these reasons are sound, our silence is more likely because working with our hands is meditative, especially when working in nature. It has evolved from the aforementioned reasons of appreciation and prudence to the contemplative cognizance of the task being carried out. The work is not just a means to an end; we are wholly aware that this is where we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do. So with this week’s mild temperatures and the sun hanging low and shining brightly, we headed to the beach to collect seaweed to fertilize the garden.
Soil is a living organism and the fundamental basis for our food production. After a demanding growing season, it is imperative that the soils fertility be replenished. Seaweed is a gardener’s pot of gold if fortunate enough to have access to it.
It’s hard work following in these footsteps of many generations prior. This is especially true with the modern convenience of dried and packaged seaweed readily available. You’d hardly find an islander who would use it though. A commitment to tradition and frugality is why on many of my morning beach walks with the dog, I witness tractors with trailers, driven by wellie boot donned farmers, gathering seaweed after stormy seas deposit aplenty.
On this day, we again decided to work together separately. Johnny collected the seaweed while I gathered bairneach, an Irish word, pronounced “bornahee”, with the “h” sound coming from the back of the throat, which translates to limpets. Being a New England girl, these gems of the sea are quite similar to the clams which I grew up with and we use them in similar ways.
I hope you enjoy these pictures of the occasion. Melissa Xx