Author Archives for Melissa Gillan

About Melissa Gillan

The Aran Artisan Inis Mor Aran Islands County Galway Ireland More of our story and blog are detailed in my About page.

Thoughts Planted by a Sycamore Seedling

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I’ve been absent for a couple weeks, enjoying the children’s school break for Easter and generally just avoiding the computer. A burst of inspiration from the garden today brought me back — whispers from a sycamore seedling that got me contemplating…

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March of The Weeds

DSC_0288~2It’s March and the noticeably longer days tease my gardening impulsiveness. I want to get on with the business of growing outside. The erratic weather can’t be ignored, though, and rather than transplant out I’ll have to pot up- that is, move plants to larger containers- and keep them under cover a bit longer. Rather than sow root vegetable seeds, I’ll lay more ground warming cover after spreading compost or leaf mulch.

And I’ll weed.

There’s always weeding to be done, though more so this time of year because it’s spring and that’s when weeds spring up and multiply with great abandon on every patch of bare soil.

I rarely go out with the purpose of just weeding. Instead, it gets done regularly but a bit at a time. I’m usually grabbing weeds from here and there at my discretion as I’m tending to other garden needs in the same area. Spring weeding is a bit more intentional than that- it’s part of the plan for the day, on a mental list of things to be done deliberately, sooner than later.

Fortunately, weeding the garden is a favourite task of mine. I find that the point of view from crouched down on all fours is a great way to get the lay of the land and to gain a true perspective of a garden’s whereabouts.

While growing up in Maine, I was the primary weeder in the family plot and I remember enjoying it lots. Our vegetable garden was behind my Memere’s house. It was a nice open space with tall lilac bushes lining one side and there was a pretty spectacular weeping willow in the front yard. Summers were very hot and I have the most vivid memories of taking off my shirt and pulling weeds wearing only my shorts. At age nine or so, and with no explanation that made sense at the time, my mother told me to put my shirt back on and I shouldn’t be taking it off anymore. I remember feeling like something had gone astray. Now I suppose she was trying to teach me modesty.

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On our smallholding, I’ve taken responsibility for the weeding– Johnny never has to worry about it, just like I never have to worry about the chicken coop being cleaned out and their bedding relined and their feed buckets refilled.

So long as we’re all happy, nothing’s being neglected and everyone’s keeping their shirt on, it’s all good.

Pallet Picnic Table Repair

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Our picnic table was given to us a few years back by some lovely people who handmade it themselves but couldn’t take it with them when they were moving away from the island. It’s been in dozens and dozens of our photos though never itself the subject of attention. Being extra long, makes it extra perfect for our large family, especially when friends and family are added to the mix. More often the tabletop is used as a platform for the children to sit upon and to spring from; this resulted in a board breaking and creating a hole. Just before Nuala’s birthday party last week Johnny refurbished the top using recycled pallet wood and then it was painted with some awesome paint from #Faherty Paints in Galway. It’s substantially heavier but that’s not a problem. I need to pick up more paint to finish the job next trip to the city, but even so, we’re really happy with the results and here you can see the transition for yourself.

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Hooray for having a handy hubby!! 🔨📐🖌

Curlicue, I Love You

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I’m not sure if my new snail is an early Mother’s Day gift or a just-because gift and it really doesn’t matter either way. I received this new piece of garden art from the heart and hands of Margaret Maeve last Friday. The opposite side is painted  ‘To: Mom ‘ and she made it in metal work class at school. How lucky am I?!

This is my ‘spiral‘ photograph for the weekly challenge hosted by Sandra and Cathy. Thanks for the inspiration ladies, and thank you for the one of a kind and made with love present Margaret Maeve. Xx

All Summer in a Day

 

This weekend’s wet and windy weather got me thinking of Ray Bradbury’s iconic short story, All Summer in a Day. I’ve thought of it often since moving to Ireland, a trip down the memory lane of primary school required reading. It left a lasting impression on me and today it reminds me that no matter how much it rains or for how long it’s grey outside, we truly never have to wait very long before the sun will be shining again.

Imagine this…

You live on a planet where rain falls continuously, except for every seven years when the sun comes out for just one hour. Now imagine you’re nine years old, once lived on Earth and, because of this, you’re the only child in your class who remembers experiencing the sun. Your peers don’t understand; it isn’t possible for they were only two years old when it last shined and they have no memory of it. Their envy of your knowledge fuels a wicked decision that results in you missing out on seeing and feeling the long awaited arrival of the perfect sunshine.

It’s a short story but the message is huge, depicting a true principle of the human condition–jealousy, an emotion that can cause people to hurt other people because they want something that they have and don’t want others to have it if they can’t. Groups of people can behave surprisingly, even do unethical acts that most of the individuals wouldn’t do if they were acting alone–mob mentality, gang bullying–and it isn’t pleasant. Continue reading

Maya and The Book of Everything

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I was really looking forward to reading Maya and The Book of Everything by Laurie Graves in a way I hadn’t looked forward to reading a fiction book in a long time. Even though it’s a young adult fantasy novel and a gift to my 13-year-old daughter, something about the plot caught my attention. The cover art charmed me also and I ended up reading it before she did.

The story begins in modern times America (coincidentally the same area where I grew up) and it centres around the young heroine Maya and the magical secret Book of Everything. In fulfilling her destiny to protect the book from an evil syndicate that would like to control and alter its purpose, she travels through time and space encountering dangerous situations and tough decisions at every turn. Many other compelling characters are superbly developed and contribute much to the plot which twists and weaves into such an intriguing storyline, I found it hard to put down. Talking books, a royal toad, a magic forest and Shakespearean references are just a few of the books creative highlights for me. The story grips you right out of the gate and continues straight through to the last page. In fact, the ending caught me by surprise as much as it did Maya and gave me the thought ‘this could easily be a movie’.

Ms Graves has a unique trait to her writing where she summarises some of the happenings in the book by way of revealing a comment or action to be carried out at a future time. She accomplishes this with the introductory phrase, ‘Later he would say…’, cleverly adding depth to the characters as well as the readers understanding of the bigger picture, all in a single sentence.

Even though the main character is a young adult, I believe the story would have appeal far beyond that age group. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and eagerly await Book 2 in The Great Library Series.

My daughter Margaret Maeve is a bit uncertain about writing her own book review for Maya and The Book of Everything. I was thinking I could interview her, asking some questions that would draw the review out of her and then publish it here in a Q&A format. What do you think? So I’m asking you, my dear readers, to please give me some suggestions as to what questions I might ask her. All ideas will be thoughtfully considered!

Maya and The Book of Everything can be purchased from the following:

Order directly from Hinterland Press
Maya and the Book of Everything
$14.95 Quality Paperback

Get Maya and the Book of Everything from Amazon.com
$14.95 Quality Paperback
or $3.99 Kindle e-book

Get Maya and the Book of Everything
from Barnes & Nobel
$14.99 Quality Paperback

Get Maya and the Book of Everything
from Amazon.co.uk
£12.20 Quality Paperback

Have a look at Laurie Graves blog, Notes From the Hinterland, or her Facebook page, where she expresses her creativity through her writings about “nature, home, community, books, writing, the environment, food, and rural life”.

Wishful thinking

After working extra hard to shed its seed coat, this one’s likely going to produce the biggest melons of the lot.

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The truth is it could probably go either way. Maybe it isn’t gaining strength; perhaps it’s actually falling behind the others. As far as I know, there’s no scientific research to back up either thought. I’ve been known to interfere and remove the seed coat from peppers. Their first leaves are much smaller (weaker?) than the melons in comparison to its seed coat and my gut instinct was that there would be a struggle to shed it themselves. I’ll give this melon another day and if it busts out, then I’m thinking it will be stronger, and if it takes any longer it probably needs my help and there goes my gut theory.

I’ve seen this scenario dozens of times, if not more, and have never really contemplated it until now. Oh, the power of a photograph to get one’s mind wondering! Thank you, Sandra and Cathy for this fun and inspiring weekly challenge.

A Story of Rain

Anywhere there’s a dip in the land of our homefarm, there’s a puddle temptingly waiting to be waded through by duck or welly boot.dsc_0020-2

The earth around us has reached its maximum water holding capacity and is now overflowing in many areas.

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This happens quickly on the island in relentless rainfall because the soil is shallow and just a few feet below, if not a few inches, are masses of solid limestone. Continue reading

Making a comfortable living from a small piece of land

As the word smallholding implies, we do what we do to support our family through a combination of cash crops and subsistence farming. We do all the work ourselves between the jigs and reels of raising a family and various other obligations and distractions. There’s no design laid out before us. Instead, season to season over the past several years we figure bits out and do it, always incorporating two essential qualities. The first and most important for us is to provide food for our family. The second is to do so while designing a modest, simple and functional area where others can discover that it’s possible to create their own supermarket on just one acre. We may not be making our entire income from it yet, but day by day and year to year we get that much closer.

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Three new outside beds were added to the garden in the last week. All three are at the north end of the polytunnel, one is actually an addition to the artichoke bed. We also divided the artichoke plants to double the amount we now have and there’s still room for plenty more.

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