Have you made New Year resoltions for the year ahead? Here are some you might consider making.
- Watch buds burst. Gather some twig clippings or pick up some budding branches on a winter’s walk and put them in water when you get home. The buds will burst open after a few days in your warm kitchen. After the long cold winter they serve as a powerful symbol of change and renewal. The joys of spring are in this way shared with children; the scaly coverings of the buds begin to split in front of their eyes at the kitchen table, revealing folded, fuzzy leaves. Slowly the leaves will grow in size. What species of tree or shrub did you bring inside?
For Easter you could then decorate the branches with painted eggs.
- Go wild food foraging. This is a skill for life and one that we’ve mostly lost. You’ll start appreciating plants that you previously considered mere weeds. Edible wild plants haven’t been intensively grown and shipped or flown to us from the other side of the world. They’re therefore not only nutritious, but represent the most sustainable food we can get into our bellies. It’s easy if you know what to look for and where to find it. So either arm yourself with a good book like Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers by Roger Phillips,
or take one of the many introductory courses that are run all over the country to get yourself started. Laois Outdoor Education run workshops for groups that could set you and yours on the path to valuing dandelions and nettles like never before.
- Depending on how much room you have, plant a native tree or sow some seeds. Consider it your legacy.
- Go for walks on the wild side. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know that I firmly believe that children need to be outside if they are to grow up to cherish and protect the natural world. You can read more on this here if you like. This year take the kids to nature reserves and places where communities have succeeded in protecting landscapes and threatened habitats for the future. The people that work to protect these places, often promote their sites for educational purposes. One of my favourite of such places is Abbeyleix Bog in County Laois. Its story is one that is worth telling the kids: this beautiful area was going to be destroyed, but a community rose up to protect it. There are countless such places around the country and they are all worth exploring together.
- Visit the National Botanic Gardens.
It’s lovely to stroll through this oasis of calm in the city. If the weather turns against you, you can always shelter in the warmth of the beautiful Victorian glasshouses. If you’re taking the kids, bring along magnifying glasses for them to look through while they’re wandering through the wonderful array of flowers on display there, particularly the orchids. Through a magnifying glass all component parts of a flower become a kaleidoscope of otherwordly beauty. It is utterly absorbing.
- Plan outings to some of the other 426 open gardens in Ireland. In her book The Open Gardens of Ireland, Shirley Lanigan, leads us on a grand tour of the open gardens around the country. I’ll just mention three here. Gardens like Altamont Gardens near Tullow in Co. Carlow. Altamont has become a favourite spring destination with a snowdrop festival to enjoy in February.
I couldn’t write this without mentioning my local beauty spot Emo Court in Co. Laois. Around April it puts on a breath-taking show of bluebells that are not to be missed.
Shirley’s number one food producing garden is also in Co. Laois. Dunmore Country School where vegetables, fruit and flowers are grown with biodiversity as the guiding principal. They offer courses to help you design your biodiverse garden from scratch. With a little help, maybe someday your garden could make it into Shirley’s book!
Happy New Year everybody!!