Project Blackbird Snack Bar

Project Garden

I love projects, I have about sixteen on the go at the moment. Yes they are exhausting and yes it is a little sad when I consider that I will never finish them but they were so exciting in the beginning. There was the great project for an art piece for my sister’s kitchen, his and her wedding masks, the garden and all its many projects, the website design project, the fiction book, the eat healthy project, the get up early project, the walk to the beach every day project, the make a stick trellis for the raspberries project… until yesterday I thought it was just me. I’ve been reading (listening to) the book Happy by Derren Brown. The subtitle is, Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. Very uplifting. Derrren is the illusionist, magician guy from the telly and he’s very interesting. Anyways, it’s a long book and I’ve been reading (listening to) it on and off for months and yesterday he had started talking about death… yes, I know, interesting. He was saying, among other things, that humans love projects. All humans. So it’s completely natural that I love projects. Funny thought, lately, I have been falling out of love with my projects.

Project Potatoes

I get very excited when I think of a new project, I fall in love with it and fantasise about us walking together along a sandy beach into the sunset. It’s all very romantic. But just at the moment when the project becomes real, the love disappears, the sand becomes stony and there’s a thunderstorm. This is at the precise point where I have to jump into the unknown. Maybe I have to learn something new or share something stupid or risk looking ridiculous or I just don’t know what to do next. By that point I have committed and have to stay with the new project until death do us part. Very often I can’t wait for death to do us part. Now I think the problem is I commit to the project before having a good look at what exactly is involved. I will be more careful in future.

Project Jigsaw

Like our blackbirds. I say OUR, they are in fact wild blackbirds but they do seem to be getting friendly. So, back when Eilish was still here, she and I researched home composting. Before I go any further let me be clear – the research was not in a scientific way… we searched on Youtube for a video about home composting. It was very interesting… and confusing. So in order to get started we stopped watching and summarised what we remembered (not a lot) from the fifteen videos we’d already watched and began home composting. This is a perfect example of a project.

Project Trellis

We already had a compost bin but it was stuffed to the top with rose bush pruning that was not turning into compost. First step, empty the bin. Then start adding vegetable peelings, paper towels, grass clippings and leaves. Keep the bin uncovered. This did mess with the structural integrity of the bin but I found a bungie chord to sort that. Finally, add water regularly. Only a week had passed when Eilish spotted the first member of our blackbird family popping in for a nibble. Yes, popping into the compost bin to root around in our leftovers! Well, we thought it might be the leftovers but there were bugs in there too so maybe that’s what they were after.

Project Blackbird Snack Bar

Last Friday I was sitting in the garden sending a text to my mother, telling her about the blackbirds when one jumped up on the compost bin. Since I had my phone in my hand I turned on the video and watched him getting started on his own project. He stood on the edge of the bin for a long time looking in, looking around, looking back in again. He walked around the edge of the bin and nearly toppled a few times but fortunately he had wings to help him balance. He washed himself, got interested in other birds and possibly me filming him. Then after a very, very long time, four minutes and ten seconds to be precise… he jumped in. He’s right to be careful, there are a lot of dangers around but the compost probably smells irresistibly good.

Project Walk to the Beach

From now on I’m not going to fall in love with the next irresistibly lovely smelling idea, I’m going to take my time looking into it and walking around it. I’ll tell myself I have plenty of projects, finish one of them first or better yet, finish them all.

Project Masks (Hello Roisín!)

Also, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a camera permanently mounted over the compost bin? We could watch the blackbirds when they are inside the bin and we could set up a live feed to a website and… NOoooooo! Danger danger, that’s a project luring me in, stay back! Have to go now, I think there’s a an old camera in the attic.

May you be well, Mairead.

Another New Normal

True Love

Eilish is gone. No, she’s not dead. She’s just gone home. We are learning to live in this new normal. How many new normals will there be?

A friend reminded me that Darwin’s theory was not about survival of the fittest but survival of the adaptable and we are learning to adapt. Denis is adapting well to my nagging. Didn’t Darwin talk about supporting your wife’s adaptability? Yes, I definitely remembering hearing something about that.

Before she left Eilish made us a Victoria Sandwich. It’s ok there’s no bread in it…

Anyway, the garden will never be the same, which is a blessing but now I have to adapt to doing the gardening on my own. So far I have fixed the compost heap with a bungie cord, pulled more than six weeds and watered Denis’ basil plants. Not entirely sure but I may need to increase my efforts.

We tried to kidnap Sadie…

The house also will never be the same, Denis emptied the dishwasher on the first morning AE (after Eilish) so that either means he’s going to keep doing it or next time it’s my turn. I would like to include optimism in my adaptability so I think he’s going to keep doing it.

These lovely things popped up in our front wasteland

We have a grocery delivery today and in the spirit of adaptability I added a game of chance to keep our spirits up. There’s a window of two hours during which the groceries will arrive. Today, if they arrive in the first hour I will get them and unpack them and put them away, all on my own. But if they arrive in the second hour Denis will do it on his own. We’re halfway through the first hour, anyone want to get involved in a side bet?

The old road…

Oh, the dog is gone too. Eilish took Sadie, with her. Yes we are grieving. Ok she was very annoying when she barked but she only barked when someone came to the door (not a lot of that lately) or when we kissed (also, not a lot of that lately) because kissing is like attacking someone with your teeth to Sadie… Or when any of us picked up the door keys or when the seagulls made seagull noise or when a cat sauntered through the back garden. Or when she heard an unusual noise or… actually, she barked a lot. But in the evening when we all sat down to watch Downton Abbey (family show, no violence, no bad language, no sex scenes, nice costumes, perfect for Sadie) she sat on my lap and fell asleep. Awww. Making it impossible for me to get anything from the kitchen so Denis had to serve me. Awww. .

Look! The strawberries are nearly here!

We’ve been in contact and unfortunately Eilish is very happy at home and not interested in coming back so we’ll have to carry on without her. Maybe have a mother-in-law section?

May you be well, Mairead.

The TO DO List exploded…

My porridge sends you a heart!

We are still working away in the garden but we have slowed down. Thankfully. My back was starting to ache and Eilish was getting better at being the boss of me. She has a very productive way of getting me off a chair, she goes out into the garden and leaves the back door open. Did you know the east wind is still blowing? The east wind is very cold when you’re sitting in a chair. Fortunately she’s ready for a break now too and I’m encouraging her to take one, she really needs to slow down… I’m not getting any younger. Where would we go if we took a break, though? We’re already on a break, aren’t we? What kind of un-magical rethinking made this seem like work?

The cherry blossom on our route turned to confetti

I blame the TO DO list. We were moseying along from weed to hedge, to seedlings, to shed, cutting and picking and shredding and painting. Happily doing just one thing at a time and getting loads done. Then I thought I might be missing something, forgetting something. I came up with a great idea (not) to make a TO DO list. I was thrilled. I wrote down all the jobs we were doing and every time we had a good idea I added that to the list. When it came to two pages I felt very productive. Well I was productive, I had produced two pages of words. That’s great, isn’t it? No, it’s not.

The shed disguised as a beach hut

I could have sat looking at that productive list for a long time, if it wasn’t for the open door and the east wind blowing. Instead I got to work. Every time we stopped for a drink or a meal I would return to the TO DO list to scratch off something and I soon realised a mistake. It was only the first mistake. I had made the items on the list too broad, not detailed enough. Each item could easily cover twenty steps. Some steps needed two lines. Two days in I decided we needed a more detailed TO DO list. It took me an hour and more paper but I had a great list. I took a drink break and then went back to the garden.

Bluebells turned up in the front garden

Today I looked at the list. The ginormous list. I am overwhelmed. My overwhelm is slowing me down, I am doing less. I have slowly increased the number of drink breaks and even added a sit-quietly-in-a-dark-room break. I no longer care about the east wind. I wrap my blanket around my legs to keep warm now when Eilish goes outside. We will never, I repeat, never finish the TO DO list…

Our prize rootball… we celebrate every success

I’m starting to mumble to myself here in my dark room and just now I heard myself ask, Would it be ok to tear up the TO DO list? No! It would not be ok, I heard the garden police reply. Do the garden police even exist? They might not. I’m tearing up the TO Do list.

May you be well, Mairead.

The shredder is all mine…

(Growing baby daisy’s in the maternity ward)

The gardening continues. I’ve just realised this might be why my dabbling in the garden previously didn’t bear fruit (pun intended.) It’s a continuous game, gardening. Persistence is rewarded and popping in and out once a month is very much discouraged. Maybe that’s why a team of gardeners is a good thing. We have a team here at the moment one of us is part-time but we’re getting the most out of him. In spite of his protests about being too busy I’ve seen him secretly checking out the growth of our seeds in the maternity ward.

(Here we are in prenatal… with little Rose)

So last weekend was the first weekend Denis was able to get into the garden. Eilish had a list of jobs ready for him and I learned a thing or two about keeping him on point and not wandering off to do something he liked better. The phrase, oh no you’re not finished here yet! stops him in his tracks. Let me just write that down for future use.

(FenceChat location)

He fixed the fence between our house and my friend Aileen and now I’m not worried about falling over it during our weekly FenceChat. It’s a new app like zoom but no one freezes, except from the cold.

He also hammer-actioned some screws into some wood and fixed the shed door. It seems lifting the door with one foot while undoing the bolt was not the intended way to get into the shed. We are saving a ton of time without all the gymnastics.

(Can you see those fabulous hammer-action screws?)

Then Eilish found my new favourite tool – a shredder. It was at the back of the shed and one of the things I didn’t know I was grateful for… I woke up on Friday morning with a brilliant idea. With all our enthusiasm in the first weeks we had filled three huge garden bags and numerous smaller black bags with garden debris. Then we had run out of bags and no way of getting more so we were at a tipping point… On the one hand neatly cut plants and pulled weeds, on the other, towering piles of plant cuttings and weeds. I have to be very particular when taking photos for you, one centimeter too far to the right or left and you will be horrified.

(Denis was a little too wide angle on this shot… but there’s me and my shredder)

I started using my shredder (it’s mine) on Saturday. By the way, I’m the only one allowed to use the shredder, safety issues, you understand. Stay well back now. (Don’t tell them but it’s nothing to do with safety, it’s all about the optics, I look like I’m doing a lot but the machine is doing it all. Kinda like how I used to think about ironing before I realised no one was noticing my neat piles of ironed clothes left lying around the house for weeks. The noise of the shredder ensures everyone knows I’m hard at work…)

(Here’s Denis working on the fence or maybe he’s doing a little dance?)

So now I’m shredding (well ok the machine is shredding) the contents of the garden debris bags. On top of that we can use the shredded material for mulch (impressed? that’s a new word in my vocabulary, maybe I will become a gardening app next?) on the front garden. It works best with woody material so the weeds will have to turn themselves into compost on their own. For that purpose we have found a good spot and they are hard at work.

(Even with that big pile of rubbish, this is still my favourite spot to sit and do nothing)

Well to be honest they are slow at work, very slow but that’s ok, slow is acceptable too. I can feel myself slowing down too, is it time to sit and enjoy the garden yet?

May you be well, Mairead.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

(This is clematis and it is going to look beautiful soon… possibly)

New experiences continue here and we’re like children (nice children, not cranky children…) as we discover different ways to be in the world together. Denis has returned to the fold and we welcomed him with open mouths as he is cooking again. I can hear him chopping while I type – there isn’t a nicer sound.

(You think you’re missing your hairdresser? Sadie is so concerned she needs Denis to reassure her that Eilish isn’t going to stab her)

Our latest endeavor has kind of snuck up on us. Like everyone else I’ve been doing a bit of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for years but now I realise I was only playing at it! HaHa, Ha, I laugh in the face of my previous efforts. Here’s what’s happening…

(You can’t eat yarn…)

Yesterday Eilish came in to measure my head. Oh yes, I’ve forgotten to tell you why but first… she arrives over with her knitting, her needles and yarn in a bag. I thought I recognised the bag… And then I thought I’d wet myself with the laughing. You’ll never guess what the bag was? No don’t try, you won’t guess. It was a Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf bag… (our favourite bread, that we can’t get any more by the way…) Inside you could see the yarn peeping through. Now this is more like it, now we can honestly say we are, REUSING our plastic. Also, every time I look at the bag I remember with affection the bread, oh how we loved you, Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf, sniff.

(Here are our potatoes, can you see anything? No, me neither but soon…)

So back to the knitting and my head measurements… We are getting all our groceries from click and collect so someone else does our shopping (thank you ❤) and I collect it in the car park of the supermarket. It works well for groceries. Not so well for hairbands. My hair is growing and it’s getting in my face and I find myself swearing and flailing my arms all around the place when I realise I’m about to touch my face to get the stray hairs back. So I thought, wouldn’t a hairband be very useful? And there was a hairband on the supermarket website shop, perfect, right? Alas, no. When the delivery came the hairband was in the Not Available list. 😟 Eilish could see more swearing and flailing in her future so she offered to rip some of my crochet squares ( I have sensed for a long time that she didn’t like my crochet…?) and use the yarn to make a hairband. RECYCLING!

(Hairband doing its job, send Eilish your head measurements if you want one we have 6 stamps left and loads of crochet squares… we’ll happily send you one (free, we’re just having fun here) and then you’ll be recycling too…😁)

We were talking about opening up a website shop because she’s already on the second hairband and I only have one head. But then we realised if the shop was successful we’d never have time to go out in the garden… I can probably wear more than one hairband at a time.

(My favourite gardening tool at the moment, fantastic for management of strong emotions… I hear)

I wish I had a story about how we are REDUCE -ing but with all the baking we’ve been doing nothing’s getting reduced except the contents of the bag of flour. That reminds me… Eilish was telling me that during the war years people used to sew flour bags together to make bed sheets. Yes, I did wonder how comfortable paper sheets could be… turns out the flour bags were made of cotton… oh right.

May you be well, Mairead.

The Journey

(Practicing Garden Therapy)

Today is the day we were booked to travel on the ferry from Rosslare to France ❤️ then onto Spain ❤️ on our journey to Portugal ❤️. Right about now I would be writing my first post from the car park of the services area near Gorey. But everything changed and here we all are on a different kind of journey. Together.

(Watching Eilish playing in the shed)

I’m sitting in my garden and I can tell you one thing I didn’t know before, I am very lucky to have a garden. I have been neglecting her but she waited, hibernated even, let herself go a bit with the grief of missing my care. I’m sorry, garden. I’ll do better. I think that’s one of the things this journey is going to be about – gratitude for the things I didn’t know I had.

(We are collecting sticks… I’ll explain another day)

Another thing about this journey is that there’s three of us. Denis, whom I’m usually living with in close confines, has been self-isolating for the past ten days, we talk on the phone now. I suppose I should add him to the list of things I’m grateful for. I didn’t realise how much I have got used to his presence. I am finding it surprisingly easy to be annoyed by his absence which I find surprisingly easy to turn into annoyance with him but he’s taking it well. I’m obviously not trying hard enough.

(Aren’t they lovely?)

Eilish is here too, Denis’ Mom (Denis and his five brothers all call their Mam, Mom – might be a Cork thing.) Eleven days ago we gave her an ultimatum and bundled her into the car to come live with us. Right about now I sense she’s ready to bolt. I’m really grateful she’s here though because she’s a huge distraction. You know, like Netflix?

(The description said they were ground cover and seemingly that means less weeds?)

When I’m not watching her we’ve been navigating a way to be two strong women sharing one house… politely. (Politely because Eilish doesn’t use swear words, I love them! I have found a way to make her laugh when I’m swearing though, I love to make her laugh.) She has a very different way of looking at things and she definitely thinks there’s one right way to do stuff. I don’t think there’s one right way… and I know I’m right…

(That’s wild garlic. Liam, one of Eilish’s sons, gave it to me last year and it survived!)

We are very alike in many ways, we like crafting and more recently gardening and Denis, we like Denis, mostly. We are also very different. She likes crafts to be exactly like the pattern intended, I don’t like following the pattern. I think weeds are just flowers planted in the wrong place and she thinks that’s crazy talk. I bet when she reads this she’ll say, Now, don’t mind me, Mairead but maybe just take a few more pictures of the garden and say less?

(Look! Ivy grows in our shed!)

It was my Dad’s birthday yesterday, he’d have been 99. I was thinking of him and the time of the petrol crisis (that was when we thought not having petrol was the worst thing that could happen to us.) He had a petrol station during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and the petrol crisis was a highpoint for him. He realised that how he behaved then would underscore the rest of his business life. So he was kind. He rationed the petrol so there would be enough for everyone. Even if you weren’t a customer, even if he didn’t know you or would never see you again. Thirty years later people from different parts of Ireland were dropping in to thank him and remind him of how he helped them when they most needed it.

He reminds me that my behaviour now will underscore the rest of my life. I’m negotiating my way through this and it’s not in every moment but most of the time, I try to be kind.

May you be well, Mairead.

Horas non numero nisi serenas!


(A bit of the sundial and fountain. Sorry, I chopped off the pretty parts…)

In the end we went to Powerscourt House and Gardens. The house for lunch and coffee, the gardens for flowers and graves. One of the other choices was Wexford and we picked well because they got an awful lot of rain in Wexford on Wednesday. We got the sun… and then some shade because it was too bright and then some breeze because it was a bit hot and then some sun because it got a little chilly. I suppose we got everything we needed except rain (which we didn’t need anyway).


(The Dolphin Pond)

We began our adventure in the gardens and the leaflet told us that this first section, called the Italian Gardens, was designed in the 1840’s by Daniel Robertson and that it took 100 men over twelve years to complete. Well then… seems like all the best gardens take more time than you might think sensible to complete….


(One of the gravestones in the pet’s graveyard)

I looked up Daniel Robertson and I read that he went bankrupt in England and afterwards moved his gardening business to Ireland. The gardens at Killruddery, where we went to the food market, were designed by him also. The latin inscription over the sundial in the Italian Garden, says “Horas non numero nisi serenas“, I do not count the hours unless they are tranquil. Because of his previous difficulties (with the bankruptcy) I thought Daniel’s choice of Latin quote might be significant, maybe an insight into how he coped, but for the life of me I couldn’t make sense of it…. if you were tranquil why would you bother counting the hours at all!


(The Pepperpot Tower – built for the children of the house. It was modelled on a pepper pot from Lord Powerscourt’s dining table.)

Turns out (thanks Google!) that this latin inscription is on a fountain in Venice also and the word count can be replaced with rememberI do not remember the non-peaceful hours. In other words I put my attention on the times that I have been at peace, when all was well, I carry the peace from my past with me. If Daniel hadn’t found a way to carry the peace with him we might have been walking through fields yesterday.

Nice work, Daniel. Mairead.

My garden is in the work phase.


(Not my garden… another view of the Birds and Bees garden at Bloom)

The sun is shining and it was very easy to get out of bed, not least because I’m off on an adventure with Ashleigh and Megan today. I’m not too sure where we’re going (the location has changed three times since Monday:)) but I will bring my camera and if there’s any good shots you’ll see them tomorrow. This reminds me of how excited I was to get out of bed when I was pulling weeds in the garden. Since we got back from holidays I kinda forgot about the gardening. I did have a quick dig on bank holiday Monday but for some reason the excitement has gone out of it and all that remains is the work….


(Not my garden yet… also from Bloom)

I do know that I enjoy digging and pulling and planting and watering. I know that I like the colour that appears within days or weeks of  sowing and watering a plant. I know there’s huge satisfaction when an area that was overgrown is cleared. It’s just that in this middle phase there’s no excitement and my garden is in the middle phase. The excitement was in the beginning when the possibilities were huge and the work was small. The excitement was in the impact I was making very quickly and….. could more be possible? The excitement was in the energy I had and the energy I was willing to expand.


(Not my garden either… also from Bloom)

Willing to expand energy is a different thing than expanding energy. One is a promise and the other is work. In the work phase the promise comes to haunt me. A promise I made to myself and to others. A promise I see in the before pictures. A promise that I really want to keep, really. In the work phase it’s only this promise that keeps me going. Not going in a light and happy way but in a heavy guilt and shame-filled way.


(Probably never my garden… that’s a rabbit hutch on the left under the raised bed and it leads to a rabbit hole in the middle of the lawn… very cute… from Bloom)

And then I look at my garden and I see no monster forcing me to keep my promise. I see no signs that I will be punished. The garden will carry on as before whether I do the work or not. The plants already sown will flower. The older ones will even search for water on their own. The weeds will thrive again and all will be well in the garden. It is not the garden that pushes me to fulfil my promise, it is myself. My dream, my hope, my intention to have something I want. Somehow I need to let this sustain me in the work phase, guilt and shame-free.

Working it, Mairead.

Organic Gardening.


(Tip: Take in your garden tools at the end of the summer)

While I was out in the garden just now, I was thinking about organic change. You might remember the situation with the very tall and healthy weeds in the garden last year? Well… things have changed, the weeds are alive and well and they’ve been having children, so it’s even more densely packed down there. While the weather was cold I was able to ignore the debauchery but it was sunny yesterday. So I went and had a look – it’s bad. For a moment or two I was in despair. But a funny thing happened….


(Tip: Some pots are not frost-proof)

We went on our Saturday date to a coffee shop that also happens to have a garden centre. While we were wandering among the plants on our way to coffee the beginnings of an old love affair were stirring in my heart. No, I won’t be leaving Denis. It was my love affair with gardening. I had forgotten but the last time the garden was weed-free I had a great time planting and pruning. And before that I remember digging was great for anger! So I bought a bag of compost and a few herbs and when we got home I began gardening. Not the forced gardening where all the weeds must be pulled or dug and the grass must be cut and the hedges must be trimmed today. No, instead, the baby step organic gardening of pots and plants. One by one at my leisure I put the herbs and the compost into some pots. I enjoyed myself for three hours and then spent an hour admiring my work. (I positioned my chair carefully so that I couldn’t see the weeds.)


(Aren’t vegetables lovely?)

Like forced change, forced gardening is no fun… on the other hand organic gardening is lots of fun. I’m not talking about gardening without chemicals (which I also like..) I’m talking about gardening at your own pace, in your own time, you can even sit down while you do it! When I got up this morning I couldn’t wait to get outside and do some more organic gardening. I didn’t even stop when the rain came. The weeds won’t be cleared in a few days, it’ll probably take a few months, but that just means I’ll have months of fun!

Could this be the start of an organic way of life? Mairead.