National Tree Day – Thursday October 8th 2015

Tree Day seeks to celebrate trees, raise awareness about Ireland’s native trees and to show what you can do to help the trees in your local area.

As everyone knows, tress take in carbon dioxide and give out the oxygen we breathe. What you may not know is that one fully mature tree provides enough oxygen each day for a family of four. But trees do so much more than that. They provide shelter to countless insects, birds and animals. They give us shelter from rain and shade us from sun. The provide wood for our fires and houses. The give us berries and nuts with which to eat.

So what can I do?

A start is to take five minutes (as hard as that can be nowadays) to look at a tree in your area and appreciate the tree itself. Take the time to be with the tree, view it not as an object, but as a living being.

Something else you can do is to get involved with local planting projects. These projects take seeds given off local trees, start them growing in a “creche” of sorts until they are year-old saplings, and transfer the saplings into the ground so they can grow into trees. This helps to preserve Ireland’s native trees, as well as to replace some of the trees that fall victim to deforestation every day.

You can also look out for the trees that are native to Ireland. Here are a few examples:

  • Elder Tree: Elder trees are smaller than most, coming to about 6 meters in height and usually found in hedgegrows. In Spring, they flower with white flowers that later develop into small berries that range from dark-purple to black in color. Birds love these berries as a snack.elderberries
  • Hazel Tree: Hazel trees are usually found underneath the canopy of oak or ash trees, but can also be found in the Burren. More of a shrub than a tree, hazels typically grow to around 5 meters in height. The nuts that a hazel produces are edible, but trees that are more in shade don’t produce as many nuts.Hazel.8
  • Hawthorn Tree: Often spoken of in Irish myth and lore, hawthorns are a very recognisable, being bushy looking and with their distinctive light grey color, turning pinkish brown with age. Hawthorns produce small, juicy red berries that birds love to eat.hawthorn_fruit
  • Rowan Tree: The rowan tree, also called the mountain ash, is a small tree. It is able to grow in poor soil, giving it the ability to grow in poor, mountainous soil, hence the name mountain ash. The rowan produces small red berries that birds love to eat. These help to spread the rowan around the country.rowan trees

These are just a few examples of trees native to Ireland. You can find out about more of them from the Native Woodland Trust.

And lastly, one way to help our native trees is to Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.             The less we use, the fewer trees that need to be cut down.


Butterfly & Bumblebee Monitoring Workshop

Butterfly & Bumblebee monitoring

The Bumblebee & Butterfly Workshop was held at An Gáirdín on June 7th. This was in conjunction with the monitoring scheme conducted by Biodiversity Ireland to collect data on the species. A fascinating day packed with information was facilitated by Dr Tomás Murray from the National Biodiversity Data Centre; his enthusiasm for the project was overflowing. Instructions on capture, examination, identification and release were outlined. The information gathered nationally is fed into a European data base to give an overall picture of their health, abundance, vulnerability and rarity. The fecundity of bumblebees and butterflies can be directly correlated with climate change.

                                  BUMBLEBEES                                      BUTTERFLIES
IRELAND          20 species 32% under threat                 34 species 18% under threat
EUROPE          68 species 24% under threat                482 species 9% under threat

There were many bumblebees & butterflies to be seen at An Gáirdín on the day of the workshop. It was fascinating to see the various behavioural patterns of the different genders demonstrating their known habits.
It was a most enjoyable and informative day and the participants at An Gáirdín would like to record their appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Tomás Murray.


Learn how to integrate Mindfulness into your everyday life.
2day Course
Sat.28thFeb.and Sun.26thApril
An Gáirdín, Portumna
Facilitator:Gerry Cunningham MIAHP
The Mindfulness Clinic, 19 Fitswilliam Square, Dublin 2
Cost: €30 per day Deposit €10
Booking: Phone 090 974169 or

Please click top menu MINDFULNESS WORKSHOPS for full details


As the final season of the Earth’s calendar commences, we are treated to spectacular morning displays; the Season of Webs has arrived.image
We are reminded that life on this planet is not a pyramid; not a hierarchy; but a wonderful WEB of LIFE celebrating diversity and interdependency. As the totality of the web is made up of individual strands, so too the totality of life is expressed in a multiplicity of unique life forms, each with a right to its unique existence.

In a web, each strand is dependent on every other strand; just see what happens if we pull on one strand. So too each life form is completely dependent on other life forms. So thank you spiders, your genius constructions are a gift to us each morning to teach us the beauty of interdependent existence is all about; a deeper insight into Native American wisdom:

We do not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. (CHIEF SEATTLE)


The eco-system is as delicate and fragile as a spider’s web. To ensure the continuation of a plant species, it will flower at a time when its main pollinators are in abundance and there is maximum output of seeds. There are myriads of examples of how unwittingly humans can upset the delicate eco system; the web of life.



For instance, if a non-native primrose is planted, it may flower earlier or later than the native species, hence tearing a hole in the complex web of life. Tender new leaves unfold on an oak tree in spring just as millions of insect larvae emerge to eat them. Synchronised time-cycles of plants and animals are thrown out of step when we replace native species with non-native.



A web is seldom an independent entity; each is connected to the next by a single delicate strand. The webs are all so beautifully connected together, as it were holding one another up. Earth’s wonderful eco-system – of which we are a part, a strand – is made up of many, many interdependent and interconnected smaller ecosystems.











  • DATE             MONDAY OCTOBER 20TH – and every 2nd Monday till the end of the year.
  • TIME             8pm – 9.30pm

A group of like-minded Earth loving-people meet every 2nd Monday in An Gáirdín. We explore writers and thinkers who express insight into this unique time in the history of planet Earth. We welcome anyone who would like to join us. The meeting commences with a 10 minute reflection/meditation before moving on to our chosen book

This year we have decided to return to a book we explored some years ago; 

The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry

This classic work of eco-theology follows Thomas Berry as he spells out the lineaments of a new intimacy and love of the earth.

The following are some extracts:

It is important that we be mindful of the earth, the planet out of which we are born and by which we are nourished, guided, healed — the planet, however, which we have abused to a considerable degree in these past two centuries of industrial exploitation. This exploitation has reached such extremes that presently it appears that some hundreds of thousands of species will be extinguished before the end of the century.

It is indeed true that species become extinct in the natural processes whereby the great variety of lifeforms have developed over the centuries, for there is a violent as well as a benign aspect of nature. Yet in the larger pattern of life development over hundreds of millions of years, new species have appeared in ever-greater florescence. There is reason to believe that the earth was never more resplendent than it was when human consciousness awakened in the midst of the unnumbered variety of living forms that swim in the seas and move over the land and fly through the air.

The Dream of the Earth


When the agricultural civilizations began some ten thousand years ago the human disturbance of the natural world was begun in a serious way. It may be said in general that these early Neolithic and the later classical civilizations had some deleterious effects on the regions they occupied. The extent varied according to geographical location and cultural traditions, but in the larger perspective the damage was sustainable.

In our times, however, human cunning has mastered the deep mysteries of the earth at a level far beyond the capacities of earlier peoples. We can break the mountains apart; we can drain the rivers and flood the valleys. We can turn the most luxuriant forests into throwaway paper products. We can tear apart the great grass cover of the western plains and pour toxic chemicals into the soil and pesticides onto the fields until the soil is dead and blows away in the wind. We can pollute the air with acids, the rivers with sewage, the seas with oil — all this in a kind of intoxication with our power for devastation at an order of magnitude beyond all reckoning. We can invent computers capable of processing ten million calculations per second. And why? To increase the volume and the speed with which we move natural resources through the consumer economy to the junk pile or the waste heap. Our managerial skills are measured by the competence manifested in accelerating this process. If in these activities the topography of the planet is damaged, if the environment is made inhospitable for a multitude of living species, then so be it. We are, supposedly, creating a technological wonder world.

It is not easy to know how to respond this attitude; its consequences are so overwhelming. We must, however, reflect on what is happening. It is an urgent matter, especially for those of us who still live in a meaningful, even a numinous, earth community. We have not yet spoken. Nor even have we seen clearly what is happening. The issue goes far beyond economics, or commerce, or politics, or an evening of pleasantries as we look out over a scenic view. Something is happening beyond all this. We are losing splendid and intimate modes of divine presence. We are, perhaps, losing ourselves.

Some years ago, in 1975, in the cathedral of John the Divine in New York, there was a public discussion on technology and the natural world by Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut; Eido Roshi, the Zen master; and Lame Deer, the Sioux Indian. When Lame Deer spoke, he stood with the sacred pipe in his hands and bowed in turn to the four directions. Then, after lifting his eyes to survey the vast cathedral, he turned to the audience and remarked on how overpowering a setting it was for communication with divine reality. Then he added that his own people had a different setting for communion with the Great Spirit, a setting out under the open sky, with the mountains in the distance and the winds blowing through the trees, with the earth under their feet, surrounded by the living sounds of the birds and insects. It is a different setting, he said, a different experience, but one so profound that he doubted that his people would ever feel entirely themselves or would ever be able to experience the divine adequately in any other setting.

It made an overwhelming impression on me and still lingers in my mind, causing me often to reflect on what we have gained and what we have lost in the lifestyle that we have adopted; on the encompassing technocratic, manipulative world that we have established; even on the sense of religion that we have developed. We must not over romanticize primitivism, as has been done on occasion; yet when we witness the devastation we have wrought on this lovely continent, and even throughout the planet, and consider what we are now doing, we must reflect. We must reflect especially on the extinction of species we are bringing about. It is estimated by highly regarded biologists that between now and the year 2000, in slightly more than ten years, in our present manner of acting, we will extinguish possibly between one-half and one million species out of the five to ten million species that we believe presently exist.






With the splendid summer, gardeners who grow tomatoes and basil have been blessed with abundant crops.  Here are some delicious recipes that can be enjoyed now or frozen for winter use.



1 Medium Potato

1 Medium Onion

1lb (450gms) Fresh Tomatoes

2 Garlic Cloves

1 Bay Leaf

2tbls (30ml) Tomato Paste

2pts (1100ml) Vegetable Stock

Basil to   garnish

Salt & Pepper to taste – serves 4-6

Peel and chop garlic, potato & onion, sauté in butter

Quarter tomatoes & remove hard stem. 

Add all ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, blend soup and adjust seasoning to taste.

A little milk or cream can be added.

To serve, reheat and garnish with fresh basil.


TOMATO SAUCE (yields ½ litre)

2tbls Olive Oil

3 Garlic Clove peeled & crushed

2 Onions peeled & chopped

1lb Fresh Tomatoes chopped (or 2 cans chopped tomatoes)

1tsp dried Oregano or chopped Basil

Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Sauté the onion & garlic in olive oil for 8-10 minutes on medium heat in covered saucepan; stir occasionally.  Add the tomatoes & herbs. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes, liquidise.  When cold, store in a refrigerator for 2-3 days or freeze.



Pesto Sauce

4ozs (115grms) Basil Leaves

2 Garlic Cloves peeled & crushed

2ozs (56grms) Pine Nuts

4fl ozs (140mls) Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

In a blender whizz basil, garlic and pine nuts.  Gradually add oil.

This mixture stores well for up to 3 days in a refrigerator or can be frozen.  Before serving 2ozs (56grms) finely grated Parmesan can be added.


Last year’s Autumnal Equinox celebrations kicked off with participants engaging in a Sacred Dance to music called Fanny Power written by O’Carolan in the sixteenth century.  The choreography for Sacred Dance was decided upon by Prof. Bernhard Wosien from Munich.  Wosien had compiled studies on traditional western dance routines which encompassed symbolism and movement which could be directly traced back through a line of teachers to Pythagoras.

Following the dance, the group sat and discussed products from their own harvests.  A veritable cornucopia of foodstuffs was displayed and each one was gratefully acknowledged and discussed.  The exhibit was further enriched when An Gáirdín’s canine Paws, positioned herself strategically in the display.

AG corncopia

The gathering concluded and we were treated to a delicious supper; apple cakes suitable for both gluten and non-gluten consumers; see the Recipe page. The first meeting of this season’s study group then considered the book choice.  The meeting adjourned without making a decision, but hopefully, suggestions will be submitted this week.



Nature has been extremely  generous this autumn; apples are in abundance.

Here are some lovely recipes that we have tried in An Gáirdín.  They  can be adapted for dietary needs by substituting gluten-free flour in place of wheat and sunflower oil in place of butter.

Apple recipes



80grms/3oz Butter

150grms/5oz Sugar

1 Egg (beaten)

450grms/1lb Apples (stewed)

115grms/4ozs Dried Fruit

225grms/8ozs Self-Raising Flour

Preheat oven to 180c

Melt butter, stir in sugar, stewed apples and dried fruit.  Add the beaten egg and fold in flour.  Pour mixture into a lined Swiss roll tin or  pie dish.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool on wire tray.  Serve warm or cold with low fat yogurt or cream.




300grms/11ozs flour (self-raising & gluten-free)

80grms/3ozs Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

4fl ozs Milk (soya, rice, almond or hazelnut)

Pinch Salt

1tsp Cinnamon

160grms/6ozs peeled chopped cooking apples.

Heat oven to 200c (400F or gas mark 6)

Into a bowl, sieve flour, cinnamon and salt.

In a different bowl, beat eggs, sugar, milk and oil.

Sieve dry ingredients (again) into egg mixture and using a large  spoon, fold the wet and dry ingredients together.  Carefully add chopped apples.  Fill paper cases  with muffin mixture (or greased muffin tins) and bake on high shelf for 25 minutes.

Cool on wire tray; enjoy!

These muffins are equally successful made with self-raising wheat flour, and/or diary milk and butter.


RIPE TOMATO CHUTNEY (Yield: 8lbs)    


12 lbs Ripe Tomatoes

1lb OnionsAn Gáirdín tomato chutney picture

1½ lbs Sugar

¼ oz Paprika

Pinch Cayenne Pepper

1½ ozs Salt

1 pint Malt Vinegar or Distilled Spiced Vinegar

Pour boiling water over tomatoes for approximately 1 minute, and then remove skins.  Chop tomatoes and onions, place in a large pot with half the vinegar and spices, and then bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.   Add remaining vinegar and sugar and continue cooking until a thick pulp.  Bottle while hot in sterile warmed jars and cover.


Distilled vinegar gives the richest colour to the chutney.  However, it this is not available, add ¼ teaspoon of mixed spice to malt vinegar.