Summer, New Neighbours & May 19th Caramel Hearts Party (online)!

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Shiny, shiny books!

Summer is here. The swallows have returned and the cuckoos are calling – it’s a beautiful time of year. I have lettuces and cabbages thriving in the garden, the tomato plants are starting to flower in the tunnel, and I have an array of seeds – hairy basil, kale, sprouts, chillies and peppers – starting to poke their heads through.

And even better, copies of my second book, Caramel Hearts, have arrived. Actual. Physical. Copies. It feels really fast but very exciting, and I’m still convincing myself that it’s real. That this is all actually happening.

However, before I sound like I’m on top of everything, please note: I have completely lost the art of conversation. I’m way behind the usual vegetable planting and I’m struggling to find some time to catch up. I haven’t seen most of my friends in a long, long, time (sorry everyone). And our grass has got so out of control, we’ve had to move some cows in to fix it for us. They’re very gentle neighbours, and as well as fantastic gardeners (the vegetables are protected), they double as great alarm clocks!

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My favourite thing about this time of year is that the days are long. It’s light until almost 10pm, and dawn breaks before 6am. When you live somewhere with no streetlights for miles, this means freedom! Lots of extra daylight hours for walking, gardening – and maybe, dare I say it, finally catching up with friends? – as well as all the usual writing and freelancing time. This morning, I even edited outside, in the sun, and then had a paddle in the bracing Atlantic. What more could I ask for?

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Happy tomatoes 🙂

When you do these things during the day in winter, you lose most of your best working hours – I’m a person who thrives on light and finds it difficult to write when it’s dark – but if you don’t, you go stir crazy! And yet, despite the long winter, and my aversion to writing in the dark, I’ve managed to get this far.

This far meaning Caramel Hearts is completed and *almost* here (publication date May 19th) and The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives II is also completed; I’m just finishing up the proofs. My busiest months for festivals and events have passed (there are many more though, with Wexford next – check out my events page) and I’m about to start the final book in the Nine Lives Trilogy. Phew!

But first: I’m going to celebrate Caramel Hearts. I’m going to enjoy releasing it into the world (even though it’s a little bit terrifying)!

Publication day is a strange entity. It means that your books are officially ‘out there’ but other than that, it’s a bit of a damp squib. The buzz is all around the launch, which comes later. However, I’ve decided that I’m going to follow the advice of the lovely Mariam Kobras and make publication day more of a ‘thing’. It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines and forget to celebrate, but you only release your book once and so I’ve decided to ‘cop on’ as they say in these parts and enjoy it.

So, on May 19th I’m having an all day long virtual ‘publication day party’ on twitter, facebook and this blog – and you’re invited! It’ll start around 8am and I’d love you to stop by and join in. It’s a bit of fun, a way to get some conversation about the book started, and a chance to win some goodies!

Hope to see you there 🙂 

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It’s not all writing, writing, writing

I have chosen to live in a beautiful, countryside village so that I can enjoy the wonderful natural surroundings and the warm sense of community. I love cities, but I love country life too, and after years of city living, I’ve happily adjusted to my life in rural Ireland.

Although writing is part of my everyday life, so is enjoying the beauty around me. I make sure that I take walks every day; I watch the patterns as seasons change, the habits of birds, the cloud formations. And I also try to make use of the space and resources the best I can to stay balanced and grounded in a world that’s full of technology and social media.

Since signing a book deal, watching the physical book take shape and the sending it out into the world, a lot of my posts have focused on my writing. So, seeing a sI think balance is so important, here’s a brief escape from words and a return to the natrural world.

country garden ireland

Plenty of seed dug up, ready for next year

gardening ireland

Outdoor lettuce looking healthy enough, along with rhubarb (& weeds!)

making apple cider

Lots of sweet apples, windfall & picked, for making cider. Currently fermenting…

gardening in ireland

The onions did well again this year – we have a whole wall to last through the winter

greenhouse growing

Lack of sun meant that the chillies and peppers are way behind. Just starting to fruit now! I’ll be amazed if we get any but I’ll keep trying 🙂

autumn leaves

Autumn is definitely here.

irish calf

Spring in the Irish countryside

One of the spring lambs

One of the spring lambs

Spring is here and this means lambs, calves, daffodils – and lots of ground to dig up in preparation for planting our vegetables. This is a wonderful time of year in the Irish countryside if you don’t mind a bit of hard work and gardening in the rain (or the hailstone, as I discovered last week).

My husband and I have tried planting as much as half an acre of vegetables in the past, all grown organically and managed by hand, but the amount of work involved was incredible and the crops return very little. With so much to look after, it’s really difficult to keep on top of the slugs, rooks, and rabbits, and so this year, we’re sticking with a few drills of potatoes and several raised beds – some in a field and one in the front garden – along with the tunnel.

rural irish garden

Shallots for planting

It’s still early, but so far we’ve got two decent drills of early potatoes sat, and this weekend we planted a bed of shallots. Next week, I’ll be able to plant some of the hardier seeds in the tunnel; lettuce, chillis, and purple beans to start, as well as various pak choi seeds I bought in Thailand.

I’ll wait a little longer for the herbs as they need lots of sun and I’m not convinced there’s enough just yet for them to grow properly. Our greenhouse (‘tunnel’) is built against a shed, so it doesn’t have 100% light – and this, we’ve discovered, means we have to amend the usual planting times for better results.

It’s such a lovely feeling having stuff planted – I love everything about it; the digging, manuring, watching things grow, planting out, weeding – and of course, eating! It’s a great way to get away from the computer, and let your head unwind. And every year, you learn something new.

Growing your own food is just wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You don’t even need to have a big space available – I’ve helped quite a few people grow their own veg in tiny spaces, including window boxes – so if it’s something you’re interested in but don’t know where to start, just shout!

You can also feel the stretch in the evenings now, which is a real treat when there are no streetlights nearby. This week, we’ve seen flowers burst open, a few pheasants, wild ducks and the first few ladybirds; the sun has been shining and the sea has been the most stunning turquoise imaginable. It all feels loaded with so much promise, it makes you glad to be alive.

Who else has that Spring feeling?

What does Spring mean to you?

irish calf

A young calf, just days old

 

Spring is late but there are signs!

You may have heard the rumour that spring is here but after such a tough winter, it may not feel like it. So here’s some proof of spring’s arrival. It may be slow but when the buds burst open and the flowers rear their beautiful heads, we’ll all be delighted and forget all about the storm damage. I promise!

Schull, West Cork

View from near Sailor’s Hill, Schull

 

west cork walks

A morning walk in Caharlaska, West Cork

 

West Cork villages, schull

Village flowerbeds starting to blossom

Blarney castle, Cork

Sunny day at Blarney Castle, Cork

 

Cobh mudflats Cork

Mud flats between Cork and Cobh

 

West Cork spring

Butterflies searching for the sun

 

snowdrops

Snowdrops!

 

Loch Hyne West Cork

One happy pup in Loch Hyne woods