Category Archives: Home and Garden

Bounce, Wobble, Smile – Ballin Temple notes at solstice

Bounce, wobble, spin – the solstice is here. And so the cycle continues.

Today is the day we’ve been looking forward to for a couple of months now. In the northern hemisphere, it’s the shortest day of the year and within a few days we’ll begin to notice the days lengthening again. Solstice is the root of the various festivities that occur at this time, like Christmas and Hanukkah, and increasingly it is celebrated for its own sake as more people reconnect with the natural cycles of our planet. That’s a good thing and it offers a contrast to the frighteningly consumerist nature of this time of year. Adverts on TV, emails asking for donations or promoting consumption and an extraordinary pile of “items” in the supermarket which will join the landfill before long are ironically in direct contrast to the spirit of the Christian Christmas. We are lucky to escape some of that commercialism as we live in a remote place.

The good side of this season is that family and friends gather, which we should do more regularly during the rest of the year. This gathering and goodwill is a wonderful opportunity to do things other than the daily grind, reflect on one’s situation and the coming year and liberate the better qualities of humanity. We are playing that game today as we tidy up and prepare for the arrival of family and friends over the coming week.

This is the time of year for reflection. It’s natural to do so since the earth is cool and quiet, birdsong is muted and the slowdown in natural cycles offers the opportunity to prepare for the coming spring. In many ways the past year has been “sad” to use a comical expression popularised by the Tweeter in Chief as nature has been further brutalised, environmental protection has been deprioritised and our economic and political systems have continued to widen inequality among people and between humanity and the rest of nature.

There might be a positive side to the regression that has been seen in the headlines: People are a beginning to notice and even change a little. Simple things like avoiding over packaged and out of season food, a bit more exercise and mindfulness (Pam really is a good yoga teacher who will help you feel parts of your body that you didn’t know existed, as I find out more and more!), and becoming more aware that a top down control model of society is not what we want, even if we are higher up the ladder than others. We are finding out that democracy without thought cultivates demagogues (as Socrates warned) and capitalism’s dark side is becoming ever more present as organisations amass control over public resources and our personal choices, even in rich countries – who would have though that the standard of living for those with less opportunity (say the lower 25% income bracket) has declined in the past decades!? So perhaps in the coming year more people will look up and ask “what is it really all for?” “how can I be more human?” “what can I do to make a difference?”

Our connection to nature is smothered by the technologically advanced virtual world we have chosen, from climate controlled buildings, to cars, planes and trains to whisk us hither and thither, to mod cons, to packaged food, to computers and mobile phones which allow us to communicate without facing another person. It seems normal, but it’s not natural – we’ve adapted well. But to live, rather than merely exist, our spirits need succour and that means connecting to real people and touching real nature. Enjoy that while we can.

So, if you want to touch nature, join us next week when we’ll host our Walk in the Woods here. We enjoy the gathering of people who we otherwise might not meet and many of whom we see too infrequently. The atmosphere in the woods and along the river seems to lift everyone’s spirits. Children enjoy clambering over logs and squishing through mud. Tea afterwards is accompanied by chat and laughter as friends catch up. We love it.

And if you like our eclectic perspective please stay in touch, join a yoga class, come for a holiday in nature, or read about how new perspectives can liberate your spirit.

Bounce, wobble, smile.

Pam and Tom

My excuse for being lazy …

My excuse for being lazy is thinking up new ideas.

So why would I admit to laziness?

Guilt.  It’s increasingly clear that people are amazing.  Not just celebrities on TV, also regular people.  People who make our lives better,. People who work hard for family and friends and good causes.  Shop owners, tradespeople, “employees”,  and people who don’t have work, resources, maybe even friends, who share their talents and energy to help others.  Real people.  That’s a challenge to follow.  So I’m feeling a bit guilty.

And what were these ideas that I took time off to think up? Continue reading My excuse for being lazy …

Our Suicide is Painless

Yesterday was an unusual day filled with seemingly inane chores that had to be done.  I was arriving back home in the afternoon with groceries for guests and planned to turn the hay.   I drove past a field adjacent to our where a tractor was spraying and turned in to the drive to be greeted by a distasteful, though recognisable, toxic smell.


Usually I’d just accept that that landowner had to spray to make a living, but I didn’t like the idea that our hay was being contaminated while it was looking so good.  Unusually, I decided to take another angle, dropped the bags on the kitchen floor, said “Hi!” to guests and spun the car around back up to the field.

After working out which row the tractor was in I walked up to the driver, who kindly stopped and helped me get n touch with the landowner.

The driver said the spray  was only to stop “disease”.

The landowner said it was only to stop “disease”.

They both said it was “OK”.

The contractor couldn’t come back on a still day because he had to empty the tanks since the pesticide had been paid for.  The wind might die down so he could wait a bit.  I knew the spray would still be sprayed, and would drift.  Hopefully little would drift, though you could see a 20  metre tail behind the tractor and smell it quarter of a kilometre away.

I asked what it was.  “I dunno.  Let’s have a look.”

So we did. It was Imtrex.

Imtrex – dead fish, dead tree, dead human …

“Wow.  Look at the labels on it! Dead fish.  Dead tree.  Heart attack.  C’mon! This can’t be good.”

It’s weird though.  It’s being sprayed right on the ears of ripening barley, and we’re going to eat it.  There’s poison on it , and we’re going to eat it.  We’re killing ourselves and enjoying it.

We don’t make the connection between our demand for cheap, convenient food and lifestyles and the consequential impairment of diet and lifestyle.  Our monolithic food chain, standardised automated production, controlled by capitalists is withering our soul and costing our health.  Apart from the increased incidence of cancer which only affects a third or so of us, almost everyone is affected by the lower quality of food – processed, refined, packaged with a fraction of the dietary health benefits of real food, but extra poison.

Yet we all buy in to it.  We all live the lie.  The farmer can’t make ends meet if he doesn’t.  (Ironically, I found out since that this “T3” third treatment for “disease” was being applied too late, as the ears were grown, and so wouldn’t improve yield, although the farmer could prove he sprayed the “treatment”.)   We can’t make ends meet f we don’t play the pyramid consumption game.  So we all turn a blind eye to our gradual suicide.  It’s fairly painless anyway.

But it could be different.  It would be different if we all chose differently.  It doesn’t have to be much at first, but even little thoughtful choices make a difference.  And they lead to bigger thoughtful choice.  And when everyone starts choosing differently, the world changes fast.  So whether you’re in the tractor, in the shop, regulating the chemical, making the chemical, or financing the chemical, don’t turn a blind eye.  Think, and choose to change a little.

Because dying can be easy or hard, and withering from poison is not easy.

Zen Adventure

Before we begin the story, a brief but heartfelt thanks to those of you who helped make this adventure happen, especially Dad and Mum, Pam, Richard, Noel, Daniele, Kelly, Rhadames, Clara, Kate, Christian.  THANK YOU!

The idea of getting the red car down to Malta had been passed around a few times, but no one seemed to have time.  Dad had said that he thought it might be good this year.   It could be shipped, so I looked in to that, but the idea of driving seemed more interesting.  It would mean I could stop to see a couple of friends on the way.

The idea of taking someone had been booted around.  Pam would be teaching so couldn’t come.  The boys were in school.  And I didn’t want to be slowed down.  I was aiming for a maximum of a week and had to be back by 20  May at the latest and would be tied up in the garden and with hay making till late summer.  So, if I was to go, I was leaning toward a solo drive.

When Dad visited with Romey and Anthony he confirmed he’d like to  have the car in the sun, so I started planning and by the weekend had decided to go, but not whether to go on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday …  On Monday, Pam encouraged me to take Richard, but I was reluctant.  At lunch I decided to take Richard – it might be the last chance for me and him to get to know each other a bit before he was gone for good … We would leave the following morning.

Just about to leave Noel’s workshop in January 2016 looking the best she’s done for years.

The preparations had started in earnest a few days before the off.  Padraig at Wesley James’ tracked and balanced the wheels.  Wesley warned me about play in the steering.  I said “That’s just how it is!”.  Wesley told me to “See Noel!” at least five times.  So I did.  Noel is a wizard who keeps the cars, trucks and tractors of many lucky folk around here running and looking good.  He had done an amazing job of “repainting” the car a year ago.  The paint job was beautiful but he also waxoyled the frame inside and out and re-welded a few of the more gaping holes.  (After picking it up last year, he demonstrated its roadworthiness by doing a few doughnuts on a country lane!)  The car wouldn’t have been ready without his magical touch.  On this occasion he gave the steering a clean bill of health but told me to replace the front driver side tyre.  We swapped it for the spare in the meantime. I’d look for tyres over the weekend. Continue reading Zen Adventure

The Cycle of Life, and Death.

This time of year has had special significance for millennia.


Because it is the end of the annual spiral to darkness and nature’s rebirth.  Solstice is a time of rejoicing because it means winter darkness is lifting, warmth will return,  and food will become available again.

New GrangeImagine you live 10,000 years ago, somewhere above latitude 45 or so, you would notice the lengthening of the days a couple of weeks after December solstice.  That meant you might survive.

Even 5,000 years ago communities had invested so much in understanding the solar cycle that farmers in the Boyne Valley, Ireland built New Grange, an 85 metre diameter stone  tomb, which has a light box which  illuminates a 19 metre long passage and chamber as the sun rises on solstice morning!  The solar bounce was important to their livelihoods.

No, this is not a morbid view.  It’s reality.  Facing reality gives truth to our lives. Continue reading The Cycle of Life, and Death.

Cosmic synchronicity in a hay field.

We baled today.  It was wonderful.hayman

It started a bit later than planned because the normal school run delay was compounded by an emergency breakdown of a client’s computer .,..

The field was rowed around noon and then square baling started.  Padraig would arrive at 3pm to round bale.  I needed 200 square bales for 2 customers who each wanted 100.

The baler was acting up.  The knots weren’t holding and a bale in every five would be lost.  Noel cleaned the knotter and after a couple of rows it loosened up and ran better.

Still it wasn’t easy to guess how much hay would equal 200 bales …

In the end we baled 241 square.  Padraig got 38 round.

One customer took 136 by mistake, and paid for the extras too.  The other took his 100.  And there were 5 left for us.  Unbelievable.  By pure chance we split the field precisely in the right place to get the square bales the customers wanted without leaving anything in the field to await the rain.  It couldn’t have been better if it had been planned!

Very lucky.  Or maybe we’re leaning to feel the rhythm of the universe and surf the cosmic wave…

I must have been on a roll because a similar coincidence occurred  in the evening.  #4 wanted to watch an inappropriate film that was playing for his elder siblings … Having said “not for you”, about half an hour later I had a feeling he might have ventured in to  join his brother and sister, so  I checked.  He had walked in 10 seconds before I checked!

The cosmic rhythm can be useful.

First cutting of hay – ahhhhhh, it’s summer time.

Started around 6 in the evening yesterday and took it slowly to avoid mistakes after winter inactivity.  Cut for about 4 hours.  Looking forward to turning and baling.  ‘Twas a lovely evening.

Hay is a foundation of civilisation.  Without it, animals can not last through the winter, making life difficult for humans too.

There are many types of grass.  The main ones are fescue (most predominant in the video), rye and timothy.   There are also herbs, like chicory and plantain, and clover.  And most of the weeds are not bad to eat, they can even be good, but if they are large leaved they can interfere with the curing and drying of the hay.  A mixed sward is the best feed – that’s what animals look for in the wild.  I’ve seen horse graze on nettles, brambles, oak, beech and even reeds!

BT Notes: Spring is springing, Book, TV, Yoga, Hay.

Happy new year!  We hope 2015 is off to a good start for you all. For those of you that made it to the walk in the woods over Christmas, photos are on Flickr. Enjoy!  We had a great crowd tromping through the woods and enjoying mince pies and vin chaud afterwards!

The start of the year has been unexpectedly busy for us because we launched a book Common Sense- a book about people, planet and profit by a venture capitalist just before Christmas.  It turns out that media says it’s topical, being about balancing economics, ethics and the environment which we’ve been working towards for over a decade and a half.  It took ages to write the book – I never imagined it could be so hard!  And thank goodness for Pam who is an amazing editor able to make it pleasant to read.  Thanks to all of you who’ve bought a copy and for all your positive feedback.

We’ve been on a steep learning curve since launching it, including changing printers to a local Kilkenny family team, Digital Outputs, for the second, third and fourth small print runs.  We were interviewed on KCLR which was fun and friendly and then in mid January a film crew came from RTE’s Nationwide to find out more.  That was fascinating.  We learned that it takes 6 hours of filming to produce a minute of television! Nationwide’s team arrived on a blustery January morning and almost without a break filmed until the evening. It was a busy day here, with horse training, logging, building, tilling and harvesting going on in the background. Most of the family was here so we’ll all be cringing equally as we watch!  Check it out tomorrow night, Friday 6th February at 7pm RTE 1.

While the film crew was here we got a call from an friend we haven’t seen in over a decade who received the book as a gift from his brother.  He wanted five copies to give to friends and wanted to know when I was going to London.  So I went and spent a week reconnecting with friends and meeting new ones to talk about how to embed sustainability in organisations and find the elusive work-life balance. London is full of things to do, new ideas and fancy offerings, which was fun, and meeting so many people eager to make a positive difference from cancer research to solar energy to organisation enlightenment was exciting.  It seems that the momentum to breakthrough to a world of common sense is building.  Whew!

We’re holding our first gathering of the year of the Ballin Temple Nature Club on Saturday February 14th at 2:30pm.  It will be an open-hearted chat/walk/tea to talk about the Club activities from walking to fishing to logging to nature preservation to personal transformation.  Please let us know if you’d like to join in.  Everyone is welcome.

Pam’s yoga classes continue in Tullow on Tuesday evenings and in Carlow on Wednesday mornings. Her workshop “Establishing Your Home Practice”, run for the second time in January, went really well and is becoming more popular as people find out about it.  Another one will be held close to summer. Keep up with Pam’s classes and workshops via and the Pam Butler Yoga facebook page.

February is a chilly month but already we see signs of spring – snowdrops out, daffodils on the way, lambs bouncing in the meadow.  Nature is wonderful isn’t it. But it’s still a time of year that demands wood for the stove and food to stay warm.  If anyone needs hay for their beasties we have top quality small square bales for sale and some round bales too.  Give Tom a call on 086 8179238 to get some.

We’re nearly out of the winter season of festivities, which culminates in Chinese New Year in a couple of weeks.  So, Kung Hei Fat Choi!  We could all do with a bit of that 🙂

Tom, Pam and the gang.

PS: Common Sense is available at Antonia and Gerry’s Alive & Well Health Shop in Carlow Shopping Centre, The Book Centre in Kilkenny High Street as well as here or online.


Irish anglers being fished by the state

Sorry, did I say fished?  I meant something else …

A two-day International Conference ‘Celebrating River Restoration in Ireland and Europe’ organised by MulkearLIFE and hosted by the project’s coordinating beneficiary Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) took place in Limerick this week.  The project received € 1.7 million in public money. Local anglers tried to protest the EU gathering because IFI and subsidiary groups are mismanaging fisheries and regulating anglers off the riverbanks in the process.

One example of this is the IFI handing out an on the spot fine of €100+ to an 87 year old pensioner  for fishing the wrong type hook; this is while ignoring the illegal netting practices taking place on the Lower Shannon which is at epidemic levels.

Anglers on our beat have eschewed fishing for a number of years as a contribution to conservation, but it all seems so futile when public money is wasted and the people who contribute the most to riparian maintenance are fished (I mean something else) by the state.

It’s another sign of increasing state control of people’s lives, not just in Ireland or Europe, but North America and elsewhere too. (Eg Yahoo ‘threatened’ by US government with $250,000-a-day fine if it does not hand over users’ data.)

Europa: MulkearLIFE end-of-project conference notice (second item)

Notes from protesters on Trout and Salmon Fishing Forum

Limerick and District Anglers’ Association notice of protest

MucklearLife notice of conference

IFI notice of conference