Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Hey wait. Summer might not be gone yet!

On my last posting I was saying how the summer was well and truly gone and that the autumn season or fall season for the people across the atlantic had begun in earnest. Maybe I was a bit hasty in my announcement. For the last couple of days it has been raining on and off but the temperatures have remained in the high teens and have even reached twenty degrees at times. Not only that but also just today a clutch of swallows left their nest on the front porch and are now practising their flying and insect catching around the garden and the surrounding fields. To add to that we have over the last couple of days had a family of bats move into the roof of our garden shed. To cap it all the starlings have started nesting in the roof of the house again and I saw yesterday a wood pigeon carrying nesting material to a tree in the garden. The calender says that it is autumn and whether it`s the high temperatures or something else I am not sure, but  one thing certain is that at the very least the boundaries between summer and autumn have become blurred.

       An Autumn clutch of swallow chicks just after leaving the nest.


        This was the chicks last feed before their maiden flight.

  The latest in the year  that I have seen swallows hatch out young birds was in mid October but I don`t know if they were successful in rearing them up to the required strenght for migration. I`ve know doubt that the above chicks will have a good chance of reaching their winter feed grounds in Africa what with all the insect life here along the Munster Blackwater valley. If anyone else reading this blog has seen birds nesting unusually late this year it would be nice to hear from you. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Thank God the summer is over.

Thanks be to God and Met Eireann that the summer is gone. I know, I know , you`re all cursing me now but all that fine weather was getting boring. The slow pace of life was just terrible. Now we have plenty fast flowing fresh air and freshly poured raindrops to make things nice again. Here comes autumn and we can look forward to lovely colours coming back into the countryside again. I`m posting a picture of Molana Abbey that I took last autumn during one of my boating trips on the river. I hope to get back on the water soon for some more pictures.

             Molana Abbey.   Link to the story of Molana abbey

 Oh the pace of life here in the valley is just breathtaking!

 Summer is gone!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Wilderness Gardening (or The Garden`s gone to a wilderness).

 Due to an ongoing back problem I have had to give up on gardening this year so I shall miss the joys of digging our own potatoes and fresh vegetables. However, one benefit of this is that the amount of wild flowers has increased this year. Over the weekend I took my camera around the garden to see what I could find.

Burdock. A plant very highly rated by herbalists.


Bramble flowers. It loooks like there will be a bumper crop of blackberries this year.

 Buddleja. The Butterfly Bush.
This is a great attractor of butterflies, although I don`t see too many around yet this year.
There is a definite reduction of all the white butterflies in the garden this year as they don`t have any cabbage plants to be raiding.

 Selfheal. Another plant which by its name gives us a clue that is also highly regarded by herbalists.

Broad leaved willowherb.

 Buttercup. One of the first flowers which all children learn the name of.

Changing Forget Me Not, which changes colour from creamy yellow to pink and then to blue as it opens and develops.

 Feverfew, which is used by a lot of people as a treatment for headache. I have tried it myself. I didn`t find it anygood but I will never forget the awfull taste. I think I`ll stick to paracetamol.

 Feverfew pictured here with birds foot trefoil.

 Foxglove. This is a very powerfull and poisness plant. The latin name for this is Digitalis. A commonly used drug for people with heart problems was developed from this plant.


Another thistle. There seems to be five or six different types of thistle in the garden and i am afraid I just can`t identify them.

 Fuchsia. A plant loved by the bees, especially in the Autumn when other flowering plants are scarcer.

 Herb Robert, a member of the geranium family.

 Hogweed. This plant has been cursed by many people. If you use a garden strimmer you should make sure to use a full face mask and keep your neck and hands covered as the strimmings of this when they fly against your skin can leave horrible blisters. Its cousin the Giant American Hogweed which is an invasive plant and very common along many of our riverbanks will give you third degree burns just by brushing off it and getting its sap on your skin. It can also leave you with a condition whereby any infected skin can no longer be exposed to sunlight. Everybody should make themselves aware of this plant and teach their family about it.

 One of the remaining carrots from last years crop left go to flower.

Marigold. The flowers of this plant are edible and its petals are often used as a garnish on salad plates.

Nippleworth. This plant has lovely yellow flowers but will never open until the sun comes out.

Stitchwort. There are several varieties of this plant. I`m not sure which this one is.

Tutsan, a lovely looking plant.

White Clover. A great plant. It puts nitrogen back into the soil, it provides a huge amount of nectar for honey bees and is a great grazing crop for farm animals.

Himalayan Balsam. A pretty flower but it is highly invasive. It can be seen taking over many roadside verges and should be cut down as much as possible. Now I have it in my garden.

Speedwell. Another pretty little flower of which there are many varieties.

Scarlet Pimpernel. The flowers of this plant are tiny. If it was bigger there is no doubt that the garden centres would be selling it for its lovely colours.

That was the result of my journey through the jungle formerly known as my garden. I`m sure that I probably missed a few but it just goes to show that if left alone, nature will do a very fine job of gardening.The identification of all the wild plants around us can be quite difficult but I find that a good book is a great help. One that I got recently and which is excellent is The Wildflowers of Ireland by Zoe Devlin. Zoe is also very helpfull to any queries on facebook as are the many experts at Ireland Plant Identification forum .

Saturday, 10 May 2014

I went down to a hazel wood.

           The Song of Wandering Aengus. W.B. Yeats.

     I went down to a hazel wood,
   Because a fire was in my head,
  And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
  And hooked a berry to a thread;
  And when white moths were on the wing,
  And moth-like stars were flickering out,
  I dropped the berry in a stream
  And caught a little silver trout.

Saturday 9th May 2014.

It has been over a month since I have posted on my blog and also a few weeks since I`ve had a chance to spend some time in the woods, so today with the forecast for heavy rain and strong winds I headed out to enjoy the sights and sounds of the calm before the storm. With the opening lines of Yeats poem (see above) in my mind I headed for a patch of hazel wood overlooking the River Lickey where I knew the bluebells would be making an appearance.                                                                                                   

                   The lovely woodland found on the banks of
                   the River Lickey, one of the many tributaries
                   of the Munster Blackwater.  

The soft glow of  blues and greens in the wood was just magical. I sat for a half an hour or so to see if the red squirrels would make an appearance and even though there wasn`t any sign of them today it was so nice to take in the atmosphere while having a cup of tea.

      The sound of the stream below was inviting so I went to the car to get my fly rod which I had brought with me. I had a few casts in a pool on the river and it was good to see life in river doing its thing after such a wild winter. Even though I only fished for five or ten minutes I caught six or seven small brown trout and a couple of lovely salmon smolts. The smolts were in their lovely silver colour which they put on just before they leave the river to go to sea where they will spend the next few years growing until they then return back to the Lickey to spawn.

One of the small brown trout
which I caught on the Lickey today.


   A salmon smolt with the silver colour that it puts on before going to sea to feed and grow to adult size.

Below is a video clip of the river just before the rain. As I turned the camera towards the riverbank to show the woodland and the bluebells I spotted a quick flash of a bird disappearing into a treehole. I zoomed in to see a pair of blue tits had set up house.

To finish this blog post I had better also give that wonderful poem by W.B. Yeats in full.

          The Song of Wandering Aengus.

 I went down to a hazel wood,
 Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
and walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.



Sunday, 30 March 2014

An Irish Fort

           Prime site with commanding views
           of  Youghal Harbour.

 Not too long ago the above statement and accompanying picture would not have been out of place in  the property section of any of our national newspapers. However, the site which I speak of is not available for building as it has already been built on by our ancestors. The site that I am talking about is Tinnabinna, overlooking Youghal harbour at the mouth of the River Blackwater.

Tinnabinna at the head of Youghal Harbour

 At Tinnabinna is a prime example of one of many ringforts that are dotted around the countryside as a reminder of the lives that our ancestors lived. What is a ringfort you might ask? A ringfort was one of the original homesteads which started to appear in the Irish countryside in Neolithic times as people began to domesticate animals and farm crops. The remains of these ringforts would be known to many people as fairy rings or fairy forts as legend has it that they were also used by the mythical little people and curses would befall any person who should interfere with these structures.
           A ringfort consists of an earthen circular bank with a wooden pallisade in top or sometimes a thorny hedge planted on top with the dwelling house built in the centre of the circle. There would sometimes also be an underground passage known as a souterrain which would be used as a place of refuge in times of attack or maybe for cold storage.
    In our recent "Celtic Tiger" period many people would like to show their status by the size of their garden walls, their electric gates or the number of dormer windows in their roof. This was not a new phenomenon, as in the days of building ringforts your status could be seen by the height of, or the number of earthen banks surrounding you round house. Some things never change!
Two thousand years of Irish housing!
The ringfort in Tinnabinna is quite important as it has a D-shaped annex added to the circular structure which is fairly unusual. This was pointed out to me by Mr. Michael Lee of Youghal who did an extensive study of it a couple of years ago. A big thank you too Mike for his help with this information.
         The siting of the ringfort where it is, gives it fantastic views all around and would have been very hard to attack or approach unnoticed. This must surely indicate that it was the home of a very well to do family.
     The reason that I went up to the ringfort recently was to photograph a nice sunset but before I post the sunset pictures I have made two videos showing the vista from the ringfort and they give a nice insight into how well informed the original inhabitants would have been of all approaches to the fort.
    Also I must thank the landowner Mr. Liam Collins for allowing me access to the site.


And finally, the sunset.These were all taken from the same area as the videos but were two days apart.

I`ll finish this post with a couple of links which might be of interest to anybody who would like to read some more about our history and it`s remains which are scattered all over the country.
Irish sacred sites 
 Interactive map of national monuments 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Hunting the Wild Shamrock

                            Oh the shamrock,
                             The green, immortal shamrock!
                            Chosen leaf
                            Of  Bard and Chief,
                             Old Erins` native Shamrock.
                                                                          Thomas Moore, 1812,
                                                                                                                Irish melodies volume 5.  

A couple of weeks ago I finished off an article saying that I was then going to go looking for some wild shamrock to adorn my lapel on St. Patricks day. Well this years St. Patricks day and all its celebrations has come and gone and thankfully I was able to find enough shamrock for friends and family.
         Each year I hear the same comments on the wearing of the shamrock ranging from how it should be worn ( whether on your lapel or on your hat) to what is the best way to keep it looking fresh to the topic which gets most heated of all being which is the proper
shamrock. Now unfortunately St. Patrick himself doesn`t make too many public appearances these days to put an end to the argument which is probably a good thing as it provides some people a yearly chance to jump on their soap box.
       From my own readings of the tradition over the years it seems that the plant that you call the true shamrock is very much down to local custom.
        In Connaught and Ulster the plant which has most following as the true shamrock is White Clover (Trifolium repens) and all other forms of shamrock would often be seen as the imposter.

                                     White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Farther south in my own province of Munster the plant which has the largest following as the true shamrock is  the Lesser Clover
(Trifolium dubium) also known as Lesser Trefoil.

                                            Lesser Clover or Lesser Trefoil.

 In between the strongholds of these two proclaimed kings of the shamrock world can be found a number of other plants which are also used as shamrock on 17th March each year.

                              Black Meddick (Medicago lupina) which is often 
                    used a shamrock.

                    Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) which can also
                     be found being used as shamrock.

                      Red Clover (trifolium pratense) which is another
                      common plant worn as shamrock.
          The use of shamrock and its association with St. Patrick spring from the legend of how the saint used its three foiled leaf to explain to the Irish people the idea of the Divine Trinity and the theory of three beings in the one God. However, the historians  all seem to agree that there is no reference to shamrock in any of St. Patricks own writing and that the shamrock legend doesn`t come into being until about one thousand years after his death. Now this was still a long time before the creation of  FailteIreland
 but I am sure that they are truly thankfull for this most Irish of stories.
      One thing that all the historians and theologians alike are in agreement about is St. Patricks prayer "The Deers Cry" which is said to be the first prayer written in Gaelic and is based on how St. Patrick and his followers were able to appear as a herd of deer to avoid capture and death by the soldiers of an Irish king who he upset by lighting his bonfire on the hill of Tara before the king could get his own fire lighting. It is truly a wonderfull piece of writing. The following version is a translation by Kuno Meyer  .
Reading it early in the morning is a lovely way to start your day. Try it!

                              Deers Cry.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In prediction of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak to me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me,
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today,
Against poising, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So there come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of every one who sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

Just to end this little piece on St. Patrick and the shamrock. He is also the patron saint of Nigeria and of Monserrat in the Carribbean so maybe I should head for the sun on next St. Patricks day and possibly have a rum cocktail or two instead of a few hot whiskeys.

                                    Monserrat St. Patricks day. 

       Some people said to me that the Google friend connect gadget was not working on the blog. I think I have it fixed now. If anybody else has had difficulty with it would you let me know?