Sunday, December 7, 2008

November 2008


The Rock of Cashel

It's not really a long way to Tipperary - at least not from County Clare, which borders County Tipperary to the east. One bright and sunny Wednesday morning after too many wet and gloomy weekends we decided to ditch work for the day and take a road trip. (Ah, the benefits of self-employment.) We drove to the Rock of Cashel in east Tipp, about 90 minutes from our cottage. The Rock of Cashel is a group of defensive and religious buildings built high on a rocky escarpment above the surrounding plain. When you first see it from about 10 miles away it looks like something out of a fairytale, or Oz.

The Rock has been a strategic site since early times. The first church was founded here in the 6th century, with a Romanesque chapel and round tower added in 1127. In the 13th century a massive cathedral was added to the existing buildings, and in the 15th century an archbishops castle was built next to the cathedral. The result is a hodgepodge of massive stone buildings displaying a milleniums worth of architectural styles.

A round tower is always a sign of an early defensive site. These towers have no door at ground level. In the event of an attack, the residents (usually monks) would climb a ladder to a door 20 feet off the ground and pull the ladder up after them. I desperately wanted to climb this tower, but unfortunately we left our ladder at home.

The Romanesque chapel and Gothic cathedral were chock-full of strange and beautiful carvings. Stone heads, some lovely and other grotesque and grimacing, were hidden everywhere. It must have been a bit creepy for fearful church goers in the Middle Ages.

The Galtee Mountains

After we spent a couple of hours touring the Rock of Cashel, we drove into the nearby Galtee Mountains for a late afternoon walk. We decided to come back to this beautiful area next summer for a much longer hike.

And while we're in Tipperary, here's a funny story I heard.......
We're friends with a little old Irishman named Patsy O'Grady. He's retired from farming and now he goes out every night to listen to traditional music, which is how we met him. Patsy was expressing surprise that any American would want to live in a place as rustic as our thatched cottage. I said something about the influence of the Little House on the Prairie series of books when I was a child. Patsy replied, "Little house where?" and I started to explain about the prairies of the American midwest. "No, no," he stopped me, "I know what a prairie is. I'm just after remembering that my niece used to talk about the show, and here I always thought it was an Irish show - you know, Little House in Tipperary?"

Dromore Wood

Dromore is an old demesne (estate) that's now public land, with a castle, a lovely wood (the word is singular in the British Isles for some reason) and walking trails around a lake. It's about 20 minutes from our house and a nice place to take Sonya for a walk. This particular Sunday was misty and very atmospheric.

Kilbaha, West Clare

On a very different type of day we drove to the coast of West Clare. It was cold with gale force winds and crisp sunshine interrupted by fierce hail showers. As we drove into the tiny village of Kilbaha we spotted this cool little tower perched on the edge of the cliff, so we parked the car and tramped up the farm road to investigate further.

Inside the tower was a wee little fireplace and large windows looking out over the water to the east and the west. This is a strategic point where the waters of the Shannon meet the Atlantic ocean, and someone had the enviable job of sitting by a cozy fire and occasionally glancing out the windows to check for invading ships.

The view from the tower windows: To the east, the River Shannon.......

....and to the west, looking toward the Atlantic Ocean.

The Little Ark of Kilbaha

In the 1840's priests were allowed to say mass once again, but in the townland of Kilbaha there was no landlord that would permit a church to be built on their land. This must have been at the time when it was still illegal for Catholics to own land. For a while mass was held in a makeshift tent but it was less than ideal in the coastal winds and rain. The priest figured out that the strip of land exposed at low tide was a "no-man's-land" that wasn't owned by the local landlords. He had a little church on wheels constructed which could be wheeled to the beach at low tide for mass. The priest would say mass inside the ark while the parishoners knelt in the wet sand around it. It must have driven the landlords crazy, and it certainly increased mass attendance in Kilbaha when word of the little ark spread throughout western Ireland.

Bridges of Ross

Beyond Kilbaha, on the Atlantic side of the peninsula, are some incredible cliff formations called the Bridges of Ross. The wind was so fierce that day that the air was filled with salt spray, hail, and gobs of sea foam flying through the air. I would love to have taken a digital movie here to capture the drama of the day, but we didn't dare take the camera out for too long without a waterproof cover.

The winds can be really incredible at the western edge of Ireland, and people get blown off the cliffs with some regularity. Last spring during one extremely windy week 4 people were blown off cliffs in County Clare. Usually the wind blows from the sea but it can suddenly gust around and come from behind, catching someone unawares. We're very aware of the dangers so we practically crawled on our bellies to the edge of the cliffs for a view of the huge waves that came crashing through the stone arches. At one point we were walking on a path, well away from the cliffs, when a strong gust of wind lifted me right off my feet and toward an electric fence, but Bill grabbed my arm and yanked me back to earth just in time. By the time we got back to the car we were coated with frozen salt spray and felt like survivors of Shackleton's voyage.

How Dark Is It?
Ireland is a lot further north than NY State, so we get asked that question a lot. It starts getting light around 8 am and the sun is up by 8:45. The sun sets at 4:30 and it's full dark by 5 pm. The afternoon darkness falls about the same time as it did in NYS, but the mornings are definitely darker. This is because we are in the extreme west of the Greenwich Mean Time zone, so the sunset quite a bit later than it is in Greenwich, England.

Summer is when we get the payoff. On the summer solstice the sun comes up at 5 am and sets at 10:30 pm, with an extremely long dusk and dawn because the sun hardly dips below the horizon. It's actually dusk-like all night, and it's easy to see outside till about midnight. We had summer evenings where we were out in our garden until 11 pm because we couldn't tell how late it was. Aaah, looking forward to those long summer evenings........isn't it reassuring to know that they'll come round again?

Happy holidays everybody!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

October 2008

Irish reaction to the US election: Go America!
Of course I was delighted, no, make that dee-double-diddly-delighted, that Barack Obama won the US election. The Irish followed the election closely and Obama's win was the top story in all Irish newspapers the next day. A friend here texted me to say "Heard the good news. Am driving to work with a big smile on my face. Go America!" Another Irish friend, who lived in NYC in the 80's, texted to say "Well done America! We are all thrilled. There is a great air of expectancy that this election will benefit the world."

On the other hand, I've heard a few comments by Irish economists that Obama could be bad for the Irish economy. He plans to lower the corporate tax rate to bring back US businesses that have set up headquarters in Europe. Starting in the 90's, Ireland offered very low tax rates to US businesses, something like 10% vs. 30% in the US, and as a result a number of American businesses like Dell and Microsoft set up large operations in Ireland. Due to the global downturn these companies are being downsized here, and the Irish are very worried about the loss of well-paid jobs. (McCain had also vowed to lower the US corporate tax rate, so it's a bit unfair for Obama to be solely maligned for this plan.) In my opinion the Irish became far too dependent on foreign corporations for job creation, and it would make more sense to offer incentives to small businesses and entrepeneurs to create jobs that will not be shifted away as the global situation changes.

Goodbye Ori

Long Beach, NJ, 2007

A few weeks ago our old dog Ori stopped eating and drinking. The vet had warned us that this would happen at some point and it would be the indicator that the liver tumor was causing other organs to shut down. She was not in pain but had obviously lost the will to live, and when after two days it was clear that she wasn't going to recover we took her to the vet to be put to sleep. It was so sad to say goodbye, but at the same time we are so thankful that she was well enough to bring to Ireland 5 months ago. When Ori first came to Ireland in May she was still in relatively good health and she got to take some long walks with us in the beautiful green hills around our cottage. She also enjoyed the first summer of her life where she wasn't uncomfortably hot. With her thick Husky fur she was much more comfortable in an Irish summer than hot and humid upstate NY.

Ori at Ballycorick Creek, June 2008

Sonya, our other dog (the blind one) definitely knew something was wrong and was out of sorts for a few days around Ori's death, but we've been giving her extra attention and long daily walks and now she is back to her normal goofy self. She is a love and we are so glad to have her here with us!

Gleninagh Castle

Gleninagh Castle is in North Clare, on the shore of Galway Bay with the limestone hills of the Burren rising up behind it. The castle is in a great location for defense, with long views of the shoreline. We really wanted to get inside but it was well-fortified with a heavy iron gate at the door.
(Note to self: next time bring hacksaw.)

Check out the gaps at the base of these protrusions. They were designed for shooting arrows straight down onto the heads of invaders at the door.

Bill on the flaggy shore at Gleninagh

Holy well

There are thousands of these holy wells in Ireland. Some are just trickling springs emerging from a tumble of rocks, and others, like this well at Gleninagh, are enclosed in small stone buildings. Originally associated with pagan deities, the wells were adopted into the Irish version of Christianity (which continues to have a heavy pagan influence) and each well was named for a Christian saint. The wells are thought to have healing powers, and many are said to heal specific ailments such as warts, lameness, or failing eyesight. People leave small tokens and offerings at the well, and will often bring a small bottle to take some of the holy water home with them. When we first moved into our cottage I found a bottle labeled Holy Water under the kitchen sink, so I sprinkled it liberally around the cottage and on our newly purchased VW Polo. ('Can't hurt, might help' is my motto.)

I experienced my own minor miracle at one of these wells three years ago, in West Cork. I had burnt my fingertips to the point of blistering on the stovetop at a hostel. Later that day we were at the hermitage of Saint Finbar, and I held my fingers in the water of the holy well to soothe the pain. Later that evening, I noticed that my fingertips felt completely better and the blisters were completely gone. I showed my fingers to Bill, the eternal skeptic, and he was completely flummoxed. So maybe there is something to those old pagan beliefs.

Rag Tree or Raggedy Bush

Another pagan tradition often associated with holy wells, this is a rag tree growing out of the holy well. These trees are usually hawthorn, which are closely associated with fairies. Fairy trees whose roots grow out of the holy wells are believed to have special healing powers. People will bring a scrap of cloth belonging to a loved one who is ill, and tie the cloth to the branches of the rag tree. It is believed that as the cloth melts away in the rain and wind the illness leaves the person's body.

(Get this - about 10 years ago they were building a new highway near Limerick. There was a fairy hawthorn in the path of the new road, and the Irish construction workers refused to cut the tree down. Terrible things are supposed to befall those who fell a fairy tree. The tree still stands, and the four-lane highway swerves around it. This probably wouldn't happen today - now all the road workers are Polish.)

On the Mass path

After lunch at the castle we hiked up an old Mass path into the Burren hills. When the Catholic mass was deemed illegal by the English Protestants (punishable by death for priests who broke the law), masses were held in the hills of remote areas. The path was steep with this fantastic view of Galway Bay and the Burren hills on the right. The castle is just visible at the left of the photo, a small white rectangle near the shore.

Jump for joy - a beautiful sunny day!

Walled Garden

We visited a walled garden in Kilrush, about 10 miles south of us on the Shannon estuary. The waterside location combined with the protection of the tall stone walls means this garden is frost-free year round, and they can grow amazing tropical plants within, like this 20 foot banana tree.

Straight out of Dr. Seuss, the crazy tall flowers of Echium.

Another view of the huge Echium flowerstalks, exclamation point of the plant world.

Cool purple berries

Warning: Juvenile humor ahead
We frequently listen to a classical radio station. The Irish pronounce the sound "th" as a hard "t", so everytime the radio host announces that they've just played the third movement of a particular piece, we crack up. (Just think about it for a moment.)

Irish place names that make me snicker like a third-grader: Feakle, Spiddal and Ballybunion.

True fact: Feakle was having problems a few years back with E. coli in their water supply.
Probably not true: someone told me that Feakle used to have a community newsletter called Feakle Matters, but as we were in a pub he was probably full of shite.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

September 2008

We survived the August deluge and things started looking up in September. The weather improved, and the vet was able to drain a lot of fluid from our dog Ori's abdomen so she is more comfortable. Hopefully she still has a few good months left.
Of course we're concerned with the bad news from the US financial markets, which is having a ripple effect on the Irish economy, now officially in recession. But for now we've got work, food in the garden, wood piled up next to the stove, and a cozy dry house.

The Pollog Holes of Kilkee
One gorgeous weekend we drove to the seaside town of Kilkee with our
friend Mary and her son Jennan. Kilkee has a deep harbour that is
protected by a long spit of land between the harbour and the sea. It's exposed at low tide and covered with water at high tide. The spit of land is made of rock dimpled with large and small holes, and at low tide it's a popular place for swimmers and walkers. The large holes are the size of small ponds - the water is warmer here than the surrounding sea water so it's a popular swimmng and snorkeling spot. We wandered around looking into the smaller tidal pools for starfish, sea
urchins, sea anemones and crabs, but kept an eye on the tides as they can quickly engulf this narrow rocky arm.
Jennan had a net so he was able to bring up some starfish for a closer look. (Catch and release, of course)

After this photo was taken Jennan stripped down and jumped in the
water, although the air temp was in the 50's and the water probably not
much more. We're not as hardy as Jennan so we're going to borrow wetsuits and go back to the Pollog Holes to do some snorkeling.

Starfish crawling into the pool - surprisingly fast!

A tiny multi-colored crab.

Mary and Bill in their version of American Gothic

Ennis Farmer's Market
We decided to try a new business venture to add to our income mix and to have a new experience. We're selling hot and cold lunch foods - burritos, nori rolls, samosas, and veggie wraps - at the Ennis Farmer's Market every Friday. This is a small market that just started a few years ago, so it doesn't have the huge crowds like the Ithaca Farmer's Market, but it's starting to catch on. There are about a dozen vendors selling produce, baked goods, locally produced meats and cheese, preserves and jams, and nursery plants. We are the first ones to be selling hot food. We went through the inspection process by the health dept, which allows us to use our own kitchen as long as we stick to lower-risk vegetarian ingredients. We make the components (refried beans, sushi rice, samosa filling etc.) at home and then do the actual assembling and cooking on site.

Business has been building slowly but steadily. Ethnic foods are fairly new here, and there is not one Mexican or Japanese restaurant in Ennis (pop. 30,000). Much of our marketing right now is explaining what everything is and giving out free samples. About three quarters of the people who try the samples (there are some who are afraid to even try!)end up buying something, and after 4 markets we are now getting repeat business from employees who work in the town.

Obviously we're not going to get rich doing this, and it doesn't even pay as well as if we did landscaping on Fridays, but it's a change of pace and nice to have a bit of a chat with some different people. Basically we're doing it for the crack (see definition below). And any food left over from the market means we don't have to cook much on the weekend. The market ends just before Christmas and starts up again next March, when we hope to have veggies and plants for sale as well.

Irish-English to confound and confuse

Crack Occasionally you see signs like this one, and confused looking Americans peering warily at the entrance to the 'crack den'. Good crack (or craic as it's spelled in Irish) seems to be the goal of most people here, especially on weekends. It means a good time, and usually involves music, lots of people and a pub, party or festival. The ultimate good time is mighty crack.

Sallow means suntan or brown skinned. People kept telling me I was sallow, and I'd check the mirror to see if I was yellow and sickly-looking. That's the definition for sallow in every other English-speaking country in the world.

Cute is an insult here. It means devious and sneaky, as in "That shopkeeper can be real cute and overcharge you if you don't watch him." Sometimes you'll hear someone referred to as a "Cute Kerry hoor (whore)" in which the person in question is usually a male and not necessarily from Kerry. It means one who is very deceptive.

Cross (as in crossroads) There are no road names here, so people will give directions by referring to landmarks or other roads. When looking at new gardening jobs, we might be told to go to the third cross and turn right. We, quite reasonably I think, assumed that a cross was a four way intersection, but in Irelan it can mean any
type of road junction. We got lost many times until we figured this one out, and getting lost here (a maze of tiny roads with no names) is not mighty crack, believe me. We just thought they were bad at counting.

Call means to show up in person at someone's house. This also caused some confusion for us in the beginning. Me, after looking at a new garden job: "We'll call with an estimate and plan for project." Them: "Grand, but be sure to ringbefore you call." Me: "Huh??"

Killone Abbey
We cycled to a beautiful old ruin of an Augustinian nunnery built in the
1192. (In the picture above you can just see me in the arched doorway on the lower left of the building to get an idea of its size.) There's a macabre legend about Killone Abbey: Nearby Killone Lake was the abode of a mermaid who used to swim up a small brook and steal wine from the
crypt beneath the church. She was stabbed by a servant of the abbey but managed to drag herself back into the lake where the water turned crimson from her blood. Every forty years or so the lake is supposed to turn red.

A narrow hidden staircase accesses the roof. Killone Lake is in the background.

Harvest Day at Bunratty Castle

The castle with Durty Nelly's Pub, in continuous use since 1620, in the foreground.

One lovely Sunday there was a special Harvest Day celebration at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. There was music and dancing, threshing and grain-grinding, and the Irish turned out in droves for the crack. There's a little village within the park complete with a working pub and a stage set up out front with musicians, singers and dancers.

Bodhran players

This is a weird Irish sport called sheath-throwing (not sheep throwing). Each contestant started by prodding and poking the straw sheath or even retying the string altogether, then pitching it over the high bar.

(The camera was the wrong way around, so turn your head to the left to
see film this properly.)

Threshing grains at Bunratty the old-fashioned way.

One man pitches the sheaths of grain into the thresher. Straw comes out of one end of the thresher and piled into a high mound. Grain pours out of the other en, where it is funneled into large burlap bags.The bags of grain were then ground by hand and cooked into breads and scones in one of the cottage kitchen. Bunratty was doing brisk sales of delicious scones and breads made from the freshly ground grains.

The Folk Park at Bunratty consists of a dozen or so little cottages that were moved here from different parts of Ireland. Each region had its own style of building based on local building materials and weather conditions. Our thatched cottage would fit right in here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

August 2008

I have to be honest and say that August wasn't the easiest month for us.
In fact it was probably our toughest time since February, when just after
moving here we were jobless, homesick and our cottage was colder than an
icebox. It's all part of the adventure and we know that this too shall pass.

Ori in a rare moment of August sunshine

Our 13-year old dog Ori was diagnosed with a liver tumor in May when she
was getting checked out by the vet for the plane trip to Ireland. At her
age, and given the size of the tumor, surgery was not recommended.
She's still hanging in there but her belly is huge now while the rest
of her is getting thinner. She is not in pain and still has a hearty
appetite, but she can no longer get up on her own and will only walk
very short distances once we get her on her feet. We have to accept
that she is coming toward the end of her life and we've made
arrangements with a vet who can come to the cottage to euthanize her
when the time comes. He said we'll know when it's time because she'll
either stop eating or her breathing will become very labored. It could
be another few weeks or hopefully a few months, and we are spoiling her
as much as we possibly can. We're very grateful that we were able to
bring her here from the US in time to enjoy her last few months.

Meanwhile, Sonya (our blind dog) is doing very well. To see her walk
around the house and gardens you would hardly know she's blind. She
gets a good walk every day through the beautiful fields and lanes
around our house. I wear a bell on my right ankle so Sonya can follow the sound when we're walking. Occasionally she loses track of me and stops, turning her head in all directions to try locate the sound. Then I have to shake the bell loudly by doing the hokey-pokey - you know, stick my right foot in and shake it all about.

August showers bring September flowers
Nasturtiums planted from seed last May

Dahlias love the rain

The other tough thing has been the weather. Last month was the wettest August on record here. For Ireland, that's really saying something! It precipitated in one form or another (rain, drizzle, mist or heavy fog) almost every single day last month, with almost 10 inches of rain compared to the usual 3-4 inches. Most notable was the intensity of the rain - usually it rains lightly but there were some serious tropical downpours. Some areas of the country, including Dublin, experienced heavy flooding - people were evacuated from their homes and major highways and railway lines were closed.

My friends and former co-workers in Ithaca are probably having a good
chuckle right now hearing me complain about the rain. I was always
freaking out about the lack of rain for our home garden and city of
Ithaca plantings that were my responsibility. Now it's as if every
prayer for rain that I have ever hurled heavenward was answered in

The rain has been amazing for some plants, especially the shrubs and
perennials. A 3 foot tall clematis we planted in May that now has a
multitude of vines exceeding 12 feet. But too much rain was bad for
other plants, like our potatoes and tomatoes that all got blight.
(The potatoes were salvageable but the tomatoes all ended up on the
compost heap. So sad.) Cool-season vegetables have been great - we're
growing the biggest onions, carrots and broccoli ever.

Here's joke we heard in the pub: "We've been having a Muslim summer - a
little bit Sunni but mostly Shiite." It's somewhat reassuring to know
that even by Irish standards it's been really horrible.
Still, we're thankful that we have our health and a variety of
interesting activities to do inside, like playing music, writing and painting.
Now I understand why the arts are such an important part of the culture in
Ireland. You have to do something that feeds your soul when the rain is
lashing down outside the windows.

History at Craggonowen Heritage Centre
Despite the rain we did a couple of cool things last month within Clare.
We're sticking close to home due to Ori's health as she certainly can't
be left with anyone else now. Early in the month we spent a day at
Cragganowen, a heritage site with an old castle and reconstructed
versions of a ringfort, a crannog (a ringfort built on a man-made
island) and a fulacht fia (an ancient cooking site). Members of a
re-enactment group in period costumes were engaging in day-to-day tasks
appropriate to each particular setting.

Medieval times at the castle

A knight and his lady camped in front of the castle

The knight talking about his battle armor

Spinning wool dyed with plants

Weaving on a traditional loom

Wall hangings in the castle

The silversmith and his wench

Top floor of the castle

Bronze Age at the Fulacht Fia
A fulacht fia is an ancient cooking site which might have also been used
for religious ceremonies. A large rectangular pit was dug out and lined
with clay so it would hold water. Rocks heated in a nearby fire were
thrown into the water pit until the water was almost boiling, then a
huge hunk of some kind of meat (wild boar, deer, etc) was wrapped in
leaves and cooked in the boiling water. I bet they used these things as
hot tubs as well.

The day we were there a bunch of hobbity-looking re-enactors were demonstrating the art of forging bronze tools and weapons.

The guy on the left is pumping a set of leather bellows. The bellows feed air to a very hot fire in the round clay pot via the hollowed out branches. Within the clay pot there is a clay beaker containing a mixture of raw copper and tin. The guy on the right is getting ready to lift the beaker of molten metal out of the fire.

Pouring the liquid metal from the red-hot beaker into the mold for
an axehead. The mold, which is in two halves, is made from clay and
bound together with rawhide.

A minute later they take the newly forged axehead out of the mold to
inspect it. Once they have a hot fire going they can crank out several
dozen bronze tools or weapons per day.

Comparing the newly forged axhead to one that's been cleaned up and polished, a process that could take several more hours.

A selection of weapons and tools forged from bronze, some mounted on
wooden handles.

We learned everything about casting bronze tools. But no matter how closely I observed, and regardless of what angle I took photos from, I didn't find the answer to this burning question:
What do bronze age re-enactors wear under their woolen cloaks?
Do they stay true to historical accuracy or are they wearing their Fruit of the
It would have been a chilly day for those who stayed true to

Iron Age at the Crannog
A crannog is a circular man-made island in a lake with a ringfort
constructed on top. They built up these island with layers of timber,
wattle, brush and mud, and the idea was extra defense - an enemy would
be slowed down and more vulnerable wading or swimming while attacking
your ringfort.

The lads on the crannog were making chain mail.

They started with a length of straight wire which they coiled tightly around
a metal rod. The coils were cut apart to make small uniformly sized
rings. These rings were then pounded with a heavy hammer to make them
flatter and thinner, and finally riveted one to the other to make the
chain mail. This is a really slow process. I asked these guys how long
it takes, and they said it would take the knight's apprentice about a
month to make the headpiece shown in the picture below.
Sir William dons his chain mail.

Early Christian era in the ringfort
Ringforts are raised circular homesteads which usually contained several
yurt-like homes. There are tens of thousands of remains of ringforts in
Ireland; there are about 5 within walking distance of our cottage.

Grinding grains and baking bread on an open fire

A movie of a battle scene inside the ringfort. They rule was
that they had to stay behind the line on the ground while attacking
each other with spears.

Archeological Excavation at Caherconnell Ringfort
This is an aerial view of Caherconnell, a huge stone ringfort in the Burren. (I wish I was in a plane when I took this, but I was actually in the visitor center taking a picture of the interpretive signage on the wall.) Caherconnell had continuous habitation from the first to sixteenth centuries. This was determined last year when there was an archeological dig in the ringfort.

Looking at Caherconnell ringfort from ground level.

Archeologists had noticed an interesting looking formation of large stones just outside the ringfort and speculated that it might be the exit of a souterrain, an underground escape passage from inside the ringfort. In August they conducted a dig of the area and invited members of the public to participate. Thankfully this was one of the few days in August when it didn't rain.

About 25 volunteers showed up to help. We worked with an archeological team and a U. of Galway professor who specializes in Irish medieval structures

Digging it!

While the volunteers and archeologists were having a tea break, I could get a clear photo of the dig. Here we've stripped the grass and topsoil off, revealing the stone structure below.

One of the exciting finds of the day was two Edward the First silver coins. One was minted in 1300 and the other in 1310. This photo shows one side of the coin bearing a cross with shamrocks in each corner. The medieval history professor said it was unusual to see these two symbols together on a coin.

Imagine those two coins just lying there in the top few inches of soil for the last 700 years!