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.