Saturday, September 5, 2009

August 2009

Willa the wwoofer

We hosted our first wwoofer* in early August. Our garden is still relatively small and we hadn't planned on having wwoofers this year, but Willa is good friends with Eileen and Heather, who are renting our house back in Ithaca. Willa's been wwoofing in England and Ireland this summer and got in touch with us to see if we could use help in our garden for a few days in August.
(*WWOOF = Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wwoofers work on farms in exchange for room and board.)

Willa helped with weeding and mulching in the garden, and cooking and picking veggies for the farmers market. She was a great help and lovely company to have around.

Here we are rolling up the nori rolls (vegetable sushi) for the market

We took Willa to north Clare to do a little sightseeing. In the top photo she is standing under a Romanesque doorway to a 12th century church. Here's a closer view of the carvings on the doorway.

The weird thing about this doorway is that the animals seem to be elephants, tigers and monkeys, and the faces have a distinctly Asian look to them. Remember this was carved in 12th century Ireland, so why an Asian motif?

A round tower next to the old church. This was used in times of Viking invasions -note the doorway on the second floor.

We took Willa to the Feakle trad fest in east Clare. While Bill played at one of the pub sessions, Willa and I watched some high energy set dancing at the ceili. Set dancing is a lot like square dancing, with four sets of couples facing each other in a square and doing the swinging and wife-swapping bits.

The main difference is that there's no caller telling the dancers which steps to do next, everyone just seems to know what to do. Irish set dancers also do these kind of loud, clogging steps while they dance. This is called battering. In this video, the set of couples on the right are doing some really lively battering.

The steps beat out the rhythm of the tune and give the dancers some extra bounce. The Irish just seem to have a way of doing everything with gusto!

Of course, we had to take Willa to the Burren to climb to the top of Mullagh Mor.

The sky was overcast and brooding, and the wind at the top was strong enough to take the shirt right off your back.

The view from the top of Mullagh Mor: a neighboring hill, sculpted by glaciers, erosion, wind and time.

At Poulnabrone, a huge stone dolmen (pre-Celtic tomb). I think Fred Flintstone lived in one like this.

There are mostly just heathers flowering in the Burren at this time of year. Here is a small-flowered, delicate pale pink species of heather......

......and here's another one with large hot-pink flowers.
(These photos are for you, Heather!)

The Sanford Invasion

In the middle of August Bill's family - sister Carolyn, brother-in-law Randie, nephews Daniel and Eric, and Bill's mom Helen - came to visit for 10 days . We took them to the four distinctly different regions of Clare - the beautiful southern coastline of the River Shannon as it makes its way to the Atlantic; the dramatic sea cliffs of west Clare; the Burren to the north; and the wooded lake region of east Clare. They saw plenty of castles, cows, rocks, and rain, plus a few rainbows.

They came, they saw......they played hackey-sack. The lads also played hackey-sack all over Clare, much to the amusement and befuddlement of the Irish, who apparently have neither seen nor heard of this sport.

Preparing to storm Carrigaholt castle on the south coast of Clare.

Holding on tight in gale force winds at Loop Head in west Clare

I had a birthday party while the Sanford/Carini's were here. It was lovely earlier in the day and we optimistically put up the canopy and outdoor tables and chairs, but it ended up to be a wet night so the party was mostly indoors after all.

The usual eatin' and drinkin' and chattin'.

An early trad session in our bedroom......

......and then one in the main room.

Dan learning to play the bodhran.

A late night old-timey session.

At the base of Bunratty Castle

Back at the cottage, relaxing after a long day of sightseeing

One day we went to the Burren to help out with an archeological dig. We dug through the soil with trowels and small shovels, looking for anything significant.

We didn't find anything amazing that day, but later in the week they found a bronze dress pin (11th-13th C.), an arrowhead and a piece of neolithic pottery.Click here to see photos of this year's finds at the archeological dig.

Later that evening we had our friends Russ and Laura and their two musical kids, Quinn and Molly, over for another little birthday celebration and a session.

The next day we had great weather, so we went west to the Cliffs of Moher.

The whole gang at the cliffs, with the Aran Islands in the background.

Look out, Uncle Bill!!

Too cold for a swim, but at least Carolyn and Dan were brave enough to give it a try. Unlike the rest of us wimps who stayed bundled up on the beach.

Monkeying around in the ringfort at Cragganowen history park.

Randie (a Shoshone) with the obvious answer to this question.

We poked around inside the ruin of Quinn Abbey on our way home.

Bill, Carolyn and Helen inside the cloisters at Quinn Abbey.

More relaxing after another hard day of sightseeing.

On their last day, we drove eastward to Lough Derg, the long, narrow glacial lake that forms the border between Clare and Tipperary.

A final game of hacky sack, this time in warrior Brian Boru's ringfort.

We played a wild game of tag in this cool maze of tunnels, bridges and shrubbery labyrinth.

Randie mastered the art of levitation when he was "it".

The boys hide their disappointment at the dinkyness of this neolothic tomb, which we scaled a stone wall, crashed through brambles and walked through a mucky cow field to find.

For more photos from their trip to Ireland, and especially for videos of people playing music and singing (mine came out too dark) check out Carolyn's photo album

Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival
Right after the Sanfords flew back to America, Bill and I went to a bluegrass festival in County Waterford, in the southeast corner of Ireland. This is the banana belt (ok, maybe the strawberry belt) of Ireland. Sure enough, we drove out of the Atlantic mist and rain of Clare into the blazing sunshine of the "sunny southeast".

Dunmore East is a beautiful little coastal village set on the end of a sandstone peninsula that juts out into the Irish sea. Something about it reminded me of Newport, RI, but with thatched roof cottages.

At other times Dunmore East reminded me of northern California.

Our friend Tom Hanway, who told us about this great festival, was gigging with two different bands that weekend but he still found time to sing and play a few tunes outside the pub on Saturday afternoon. (Note that the nice banjo pickin' you hear is not me at all but Tom. I didn't know this tune at all and I'm just plunking along quietly trying to pick it up.)

This came out a bit dark, but it's a pub session we played in early Sunday afternoon. (That's me trying to sing Old Joe Clark over twelve instruments.) Nice harmonica playing by the dude on the right.

This future rock star, Fionn, played his guitar at concerts and sessions all weekend long.

Relaxing on the grounds of my manse.