We went down early to Killarney woods where the bluebells were coming into their full beauty.
Every way you turned there was another heartstopping vista. We couldn't stop photographing them, and I wished you had been there with me.
We had coffee at the tiny thatched tea room and watched the jaunting cars swinging by with their happy visitors while the sun shone down in celebration of this Celtic festival day.
Now don't go getting the idea that all Irish cottages look like this. They don't. This is the lodge to a great estate (the Earl of Kenmare's in fact) and it is made in the South of England style. A traditional Irish cottage is much simpler in design, lacking all the ornate decoration that a country powerful enough to enjoy peace for centuries can afford. But it is some place to have coffee on May morning - or any morning, come to that! It is definitely a favourite on my own personal Teapot Trail.
On the way home, followed a narrow winding gravel track to a once-great stately house, Mount Massey, now alas ruined and forgotten.
In its heyday, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, this was a great house indeed, giving employment to hundreds of gardeners, chambermaids, stable boys, maids, grooms, butlers, launderesses and more. It was even the subject of a famous song back then:
Mount Massey, the pride of Macroom...
Now only the jackdaws awaken the echoes and small birds nest undisturbed in shrubs once tended lovingly.
Where the lady of Mount Massey once swept through her halls, cattle wander, and no industrious boy polishes the windows of the staff quarters.
To be practical, you would need more cash than any of us is likely to see, to restore Mt. Massey to its former glory and then keep it that way. But it was still sad to see it standing quietly and alone amid the fields. Or maybe it's resting serenely on its memories of days long gone. I wished it well as we tiptoed away.
The moon was full, and hanging huge and gold on the horizon on May night.
It awoke the voices of the foxes, and a vixen called in the woods beyond our home all through the night. It's a bit early for her to be seeking a mate, as cubs are still very small now; but perhaps she wasn't breeding last winter and is trying to make headway with the pick of the males before her sisters.
And speaking of small cubs...
This is from another secret location that Richard knows; if he stays very still in the car, with a mesh covering the lens at the window, the foxes have no fear. Richard wanted to crop this picture up close for you, but I wanted you to see the immensity of tall grasses and the hugeness of the landscape from the viewpoint of a very tiny baby coming out of the den for the first time.
To knitting. How could we have gone on so long without the slightest mention of knitting? There were so many skeins of Bealtaine to package up and post, and then this week's eBay listings to get ready. I'd had a lot of requests for more of the gorgeous cashmere/silk in the soft pastel colours - the yellow, green, blue - so they went on last night, under the Celtic Memory Yarns heading. I'd managed to locate another new shade in this - a scrumptious cafe-au-lait or perhaps melted milk chocolate - which went on for the first time.
I don't think the picture does it justice - might be better on eBay, I don't know. (Tried to put in the URL here but it didn't work when I checked; if you want to look at it there, just go to Knitting Yarns on eBay and search for Celtic Memory.)
This yarn is a bit heavier than fingering weight - it was too thick for socks when I tried it (cashmere/silk socks yet?) so I would call it between 4 ply and DK for Europe and perhaps sportweight for the New World. Whatever. It knits up beautifully.
And speaking of socks, I took one look at the Round 6 pattern on Sock Madness and thanked my lucky stars I wasn't in the Final Four. Just go over there and look for yourselves. I'll wait.
Bit of a challenge, what? And yet Knitter 473 cranked those beauties out in twelve hours or less, with Telkwagirl close behind. And so these two face into the finals to decide who will become the champion sock knitter of 2007. Out of 128 starting, it's now down to Joy and Kristi.
I have to say it was enormous fun competing in this. (That and severely stressful.) You learned so much from each pattern (hey, I know how to turn heels without that maddening pick-up bit, and can do Pheasant Eye with the best of 'em!), and got to know so many other knitters in that really close way that can only happen when you're all stretched to the limit at 3 in the morning. Small wonder that we're all going to stay on that Flickr site for the rest of the year, trading ideas and working again or for the first time on the patterns for each round. But there is still The Final Round to come and I simply cannot imagine what will come up in that. Every complexity, every difficulty has surely been encountered by now? (I hear the organisers faintly chuckling...)
In the meantime, though, I've almost gone off socks. The push was so hard, the pressure so huge, that I can't seem to face them at the moment. Yes, yes, I did finish the lovely Mad Bluebell Dance, and here they are in all their glory:
I adore these socks, and the pattern is delightful, right down to the cabled heel (I've taken to wearing clogs to show them off).
So right now there is nothing, but nothing on the sock needles. I did start one pair, but found my heart wasn't in it. Did get a rather nice pattern through the post, though, for traditional kilt hose, and those I will make. I could do with a pair of knee-length patterned socks and there is a cone of rather fine black cashmere hanging around somewhere which would work well if doubled. Is it a good idea to work a thread of nylon or polyester in with the heels and toes when you're using something as soft as cashmere? And if so, where do I locate this? Don't suppose synthetic sewing thread would do?
What is on the needles, at long last, is that glorious dolman-sleeved jacket from the legendary Fall 2003 issue of Knitter's.
When I first saw Noro Silk Garden some years ago and fell wildly in love, I made a sweater from one of the pattern books but although I adored the colour changes (I made it in those blues and greens), the sweater itself was too basic in shape, too floppy, so I frogged it back, washed and skeined the yarn, and put it away safely. You can't leave Noro unused though, and this particular dolman jacket has been in my mind every since I turned over the pages from the Celtic Vest and saw it. Now I knew LaurieM had made it, so I checked and she assures me there were no major difficulties, so I'm on my way. Got a sneaking feeling there are going to be a few 'pick up evenly all round the edge' bits, though. It looks like that sort of pattern, doesn't it? Ah well, we have to learn. Onward and upward, with much swearing on the way.
Denise is on her way to Ireland as you read this! Yes, the blog lady of Yin and Yarn is coming to the Emerald Isle for the first time and she and her husband should be touching down tomorrow morning in Dublin. Can't wait to meet up with her (we're thinking Spin a Yarn in Kenmare, naturally) and really see each other face to face. And then, in mid-June, Deb of the Woolley Farm is coming over with her group of shepherds, and we're all meeting up too! This is going to be the best fun.