Sunday, August 19, 2007

Forget HTML, Give Me The Milking Parlour Any Day!

Celtic Memory is just not one of those techie fiends. She wishes she was, but she isn't. Big time she isn't.

Have just spent most of the morning trying to make a few simple changes to the layout of this page but have only succeeded in working up a real temper. Go AWAY computer complications! Why can't you be simple? On the other hand, I wouldn't be here talking to the rest of you if it were not for the wonders of modern technology...

The milking parlour? Well when the world of wires and Java and computer-speak and HTML and URL gets as trying as it has done this fine Sunday morning, it is comforting to think that somewhere, not all that far away, a patient cowman is milking a red shorthorn in the old traditional way. How do I know this? Read on.

It started with Noro (oh shut up you at the back, if you can't stop giggling I'm going away right now to eat chocolate). Jean and Jo, my friends at The Little Yarn Shop In the Far West, sent me a terse email saying 'Noro arrived - looks beautiful.' Now what would you have done? Of course I headed off at the first possible moment. It was a very wet West Cork morning, and the hills going over the Kerry border had pulled the cloudy duvets right down over their heads and said they were staying out of sight for the day. DH had had an early start on that particular morning, so I did too, which meant that there was time on the way to Kenmare to call in at the Traditional Farms at Muckross in Killarney.

These farms are a particularly inspired idea, for Ireland at any rate - those of you in the New World have been doing things like this for ages, but it's taken us longer to get far away enough from our past to take pride in it again. They are a series of old farmsteads set along a winding lane, tucked away behind high hedges above Muckross House Estate. In the old days they would have supplied the Big House with milk and eggs and labour too. The estate had the vision to restore these old buildings and put in people to talk to visitors about the old ways and the old days. And they didn't choose bright young things straight out of college, but the genuine article - men and women who had grown up on farms themselves and had done all these old jobs and tasks in their younger days. As a result, when you go in there - as I often do, just for the pleasure of seeing the genuine article - you can tap into an incredible richness of reminiscence and information and bright images of life in years gone by.

This is the first cottage you come to as you toil up the steep muddy lane between high hedges. It would have been the cottage of a labourer rather than a prosperous farmer. The next one along is a little larger, and the third is a big farmhouse with all the little luxuries that someone with enough land and cattle could provide for his family. They're heartcomforting to visit. Would you like to go inside?

Here it is, a simple whitewashed cottage with Kitty Brennan making soda bread at the table. We had a quick chat and then I went out to the shed to see Patrick O'Sullivan milking his two cows.

Patrick first started milking when he was about eight or nine, he told me, 'when I was big enough'. Before that, though, he'd had plenty to do around the small family farm. 'All of us had to pull our weight. You did in those days. The kids now, they're indoors all the time with their Gameboys and their computers. They should be out wandering in the fields and getting the fresh air into their lungs like we did.'

When he'd filled three buckets with foaming creamy milk, we went back into the house to relax for a minute and talk about the old days. About the times when people shared what little they had, and came visiting to spend the evening in song and story.

The dancing at the crossroads was something they both remembered with affection. 'Everybody would come from miles around, they'd think nothing of walking all the way there and back for the chance of a bit of a music and a dance.' Indeed Kitty would sometimes travel further afield, all the way to Aubane near Millstreet, more than thirty miles distant, if she could get a lift. 'You'd meet big farmers there - some of them had their own tractors.' She'd been after one of those farmers herself, she confided, laughing merrily.

'Did you get him?,' I asked.

'I did not. I got a civil servant.' More peals of laughter.

She showed me the thick coarse handknitted socks airing by the fire. 'I used to make these myself, but nowadays I think they'd be too itchy. You weren't so particular back then.' Michael, stretching his legs comfortably, agrees. 'We had the long socks, to go under the rubber boots. They'd keep you warm on a winter's morning.'

Then it was time for Michael to take the milk up to the next house, where it would be separated, prior to its churning at the third farm. And it was time for Kitty to check on her bastable bread.

Here she is lifting the lid off the iron pot with a tongs.

and here is the bread, rising nicely. I wish I could bake bread like this. One of these days I'm going to try. And who'd mind the bit of turf ash? It adds flavour.

The poultry were clucking around the door, hoping to be allowed inside on the wet morning it was, but Kitty was firm about keeping them out.

And it was beyond time for me to be on my way, so I took a cut of fresh soda bread, spread with butter of their own making, and headed off.

Yes, to Kenmare (via Moll's Gap, Deb, via Moll's Gap) and to the Noro, of course. I'd spent so much time at the farmhouse (wouldn't you have, on a wet morning, with a turf fire like that?), that there wasn't much left for Kenmare, but I will confess I did yield to temptation a little.

Two new books, and - oh gosh, how did that yarn get there? I simply couldn't resist that little vest on the right of the picture, in Silk Garden Lite.

In fact, to get it over with, let's have the full picture. Not only was new yarn bought -

(Dez, isn't there something in the records about Noro not counting or being allowable when there's a vowel in the month? Sorry for disturbing you, but you're the only one with the full set of volumes from the Kashmir Stash Summit, I think it's on the eleventh shelf up, in Volume XVIII(b) or maybe on the fourteenth in Volume XCIX(d)?),

- but a NEW PROJECT was started. Well you were probably going to find out about it anyway so might as well tell you right away.

Here is the vest so far. Oh frailty, frailty, thy name is Celtic Memory. But it was the colourway, and the gorgeous picture, and the temptation...

Other work has been proceeding, nevertheless (yes, yes, I do have a day job). The Fawkes Socks are both well under way,

and the crop cardi based on Nicky Epstein's Gazebo Lace pattern has the back and both fronts complete, with one sleeve started.

Still wondering what kind of band to work on the fronts of this little jacket. Thanks for all the suggestions - I might go with either a rendering of the rib strip or an i-cord.

Then there has been some more dyeing here in the West Cork woods. The new sock yarn colourway was inspired by the wonderfully scented sweet peas which are blooming in pots (our slugs are much addicted to tender young sweet peas, hence big pots on tall stands) at both the back and front of the house, wafting their perfume in at open windows. I love the way one shade blends into another, with even the white blooms showing a touch of soft blue or pink on their petals.

Of course the pots couldn't be moved and their background didn't look right, so had to photograph the skeins against the Japanese anemones which are wonderful at the moment. Then used a vase of sweet peas for the close up.

Sophy Wackles wanted to get in on the picture too.

I'll put this one up on eBay tonight, along with Strawberry Mousse and the second of the Phoenix Feathers skeins. If the computer behaves, that is. Do you think they can scent fear? I really feel they know if you're afraid of them. DH storms in, slaps the keyboard, thumps the box, and it behaves like a lamb. Maybe it's a man thing.


Roggey said...

I always enjoy reading (and viewing) your travels! I'm here in Iowa, on a rainy and cool morning reading it and it seems lovely and cozy.

BTW, Noro has a habit of sneaking into people's purchases at yarn shops. Many of my friends have had similar experiences ;)

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

13th shelf surely Jo next to the volume on minimum numbers of WIP one must have:)
which noro books are they BTW? love the new yarns also

MoMo said...

Thanks again, Jo, for a glimpse of your lovely country. As my age continues to creep up, I realize that it is very unlikely I shall ever see any part of Ireland in person. Your beautiful pictures and prose make that realization a bit more bearable.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Don't you just fume when they hit something and the !($&@)$ thing works.
Love the look of the Irish soda bread - something that is made at least twice a month here chez moi!
You have captured the colour of the sweetpeas beautifully, but I won't let our slugs know that sweetpeas make good eating! They are just such pests those slugs!
Nice photo of Sophy Wackles with the yarn and flowers. She is not a girl to miss out on a chance to be a little princess!

rho said...

I have wanted to cook with wood like Kitty was doing with the peat - I even bought a book to learn. I have used dutch ovens on my wood stove but to actually use a wood fire is a goal.

Love the pictures and I am in love with the Fawkes Socks - and Noro is addictive you know -- maybe you were better off before it was so easily available. :D

Rosie said...

I always feel as if I've been on holiday after visitng your blog. and, surely, Noro is the elixir of life and is therefore essential on any diet (yarn or otherwise).

Anonymous said...

So manylovely people and then that gorgeous stash ...and oh Sweet Peas and yarn in those colours...sigh !

Anonymous said...

Mmm... few nicer things than fresh warm soda bread...

LaurieM said...

There's no resisting Noro.

I think I would have enjoyed running a farm house. Being competent at so many hand crafts would give me great pride, and I think I would enjoy the slower pace of life.

No, I wouldn't have been bored. Who would have the time?

Cindy/Snid said...

It is amazing. I must be imagining it - that I smell Soda Bread! How did you do that? I absolutely LOVE fresh soda bread (not fresh? not so much!)

The Noro is, of course, beautiful and I am sure that your project will be as well!

Lynn said...

Wow, you really got that green from the foliage! Nice work, ma'am!

Angeluna said...

It is so kind of you to take us with you on your little jaunts. This one delightful as usual.

The photos are, as always, so lovely. Favorites? The fowl couple through the red split door. The art shot with sweet peas and yarn. But favoritist of all, splendid Sophy Wackles doing her version of pin-up of the month! Great shot.

Totally jealous of your Noro. You found the new book that I can't track down around here. Darn. The LYS doesn't carry the books.

Love the vest. Obviously you do, too since you've made such rapid progress. You won't find me scolding you for starting STILL another project. No, not me. Ahem...are the Cables Travelling?

Dez Crawford said...

Oh, but you are so right. Here in Acadiana, we had to almost lose what we had to realize it was so precious. Like an old Cajun woman I know once said, "We didn't know it was called 'heritage' when we were young. We just thought we were poor!"

Now as for your host ... of course she can cook, she's a Brennan. If you ever come to New Orleans and want to go all spendy, you will discover that one of the city's most famous reastaurants is called -- Brennan's!

About the Noro? You were close, so close, on the vowel thing. The Sunmmit notes state that Noro purchased in any month containing one or more syllables doesn't count (and it's Volume XIV(C)(e).

What a fine farm. Soda bread and homemade butter and tea ... why on earth would anyone want to budge from that fine cottage on a rainy day? Only Noro would have had the power to drag me out.

Your yarn and flowers are TOO
gorgeous! Love the poultry photo, too. Thanks for the lovely virtual tour as we watch this storm in the Gulf.

SueJ said...

What an interesting read (& great photos). Thank you!

Noro is a work of art, doesn't count as yarn! Anything you knit with it is a bonus!

The sweet pea yarn is as pretty as a picture. Nice job!

Anonymous said...


I'll be in Clonakilty next week - any chance you could save me a skein of the sweet pea?

email is



Anonymous said...

Although my ancesteral roots are from Soctland- I am really enjoying your descriptions of the Irish countryside. I can tell you write professionally because your posts as so well written and so descriptive. In addition to going to Scotland to check out my roots, I now also want to go to Ireland because it is so beautiful.

I have been re-reading Brideshead Revisited by Waugh - I enjoy his descriptions of the people and their environment much more than the actual story.

By for now -Hester

Anonymous said...

Lovely again. Oh, what a great whack of photos! And it's a darned good thing our weather has turned cooler, overcast and occasionally rainy (most unusual during August), because I simply have to make some bread now! Only not soda bread, alas, and not in a bastable oven over a fire. It'll have to be the bread machine. I miss kneading, darn it. Tendonitis. I grew up helping make big batches of Czech kolache and occasionally bread as soon as I could reach the breadboard, and loved the kneading. *sigh*

Your sweet pea yarn is perfect! So is the Noro - frankly, I'm rather glad I never have the $$ to buy Noro, I'd surely go totally overboard on it. ;) And the socks just keep looking better and better.

Your comment about the turf ash reminded me of something my mother said while we were out camping one time when I was a kid. A gnat or similar landed in my drink, and I was protesting loudly about it. Mom (who grew up in the 20's and 30's in Idaho, partly in a log cabin probably smaller than that first cottage - and learned to cook on a woodstove), calmly said, "It's not Friday; you can eat meat."

I shut up and drank my drink. ;)

How come moms always get the best lines? [vbg]

Dez Crawford said...

It finally registered on me while I was driving home today. Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans has a rooster for their logo. You must go. This is a sign.

Anonymous said...

I have never been to Ireland, but when I was a student in Boston I took a year long course of lessons in traditional Irish music offered by the local Irish heritage society (they are very active in some American cities.) Anyway I learned how to play the tinwhistle in the traditional manner (sitting in a circle with a teacher playing a tune for us and having us play it back again. Over and over until it was internalized.) Anyway many of the students were very young- children of recent Irish immigrants who wanted their kids to learn traditional music. Around St Patrick's day one of the Irish mums brought in some real soda bread that she had made and I remember the loaf getting passed around the class while we all tore off pieces and enjoyed the chewy, fresh goodness of it. So good. Your description of your visit took me back to that memory.

maceknits said...

Great pictures of the Muckross traditional farms. Two years ago, I toured the farms and Muckross House while we visited my husband's family in Kerry (Inch). It was my first trip to Ireland and I loved it. So many sheep, although I didn't see many yarn shops or they weren't that obvious to me. Next trip, I'll make time for yarn shopping :)

Anonymous said...

Just want to express my thanks for the lovely Irish vacation. I had a wonderful time.

Oh, and I so love Silk Garden.

Celtic Weaver said...

I stumbled on your site looking for raw yarns for my loom. I pleased to find your site. Your writings are wonderful and yarns beautiful. Keep writing. I have never been to Kerry or Ireland for that matter but reading made me feel right there. Even with this mordern technology I think I would trade it for a stone fireplace and my loom. I would have a little trouble with the chickens though. Cheers

Anonymous said...

Oh land of my dreams , "The Emerald Isle" .I know you are a people to appreciate the joy of sprouts. Last time I was in the little village of Knockboy with my dearest friend R.( well you don't think I am going to tell you exactly who do you ?just that he had to visit a town called that ..I'll say no more ) the dear publican could not do enough for us . I got my sprout pie and he had his favourite boysenberry pie or was boys and berry pie ?

The Woolley Farm said...

Oh Jo, how I wish I were back at Muckross with you. Isn't that an amazing place? I could quite cheerfully move right in next to the fire.

Is Molls Gap still full of tourists? Did you stop and have rhubard crumble for me?

It's soooo great to see Spin a Yarn with Noro. Can't wait to get back there and hang with the girls...

Are you coming over for Fryeburg Fair the first week in October or for Rhinebeck sheep & wool? You know you always have a place here to stay.