Sunday, January 10, 2010

West Cork Moves Closer To The Arctic Circle!

Hooray, hooray, the Polperro gansey jacket finally got finished! Took advantage of the temporary lull that always happens just after Christmas and really got stuck into it. And of course once you concentrate, and don't get distracted by every shiny new idea that whisks in front of your mind's eye, the work does go faster. Right pleased I was to see it all done and dusted. Then we did our best to take a proper knitter's picture of it. You know, the kind you'd see on the front of a pattern, or a magazine. DH did quite a good job on it, although his photographer's eye did insist on giving Dripsey Castle a bit of the limelight as well.

This jacket is the first thing in ages to be absolutely and immediately useful. It's cosy and warm, and bright enough to cheer up the dark days of winter. And has it had some use since being finished! (That was a rhetorical question - it has!)

Because we have had a freezing snap, the like of which hasn't been seen in Ireland, let alone West Cork, for many a long year. Usually we might get a night or two dipping down to almost zero, and then back to the usually milky mild dampness. But this freeze began just before Christmas and hasn't let up since. And today it started snowing and hasn't stopped yet.
Side roads are lethally icy, main roads not much better. Birds are flocking desperately to the garden and we're kept busy refilling feeders all day and putting out dishes of water, since every normal source for them is frozen solid (the dogs keep trying to drink from the pond and looking exasperated when all they can do is lick the ice!)

This bullfinch was methodically stripping every single little forsythia bud from the bush outside the window, but you couldn't really grudge it, could you? To us the shrub might be a pretty sight in flower in spring, but to the bird, it's survival. I'm worrying about all the birds right now, when it's dark and late in the evening, and the snow is falling. We have had incredible flocks of migrants moving in from northern countries over the past few days, a sure sign that whatever it's like here, it's even worse for these little creatures up there.

We went down to Gougane Barra yesterday (on very icy roads) because we'd heard that the entire lake had completely frozen over. And sure enough, it had. A Dutch couple were skating very beautifully, but also very close to the middle of the lake, where it's more than a hundred feet deep. We tried to suggest it wasn't a very good idea but they said cheerfully that they were used to ice at home. Yes, well, the Dutch canals probably freeze solid down to their bones. You just couldn't be sure how thick this ice was out in the centre. Fortunately they survived.

Here are some of the sixth generation of Luceys, enjoying themselves safely close to the edge where they know it's only a few inches deep. The hotel is officially closed for the winter, but we were made welcome of course, as always, and given hot chocolate in the kitchen, while news was exchanged and opinions given on how long the cold weather would last.

And then Christy had to go out to make sure the Jacob rams didn't go hungry after nightfall.

Today DH had several sporting and social jobs on his schedule but they had all been cancelled, not only because of the existing bad weather but because even worse weather is forecast for tonight. However, a newspaper can't exist without pictures, so we went hunting for happy people out walking, children snowballing, that kind of thing. And in between, to see what birds and animals we might find foraging.

At this time of year, you can't possibly pass nice dry dead wood without loading up the car, can you?

Look at this bright-eyed little chap. In summertime you wouldn't have a hope of seeing him amongst all the foliage, but right now, on bare branches, and especially against a white background, he stands out so beautifully. He was more intent on feeding up, naturally enough, than bothering about a pair of nuisances in a car, so we got closer than usual.

And I would love to think that this is his house, where he is tucked up tonight. Now of course the rational adult in me knows that squirrels have dreys, not little houses in a treetrunk, but just look at that door. Well it must be a door! Can't you just see it opening a crack and a bright eye peeping out? And inside there's surely a little hallway full of warm dry brown leaves, and then a little interlaced staircase climbing up through the tree roots to a tiny sitting room above, with a black pot bellied stove, and a cosy armchair upholstered in red check gingham. And above that again, a snug little bedroom all panelled in moss, with a box bed and a big thick eiderdown. If you look closely, you might even be able to see a lattice window artfully hidden underneath that ivy. Well I think it's there anyway.

(OK, those of you who find such imaginative wanderings nauseating, you can come back now.)

I thought I'd leave you with this image. This little lost bridge at Dunisky is very dear to my heart, representing the old world and the old valley before the dam was built far downstream and the area was flooded. Once it spanned the small Buingea river and was very important in its own right.

Neither of us has ever seen it like this before, on its little islet, completely surrounded by a lake of ice. May never do so again. This kind of weather only happens every fifty years or so in this part of the world.

Wherever you are, keep warm, keep happy, feed the birds, and don't forget to look out for the tiny doors in trees near you.


Sharon Jones said...

Oh, how beautiful! I also see doors (and windows and tiny bright eyes) lurking in the winter woods.

Your jacket is indescribably beautiful. I'm so glad you got it done for this unseasonable cold snap. I wish I had someone like Richard to record my knitting triumphs!

Nancy said...

This winter is dangerous to all of us, it seems. We have migrants coming to our feeders, too, in Pennsylvania, US. Safety and warmth to you among the glimpses of otherworlds.

Windybrook Spinner said...

That tree! What a cozy little house. Thanks for the lovely story.

Anonymous said...

Even south Louisiana has had 4 straight days of hard freeze, and several more forecast.

I'm always taken by the differences in your critters and ours. We have only grey squirrels around here, and I've never seen a bullfinch in person. He's really a beaut!

Speaking of beautiful things, love the jacket. In this time of changes in weather, at least knitters can adapt! :-)

CraftyGryphon said...

It's a cold one, this year. One of my friends sent around a satellite image last week of all of England, Ireland, and all the littler islands covered in ice and snow.

I'm glad you got your lovely jacket done in time!

Jean said...

The squirrel is so darling, looks a little different from the squirrels in California. The bird is pretty with its soft colors. Wish I could send you a few degrees, we are having temps about 78(F) and short sleeves are in order.

Erin Wallace said...

How beautiful! I'm an American of Irish descent and I've always wanted to make the journey to the homeland. Your blog makes me feel a bit like I'm there. Your bullfinch photo is lovely, and how I love red squirrels. I hope that your area gets through this unusual cold snap relatively unscathed (we're pretty used to it here in old Ohio). Lovely blog. Will follow.

knitski said...

Your blog has to be one of the best around! I see the doors all the time. Love the sweater and I have been thinking about knitting that one as well.

Sue J said...

I think the door looks more suited to a gnome or a fairy..........

LinDragon said...

Of course I can see the window! A rare delight of a post, as ever, Jo. Keep warm.

LaurieM said...

Jo you paint a picture with words. I could exactly see the little squirrel's house.

Nice that you have a new sweater to wear in the cold snap, but too bad hubby didn't give us a detail shot of your work. The castle is lovely and all, but inquiring knitters what to see the wool!

Alexandra said...

Dear Jo,

in the beginning, your jacket is great!

There was a heavy and continuous snowing since thursday last week up to today morning in Czech rep. It started in Moravia and during friday the whole country was covered by snow. I live in Prague and for the weekends I usually go to Pardubice where my parents live in a nearby village. A journey takes an hour by train, but in these days all trains are delayed more than 80 minutes and some of them are even cancelled. It's a great adventure to go anywhere :)

Of course, there are also problems with an electricity, broken trees, cars stucked in snow drifts and so on. But on the other side there are funny events, too. E.g. group of punsters (?) starts the beach season with all that summer activities as swimming (yes, in the icy water), sunbathing or windsurfing. First-aid serves hot tea, grog and so on :) And for those who prefer winter sports in the winter there is 10 kms long skate-promenade in Lipno, which si our biggest dam.

Saturday evening I put some snowy pictures to my web pages but next morning there was the snowy cap more than twice bigger, approx. 60 cms. But frost is still quite mild, around five degrees below zero. In spite of all that cleaning of the paths around the house, I'm satisfied. Mainly in the night when everything is glittering in the streetlamp lights :) Of course, there is many birds around the cherry-tree where we put some goodies for them. And our cats are seeking here for their chance. For nothing, birds are very attentive :) In the meantime I've started a new shawl, according to the weather report it will be more frosty in the next days.

Best regards,

T said...

We live in the snow belt, here in Bainbridge Township, Ohio and were blessed with 39 inches of snow last week. I had to shovel quite a few paths for our poor Westie, Cooper, as there wasn't anywhere convenient for him to do his "business".

We've had a few days of no snow but it's starting again and looks just lovely. I know it's a bit daft, but I love this irrational weather and look forward to it every year.

Angeluna said...

Oh, the Polperro is quite a triumph. And Celtic Memory is the perfect model. Do you have an Agent? You should be single-handedly inspiring Irish knitters to return to their traditions, just walking about in your beautiful sweaters.

Isn't this winter weird? In Texas, we are having a record breaking freezing spell. And we had the first white Christmas in history. Global warming is looking more like the next ice age.

The little tree house is just so perfect, and obviously fires up your fertile imagination. A children's book perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a lovely post, full of charming things. Love the finished knitted jacket (and your puffa jacket too - definitely your colours)!


Melissa said...

Great picture of the new sweater, very artistic indeed :) And I love your little imaginative wanderings. I think you should write a children's book. Hope you are staying warm and safe!

Anonymous said...

Well, of COURSE it's a door!

Frozen iguanas are dropping out of the trees in Florida. My daughter had a devil of a time getting from London to Edinburgh Saturday last.

And here I sit in California wishing for rain.

Kathleen said...

I, too, have Irish ancestry and have loved reading your blog for a while now (Windybrook Spinner told me about you, your wonderful yarns, and your photograph genious husband).

I just had to thank you for this post with the beautiful animals and the perfect little door-in-a-tree. It warmed the cockles of my heart to read about all of this. Thanks so much.

Mady said...

Your image of the tree house is perfectly charming. I think the Irish are natural story tellers. I loved to listen to my grandfather's tales.

Wudas said...

Lovely, lovely pictures. I especially like the bird. He (or she) is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Here in DC we are shivering, though the roads are dry and clear. Not so for us a week or so ago, when we rang in the New Year in Leitrim, where the roads operated more like slalom runs. Even though we like to grouse about slow snow removal here, it's nothing to what happens where there is NO snow removal equipment of any kind. Well, it was nice to console ourselves by the fire (turf!) and with the hot whiskey -- or two.
I loved all your pictures -- which, as usual, just make me long to get back on the plane and come on over. Hope the thaw goes well!

Lindy in Brisbane said...

Love your pictures, your words and you imaginings! While you are having a cold snap, we in Australia are having a heat wave! Our fire warnings in much of the country have been declared "catastrophic". Temps in excess of 43 degrees in many cities. Monday night, Melbourne's temp. was still 37 degrees at midnight, and had still only dropped to 32 at 6a.m. Glad I don't live there!

tricia said...

Lovely pics and words as always. As I walked Hamish down the street the other day, I looked up to see a squirrel peeking out from his hidey hole in a lovely sycamore tree. I was being blown to bits and he was quite cozy in his tree trunk.
My goldfinches are going through buckets of niger seed and the downy woodpeckers are inhaling the suet feeder.

barbara said...

Another American of Irish descent chiming in to say I so enjoy reading your blog. The new sweater is beautiful and looks very comfortable in these cold days. I live in Northeast Ohio in the USA, in an area referred to as the snow belt. We always have a lot, but it has been very, very cold here along with heaps of snow. We are feeding our birds and the squirrels are clever critters who raid the feeders for birdseed. I have never seen a bullfinch, so it seems exotically beautiful to me. Perhaps our cardinals and blue jays would appear that way to you. Our squirrels are two varieties, one a silvery gray and the other sooty black. Here's hoping you get a thaw soon!

Anonymous said...

The sweater is lovely, nice and bright.

The pictures with both words and camera make me want to visit your beautiful country!

Keep warm.


Anonymous said...

Your Polperro is a smashing success, it's so bright and cosy looking. What a fabulous photo shot.

I had a lovely tea with Bright Squirrel in his wee, snug abode. Charming fellow he was. He told a story of his stealth and cleverness at persuading the former inhabitant, a pig-eyed gnome, that the tree was haunted.

Wish I could be sharing the bright, freezing days and landscapes with you! Or has it turned back to the grey drenching rains of January?