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.
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.