Monday, June 03, 2013

Fields of Gold

 You'll remember me, when the west wind moves, among the fields of barley,
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky, among the fields of gold.

I've always loved that song.  Recently I was reviewing a ballet performance and the highlight for me was an exquisitely performed group piece to the song, the dancers' long dresses swaying in unison, just like a field of barley does in the west wind.  

The view from our windows for the past week or so has truly been of a field of gold.  Not barley in this case, but buttercups.  Bright, gleaming, golden buttercups in such profusion they certainly give the sun something to be jealous about.

It's nice to sit by the window and enjoy that splendour while gently teasing a small dog with your bare feet.  Still nervous of a sudden outstretched hand, Tamzin feels quite safe with bare feet and even nibbles them sometimes.

The project?  That's the Nine Point Charm crochet shawl which I'm working in two different colourways of silk laceweight.  Podge in the background, enjoying a comfortable nap.  He can take buttercups or leave them alone, he says.  But a nap is always a good idea.

DH took his little pop-up tent hide down to the buttercup field to get pictures of the baby rabbits playing amid the flowers.  But he kept getting distracted.

First there was a coal tit, bringing food to its hungry youngsters,

and then there were tiny wild field pansies among the buttercups to be photographed.  These aren't as plentiful as they used to be, but we probably have he fact that this field belongs to an organic farmer to thank for their presence.

Finally settling down to concentrate on the bunnies, he heard a rustle just outside the hide.

Hey, this is my path through the woods to the field!  What are you doing here?

Meanwhile Tamzin waited worriedly on the boundary of the garden, to make sure he got back safely.  Can't be too careful, with those Wild Woods down there at the end of the field, you know!  All kinds of nasty horrid creatures with evil eyes and grasping paws.  Much better come home!

He got the baby rabbits in the end, though.  This tiny little fellow can hardly see over the flowers, having to stand up on his hind legs to discover where his siblings have gone.

Where are you?  I can't see you!

Here is their worried parent, scenting that there's a fox about.  Look at that streamlined body!

As well as being buttercup time, it's sheep season here in West Cork and last weekend we went along to the International Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Festival at nearby Millstreet.

It was great fun.  Frantic sheep baaing all over the place, competitors working in controlled fury to get their fleeces cut as smoothly and perfectly as possible, the scent of wool constantly assailing you, and lots of lovely real people, every one of them an expert, whether they kept one sheep or five hundred.  There were contestants from Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Norway - all over, in fact.

You couldn't hope to hide an accidental double snip, or, heaven forfend, a tiny nick on the skin.  Every move was watched, and the clock ticked inexorably.  The pressure must have been severe.

This is George Graham from Wexford, who emerged the proud All-Ireland Record Holder for shearing and also the All-Ireland Wool Handling Champion.  He is PRO for the Irish Sheep Shearing Society too,and gets around the world quite a bit, judging and commenting at different shows.  He even knows Vardo and Vadso, up in the furthest northern reaches of Norway, which DH and I thought we were the only ones to discover!  'I've worked at the most northerly sheep farm anywhere,' he said.  'Do you know the one on that narrow road along Varangerfjord, on the way out to Vardo?'  We did.  Funny to think that George might well have been there at the same time as us on one of our visits.  Apparently the sensible Norwegians shear their sheep indoors, and they also lamb indoors.  Then when the summer finally arrives, around June, mothers and children can all go out together.

Met several old friends there.  Remember Daniel P. Buckley, whom I posted about way back in 2006?  (Find it here, Where Yarn Begins, if you can't.)  Back then he was a little pessimistic about the future of wool and sheep in Ireland, but here he was, as bright as ever, and with his two children helping him still.  Back in 2006, Una and Daniel Jr. were very small;  now they're 14 and 12 respectively, and experts at sorting the poor fleece from the good stuff.  'I always like to keep them involved in real things like this,' says Daniel.  'They need to have their feet on the ground in today's world, and working with the old traditions and the old ways is the best method I know of achieving that.'

And who should be demonstrating the traditional craft of spinning with some of that lovely freshly-sheared fleece but my dear friend Mairead Sharry from Inisheer, the littlest Aran Island.  Mairead is nearly the same age as me, and I was delighted to see her wearing purple, even to her new punk hairdo.  She runs the most amazing art and craft classes on Inisheer - dyeing, felting, weaving, crochet, and of course Aran knitting.  Writes children's books too.  Great girl, Mairead.  Go check her out here.

We've been going round the countryside during the month of May, photographing examples of the old traditions for De Next Book.  One particularly lovely custom that you can still find in the rural areas is that of placing branches of May or hawthorn over stable doors, and tying little knots of flowers on doors to bring luck

I've always been fond of this little ruined cottage near Ballyvourney and, on an impulse, stopped to pick a few flowers from the roadside verges and make a small nosegay to show it that it's still loved and thought about.  Well, why not?  I bet it remembers happy times when young children ran in and out, while mother fed the hens or milked the cow, and granny sat by the fire knitting and watching the potatoes boil for dinner.  It's done good service in its life, and just because it hasn't got central heating, wall to wall carpets, and plastic replacement windows, is no reason to ignore it.  Good on you, little cottage.  I'd buy you if I could, and put a smile back on  your face.  Until then, these flowers might give you a nice feeling.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Jo! Lucky you, with a field of buttercups in your view. . .
-- stashdragon

Angeluna said...

Love all the photos. Such a treat as usual. Buttercup field photos remind me of Peter Rabbit and his mother looking out for him and his siblings. And good for you, Podge turns out to be a lap cat. I have a feeling they are born, not made.

Windybrook Spinner said...

What a very pretty nosegay. Your posts always brighten my day.

Lyn said...

Looks like a wonderful time to be in Ireland. The buttercups are so sunny and the tradition of the nosegay should certainly be preserved. What a great idea!

Julie said...

I lost your blog for a while (silly me) and am so delighted to have found it again. Every single post brings me such pleasure. Thanks!

KiniaCat Crafts said...

Hola, Ms. Jo!
As usual, stellar pictures and blog! My thanks to you both. Your view of the field of buttercups out your window does inspire some healthy envy. {happy sigh}
Podge and Tamzin seem to be settling in Very well.
Thanks for the "field" trip and the Festival Outing. If I were a spinner, that mound of shorn wool would cause me to faint. {grin}
Thank you for sharing. Hope life is treating you and yours very well!

Mary Beth said...

We have violas and buttercups in Tennessee USA but seeing your luxurious field is happiness itself! Thans so much for the post and pictures, esp the fox and rabbits, and shearing info.

Anonymous said...

I always look forward to your blog posts and no matter the day I might have had, I always feel better for having come to visit!

Love the view from your window!


Audrey said...

Dear Heart! So happy to see you in your lovely home and countryside. Am making a visit to the lovely blog of your friend. Coincidentally just bought my (shhh!) supply of lamb for the freezer from a friend and mentioned that I wouldn't mind a fleece! Now, do tell, where can one find the pattern for that shawl? I have some great Celtic Memory yarn that would suit it well.

Tola said...

so is that cottage actually for sale? can you point me to the agent, if so?