Sunday, September 27, 2015

In Which A Boggy Mountainside Is Survived and A Glorious Old World Orchard Is Visited

I was having the divil's own luck with that Druid's Stocking I mentioned last time.  The infinitesimally tiny needles and the fine yarn, though undeniably a beautiful green, made for a dreadfully harsh fabric, not to mention the havoc they were playing with my fingers and thumb joints.  Eventually I got sense and went up a few sizes in needle and called upon the aid of a lovely warm soft pale grey yarn that I'd used before.  Instant happiness!

Here are the new and the old, which I fitted round a pair of boots by the crabapple tree.  You probably can't see the lovely patterning on the pale grey but it's there, believe me.  This is just the cuff so far, and then that gets turned down and you start on the leg of the stocking.  Which has its own delightfully complex cabling.  Meggie really is a brilliant knit designer.

And, the birthday of a very small young friend coming up soon, I whipped up this little bag last night.

It's the Toy Tote Bag by Sherry Etheridge and is just big enough to take some tiny gifts and sweets.  Then it can be used later on for special treasures and slung over a small shoulder.  A really speedy crochet project for suddenly-needed gifts - you could put anything inside it from pretty soaps and flannels to indulgent chocolate treats.

We decided the other day that it really was high time to go and get good pictures of a particular stone circle down at Kealkil on the back road to Bantry.  Getting there wasn't too much of a problem (as long as you can cope with climbing steep sinuous boreens about the width of a loaf of bread and never knowing if you'll meet a tractor or hay wagon coming the other way at full speed, and, having lived here a fairly long time, we can) but actually reaching the monument itself posed more of a challenge.  There was a stiff iron gate standing stern amid a positive sea of mud and manure.  As if that were not enough, somebody had spilled black sticky oil all around the opening side.  Which meant the dog had to be carried, as I wasn't prepared to deal with black sticky oily paws for the rest of the day and night.  We crossed one field, and then had to tackle the next obstacle - a steep ladder, again emerging from the depths of a quagmire, up to a bramble-bedecked bank, and another ladder down the other side.  Dog had to be lifted again.  This was Petroushka, by the way, who, though still a puppy, weighs twice as much as the other two and then some.

And then, having gained the final stretch,  the entire field itself turned out to be a bog, with quaking tussocks of grass standing up in deep pools of inky water.  How you can get a bogland on top of a hill, where you would think every drop would have drained off, beats me, but there is one here, take my word for it.   Crossing it was no fun at all.  You would probably have come down to solid rock after you'd sunk to your ankles, but it still wasn't the kind of afternoon stroll you would have chosen.

Eventually, though, we got to the stone circle and it was worth it.  The circle itself is small, but there are two superb tall standing stones outside it, as well as a ruined cairn.

You can get an idea of the height of the tallest stone in this picture - I'm about 5'7" so I would say it was twice that.  Bantry Bay is in the background, and the Kerry mountains beyond that.

Most of our clothes required special cleaning when we got home (to say nothing of Petroushka) but it was worth it.  Beautiful monument.  If only one hadn't got the distinct feeling that somebody didn't want us there and had taken steps to discourage visitors.

Now it's the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness as you all know (unless of course you live in the southern hemisphere, in which case you're starting to enjoy spring) and here that means apples.  Our own crabapples (seen above with the Druids Stockings) aren't ready to pick yet, but we knew of a wonderful orchard on the east side of Cork and made our way there when we judged the time to be right.

This is 16thc Barryscourt Castle where Heritage Ireland is doing a tremendous job of restoring not only the structure but the surrounding gardens too.  To this end, they planted an orchard with as many of the old Irish apple trees as they could find. Isn't that a lovely thing to do?

How could you resist apples with beautiful names like Offaly Lady's Fingers or Irish Peach?  Kerry Pippin or Crofton Scarlet?

I just had to get a closer look at this Ardcairn Russet...

And they very very kindly let us take away some of the windfalls.  I have evolved a great method of making apple butter, using the slow-cooker (crockpot to you New Worlders), and have already got the first couple of pots filled and labelled.

May your own autumn be full of fine foraging and happy preparations for filling the pantry shelves before winter.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Of Amiable Relationships and Autumn Wanderings

The amiable relationships are those which commonly obtain 'twixt the felines and the canines chez Celtic Memory.  Paudge Mogeely, as you may recall, is the most placid of good chaps, very fond of a cozy corner in which to sleep, be it out in the garden just where the sun is striking brightest, or by the fireside in the evening.  Off the ground of course, that's always a given for cats, and if there is a warm dog in situ beforehand, to take the chill off the cushions, that's even better.

Here is Paudge curled up peacefully with Tamzin.  Those two love each other;  Tamzin's rolling eye is caused by the proximity of DH's camera.  She doesn't like these new-fangled things, especially with a flash.  'Just go away and let us BE, will you?'  Paudge couldn't be bothered.  Paparazzi, shaparazzi, no worries.

He will curl up with Petroushka too, although 'Troushka, still being young and enthusiastic, is inclined to give it a maximum five minutes and then start a game.

Or a washing session.  'C'mon, you know you like your face licked, Paudge.  You know you do!'

Polliwog,on the other hand, though extremely friendly to all the dogs, always willing to rub up against them and administer head butts, draws the line at face washing.  Here she is ready to strike, while 'Troushka, abandoning her original plan, hastily jumps back, ears flying with the haste of her retreat.

But 'Troushka knows how to get her revenge.  Wait until Polliwog is peacefully curled up somewhere else, and then...

...gently pull the rug from under her.  

'That'll soften her cough!' said 'Troushka triumphantly, bearing the rug out to the garden where she proceeded to demolish it beyond repair.  Ah well, back to the fabric cupboard and the sewing machine.

And speaking of sewing, and thereby knitting, there has been some activity on that front.  The Rainshine Shawl was finally finished, although the last couple of rows, with all the beading, took several days just by themselves.  It's a superb pattern though, and well worth the trouble.  I made it in a silk yarn which I'd hand-dyed, and it looks great thrown around your neck casually or opened fully and draped deeply for an exceptionally dramatic entrance on a grand occasion.

And guess what happened as a perfectly lovely offshoot from De New Book?  Darling Meagheen, inspired by my descriptions of the druids in ancient Ireland, designed a special Druid's Stocking!  A tall kneesock (or kilt hose might be a more apposite term, as they have lovely turn-down cuffs) with swirling twisting cables, just right for a keeper of wisdom to wear as he tramped through the forest or conducted rituals at a stone circle on a high hill.  Of course I'm going to knit them!  Who wouldn't, with a compliment like that?

Here is the yarn, the very best Wollmeise in a rich Druidical green, and fine needles, all ready to start.  I'll keep you posted on how they go.  Knowing Meagheen, they will be deliciously complex yet supremely satisfying to work. And who knows who - or what- you might meet when you wear them walking in a forest glade?

And speaking of forests, we went down to the West Cork woods the other day, wandering over little mossy bridges past rushing rivers, looking for berries and nuts and mushrooms.

 Look at this lovely quiet pool, overhung with bending trees which concealed it from the pathway unless you bent down low and pushed your way through (getting sprinkled with dewdrops on the way, some of which always manage to get down your neck.  The Little People playing games...).

We discovered that the little stony beach by the pool was covered with hazelnuts, not quite ripe yet, but fallen thickly on the ground.  This could have been a double for the legendary pool where the magic hazel trees of knowledge overhang the water and drop their nuts to the waiting salmon who then becomes the Salmon of Knowledge.  We cast a cluster of nuts each into the flowing stream that comes out of the pool, and watched them float away underneath the sheltering trees.  A gift to Themselves, and hopefully received as such.  You never know when you might need their assistance.

And then there were blackberries to pick, along by a deserted fishing village near the shore below Glandore.  People lived in those ivy-covered cottages once, called to each other up and down the lane. Children ran down to the beach to see their fathers coming back from the fishing, scrambling to be first to see what they had caught.  The memory of the past was all around as we picked the blackberries.

Right in the centre of this picture, on that promontory in the bay, you can see Kilcoe Castle, owned by actor Jeremy Irons.  He is much to be lauded for restoring the old ruin in the traditional way, making it look just as it would have done in medieval times.  It's a common mistake to think that old buildings have always looked grey and forbidding;  in the Middle Ages they would have been painted in bright colours, visible from a great distance.  And today, you can see that tradition carried on in rural villages of West Cork where the houses are all shades of a pastel rainbow.

Evening on the beach at Toormore, with the monbretia blooming vividly in its autumn colours.  End of a perfect day.  Even Petroushka crashed out and slept all the way home!