The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: August, 2015

My favorite honey label

photo 3

28 August Friday

It used to be easy to buy nice honey wherever we went while traveling. It was lovely to return home with honey from somewhere else.  Honey made by bees eating different things tastes very different.  I like to bring honey as a gift and I like to eat honey.  I like noticing the difference of honey made by bees eating lavender or heather or apple blossom. I have almost stopped looking for honey when I am away from here.  I read a lot about the dangerous disappearance of bees in the world.  Bees are dying everywhere. So far we are still surrounded by lots of bees and lots of honey, but not everyone is.  Those who have it are less apt to be selling what little they have.

27 August Thursday

I went down to the shop and did a few errands.  I was a bit early so I sat in the car and read the newspaper.  Then I got out of the car and I leaned against it.  I looked around and I watched people coming and going.  The village is a busy place in the morning.  There were delivery men unloading things from trucks and vans. One would finish and leave and then another would arrive.  People went into the food shop and the post office.  Other people went into the hardware shop.  Some people went in and out of both places.  People stood and talked with one another outside the shop or with one person already in their car and the other outside talking through an open window.  Everyone had things to do.  I recognized everyone I saw.  Some people I knew by name and some people I only knew by sight.  Or maybe I did not recognize them but I knew their vehicle.

Tommie came down the road slowly.  Tommie always drives slowly.  He pulled up to the curb.  He did not pull up very close to the curb but it was close enough.  His car was not exactly blocking the road but it was making the thoroughfare into a single lane road rather than a place where two vehicles can pass each other.  He got out of the car and left the door open while he came over to say hello. We spoke a little about things in general.  We spoke about the weather and about his wife Margaret, who is not well, and about all the farmers getting their hay and silage in.  I told him that I was waiting to meet someone.  I said that I was waiting to meet a man so that I could lead him with my car to our house.  I said it was easier to do this than it is to give directions.  I told Tommie that I did not know the man I was waiting to meet.  I did not know if he was old or he was young.  I did not know what kind of a car he would be driving.  I did not know one single thing about what he would look like.  I said that so far I had recognized everyone I had seen so I knew that not one of those people was the man I was waiting for.  Tommie reassured me.  I was not at all worried, but he felt I needed reassurance.  He said You will know right away when you see the person you are waiting for even if you have never seen him before.

26 August Wednesday

Mick is disturbed by the sugar spoon. He knows that he always has four heaped teaspoons of sugar in his tea.  The spoon in my sugar bowl is made of cherry wood.  It was carved by a friend.  I like having it in the sugar bowl so that we can see it everyday. Mick is confused because the bowl of my spoon is bigger than the teaspoon he would ordinarily use.  He wants to have one spoon to portion out his sugar and then he wants to stir his tea with the same spoon.  The teaspoon is the measure. Since my spoon is not the teaspoon he has lost his measure.  He does not enjoy adapting.  I usually try to put out a regular teaspoon when he is here but today I forgot.  He is too polite to say anything about the incorrect kind of spoon but his discomfort is obvious.

25 August Tuesday

We have been given an Eircode.  There was a letter in the post which assigned us this seven digit number.  The letter tells us that we do not have to use this code when writing our address.  The letter is written in a pleasant tone.  It implies that it is understood that most people do not like change therefore no one is being asked to change.   The letter has a tear-out card at the top which we are instructed to carry in our wallets.  If we do not actually need to use the Eircode, I am not sure why it would be useful for us to carry the number around with us.  One of the benefits is supposedly for ordering things on the internet.  For years we have had to write a bunch of zeros or a random number whenever we were asked for a postal code. Now we can give this number.  Already we are hearing stories that it is no good to put the number into a GPS or any other kind of system.  I thought perhaps it would make deliveries by couriers easier as there are so few road signs in the countryside and there is such bad phone coverage and there is never a person to ask for help with directions when out driving.  The Eircode has not yet been set up to be used by any computer or satellite system.  So far, it is no more useful than not having a number.

23 August Sunday

Em died a year ago today.  I still miss her. I miss her everyday.  I miss her in funny places and at odd moments.  I mostly miss her when I am out on a walk.  I miss her when I am out on a walk with another dog who is not her. I miss the sound of her soft snoring and the sound of her feet tapping through the house in the night.  I miss the lapping sound of her tongue in her water bowl. I would not say I am mourning.  I am just noting her absence.  Her sounds were part of the house sounds. Her bed is still in place. Her lead is still on the floor of the car.  Her water bowls, both indoors and outdoors, get re-filled regularly.  Visiting dogs use them. There does not seem to be any reason to move these things since they are getting used regularly. People ask weekly if we have thought about getting a new dog.  We have thought about getting a new dog but we have done nothing about getting a new dog.

22 August Saturday

Blackberries are ripening by the day.  It does not matter if the days have been hot or if there has been a lot of rain.  Every time I walk up and down the boreen or anywhere at all, I see hundreds of berries.  I stop to eat as I walk.  Sometimes I take a container and I pick the berries to bring home.  Sometimes I am just noting a location that offers easy picking and loads of berries so that I can return.

21 August Friday

Patsy Tom sat up on a high stool in Rose’s.   He sat at the same stool in the corner where he always sits.  He announced that he had been speaking with a man who told him that you cannot have a road without two ditches. As the hedges bordering each road are called ditches, we are used to seeing them on the sides of just about every road we traverse.  I could not understand what the issue was.  Instead, this was an opener for what became a long and heated conversation.  Everyone within earshot had an opinion about this man’s statement.  I left before anything was resolved.

20 August Thursday

I bought a Half Sliced Pan.  Or a Half Pan Sliced.  I can never remember which way to speak about this bread.  It is sliced bread available as a small or half loaf.  I do not like this bread and I do not buy it often but some days and in some shops it is the only bread to buy.  The reason I mention it is that when I opened the package to take out a slice of bread the first thing I saw was a piece of cardboard in the shape of a piece of bread.  It had rounded bottom corners and the top was rounded.  The cardboard had one shiny side and one rough side.  The cardboard was white and the bread was brown. The cardboard was not heavy.  It was like shirt cardboard.  It was not strong enough to protect the bread if something heavy fell on top of it. There were not two pieces of card, one at each end.   I have no idea what function the shaped bit of card had for the half loaf of bread.

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Rubber bands on the path

19 August Wednesday

We woke up to rain.  It was heavy beating rain. We had been warned that this rain was coming and that it would continue for a few days this week.  The wet air felt different.  It felt like summer might be over.  I was sad.  Then I decided to cheer up and to believe the forecast that promised better weather for Friday and the weekend. The postman promised that They are Giving Good for the Weekend.  This is an often used expression and one can always choose to believe it, or not.

Andrzej arrived to do some heavy outdoor work.  The early lashing rain had changed into a soaking drizzle but it was still much too wet for him to even consider doing anything.  Then we understood that he had made the trip specially to bring us a big plastic container full of fileted mackerel which he caught in the sea last night.  He said it was only a few hours since he caught it and that we must eat it fresh for lunch. We were delighted and he drove off happy with his gift-giving.  I worried that he might meet Mary in the boreen forcing one of them into a difficult backing up.   Fortunately, she was late.  She came in announcing that she had brought lunch today for us all.  She brought bread and a rhubarb tart and mackerel.  Lucky for us that her mackerel is smoked so we are spared eating a mountain of fresh fish for lunch.

18 August Tuesday

I saw another bunch of the bright pink silage bales in a field today.  They were piled, placed and shaped together to look like a tractor and trailer.

16 August Sunday

The announcer on the radio spoke about how a player in today’s match had made a long reach.  He said He was Stretched Out Long, As Though It Were Morning and He Was Still On The Bed.

15 August Saturday

There was another escape of cows.  There are always cows escaping.  This lot got out of their field, went down the Long Field,  then took a left onto the Ardfinnan road and took a right down the hill and into the village.  One of the cows bit a chunk of hay out of the Two Bale High Man who is standing at the corner near the bridge advertising a fun event.  After the cows crossed the bridge into the village, they spread out in all directions.  Local estimates claim that there were 80 cows.  It was 2 in the morning when they were discovered.  I do not know how long they were there before someone noticed them. Most interesting was how anyone figured out where they had come from.  Who would miss their cows at 2 am?  And these cows had made a journey of 4.5 kilometres from the farm where they lived.

14 August Friday

Everywhere feels quiet.  The land is quiet.  There is little birdsong to be heard.  It is so quiet that it nearly feels worrying.  Someone told me that the silence of the birds is because they are moulting.  I do not understand the logic of this but it is something to think about.

13 August Thursday

Three of us took a walk in Killballyboy woods.  Sometimes the path we were on was narrow and sometimes it widened.  We walked side by side or single file or two together and one alone.  Our positions were changing constantly.  The track was not rough so we did not have to look down all the time but still it was important to scan the area ahead for roots or stones or holes as we walked.  Early on I noticed a rubber band on the ground.  It was a nice fat rubber band and it looked new.  I like rubber bands.  I noted that it was a good one.  Minutes later I saw several more rubber bands.  These were also thick and also new. To see one or even two rubber bands out in the woods is not noteworthy.  Walkers might have them on their their lunch bags, or they might be used to hold something onto a pack.  They might have been on someone’s wrist or in a pocket.  Very quickly, I realized that the number of rubber bands which I was seeing was not a normal amount of rubber bands to be finding on a forest path.

Later, I learned that this wooded area, which has been completely invaded by rhododendrons, is a popular spot for people who export the leaves.  Each bunch of leaves on thin branches is held together with a rubber band.  These are then shipped to Holland where the Dutch like them.  I do not know what the Dutch do with these bunches of rhododendron leaves.  Maybe they arrange them as greenery with various kinds of flowers.  The industrial scale cutting and gathering of these leaves is not legal in the forest. The people doing the exporting hire Romanian workers who work deep in the forest well out of sight of the paths.  The workers then gather somewhere discreetly at the end of the day to load the gathered leafy bunches into trucks.  It is hard to imagine how many bunches of rhododendron leaves it takes to fill a lorry.  The rubber bands are the only sign that the pickers have been there.

Every night there are slugs.

12 August Wednesday

Every night there are slugs in the bathroom.  I never find them anywhere else in the house. That is not to say that they are not anywhere else.  I just do not see them anywhere else.  I throw at least two out the window each evening.  In the morning, I try to remember to pick up the pieces of tissue off the ground outside.  Maybe the same two or three slugs just creep back up the wall and into the window every day.  Even on the nights when I do not see any slugs, I know they have been there.  I see their wiggly trails all over the steamed up mirror in the morning.

11 August Tuesday

Mary arrived this morning.  She and Simon had just started working on their separate computers.  I was half-way listening to them discussing plans for the day and halfway listening to a lot of noisy bellowing from the cows in the field.  I looked out the kitchen window and saw two cows in the yard.  I rushed out and Mary rushed out behind me.  We chased the cows down the meadow and they jumped over the banking back into the field the way they had come in.  They had broken through the last section of the fence.  Maybe they wanted to get at the apples.    Just as we were congratulating ourselves, we discovered five more cows running up towards Johnnie Mackin’s.  Or they had been running up towards Johnnie Mackin’s but now they were coming back.  They saw us and turned around again.  Simon was guarding the place where the cows were trying to come back in from the field.  Each time he turned his back a cow jumped the banking.   Mary followed the ones up the boreen and managed to drive three of them back down and over to Simon.  Joe was on holiday but I got through to his brother Michael who was just having a cup of tea.  He came rushing down with Tommie, the young man who is taking care of Joe’s herd while he is away.  It was all exciting and chaotic.  They both had short lengths of stiff black rubber hose to wave at the cows.  We had sticks.  Two of the cows who were being pursued up the mass path by Mary crashed over another banking and off into Paul’s field.  Tommie went after them and drove them across the high field toward Paul’s farm yard and eventually to the road.  Except for those two,  the rest of the cows are back on their own side of the fence.  Every single one of them is lying down and they are all silent.  The broken fence is  blocked off with one of Simon’s old wooden gutters.  He has been wanting to find a use for those gutters.

10 August Monday

John the Post is not well.  He had surgery last year.  I thought he was getting stronger but he is now off work again.  When I last saw him a few weeks ago, he did not look good.  He was in a lot of pain.  For now we get our post delivered by Mick or Tom or Lee.  If Lee is on, the delivery is very early in the morning. He arrives so early that we rarely even see him.  If Mick or Tom are on, there is a chance we will receive some news about John.

9 August Sunday

I strolled down the meadow path this evening.  Earlier in the day Simon finished making a new bench which he made with a long piece of Douglas fir.  He had been saving the wood for a long time waiting until he knew just what to do with it.   The new bench was just the right thing.  I sat on the new bench and looked at the pink clouds.  It was a beautiful evening.  I admired my new vantage point. I had never sat in just this spot.  I knew right away that I would enjoy sitting exactly here in the future.  I thought about Em and about how often I had stood down there in the dark just waiting for her to finish barking and to come back and join me. I thought about sitting on the bench in the darkness later in the year.  It might be a bit lonely to just sit there unable to see a thing if the sitting were not also waiting.  Tonight the cows were all in the adjoining field.  I could not see them through the bushes, but I could hear them pulling and tearing grass. It was a companionable kind of quiet.

7 August Friday

I spoke to a young man who regretted that he had never been inside a pub where people were smoking.  He was too young.  The smoking ban had already been in place well before he started going to any pub.  He had heard of the strong smell of old cigarette smoke mixed with the smell of fresh cigarettes and pipes and cigars.  He had heard stories about yellowed paintwork and nearly brown ceilings after years of smoke held inside in bars with closed doors and closed windows.   He was proud that the ban on cigarette smoking in public places was one of the first such national bans. But he sort of felt like he had missed something.

Shredded wood

6 August Thursday

Joe has an open platform system for wintering his cows.  The cows stand on this big concrete platform which has  lots of drainage.  There is no roof over the cows all winter.  This worries me.  Joe assures me that the cows do not mind.  They are most concerned that their feet are not wet. It is bad for cows to have ice forming in their hooves.  It is bad for cows to have wet feet all day and all night.  The drainage in the platform keeps their feet dry.  Once, or maybe twice a year, an enormous load of wood shavings gets delivered.  It is dumped in the yard.  The pile is bigger than a large lorry.  It is not really shavings, it is more like long thin shredded pieces of wood.  Joe cleans all of the old wood stuff off the platform and then spreads the new shredded wood so that the surface will be ready when the cows are no longer able to be out in the fields all day. He has been doing this work over the last few days.  I love it when the pile of shredded wood arrives.  It smells good.  Then I enjoy seeing it disappearing one load at a time.  Winter seems a long time away but I guess it is wise to be ready.

5 August Wednesday

The raspberries are coming ripe.  They seem a bit early but I am not complaining.  They are delicious.  The black currants need picking.  Mostly we have very little growing this year.  A lot of apples are ripening on all but one of the trees but plums are not doing well. Maybe the plums will come later.  Even the sweet peas are fewer than normal. The figs are plentiful on the tree, but I wonder if there will be enough heat for them to ripen. The weather is so un-summery and grey and cool it is hard to know if the plants know to continue or if they are just skipping the season.

4 August Tuesday

Everything is closed.  Well, not everything, but a lot of things.  The framer is gone for his two week holiday.  The tool hire place and the lawn-mower repair place are both closed.  The wood yard is closed.  The electrical supply place is closed.  Most workmen take this time off as even if they were trying to do a job no one else would be open for them to purchase materials.  It is the same two weeks each summer and every year it takes us by surprise.

3 August Monday Bank Holiday

There was torrential rain last night.  It started at about five o’clock and continued all night long.  I woke up several times and heard it coming down hard.  By morning it had stopped and the sky was not clear but there was a bit of brightness in it.  We took a walk over Joe’s fields.  The long grass was wet and the grass which had been eaten down short by the cows was wet.  When we got to the dirt track the mud was deep.  The mud sucked at our boots as we walked up the hill.  There was the regular after rain mud and then there was mud which had been churned up by the cows walking through it. There was mud which was a slippery mix of fresh manure and rain and mud.  Then there were puddles which were full of muddy water and other puddles which were full of a mixture of rain water and cow pee. The different kinds of puddles were distinctive by the type of liquid in them.  The track is long so there was plenty of time to consider all of this mud.  When we reached the farmyard and went out of the gate and onto the road, we scuffed along in the grass to clean our boots.  We always walk in this same stretch of grass to clean our boots after a particularly mucky walk up the track.  Walking backwards, then forwards and a bit sideways through the long grass is the method for cleaning up.

1 August Saturday

A coach load of tourists from Israel arrived at the market.  They were there to see the castle and the cottage and since the farmer’s market was on they looked around. Many of them took photographs.  It is not easy for tourists on buses to buy things at the market as they are usually eating in restaurants and hotels and many of the market goods are in need cooking or preparation.  Things like eggs and fish and broccoli are not going to be very interesting for them.  They can buy apples or berries and maybe individual cookies or cakes.  Wooden egg cups tend to be popular as they are small and not perishable. Today one Israeli tourist bought fresh garlic from Jim and Keith.  Pretty soon another one came and bought some garlic.  Then another.  At least half of the busload of tourists bought Jim’s garlic.  More people might have bought the garlic but he ran out before they could do so.  It seemed an odd souvenir.

31 July Friday

A Fun Dog Show is schedualed for August.  There are five classes listed for Pure Bred Dogs and nine classes for Fun. One of the Fun classes is for Rescue Dogs in Best Condition.  I have been wondering about this.  Are these dogs who were rescued and are now in good shape, or are these dogs who have led a life of rescuing others and who are still in good condition despite all of their work?

30 July Thursday

There is a stack of plastic wrapped bales of silage in the field. It is not unusual to see plastic wrapped bales piled up, especially not at this time of year when everyone is rushing to cut and prepare their silage for winter. What is unusual is that these bales are not wrapped in the normal black plastic.  These bales are wrapped in bright pink plastic.  Bright pink is not a colour that we come across very often in our landscape.  I did a double-take when I saw these.  I nearly drove off the road.  Later I was told that the Co-op is selling this pink plastic and each time it is purchased by a farmer a percentage of the cost goes toward supporting research and treatment for breast cancer.