The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: September, 2019

Hard to Put Down The Time

22 September Sunday

I walked into St. John’s, the Protestant Cathedral in Cashel, because the door was open. I had never been inside before. The door is usually locked when I am in the area. They were about to begin a special Harvest service. I did not stay for the service but I admired the apples and vegetables placed here and there as decoration.

21 September Saturday

Everyone sits together in a very small waiting room as their cars are tested.  Everyone listens when one of the inspectors come out with the result of each car.  It is impossible not to listen, or at least to overhear.  An inspector calls out a name.  He shouts out the name of the car owner on the certificate even though that might not be the name of the person who has brought the car in for the test.  “Now—Kitty O’Gorman’s car!” I was already nervous because our car is 22 years old. When the inspector called for me, he jumped right in on the attack. The NCT are eager to get old cars off the road. This man was especially harsh about the small bit of paint that Mike sprayed up along a brake pipe to cover what he said was a tiny area of rust. The man pronounced, “You cannot just cover over something like that!” He said it three times. His voice got louder each time. He was angry to think I was trying to trick him. The car failed the test. Usually with A Fail, everyone in the room looks on with commiseration and a slight feeling of fear that the same thing might happen to them. In this case, since the inspector was shouting at me, everyone in the chairs in the small waiting room kept their heads down. No one looked at me as I left.

20 September Friday

I sat on a cement wall in the hot sun at the petrol station while a young boy power-sprayed manure and mud from the tyre wells and the bottom of the car. The car is scheduled for the NCT vehicle inspection test on Saturday. If manure falls on the heads of the inspection men they will not be happy. They might well fail the car for that. We are living below the farm line. We cannot drive in or out the boreen without going through the yard. The cows cross that way often so there is always a build-up of muck. It is much worse in wet weather than in dry weather. Lucky for me it has been a dry week. When the boy finished spraying there were huge clumps of mud and manure all over the ground underneath the car. He assumed I must be a farmer myself. He said, “With that much muck, I would have thought you would be off up The Ploughing with all the others.”

19 September Thursday

Willie has an answer for everything. Today he said, “Sure, why say it is Bad when you can say it is Not Good.”

18 September Wednesday

The National Ploughing Championships are being held up in County Carlow. The yearly three day event moves around the country. It is always held in a location where there is plenty of land for the various ploughing competitions and farm equipment demonstrations plus all of the other activities around the business of farming. It is unusually good weather for it this year. No rain and no cold, just day after day of glorious sunshine. People are flocking to attend. I know a lot about The Ploughing without ever attending. In that way, it is much like the All-Ireland Match. I find out more than I ever want to know without trying. It does not matter if I am interested because it is part of the background. Everyone discusses who is going to The Ploughing and who has gone to The Ploughing. The radio is full of interviews and songs and various special interest items all being broadcast Direct from the Ploughing. This morning I heard about two brothers just back from Minnesota where they won silver medals for some particular form of ploughing. They were looking forward to competing back here at home. It is important for politicians to attend The Ploughing and to be seen among their constituents. The build-up in the weeks before The Ploughing are always full of radio excitement and there was much advice about preparation. I heard a lot about Hoof Polishing. I am not sure why the hooves of a cow need to be polished, but it is subject about which there are strong opinions.

17 September Tuesday

The man was waiting his turn. When he got to the desk he told the librarian he wanted to get a library card. She asked if he had ever had one in this library before. He said No. She asked if he had ever held a library card at another library anywhere in the country and he said No. She raised her voice and demanded, “Well, and why not?”

 

16 September Monday

An Post has new vans. A few years ago they changed all the delivery vans from green to white with a flying postman stretched diagonally across the side of each van. No one liked the white vans.  We all liked the green vans. Now they have changed them again – this time to a terrible plasticky kind of green. They are ugly.  The new vans are a bit longer and they are a hybrid vehicle which is a good thing.  Derek told us that there is a new man in charge at An Post. He said that the man used to work in television so he knows a lot about telling people what they should like. None of the postmen are happy with the new vans. The new boss is phasing out all deliveries by bicycle too. This is causing a quiet uproar.

15 September Sunday

A dog appeared in the yard. It was old and yellow. I think it was some kind of a Lab but I did not recognize it. It is always a surprise when I do not recognize a dog. I walked outside to greet it and then I heard voices over in Joe’s field. A young man popped his head around and asked if he could cross over the land as he could not easily get through the top gate due to the brambles and thorns. I said yes but told him to be careful of the fence as it is about to fall down and the stile looks sturdy but it is not. He hopped over the fence and four more dogs came rushing through as did a young blonde girl. Maybe she was his sister. None of the dogs were hunting dogs. They were just mixed breeds out for a chaotic walk. I commented on the number of dogs and he said he usually has more with him than the five but today he was traveling light just out on the hunt for some deer. He had a shot gun which startled me. I forgot that it was the beginning of the hunting season. For the next few hours I heard him up on Keating’s hill with a loud horn. It was the kind of horn they use for fox-hunting. He and his dogs and his sister, if it was his sister, criss-crossed back and forth through the woods and the bushes for a long time. I never heard a gun shot but he blew the hunting horn again and again.

14 September Saturday

We produced a shopping bag to commemorate our dear friend Joan who died this summer. She loved the Farmer’s Market and she loved this poem by William Carlos Williams, so we thought this a fine way to remember her.

 

13 September Friday

There are long tendrils with thorns dangling down from branches in the path. They grab at clothing and hair and skin. Walking up there is a bit tricky especially when I reach the place where the crab apples are all over the path. They make the walking deadly. It is like walking uphill over ball-bearings, but if I try to duck out of the way of the clingy tendrils I am certain to spin out of control on the apples. All it takes is a branch to fall and the entire architecture of the path is changed again.

12 September Thursday

Sharon’s dog was run over and killed. She used to have four dogs and this was the last of the family group. She is heartbroken. She explained her sense of loss by saying, “I am finding it very hard to put down the time.” I was not sure what she meant by that but now I know that she simply does not know what to do with herself.

Destroyer Foam

10 September Tuesday

We are winning the Wasp Wars. There seem to be fewer insects going in and out of the slate opening in the roof. We will continue  the attack until they are gone.

8 September Sunday

The guitar group from the Men’s Shed was playing at the market yesterday. 6 or 8 older men with guitars, and one man in a chair with a tambourine and a saxophone which he did not attempt to play at the same time. The men at the Men’s Shed were given guitar lessons a few years ago. Since then they have formed a band. They arrive and perform at the Saturday market a few times a year. Mostly they all sing together as they strum but at one moment a man named Bobby was introduced and he stood his guitar on its stand and sang out: Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue? The whole band crooned along as background.  Within minutes everyone in the market was singing along as they did their shopping. The stallholders and the customers were all singing with Bobby. He had that kind of voice.  It was difficult to keep our attention on the problem of solving our wasp problem because the singing was louder than any advice we were being given.

7 September Saturday

It was not a good way to wake up. We thought that there were wasps on the outside of the window. Then we realized that they were on the inside of the glass. And we realized that there were a lot of them. We quickly closed the window to stop more from flying into the bedroom. That was a mistake. The wasps were not coming in from outside, they were dropping down one at a time from a tiny hole up in the ceiling light fixture. At short intervals, each wasp squeezed itself out and then hesitated before flying toward the window and the light. The room was full of confused wasps trying to get from where they had been to somewhere else. The noise was loud. Simon began by gently pushing them out the window with a section of newspaper. Then we began to swat at them. Then we got a fly swatter and started to kill aggressively. The vacuum cleaner was next. Alive or dead they got sucked in. We could not keep up with the number dropping down from the ceiling.

The morning was spent getting advice. Everyone has a wasp story. Apparently this year has been a terrible year for wasps. We have had one nest in the roof of the book barn but we have just learned to live with that crowd. We learned that the wasps are all hungry and they are angry and this is the end of their season so they have an air of desperation. I am not sure exactly why they are angry. Kieren told me about a destroyer foam which he says works the best of anything he has ever known and anything he has ever had to sell but he cannot keep it in stock. He sells out of it as soon as he gets it. It is not just the wasps who are desperate. People are desperate too. Wasps are making life hell for everyone. Jim at the market told us that Pat came to his house and rid him of the wasp nest that was in his shed. He did it with a tin of petrol placed in with the nest. We went over to discuss this method with Pat at his vegetable stand. He said he used a long pole to put an open tin into position and by the time the petrol had evaporated the wasps were dead from the fumes. The Co-op had a stock of Destroyer Foam and the woman there was eager to tell us how well it worked.

Back at home we had plenty of wasps still alive inside the vacuum cleaner. We also had them all over the duvet and in drawers and on pieces of clothing and in shoes. Some were dead and some were alive. We also had a few more stragglers coming down through the ceiling light. Simon filled the little holes and then he glued the light onto the ceiling with a long length of timber pressing it up and tight for a few hours so that no more wasps would be able to squeeze through. It took us a while to locate the place outside between the slates where the wasps were going in and out. It was on the opposite side of the house.

We had been instructed to use the destroying foam just before darkness or at dawn, while the wasps were inside and sleeping. There was a sudden moment when the night went from dusk to very dark. We were not paying attention so we kind of missed our slot. We decided that it was too dark to go up a ladder especially not knowing if a swarm of wasps might come rushing out at the person with the can of spray. The first raid was planned for early morning.

6 September Friday

The big black bull has returned.  He is back in Joe’s front field. He was here for a few weeks and then he was gone and now he is back again. He is curious about me whenever I walk by.  He comes over the the fence and watches as I pass. I like to think that he recognizes me, but I think he is not really interested in me.  He is just bored being in that big field all alone all day long.

5 September Thursday

Gavin is back after three months in Boston. Many Irish college students do this. It is a part of a system called a J2 Visa. The students have permission to work for three months in the USA. They need to get the job beforehand, from a list which the J2 organization has ready. They live crammed into apartments that are too small for the many occupants. They have a wonderful time. Some of the students come home with the money they have earned. Some of them spend everything they earn and return for their last year of university completely broke. Gavin worked for a moving company all summer and he traveled all around both with the job and with his friends. He went out of the city into Massachusetts and to New Hampshire, Cape Cod, Maine and all the way to Washington DC. When I asked how he liked it, he was full of the excitement and the heat and the many differences. He commented that he was surprised that he never saw a single cow for the entire time he was in America. I was surprised that he found this notable enough to mention.

4 September Wednesday

The raspberries continue to ripen rapidly. I pick them twice a day. I am happy to share them. I am frequently told that I should be making jam. I do not want to make jam. I do not want to do anything with the raspberries. I just want to eat them. I freeze some to eat later. I usually keep one bowlful for us and take another bowlful to someone else. Each time I give the raspberries to anyone they comment that it is late in the year for raspberries. I explain that it is my Autumn Bliss breed but still they behave as though it is not right to be having raspberries at this time of the year. I offered some to Shirley when she was here re-painting a text on the gable end for Simon. She was thrilled. She said she loves raspberries. She announced, “Call me a pleb if you like but I just hate strawberries. I cannot be bothered with them. Of course I eat them out of a tin like everyone else but I would never touch a fresh one.”

3 September Tuesday

I am sitting up in my room. The stench of slurry spread across Joe’s fields is making my eyes water. I hate to close the door on a sunny day but this morning I have no choice.

2 September Monday

Paddy is a farmer. He has been farming all his life. He is 80. He is a big advocate for taking exercise. Two years ago he could not bend down to tie his shoes because he was so stiff. His daughter signed him up for a class in water aerobics. He likes the class and has been attending weekly ever since. He is proud that he is now both fit and flexible. He is proud of his body. Thursday last he was trapped in his tractor. He could not open either door to get out. He was trapped and locked in. He had no reception on his phone. He swung the back window open and crawled up and out over the seat. He is quick to tell everyone he meets that he could not have done that two years ago. Back then he would have had to wait the day out until someone came to find him and rescue him and that would have been if he was lucky. He might have had to wait two days for anyone to notice that he was missing.

1 September Sunday

The Lumpy Fields are special. The land is fertile land but it is rough. Disheveled is the way to describe it. It has been a while since I have walked there because the cows use the fields a lot in the summer months. Now I have Jessie and Molly to walk every day and that is where we go. There are many rabbits. Every field is bordered by hundreds of holes. The dogs go mad and run fast to smell everything and to investigate. They are finding their news in the fields.