A Fine Flat Acre

by ericavanhorn

31 January Wednesday

The birds are voracious. The more frequently I fill the nut feeders the more they eat and the more quickly the feeders are emptied. I am always rushing to give them more even when it is raining and I should think they would want to be under cover.  They eat and eat and eat.

1 February Thursday-The first day of spring

I have walked greyhounds at PAWS, a local rescue facility for dogs. They sent each of us volunteers out with one dog at a time. On a normal morning, I walked four different greyhounds. There are a lot of homeless greyhounds because Coursing is a popular racing event in this country. I cannot call it a sport. After a dog passes his or her best racing days, it is retired. Cruel people cut off part of the dog’s ear where a number has been tattooed so that the dog cannot be tracked back to its owner. Many dogs get dumped on a road far from home, with or without a bleeding ear. Some of them get hit by cars.  A lot of them end up in rescue centers. The rescue places are full to overflowing with greyhounds. I have been told that some get sent abroad to live as pets. They are gentle and easy companions. The Italians love greyhounds. I love them too. I like to imagine a retired greyhound living out its life sleeping under the trees in a sunny olive grove. I miss having a dog. Each time I see the red van from the Greyhound Trust, I am tempted to give a home to an aging greyhound.

2 February Friday

Looking through the Farmers Journal is never dull. I enjoy seeing advertisements for machinery I have no use for and most of which I do not understand. I do like the idea of the Calving Cameras. It is not hard to figure out their function. A farmer can sit in the warm comfort of home while fully alert to a cow going into labour.


3 February Saturday

Simon spent the entire day at the hospital. He was there for eleven hours. It was not so much that he was poorly as that the health system is broken and there are simply not enough people to make it work efficiently. He was surprised to see a priest moving around in the Accident and Emergency ward. The priest was a middle-aged black man wearing a long grey cassock and moving from person to person asking if they would like The Blessing of the Throat. He was carrying two fat white candles which he held crossed against a person’s throat as he said the blessing. Simon refused the blessing, but he watched with interest as every other person, including the nurses and porters on duty, accepted the offer. We are always reminded that this is remains a heavily Catholic country.

4 February Sunday

Breda, Siobhan and I drove up into the mountains.  We had decided on the route just off the Mount Mellary road, at the Tipperary-Waterford border. We could have walked right and climbed straight up but we went left, through a broken gate and continued up a just visible track and then circled around the hill in a large loop that took us off a recognizable track through thick heather and lots of mud. It was difficult and slow going with a strong wind against us on the uphill part, but the day was clear and dry and beautiful.

5 February Monday St Brigid’s Day Bank Holiday

This is only the second year of the new three day weekend celebrating St. Brigid. Her official Feast Day is 1 February which is the First Day of Spring. She is regarded as the patron saint of dairy farmers, cattle, midwives, babies, computers, blacksmiths, and beer. She is one of three patron saints of Ireland and the first female saint to be celebrated with a national holiday. It seemed an auspicious day to walk up to Lady’s Abbey.

6 February Tuesday

Torrential rain all day. It is difficult to think. The rain from inside the house sounds loud. When inside an automobile, the sound is impossible. The roads are running with water and floods are promised.

7 February Wednesday

The boreen is lined with dry stone walls on both sides. There is growth both over and through the walls. The stones are barely visible. When a rock falls out and onto the track, it is not possible to drive around it. The boreen is too narrow. It is too narrow for both a stone and an automobile. The only solution is to get out of the car and to move it, if I can. If it is too heavy, I roll it along to a gap where it might rest until someone stronger comes along. Stones tumble out for any number of reasons. A lot of heavy rain can cause a section of wall to loosen. A fox, a badger or a cat using a regular path through the hedge and wall as it moves into or out of a field can cause a stone to be dislodged. Today I walked up and found that a medium sized stone had rolled down, probably because of yesterday’s all day torrential downpours. I picked it up with two hands and lifted it up over my head to heave it over the hedge. It hit the thick dense branches, bounced back and hit me hard on the shoulder. I am lucky that it did not hit me in the head. I spent the rest of my walk, with a sore shoulder and upper arm, working on a murder mystery in my head. I was trying to figure out how the victim could be hit by a stone in a similar manner and killed, and the ensuing confusion about who threw it at them.  I gave up before I got back home. I decided that such a death would be considered a suicide, or perhaps a death by misadventure, rather than a murder.

8 February Thursday

Yesterday I drove Tommie into town for a shopping trip at Dunnes’.  The day was bright and dry.  It was as unlike the day before as it could be. Tommie was happy to be traveling out in such perfect weather but he was not prepared for the outside world nor did he remember a shopping list. Walking into the store made him feel confused. He forgot what he wanted to purchase and his legs were too weak for the necessary standing and walking. I ran around and up and down the aisles fetching the things he wanted and returning them when I got it wrong. It is hard to locate the right kind of foot cream in a brown container that starts with the letter A, or the correct kind of soup when he says that he likes all soup but really that does not include tomato soup or chicken soup. It means that he only wants leek and potato soup but how could I know that if he did not say it. It was an exhausting trip for both of us. I drove him home with a different and slightly meandering route so that he could view changes in the neighborhood and ask questions about things. We pulled over and watched the work being done around the land of the cottage once lived in by Liam Boyle’s mother.  He called the land A Fine Flat Acre and informed me that Liam had a piggery a corner of the land at one time.  When I got him back into his house with his messages unloaded and spread out on the counter in his kitchen, he announced that his Bad Knee is A Friend For Life. He said that he needs to give up any possibility of it ever getting better.

9 February Friday

Taking the walk up the Mass Path after so long has been wonderful.  It was so densely overgrown in the autumn that it was impassable. Now a lot of the brambles and tangles have died back.  Some hunters have been through and they whacked their way through the vegetation. There is a lot of deep mud as well as a few fallen trees to crawl underneath, but the favorite circuit that I call Going Around is an option once more. I took one heavy fall into the mud. Next time I must take a stick to do my own whacking and to avoid landing in the mud. Again.

10 February Saturday

I miss the presence of language which people in towns and cities take for granted, or perhaps they find it annoying. There are plenty of signs in nature but there are rarely words to read as I walk the fields and lanes. There is plenty of machinery to look at. I am curious about a lot of things because I do not know what they are being used for or what a covered trailer is carrying. I am curious about these functions but not curious enough to ask questions to find out about them. I just enjoy being curious and considering my own solutions.