Tag Archives: The Aran Islands

The Sweetness of Unexpected Pleasures

Photo lens filters, packages in the post, fortuitous flowers, spectacular sunsets and helping hands all have in common that they’ve recently come to bring me unexpected joy.

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First, a recent photo of our smallholding. I took the photo standing upon the wall at the top of the road using my Samsung phone and a €1.50 fisheye lens. I never dreamt the filter would work so great. It came in a €3 package, marked down from €8, along with a macro lens.

Here are a few photos of elderflowers, soon to be elderflower cordial, that I gathered and photographed with and without the macro lens attached. I have to play around with this lens to figure out how to use it better but it definitely has potential.

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The next unexpected pleasure arrived at my doorstep as a result of Nuala landing herself in a lower leg and ankle cast for three weeks. It wasn’t broken thankfully and the cast was just removed. When Sandra heard of her accident she said she was going to mail Nuala a card. Super surprise and big excitement when the postman dropped off a package of homemade goodies and fun and love addressed to Nuala and the entire family! I was surprised by how great it felt seeing her handwriting on a card as all our correspondences have been over the computer. A million thanks to her for such thoughtfulness.

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Three flowers have grown in our garden this summer that we didn’t plant. The orange and pink poppies I’m certain of, but the purple one I can’t identify. My guess is that they’re all gifts left behind by birds. No matter how they arrived, these fantastic florae are welcome to stay and put down forever roots on our smallholding. Their blooms are lovely and I admire their independence and determination.

A generous and loving family who are holidaying on Aran for the week stopped by to buy fresh vegetables. After talking a bit about the this and that of our garden, they agreed to a barter of time for food and returned the next day to help lighten our load. 245 garlic bulbs were dug up then laid to dry and a bed of rocket was cut down in order to regrow a second time. These overdue garden jobs were completed in not much more than an hour– so quickly that there was time to spare for playing, relaxing and sharing a meal together. It’s a day we won’t soon forget.

Whether intended or unintended, I’ve no doubt that the surprise element of these lovely gifts- quality, friendship, generosity, beauty, selflessness and time- made receiving them even nicer. It’s said that little things mean a lot. I think they mean even more and are even sweeter when they’re unexpected.

p.s. The (unfiltered) sunset photos are from 4th of July. Turning around and seeing our blue shadows cast on the side of the house was another beautiful moment of surprise which I was fortunate enough to share with a good friend.

Music To Our Ears

For the first time in months, there’s finally been enough rainfall to generate more than a wee trickle from the natural well that feeds our duck pond. Now that there’s a bit of water to spare, we can refill bins for watering the rest of the garden also. Yesterday’s rain was perfect. It started out light enough that the crumbly topsoil could well absorb it. This allowed the following hours of downpouring rain to infiltrate the soil deeply rather than just running off the earth’s surface, down to the sea.

Parts of Ireland have been experiencing a drought for the past few months. Here on the Aran Islands, we rely on rainfall to fill the tanks which provide household water. Since it hasn’t been raining and the supplies are so low, the water has been shut off in the evenings for a few weeks now. The thinking behind this decision is to ration water and also to stop any water waste that may be occurring from possible leaks in the lines.

When I walked out my front door last evening, it was both gratifying and magical to hear the rushing water added to the symphony of birdsong and rustling leaves played by nature.

Cheers, Melissa Xx

 

 “Nature’s music is never over; her silences are pauses, not conclusions.”     Mary Webb

Hello, Monday Morning

 

We kicked off spring with a marathon weekend in the garden. Weeded, tidied, ground cover on, stones moved, some seeds planted.

Johnny and the boys finished removing the creig from one of the new tunnel beds; loads of work but we get needed depth and stones to use elsewhere in the garden.

My hands are sore from wild blackberry thorns, fingernails look unrecognizable, whole body is aching, and pulled a muscle in my bum from a running slip while racing the rain to get laundry off the line, but feeling accomplished and happy, happy! 

Have a wonderful Monday everyone, Melissa Xx

p.s. Daisy duck was no help at all, only poking her head up to see was I bringing her food or something like that, but we love her no matter.

 

What Winter?

Instead of the cold blustery gales of wind and rain that makes one not want to get out of pyjamas all day, it’s been more like spring than winter and we’ve been both working and growing in the garden the entire season.

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Garden photographs are quickly outdated by growing plants and newly built beds.

There’s a lot going on in the picture above: raised beds have been added in between the corn and pumpkin plots–rocket, beetroot, lettuce and winter garlic are growing in four of the beds. Stone paths are made after all soil is removed and sifted; soil in beds, stones back into the path. Long, narrow grow boxes are being placed along both sides of the pallet fences to help stabilize them and add grow space. A half pallet retaining wall is being fitted against the corn field. A lot of labour and nearly all Johnny’s doing. Continue reading

An Awkward Rescue

When asked what type of goats we keep we answer as best we know by saying ‘island goats’. They’re wild and hardy and prefer to roam the day in whichever large field they’re currently stone wall fenced into. Whatever the weather, they sleep outside under the evening sky with their herd of a half dozen or so. While they’re far from constrained, there’s a tendency for them to go through periods of rebellion where day after day for a week or so Johnny spends hours searching for which direction they’ve headed off to explore. It’s often not as easy to find them as one might think, especially if they decide to lie down and take a nap under a high wall. The children and I have helped their dad look plenty of times and there’s no doubt we’ve walked right past them on more than one occasion.

On this day, a month old kid had gone missing. After a second search within the same day, Johnny found him at last. Having fallen four feet down between a narrow crack in the stones, the goat was a huge challenge to rescue. What else would Johnny do but try and try again until at last successfully looping a noose around his neck and lifting him to safety? As if he would have been able to focus on anything other than helping save Hop’s life. Wild they may be, but they’re each named and cared for as best as possible.

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A very scared baby Hop and an awkward rescue for Johnny.

No doubt, Hop learned a valuable lesson about keeping an eye on where he’s bouncing about in his playfulness. Considering that these cracks are a common part of their terrain, it’s a wonder that this doesn’t happen more often. Gratefully, it’s a rare occurrence though.

Taking part in in the One A Week Photo Challenge with my ‘awkward’photograph. Next week’s word is ‘gate’. Have an idea? Join in!

Cheers, Melissa Xx

An Island Anecdote & Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe

I couldn’t believe my good fortune one day many years ago when a born and raised islander came up to me in the Spar parking lot offering me milk kefir grains. I had been wanting them but didn’t want to buy them. Just like plants for the garden, they’re much more special when received from a loving space which they’ve outgrown rather than purchased from a shop.

Because fermenting cultures reproduce and eventually one has to either give them away, throw them out, compost, or feed to one pet or the other, I believed they’d eventually come to me fortuitously. So, this was my day and when she said ‘Someone told me you might like these’ (I had told no one I was seeking them), I squealed with delight and gratefully accepted. Never did I dream someone on the island had any or I certainly would have made my desire known. Anyhoo, my hobby of fermenting was no secret and now I had kefir grains so I immediately put them to use. Continue reading

Expressly Ourselves From Creation to Donation

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I could count on one hand all the things I’ve ever created that have no purpose other than to just be. Because of this, I’ve felt less like an artist and more like a crafter, my thinking being that functional things were mostly created by crafters, and ‘things of beauty’ by artists. That thought probably says more about my urbanity than my ability as a maker, a direct reflection of my rural roots.

While admiring my star wreath and thinking how it was one of the few things I’ve made that has no practical function, the thought occurred to me that maybe functional objects that also communicate individual ideas are the very definition of arts & crafts/artist & crafter. As a well-paired couple, maybe it’s a case of them working hand in hand, not one or the other.

It’s not called ‘arts or crafts.’ Continue reading

The Wonderful Warmth of Winter

No more children sitting on their feet and no more cold bottoms because I finally made padded covers for the metal stools that surround the island in our kitchen. It seems noteworthy to tell you that we’ve nicknamed this seating area Inis Meáin, which translates tothe middle island’, and is the same name as our island neighbor here in the Aran Islands.

Most meals are eaten here in the kitchen. The dining room table is a hub for crafting, game playing, Lego and sorting clean laundry. As the chalkboard sign in the upper left corner so well documents, it was our 163rd monthiversary, ♥ 163 months married ♥, it was the 24th of November. Continue reading

I’m responsible for what I say. I’m not responsible for what you hear.

If you haven’t heard yet, the ferry service to the island I live on, Inis Mor, ended yesterday. I was on the final voyage home after having ventured to the mainland that morning.

Just before boarding the ferry, I was approached by a newspaper photographer asking was I living on the island and, if so, could he take my photo. I said yes and he requested that I “look sad”. Huh, really? ‘Click’ went his camera. But I wasn’t exactly feeling sad. Continue reading

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