Sunday, June 23, 2019

Outdoor Laundry Facilities

Over the past few years, these have been popping up outside of petrol stations.

They may have laundromats in some parts of the country, but we haven't seen any in the places we've lived. They have launderettes, which seem to be places where people drop off laundry to have someone else take care of it, but I've not been inside one, so I'm not sure exactly how they work.

We've spent a lot of time over the years looking at rental properties on various websites and one thing we noticed pretty quickly was that they (almost) all have washing machines in them. These are small, under-counter machines, usually in the kitchen, but sometimes tucked away in a bathroom or other spot. There may or may not be a dryer. Again, this may be different in more densely populated areas, but I only have experience with small rural towns, both in terms of where we've lived and where we've looked.

We've lived in four different dwellings here. All have had washing machines and two have had dryers. We never used the dryers. All have had laundry racks--sometimes called a clothes horse or air dryer here. We were happy to discover that these air dryers were part of the furniture, small appliances, kitchenware, etc that comes with rental properties. We'd planned to buy one, so were glad when we didn't have to. We stopped using a dryer over 35 years ago, except for the times we were camping across the US and didn't have a place to hang clothes to dry. From looking at the suggested drying times on the front of these dryers, I'm glad I never felt the need to use them--they both suggested 3 hours of drying time for a load of cottons! This may be one reason why clotheslines are so popular here. Only one of the places we've lived has had no clothesline available, and I could have rigged one up if I'd wanted one. I didn't, because the rack was easier, especially when I consider the fact that me hanging out laundry seems to be a signal that it should rain. I love rain, but not on my drying laundry. As soon as I dash out to bring it in, the sun comes back out. I hang the stuff on the rack and walk away.

As we've ridden around on buses, I've seen a lot of clotheslines with metal roofs over them. Electricity is expensive here, so that may be one reason why clotheslines are so popular. And really, three hours of drying time for one small load would be another incentive to hang the clothes and leave them.

So people have washing machines in their homes, but they're small, so big bulky items won't fit. I guess that's where these machines come in handy. They may also be useful for tourists. They seemed to start popping up a couple of years ago. This one is in Ballyshannon and someone was using it when we were there. There's one at the petrol station on the outskirts of town here and also at a station on the edge of Donegal Town--the latter has two such set-ups. I don't recall ever seeing those in use, but maybe I've simply not been going by at the right time. It seems like a good thing to have available in the event that a large item needs to be laundered.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Beautifully Blue in Ballyshannon

Yesterday we went to Ballyshannon to do an errand. This was completed quickly, so we had time to walk around a little bit and to eat the picnic lunch we'd brought. We'd been to Ballyshannon before, but only for a short time and in a limited area, and we've ridden through it on the bus many times, so it was nice to finally be able to wander around a little bit instead of just moving through.

River Erne, as seen from the pedestrian bridge
marker alongside the road to Bundoran

the view from beside the roadside marker

i took this as we sat at the picnic table where we had our lunch--it was quite windy and cool
The area where we had lunch is called Mall Quay. There's a grassy area with one picnic table and several benches scattered around. On one side is the River Erne and the photo above shows the estuary. Some people came and sat in their car nearby for part of the time we were there, but otherwise, we had the place to ourselves, at least until a swan arrived to have his/her lunch.
There is a slipway here, built in 1775. During the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, Ballyshannon was an important port, in spite of a dangerous sandbar in the estuary. Killybegs was, at that time, a minor port, but it was able to handle large ships, so goods were often offloaded there and brought to Ballyshannon on smaller boats.

There are a few memorials here.

This bench is tucked away around the side and not visible from the main part of the quay. There's a narrow 'path' consisting of some flattened grass, which allows one to access it and the one that's tucked away out of sight.
We had a nice day. The breeze/wind was very welcome and kept things comfortable in spite of the abundant sunshine, so I could enjoy the many shades of blue offered up by the sky and the water without feeling yucky.
Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


I've been eating salads from our container garden for 5 or 6 weeks now, I suppose. One of the things I used to love about being a part of a CSA in Maine was the salad I used to make throughout the season. These salads were nothing fancy and mostly consisted of many different kinds of leaves and herbs with a simple, freshly made balsamic vinaigrette. I added other veggies, too, but I do love a bowl of freshly picked leafy things. We have different lettuces, mixed mustards, herbs, scallions, spinach, baby beet greens, radish microgreens (and radishes), and chard.

The spinach is perpetual spinach and the more I picked, the more it would grow. I couldn't keep up with it for salads alone so today, I picked most of it, blanched it, and stuck it in the freezer. Now it has plenty of room to grow.

In the garden we had a couple years ago, the spinach did not do well at all--it bolted really quickly. We didn't mind, because the chard was abundant. This year, they're both doing well so far and I expect I will eventually have some of both for the freezer. Incidentally, the small containers are perfect for freezing and refrigerating leftovers or other small bits--they stack well and I can see through them. They originally held hummus. I often make hummus, but when we're out and about for a day or a few days, hummus is a good lunch/supper food to pick up in the grocery store. I save the containers and reuse them for this purpose.

Hopefully, we'll have some beans for the freezer eventually, too, but I'll have to freeze them in something else.
one of two bean boxes
In addition to being delicious, some of the veggies are pretty, too.
a few small courgettes in there

colourful lettuces--we have another box of a different kind of lettuce further down the wall

assorted mustard greens--I have some of these inside, too
The chards and the beetroot are also lovely, with the red, yellow, and white stems and the dark green leaves.

I thought maybe the abundant rain would sog everything out, but everything seems to be pretty happy and that makes me pretty happy, too!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Gorgeous Button: A Small Piece of Art All By Itself

My friend sent me this gorgeous glass button.
I love it--it takes my breath away! I considered putting it on a garment, but if I did that, it would live in the wardrobe most of the time and I wouldn't be able to see it. I decided to make something that I could wear when I wanted to and hang on the wall to enjoy the rest of the time. It took a while, mainly because of the thread. I wasn't finding the right colours of crochet thread and perle cotton isn't much of a thing here. I decided on embroidery floss, but that is also not found in abundance here and there is not the wide array of colours and shades that I used to see in craft shops in the US. The only craft shop near here is in Donegal Town and while it's a great wee shop which has a little bit of everything, it's just that--a small selection. But I found some floss at an Irish yarn shop online that matched two of the colours in the button and made a simple kongo gumi braid with that, using my kumihimo disk. I needle-felted an oval shape, quilted the felt with the same floss, snipped a hole in the centre and stuck the shank of the button through, sewing it on securely. Then I finished off by sewing the braid to the felt and button.
 I've been wearing it today and I have to say, it makes me very happy just to look at it. I hope there is something making you happy today, too. 😀

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Random Stuff in Letterkenny

After we went to the museum yesterday, we walked around for a while, before going back to the bus station and getting the bus back home. It was a nice day for walking--cool, breezy, and no sun. Letterkenny is very hilly, so we were up one hill and down another. We called in at the library, where there was a cart of books for sale. Like at the library in Donegal Town, these had been pulled from the library system. I found an older book about women and politics, which seemed appropriate, given that we'd just been to the museum exhibit on that very topic, and a couple of books about art and artists in Ireland. The bus rides are pleasant as we ride through some beautiful scenery. I particularly love the Barnesmore Gap. Here are a few random things that caught my eye as we walked along.
the toucan says...

the fake scenes in the ground floor windows made me chuckle


manhole cover

sculpture in front of courthouse
The above sculpture was created during a 'forge-in.' You can read about this and see some detail here.

I took the last three pictures through the bus window on the way home. So much green!

It was a pleasant day all around. When we got home it was suppertime, so I went outside and picked some veggies for salad, heated up some leftover potato-parsnip mash, made some grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and onion, and made some balsamic vinaigrette. Yum! 

I hope your day is pleasant, too!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Donegal County Museum Exhibit: Women and Politics in Ireland

We spent today in Letterkenny. We went there to look at the exhibit at the Donegal County Museum about women and politics. It was very informative, with information available in text, audio, and video. There were photos and artefacts on display as well. The one drawback was that it was quite warm inside and we were soon roasting. Still, I'm glad we went.

I took some pictures, but there was glare from the lighting and some didn't come out.  Here are the ones that did.
freedom fighters

finally, success--this is a very young country
1946--Ireland was neutral during what was called The Emergency here, but there was still rationing afterwards
In 1990, Mary Robinson was the first woman elected to the office of President of Ireland. She served for almost 8 years and was succeeded by Mary McAleese. After leaving office, Ms Robinson became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position she held for 5 years. She continues to work on various human rights issues and last year, published a book called Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, which I highly recommend. I wrote about the book here.

There are still not enough women in politics here, but more are starting to get involved and one of the major parties here, Sinn Fein, has a woman for leader and as the deputy, who is the head of the party in Northern Ireland.

After we left the museum, we went to grab some lunch. The little hole-in-the-wall burrito place we tried last time we were in Letterkenny has moved to a much larger space. The food is just as good. The poor young man who finished off our burritos was having a hard time wrapping them, so we knew we'd need forks. We come prepared, keeping a fork and spoon in each of our backpacks--comes in handy when we're out and about and lets us avoid the plastic ones. Single use plastic is on its way out here, and I know there are some disposable items that say they're compostable, but I am skeptical. I worked for a time in a so-called sustainable goods store and the owner sold what was marketed as compostable plastic silverware. One day he admitted to me that when the manufacturers tested this, they first used an industrial grinder to break these things down into tiny bits. Anyone who doesn't have an industrial grinder and just buries the stuff in the back yard was in for disappointment. So I'd rather bring my own regular utensils, purchased at a charity shop for the purpose, than use the plastic, even if it says it can go in the compost. My fork is washed and ready to go back into the pack for the next jaunt.

And now, I'm off to make a cup of tea! It is chilly for June and I LOVE that!

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Weekend in Doggerland: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Beautiful Writing

A few weeks ago, I was listening to an episode of the Open Book Podcast from BBC Radio 4. The show opened with two authors who had written books about Doggerland, a now submerged area of land that connects England to mainland Europe. One book is a work of speculative fiction and one is non-fiction; both have things to say about climate change, as you'd expect. Before the segment had ended, I had looked them both up and requested them from the library. I picked them up last week and happily spent the weekend with them, finishing the non-fiction book this afternoon.

Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn
 This book is an interesting journey with the author as she goes in search of information about Doggerland. The journey has added poignancy because her husband had recently died. Since not much is known about Doggerland, her scope is wider than that alone and encompasses ideas about how people might have lived there before it was submerged. She speaks to experts about the area, archaeologists, anthropologists and enthusiasts. She goes on field trips with some of these people and with friends. She observes and muses. She reads about the lives of hunter-gatherers in different parts of the world at different times, often creating poems, which she calls ‘Time Songs’ that provide a synopsis of what she has read. The book includes artwork created by a longtime friend. Rather than a linear narrative, the book is almost like a record of her process as she learns more--she tells us what she is doing, who she talked to, what she experienced, what people said to her, how they reacted to her and what thoughts she has in the process. She takes the reader along with her as she searches for Doggerland. This is a very fine book and I am so glad I read it.

The cover is a picture of the flattened bog bodies of a couple that were found in 1904 by bog cutters. The author says, ‘A policeman was summoned and he rolled them together as you might a carpet and tied them on the back of his bicycle and took them (into) the town, where they ended up in the local museum. Whenever I look at them I seem to be looking at me and my husband walking through a landscape,  lost in conversation or in silence, our walk continuing in spite of time and the fact of death.’ (p 280)

Absence plays a big role in this book, as the author's husband had died not that long before she embarked on this project. At one point, she says she remembers some of the abundant wildlife she used to see as a child and tries not to notice that the populations of these creatures is diminishing, because it makes her sad. But she recognizes that we have no choice but to accept this. In another section of the book, she is comforted by the fact that the earth will go on, with or without us. I also find comfort in this thought, when I consider my own feelings of grief and sadness about our destruction of our beautiful home.
 Before I started Time Song yesterday, I read
Doggerland by Ben Smith
I started this book one night, then picked it up again the following afternoon, thinking I’d read a bit more. I looked up two hours later as I closed the back cover. I hadn’t moved during that time, except to turn the pages. This is a wonderful book.

Boy and Old Man live on a rig in a wind farm in the North Sea. Land is only a memory. Boy is there because his father had taken a job on the rig, but had tried to escape at some point and was never heard from again. Because of the father’s contract, The Corporation, which seems to be in charge of everything, sent the boy to take his place. We never learn what life is like on whatever land remains. The book takes place completely on the sea. Old Man goes out and tries to fish up artifacts from that time. Boy wants to fix things, which is his job, but Old Man is more lackadaisical and takes parts from the turbines and saves them for when Pilot comes to bring supplies. He can trade things for stuff he wants. A comment by Pilot makes Boy determined to find out what happened to his father. Whereas before, he had asked Old Man and was frustrated by his lack of answers, Pilot’s comments spur him to action and the story unfolds.

Interspersed through the narrative are descriptions of the prehistorical land mass that is Doggerland. I read a couple of reviews that argued that these were misplaced and added nothing to the book. I could not disagree more. I loved them. The writing was gorgeous (the author is also a poet and this is his first novel) and in my opinion, these short interludes enhanced the book a great deal. For one thing, they reminded me that we have a sense of importance about our place on the planet, but we’re really a blip. Mother Earth was doing her stuff well before we evolved and will continue to do so long after we’re extinct. Also, in the story, there were times it seemed that Boy and Old Man were doing tasks that were pointless. For example, as they cannibalized parts from the turbines, the output was going down, down, down, yet no one from The Corporation seemed to notice or care. I think the sections that described Doggerland as it arose from the ice and then was submerged again thousands of years later, reinforced that, in a way. The fields (as the wind farm is called in the book) are there now, but the sea is gradually destroying them and they will not be there forever. At some point, the sea will reclaim them, too, no matter what Old Man, Boy, and anyone else does.

I'm not sure what I will choose to read next, but for now, I'll just keep my head in Doggerland and Julia Blackburn's gorgeous writing for a little while longer.