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Posts from the ‘Plants’ Category

Is it Alive?

river that flows from rock Boho caves

We’ve introduced Dr. Les Brown of Fermanagh to you in previous posts. Perhaps you remember him and a discussion about caves and a porcupine (among other things) here or here? Or perhaps you remember hearing his voice on one of our Radio Dreaming Episodes here. While we were revisiting our DREAMING PLACE journey recently for a new (top secret) project that is underway, we came across this again and it struck a chord. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

Les Brown: Normally the cave is sitting there and its bone dry and when you get a flood pulse coming through it, it seems like it’s alive, because it’s become part of the active dynamic river systems that dominate the part of Fermanagh.

Anna: So you sound quite sure it’s not alive. Could you envision a world where it is alive, or a situation where you’d actually feel it was alive?

Les: Well it depends on what you mean by being alive, I suppose really. The vegetation and the plants around the entrance are definitely alive. The cave system itself it’s always changing. Over time it’ll always be changing so in that sense of the word, Yes it is alive, because it is changing with the environment. But is it a living thing? No it’s not. But it is always changing.

Anna: It has a cycle, it has a birth.

Les: It has an origin.

Anna: And it has a death.

Les: It has death like the un-roofed cave we saw this afternoon. That’s a cave that’s dying. It will not be there in a few thousand years. So there is definitely a life cycle to a cave. They form from water moving through their conduits and they get large and eventually they die, yeah.

Anna: Kind of like us.

Les: Everything is linked up!

Transcription of Interview with Speleo-geologist and Adventurer Dr. Les Brown, Back bar McKenzie’s, Boho, Fermanagh, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, 2011.

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Inhabiting the dream: postcard 26

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Inhabiting the dream: postcard 17

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Inhabiting the dream: postcard 16

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“Off-Grid” Cures from the Vegetable Garden for New Mothers and Everyone *Audio*

Vegetable-Garden-CuresDuring our Place-Dreamer Pod Tour, we visited the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim. The students of the permaculture course that was taking place there at the time came out to visit the Pod during their tea break. Between drizzles, they listened to Radio Dreaming in the Pod and gathered ’round the hatch at the back to chat with us about “Off-Grid” ideas, tools and cures. (It was also during our time at the Organic Centre that we met Hans Weiland who told us about his very interesting Off-Grid entertainment/weather prediction method involving clouds. We blogged about it here, and featured him and the topic of cures in our Off-Grid Radio Dreaming Episodes Part 1 & 2. You can listen to them here.)

Conversation wandered from solar panels, to the kelly kettle, to the bramble vine we were using as a clothes line (clothes pins naturally included!) and finally landed on the topic of “cures.” We talked about traditional cures and hedgerow cures and cures that one might find in the kitchen or vegetable garden. There were a range of voices in this group, male and female, Irish as well as folks from other countries. Once the conversation got rolling, many people chimed in with a cure from their granny or something they’d learned recently.

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Inhabiting the dream: postcard 12

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Transformation of Materials: Part 2, Knowledge and Action

We gave a little background about Ignatius Maguire in our recent post, “Transformation of Materials: Part 1, It Starts with Choice”. In this post, we move into the knowledge and Action that makes our choices real.

Ignatius 2
When we visited Ignatius’ farm he took the time to describe and demonstrate to us the whole process of “bringing in the hay”, a very relevant example of transforming a renewable material into something used by farmers all over the world to feed their animals.

Ignatius makes scything look easy. When we try it, it takes us a whilte to get into the rhythm and when we do, we feel the muscles that we would need to do the job all day long.

He also shows us how he “shakes his hay” and forms it into rucks. Anna tries her hand at shaking hay:

After he forms the hay into neat rucks set to dry, Ignatius creates rope ties to hold  the hay rucks in place and prevent them from blowing away in the wind. He spins hay from the base of the pile into rope, using a special tool, sort of like a crank-spindle made from the handle of a bucket:

We try spinning as well – it’s like magic and we feel sort of like Rumplestiltskin spinning our very own gold:

Ignatius chooses to process his hay in this way and enjoys it. He holds a wealth of knowledge that he keeps alive through daily use. He is fit and healthy and has an incredibly close relationship with his family’s land because of this choice. It is no doubt a lot of hard work, but Ignatius’ relationship to his land, seems to us to be one clear example  of “Dreaming Place.”

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 12 by Claire and Anna

Mapping Dreams at Killykeagan

Mapping Dreams at Killykeagan

St. Patty’s Day Special: Wood Sorrel and the Myth of the Shamrock

On this day, enjoy a lovely description of the storied layers of the symbolic Irish Shamrock.

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 11 by Claire and Anna

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 10 by Claire and Anna

Dreaming of Ancient Ecologies

There are many ways to find out more about a place. You can read up about it, swim in it, ask locals for stories, watch birds or go on a hike.  As artists and Place Dreamers we have invented a tool for use in the field, which gives great insights. We used it a lot at MAC Geopark to help us obtain glimpses the unknown. It happens like this:-

1. We spread our our DREAMING PLACE  mat; a blue ripstop nylon groundsheet that stops ticks from crawling onto us while we dream and keeps out the wet

2. We lie down and look up at the sky

3. We cover our eyes

4. We do nothing

5.We watch as images and sometimes sounds drift into view

6. We record the content of our “dream” either by telling each other about it, writing it down or by making an audio recording

So  here we are on a millstone grit bluff on top of Cuilcagh mountain in the borderlands of Northern Ireland  and Éire. It’s a place as much “on the edge” as anywhere I know. It has magnificent views over tarns and  on the other side of the blanket bogs are incredibly green limestone hills.  I’m speaking into my audio recorder about ancient Cuilcagh ecologies.

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 9 by Claire and Anna

DREAMING PLACE technology collaborative drawing 8 by Claire and Anna

DREAMINGPLACE technology collaborative drawing 6 by Claire and Anna

DREAMINGPLACE technology collaborative drawing 5 by Claire and Anna

DREAMINGPLACE technology collaborative drawing 4 by Claire and Anna

DREAMINGPLACE technology collaborative drawing 3 by Claire and Anna

Carniverous plants alive and well in Big dog forest

At Lough Na Brickboy in the Geopark’s Big dog upland forest Geopark ranger Martina introduced us to some fine looking plants with surprising abilities. Here she is discussing them.

DREAMINGPLACE technology collaborative drawing 1 by Claire and Anna

Radio Dreaming Episode 1 is here!


We are oh-so-pleased to share Radio Dreaming Episode 1 with you all! It is called “Dreams, Food and the Edible Landscape.”

Listen to the entire radio program here.

This first episode of our Radio Dreaming series will debut on air in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark on Cavan Community Radio 97.4 fm, today, Thursday 21st of June at 2:40 pm, GMT. Other broadcasts are also scheduled for this summer. If you can’t catch the program on air, we invite you to listen to the entire radio program here at our blog.

Our evolving broadcast schedule can be viewed here and the Radio Dreaming press release can be viewed here.

Many thanks to all the people, places, creatures and things at Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark for teaching us about DREAMING PLACE. And special thanks to those that contributed to this program and helped make it possible in a myriad of ways.

Please let us know of any radio stations that might be interested in broadcasting Radio Dreaming! More Radio Dreaming episodes are in the works so stay tuned….

We hope you enjoy listening and look forward to your feedback.

Dreaming Yews

We climbed in the wide branches of two famous, ancient, entwined male and female Yew trees on the Crom estate. They are reputedly the oldest Yew trees in Ireland and possibly in all of Europe. According to the National Trust website, the trees were planted in the 17th Century, but other websites proclaim the trees to be much older – as many as 800 years.


The Yew Tree is now a rarity in Ireland, but the tree still has a mythic cultural prominence. Rich in mythology, symbolism and historic and prehistoric cultural uses, Yew trees are shrouded with mystery and power. The large, majestic trees have a commanding presence, not least because all parts of the Yew tree contain poisonous alkaloids, except for the bright red arils encasing its seeds.

As we climbed, swung and perched in the grand branches of the trees,  we mused about the dreams shared and the hundreds of years of history witnessed by the arboreal pair. What do Yew trees dream of? How many dreamers have taken refuge in the protection of these trees and which of their dreams were caught in the great web of their branches?


We are sure that dreams and yew trees are tied up together somehow and here is a bit of proof. Read about a Yew dream from the 1600’s “Somnium ex Eubernea porta” from Mrs. Cl., of S. here.

For more information about Yew trees visit the Ancient Yew Group at  www.ancient-yew.org.

No 28 Dreaming Place data sheet drawing

Truffle pig or hound?

Taciturn treat

Richmen’s turd

Upside of underground

Fortune’s fungus

Foundling fodder

Lovers’ liver

Eat in heaven

Purse fattener

Instant portion

Gourmet guest?

Old one

Root currency?

Hermetic healer

Odorous apple

Ugly potato

Not just a Nugget

Dreamers dough?

Hazel cultures

A good way to discover more about prehistoric life  in Marble Arch Caves Geopark is to focus in on the edible elements of place. You can learn a lot, from ingesting, observing and dreaming with plants and things. As a Northern European its a fair guess to say that my ancestors learnt a lot from their interactions with the land. I know it’s obvious,  but its easy to forget that plants have actually helped shaped our cultures. Claire’s family is also of European decent, but she was born in New Mexico where prehistoric peoples have also eaten acorns, piñones and hazel nuts. Claire and I look, listen, experiment and dream to find out more about our prehistoric ancestors and their worlds. We kicked off our

collaboration while studying at Dartington with a “Eating Time Taming Food”  a wide ranging adventure into prehistoric Dartmoor Food ecologies. We  gathered, prepared, cooked and shared wild foods. It was really challenging for us as we were trail blazing our a new Arts and Ecology practice… .. but what d’you know while we were out collecting acorns and worms were gathering in our leaching sacks, Ray Mears was doing the self same thing on Telly, imagine that….Out of the BLUE! processing acorns for food after hundreds of years of culinary neglect!

Neither Claire nor I had telly and we didn’t know about Ray Mears ’till friends and neighbours told us. Only difference was we were making ART and gathering audio sounds! We ended our acorn harvest with a grand tea party at The Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World in Haldon forest Park, where our guests feasted on acorn and honey cake spread with butter churned using the motion of our gait and other ancestral foods.

In DREAMING PLACE at MAC we crunched  hawthorn leaves at Shannon Pot, made  wild garlic pesto and when Hazel reached out and attracted our attention, we whittled its flexible boughs into knives. Hazel is as full to bursting with dynamic potentials which Claire and I are eager to explore. And Hazel’s story is many patterned, it helped with the invention of tents, looms and snow shoes. The first people’s living in these northern climes after the great ice melt collected its tasty fruits to store for the winter months and Hazel protected and sustained them.

What baskets were woven to carry the canny hazel nut and what futures did it predict?

Listen here to Biodiversity Officer, Rose Cremin enthuse about hazel culture

The kissing tree

Did you ever hear trees kissing?

As Claire approached an overgrown hedge in the Killykeegan Nature reserve a strange sound wrapped around her ears. She called me over and we listened as two Hawthorn branches kissed.  Listen here to the sounds we heard..

No 18. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

Tied to our prehistoric past


One of the ways we  dream ourselves into place is to make string. Yeah it works, twisting natural fibres really does deepen our relationship with our own home place or the home place of another. Here I am at Claddah Glen,  just below the show caves at Marble Arch Caves Geopark in Northern Ireland, collaborating with Iris leaves and sedges to make strong and useful string.

Twining string is truly addictive and provides Claire and I with a quite moment of focus during a busy project. But there’s more…..

We’ve noticed that long leaves seem to WANT to make string, our fingers fiddle and twist  plant fibres into cordage, dextrously, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world! To make twine is to interact with our surroundings in a vital way AND of course we are not alone, twiners come in many shapes and sizes and surprising partnerships give diverse results; wind and dry moorland grass twist together to make a fat loose rope that catches under boulders.

As a species we have grown up with plants, they have shaped our cultures and well,  they make us who we are! What´s more, string is even older than we are…. Who are the “other than human” twisters, loopers, weavers whose cultures has inspired our own?

I’ve made string from bungy old Sphagum moss, Torbay palm leaves, stinking Iris and bluebell leaves and Maram grass, but you can use any plant or other fibre.  Twine is so darn useful, something to sew cultures together.

I think THE most exciting thing we learnt on our DREAMING PLACE adventure was how to spin hay into twine to fasten down hay ‘rucks” keeping them safe from errant winds. The hands of traditional farmer Ignatius Maguire manipulate a home engineered twining crank, an innovation on the implement used by his father, a hooked branch cut from a nearby hedge.Impressed?

No. 14 DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing


No 13. DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

Dreamers toolkit

Our  evolving Dreaming Place Toolkit – a list in images….
night and day/ collaboration

potions
wild strawberries

dreaming into place

ask for water
inhabit the view
collaborative drawing

cooking
documentation



N. 8 DREAMING PLACE data sheet drawing

Multiplicity of Diversities – Rose Cremin


Visiting with Rose Cremin, Fermanagh District Biodiversity Office, we began to understand the interconnections between the biodiversity of the dream world, the idea world and the physical world. Hope you can work that one out!

Our time with her spawned many ideas – stay tuned for future outcomes!

Bees Dreaming

Bees are a kind of ancient technology, nature’s tireless messengers between worlds. They gather cultures around them and help propagate crops and ideas. Texting and twittering are the great-grandchildren of bees.

The future of our species is inextricably linked to that of bees, so if they don’t survive, even our phones will cease to buzz. (Interestingly, our “buzzing” mobile phones is stressing out hives – learn more here.)

Listen below to  bumble bees living in the doorway of Alan’s cottage:


In the Marble Arch Caves Geopark bees continue to ply defunct smugglers routes with bags of valuable honey, even now that  the borders  between “north” and “south” are open. Honey is a rich prize guarded fiercely by the bees, but even now there are people who happily risk their wrath once or twice a year to steal it from them. Farmer, Ignatius McGuire, shares his family townlands with wild bees and  in summer the temptation is sometimes just too great.

Listen to Ignatius McGuire describe the delights of honey from the field here:


Or ponder the importance of bees dreaming with Kaylynn TwoTrees in her article, “Nature’s Dreaming”………..

“Regeneration comes from dreams, where the energy from a sense of possibility is stronger than the fear of the unknown. So even today, as the bees are struggling for survival and hives are collapsing, a taste of honey or the hum of bees in my garden re-enlivens my belief that the sound of nature’s dreaming is the hum of bees and the audible activity of the hive…..”

Looking for the beesong  audio to share with you I discovered this file of Susi playing her violin while we washed up. Lucky us…. So here it is. Click here and you will understand  why it belongs to this post:

Bees are also extraordinary architects, the makers of honeycomb, which forms their hive. Honeycomb is a product of the living system of the beehive, a collection of hexagonal wax cells built collaboratively by honeybees in their nests or hives to cradle their young and store honey and pollen for winter. We are intrigued and inspired by the geometry of the bees and often spot honeycomb hexagons along our journey. This game of “Honeycomb I-Spy” actually began several years ago on another journey…..to hear and see more click here.

Let’s Dream Potions?

We know we’re not the first to invent the idea of a dreaming potion……how could we be? Well its hardly an original idea is it? People have been dreaming for donkey’s years, people have been wanting to tamper with dreams since time. There are always going to be those who want to dream differently themselves or affect the dreams of  other Humans, Animals and Things.

dreaming potion postcard

The complete requirement for DREAMING POTIONS through history and prehistory, must have been immense.  Rather than buckets full of potions it is more appropriate to talk of A SEA OF POTIONS.  There have been  just so, so many humans, pre-humans and proto-humans, dreamers all, some of whom at some point will have wanted to change the quality, quantity, content of their own dreams or dreams of others.

That’s so many dreamers wanting a potion to enhance their dreams. – A potion has been sought to DREAM MORE INTENSELY, DREAM BETTER, DREAM CHILDREN, DREAM DIFFERENTLY, DREAM FOR OTHERS, DREAM FATTER, DREAM FASTER, DREAM THE FUTURE, DREAM WILDER, DREAM IN TECHNICOLOUR, DREAM LESS. DREAM SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS, DREAM WHERE TO GO NEXT, DREAM BACKWARDS, DREAM THE ANCESTORS, DREAM PLACE, DREAM PROSPERITY, DREAM DREAMS, DREAM WHERE THEY LEFT SOMETHING, DREAM THE NEXT MEAL or maybe just DREAM MORE full stop.

Thats soooo  many off the shelf and bespoke DREAMING POTIONS  for the many varieties and classes of  DREAMERS with their many and distinct DREAM REQUIREMENTS. It seems  impossible to even begin to think about them all. But we can at least begin.

I have heard that marmite is a good dream potentiser and it has worked for me.  A bit of toast and marmite at  bed time.

potions for dreaming

To take a tiny whiff from a small selection of the probable potions is to be assaulted by the heavy stink of crushed, pounded, squeezed melted, seeds, plants juices, minerals, extracts, organisms, fermentations, secretions, oils and incantations. These potential DREAMING POTIONS are so powerful, so intoxicating, so overpowering as to render even a sturdy dreamer completely and utterly DREAMLESS.

We can’t document even a tiny proportion of all potions designed to affect DREAMING. It just can’t be done. Its too tedious, scary, mad….. to do in a lifetime. So though we won’t document Marble Arch Caves Gopeark dream potions we will make a LIST OF SOME DREAM POTION CONSIDERATIONS and we will think about making our own.

If you intend making your own DREAM POTIONS you might like to consider the following.

Ingredients, quantities, smell, taste, consistency, toxicity, addictiveness,storage, availability of ingredients, appearance, know how, price, method of mixing, sell by date, potency, distribution, functionality, container, recipient, exlusivity, time taken to make, legality, time to repose, quantity to take, effectiveness, dilution, mixing bowls, social stigma, side-effects, availability to the consumer, secretivity, desirability……. gloopiness.

How have all the potions that have ever been shaken, stirred, sampled, gifted, smuggled, tasted  within the lands of what is today Marble Arch Caves Geopark changed the pattern, shape and texture and history of the landscape of dreams?

DREAMING PLACE Mobile Library

A BIG  THANK YOU to all the contributors to our mobile library!

Welcome to the DREAMING PLACE mobile library. It traveled with us throughout our “traveling residency” at the MAC Geopark snuggled up against the wall of the van and up against our bedrolls at night as we dreamed. If we had continued our fieldwork beyond 40 days and 40 nights, our library would have continued to grow, ever expanding with gifted books, borrowed books, bought books and acquired pamphlets, papers etc. We used our library as a traditional reference source to look up an unknown plant, bird or flower or to explore the source of local place names or meanings of Irish Gallic words. Sometimes we selected books to read from at night or in our camp on sunny days. And who knows, perhaps some of the library books’ contents crept off the pages and into our dreams as we slept next to them in the van…..

Our mobile library really shone when we needed inspiration for our collaborative drawing and it was pouring rain outside – too wet to go to the source out of doors. In these moments we reached for a book and allowed information to filter into us and out through our drawing pens.

***Wondering about the stuffed animal husky? That’s our Dreaming Place mascot, brought from home by Anna to assist her Ice-Age Dreaming.

Find out more about Anna’s Ice Age Dreaming here .

People, places, things: expanding the world of knowledge in an ethical way (+ audio)


A novel technique for “fast dreaming into place” is to interview people, places and things.


We record these exchanges with hand-held digital audio recorders; we edit the interviews on our trusty Macs and curated outcomes meet audiences in a number of ways: via audio blog, exhibition or radio broadcast.

ethical interview
Dreaming Place Interviews are a way of gathering valuable “data”. How we treat this data is very important to us. An interview is both a resource and a powerful tool that demands rigorousness and respect. Outcomes both directly influence the progression of individual projects and the general direction of our collaborative practice.


Over the winter months we will make careful transcriptions of our Dreaming Place interviews. We archive the recordings to keep them safe and warm inside our hard drives. The data we have gathered at Marble Arch Caves Geopark is gold dust to us and and choc full of potential.

interview with an expert
However editing is a risky business and dangers lurk in every corner. When using our data we must make careful choices, so that we can expand the world of knowledge and perception in an ethical way.

Listen in to our a clip on “Crossing Borders” (Barb and Len are from Canada and were fellow campers at Rushin House Caravan and Camping Park, Belcoo, N.I., MAC Geopark).

interview for blog

How wild is wild? (+audio)

Are dreams wild?

To help us discover more about Wildness we posed the question, “What is wild?” to Martina Magee, Geopark Development Officer and Education Director for Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

Listen to Martina’s response here:  

On the theme of WILD….During an interview with cave geologist Les Brown he spoke about WILD CAVES…..which intrigued us. He explained that Show caves such as Marble Arch Caves (Marble Arch Caves Geopark) and Kents Cavern (English Riviera Geopark) have been altered to accommodate visitors, yet wild caves remain unmodified by humans and retain their essential wild nature. Find our recent post with Les Brown here.

The smell of home turf



The lower flanks of Cuilcagh mountain are now cosily blanketed in revived boglands rich in species who make up the ecology of this very special habitat. Incredibly,  as recently as the nineties this elemental  bog was endangered because of  the commercial extraction of peat for fuel. It looked like a giant carpark (parking lot), a land with its skin peeled back. A lot of TLC later and these “badlands” are again home to a huge variety of wildlife.

We are not experts but the commercial rape of the land by the large turf industry seems like quite different thing from the traditional small scale harvesting of neighbourhood turf for winter fuel. This image shows the peat after it has been cut drying in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark breeze.

Funnily enough the drizzle doesn’t seem to affect the drying process too much.Turf has been burned here since the bronze age and in the Geopark, we noticed burnt mounds that look a lot like burnt peat. (The demands of blogging mean that I may not have time to check all this info so do feel free to comment and correct please.) And a turf fire, as it is called here, is surely the smell of home. Adan a young guy who farms his family homelands on Galloon Island could NOT believe we had NEVER smelled a turf fire, not ever.  He simply rejected the idea, what total deprivation….

We vowed to light a real fire and found an opportunity at MacGrath’s cottage and lit one just for the craic. Our English, Valencian and New Mexican burning experiences have led us to burn mostly wood and never turf. The very idea of burning the earth itself seems strange to us. But it was the first fossil fuel.

I know that lots of you have no tradition of burning turf fuel. So here is a short explanation. Turf is peat and comes from the buildup of mosses and other vegetation where the accumulation of dead vegetation exceeds the decay. The reason this can happen is that in the  wetland environment the mosses are not able to break down for lack of oxygen. The fungi and bacteria that recycle the dead mosses cannot live in this waterlogged environment and decay is halted. Gradually, gradually there is a buildup of vegetation which becomes compacted and swallows up the surface stones and features. Peat that forms in these conditions on the sides of mountains is called Blanket Bog. Lowland bogs are slightly different, but essentially the process is the same. Turf that is burnt in homes in Northern Europe have normally taken hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

 

Turf extraction, as we know, is not sustainable, (mostly) which is why lots of us now prefer to buy non-peat based composts.

 

In these Geopark lands, turf drying in the fields is still a relatively common sight; one that attracts our attention. And many families have a cut in a newly harvested field. They must go down and shift the peat once it has dried and stack it at home. Tur, as we found out, burns almost without flame and is red hot. It burns more like coal rather than wood. We stoked and blew under the turf all night trying to get some flame before we understood the error.

turf

Potent brew: our future in a teacup

Making and sharing tea is an important tradition in many parts of the world. And Tea culture is very much alive both at Marble Arch Caves Geopark and in our own arts practice. Tea has even taken protagonism in our Exchange project. And hey wasn’t Asterix’s magic potion TEA?

Exchange Teapot
Teapots are still ubiquitous inhabitants of cottages, palaces, boats and other homes around the world. Tea is an offering of hospitality and good cheer. It is fit for the gods.

Tea leaves are also used as an oracle; to tell the future. On the Crom estate in Marble Arch Caves Geopark there lives an old lady who practices the art of reading tea leaves.

Listen here about this 90 year old fortune teller. 

teaboat
In own projects tea is always drunk a lot (redbush mostly). Likewise in the territories of Marble Arch Caves Geopark tea is drunk heartily on both sides of the now invisible border. What stories does our lovely second hand shop Teapot have to tell?

tea ingredients
And the potency of Tea? We think  some of the potency resides in the water used to make tea. This golden water from a spring already looks like tea. Water straight from the earth is called “Slap Water” in Northern Ireland, used to wash dirt-covered potatoes just harvested on the way in to the house (described to us in a conversation with a local farmer).

And of course TEA is a strongly uniting factor. Many activities in Eire and Northern Ireland happen around mugs of steaming tea. Forget Irish Whisky and Guinness! Tea gives rise to good chat and hell, it gives rise to some proper good craic.


This magic frog prince tea cup came from Germany. It changed raspberries into tea when ordinary tea was accidentally left behind on our Exchange project field visit.

frog cup exchange
Out in the wild kettles can always be filled from waterfalls, so long as the water is boiled for 3 minutes.

Wild Kettle
Being an artist is thirsty work sand there is nothing like a cuppa to turn a new campsite into home. We usually fill our thermos with hotwater for later a comforting cuppa in the day. Our essential tea kit as illustrated below consists of:-  bikes for fetching water, table for brewing, kettle, soya milk, insulated cup, camping stove. How much regalia. And a bowl for washing teacups.

Tea table
We were invited into this narrow boat for tea at Derryvore jetty near Belturbet, Eire. Find out more about this craft, its people and animals via The puzzler blog.

Narrow boat tea
Oh and this is the kettle that lives in MacGrath’s Cottage, at Killykeegan nature reserve, on Marlbank Scenic loop close to Marble Arch Caves. It is a small visitor centre with a hearth and a turf fire. Bit dusty but sure it will still make a good cuppa

McGraths kettle
And in the rain there is nothing so good as a cuppa tea.


Life without tea would be faster, but it would stop being extraordinary.

Eating habits and habitation

Food Luxury
While inhabiting the MAC Geopark, we’ve chosen to keep our accommodations simple. However, cooking on a camp stove and eating out of storage bags and boxes has not cramped our culinary style. Good food (especially good veg) is one of the luxuries that we have chosen to sustain during the project. (Some of you who’ve been following our blog closely may have already surmised this!) In fact, we believe that culinary choices deeply affect our experience of place on several levels: 1) the physiological affects of different foods on the body; 2) the experience of place while cooking and eating out of doors instead of inside a house or restaurant; 3) the experience of eating food grown or produced in the local proximity……and there are many other levels I’m sure.

How does food affect, create, or influence your experience of place?

Elderflower fritters from Crom Estate

elderflower fritters

It’s true that Elderflowers make wonderful fritters.

We made these for breakfast during our stay at Helen’s National Trust cottage on the Crom Estate, Marble Arch Caves Geopark. Our very special batter from chickpea flour was fermented overnight with Kefir, (our kefir is fed with soya milk) which is a bit unusual and means it is suitable for vegans. It is also wheatfree. Fried in red palm oil, our fritters have a light dusting of icing sugar. The plate is Helen’s.

Click here for recipes for Elderflower fritters.

At home in limestone + scything podcast

At home in limestone

The Limestone uplands of Marble Arch Caves Geopark are  home to many rare plants,  insects and bird species. They thrive in the special habitats this rock has helped to create. Find out more about MAC’s limestone habitats here.

In fact there are so many common spotted orchids dotted around the place, it’s hard to find a place to dream without squashing them. But though this orchid is seemingly common here, in other locations they really are rare because modern agricultural practices threaten their native grassland habitats.

Through conservation schemes, some farmers in the MAC geopark have agreed to take special measures to protect and nurture this native grassland and it is a wonderful thing to see. Much of this agricultural land is farmed organically like this plot belonging to Ignatius.

ignatius McGuire

The hay from these special meadows smells like heaven. And I’m going to rustle up a little audio piece we recorded at the farm of Ignatius McGuire so that even if you cannot smell heaven you can hear about it. Listen to Ignatius on mowing here.

Ignatius himself is a rare breed. He farms his ancestral homelands in the way of his forebears. He is bursting with energy and  scything really is a joy to him. His enthusiasm is contagious and he soon has Claire and I swinging the scythe.

ignatius scything
It goes without saying we are very impressed. Even more impressed because this man’s vision is ecological in a big way. We can imagine 10 men (that is the traditional number to work a field) out there mowing and competing with each other for speed and skill. He is really chuffed that we are keen on learning his skill and invites us back in August to help him.

Ireland’s pumping heart – a cross border vision or “Aisling”

Myriad lakes, rivers, canals, drainage ditches, streams and rivers meet together in the counties of Cavan and Fermanagh to form a truly extensive watery network linking these ancient lands to the Atlantic Ocean at Donegal bay.

Today inward and outward flow of people, animals and things mostly happens by road, rail and air. The axis of the world has shifted.

We gather wild garlic for pesto and the four of us (artist/musicians Susan and Alan and Claire and Anna) stand on the wooded shores of Lower Lough Erne chatting.

The evening lake is quiet, but tomorrow we’ll take to the lough in Alan’s double kayak, a flotsam score washed up on the shore. There is a round crannog type island we want to visit.  We must tie a scarf onto a tree or we’ll not find our way back to the slipway of a ruined monastery. Alan tells us to head straight out then let the breeze blowing in from the west whisk us around the back of the island. It sounds so easy. Susan says the island vegetation is very dense and it’s not easy to enter the woods. For us it is a place of dreams.

Since the end of the last ice age some ten thousand years ago this waterway has brought international traffic and trade creating a rich infusion of culture, peoples and things. We try to imagine the hustle and bustle of the waterway in a different time as we stand on the shore of the lough on an early Christian slipway made by monks as part of their shoreline monastery. Today this slipway gives access to a pristine waterway, seemingly deserted, more scenic view than international trade route. However now, this beautiful lough is at the centre of a farsighted cross border initiative that will revitalize these Geopark homelands.

From the beating heart of Ireland boats, tourists, places and things will help to re-float the economies of Eire and Northern Ireland. It is a glorious shared vision or aisling (Irish Gaelic for dream).

Drawing as Dreaming

Drawing has a special place near the top of our now bulging dreamers toolkit! It’s fun and useful and a methodology that travels well.

Collaborative drawing is a way people can dream together. It’s also a valuable way to explore experiences, connections and ideas.

As our drawing grows our adventures deepen. Like the ancient fossilized coral reefs under our feet here at Marble Arch Caves Geopark, the  nooks and cranniess created by our pens are home to interesting and unusual inhabitants. For the time we are here the rich biodiversity of our imaginations and dreams forms part of the wider  Geopark ecology.

Dreams, thoughts and imaginings of people, places and things are part of the distinct ecologies of the planet.

The whole world is a drawing.

Out to a land of childhood imagination in a homebuilt Cott

With her brother,  the child Bridget (McGuire) who was born on Galloon Island  rowed to the far distant shores of her imagination, home to pine martens and woodcock. To her this was “The Wildwood”  from Wind in the Willows.

We wanted to visit this magic land and set off in Jonty’s  homemade Cott  to set foot on Bridget’s childhood lands.

Where was your ” Wild wood” of the imagination?

Disrupted landscapes are fertile places

Conservationists often look to stablilize an environment, however sometimes dynamic change is desirable.  An eroding rockface streaming with water below Cuilcagh Mountain summit plateau is home to a very rare  inhabitant.

Saxifraga Stellaris  (Starry Saxifradge) is a tenacious inhabitant of these border  lands. As an arctic relic species it has endured here on the mountain since the end of the last ice age.

This Arctic Alpine plant thrives  in a  narrow horizontal band of cool dampness and beautifully disrupted soils. Small rockfalls and  a light flow of water off the cliffs  provide everything it needs. If its present habitat becomes too warm it will try to go further up the mountain… but further upwards it will be too near the drier summit plateau and would not survive.

How long will it endure?

Botanical forray on Cuilcagh Mountain

Robert and Anna below the Cliffs

Robert and Anna looking for the Beech Fern

Chance encounters are a most precious gift and good as gold for our project. As we prepare to set out for a hike up Cuilcagh Mountain we meet botanical enthusiasts Robert and Hannah also on their way up the mountain. They are in search of three rare plants to photograph for a book about the plants of Fermanagh that they are working on, set to be published this fall. They graciously allow us to tag along on their mission and generously share their wealth of botanical knowledge with us along the way.

Hannah and Claire

Hannah photographing the Starry Saxifrage with windbreak help from Claire