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Susan Hughes plays traditional Irish fiddle. We love her glorious music in a chip van story.
Here is Susan playing violin while we wash up. Enjoy!
Ice houses are to be found in the grounds of many of the old country estates in these Northern lands. Here is Claire at the Crom Estate in Northern Ireland inside the belly of an ice-house.
About Ice houses – Ice cut in winter was stored right through the year in stone icehouses across Europe supplying numerous big houses with fresh produce and keeping guests happy with novel sorbets, icecreams and crushed ice for cocktails and bumps or sprains got while out hunting the stag!
Today fridges are present in every kitchen – well almost. When I lived in Spain we didn’t have a fridge; we are vegetarians so it was easy. The micro-organisms in plain yogurt keep it fresh for weeks and the cool tiles and wooden shutters protected the veg from decay.
In the last century before the advent of the fridge, many families used cool boxes or chests packed with ice to keep meat and fish. The pantry or larder had marble shelves to keep dairy produce and cold meats fresh as long as possible. My mum tells me the cooling properties of her mother’s larder were enhanced by covering the milk jug with a wet cloth. The milk was kept cool via evaporation. In Spain water kept in unglazed “porons ” keeps spring water fountain fresh even on the hottest days. When camping beers maybe kept cold by hanging them out of the window in wet socks! Or submerging them in the stream.
Margaret Gallagher, of Mullylusty cottage just outside Boho in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark lives off grid all year round. She tells us that a wheelie bin makes a wonderful off grid fridge which keeps hungry animals out in winter-time. But can the wheelie bin be as effective as a giant crock? Kept wet a ceramic jar will keep milk and other foods fresh in hot climates again by evaporation. Buried underground it could be used to store root vegetables like potatoes and turnips.
Margaret tells us how her family used an ordinary chest to preserve meat. After the pig had been butchered the pieces were packed into a wooden chest with salt and buried in a surprising place. The place of choice at Mullylusty and other cottages was usually the dung heap or midden . We didn’t ask Margaret why this was so, but archaeological evidence reveals middens as natural insulators, valued for their properties of conservation. Evidence from Skara Brae in Orkney shows the homes were actually built inside an enormous midden!
BOG BUTTER – Not sure if all of you know this but past peoples apparently buried butter in wooden kegs in bogs. But how far back in prehistory was it that the original peoples of Ireland first used bogs as fridges. Who first understood that bogs can preserve fats? Micro-organisms that cause food to go off can’t dwell inside a soggy shroud of bog turf as they need oxygen to survive, this is why a bog performs as a brilliant off grid-fridge. In Ireland much ancient bog butter has been found over the years and some of it is still edible, if a bit cheesy.
Our visit to the ruined poorhouse at Bawnboy in County Cavan was sobering and we had a lot of questions to ask of this austere building. The site is not open to the general public so our audio provides a glimpse. The hair on our arms stood up as we surveyed these broken buildings, their chimneys heavy with trees and windows blown.
Built to house 500 men, women and children and opened in 1852, the poorhouse was on way of addressing the poverty and destitution brought on by the Irish potato famine. The poorhouse was supposed to be grim, it was hoped that only ” the deserving poor” would seek its refuge, saving tax payers money. In order to keep costs down the governors even questioned the provision of supper to inmates! Families were cruelly segregated in an iron regime where harsh punishments were metred out for such actions as simply speaking to passers by. Only children were permitted to go out at all.
The building was later used by the community for a variety of purposes and some of it was even turned into private accommodation before finally reaching total dereliction. (Information sourced from: http://www.irishidentity.com/stories/bawnboyworkhouse.htm)
Ireland leaks people…. as well as rain. For 40 days and 40 nights we wandered the Geopark, listening to its many voices and as our van rattled away at the end of our trip, our eyes too began to leak.
Listen here to our praises for the Geopark and its cross-border homelands. (For those of you that are unfamiliar with the area, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is comprised of lands in both Éire and Northern Ireland.)
Curious about the bell and squeaks on this audio segment? The bell is a permanent resident in Anna’s van and the squeaks are the sound of shifting gears.
Listen here to our fears for the Geopark and decide for yourself – are our words romantic indulgence or premonition?
A very big and real threat now hangs over “our” Geopark and its beloved people, places and things. A license has been issued to the powerful mining company, Tamboran Resources, for the extraction of shale gas within the Geopark using the controversial process of “fracking.”
Far from Ireland Claire and I have been blogging away without doing anything until one day we realised that some of the most precious nature reserves are threatened along with the fresh water supply and clean air. We have written to Fermanagh Councillors with our concerns. Read our letter and the responses of individuals here – Dear Anna and Claire.
We agree with Councilor, Barry Doherty, (Sinn Fein) for Erne West when he says “We have so much natural beauty above and below the ground in this part of the world that to even contemplate fracking this area is surprising if not down right crazy.”
We join present inhabitants, organisations and councilors in demanding a moratorium on the license so that the Geopark vision keeps strong and the people, places and things of all Ireland remain vital and alive.
During our decent hike from Cuilcagh Mountain, we came across these red ochre-like pigments crumbling out of the hillside. As erosion reveals this intense color it also reveals potentials of the past, present and future. As we study the pigments and muse at their uses, questions arise.
Were these pigments used by the past inhabitants of this land? In particular, did the Bronze Age people who built the mighty cairn atop Cuilcagh (see image below) discover these pigments and intern find uses for them in their lives? Read more pigment musings and about the geology of Culcaigh mountain at the end of Anna’s previous informative post, Geology United!
Map: a visual representation of an area; a symbolic depiction
highlighting relationships between elements such as objects, regions, and themes.
As you can imagine, maps were important on our DREAMING PLACE
traveling residency, in more than one way!
We often depended on them to be shown places and information by others and to navigate roadways, paths, fields, parks and estates.
We mapped our journey in sound and in drawing and in some ways on this blog. We also discussed creating interactive maps as an outcome from the residency. These maps may still be on the way….stay tuned!
But there is really something special about maps that draw on senses other than sight for their creation or perception. Here is one example……
“…Marshallese navigational charts are not like our western-style maps; fishermen didn’t use them to measure distance or count miles. Instead, they used them as memory aids, reviewing them before a journey but not bringing them along. It is said that a fishermen would study his charts, leave them behind, and then lie on his back in the canoe, the better to feel the rise and fall of the ocean swells. He interpreted the map with his body memory, not with his eyes.”
Creative ideas can be illusive. If you approach them too quickly or too directly, they may turn tail and be lost. But like wild creatures they can be lured from their hideouts if conditions are favorable, perhaps at a particular time of day by a special treat. A ritual pot of tea, a piece of music, the sound of a waterfall or a beautiful pattern.
It may be enough to go outdoors and sit on a tree stump to allow the ideas to flow. It’s exciting to consider some of the forms and patterns we observe outdoors have companion patterns inside our bodies;, the swirl on our finger tips, the filigree of veins and in the very patterns of our lives and relationships.
So enjoy your shower or walk the edge of the lough and let the bubbles rise.
These Dreaming Place audio footprints were recorded at the watery edge of Lough McNean, Marble Arch Caves Geopark.
Remember this lovely springer spaniel from the beginning of our journey? It turns out that scientists agree with us that non-human dreamers, like this lovely 4-legged, have a rich dream life.
So, according to scientists (as represented on Wikipedia’s dream page), “Sleeping and dreaming are intertwined….REM sleep and the ability to dream seem to be embedded in the biology of many organisms that live on Earth. All mammals experience REM. The range of REM can be seen across species: dolphins experience minimum REM, while humans remain in the middle and the opossum and the armadillo are among the most prolific dreamers.”
Apparently there have been studies that have “observed dreaming in monkeys, dogs, cats, rats, elephants and shrews [and] ….There have also been signs of dreaming in certain birds and reptiles.
Here is another interesting twist offered on Wikipedia:
In 1954 the theta rhythm was discovered by two scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles when experimenting with rabbits, shrews, moles and rats. The theta rhythm is the oscillatory pattern of electric activity in the brain. [Interesting discovery, but the idea of experimenting on animals makes me cringe!] This discovery lead to a commentary published in 1972 that explained differences in Theta Rhythm where defined by respective animal behaviors. Awake animals showed high Theta Rhythm when behaving in ways that where crucial to their survival, for example: eating and reproducing. This apparently was a response to a changing environment. The theta rhythm occurs during REM and studies suggest it “reflected a neural process whereby information that is essential to the survival of the species” is gathered throughout the day and is “reprocessed into memory during REM sleep”. In conclusion: “dreams may reflect a memory-processing mechanism inherited from lower species”.
Some scientists argue that humans dream for the same reason other mammals do. From a Darwinian perspective dreams would have to fulfill some kind of biological requirement or provide some benefit for natural selection to take place. Antti Revonsuo, a professor at the University of Turku in Finland, claims that centuries ago dreams would prepare humans for recognizing and avoiding danger by presenting a simulation of threatening events. This threat-simulation theory was presented in 2000.
This makes sense in a way, as we humans are in fact mammals. But how, I wonder, does this theory fit into modern human dreaming patterns? If dreams served to prepare us for danger in the past, what purposes do they serve now?
If you would prefer a religious/spiritual perspective over science, here is another take:
“God sleeps in stone, breathes in plants, dreams in animals, and awakens in man”
– Hindu Proverb
preserver of peace
bringer of luck
enemy of speed
giver of light
fuel of home fires
cure for weepiness
preserver of memories
friend of farts
adds spring to your step
a growing medium
birthplace of bogeyman
lazy bed maker
mother of bogs
A girl with hooped earrings, a building, a close or a house. Aisling (pronounced ashling) is a beautiful name for all these. We asked people of Marble Arch Caves Geopark what Aisling means to them…
This description by Burren expert Seamus O’ hUltacháin, particularly describes the Irish language word Aisling.
This blog has been a long time in a comin´ and that’s because I grew it.
To grow my potato blog I followed some basic steps. the rest down to luck, weather and patience. It’s taken quite a while to get to this point , mainly ‘cos of all that hard work and the waiting. I had to……..
7. earth up
A long time ago a Slovenian man called Franci, a student of Mark’s suggested I apply my novel research techniques to”the potato”. It is still really important to Eastern European cultures and I am a researcher of the agency of things. Let me explain a bit more about how that might work.
The humble potato is a masterful at affecting human behaviours; it gathers culture around itself in a big way, as does say “alcohol” or “the sea”. The potato is the perfect thing he said to study. So far I have not done more than to scrub a potato, cut it up to boil or bake it. I love to eat it whole or mashed with olive oil and black pepper. But who knows. In Ireland as everyone knows the potato is very important and no-one on the island can ever forget the terrible consequences of the potato blight.
In Ireland we ferried potatoes around in the car back and forth over the border and dipped our fingers into glasses of poitín, the infamous Irish hooch. I feel a new blog coming on…. but I’ll leave it for another day.
Dogs learn to locate earthquake victims buried under metres of rubble, hone in on drugs at border controls and even sniff out cancers.
….but can dogs be used to sniff out the future?
Over the coming months Claire and I will be putting this idea to the test in the name of ART. This means that I will be training my mini-labradoodle pup Ghyllie as a retriever of ideas.
His first challenge is to learn the enviable skills of a Truffle hound. This is a gourmet challenge, but also a funding challenge for if Ghyllie succeeds in finding a fist fulls of truffles he has a funded future that will enable him to continue his studies to become a proper ART HOUND.
Upside of underground
Eat in heaven
Not just a Nugget
We never expected off-grid blogging to be easy, but it turned out to be the single most challenging aspect of our trip.
Little lakes inside our tents, patchy mobile connection, no running water, no loo, rampant jet lag, hip injury, but electric plugs – oh please….
Our hungry laptops had us struggling to provide. Without power we feared they would become weak and easily die.
We had pondered the off-grid dilemma long and hard. Claire lives off-grid year round at her home in New Mexico; so surely it isn’t such a big deal. She and Chris collect energy from the sun and store it in underfloor batteries for use as electricity around the home. Wi-fi and the sun allow Claire and I to work together, despite her off-grid-ness and our many degrees of separation. These technological advances help us keep our collaboration alive.
Soft folding dashboard solar panels might keep our laptops charged, but would they work in such a resolutely unsunny climate ? And what of bike power…. it works for making smoothies and projections so might pedal power keep our cameras, laptops and blogging practice alive?
In the end we opted to plug-in at Marble Arch Caves Geopark HQ, council offices, campsites and country hotels and used a wee dashboard plug (little inverter in the cigarette lighter) for on-the-go top-ups between charging locations.
Blogs are an ideal way to record, share and reflect on project adventures. And we shared DREAMING PLACE with family, friends and a world wide audience….. veraciously!
Keeping the hardware topped up became a matter of supreme importance. Should we make supper, sleep, experiment, search for a plug-in or make connections?
We are the first to admit that blogging got a bit out of hand… this time… and we did it in the face of significant adversity – Our dongle rarely worked, so that was a waste of money, we were operating in mobile-coverage shadowlands in the X – border zone, hoteliers were mean to us, the Geopark HQ were kind but couldn’t share their internet and we were miles from the nearest cyber cafe… yet we blogged and blogged and blogged.
Is pigeon post a viable alternative?
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
I’m sure I told you how Claire and I went out onto the blue lough in the yellow smile of a borrowed kayak. We paddled together out to a tiny island where we lay down on the mossy foreshore to dream.
Listen here to a snippet of our chat as it wafted up to mingle with the calls of birds and the lapping of gentle waves outside our sound island.
We find that campsites cultivate philosophy. Rushin House Caravan Park on the emerald shores of Lough MacNean just outside Belcoo in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark is awash with the stuff. It runs so deep that in times gone by the inhabitants sensibly build their houses on stilts. The shimmering waters of the lough preserve the oak timbers of a bronze age homestead. Perched on its artificial island or crannog its inhabitants were safe from the erratic surges of philosophy that are prone to flood this special landscape.
Listen here to our favourite Campsite philosophers, Barb and Len from Calgary, Canada..
“An ecosystem is a community of plants, animals and dreams that are closely linked to each other and to their environment.”
(Anna Keleher and Claire Coté ,Marble Arch Caves Geopark 2011).