Tuesday 31 January 2017

The Eagle Has Landed

The 'Send' button brings an end to Lisacul 365 (for me). 
There's a relief! 31st January, so we come to the end of a big and attention demanding project to which I have frequently alluded for the last 14 months or so, 'Lisacul 365'. If you are new to the blog then you may welcome a brief explanation. This was a project started by the local village through our new website (LisaculInfo.IE) as part of the village promotion and heritage recording; we had to take at least one photograph within (of or from) the 18 townlands (sub-parishes) EVERY day from 1st Feb 2016 to 31st Jan 2017.

Last check of my final posting before I logged out. Job done.
Liz has been administering the rapidly growing gallery of images as part of her work. I volunteered to be safety net/back stop committing to take at least one pic every day just in case the other photographers failed to and, because I enjoyed it, I determined that this 'one' would actually be at least 3 so that the admin/judging/selection end still had a choice even if I was the only snapper and tried to make my 3 nice and varied (so, for example, a ruin, a cow and a sky-scape rather than 3 goats). In practise we have attracted 30+ different photographers across the year and have, on some days, had dozens of pictures sent in.

For my last days of 365-ing I tried to end on
an up-beat note; signs of spring, newness,
sunrises etc. 
We also went off on a bit of a tangent when the village 'Tidy Towns' group asked us to focus on wildlife and nature for their Bio-Diversity week. With the photographers' work done, the plan is now for Liz to sort all the incoming pics into a format where a judging panel (yet to be decided) can be shown all the possible pics for each day and select their best 366 (leap year, so 366, not just 365). They have given us all till the end of Feb to get those pictures in. You will recall that as well as a very pretty website with, now, galleries off to the side (on Flickr) for each month, for the Bio-Diversity and various other sub-projects, a very fine calendar came out of these photos. Working on a big-town budget, Faversham also produced a glossy 365-page book of all the pictures and had a lovely exhibition of all of them framed. I think we are not in that league, but we are very proud of what we did manage.

The snow drops did not quite make it open
by 31st but these were near enough. 
Everyone at the project will always acknowledge the lady who inspired all this, French-born Nathalie Banaigs who now lives in Faversham, our former home-town. Nathalie started all this in Faversham with the 'Faversham 365' version which then spawned various other 365s in Kent towns. When we suggested doing the first ever one in Ireland in our village, she gave us her blessing and has continued to follow, inspire, support and occasionally advise us. She was delighted when told that we had completed our year. Thank you very, very much, Nathalie. More on this project in this blog when we get all the rest of the pictures in and start judging/selecting

Misty frosty sunrise in the townland of Creevy
Where to now? I am going to miss the discipline of knowing I have to get out there and get some good, original, new pictures every day and not really being able to relax until I have scored - it was always there in the back of my mind. Sometimes I felt I had 'shot' enough ruins, boreens, cute calves and bog-flowers and I was driving round the deserted, misty, country lanes feeling completely un-inspired but something always seemed to turn up; a strikingly marked donkey or the break in a fence where I might sneak into that bit of forestry with the lovely green floor and all those toadstools.

Pussy willow after the rain.
In reality I love my photography and would generally be using the camera every day anyway taking blog-pictures or record shots of the building project(s) or new hatched chicks, so I don't suppose the camera will gather dust for long. Even though the website is through the 365 project, it will still need a supply of fresh pictures to brighten up or illustrate the stories. The camera is generally in the car when I am out and about, or slung round my neck as I walk the dogs.

Long straight grass-track in Kiltybranks bog
Talking of dogs, we managed an adventure worthy of those much-loved children's TV dramas which involved extra-ordinarily clever animals - Lassie Super dog, Flipper (dolphin) or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Although Skippy was a kangaroo he always managed to explain to the kids in the tale by wrinkling his nose and smacking his lips that there was a child fallen down the old empty well and in need of rescuing by the gang in time for a happy ending of that episode and the Director's moral message where someone's Dad reminded all the children that it was dangerous to play near the well. All good stuff.

So, there I was walking my gang down across the Kiltybranks bog-land, square miles of open space criss-crossed by hard paths but riddled with ditches, holes and soggy, sinky bits of sphagnum peat/moss. I'd turned right up a side turn and the dogs had dived down off that path for an explore of an interesting ditch. I whistled them up and strode on - it always works - they do not want to fall behind the 'pack' so they race back out and are soon nudging my calves with their noses, 'asking' me to pull over so they can pass.

Hubbard chicken thighs and stuffed peppers with couscous
Not this time, apparently. A few minutes 'striding' and I was 100 yards further on and noticed the lack of dogs. Looking back I could see the two 'pups' (Towser and Pops) in the distance on the path, but no Deefer. I called and whistled but those pups were not having any of it (which is unusual)  and when I shouted in annoyance and started back they turned and ran away from me (which is unheard of) a few paces and stopped again. I realised that I was being called back and had also still not seen Deefer so I realised that something had gone wrong and all the 'Skippy' stuff came into my head. Were they asking me to rescue Deefer?

Tray-bake haggis with neeps and tatties
for our Burns Night. A wee dram too.
We got our happy ending - the pair showed me where, much further back up the track I could just hear a repeated single whimpering yelp from the ditch to the side and then spotted the white of an ear down among the heather. Deefer had got herself down into a ditch which was empty but had overhanging heather and sides so soft she hadn't been able to clamber out. I had to lean down on my knees to grab a chunk of collar and haul her out, unharmed but very relieved that we'd not left her behind. Lots of praises and fussing for the pups, of course, they were not going to get any from old curmudgeon Deefer! We carried on with the walk and then related all to Liz as we towelled the dogs down from the rain.

Directions into deepest Sligo. 
Our only other mini-adventure had us exploring into deepest Sligo, off to visit some new friends whom we met via Facebook. CT is the guy who came and helpfully shot our fox back in November and his partner, AW is chief admin on the Facebook "West of Ireland Smallholders" group which I co-admin. They have a lovely set-up out there on a slope looking across a valley at an impressive, cloud-capped mountain.

Their big interest is horses and they have built a 40 x 20 m sand-school where they could, in theory, hold proper dressage competitions. They have 5 collie-sized dogs, one (Ivan the Terrible) of which is officially the "guard dog" who doesn't like people and never lets anyone (or any foxes!) in. Well, Ivan amazed and delighted both of them by taking to me like his new bestest chum. He came and laid his chin on my lap and 'asked' to have his hair ruffled and his ears fussed. I obliged, of course and only then did our hosts express amazement - he'd NEVER done that before to ANYONE. Perhaps I smelled of 'Skippy' dogs or curmudgeonly old bog-bitches.

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