Ramblings of: Ireland

The back of my well broken in chair is reclined as far as it can go and it’s dark outside, but try as I might, I just can’t get myself comfortable enough to sleep.  I’m three hours in on a seven hour flight to Ireland with my wife and I want to sleep so I can actually be alert when we arrive and actually make something of the day.

This trip is our 15th year anniversary gift to each other.  We had hoped to go on a trip like this for our 10th anniversary, but the usual curveballs that like likes to throw at you happened.  In its own way, these unexpected “life moments”  give you a chance to second guess your plans and see if there is a better way of working them.  I have to admit that even with all our planning I am a little leery of this trip.  I’ve never been on a flight this long and I get motion sick fairly easy.  The Sea Bands are working so far.  I had no problem with the flight from Florida to Philly, but would they hold up for this flight?  More importantly will they hold up for the entire week of road tripping?  Yes, my friends, our trip to Ireland is a week long journey by bus.  We’re going to hit all the hot spots:  Dublin, Killarney, Galway with stops in Cashel, Blarney, Bunratty, Cliffs of Moher, Clifden, Leenane, and Connemara to fill out the week.  It’s through CIE Tours and promises to be a winner.  I’m really excited about it and brought with me both versions of Dramamine just to be certain.

Somehow between the tight seats and calls to buy duty free liquor I am able to sneak in a few cat naps on the trip over.  It’s light out now and I can see a little bit of ground peeking from under the clouds.  Hmm.  Fairly heavy cloud cover.  I guess all the movies and stories about Ireland’s and England’s weather is true.  Then a larger break in the clouds reveals the gem of Ireland before me.  It’s just like the pictures show!  Patches and Patches of farmland divvied up by thin rows of trees.  It looks like a rich earthen quilt of emerald green!  Amazing!  I prod my wife, Carol, so she can look out the window as well to make this moment real.

A few moments later and we are in Ireland!

When we get off the plane we immediately start looking for Carol’s sister, Gail.  She and her husband, Tom, visited Ireland ten years earlier and jumped at the chance to join us when they heard we were going.  Being new to the area, I loved the fact that we were going to have two experienced people with us to help pick out the secret little local spots that most people miss.

It didn’t take long for us to find them.  In fact, all we had to do was turn around.  Their plane was delayed and ended up landing just after ours did.  With quick hugs and salutations, we head downstairs to grab our luggage.  After that we went through customs.  A painless process with a very small line.  After that we walk over to the airport café where I have my first true experience with Ireland.  Tea!  The people are having tea with their breakfast.  Now there’s something you don’t see every day in America.

I wonder what else will be different.  Carol want’s a Diet Coke to wake up, so I mosey into the airport store.  It’s called Spar.  Wow is it different.  They sell real food here.  I’m talking boxes of rice and cans of soup.  Why?  There’s no place to cook it.  How many people buy it for their flight home?

The candy is different too.  They have a few things from us:  Kit Kat, Twix, Snickers, and Cadbury, but their wrappers are different.  They look like they belong in a Willy Wonka movie.  It’s not bad, in fact, it’s very cheerful when you think about it.  Just another thing to let me know I am in a new country.

I hand Carol the Coke as we all head over to the gathering spot.  There’s a good sized crowd there and they are every bit as tired and excited as we are.  The age group runs across the board from college freshmen to retirees.  They are a lively bunch and I get the feeling this is going to be better than I expected.

Next:  Onto Dublin!

WIP Challenge

I was very surprised to read that a great writer, Karcherry, who blogs Random, untrue invited me into the WIP Challenge.   If you’ve never read her blog, I hoghly recommend it.  It’s a good read.  I had no clue what the WIP Challenge was, but luckily Karcherry explained it in her latest blog post.  (Thank you KC!)

The challenge is fairly straight forward.  All you do is answer some basic questions.  Sounds easy enough to me.  Here we go.

1.  What is the title of your book/WIP? 

     Straight Through

1A What is it about?

      A Florida adventure set in roughly 1884

2.  Where did the idea for the WIP come from?

     This is going to sound bad, but after trying to write children stories and realizing that it was not my genre, I chanced upon, “The Quick and the Dead” by Louis L’Amour.  I read roughly three paragraphs before yelling, “This is horrible!  I can write a western better than this.”  So I challenged myself to prove it.

3.  What genre would your WIP fall under?

     Western – Adventure

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

      Yikes!  Now there’s a challenge.

        Travis Morgan – I’d say Aaron Eckhart, but he’s just a touch too old.  maybe Ewan McGreggor

        John – Giovanni Ribisi

        Colonel Banks –  Gene Hackman or Harrison Ford (If they put on a lot of weight)

        Father Cunningham – Gary Oldman

        Mother Sozi – Gina Torrs

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your WIP?

A man who pays the price for standing up for what he believes in.

6. Is your WIP published or represented?

Not yet.  It’s still in the second editing phase.

7.  How long did it take?

The first draft?  About three years.

8.  What other writings/WIPs, within its genre, would you compare it to?

I don’t know; Maybe a mash up of Stephen King and Larry McMurtry?

9. Which Authors inspired you to write this WIP?

Ursula K. LeGuin, Louis L’Amour, and Stephen King

10.  Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project.

This is a western like no other.  There is no glamorizing of violence.  It is real, vivd and ugly.  It goes through the emotional costs of having to deal with it when you are the one that caused some of it.  Not a book for kids.  Not at all. But a great book for those in highschool and beyond.

Who do I want to tag in?

 

Thoughts of: Holes in my house

There are holes in the walls of my house right now; Six of them to be exact.  Each one was dutifully cut by the plumbers yesterday when they replumbed the entire house.  See, some genius gave every builder in Florida the grand idea that they should put all the plumbing into the slab just before they pour the concrete.  That way, if anything goes wrong you get the wonderful choice of either destroying all your flooring, or capping off the bad and running new pipes through the attic crawl spaces.  They have to cut holes into the drywall to connect the new pipes to your existing faucets, showers, and toilets.  When they are done, the holes remain so the county inspector can inspect the work for code violations and leaks.  Ours passed just fine.

So now we are left with holes to patch up.  It won’t be that bad.  Most of the dry wall came out ok and will fit back no problem.  A little tape, some screws, a few cans of knock-down texture, and some paint, and voila.  A days job at the most.

But what to do with this opportunity?

I have holes in my walls.  My own private time capsule.  A hidden treasure spot for future generations to discover.  What should I put in there?  Pictures of the area?  Pictures of me?  Pictures of Princess Kate, Duchess of Cambridge?

Maybe a small map with a clue in it.  I could do the whole “Davinci  Code” thing.  I leave a clue at one spot that leads to another, and then another, until they finally find the right place and find…  some plastic trinket.

The Halloween shops are open already.  I could go the creepy route and throw in some plastic skeleton parts.  Nah.  Not really my style.

Maybe a newspaper?  Future generations could find it and see how little things have changed in the way of politics.

Maybe a DVD.  I could throw in a few episodes of Jersey Shore for them.  Nah.  The skeleton parts would be kinder.

Maybe a book?  Something classic and historic.  Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies anyone?

What would you put in?  I’ve got ‘till Sunday before we start working on the holes.  What would you put behind the wall?  Let me know in the replies and I just might do it.

Gardening tip: Chop and drop for fall harvest and winter prep

It’s mid-September and if you’re like me, you have harvested or are planning to harvest your summer crops from the garden.

For the light planting we did I was fairly pleased with the results.  Our tomatoes lasted until mid-July and the Peppers did great all summer.  The few peanuts I grew did fantastic even with the competition from multiple weeds.  (An experiment on my part.)

What did disappoint me were the sweet potatoes.  Planted in late June, few grew and those that did were far deeper in the soil than my friends.  His potatoes grew near the surface and would “peek out” when ready to be harvested.  I suspect the heaviness of our soil had something to do with it.

Since I live in Florida where the sun hits frequently, I took all the plant debris, cut it up into eight inch pieces and threw it into the composter for the winter.  It does fairly well during the winter and I bet it would be more efficient if I painted the thing flat black to absorb even more heat.  (Or that could just bake the beneficial microbes and insects that break down the plant material into soil)

But if I was living further north where I had only the summer for a good planting season, I’d go way with my plant debris.  I’d use a variation of the Chop and Drop.

Chop and drop is exactly as it sounds.  You grow specific plants that can either draw up nutrients from deep in the soil or those that help fix the nutrients in the soil.  Comfry and Clover can be used for this, but so can a wide variety of plants.  Bean plants are a great choice.  Not only do they provide food for you, but the leaves absorb nitrogen from the air and store it in their root system.  By cutting the tops of them at the end of the season, you release the nitrogen back into the soil as the roots rot while the leaves and branches add to the soil as they break down on top.  The goal of Chop and Drop is to recreate what happens in the forest.  If you ever take a walk in the woods on a beautiful fall day, you will see all the leaves piling up upon the ground with the bottom layer soggy and composting back into the earth.  That is the exact same effect we are creating with the chop and Drop method.

 

You could also add in some of those pesky leaves you have to rake up every year.  A layer about six inches should do.  Just be careful when using oak leaves or pine needles as they are acidic and can change the ph of your soil.

Let the winter snow cover them in its white blanket and don’t worry about it.

So what happens when spring comes and the leaves and debris are still there?  You celebrate.  Maybe not all of the leaves and branches have decomposed into the gardens soil, but some of it has.  Leave the debris on to catch as much of the April showers as possible, then when you are ready to plant your summer crops, turn over the soil and mix the leaves and branches into the soil.  You’ve now aerated the soil and added organic slow release fertilizer and moisture “banks” that hold and release water slowly, allowing you to use less from the hose.

Don’t want the hassle of mixing in the leftover debris into the soil?  Then don’t.  Just push way the leaves in the spots where you want to plant the seeds and leave the rest alone.  You will have an established mulch system that will prevent most weed seeds while allowing water to enter the soil and help protect it from evaporation.

In my mind, this process has taken out my concern with proper composting.  No longer do I care if everything in the tumbler is breaking down completely.  If it doesn’t, I just dump in in my garden beds and till it in with my shovel.  There the nutrients and moisture control contents blend into the soil and help the next set of crops.  Last year’s plant debris are chock full of the fertilizer nutrients I put in last season, who says I can’t use them again.

If you’d like to learn more of the Chop and Drop method of soil enhancement, check out Geoff Lawton, Permaculture consultant, designer, and teacher.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoff_Lawton

Not from Geoff Lawton, but a great vid showing how to do it.

 

Thoughts of: Comfort

I have trip coming up.  A big one.  I’m going overseas. I’m very excited yet hesitant at the same time. To be fair, it’s to Ireland where most of the culture and pretty much all the language will be the same.  (Unless you count Gaelic)  Still I expect some major cultural differences.

See, I’m one of those types that notices all the nuances that comes from different areas.  (I can even point out the cultural differences between suburbs in the Metro Detroit area.)  So I wonder how will Ireland be different and will I be able to adjust easily.  (I already promised my brother I would not venture into any Mc Donalds while there)

Food I believe will be the biggest change for me.  I’m not as bad as RIchard Hammond from Top Gear, but I do like what I like.  Will I be able to find it though?  I am going to expand my horizons and try the breaakfast tea with cream instead of coffee with french vanilla creamer.  I also want to try their pasties.  I had some up in Sault Ste. Marie while at college and loved them.  They should be similar.

But if I can’t find things familiar to me, I have my backup gear with me.

A few magazines and books to read while on the flight and long bus rides.

My faithful PM3 player stocked with my favorite music and podcasts.

These will be my achor in an unfamiliar place.  Something that wil keep me grounded and let me enjoy the differences that I’m going to experience.  The more I think about it the more excited I get.  I have some of my culture with me as I go discover new cultures.  This is going to be exciting!

What about you?

Have you been on any travels outside your comfort zone?  If so, did you bring anything withyou as your cofort anchor?

If you have, let me know.  I’d love to learn what your tricks are when keeping comfort while abroad.

Thoughts of: Writer’s block and the perfect song

SOmetimes you sit at the keyboards and sit, and sit, and sit.  Nothing seems to flow.  The well is dry.  You start to panic and try to force somehting out.  It’s mental constipation due to overthinking.

You need some sympathy and a little distraction.

Take some time out to listen to the song and know you’re not alone.

Thoughts of: Waiting and Role models

This was going to be a completely different post than I had expected.  The post I wanted to write was focused on the recent success and celebrity of one of our fellow bloggers.  I was very excited when I found out about it from their social media pages, but soon realized that they hadn’t posted a thing about it on their own blog yet.  Well I’m not going to steal their thunder by blogging about it before they do.  That would be wrong; so to that person, Congratulations!  That is awesome!  You deserve every bit of notoriety.  Enjoy it.

I also wonder if this person knows that they are a role model too.  And a good one at that.  This person has eschewed the standard definition of living to meet life on their own terms.  They have done this without backstabbing or crushing people along the way.  Then I stopped and thought about it.

Everyone that I’ve met in our blogosphere is a role model.  You’ve all decided to be more than what the definition of what a modern person is to be.  You refuse to limit yourself to just your work.  You present items and ideas from different angles prompting us to question our own views of the subject.  You find beauty in everyday items.  You take us with you on your travels to exotic lands or across the street to your favorite store.  You dig deep to explain why you prefer this item to that.  You look inward and bring out the most beautiful creative writings that are about some of the darkest subjects just before turning around and showing us the lighthearted moments of everyday life.  You all show that passion, creativity, and expression are still alive and flourishing.  You show the positive and that’s why you are all role models.

Thank you.