From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Friday, 30 September 2011

Friday Weather Watch

Can we go now?

We've had three days of this while the North and East of Ireland has been basking in an Indian summer.  I'm already fed up with it.

There's only one thing to do on a day like today:

On a positive note, I booked the ferry tickets yesterday!  Starting to get excited now!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

MMMMMMMMushrooms and other Autumnal Stuff

Autumn is not my favourite time of year.  I'm a Spring person, I love the vibrancy, growth, new births, the horses relishing the first Spring grass, swallows and house martins arriving.....
I just don't "get it" when people say "I love the autumn" - well up to now anyway.  This year I am revelling in the wild harvest that Autumn is offering us, and I'm developing a new affection for this season!

I've been growing vegetables in a very old manure heap for a couple of years now, pretty successfully.
My Facebook page has been enhanced with various shots of me hiding behind giant vegetables.

There was the giant squash (dressed up like one of the kids from Southpark):

The giant broccoli :

The giant sunflower (I'm not tall enough to hide behind it) :

And now, Autumn 2011 brings us the giant mushroom :

These started appearing about a month ago, buried in the nettles at the back of the veggies.  They're called Shaggy Parasol Mushrooms (a friend of Anne's identified them for me) and they are very edible and very delicious.
I was a bit sad when the original four died back, but lo and behold, they have gone forth, increased and multiplied!  They're filling up a 15 foot stretch of the boundary at the rear of the veggies now.
The little white spot is a silvermint to give perspective!
When I got back from the National Dressage Championships this weekend (not riding, just helping) I was delighted to see there's even more of them springing up.  I picked these the day after I got home:
I stuffed the one on the right and "souped" the other two
Since August, we've had mushroom risotto, mushroom omelette, steak & mushrooms, big fry up with mushrooms, mushroom soup, mushrooms on toast and finally, today, a stuffed mushroom.  Stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, onions and herbs (all my own), cheese on top and served with carrots & new potatoes (also my own).

By the time I'd finished the carrots and the stuffed mushroom, I was a stuffed Martine with no room for potatoes.

There's also the odd field mushroom popping up in the paddock :

These are much more modest, and less shamelessly "mushroomy" in flavour.  If I find a few of these while I'm skipping out the paddock, I bring 'em in and fry them up for brekkie.  Yum.

Did I say I like mushrooms?

I mentioned spotting damsons before I went on holiday.  Sadly, I never got around to picking them until today, and I reckon I was about two weeks too late.  By dint of stretching enormously past my 5'3" limit, and using a forked stick to pull down branches so I could reach them, I collected about 2lbs of fruit, but a fair few of them were past their prime.

I went through the jam-making steps, noting that it smelled very alcoholic at the stewing stage, before I added the sugar.
Winemaking might have been a better idea, but I managed to make about 3lbs of fairly tart jam anyway.  I bet Denis likes it!

There are still plenty of blackberries - I've been scoffing them as I walk the dogs most days.  The dogs love them too, although Cookie had to be shown what they were.  Now herself & Cinny pick the low ones while I pick the higher ones.  Poor ol' Molly can't see them anymore, so I always pick a few just for her.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday Weather Watch

There's not much to say about this other than Cereste is starting to look better and better!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Half of the Wagons go to Lanzarote

The Long-Suffering Husband and I took a week long break and headed off to Lanzarote to try and remedy our chronic Vitamin D deficiency after this year's craptacular Irish Summer.
Why Lanzarote?  Ehhh, because we live ten minutes from Cork airport and we could get a direct flight from there to Lanzarote, of course.  And we seemed fairly certain to get good weather there.  So other than "sun" we arrived into Lanzarote with no expectations whatsoever, other than that I'd previously spent a week in the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura and was fairly unimpressed.

My favourite pic from the holiday!

Thankfully, our expectation were well exceeded, mostly thanks to a visionary artist/architect called Cesar Manrique.  Back in the 60s, he spotted Lanzarote's tourism potential, and managed to convince the powers-that-be on the island not to allow high rise development, such as has marred so much of the coast of Spain.  Many of the attractions on the island were also designed by him - Mirador del Rio, a beautiful viewing spot at the North of the island, the guest centre at the heart of the volcano park and his own residence, which is designed so the lower floor is made up of bubbles in an old lava tunnel, to name but a few.

Some of Manrique's works on the island:
Cactus Garden

 Ladies Bathroom

Gent's Bathroom

Jameos del Agua - an underground cave system, built into
lava tubes.  Based on an idea by Cesar Manrique

We unwound pretty well - ate way too much, drank way too much, watched Ireland annihilate Australia (woohoo!) in a lively bar at 9.30am, walked a bit, swam a bit and lolled around a bit.

We also rented a car and did some touring around.  There's loads to see, and even though it takes at most an hour to drive the length of the island, we found that after having the car for three days, there was still stuff we hadn't seen.
View at Mirador del Rio

I'm always interested in agriculture in different countries ('cos I'm a country girl, I guess) and boy do they face challenges on Lanzarote.  Wind, sun and lack of rain combine to make their lives difficult.  Everything they grow has to be given shelter from the elements, and they do this by building little individual windbreaks out of lava rock around their plants.
Ploughed fields, covered in moisture retaining lava gravel
Individual stone walls for plants.  And they think they have it rough
 on the Aran Islands!

Add into this the fact that the ground is covered in volcanic rock of some sort, and you'd wonder how can anything survive, yet they produce an award winning goats cheese, there's a large area with lettuce & other greenery and there's a thriving (& unique) wine-growing region.  This last one was what most grabbed my attention!

To protect the vines from the steady and desiccating winds, each vine is planted (by hand) in a conical "dimple" about one meter deep.  A teeny stone wall is built at the top of each dimple to further protect the vine from the prevailing North wind.  A thick layer of volcanic rock which has been broken down into gravel (picon) is then put on top - this helps trap moisture, and the conical shape helps the moisture run down to each vine.  It makes for some interesting landscapes:

Pruning and picking are are also done by hand and are made even more difficult in that the farmers have to slide down into each "dimple" to work on each plant, so Lanzarotean wine is not cheap, but I can personally testify that it's excellent.  Our favourite was the Malvasia Secco from the Stratvs vineyard - there's not much of this around, though, but there's plenty of El Grifo wine available, and it's pretty drinkable too.

They also seem to be growing corn.  I'm not sure how successful this is.  Maybe it's intended as fodder for the goats?

Lanzarote cornfield
Another highlight of the trip was watching Spaniards playing with volcanos.  If you take the bus trip around the volcanic park Timanfaya, you'll be treated to this experience at the end.  They have a couple a fumaroles just beside the car park.  They place a piece of dried brushwood over one, and WHOOMPH! it goes up in flames.  Then they chuck a bucket of water down another, stand back, and a couple of seconds later, WHOOSH! the volcano spews it back up in a geyser of steam.

Great fun, but Health & Safety would never let them away with it here!

The dining room at Stratvs Bodega
We ate out "posh" twice - once at the Stratvs Bodega restaurant which was excellent (interesting menu, great setting and service) and once at Oskar's restaurant in Costa Teguise which was very good (food was good but not so exciting, lovely outdoor patio and pleasant waitress).

We were getting reports from home that doggies, horses and cats were all fine, until I got a slightly worrying text from Denis on the last day, saying he was on his way back from a walk with Cookie and

"it may be a case of too little too late.  You will appreciate the import of the above when you see the state of your back kitchen...."

Gulp.  We weren't sure were we facing major toilet mishaps or what.  Thankfully it turned out to be "or what" :

The result of a leaving hyperactive young terrier
 alone for long periods

She had unpacked all of Tansy's horse-gear boxes and had cleared every shelf she could reach of every item.  Thankfully, she's a disorganiser, not a chewer, and no lasting damage was done.  I think she is aiming for Scampy's "Naughtiest Dog" title.  She could indeed be a contender!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Friday Weather Watch

Not so nicely formatted this time as I'm away from my laptop and don't have photoshop at my disposal :

Fri. Sun/showers H14 L9
Sat. Sun/showers H12 L8
Sun. Sun/cloud H14 L9
Mon. Rain H14 L8
Tues. Sun/cloud H12 L8
Weds. Sun/cloud H13 L9

Fri. Sun H27 L14
Sat. Sun/cloud H28 L16
Sun. Rain H21 L10
Mon. Fog H21 L9
Tues. Sun H24 L9
Weds. Sun/cloud H24 L11

Post on the joys of Lanzarote coming soon!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Scamp - A Life lived on the Edge

We always said Scamp was part cat.  She had cat-like independence – she was not an overly affectionate dog.  She rarely gave kisses.  She was never 100% comfortable sitting on a lap – she’d hop down after a few minutes like an embarrassed teenager who's been hugged in front of their friends.  She had (at least) nine lives – in fact the way she hung on to life at the end speaks volumes.

She came into our lives on a wet and dreary October day in 1993.  One of the girls had a “back to school” bug, so I had to make a trip to Wilton Shopping Centre for a prescription.  As I was hurrying back to the car through the rain, I noticed two women standing holding two really cute puppies.  I got talking to them, and was shocked to hear that they’d found them running around the car park, and had picked them up so they wouldn’t get run over.  They’d spoken to the centre’s security guard, who said it was a fairly regular occurrence to have dogs dumped at the centre, and the local pound had been informed.  At this, I blurted out “You can’t let them go to the pound, I’ll take them home!” and so I arrived home fifteen minutes later, with two flea-ridden wormbags in the boot of the car, thinking “George is going to KILL me!”
Thankfully I was wrong, I am still alive! and Scruffy and Scamp became the first occupants of our new stable block.  Our farrier gave Scruffy a home, but Scampy was ours for keeps.

She never walked anywhere, she always scampered!  Her tail didn't wag, it rotated like a propeller as she ran along and it never stopped. She always made me smile with her joie de vivre, but she was naughty! Let her out for a wee, and she’d be gone for hours.  You could call till you were blue in the face, but she’d come back when it suited her, usually plastered in mud from head to toe.

She was a hunter through and through, and helped keep our yard clear of rats and mice for years, as well as helping keep the surrounding fields clear of rabbits!  Her love of the chase got her into trouble - she was caught in fox-traps twice.  The second time was one of her closest brushes with death.  She had followed Denis out on a hack, but detoured into a hedge to go hunting and didn't return home with him.  Not unusual, she’d usually make her way home within an hour or two.
This time, though, she still hadn't returned by evening time, and Denis concluded that she was caught somewhere.  We were away, but our good friends and neighbours mounted a search for her, and eventually found her caught in an ILLEGAL fox-trap in the middle of a field of cabbages.  It was winter time and a hard frost had set in - if she'd been left overnight she wouldn't have survived.  Our friend Sharon had insisted on keeping the search going, and undoubtedly saved her life.

She chased cars, especially our neighbour’s diesel car.  Of course she ended up being run over.  Down to the vets, broken leg.  Home again in a cast for a while, then back to normal life, hunting rabbits in the fields with our other dogs, chasing mice in the haybarn.

She loved water, and would spend ages splashing around in the nearby stream.  In the summer, she’d go for a paddle in the horses’ trough to cool down – that was back when summers were warm, remember? She nearly drowned early on in life – she went for a swim in an open drain at the bottom of our arena and couldn’t get out again.  Audrey, one of my teenage “helpers” arrived at the back door, dripping wet, with a soggy bedraggled Scamp in her arms – she’d seen her going under and had jumped straight in to fish her out!  It didn’t put Scamp off water though, she still loved to go for her swim. 

She loved to follow the horses out hacking, which I hated - I just don't think it's safe to have a bunch of horses plus a dog out on the road together.  I’d send her home if she followed me.  She’d go back as far as our gate, then cut across a couple of fields and join us about a mile from home, where it was too far to send her back.  Eventually she got really smart - she’d head off ahead of us, before we even mounted up, and wait in a ditch.  Once we'd passed, she'd sneak along behind us, until she knew she’d been spotted, than she’d come right up and join us. 
She once chased a rabbit across the road and right under my horse’s legs – first the rabbit, then a split second later, the dog.  The horse didn’t have time to react, it all happened so fast!

I think she must have been very rude to the local dogs – they all hated her.  She arrived home badly bitten many times.  Lots of emergency runs to the vet for stitches in her stomach, throat and back, all on different occasions.  I think he thought I was involved in badger baiting or dog fighting for a while – seriously! Me! That guy didn’t know me too well!

She was a thief and a scrounger.  New livery clients quickly learned not to leave carrots anywhere within Scamp’s reach.  She was a comical sight tiptoeing across the yard, trying to look innocent, with a great big carrot sticking out of her mouth.
She regularly raided the feedbowls of all the local cats and dogs and she would frequently turn up with something more interesting – loaves of bread, chicken carcasses, scones…. 
For most of her life, she waited every morning in the corner of our field until she heard our neighbour Frank opening his shed door as he started his morning chores.  As soon as he opened the door, she’d be at his feet, tail wagging expectantly, and he’d give her a chunk of bread.  From the time we realized she was going blind, we no longer allowed her offleash, but Frank always had a little treat for her when we passed.

We thought we were nearing the end about two years ago – she had repeated tummy problems, which invariably involved a lot of floor washing.  I would try the usual treatment – withhold food for 24 – 48 hours, and then start back on boiled chicken and rice, but most of the time this failed to solve the problem, and she’d end up in our Vet’s, on a drip overnight and then on antibiotics.   The last time this happened, I really thought we’d lose her, and I think she thought her time was up too.  I’ve never seen her so pleased to see anyone as she was to see me the day I went in to pick her up – she leaped straight up onto my knee, cuddled into me, and even gave my face a little lick – totally non-Scamp behaviour!
Stinky and all as she was, I didn’t mind.  I was just delighted to be taking her home.
We started her on a new medication (Antepsin) after that, and I can honestly say it extended her life by two years.  She had one or two minor bouts, but never again was it so bad that we thought “This is it”.

Her end came slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly.  Her cheery nature masked the fact that she couldn't see or hear too well, and she tried hard to keep bouncing around, despite her weakening legs.  Eventually we all agreed that the time had come and she needed help on her way.  Our vet kindly came out and euthanized her at home, George’s arms around her, me rubbing her little head.

She wasn’t the prettiest dog ever.  She definitely wasn’t the best behaved dog ever.  But her cheeky face and propeller tail made me smile pretty much every day for eighteen years.

She's resting under the tree in the corner of the field where she used to sit waiting for Frank every morning.  

Thanks for the memories, lil’ ratbag.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Martine and Dressage - Regional Dressage Championships 2011

The earliest photo of me on a horse.
Taken on holiday in 1975.
I'm on the right
I started riding when I was seven years old (thanks Mum!), but did not have my own pony or horse until I was in my mid-twenties (yeah, thanks Mum!)  
I did my best to make up for lost time, and got very involved in the Cork riding club scene for several years, competing regularly and organising competitions for my club. 
As our daughters got older, they started riding more and more seriously, so on Sundays, the family would often be split up as George took them off to showjumping competitions with their ponies and I went off to whatever was going on with the riding club. 
One Sunday, I had an epiphany moment while I was standing in the middle of a windswept field, mobile phone clamped to my ear, listening to the girls excitedly telling me all about their clear rounds that day.  I realised I was missing out on a huge part of their life, and I resolved to put my own (not very exciting) equestrian career on hold and become the dreaded “pony mum
So the family was reunited on Sundays, and we hauled ponies, horses & girls all over Ireland for the best part of ten years.  We had successes, disasters, triumphs and tears, and I wouldn’t have missed one minute of it! 
Towards the end of Tansy’s teen years, she got more and more into dressage, and I got more and more involved in the organisational side of it, happy to put something back into the sport.  I’ve been Chairman of South Munster Dressage Club for three years, and I’ve been one half of the driving force behind “Silver Spurs” for that time as well, the other half being my good friend and sometimes trainer, Naomi Donoghue, Chef d’Equipe of the Irish Para-equestrian team.
Now that Tansy is competing less, I have time for myself again!  My lovely cob Flurry has been drafted into the role of “Martine’s Dressage Horse” and.... well.... we’re having fun!
Flurry & me, just after I bought him

In a dressage test, you ride a series of movements, just like the set pattern in figure skating.  For each movement, you’re allocated marks as follows (para-phrasing  from Stephen Clarke):

10 - Excellent
The movement could not be done better. It is something very special to give a 10, and if given too lightly will lose its significance.
9 - Very Good
'Goose bump material', with most of the movement being excellent.
8 - Good
For an 8 there must be no basic problems. The movement has been properly executed, but maybe there was some small hiccup that brought it down from a 9
7 - Fairly Good
There is usually nothing to really complain about with a 7. Normally everything needs a little more impulsion, suppleness, expression and/or cadence. The basic qualities are clear and show a certain amount of harmony and ease within the movement itself.
6 - Satisfactory
This covers a multitude of sins. It is normally a 6 when the movement is basically correct but lacking in quality.
5 - Sufficient
If the horse has achieved the movement it is usual to give a 5. Even if the movement is a somewhat restricted, earthbound, lacking suppleness or impulsion, as long as the regularity is clear and the figure is fairly accurate, it can still warrant a 5.
4 - Insufficient
The most important thing when giving a 4 is that one thinks of the movement as 'insufficient'.
Serious mistakes like breaking pace, dropping out of canter, jogging through part of a walk movement, not walking in a simple change are examples of when a 4 or even a 3 would be appropriate.
3 - Fairly Bad
This could be given if there is fairly bad resistance, or a resistance combined with a lack of quality and/or other mistakes (resistance = horse very reluctant to do what is being asked of him).
1 - Very Bad and 2 - Bad
These marks are about severe resistance. For example if a horse stops, runs back or refuses to go forward. Provided this is not for more than 20 seconds (when he would be eliminated), then the movement has to be bad or very bad.
0 - Not Performed Practically nothing is shown

I have my own interpretation of this system.  It goes something like this :

10 - That Judge is insane - clearly bonkers, no-one ever deserves a 10
9 - I think I’m getting sympathy marks – the judge knows me/thinks my horse is cute and/or is being nice to me
8 - Me & my horse are awesome - I’ll be on a high for weeks
7 - I’m very happy – I’ll be on a high for rest of the day
6 - Not too pants – yeah, ok I can live with that
5 - Fairly pants – hmm, not great, I need to do a bit of work
4 - Pants – crap really, I’ll have to roll up the sleeves and sort that out (usually to do with striking off on the wrong leg in canter or breaking pace)
3 - I am never riding in front of that judge again - he/she doesn’t know what they’re talking about
2 - I am never doing dressage again - why do I do this to my horse?
1 - I am never riding again - why do I do this to myself?
0 - That Judge is insane - of course I performed that movement!

Flurry and I have been competing in the amateur “Sportsman’s A” classes with Dressage Ireland since March this year.  We’ve managed to qualify for the National Championships (two scores over 62%) so actually, I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve achieved – Flurry had never seen a dressage arena before he met me, and I really hadn’t ridden for over eight years, apart from the odd hack on the girls’ ponies.
Due to personal commitments, I can’t compete at Nationals this year (but watch out next year) so the South Munster Regional finals held today was really my last BIG outing this year.  This is how it went.
6.30am: Out of bed, fed Flurry, scraped off mud, plaited his mane, washed his tail. 
7.30am: Back inside, ate brekkie, watched the second half of Ireland v USA (jeez, what can I say? They were so bad they made the yanks look good)
9.00am: Load up jeep, hitch up trailer, load up horse and off we go....
9.30am: arrive at Maryville Stables, help set up arena with other victims... eh I mean volunteers
10.30am: tack up, mount up, warm up....
11.06am: in we go for championship Prelim test.  Not the best ever, he broke out of canter, jogged in his walk, we came out with 56.6.  Going by my scale of marks above, between a 5 and a 6 overall - yeah, ok I can live with that, hmm, not great, I need to do a bit of work
11.45am: in for “other” Prelim test.  Flurry felt GOOD by my standards!  Yeah, the canter still isn’t perfect, it’s a work in progress, but he was going forward sweetly and was (mostly) round.  We came out with 63.2 – a mark that’s good enough to qualify for Nationals, and according to Martine’s Scale of Marks, “yeah, ok I can live with that”, with a touch of “I’ll be on a high for rest of the day”
12.00pm: To work, helping run the show.  Competition was scheduled until 5pm.  However, the impending arrival of the late hurricane Katia had caused a lot of people to withdraw, so we encouraged people to go early when possible and managed to finish up half an hour ahead of schedule.
4.30/5.00pm: help disassemble arenas with other eejits, sorry, volunteers
5.30pm: Back home, walk dogs, feed horses, order chinese and relax!

A good day!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday Weather Watch

I plan to have a look at the weekend weather every Friday, and post it here.  Hopefully, from Jan to March our Irish friends will be jealous of us.  Either that or they'll be laughing at us!

I'm hoping this is legal! If not, it will disappear very quickly!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Typical Irish Hack (to be compared with Typical French Hack later)

Summer arrived for about six hours today, and Anne & I headed out for a quiet hack from home (mine, not hers, GiGi is staying with us for a while)

It had just started to cloud over when we set off, which made it very pleasant riding weather.  We did a short road hack :

And stopped to admire the view a few times :

The horses were so laid back with the warm weather they were almost horizontal - there were times when we thought Anne was going to have to get off GiGi & carry her!

Then we went into a couple of stubble fields, which woke both horses up no end!  We had a couple of canters, but Anne was complaining that the fields around my place are too small - she's probably right, it always seems like you have to pull up too soon.
We'll have to take a trip down to her place before all the stubble gets ploughed.

There's a real autumnal feel to everything now, all the trees and bushes are laden with fruit.  There's a great crop of blackberries, and I've spotted some damsons growing nearby - I can feel a jam-making session coming up!

We got back just as the rain was setting in for the evening - good timing or what! 

No hacking tomorrow, Regional Dressage Championships are on Sunday and poor Flurry is going to have a practice session tomorrow.  Hopefully he'll be a bit more lively than he was today, otherwise they'd better have a crash-cart ready for me when I finish riding on Sunday!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Taking the Guide Dog pup to France

Ann Mckenna with Tilda, Anne with Roxy, and Martine
Well the decision on wether or not I could bring Roxy, the guide dog puppy I am puppy walking, with me to France has been changed once or twice since I got her in April, and when I got the final no decision I was surprised at how upset I was, but a chance meeting with Ken Brydon, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind operations manager, at the IGDB open day, changed all that, and so now it is full steam ahead, courtesy of Irish Ferries, for France.

I think I must be mad, traveling with 3 dogs, but my daughter, Polly, is coming with me, and so the roof box requirements just keep getting bigger, so fingers and paws crossed.


I thought the cat problem had solved itself, as our adopted feral cat, Syd, had been on the missing list for weeks, but yesterday he walked in bold as brass, and settled into his bed, which I hadn't had the heart to put away. And then, as fate often directs, I found a really small kitten just up the road from the house, with no owner apparent in the immediate vicinity, surely something that small could not have travelled far.
New kid on the block

But the ferry is booked, a house/cat sitter has been found, so it's off to France we go.