sheep

Irish leftovers

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Last week’s blog post covered highlights from our Irish adventure. So what’s left?

Odds and ends.

Like the moment of gastronomic nirvana, when I stumbled on a cheesemonger peddling his wares in Kenmare.

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Time out: It’s possible that the term cheesemonger, and fishmonger and other mongers have gone the way of the Dodo bird. But this might be my only opportunity to ever use cheesemonger, so I’m running with it. Okay, time in.

Cheese is my one, true Kryptonite, my Achilles’ heel. I am powerless around cheese. If you apply the litmus test of questions that define addiction, I fit the profile.

“Do you eat cheese alone?” Sure. “Do you eat it in excess?” Absolutely. “Do you eat cheese to forget your problems?” Doesn’t everyone?

Decisions, decisions. I spent several minutes drooling over options. The cheesemonger was very kind; he offered samples to taste, even a smidge of his top-tier products. I bought several wedges and a 1/2 wheel — at a fraction of the price typically charged at home. One cheese choice was quite pungent. I stashed my stuff in the trunk, but within an hour, my haul had stunk-up the entire car.

Aside from the delectable cheese display above, I should also point out my constant travel companion: Ugly Backpack — that dingy, gray sack strapped over my shoulders. Ugly Backpack is a story in itself, and probably warrants a separate post. But suffice to say, it is proof-positive that Ralph Lauren’s Polo line includes some hideous looking merchandise. That said, Ugly Backpack is practical as hell; it has logged more airline miles than all of you readers, combined. The 4 of you.

Seriously, Ugly Backpack has visited 5 continents, and countless countries.

Here it is on a trip to Paris, 12 years ago:

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And before that, in Romania:

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Its travel log predates digital photography. (And based on these photos, that purple polar fleece is a real globe-trotter as well.)

Now I’m totally off-topic. Forget the cheese and Ugly Backpack. On to Kilkenny, which should have just been an overnight stay. But we were awarded a bonus day, thanks to Frog — shorthand for frozen fog — which hit London, and grounded hundreds of flights, including ours from Dublin. We couldn’t rebook until the next day, so we kicked around Kilkenny. And checked out Kilkenny Castle.

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We toured the place, both inside and out.

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As everywhere else, simply brimming with tourists…

Our hotel was a stone’s throw away from the castle. (Hadley, don’t touch my laptop.)

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Admittedly, our fabulous trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

In our travels, several items were lost, including Cayden’s retainer. We searched every pocket of every bag, and contacted the hotels where we’d stayed, to no avail. Retainer replacement adds a big line-item to our vacation budget.

The missing mouth wear was a touchy subject until Martin broke the ice on our journey home. While we gained a spare vacation day, with it, came a 5-hour layover at Heathrow. We killed time wandering the concourse, eating, shopping, eating some more, shopping some more, until finally, we slumped in a row of airport seats and gazed at the digital departure board.

The kids didn’t want to slump and sit; they wanted to explore. But Martin and I were too tired to shlep our bulging carry-on bags and plod in pursuit. So we let them go. Alone. In Heathrow. One of the busiest airports in the world.

Cayden and Brynn were first to venture out, and as they slipped among the moving mass of bodies and luggage, Martin shouted, “Hey! Don’t lose your sister like you lost your retainer!”

That was worth a laugh, even as the kids were swallowed by a stream of travelers — some striding purposely to their gates, other wandering aimlessly between stores, parents dragging resistant, wailing toddlers, and solitary souls sprinting desperately to distant gates.

I got a little anxious when boarding time approached and we were still two kids down. But they turned up. (So did the retainer, according to hotel staff, but the news came when were home… after we’d ordered a new one.)

But hey, we left the States with 3 kids and we returned with 3 kids. And a bit of laundry.

Not too bad!

The questions is: Will there be another trip next year? An Irish five-peat? Are plans in the works for Sheepfest 2018?

As President Trump has taught me, anything is possible.

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Well, it happened

Remember last month, when I wrote that our sheep are defying the odds by refusing to die? And I added: check next week to see if I jinxed them.

Well, I should have written, “check next month.” Because it happened: I jinxed the sheep.

One in particular.

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From a distance, I half-hoped that she was just dozing like a dog, wedged against the shed. But when I approached and only 4 scattered, there was little doubt.

It was bound to happen. At least three of the ewes were mature when we acquired the herd 8 years ago. (We started with 6; one died in the first year.) Sheep live 10 to 12 years, but one Katahdin sheep site estimates the lifespan at 7 to 12 years.

So she had a good life… aside from being periodically terrorized by Maisie’s high-speed herding style.

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And there was that one experiment with mutton busting in 2012.

But the kid fared far worse than the sheep.

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If anything, life has been too good for our flock; they’re all in the 200 pound range and they do not hesitate to throw their weight around when we try to minister care: deworming and hoof trimming.

I will spare you the unsavory details of moving and disposing of a dead, bloated, 200+ pound sheep. I’ll just say that it was smelly and physically challenging. And Martin and I wanted to burn our clothes afterward.

So if it’s possible to retract a jinx, I’d like that option, please.

The final four are welcome to stick around awhile longer.

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What’s Up, In Pictures

 

We are about to emerge from the log jam of April and May, and I have a few minutes to post some pictures snapped in recent weeks. When last I left you, Cayden was duct-taped to a cart in the driveway. Since then:

We returned to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, which I described four years ago here. It is a massive sheep spectacle-meets-craft fair, with a healthy dollop of Americana.

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Hadley and I kicked off our respective softball seasons. On a Saturday in April, we celebrated at a sun-soaked lunch.

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Since then, virtually all of our games have been rained out.

 

Last weekend, we partied at the Potomac Hunt Races. On that day, it didn’t rain, but the wind blew like the dickens. Still, lots of fun for the adults:

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Kids, too:

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Between races, Hadley, Cayden and crew hawked decorative horseshoes and pulled in a nice profit.

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Back on the farm, we discovered one of Blackie’s relatives inside the bar. Our cat Olive has also been wriggling through a narrow gap beneath the door, so it appears that cat & snake are tag-teaming the rodent population inside. Cool.

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And finally, Felix, our semi-feral cat, continues to defy the textbook prototype of a barn cat, by getting fatter and fatter. His stomach nearly touches the ground and mouse-sized mats ride his back, because he’s too tubby to groom himself. More on that later.

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Postscript —  I can’t conclude with that blubbery feline. Frequent storms and volatile weather do yield some nice sunsets, like this one last night.

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