Loving the countryside…Ruins…The Belted Galloway…

From this site:  “In 1842, a German writer and geographer called Johann Georg Kohl traveled around Ireland, publishing an account of his journey the following year. “Of all the countries in the world,” he observed, “Ireland is the country for ruins. Here you have ruins of every period of history, from the time of the Phoenicians down to the present day… each century has marked its progress by the ruins it has left. Nay, every decade, one might almost say, has set its sign up on Ireland, for in all directions, you see several dilapidated buildings, ruins of yesterday’s erection.”

“Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland” 
“Ireland has made many trading partners over the last few decades. Today, the United States accounts for 20% of Ireland’s exports, while the United Kingdom accounts for 38% of the country’s imports.”

We’ve been out each day since we arrived in awe of the wonders surrounding us.  From the ruins of various buildings to cattle, sheep, donkeys, and horses along the road in our “neighborhood” (so to speak), any drive on which we embark provides a plethora of photo-worthy scenes.

This area of Connemara is not necessarily a hot summer vacation/holiday spot compared to many other European locations. We’ve seen several B & Bs and a few hotels, resorts, and holiday designated areas. Based on its online booking calendar, this holiday home is almost totally booked for the remainder of the year.  

A Belted Galloway cow. From this site:  “Belted Galloway cattle originated from western Scotland, a region whose weather is strikingly similar to Ireland’s damp climate! This makes Belted Galloways perfectly suitable for the wet, cold winters and the soft boggy terrain of Irish farms. Their long, curly outer coat is ideal for rainy weather, as its coarseness deflects moisture from the animal’s skin. They also have a soft undercoat to keep them warm in colder temperatures. The head of the Belted Galloway has long hair around its ears, preventing frostbite in a case of an extreme Irish freeze. Common nicknames for these cattle are ‘Belties’ or even ‘Oreo Cows’ due to their peculiar resemblance to the popular treat!”

Whether tourists have come here to do something comparable to our plans, sightseeing or visiting relatives, they come to this area and love it.

The rough and uneven terrain and the boggy landscape aren’t ideal for walks on the beach or gaining access to the ocean for swimming or snorkeling.  However, several beaches are within a two-hour drive for swimming and enjoying the ocean-related activities, although the cool weather may easily be a deterrent.  

We spotted several Belted Galloway cattle in the country.  The last time we’d seen this breed of cattle was while living in New Zealand in March 2016.  See our link here.

Perhaps when it’s officially summer here in June, it will warm up a bit.  The average summer temperature is between 17.7 C, 64F and 20C, 68F, still very cool. This morning upon awakening, it was only 9.4C, 49F, and now at 10:00 am, it’s a paltry 12.7C, 55F, not necessarily good weather for swimming, snorkeling, or boating.

For us, this isn’t an issue. I must admit I am thoroughly enjoying the cool weather after the heat during our 15 months in Africa. We’re more interested in the historical aspects, researching Tom’s ancestry, and, as typical for us, immersing ourselves in local culture while we make every effort to blend in.

As we drove through the countryside in Connemara, we were amazed by the number of ruins.

The kindly people we’ve met thus far seem delighted with the fact that Tom is almost 100% Irish based on a DNA test he did a few years ago through Ancestry.com, where he’ll spend hours each week in research and building his family tree.

In US records, he hit a wall. His ancestors immigrated to the US from Ireland from the 1830s, and he’s updated his family tree to the best of his ability and the availability of records available to him.  

To go further back to continue building the family tree, it’s necessary to research records from right here in Ireland that may not have been uploaded to the Internet and stay as paper files in churches, governmental buildings, and public record-keeping facilities.

From this site In Ireland, large-scale domestic and industrial peat usage is widespread. In the Republic of Ireland, a state-owned company called Bord na Móna is responsible for managing peat extraction. It processes the extracted peat into milled peat used in power stations and sells processed peat fuel in peat briquettes used for domestic heating. These are oblong bars of densely compressed, dried, and shredded peat. Peat moss is a manufactured product for use in garden cultivation. Turf (dried out peat sods) is also commonly used in rural areas.”

Fortunately, through years of research, he’s been able to determine many of the towns and counties where his ancestors lived and worked. It is some of these locations we’ll visit in our time here. 

He’s beginning to research the possible locations where such records may be found. We hope to travel to one new place each week, giving us a further opportunity to explore this scenic country while stopping along the way to go through various records at specific facilities.

Depending on the weather and how I’m feeling, we plan to go on our first exploration next week, having left this week to get settled, grocery shopping, and get into a somewhat familiar and comfortable routine.

A handsome horse at a pasture with other horses a few doors from our house.

A part of the joy of living in various countries throughout the world is when the time comes that we feel we fit in, especially when we have the opportunity to socialize with locals. As always, it’s entirely up to us to create a social life of some semblance.

There are numerous popular pubs we’ll visit in the town of Clifden, where we grocery shopped at the fabulous SuperValu market, purchased SIM cards, and walked up and down the busy streets. There were numerous pubs and restaurants we’d visit during our time here.

We’re looking forward to sharing more and more with our loyal readers, again, whom we thank again for staying with us during the trying past three months. May your lives be filled with exceptional experiences. 

Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2019

It was surprising how many boats were on the Zambezi River at sunset.  For more photos of the river cruise, please click here.

Unusual sighting on a drive…Who knew?…New photos!

Later, upon arriving home we laughed over this photo that appears to be what??? A six-legged cow? No. The photo is a fluke which one cow standing behind the other.  We didn’t stay long for better photos when they began showing a few signs of aggression.

After days of bad weather, yesterday as the winds diminished we took off for a drive anxious to get out. The sun was shining and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to be on our way. 

It was Saturday and the roads were busy with outdoor activities including a motocross event and a bike race requiring we make a few detours to get around the road that runs along the ocean.

We were able to take many photos often getting out of the car when possible to walk down country roads for better shots when parking wasn’t readily available at the most scenic locations.

The air was cool, but we’d dressed accordingly. This area is an amazing wealth of unique sights to see, unlike many countries we’ve visited in the past inspiring us to take advantage of sunny days.

This sign is posted at the entrance to the Belted Galloway farm.

Many sightings, unique to New Zealand, only add to the excitement as we wander onto road after road, making an effort to avoid repeats.  I almost hold my breath as we drive anticipating something special at the next turn. 

It’s no wonder we haven’t wanted to drive far away, incurring hotel bills, costs of meals, and expensive fuel when everything that appeals to us is within a two-hour drive.

This morning, prior to preparing today’s post we headed to town again to purchase eggs at the Farmers Market Taranaki, a trip we make every other Sunday morning. Open only in the mornings and having taken my time getting up this morning after a fitful night, we decided to head out as soon as we were up, showered, and dressed, even waiting for our usual morning coffee.

The egg farmer from whom we purchase usually purchase six dozen free-range, organic eggs, asked if we’ve traveled much throughout the country. We explained how much we’ve loved this general area and he laughed saying, “Many locals never visit all that you two have in their entire lifetime in this area!”

The line of demarcation of the white and black hide is fairly defined in these unusual cattle.

We certainly understand this often typical scenario. Who goes sightseeing in their own town unless they’re taking out-of-town visitors to see a specific venue or visiting a few popular sites with their children and/or grandchildren?

By the time we leave the Taranaki Region, we feel we’ll know it quite well as opposed to knowing a little of “this and that” from frequent travel outside the area. 

Perhaps, this is a rationalization for our lack of interest in making long road trips at this time. As we explained to the egg rancher, we do what we love to do which ultimately brings us the most joy and meaning and, hopefully, provides a modicum of entertainment for our worldwide readers.

Taking dozens of photos which we’ll share over the next many days, we were able to see a “story” in many of our camera subjects, especially the photos we’re sharing today, that of the unique (to us anyway) Belted Galloway Cattle. 

We’d never seen this breed of cattle in all of our world travels where over and over we’ve seen a wide variety of the more common breeds.

What a sight to see…these belted cattle!

This website is a good resource for information about the Belted Galloway who originated in Scotland in the 1700s.  Here’s a little about these special looking cattle from the online source:

“Belted Galloway cattle originated from western Scotland, a region whose weather is strikingly similar to Ireland’s own damp climate! This makes Belted Galloways perfectly suitable for the wet, cold winters and the boggy soft terrain of Irish farms. Their long, curly outer coat is ideal for rainy weather, as its coarseness deflects moisture from the animal’s skin. They also have a soft undercoat to keep them warm in colder temperatures. The head of the Belted Galloway has long hair around its ears, preventing frostbite in a case of an extreme Irish freeze.”

These unique animals are often referred to as the “Oreo” cattle. We “borrowed” the below photo from the website to illustrate that point which once seen clearly makes sense of such a nickname:

Yep, kind of similar to an “Oreo.”  Tom misses those for sure but looking at these cows didn’t make his mouth water as much as eyeballing a package of Oreos at the grocery store.

Standing on the side of the road, having parked on the narrow weedy road’s edge we proceeded with caution. (Few local roads in New Zealand have a “shoulder” for any necessary or desired stopping).

Wading through the tall grass and weeds we were able to get close enough for today’s photos. This breed of cattle may be aggressive as noted in these comments from the website:

“The dams also have strong mothering instincts, which is a plus for farmers who worry about the safety of vulnerable calves. Any nearby predators can be warned off by protective Belted Galloway dams; however, as with every breed, this kind of aggression should be treated with caution, and extra care should be taken around a volatile dam and her offspring. In the case of bulls, visitors should always be wary of the danger! Have a look at our article on Bull Safety to remind yourself of the right practices.”

It’s the females that are more aggressive in this breed as may be the case with this mom who may have a calf nearby.

As we stood and watched the cattle we could sense a bit of possible aggression as we noticed the double electric fence. As we’ve seen most recently cattle have certain movements such as kicking up a leg at a time and snorting indicating agitation.

Preferring not to upset their daily routine, we took these few photos and were happily on our way to see more treasures in this special area. We’ll be back with lots more over the next several days.

May you have a day of new discoveries!

Photo from one year ago today, March 13, 2015:

In Kauai, Tom spotted these two chickens. “Must have been a double yolker,” Tom clucked as I laughed. Kauai has one of the largest feral chicken populations in the world. For more photos, please click here.