Why do some sheep have paint on them?

When I think of Ireland I think of sheep and the speciality dogs that herd them.  I was not aware until recently that it is not uncommon for sheep to have paint on them.  I learned that there are several reasons that this is done and that they use a special type of paint or crayon to do this.

Farmers mark the sheep to indicate the ones that have been vaccinated or that need to be watched due to an injury.  They may mark them to remind them of the ones that are pregnant.  The colors are not standardized, each farmer choosing the colors they wish.

Some farmers paint their sheep to discourage stealing.  It would be hard to get away with stealing someone’s bright orange sheep!

And then there are some that just do this for fun, like for a town event.  Of course those make the best photos.

Here are couple of photos I found of colorful sheep.  I feel sure this was for fun.

The Cliffs of Moher

You have most likely seen the Cliffs of Moher in a movie before.  The cliffs make an impressive setting for drama due to the sheer deep drop from the top to the rocks and water below.  In some places that drop is over 700 feet. The cliffs were featured in Harry Potter movies.  Remember the scene when Dumbledore takes Harry to the cave to hunt for horcruxes?  How about the Princess Bride movie?  In that movie they’re called “The Cliffs of Insanity”.

The cliffs are on the southwest coast of Ireland in County Clare.  They were formed as a part of a giant river delta about 320 million years ago during the Carboniferous geological period.  The Carboniferous period lasted approximately 60 million years and is a period in which coal beds were formed.  Life on the planet at this time was very different.  Amphibians, cold blooded animals that live in water and on land, were the primary living creatures at that time.  The high oxygen percentage (35%) in the air during that time contributed to the great size of some of those Amphibians.  (We have normal oxygen percentage of 21% today).  These amphibians weren’t the dinosaurs.  They came later.  Remember the post about snakes?  One of the reasons Ireland doesn’t have snakes is because they are cold blooded.  How is it that Amphibians, a cold blooded animal, could live here during that time and not now?  The answer is climate change that occurred many millions of years ago. As you stand on the cliffs and marvel at the beauty, remember that creatures very much different from ourselves once roamed the area, a landscape changing into the cliffs we see today.

The areas visited by tourists are frequently busy.  People view them from below by taking a boat tour.  We would go by land because I would want to see that awesome view from the cliff tops. We must be careful along the cliffs because there aren’t fences or railings to keep us from falling off.  Warnings are posted and it is best we keep to the designated paths.  High winds can surprise a person in this area so we should stay away from the edges.

There are many different types of birds that live along the Cliffs of Moher.  Visitors are asked to avoid interfering with their nests.  Take a look at this video to see a Puffin.  This video was not made on the cliffs but I really like the way they describe the Puffins. The Guillemot is another type of bird that lives at the cliffs.  This is a very short video that shows these birds fishing.  Watch how deep they go underwater as they fish.  Would you say they are swimming?  Here is video showing a Fulmar (bird) flying and negotiating the wind.  When I watch this I have a deeper respect for the wind at this location.

The cliffs derive their name from a promontory fort called Mothar or Moher that once stood along cliffs.  There is a tower built by a local land lord named O’Brien.  It was built as a watch tower in the 1800s and was meant to give tourists a place to get a better view.  Another tower on the cliffs is called Hagg’s head tower.  It was built as a signal tower.  Hagg’s head was actually named after a rock formation.  Can you see a witch’s face?

10509724_300800170088785_7883418001757837256_n

The cliffs are constantly changing.  The winds, animals, and water all have an effect on the landscape. Branaunmore rock stands off the coast and can be seen from the cliffs.  It is a sea stack or erosion resistant piece of land.  It won’t be able to resist forever though and will some day crumble into the sea.

You may take a virtual tour of the Center at the Cliffs at this site.

Peat, Bogs, Bog Butter, and Bog Bodies

I sent you a sample of peat to burn so you could smell it.  20% of the homes in Ireland are still using Peat for fuel.  This is a much lower percentage than in the past due to availability of other forms of fuel/ energy. I am excited to share with you some of the interesting things I learned about Peat and Bogs. I have several Youtube videos for you to watch and hope you can. For those who can’t, I will give a brief synopsis.

A bog is one of four types of wetlands. It is produced by the gradual accumulation of plant material in a wet area without moving water. The decaying plant material produces acidic water which is low in nutrients and oxygen. The decay is called a carbon sink, the plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The accumulating plants decay very slowly due, in part, to the lack of insects and bacteria that can’t survive in the acidic surroundings. Bogs take a long time to form growing at only 1 mm a year (1 mm is about the width of the point of pencil lead)

Cutting Peat occurs in the spring. If you heard people talking of an upcoming cutting you would hear many unfamiliar terms for tools and methods. Peat spade, “wing or sail” of the spade, spanking, breasting, nicking the back, dabbing, cutter, lifter and wheeler are all interesting terms heard in this video.

The Bogs were cooler and didn’t have bacteria.  In the old days they didn’t have refrigeration so people had to find creative ways to preserve their foods. They used the bogs for storage of some perishables like butter.  It is rare fortune to find Bog Butter while cutting peat.  This video shows a recent find of Bog Butter that is over 2,000 years old.

Bog Bodies are just what it sounds like.  If plants decay very slowly you know that animals do too.  On occasion a body will be found in the bogs and the preservation is astounding.  The oldest body found was around 4,000 years old.  The science (hint, Elias, this is for you) behind the preservation is included in this very interesting video.  I especially was amazed by what happens to the bones…..

The harvesting of peat has become a legal battle in Ireland as some wish to preserve the environment and stability of the ecosystem.  The twenty percent of the population that depend upon the use of the peat for heat are fighting the restrictions as they look to use their lands as they wish, continuing a long standing tradition.

Now light your peat and appreciate all the time it took to form.  Be amazed at the wonderful world we live in. So much to learn….so much to discover.

Music in Ireland

You received a Tin Whistle, sometimes called the Penny Whistle, in your travel box.  I hope you like the sounds you can make with it and enjoy learning how to play it.  I love music and am sharing information about the music in each country because I believe it is an important way for people to express their cultural differences.

When I think of Irish music, I think of Riverdance.  This was a dance company that traveled and entertained crowds for years performing what is called Irish hardshoe. Watch this for a taste of a Riverdance performance. Here is a video to show you how to perform some of those moves.

Of course there are modern interpretations of more traditional Irish music. This article includes samples of Celtic Rock.  A cool modern twist on the hardshoe dance can be seen here.  This group of girls are awesome and showed their stuff on BRITAINS GOT TALENT. The dancing starts at the 48 second mark and ends before the 2 minute mark. If your wifi isn’t fast enough to display this, I hope you can find a spot sometime to watch it.

Musical instruments can vary from culture to culture.  Traditional Irish musical instruments include harps, accordions, bag pipes, the fiddle, and an unusual percussion instrument with a drum head made of goat skin.  This site shows these types of instruments and more.

In our virtual trip, I imagine that we wandered the streets of Ireland, the air filled with the smell of burning peat and the sounds of joyous Irish music coming from the many pubs along the brick streets.

Ah.. the Burning Peat…..maybe we learn about that tomorrow!

No Snakes in Ireland!

You wouldn’t blame the people of Ireland for being very afraid of snakes.  They don’t have a reason to learn about their habits, the differences in a poisonous snake and a nonpoisonous snake or how to avoid them. That is because there aren’t any snakes in Ireland.

The Legend is that Saint Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. We know that isn’t really true because there never were any snakes there. Ireland is located in an area that is not the best for a cold blooded creature.

There are warm blooded animals and cold blooded animals. The warm blooded animals are able to regulate their body temperatures. When it is hot, they have a mechanism for losing heat to cool down. Humans sweat. Dogs pant and lose heat off their tongue. Here is an article that talks about  “Eight Weird Ways Animals Keep Cool”.  Warm blooded animals must heat their bodies when they are in cold areas. To do this they must eat a lot so they have energy storage to generate heat.

Cold blooded animals like snakes don’t regulate their body temperature. They take on the temperature of the environment around them. If it is cold outside a snake will move very slowly. If it is warmer the snake will move more quickly. That is why we don’t worry about snakes so much in the winter.  Ireland is in a cold area. Long ago, in the Ice Ages, Ireland was extremely cold and then later the glaziers kept the area blocked from creatures that could sliver over.

Here is another really good article explaining how some animals control their temperature.  I find this all fascinating!  Don’t you?

 

 

Quick overview of Southern Ireland as a tourist.

I looked at several youtube videos in attempt to give you a little flavor of Ireland and felt this one was really good. There are places in every country that are favorites of tourists and we wouldn’t want to miss them. I was just amazed at the places to see that are centuries of years old.

I went to Europe when I was 18 years old. The USA had just celebrated its 200 year anniversary. I remember going through a church  and the guide told us that it had taken over 200 years to finish building the church. Imagine that! Ireland has castles that are VERY old.  Some were built nearly 900 years ago.

Notice the narrow streets in the villages of Ireland. The towns began when they didn’t have cars and adapting to automobiles when the buildings are made of stone is much more difficult. Did you notice the side of the road the cars drive on?

Notice how there aren’t very many trees in Ireland? I read an interesting article that explained why but to put in the most simplistic form – much of the land was needed for farming. Today Ireland has one of the lowest levels of forest cover (10%) than any other country in Europe. They call the country “The Emerald Isle”. If you can’t figure out why, Google the definition of Emerald.