Monday, June 30, 2014

Progress Update! Monday, June 30th

Sunday, June 29

Sunday was another glorious sunny day--we have been so lucky with the weather.  It can't last, and we are racing to make the most of it.

We installed more sections of stainless steel flute fencing, and the sodding continued.  The outside walls of the berm were built up and leveled with the excavator, with peat packed on top as preparation for sod.

The design decision on the paving stones for the walkabout was made:  a minimal one row of stepping stones will give visitors a dry surface to get near the fencing, but will keep the main design gesture intact with the long curve of green over the berm and extending all the way under the fence to the blowhole.  Emily Curato was in charge of this crew, to search out stones that had a subtle inside curvature, to inscribe the curve of the rounded berm on the inside edge, and allow the natural shape of the stone to create a dissipating edge on the outside.  Once the stones were selected and placed, they were buried in to be flush with the sod surface.

Meanwhile, Dannny 2 (Hinchcliff), and and Rossana continued to fine tune the limestone with Viv's help.

Sunday's beautiful weather brought alot of curious visitors wondering what is going down at the Down!  All are invited to our opening festivities this Friday, July 4th and to celebrate Independence Day with us, complete with a BBQ!

Visit to Ceide Fields and Belderrig Research Centre

Last Wednesday we took off a half-day to visit Ceide Fields, a 5000+ year old intact landscape of stone walls and field systems, as well as dwelling areas and megalithic tombs.  It is the most extensive Stone-Age monument in the world.  We were very fortunate to have a chance to tour this important archaeological site, and its visitor center with Seamus Caulfield, the archaeologist who founded the center, and leads ongoing research into th eviednce of botany, and agricultural and social structure of its inhabitants,  at a nearby research center in Belderrig, and whose father discovered the stone walls, buried beneath the wild boglands, when he was cutting turf for fuel.

Ceide Fields is located along dramatic coastal cliffs, and there is a wonderful long view of the ocean. The Ceide Fields Visitors Center is an architectural monument in its own right, and has won numerous design awards.  Its pyramidal glass skylight, with surrounding earth berm both marks the prominent site, but fits perfectly into its landscape setting.

It was a perfect atmospheric gray drizzly day for the visit...

Prof. Seamus Caulfield greets us at Ceide Fields Visitors Centre

Ceide Fields Director, Marta, welcomes the group, and shows an ancient fossilized pine tree that was found in the bog, and which is the centerpiece of the visitors center.

Seamus shows the layers of peat, which mark the layers of millennia in the strata of the bog.  One billion grains of pollen can be found in one gram of soil, and researchers are studying this to find out about ancient flora and agriculture.

the intact remnants of 5000 stone fence walls--the Stone Age people kept cattle for dairy!

"Belderg" - by Seamus Heaney

The essence of the Belderrig ('Belderg') landscape was captured by Seamus Heaney in a poem accompanying a thank-you letter shortly after a visit to Patrick Caulfield's (Seamus's father's) house in 1974.

They just kept turning up
And were thought of as foreign'-
One-eyed and benign
They lie about his house,
Quernstones out of a bog.

To lift the lid of the peat
And find this pupil dreaming
Of neolithic wheat!
When he stripped off blanket bog
The soft-piles centuries

Fell open like a glib:
There were the first plough-marks,
The stone age fields, the tomb
Corbelled, turfed and chambered,
Floored with dry turf-coomb.

A landscape fossilized,
Its stone wall patterings
Repeated before our eyes
In the stone walls of Mayo
Before I turn to go

He talked about persistance,
A congurence of lives,
How, stubbed and cleared of stones,
His home accrued growth rings
Of Iron, flint and bronze.

So I talked of Mossbawn,
A bogland name. 'But Moss?'
He crossed my old home's music
With older strains of Norse.
I'd told how its foundation

Was mutable as sound
And how I could derive
A forked root from that ground
And make bawn an English fort,
A planter's walled-in mound
From "Belderg" by Seamus Heaney 1975

Seamus Caulfield demonstrates turf cutting in Belderrig

Seamus shows the students the quern stones (referred to in the poem above!) used for grinding wheat

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 7: Friday, June 27

Friday and continued drizzle with progress.  First steel is laid and more sod, more sod and more sodden boots, class act cladding in Kilkenny peenned (dimpled) limestone.  In the afternoon, skies clear and steel arrives!!   Mary organized a wonderful evening with music during dinner, and after dinner, set dancing and more music and songs in front of her lovely cottage.  A balmy twilight as the sun set over the ocean (sunset is at almost 11:30pm!).

Saturday, June 28

Saturday was a gorgeous day--blue skies and sunny all day (it was hard to believe we were in Ireland!) A perfect day for working, and we stayed late to finish half the site with stainless steel 'flute fence' installation, and to sod between the fence and the berm.  Everyone was excited to see the effect that the finished project will have---it is finally coming together!

Day 6: Thursday, June 26

Scenes from Thursday: 

Rossana hones her skills at limestone peening, and earns the title of 'Peen Queen'!

A design decision on the rough stone benches:  try (in vain) to embed small stones in the mortar between the large stones (they keep falling out), or just create a smooth mortar joint between them?  We go for the latter, for a cleaner look which is also more practical for adhesion and drainage.  The team looks for loose stones and mortars them in more securely.

In the afternoon:  the 'lacken stone' is delivered for a pathway walkabout around the blowhole--what should the pattern be for these stones?  Need a dry walkway, but we don't want to add too much busy-ness, or detract from the powerful green sweep of the grass to the steel.

The afternoon brings a surprise treat!  Mary (chef of Mary's Cottage Kitchen, where we eat fabulous dinners each night) delivers fresh scones and warm sausage rolls to the site!

As a side project, students help archaeologist Seamus Caulfield to uncover a huge stone aerial marker (EIRE 64) in the ground which alerted WWII pilots that they were flying over neutral Ireland, and also helped to install new windows and a door in the WWII watch tower.  (Another post to come on this!)

Thursday evening is music night with our Mayo Council Council team--good 'craic' and Travis also cracks the whip on the curfew that evening!  The first delivery of stainless steel rods for the blowhole barrier is being delivered on Friday, and all need to be safe and awake around the blowhole and heavy machinery!  The constant refrain on the jobsite:  'are ye happy??'