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Out of Ireland (7): Cats & Broccoli

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The summer proceeded; our little farm set up grew by a beautiful hairy cat that looked like a grey-striped tiger. A neighbor's kid that Amy had befriended brought her over. A farm needs a cat like a flower needs the rain. She was young and of the cuddly sort, not the independent kind that scratches and goes missing. We called her Wuschel. Together with Brandy, the dog, she lived in the sheds which we had cushioned with straw and presumably there were plenty of mice to catch. Growing up together made them friends or at least tolerate each other. Brandy didn't like, however, when Wuschel went anywhere near his food.

The weather went back to normal. Occasional rain watered our little plants in the garden that we had first sown indoors into prepared trays of humus rich soil and then planted outside when they were a several inches tall: broccoli, peas, and carrots. Onions were planted next to the carrots. This symbiosis keeps the carrot fly away and bugs under control.

Since we didn't have our own veggies to eat yet that summer, I had to resort buying from the one little local shop. (We certainly didn't drive 20 km to the next bigger shop. A real supermarket like I knew from Germany opened only a few years later in Limerick- 20km away.) The broccoli they had there came from the USA and the spuds came from Cyprus. So much for Ireland being an agricultural country. No local little farmer produced veggies at that time, because they could "buy everything in the shops now" and also had the money for it in contrast to the old, pre-European Union days.

We looked hard for strawberries, although it was late in the planting season to get them started. Impossible to find as there was only one nursery in a radius of over many miles. "Where do you get the plants? Everybody loves strawberries." The answer came from our housekeeper's brother who helped out occasionally doing a painting job on the house. "You can't buy them. Everybody has them in the garden." Then I learned that strawberries multiplied by producing layers running along the ground like tentacles which you have to cut off otherwise they run wild and take over. "Can I buy some?" "No need to pay. People will give them to you for free."

"For free?"

"Sure, in fact deydumpim." What? "Dey dump "em." At this stage I need to explain that the local accent pronounces "th' like a "d' or a "t'. That clarified, I got a bucket full of layers for free - no problem. The plants would only carry fruit in the following year. A local gardener sold Pick your own strawberries and red currants as well as raspberries from his garden. That kept us going in the first summer and also provided enough cuttings. These berries i.e. their shrubs- grow from cuttings.

In the meantime, Amy made great progress at school. I had taught her my version of English which I had learned myself at university, and that was BBC or British Standard English. Her teachers, however, pronounced the "th' in three like t. I heard her constant one-two-tree while skipping. A futile attempt to teach her otherwise. My teacher's ears flinched but there was no convincing her. 33 remained tirty-tree for many years. Patrick remained silent and didn't care one way or the other.
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Ursula Siebert, originally a German teacher & lecturer turned businesswoman, lived in different European countries before coming to the USA. She is now a free-lance writer. Often tongue-in-cheek, she sees life and politics in the USA from the (more...)
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