I arrived home late last night after a 12 hour day driving into the west of Ireland to collect Zwartbles Wool. I was up in an area around Ballinasloe County Galway, famous for it’s horse fair that is held there every October. This is an old photograph taken about 10 years ago when I was there on a very wet day.

Ballinasloe Horse Fair 2003

Ballinasloe Horse Fair 2003

On the way across the country I came across something I had not see in a great while a small field with a few hay cocks.

Hay Cocks

Hay Cocks

I remember helping build these when I was much younger, but I don’t remember twisting the Hay into a cord.

Hay Cord

Hay Cord

It is then tied in at the base of the cock.

Hay Cord Tied in at the Base

Hay Cord Tied in at the Base

I think we left ours out for as short a time as possible and brought them in with the Donkey and cart as soon as the weather allowed, so they didn’t need the extra tying down or wind proofing. We also turned the hay by hand so didn’t have the use of the horse drawn hay rake that was displayed beside the hay cocks.

Horse Drawn Hay Rake

Horse Drawn Hay Rake

The old roads into the west are long narrow bog roads which seem to be alive when driving on them you bounce, pitch and dive like you are on a boat at sea not in a pickup towing a horsebox on dry land.

A Straight Road Into the West

A Straight Road Into the West

There are no edges to the roads as they go into the bog or ditch so when passing a tractor loaded with hay it can be a squeeze. All the farmers were very busy not only taking in the hay but bringing in the turf by the trailer load. So driving one had to watch out for sods of dry turf which had fallen, usually on the bad bends so you couldn’t pick it up as a finders fee for clearing the road.

Narrow Bog Roads

Narrow Bog Roads

Turf for those of you who don’t know is a staple form of fuel for the fire here in Ireland. It is harvested from the bogs every year and family’s have their own small acreage of bog which have been in the family for many generations. It has a very distinct smell when it is burned in the fire. In the past when I had been away from Ireland for a long time, I always knew I was home when I could smell the turf fires burning.

Turf Ireland Black Gold

Turf Ireland’s Black Gold

The turf comes from the bogs all across Ireland, which this time of year are white with bog cotton where the turf is not being harvested. I love bog cotton and the bogs were white with it.

Bog Cotton

Bog Cotton

The road edges where full of meadow sweet which perfume the hot summer air with their wonderful intoxicating scent.

Meadow Sweet

Meadow Sweet

The combination was wonderful in some areas, snowy white bogs with sweet smelling air and splashes of purple from the tall willowy willow herb.

Roadside Meadow Sweet With Bog Cotton Covering the Bog

Roadside Meadow Sweet With Bog Cotton Covering the Bog

I collected some nice bags of Zwartbles wool at my first stop before I crossed the river Shannon at Shannon Bridge

A Big Flock of Zwartbles

A Big Flock of Galway Zwartbles

A Galway Zwartbles Ewe Lamb

Galway Zwartbles Ewe Lamb

Galway Zwartbles Ram Lamb

Galway Zwartbles Ram Lamb

This farm had a large flock of Zwartbles I think he said about 80 or more.

Galway Zwartbles Ewe With Twins

Galway Zwartbles Ewe With Twins

Ewe Going Off With Her Twins to Join the Flock

Ewe Going Off With Her Twins to Join the Flock

Zwartbles Gap Jumping

Zwartbles Gap Jumping

This flock being close to Shannon Bridge is also very close to the turf powered power station so huge electric pylons march across their fields.

Pylons & Zwartbles With Owner Stephen

Pylons & Zwartbles With Owner Stephen

The pylons are great for the sheep to scratch their sides on. I would think the tar pitch which coats the poles makes for great fly repellent.

A Pylon Scratching Post

A Pylon Scratching Post

I stop at Shannon Bridge for lunch and go into the local small grocer to get a bottle of water. I find it has loads of tourist tokens with sheep all over them.

Sheep Shot Glasses

Sheep Shot Glasses

I was going to take a photograph of Shannon Bridge. It is a very narrow bridge bearly with width of a bus or lorry, with traffic lights on either end so all traffic has to takes turns crossing. My light was green so I started across only to meet a huge lorry in the middle. He stopped and folded his arms across his chest as if to say I’m not moving you back up, he also had a cheeky ass grin on his face having seen I was a woman. I think he through I was not going to be able to reverse back across the bridge with my pickup and horsebox in tow, which I did without a bother. I was right pissed off with his I’m Bigger than you bullying attitude, so once he was past I just drove on forgetting about photographing the bridge. (sorry)

I drove through Tunnels of green trees which were wonderfully cooling.

Green Tree Tunnel

Green Cooling Tunnel

More bog roads and narrow lanes I drove collecting Zwartbles sheep’s wool.

Narrow Lanes Also Known as Boreens

Narrow Lanes Also Known as Boreens

Finally my last stop of the day was with Francis Lyons and his small flock of Zwartbles. It had been a long hot day and when I arrived into his yard they were cooling down the geese by filling a temporary water pond for them. My arrival had them honking and leaving their nice clean cool water bath.

Cooling Down the Geese

Cooling Down the Geese

Going out into his fields we met his wonderful ram Tiger who won best All Ireland Stock Ram in the flock competition of 2012. (My flock came second place in the medium size flock category. I was well chuffed and very flattered.)

Chark Tiger

Chark Tiger

He also had a late lambing ewe lamb who had twins with her. He had hoped to show her this year as a Hogget but Tiger it seemed had other ideas.

Zwartbles Hogget With Twins

Zwartbles Hogget With Twins

She had a very sweet lambs one of whom was very curious.

Who Are You?

Who Are You?

Walking back out of the field Tiger had decided to take a nap while another lamb was almost hidden in the long grass.

Tiger Having a Rest

Tiger Having a Rest

Hidden in the Long Grass

Hidden in the Long Grass

There were a few ewes waiting to visit with Tiger when the right moment came.

Ladies Waiting to Meet Tiger

Ladies Waiting to Meet Tiger

A Beltex ewe, a very nice looking example of the breed, she seems so small next to the Zwartbles ewes.

Beltex ewe With Zwartbles

Beltex ewe With Zwartbles

As I drove out the geese were there to honk their good byes.

Galway Geese

Galway Geese

When I was nearly home I looked out at a dusky view and watched as a painted moon rose over the blue mountains across the dry river valley. Dust from a distant tractor floated above the field as he bales his last.

2 Responses to Into The West Collecting Zwartbles Wool

  1. Gloria Ross says:

    Thanks for taking us with you on your wool gathering
    journey. It was fun to see the sights.

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