The Ring of Kerry- The Finale!

After months of training around the roads of Wexford the Ring of Kerry
Cycle weekend finally,arrived. I had thought about this for a long
time-would I be able?, was it too much of a challenge?, would I raise
the target I set for Console?, would I get two punctures?, would I
give up half way round? And was I feckin mad at 46 years of age???. I
knew I had done the enough for a 120k cycle but this was another 60k!
that’s depending on who you believe – the road signs, the website or
other cyclists who had already done it. The Ring of Kerry (ROK) is
anything from 165-180km and by my Garmin it is 169.5km! No matter what
the distance it is a long way and up big hills! So many people had
sponsored me and sent good wishes I could not back down now (note to
self –don’t tell anybody about future mad plans!). So myself and my
new cycling buddy, Tony who up until last Friday the only time I had
spent with was however long it takes to pay for petrol. Tony owns the
local garage and like me is a fairly novice cyclist. But we both seem
to have the same warped sense of humour and got on very well on the
spin down. We were laughing and joking but would we be the same on the
way home!? Actually we were and it was great to have a likeminded
lunatic to do our first big spin together (that’s what us cyclist call
it. It macho bullshit really pretending it’s no big deal!)
After an eventful night of not much sleep and a stomach bug (thanks
Arret for helping me out!) in a haunted B&B (haunted by the present
owner who hasn’t even passed on yet or had she………….?) we met up with
some relations of Tony’s who varied from veterans to novices at 6am on
Saturday morning. We were watching hundreds of others flying past us
as we tried in vain to sell the bikes but unfortunately most people
who do the ROK already had bikes! There was no turning back now. Some
people have routines before cycles- putting their left sock on first,
a certain breakfast, stretching, praying…….ours was standing by a
stream and getting savaged by midges who drove us so mad so we just
hopped up on the bikes and peddled to get away from them!
The first 60k (depending which measurement you believe) is flat and
downhill. I could get use to that and there is even a food stop at the
end of it. Fair play to the sponsors and volunteers for being able to
feed, tea, coffee, sandwiches and brack to several thousand hungry
cyclists very efficiently. After a bit of grub it got bloody serious
with a climb of about 8-10k zig zagging up unrivaled stunning scenery
and the sun even came out. I remember looking up to my right and
seeing tiny little coloured helmets about 5k away and hoping that
there were two separate cycles on that day and the ROK was taking a
different route! But in all seriousness I didn’t struggle as I thought
I would. Now I was not flying up these climbs like some of the Tour De
France wannabes in their head to toe team gear but I kept a steady
pace and didn’t look up to often. Tony who was quite a bit ahead of me
didn’t look up either with a fairly nasty outcome! (but you will have
to read his blog for that story!)
As I was doing this cycle for Console in memory of our great pal
Trevor, who tragically took his own life in March, I was wearing a
t-shirt highlighting this and several people came along side me and
chatted about Trevor and Console and the blight that is suicide in
this country. It was an incredible and very emotional experience
talking to these people and I completely forgot about the cycling and
was nearly half way around before I noticed! One particular marshal
pulled alongside and got chatting and noticed I was on a hybrid bike
(a cross between a road and a mountain bike) which is not the usual
choice of riders on the Ring but there were a few other lunatics on
them. He looked at the width of the tires and said something like ‘are
you planning to go the whole way around on that?’ but in a friendly
good humoured way! I said I would meet him on the infamous climb to
Molls Gap and off he went. By the way I saw probably 30-40 riders
stopped with punctures, some getting help from a fantastic team of
volunteers who either sorted the bikes or brought them to designated
points to have them fixed, but not a single hybrid!!! Let that be a
lesson to all you cycling snobs!
The hours and km’s fly by when you are in a cycle as big as the ROK
because there are so many different shapes, sizes, ages,
sponsor,bikes, logos and mad names of teams (Fatheads Cycle team, the
biscuit club…!)to look at and wonder what the hell we are doing on a
Saturday morning. In what seemed like no time at all we were in
Kenmare for the final food stop before ……….Moll’s Gap!!!. There are
all sorts of horror stories about it. There is a sign at the bottom
that warns people of the distance and a says it’s a 3% climb. I took
great comfort in telling myself that if it was a 3% climb that the
other 97% must be flat!!! But I can say hand on heart that Trevor was
with me because the wind was actually behind and blowing us up it! My
new pal the marshal came up alongside and said ‘Fair play boy you said
you’d see me on the climb to Moll’s and here you are!’ I asked him was
it my imagination or was the wind behind us and he said it definitely
was. Once you reach the top of Moll’s Gap and stop for a few minutes
to admire the view and see where you have just come from it is all
downhill to Killarney. My marshal pal was there again to congratulate
me and I wondered was he going around and lapping me or did he stop
loads of times and then catch up?!? Fair play to the people of
Killarney who came out in their (and I’m not kidding they were 4/5
deep in places) thousands to cheer us over the line………We had done it!
169.5km in 8hrs 20mins.
So as I sit here the day after on 3 cushions! thanks to everyone who
supported me financially and otherwise, to Bren for being a cycling
widow, to Tony for waiting for me at the end and most especially to
Trev for keeping the wind on my back and guiding me safely around the


Ring of Kerry Part 2

Now all I had to do was cycle 180k in one day!!! Don’t tell anyone but before I’d even registered I had booked a room half way round. My plan was to do the route in two days (not encouraged by the ROK organisers) but as it was my first serious/long cycle I thought this was a good bloody idea. In fact I had booked half way round but had not booked anywhere in Killarney to stay on the Friday night!. When I did try of course there wasn’t a phone box free and not only is the ROK on that weekend but the Munster football final is on aswell. I finally found a campsite in Fossa (5k outside Killarney) and as I usually do I threw in a joke saying I would need a nice soft mossy pitch for my poor body was going to be put through hell the next day to which the owner in a thick Kerry accent said ‘ you might well be in the car park boy..!’. I booked it anyway and persuaded my darling wife to come along for the spin(drive) I told her there was an outlet shopping centre in Fossa (Shhh!)
My first few cycles were of various lengths from 10 to 20km and I was happy every time I went a little further. Chatting to our local garage owner one day (who has also signed up for the ROK) he persuaded me, by basically embarrassing me, to do the whole thing in one day!
Obviously poncing around with 20k cycles was not going to be anywhere near enough so it was time to ‘piss or get off the pot!’. It was not actually as hard as I had feared and soon enough I was doing 40,50,60,70 and even 80km and averaging 20-21km/h (not bad for an Aul lad). My longest cycle was 100km from home to Gorey and all the way back into a very strong head wind which was feckn tough.
My route varies around the country roads of Co Wexford with stunning scenery and sea views. My favorite spins always include going along the coast through Kilmore. I also tackle Forth Mountain (not really a mountain but that’s what its called and who am I to argue). It’s amazing to see the progress of the seasons over the past few months from the first spring lambs, foals to crops maturing and all sorts of other wildlife. I’ve seen all the usual rabbits,hares,pheasants,hawks and a first for me a stoat carrying its young in its mouth which I know(from experience) can remove the head of a chicken better than any surgeon with a scalpel.
I had planned to do another 100+km cycle and while out one day spotted a sign for a cycle ‘La Route del Murrintowneo’!!!. Which is a 100km cycle from Murrintown to Hook Head and back so off I go to register……..

Ring of Kerry Cycle Part 1

Last year was the 800th anniversary of the founding of Waterford so as good a time as any to take part in the Waterford Viking Marathon (well the quarter one anyway!). I had done a few 5k’s and our first official race was a 6k in Duncannon but this was a 10.5k! But we had said we were going to do it so my darling wife and I started our Couch to 5k training and completed the race and got our medals. I really enjoyed the running but I obviously don’t run properly because for months after my knee was in a lot of pain. I was telling someone this and they suggest cycling as it would be easier on the knees (a fact I would later question!). I got sorted with a hybrid (mongrel) bike, it’s a cross between a racer and a mountain bike, through the bike to work scheme (Shh! I’ve never actually cycled to work but it’s my to-do list!) and set off into the Sunset. I loved the cycling and actually prefered it to running. Of course cycling around the lanes of Wexford were soon not enough and I said I was going to do the Ring of Kerry hoping nobody would notice! But they did and I had to man up and get training because it is a 180k spin up and down feckn mountains!. Aside from the actual doing the grueling cycle the registration was a mountain to climb itself. Following the ROK on twitter and facebook I waited eagerly for the registration date as did several thousand ( yep thousand) other fools! So many that the site crashed 5 mins after going live! After a few hours the ROK committee had the good sense to call a halt and try to iron out the glitches and retry on the following Saturday. I was ready with Bren on two devices and me on my phone. It looked like groundhog day as the site struggled to cope with the numbers trying to sign up (any normal person would at this point see this was a sign and realise it wasn’t for them but not me!) I refreshed and refreshed over and over and finally was redirected to the site. Unbelievably me and 4500 other lunatics finally registered…………. no turning back now!

Random #TWEETS from #Decsplot

Random Tweets from my little patch of earth #Decsplot

Ah come on now lads don’t be standing in your breakfast #BronzeTurkeys #Decsplot

Got a present of this apple tree in January and was amazed to get fruit in September!! #Decsplot @giyireland @GYOmag

Stunning #Sunset #SunnySouthEast on a sad day when little #Panda chick died😞 #Decsplot

@UluruArmagh 1st ever attempt making pastry! Afraid to cut it Wild Blackberry / apple(#Decsplot) pie #Sundaycookoff


@DecGilmore #paulinesplot inspired by #Decsplot….lol. First attempt at growing my own spuds will keep you posted!

Don’t know what kind of #Caterpillars these are but they are dancing on the #Nettles!!! #Decsplot @giyireland

@UluruArmagh Chicken Legs with roasted beetroot,onion,spuds,
garlic,tomatoes and herbs from #Decsplot #Sundaycookoff

There was about 30 of these feckers in the #polytunnel! tonight There are now about 60!!! (halves) #Decsplot #gyo#giy come on now lads don’t be standing in your breakfast #BronzeTurkeys #Decsplot

I’m a BEEliever

Following on from my blog about the lack of activity and the apparent loss of the queen at DecsHive I have been keeping my distance even though I have been going mad to find out if my hive would make it through the long Winter. I say ‘long’ Winter  because all the signs are that we are  in for a long cold Winter. The hedgerows are full to bursting with blackberries,sloes, damsons,elderberry…..which I have spent hours turning into jams,jelly,sauces and smoothies all while keeping the kitchen in immaculate condition (don’t ask my present wife to verify that last sentence) but we do have a cupboard full for the long Winter. But this is not a blog about foraging recipes, that is on my To Do list, it’s about my bees. So I kept my distance for as long as I could but it was playing on my mind all the time. I was the Iverk Show in Piltown Co Kilkenny, which is a great show and the oldest show of it’s kind in the country. The Kilkenny Beekeepers had a stand and I had a chat with an old member about my hive. He asked were there queen cells and did i think that they might have swarmed again. I told him I thought they had and his advice was right up my street ‘Leave em alone!’ He explained that there would probably be a new young queen and it would take a few days for her to start laying. I was happy just get that reassurance. The following week I decided to check the hive which had been very active over those past few days. Getting my suit on and my smoker lit the anticipation was  building. After smoking the hive I took out the first frame and let out a roar of joy, so loud the kids thought I had been stung! ‘We have larvae!’ I shouted. I didn’t delay long and put the frames back  in place. The bees were very calm and did not seem to be bothered with me opening their hive just like they were when they first arrived. So there may be less of them but at least the queen is working away and hopefully the hive will be strong enough to survive the long Winter……….

BEES #DecsHive

DecsHive Bees

About three years ago I got a call from my big brother to say that he was clearing out his Father in Laws shed (not sure why as the man was still alive!) and there were the makings of three bee hives in very good condition and did I want them? Did I what!! Since moving to Decsplot I have had pigs,ducks,hens,chickens and turkeys (nearly time to get their run ready for this years flock) and grown all sorts of fruit and veg both inside and out but I have always wanted bees ever since reading ‘Bee Keeping for Dummies’- not sure why I was given that particular book! So the hives arrived in a kind of an ‘IKEA’ style – all mixed up with no instructions and probably a few bits missing! Not having any actual bees to put in them they were parked neatly (although there is a certain female who may disagree with that fact!) in the garage and ignored until this year when one of the local bee keepers aka The Bull- (long story), who also fixes lawnmowers, chainsaws, builds walls, houses and anything else you need done said if he got a swarm he would give ma a shout. Actually before I go on I think that term ‘Bee Keeper’ is over rated as people don’t ‘keep’ bees as they can decide to feck off any time they like and they have been taking perfectly good care of themselves for thousands of years. I think bee Helper is better. We supply the hive and somewhere sheltered and the bees do the rest. Within a week I got a call to say he had a swarm I was delighted and took a few hours off work (don’t tell them!) to go and collect the swarm and the Bull but he hadn’t closed them in the previous night so they couldn’t be moved- I was gutted but we agreed to move them in two days. Lunch time the next day in the middle of eating a sandwich the Bull rings to say he’s ready to move the swarm! For feck sake I’m nowhere near home so a few calls later to my ‘busy’ wife (how she manages to get a lovely suntan with all the house work she is doing I will never know!) and my friend Tommy –also a bee minder and the new arrivals were settled in DecsHive at DecsPlot. I spent a good hour sitting about 3 feet from the hive that evening just watching them buzzing around and have spent most coffee breaks from Decsplot in the same seat. So began the adventure and they seemed to be a very strong hive and set about making their new ready by drawing out comb and collecting nectar and pollen. They really were as busy as bees with 10/15 bees coming and going from early till late. Tommy came up a week later and I had my first look inside the hive. It was amazing how much they had done in a few days and everything looked good. New bees were being born as we watched and they seemed happy and were not too bothered with us having a look into their world. I don’t believe in interfering too much with nature (this statement is tested to the limits later!) so we left them for a couple of weeks to get on as they were starting from scratch and it was mid July. They had a huge amount of work to do to get ready for winter. Our next visit revealed a lot more bees but not many more frames drawn out and some Queen cells which Tommy thought was unusual so after checking various books and sites it looked like the positioning of these cells could mean that they were going to swarm! Not a good thing as those left behind might not make honey to get through the winter. It was decided that we/I would destroy the Queen cells. Now being a novice (not an excuse) I did this but immediately felt that it was the wrong thing (a bit late for the now late departed Queens) and have regretted it ever since. As Tommy is my bee guru he also has a bee guru and he called him. Unfortunately he was away but said that because we got a swarm the Queen could be old and maybe not be up to scratch and that the colony had decided to replace her. This made me feel even worse as I may have killed the new saviour of the hive! We opened up the hive again and discovered that there were no larvae but still sealed brood cells and a good bit of honey and one (fingers and toes crossed) Queen cell. It is like being in a maternity hospital wearing a hole in the carpet pacing up and down waiting for news! On the bright side my bee gurus’ guru has said he will get me a frame with eggs if they don’t produce a Queen in a few weeks and this should be the saviour of the hive. This was a few days ago and I may be imagining but the hive is very subdued and seem to be hanging around waiting for something or some bee to pull them out of their depressed state. They are still collecting nectar but not in the same numbers that they were. We can only wait and hope Mother Nature does her stuff and I won’t be as quick to act next time, lesson learned………… be contd

Dublin Gospel Choir

It was probably 10 years ago now when I was a freelance photographer working for the Bray People in Co Wicklow. I would call in or phone the paper to get markings (photo jobs) for that day or the weekend. One Saturday night I was asked to do some pics at the Holy Redeemer Church in Bray of a Gospel Choir. I probably had 5/6 markings that night and my initial reaction was …..’ for feck sake a Gospel choir…..’ . As I had a few jobs to do I arrived early with the intention of taking a few quick pics and off to the next job. I took a couple of the usual social pics like ‘Johnny and Mary from Bray pictured enjoying the Dublin Gospel Choir’ and decided to stay to get ONE pic of the Choir in action. The Choir arrived on stage and the conductor said ‘We don’t like doing concerts where people are sitting so If you want us to sing you’ve got to get up and dance!’ and after a few songs the shy Irish audience were rocking in the isles. They started with a song from the film ‘Sister Act’ called Oh Happy Days and that was that…..! I was amazed and captivated by the DGC (as they refer to themselves) and stayed for the whole concert taking a load of pics that I knew would not all make the Bray People even though I missed all my other markings that evening! I put my phone on silent but it was buzzing away in my pocket to the beat and by the end if the night I had about 15 missed calls! The DGC were worth every irate message I received. At the end of their concert I was approached by the conductor and was asked if I could send on a few shots of the night, which I happily did and got a call to ask if they could use a picture on their (I think first) album. I was delighted to help and asked for a copy of their CD in return and the love story with the DGC began. I’ve seen them several times including in Vicar Street where they were supposed to be ‘supporting’ the World famous Harlem Gospel Choir but in my humble opinion they stole the show and they have gone from strength to strength mainly due to my photo on their CD!!! So if you get a chance to see/hear the DCG – GO!

#Random #Tweets fromb#Decsplot

Random Tweets from my veg plot aka #Decsplot where I try to spend as much time as possible
  Blackthorn blossoms #decsplot #Spring #sunnysoutheast
@mickkellygrows spuds planted 10/2 in the #polytunnel #decsplot GIY
@UluruArmagh Home grown new season #rhubarb and apple crumble #sundaycookoff #decsplot #GIY #growyourown
Tee hee! RT @DecGilmore: ‘AHHH so that’s where all our hard work ends up’ #decsplot #GIY #happyhens
‘Moooooommmm we got a visitor!’ #littleprincess #decsplot #Rearyourown
It’s all systems grow! in the polytunnel #decsplot #GIY #growyourown
Cool new #camouflage hat Now you see me Now you don’t!!! #decsplot
Lunch #Airmiles 39 feet! New potatoes from the #polytunnel with chives and real butter! #decsplot #GIY
A Day in the Life of #decsplot #GIY #Growyourown #Sunnysoutheast


Random #Tweets from #decsplot

Random Tweets from #decsplot my little patch of earth where I spend a lot if my free time digging, planting, weeding,sweating,aching,getting sunburnt,getting wet,being peaceful,proud,annoyed,frustrated but mostly really really happy!
Decsplot is about 60 ft by 30 ft (work out the mtrs yourself all you young wans) heavy clay soil which has had 5 years of digging,manuring and even two pigs on it for 7 months who did both digging and manuring for free, filled our bellies and the freezer! It has polytunnel that supplies tomatoes,herbs,grapes,strawberries,salads and shelter from the Irish weather. In the main plot I grow spuds,onions,garlic,carrots,kale,cabbage,turnips,peas,beans,parsnips……and other stuff. Jeez when you sit down and write all the produce you grow you realise how much work is involved.
At the end there is two poultry runs with houses. One is let grow wild all year until September when I get 10/12 bronze turkeys and fatten them for Christmas. My darling wife thinks the whole plot is wild but I’m convinced that to my highly trained eye it looks exactly like Monty Don’s Gardeners World plot!!! I doubt we will ever agree!!!. The other one has had all shapes and makes of ducks and hens over the years supplying eggs and some meat.
The buzz word at the moment in ‘Mindfulness’. Living in the moment and blocking out the past,meditating and generally aiding your mental health (this is my impression of it anyway) and #decsplot is my Mindfulness…….

Fabulous Fiery Sunrise! RT @DecGilmore: Flaming bush #sunrise in #sunnysoutheast #Spring??? #decsplot
Plenty of help from the #chooks #decsplot #Spring #GIY
Blackthorn blossoms #decsplot #Spring #sunnysoutheast
@mickkellygrows spuds planted 10/2 in the #polytunnel #decsplot GIY
@UluruArmagh Home grown new season #rhubarb and apple crumble #sundaycookoff #decsplot #GIY #growyourown
Tee hee! RT @DecGilmore: ‘AHHH so that’s where all our hard work ends up’ #decsplot #GIY #happyhens
‘Moooooommmm we got a visitor!’ #littleprincess #decsplot #Rearyourown
It’s all systems grow! in the polytunnel #decsplot #GIY #growyourown
Cool new #camouflage hat Now you see me Now you don’t!!! #decsplot
Well @DecGilmore made this boned and rolled bronze turkey (from #decsplot),roasted veg and broccoli #sundaycookoff
😀 RT @DecGilmore: ‘…All by myself…’ #decsplot #sunnysoutheast


Yep the stinging ones! so wear gloves when picking them and Spring is the perfect time to enjoy this delicious and very nutritious (packed with iron) green super-food in soup, smoothies, omelette or tea. Nettles are credited with all sorts of blood purification, healing and medicinal properties so I had to try them. The young fresh leaves are much more tender than later in the year. Pick them away from busy roads as you might get run over! No to avoid the toxic fumes. I have cooked with them lots of times and once they are cooked they loose their sting but I had never tried them uncooked. The plan was to pick them, wash them add them to a smoothie and get some one else to try it first! I Remember learning about the Aboriginal people in Australia and how they tested new foods. I assumed that they would get the most annoying member of their group and say ‘Hey Johnny try this!!!’ but it was far more scientific. They took a small piece and rubbed it on the inside of their upper arm to see if their was a reaction. After a while if there was no reaction they would put a small piece on the inside of their lips and eventually on their tongues. If all the tests were passed it was most likely safe to eat. As there was no ‘Johnny’ to try the first batch I stepped up to the plate. Surprisingly enough after the raw nettles were whizzed up I very tentatively testing a small amount and discovered that there was no sting! So they went into a smoothie of banana,milk, orange juice and honey aka the ‘Green Stinger’ (thanks @BolandCatherine for the name) It tasted okay if a bit earthy but I could feel the goodness going in. Anybody interested in wild food should try them. But if they are not your cup of ‘nettle’ tea then at least make food for your veg especially tomatoes. It is like Viagra for them! Get a big barrel and but as many nettles as you can squash in, add water and leave to rot for a few weeks. It WILL stink! Strain it, dilute it and stand back as your tomatoes thrive.

Here is a simple Nettle Soup recipe, as with all recipes they are only a guideline and should be adjusted to suit your own taste.

Nettle Soup

A couple of big onions chopped
5/6 cloves garlic chopped
5/6 potatoes diced
1 shopping bag (plastic or bag for life) full of fresh nettle tops
remove as much of the stalks as possible
Salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar
Olive oil and a knob of butter
Half a pint of milk

Soften the onions, garlic and potatoes in the oil and butter in a large pot.
Once softened but not coloured add a couple of litres of boiling water cook for 15/20 minutes then add the nettles (with gloves!) and cook until soft- do not over cook the nettles. Season to taste and blitz. Serve with crumbled goats and warm crusty bread.

Nettle Soup 140412