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Top of the morning!  We are so glad to see that so many people are following the blog!  We love the questions, and have answers for you!

Mrs. Pickering:

The hawks hunt anything small that moves.  On our hunt, they didn’t catch anything living, only food that we had in our hands, which was chicken.  Our guide said that they will catch squirrels and other small animals, and love to practice hunting on mushrooms (but they don’t eat the mushrooms).   We had two hawks; their names were Swift (after Jonathon Swift, the famous Irish author) and Stoker (after Bram Stoker, another famous Irish author).  The hawks are very light, and their size is misleading, they both weighed under two pounds.  They are quite fast, and the Peregrine Falcon can dive at speeds over 100 MPH.  Mrs. Weaver’s and Mr. Foster’s favorite thing on the trip was the falconry.  IT WAS AMAZING!

Mrs. Cassette:

You guys were very creative with your questions!  We love it!

Baby falcons are called eyasses.  They are very tiny, and not very cute to be honest.  However, they make up for it with their looks as an adult.  Baby Falcon

Young peregrine falcons take their first flight at about 44 days of age. At this time they are about as big as their mothers, but can’t really fly very well and can’t catch their own food, so the parents keep feeding them for about 6 more weeks. After about 6 to 8 weeks, the young can hunt for themselves and then leave the nesting area and their parents.  Mr. Foster was very excited to hold the hawks, and wasn’t scared.  Mrs. Weaver was hesitant at first, but quickly overcame her fears.  We did not get to see them catch anything, but were able to have them fly from tree to tree, and then back to us.  If the hawk catches prey while out with the owner on a hunt, say a rabbit for example, the owner will have to give the hawk something in exchange.  Otherwise the hawk won’t want to give up it’s catch.

We were able to get the picture of Jose at the Cliffs from the friendly bear there.  His name was Buttons MacGillicutty.  I’m not sure how old he was, but he was rather wise and knowledgeable about Ireland.

People do use the shale in there house.  It is rather a pretty site to see the houses with the stone incorporated to the front of it.  Their houses for the most part look a lot like ours, but there are the exceptions with some houses having a thatched roof.  When you are in the country, you will see houses of many different sizes, when you get into a town or city, you will start to see more townhouses.  Most townhouses we saw looked identical, and in the cities a lot of the houses were the same as well.

We did see a couple of people playing golf at the Lahinch Course, but it is quite expensive, so there weren’t too many people on the course.

The food has similarities and differences.  We haven’t found any fast food places in any of the smaller cities, only in major ones.  You will mainly see local pubs, which are quaint, family-style restaurants.  One big difference is that the food has been very fresh, and the potatoes have been outstanding.  We are not wild about the sausage over here, it doesn’t taste anything like the sausage we’re accustomed to consuming.   The bacon is also different-what we consider to be ham, is what they call bacon.  It’s very good, but not the same – taste and texture is completely different.  In the country there was much more variety with sizes and overall looks.

As for the Blarney Stone, it’s really quite interesting.  According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446.  An early story involves the goddess Clíodhna.   Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, being involved in a lawsuit, appealed to Clíodhna for her assistance. She told MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and he did so, with the result that he pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. Thus the Blarney Stone is said to impart “the ability to deceive without offending.” MacCarthy then incorporated it into the parapet of the castle.  Some say it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone’, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings – a kind of Harry Potter-like ‘sorting hat’ for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.  When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude – and returned to Ireland.  Others say it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.  Whatever the truth of its origin, the folks that work there believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys, the people who built the castle.  So, there are lots of ideas about the Blarney Stone!  I would imagine that people started kissing it after the story of MacCarthy and the trial.

Mrs. McKnight:

We’re not really sure about the height, but we are estimating that at its tallest point, the Castle is about 60-70 feet high.  That is a very good guess, Elizabeth, but the castle was not made from coquina. We think the Castle is made from limestone, because many of the things around the area are built from limestone and look very similar.

Jose was not allowed to hold the hawks, because he looks too much like a rabbit, one of the items on the dinner menu for the hawk!  Fortunately, the hawk did not bite Mr. Foster.  However, our guide told us that due to its light beak, it wouldn’t hurt even if it did.  Mr. Foster was not willing to take that chance though.

There are different types of falcons that range in size from 6 1/2 to 24 inches.  The Peregrine Falcon can dive at speeds over 100 MPH.  We were flying hawks, which weren’t that fast, but were still very impressive.  We did not weigh ourselves, fortunately for us, the scale was much too small.   We did weigh Jose, and he was just about 2 lbs.    Each hawk has its own ideal weight, therefore, we can’t say one weight.

We would not recommend jumping off the Cliffs of Moher.  There have been accidents at the Cliffs that did not end well for the unfortunate participants.  And yes, there are jagged rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, not exactly a feather bed to land on.  We aren’t sure how old Buttons MacGillicutty was, but he seemed somewhat old and wise.  It’s not polite to ask someone’s age, so we couldn’t “bear” to ask.

As for the Blarney Stone, it’s really quite interesting.  According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446.  An early story involves the goddess Clíodhna.   Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, being involved in a lawsuit, appealed to Clíodhna for her assistance. She told MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and he did so, with the result that he pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. Thus the Blarney Stone is said to impart “the ability to deceive without offending.” MacCarthy then incorporated it into the parapet of the castle.  Some say it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone’, used as an oracular throne of Irish kings – a kind of Harry Potter-like ‘sorting hat’ for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.  When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent five thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic Stone was given by the Scots in gratitude – and returned to Ireland.  Others say it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.  Whatever the truth of its origin, the folks that work there believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys, the people who built the castle.  So, there are lots of ideas about the Blarney Stone!  I would imagine that people started kissing it after the story of MacCarthy and the trial.  You have to be upside down because the actual point on the wall where you kiss it is only accessible by leaning over  backwards.  There really isn’t a tale for that one.  The thickness of the steps depended on where you stood on it.  It was a spiral staircase, so the steps were triangular in shape.  Starting at the wall (the largest point), the steps were just slightly smaller than Mr. Foster’s shoe, at the point closest to the edge (the smaller point), was only about 3 inches.  You do not have to kiss the Blarney Stone, but if you were in Ireland, at the Blarney Castle, and had climbed all the way to the top, you definitely would want to do it.  It sounds pretty gross, but the spotters (people that hold you while you bend backwards) are nice enough to sanitize the stone after each person kisses it.

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