The Dandelion Wars

Turf, in the English speaking world, means the ground beneath our feet. If we’ve paid for it, we own it. If it was passed down through the generations, we own it. Turf in Ireland is a tradition that goes back far. It is emotionally tied into the land ownership issue in Ireland, and it is directly tied to the famine.

Telling the Irish to stop cutting turf is akin to asking them to cease practicing their religion. In rural Ireland, cutting the turf in summer is a natural way of life for many. It is part of the identity of the Irish.

A turf-cutter in a peat bog in Ireland (Picture via giddgoatstours.ie)

A turf-cutter in a peat bog in Ireland (Picture via giddgoatstours.ie)

In 1801 the Act of Union joined Ireland to its neighbor, Britain, and all lands in Ireland belonged to the nation across the Irish Sea. It resulted in a struggle for independence for over one hundred years. Home Rule became a dream.

That dream was brutally pushed to the limit with the Easter Rising of 1916. Ireland was finally granted Home Rule and independence from Britain in 1922. The land was once again owned by the Irish.

During the 123 years of foreign rule the Irish experienced penal laws; that is, they were forbidden to practice Catholicism, speak in Irish, play any Irish sports, were penalized for renovating their cottages, which now belonged to a Land Lord, were rewarded for becoming protestants through the Laws of Ascendancy, and were starved during the Great hunger of 1845 to 1847.

During the great hunger and harsh years that followed, many evictions occurred. In some cases families were reduced to living in sheds, and others resorted to living in scailpeens; makeshift shelters on the side of the roads, in ditches, or in bogs.

The issue of the owners of 53 raised bogs in Ireland defying laws and continuing to cut turf is a prime example of history repeating itself. Much like the years of hardship endured by the Irish during the years of 1801 to 1916, a foreign power, the new land lords in The Hague are telling the Irish what to do and turning neighbor against neighbor.

Police/Gardaí are being told to travel 50 miles away from their designated areas to patrol bogs that have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation by the European Union. Helicopters and airplanes from the coast guard are leaving the shores they should be protecting to spy on bog cutters.

The argument that bog owners who still persist in cutting these special areas of conservation make is that some of the 53 bogs designated as SACs were incorrectly designated. And even though the Minister for Environment claims that monetary compensation and re-locations of new bogs have been offered, some bog owners’ state that no relocation bogs have been found for them.

It is an uncivil law that permits a government to take away land from its owner, coerce law enforcement personnel to spy on their neighbors, and hand over land rights to a foreign power without telling the voters first, or even asking their permission.

There are allegedly 70 million people in the Irish Diaspora. The reason the Irish have a diaspora is due to impoverished conditions created by a foreign government. I keep thinking how wonderful it would be if the Irish Diaspora could band together and create a fund, one that the Irish government couldn’t get its hands on, to help the Irish people. Much like what our ancestors did by sending money home to their families still remaining in Ireland.

Take a look at the Barroughter Clonmoylan Bogs’ Action Group Facebook Page and see how the Irish bog owners are being kept under constant surveillance and contact them to see how you can help.

Read Boggers of the World Unite in the Irish Independent and let Ian O’Doherty explain, “why is the EU so steadfast in insisting on imposing massive fines on any turf cutter who uses prohibited areas and why, more pertinently, why are our Lesser Spotted Gardaí, who according to cop watchers are virtually extinct, constantly spotted whenever ‘illegal’ turfing (I’m assuming that’s the word) takes place.”

Saving the turf (Image source: Loretto Leary)

Saving the turf (Image source: Loretto Leary)

Consider the question that O’Doherty poses to us all: “Would you be prepared to accept someone coming onto your home turf – literally – and telling you to stop what you have been perfectly entitled to do all your life because there might be an endangered dandelion growing there?”

When I was in national school in Ireland I remember vividly being told by the teachers that the corn crake was threatened with extinction because of the use of combine harvesters to cut corn. That was in 1980. In 2011 the bird had increased in population in most rural areas, according to the NPWS. Maybe the same will be held true of the “dandelion” (←click on the link to be utterly bamboozled), growing in the 53 raised bogs in Ireland.

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Hurricane Irene August 28th 2011

Power outages in CT  reached almost 600,000, leaving 53% of the State without electricity according to Connecticut Light and Power on Monday, August 29th.

Hurricane Irene hit CT on August 28  2011. Although downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, the mix of high tides and a full moon caused the storm surge to raise water levels above three feet of what the state considered safe.

Snow plows cleaned debris off roads in an attempt to make driving safe.

A state employee who wished to remain anonymous said that he had been working since ten o’clock Saturday morning and was operating on three hours sleep by four pm Sunday.

Driving a snow plow truck to remove debris from roads is “safe,” the state employee said and added when sparks are seen due to the plow hitting the surface of the road,” it is still safe. The same thing happens in winter,” he said.

When asked about operating a large truck while sleep deprived the state employee said,
“Our governor says it’s so easy a monkey could do it!” The employee had slept for three hours on a cot bed.

Tennis courts became skim boarders’ havens at Weed beach tennis courts in Darien, CT.

Darien residents of the weed beach area waded through almost six inches of water on Sunday.

Debris in driveways at the cove in Stamford marked the tide levels which peaked at 11am on Sunday. Residents begin the massive clean-up.

On an impassable road heading toward Weston, CT, an ambulance turned around to find an alternate route to it’s destination. It turned again into the direction blocked off by police tape, the only access to the required destination.

21 people died in this storm.

Service learning Interview Background Research

Ernastine Cobb stands in front of a portrait of a river baptism in her home in Norwalk.

Focus of the Interview:

Growing up in North Carolina, Civil Rights , moving to Norwalk and her involvement in Peace by Piece.

Thank you Ernastine for being so generous with your time and sharing your life story with me and anyone else who reads and listens.

Date of Interview: April 29th 2011


PURPOSE of Interview:

The purpose of the Ernastine Cobb interview is to learn more about her childhood, how civil rights impacted her life, her move to Norwalk and how she became involved in Peace by Piece, the intergenerational quilting project based in Norwalk.

RESEARCH:

I spent 28.5 hours at the quilting house and chatting with Ernastine. I also read a time line of civil rights events that happened in her lifetime and learned about what life was like for a black woman born in 1934.

SHAPE of the Interview:

The Interview is topical and chronological. It moves from her childhood in Fountain, North Carolina to her current life here in Norwalk and her experiences in between.

Questions for Ernastine Cobb

1.     Where were you born and what year?

2.     What type of work did your parents do?

3.     I understand you were baptized in a river? Have you yourself been to river

baptisms?

4.     Can you describe what happens at a river baptism?

5.     Do you have memories of school segregation?

6.     Where were you when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus

in  Montgomery Ala. in 1955?

7.     What did that mean to you then, a 20+ year old African American woman?

8.     When Martin Luther King Junior was shot, how did that make you feel?

9.     When did you move to Norwalk?

10.   How did you get involved with Peace by Piece?

Background Research on US Civil Rights Movement

1954 May 17

The Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The ruling paves the way for large-scale desegregation.

1955 Dec. 1

(Montgomery, Ala.) NAACP member Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the “colored section” of a bus to a white passenger, defying a southern custom of the time. In response to her arrest the Montgomery black community launches a bus boycott, which will last for more than a year, until the buses are desegregated Dec. 21, 1956. As newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., is instrumental in leading the boycott.

1957 Jan.–Feb.

Martin Luther King, Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which King is made the first president. The SCLC becomes a major force in organizing the civil rights movement and bases its principles on nonviolence and civil disobedience. According to King, it is essential that the civil rights movement not sink to the level of the racists and hatemongers who oppose them: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline,” he urges.
1963 April 16

Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala.; he writes his seminal “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” arguing that individuals have the moral duty to disobey unjust laws.

May

During civil rights protests in Birmingham, Ala., Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor uses fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators. These images of brutality, which are televised and published widely, are instrumental in gaining sympathy for the civil rights movement around the world.

July 2

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation.

1964 Aug. 4

(Neshoba Country, Miss.) The bodies of three civil-rights workers—two white, one black—are found in an earthen dam, six weeks into a federal investigation backed by President Johnson. James E. Chaney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 21; and Michael Schwerner, 24, had been working to register black voters in Mississippi, and, on June 21, had gone to investigate the burning of a black church. They were arrested by the police on speeding charges, incarcerated for several hours, and then released after dark into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, who murdered them.

1965 Feb. 21

(Harlem, N.Y.) Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is shot to death. It is believed the assailants are members of the Black Muslim faith, which Malcolm had recently abandoned in favor of orthodox Islam.

March 7

(Selma, Ala.) Blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the Pettus Bridge by a police blockade. Fifty marchers are hospitalized after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The incident is dubbed “Bloody Sunday” by the media. The march is considered the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later.

Aug. 10

Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal.

Aug. 11–17, 1965

(Watts, Calif.) Race riots erupt in a black section of Los Angeles.

Sept. 24, 1965

Asserting that civil rights laws alone are not enough to remedy discrimination, President Johnson issues Executive Order 11246, which enforces affirmative action for the first time. It requires government contractors to “take affirmative action” toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and employment.
1968 April 4

(Memphis, Tenn.) Martin Luther King, at age 39, is shot as he stands on the balcony outside his hotel room. Escaped convict and committed racist James Earl Ray is convicted of the crime. 

April 11

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.

1971 April 20

The Supreme Court, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upholds busing as a legitimate means for achieving integration of public schools. Although largely unwelcome (and sometimes violently opposed) in local school districts, court-ordered busing plans in cities such as Charlotte, Boston, and Denver continue until the late 1990s.