Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amazing American Mail

I began researching our family tree a few years ago,it is a slow process as I cannot give it a lot of time. I knew  some of my late Dad's relatives had emigrated to the US way back. When our census went online for 1911 and 1901 I found the family with some names I had not heard of before.One was his uncle  Michael and when I enquired back in the homeplace in Johnstown Co Kilkenny I discovered Michael had emigrated to New Jersey and had been conscripted into the US army during WW1.We searched online and eventually found his name on the American Battle Monuments Commission site listed as missing in action or Buried at sea. Michael's name is inscribed on the Wall of the Missing in Meuse Argonne cemetery in France . I contacted the American Vets Assoc for information only to be told his files were probably destroyed in a fire back in the '20s.
There were no further developments until last Nov when my eldest son Kevin phoned me to about a programme on our TV channel called Nationwide.It was to commemorate Armistice day on 11/11/1918 about Irish men who had fought in the various wars.there was a segment on Major Ron Howco, who was in the American forces and is now resident in Ireland,he has begun to recover and repatriate with honour the remains of Irish men who fought under the American flag. I emailed Ron with the few details we had and he put me in touch with Mr Pat Gorman in the US who does genealogy research.
We exchanged emails and Pat came up trumps in a short space of time.While records had been destroyed anyone who has died in  military service in the US has also some files in the national Archives and Pat sourced and forwarded copies of these to me. They are not comprehensive but relate to contact with his Mother after his death and a short file with his physical details eg height etc!Pat also sent me a large coloured photo of the American cemetery in France and with a close up photo of Michael's name inscribed on the wall.

Pat then pulled out all the stops and there was a beautiful bronze grave marker sent to my cousin in Johnstown.We don't have a grave for Michael but it will be attached to his parents grave so in a way he is coming home to them.The last week I had my amazing mail! A full size American flag which would normally cover a casket and 4 x Presidential Certs. with the President's signature (enlarge photo to read detail) We are having a memorial ceremony in Oct at his parents grave, Ron Howco will attend with  American Legion members who will act as Honor Guard and a bugler will play Taps in a moving ceremony which should last about an hour.The flag will be flown and ceremoniously folded to present to a family member and the certs will also be presented.

My daughter Kathryn kept searching online for some reference to Michael and his regiment as they fought in the last desperate days of the war when the fields of France were turned into bloody mud as the war raged.Kathryn found a website for New Jersey and put in Michael's name under WW1 war dead and imagine our shock and surprise when this photo and a short descriptive card was displayed in seconds!We now know he was involved in the Battle in Sedan where he probably died.His name is also inscribed on a War memorial in Bayonne NJ. (click on photo to enlarge)
The last days of the war were chaotic and we have 3 different dates for his death, his Mother thought he died the day before Armistice day but looking back that was probably how long it took for news to travel back to Ireland. The story was told that he was driving an officer and they were both standing beside the vehicle when a bomb killed them.Michael served with 165th Infantry 42 nd division,Company K. They were known as the rainbow division.
Pat Gorman does a fantastic work, it is not a job but a lifetimes work,he will present all of his files on tracing missing  military members  to the WW1 museum in Kansas city, a coincidence came to light during our online contact, Pat's own family originally came fromGlenmore in  Co Kilkenny and his son attended university here in Cork as an exchange student!
 I have not met Ron Howco as yet but another coincidence occurred today. I went to Kinsale for a short trip and saw a Pop up Militiary museum!We checked it out and spoke to  James Sikora who was curator.I told him some of our story and he told me Ron Howco had been in Kinsale at the museum on sat! The Irish Veterans is being set up to honour people who have served in any army all over the world.We have had the unbelievable and disgraceful official stance here until quite recently that Irish men who served overseas particularly in the British army were more or less ignored and forgotten
The Irish vets are in the process of setting up a permanent museum in Kinsale to cover all of the armed conflicts that the Irish were involved in,and need funds etc so I joined up for a years membership for e25.
Another coincidence.... my son Kevin who started the ball rolling with the TV programme is currently serving with the UN, he wants to attend the ceremony. Kevin will have leave for a couple of weeks in Oct/Nov and at the request of Ron Howco it has to  be held on a Sat to allow the members of the American Legion to travel and the only day  that ticks all of the boxes? Sat 27th Oct , the exact anniversary of Michael's death according to official records!
 I get the feeling Michael is making sure he is coming home at last.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sunny Afternoon

 Kevin and myself went out to the allotment on Fri afternoon, it was not just sunny but absolutely roasting! I watered all the plants in the greenhouse and it felt like a sauna. The tomatoes are ripening slowly.Harvest included:
2 courgettes
Small Red Duke of York potatoes
2 cucumbers
some french beans & small tomatoes
blackcurrants,strawberries,red gooseberries & blueberries.The strawberries and cherry tomatoes went to Jack who eats them like sweets!.Not enough fruit to make a summer pudding so the gooseberries & blackcurrants were added to apples to make a summer fruit tart.The blueberries go on my cereal in the morning.
The long green plant at the top of the photo is a Brussels sprout plant gone to seed, the 4th of 10 to go.It was brought home to the hens and I tied it to the fence.Within a very short time it was a skeletal shape hanging from the fence! Waste not want not.

Kevin noticed some of the globe artichokes and asked to take some home?! I asked if he had eaten them before and he said his Mom (Aisling) had shared some with him and he liked them! 3 of these were added to the harvest after the photo was taken.These are old plants and the outside leaves are inclined to be woody so we are digging them out and replacing with some new off shoots from the existing plants.I usually just bring them to the boil in salted water but Aisling added lemon juice to the water for a little extra oomph.

Our 3 aubergine plants in the greenhouse are some of Suttons trial grafted plants. They are producing well, we have had 3 so far and there are quite a few more developing. I noticed one plant seemed to be a lot taller than the others and when I investigated closer I discovered this growing out and up from the grafted root stock!
It is nearly as tall as Kevin, and looks suspiciously like a tomato plant from the leaves and there is a little yellow flower on Kevin's hand which could be a tomato blossom?! A sucker or side shoot?!
The taste of the tomatoes seem to be improving as they get some heat and sunshine

Monday, August 6, 2012

Something to Take Home

Harvest for today, the camera makes it look bigger than it actually is.Some of the cauliflower is turning pink and the heads are separating into florets so they are being picked and eaten as is.Carrots from the barrel were divided between myself and Kathryn.Lots of lettuce still going strong.There are onions from the lot drying in the greenhouse and some french beans.The half pot of Red Duke of York were on the small side ,the larger ones were about the size of an egg!

The darker soil at the top of the bed is where the bumper crop of spuds in the pot came from! About 9 stalks would have been here before the blight hit them, some of the potatoes were tiny not even marble size but so far no blight down into the potato.

The carrots in the barrel were varying sizes also and none of them huge even though they would have weathered out the worst of the weather in the cold greenhouse

 The Elegance tomatoes photographed through the greenhouse window, they are a good size but no sign of any of them ripening as yet.
 The lavender plants will be removed and replaced this year as they have grown quite leggy now after 4 years.I was going to bring a bunch home but there was a heavy rain shower before I could pick them
I decided to cut back nearly all of the leaves on the tomato plants to get as much sunlight as possible on to them, hopefully they will ripen in the next couple of weeks

Broccoli and turnips under netting as rabbit damage is getting out of hand.

The leaf shorn tomatoes!

Just to finish on a bright note our little plant pot man is sitting quite content in his flower bed surrounded by poppies and sweet williams.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No Surplus Here!

I will start with the heart warming sight of the first decent harvest I brought home this year, it was over a week ago and we have now returned to wind and rain.

Kathryn is off work for a few days and has been pottering in the allotment, she sent me this pic today of the courgettes which look as if they are finally getting their act together.

The first of the trial tomatoes are just beginning to turn red. it may be unfair to judge them solely on performance this year but Kathryn picked the red one and was disappointed with the taste. It may very well be back to the old reliables next year.

We have 10 cauliflower plants and had all but given up on them and then discovered 8 of them are producing florets! yeah!!

The lettuce plants have been under plastic for weeks and put in a spurt of growth at last. I planted another lot of them to have a continuation of salads

The sweet corn have taken to allotment life with a flourish, these were kept in pots at home until nearly the end of June, I thought they had given up but when we planted them out I brought compost from home which had plenty of chicken manure and it seems to have done the trick.These pics were taken over a week ago when we had a few dry (ish) days hence the water hose.They have not needed any extra watering this week!

Strawberries continue to crop despite the weather even though a lot of them had mould I think it is botrytis a mould which affects soft fruits in the conditions we have been having.A lot of our raspberries suffered the same fate. Our fruit bed is going to get a complete overhaul once harvesting is finished as it is very crowded now.We started out with 4 raspberry canes, they have now almost taken over half the bed crowding in our blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes.