Octagonal Lazy Susan

An octagonal lazy susan

on the kitchen table

an onyx cheese board

a polished stone tablet

befitting a curved cheese-knife

and crackers and Brie

Milk jug and a lidded sugar bowl

hospital stainless steel urns

decorate it now,


awaiting a table setter

Howard Fox

13 iii 2023

Canine reverie disturbed

A stretch of writers arms



Victualler’s steel

hanging on the kitchen wall:

A sound of metal filing

of sieves against ladels.

Alarm, enough to

move a canine

to a fit of

yawns and whimpers

and whys

and licks and paws

and company …

The Bawnogues and hibernation habitats

Beyond the football club and the primary health centre, there is an ancient horse racecourse track not far from the Motorway boundary. The ground here has knapweed, a signal of old wet grassland. Woody plants include ash, ivy, roses, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder and a stray oak. A hawthorn bush has a full diameter Ramalina farinacea bauble, a bush lichen on a branching shoot. A moss-covered ash trunk has some black cyanolichen in the moss sward. Collema subfurvum is a speculative option for this, but as a scarce species too needs more investigation. The whole area of the Bawnogues, gives the impression of an escapee relict of the 19th century with an occasional broc if you were lucky.

A walk around Kilcock the other day showed a few species doing reasonably well – Physconia distorta on lime – Stictis radiata on an ash and swards of moss and Xanthoria parietina on elder bushes. Some sycamores carry Parmelia sulcata while ash has some Flavoparmeia caperata. In an overall view, many of these species have modest populations on amenity trees planted in the housing estates, while the remaining hedges provide habitats for species to overwinter.

One function of hedgerows is to allow annual species to overwinter. The brutal flaying of hedgerows in winter seems to have lost the overall plot in conservation, as hedgerows are a refuge in Ireland for species that overwinter in the habitat. The law and the hedge cutters seem to have lost sight of the idea that insects lay eggs on leaves, and overwintering leaves provide shelter and warmth for many species in mid-February, where we are at now.

The number of liverworts, mosses, lichens, and macrofungi at the Bawnogues and nearby parts of Kilcock is one of the wonders of biodiversity in what humanity can dismiss as wastelands. We must be very careful with our vocabulary to ensure our message is not corrupted. Litter picking can show that these wastelands have interesting uses by humans. Once February is over, we can proceed with springtime, and it was nice to see by an ash log the emerging leaves of a Primrose plant, Primula vulgaris. Such a wild plant at the Bawnogues, shows the ancientness of this part of Kildare, and perhaps the cyanolichens species of elder and ash moss swards on tree bark need to be added to this list of indicators of ancientness in the Pale of Leinster. Thanks are due to Maria Cullen for accompanying myself and Bran on our walks in Kilcock, and to Ursula King for showing us around some highlights of Kilcock where we could do our botanical magic and provide Latin names for some of the species in the environment here.

Howard Fox

17 ii 2023

Enniscorthy library upstairs… 6 vii 2022

The desk, a table, in the room, is adequate. My knee sides against a leg. The chair, fabric covered, supports my ample weight.

A portrait of Colm Tobin surveys the room, Anthology … the third book down in the slush pile of a writer’s desk. A water bottle would rehydrate a dry throat. The desks here are to be left clear. No unattended belongings whatsoever. David Daly has a ’Reed bunting at Rosslare’ portrait too. I met him at the pumphouse in The Slobs at an exhibition or something, when I was charged with the Wexford Natural Heritage Areas boundary in the county. That brings me back to 1993 or thereabouts, before my writerly ambitions coalesced through the Caribbean Literary Salon days of 2012. Now that I write, I feel much better, life imitates art and one has to forge one’s future word by word.

The barcode of the book on the display was 597298555474111 on the second time round, not that I had read the number fully on the first occasion. What book did the librarian choose, not Irish. Was it ‘shore fauna and flotsam for beachcombers’?

The fire station, next door, has a block tower of red painted doors, never opened, but I would be happy to stand corrected. A lime tree Tilia, one Cedrus atlantica glauca and a dead hulk, Eucalyptus-like, with a nest of ferns, 8m up, Polypodium interjectum is at deep mid-wicket, as I set off from the Hadrian’s Wall end, west of Vinegar Hill, with Saint Sennan’s behind the Slaney bank rocks, below the second ‘new’ Slaney bridge. Setting a tale in Enniscorthy is an honour of the librarians. It is an airy room, with traffic sounds and wind-blown tree crowns flapping in the breeze, leaves flapping restrained in simple harmonic motions, branch sways, of Beaufort five and steady. A collared dove flaps and flies in the lime tree crown, not a reference to the forces, of Vinegar Hill, two-and-a-bit centuries back when we all hoped for mental freedom…

A Rook wipes its beak on the Eucalyptus branch, for want of a more secure tree identification. The rookery calls in the breezes are heard above the traffic noises. They do like their horns in Enniscorthy, not as much as the Neapolitans of Pompeii with their Pizza ovens, Fiat Bambinoes, and Fiat Merafioiris. I need to get comfortable, not to leave bags unattended, so I pack up and get ready to explore downstairs. What I will find remains to be seen. The book trolley in the corner has a book: Slavery, while a child’s voice outside is enthused by being near the Fire Station, the Pompiers of Enniscorthy, Fire engines to me and to you. I must arise and go now to the window to see, if Saint Sennan’s is visible from this space. Not really… but this is: Better World Books Weeding Procedure – June 2021. Change on Sierra, if discarding. In Sierra, change the status to w (withdrawn). Click on supress: yes.

I find cookbooks on the south wall, the novels section with newspapers in a eastern room, a toilet my reason to go downstairs. Afterwards I leave and head off and go to watch a heron wading in the river, from somewhere else, inside. A caddis fly with long curved antennae perched on the hotel promenade window. The caddis was outside. It was not far away. It was silhouetted by a cloudy sky, 8 okta, not a blue azure drop in sight.

Howard FOX

Edited – 22/23 xi 2022

Parsing our vision (a botany film)

Be thou our vision o ruler of all

Let us parse nature into scientific words

viewing the botany in woodlands as we walk

let the latin names of plants

be enchanting rounds in our minds

Rehearsals of our vision in that long sense

training our eyes to recognition of species

units of nature with all their repeatability

predictable kinds adjacent in place

commensals in niches and micro-habitats

that one has the botany for all to define

Be thou our vision, parse nature in kind

Making our eyes see your creation divine

beyond beauty let us mesmerize on life

and think of the world from this growing shoot

a meristem

a production of botany conserved and available

spawn to propagate and duplicate and farm

for the moths and us too. Parse our nature streams,

their visual music into stories too. A myth to educate us

to fluency at heart, keep us with our eyesight

our vision to care for us all, until it is time

from this mortal coil to depart.

Be thou our vision, parse it by heart.

Howard Fox, 14 x 2022

Franciscan farming – some options to explore

Dear Reader,

The website <lichenfoxie> has been quiet in recent months. The authors and writer are gradually getting extraordinarily enthusiastic about local biodiversity documentation. The concept known as a sessile plant florula is in essence of what is being made – This is a kind of local flora, that Declan Doogue, who is struggling for decades with a ‘Kildare Flora’ and John Feehan, Wild Flowers of Offaly would be proud of, that incorporates multiple taxonomic insights derived from the species present. Also <lichenfoxie> has become very enthused about sharing our passion for what I call ‘moth-farming in North Leitrim’ or ‘Sorting Sphagnum …’  developing in the evening, some of the scented paths with Rosa agrestris to and from New Ross, necessary for the urgent transition from Benedictine agriculture to Franciscan farming.

A start at Franciscan farming has been made: in South Kerry, in fields that never heard a Hymac’s engine running in it, forever, or a bill-hook or slaine in the pairc, since 2000; in North Leitrim; at Rossinver in Straid (Connolly); and Kiltyclogher in Corracloona; in West Cork, Bantry at Ardnagashel; in Wexford near New Ross, at Ballyanne; in Carlow, on the hill slopes with a reddish Scapania cf. irrigua, near Ballymurphy and the tree trail of Myshall with an amazing Bay tree in the Adelaide Church grounds. In Wicklow, we have recently been looking at a mine adit at Glendalough; a boulder in the block scree near the Miner’s Village in Wicklow. Florulas of these places are in gestation.  

The production of a short concise local florula that documents sessile biodiversity by <lichenfoxie> continues apace – a florula as we mention above is a booklet about the biodiversity of a particular place and the assemblages of plants, ferns, mosses, liverworts, fungi and lichens, algae, and any other groups of wildlife that there is evidence for, observed directly in a day or twos observation at a place in a townland in some county in Ireland, in Soufriere in Saint Lucia or on a French Polynesian island in the South Pacific ocean like Moorea.   

The South part of County of Kerry, between Kenmare and Sneem, is in the heart of Thomas Taylor (1785-1848) country. As I write on www.lichenfoxie.com, we draw attention to the ground work on Thomas Taylor scholarship has been set by the late Geneva Sayre late of the Farlow Herbarium, Harvard University Herbaria. This material has the potential for making of an historical florula in the landscape of South Kerry between 1800 and 1850.

On pesticides, there is a school project from 1983, researched in the Oakpark Library, which I can go back to, which was supervised by Dr. Andre Fro:lich. The impact of agriculture from the mid-1980s to the 2020s on the Irish landscape and its florulas has been profound. The changes in the weeds of tillage crops from the 1970s, on, have been extraordinary. We can see this by looking closely at the Flora of Carlow, by Evelyn Booth, and the bryophytes of Arable Fields in Kildare.  

In the mid-2010s, in what is now DCU Alpha, we with Sean O’Donovan studied the botany of twigs from Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth as well as the botany of Saint Lucia in 2014, and we would like to draw stands of our writings for local botany together. This approach to documenting nature, focused on making a florula of sessile plants, and the biodiversity side of nature, was crystallised in teaching, that Maria Cullen and I gave on Culture Night at the convent at Glasnevin. We are now feeling centred on a path to the future realism of Franciscan ‘moth’ farming, versus the Benedictine dairying of today.

A few weeks of new writing in Summer and Autumn 2022 with attention to responding to the contents of the 100 display books and conferring with earlier writings on <www.lichenfoxie.com>; much of which you our dear readers have read; has left us with an interesting raft of ideas to put into second gear. Second gear is a Finnish Ascomycete Systematics scientist’s analogy, Seppo Huhtinen, we are doing an #agriculture by applying ourselves to themes in a Venn diagram somewhere between ethical agronomy and wise mushroom carpophore utility for the #future.

We had a great session at The Organic Centre, Rossinver, County Leitrim on Saturday 11th June 2022, performing at Foley Falls, and again over three days at our Irish Geological Association granite geobiology workshop with Maria Cullen in Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains National Park, 17th to 19th June 2022. Go, #gratitude. Many thanks to Mary & Johnnie Cullen of Ballyanne, Nick and Sophia Hilliard of Corracloona, and Christy & Johnny Fanning of Loughshinny, the Andrews of Fournoughts; and Sr. Vivienne Keely, Margaret Aylward Centre Faith Dialogue, and Heinrich & Greta Pertl, Glasnevin, and other good people who have provided the benevolent community spaces for us into which such notions of sessile Franciscan ‘moth’ farming has developed, during the life of Oberon (gebornen: xii 2011) and Bran.

This contribution to organisation of our few decades of floristic botany and field geology in Ireland, and in a few choice places around the world, into a series of locally relevant floristic outputs will be a benefit to anyone considering Franciscan ‘moth’ farming and native ‘sessile’ gardening on their patches, to help readers understand what different kinds of plants are present, and how the biodiversity that you have on site provides a framework for the resident entomology, as our resource for providing options to farmers interested in this style of ‘moth’ farming.

Should you be a landowner with a budget to spend, do feel free to enquire, and commission us to do our magic, and document your site. We are just an e-mail away. For all our FB friends, this is the essential service, of sessile plant florula making, that we are endeavouring to provide from our office with a Rising Tide in New Ross.

With kind regards

Howard Fox

Botanist & Writer, a.k.a. <lichenfoxie>

Maria Cullen

C.E.O., Planet Life Research

Rising Tide

36 South Street

New Ross

County Wexford

1010 words

Blended Coffee

From the kitchen press

I clear half-empty bags

of coffee

into a

clear wide-mouthed Kilner jar

containing a plastic spoon

belly down handle up

Three coffee bags are

crimped in and tied with a

double twist of a hair bob.

Tipped in without a spill

a metal spoon

clatters in

handle impaled into the heap

Something disorganized

wrong way up

unlike her.

Thumb pinched, up and out

de-spooning a jar

before putting away

‘Blended Coffee’

She reads my poems

so I do not know if it is wise to say

before she comes next

and I offer to make her

‘Blended Coffee’

Howard Fox

Readers, Dear reader

Today I am writing to readers whom I have accosted in cafes and dug into my wallet, and unbeknownst to them what is happening, I fish out my business card l i c h e n f o x i e, botanist & writer and they politely accept this act of sharing and when they next get a moment on the internet, do a search on lichenfoxie and hey presto, up come a page entitled – Readers, Dear reader …

If you are one of my live recipients of this l i c h e n f o x i e gambit, I must say you are a lively bunch, drinking tea in cafe’s, talking to customers at supermarket checkouts, or anyway being friendly with the courtesy of talking to a stranger about Ireland, people of this cafe, of Mark O’Hara of Markree and the young Percival of Ballisodare, of this Supermarket once, like Michael Harding of somewhere in the southern end of North Leitrim, or Bryan Leyden of the Hawkswell Theatre, or other such random encounters with mirrors, peering out with a friendly face. Garrolous to the last, talkative like a Jay, Garralus glandarius, or some such lating name.

We have to thank Vistaprint for the business cards. I am beginning to run low, which is a sure sign that I have outstayed my welcome. What more can I say. I have recently enjoyed Rosita Boland’s travel memoir book: Elsewhere, which with a envously smart title talks about journeys to darkest Peru, Pakistan, Australia and other adventures of this journalist, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a Poetry Reading of Michael Cronin in Rathgar. Other books I can commend include Standing In Gaps, Seamus O’Rourke’s memoir of a Leitrim adolescense and a Leitrim life. The story I like most is the one I relate frequently, about the chap at the crossroads in North Leitrim smoking a Hamlet cigar. Seamus drove through the crossroads and after about a mile, felt guilty. He turned his car around in a gate and headed back to the crossroads for a chat. Half an hour later, he headed on his way, doing his errands of the day. Did I miss anything, he asked, and I replied: No. So I told Mr Breen after mass in Rathgarogue on Sunday. His sister passed on. She will be missed.

These stories make me think of people, people among us that we have not had the time to be friendly at length with, people with whom we have been aloof, shared a smile, and have been sufficiently self absorbed or tongue tied, not to say much at all. I suppose I am not a great listener, I am rather pushy when it comes to conversation, and some of the one sided monologues you readers, dear reader, read patiently on. Conversation is one of those artforms that needs practice and I despair with those who struggle with the English language in the country of Ireland. I am talking of the Polish or Czech or Swiss people who have read some l i c h e n f o x i e and moved swifty on. Can I say most people have several languages if their English is something they worry about. I have no Arabic, except the botanical Usnea, Ooshnia, or some such word, and they really need not worry about language, as Irish people are generously tolerant of English with a variety of normal and arcane turns of phrase, I suppose the joy of the language is the fluency with which we can send one to the dictionary, unlike Rosita Boland, I never had the pleasure of really taking seriously, apart from the two volume Oxford in ridiculously small print in giant pages of multiple columns. This was supposted to be set on a lecturn and a page opened at random daily, for a rummage, into the depths of the language. I never had the lecturn, but I would be in the market for one if the furniture dealers or furniture makers felt they could market one.

My other task today it to understand the concept of plotting in novel writing. Apparently one has to string together a set of scenes that one remembers from a film – not that I watch films except Afghan rug films with Mickey Rooney and thorny briars of Arabia in 1978 and I dream of dog hair wafting up to Oberon’s nose while he inhales, a snore if you must, dreaming of a long day out in Sligo, more specifically Collooney, in the cafe near the Roundabout, which is halfway between Ballindine near Knock and the Diamond in Donegal. I ordered the last available sausage roll. Oberon our dog has perfect Polish. He rolls over when you instruct him to roly poly. We said this in the veterinarian’s studio in Manorhamilton, and the vets there are Polish. Oberon will be a roly poly if he gets to many Collooney takeout sausages. Which brings me back to plotting. It is sort of making up things, string them together into a story while Oberon barks and grumbles in the background.

Quince paste and cheese on Tuc biscuits awaits.

Kildare Snowdrops II

The tall tree casts its long shadow at dawn in weak sunlight; winter is beginning to ease. Snowdrops catch little of the hint of warmth in still air. Cool but not cold. These Galanthus nivalis could be from the mountains in Turkey, from a valley far above the Black Sea, where we have never been.

Our Snowdrops in the garden were planted by a previous owner, a different family and a different generation. Snowdrops from Crimea, from the Balkans, from the First World War. Ottoman trophies – a few bulbs brought home in soldier’s luggage – memories of friends lost in the chaos and misadventure of war.

The Snowdrop varieties here in our garden at home are the same as growing at the big houses of North Kildare. Snowdrops as a signature of social cohesion, a society within a society, traded as presents among gardeners. Snowdrops in the garden are in a white sward, just across from a granite milepost in a limestone wall, 33 Irish Miles from Dublin, marked on Taylor’s Map of Kildare in the 1770s.

During Iris’s tenure over 50 years, the Snowdrop lawn was augmented with many bulbs. The planted Crocuses and Scilla, Hyacinths and Chinodoxa, Bluebells and Snowflakes, Daffodils and Fritillaries will remain for us, as vestiges to her memory as a friend lost, as we look forward to Snowdrops, as the first signals of Spring.