Friday, July 31, 2009

Buckets of rain, Buckets of milk

As the rain "lashes down" on this amazingly grey and blustery day I figured that I would share some of the work that we are doing.

With Gerd and Renate on a rare, few-days' holiday, I have been the sheep milker and tender, which is pleasant with such well-loved, clean, kind sheep. Renate is their usual shepherd, and they certainly are "one-woman sheep," leading to a bit of kicking and recalcitrance in the sheep house/milking stand. But I think that we are all coming to a bit more of an understanding of each other. It is amazing, the difference in different sheeps' udders. These sheep are far more full of milk, are milked only once a day, and take me about ten minutes to finish off. I get most of it out in the first five minutes or less, but spend quite a while trying to knead and punch out the rest. (When I say punch I refer to an imitation of what lambs do when they milk their moms - hitting the teat in a way with their nose to urge out more milk.) I am getting used to them, though, their pink pink teats and varied attitudes, and it will be too bad when I have to hand them back over to Renate tomorrow.

In the grand tradition of my friend Emily I have also nearly triumphed in a skirmish with a terraced herb garden, attempting to uproot and unscrew the legions of morning glory vine and grasses, while trying to preserve the poppies, cosmos, thyme, chives, rosemary and marjoram etc in the process. Some nasturtiums and poppies unfortunately ended up in the weed pile but the compost will be all the better because of it, and the slugs hopefully more pleased to be in the pile rather than the garden.

Matt has been doing various grunt work involving the digging of gravel and the strimming of polytunnels and will be doing hedge trimming once the weather clears.

In the polytunnel many bushels of beans have been picked and mold removed, tomato offshoots pried away and grape vines trained to the piping. There is quite a lot of mold in there, reminding one of the importance of ventilation, which perhaps could be utilized quite a bit more in their polytunnel. Most of the polytunnel onions and garlics have been harvested and crocheted in baling twine for storage in the winter cow house.

Lettuces have been stepped up from their initial germination flats and more seeded, along with a flat of fennel. Next week we will be transplanting the bigger seedlings into the greenhouse where the peas used to be, and harvesting and freezing ever more beans, and dealing with a big onslaught of new guests and their children for "children's days."

Our friend Angela has left, leaving us with more time alone, which is both good and sad. And a calf was finally born! The day after its birth it escaped into a nearby wood causing much anxiety and confusion, but happily the rascal was found and now enjoys a pasture with its mom and aunt in our backyard.

That's all for now. I am going to return to the pile of National Geographics, farming literature, and wool at the house. Take care and love to all,


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A home!

Well, a home until August 25th at least. Matt and I officially decided that we will be here until then.

I will write more later today or tomorrow, but now I have to go weed an herb bed. Take care!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh goodness gracious.

Hello everyone,

I can write with a bit looser of a belt as Matt and I just bought library cards and can thus use the internet for free, every day if we want. (More like once a week, though.)

We will definitely be staying through the beginning of August, so if you can write real quick, and want to, I can give you our address if you would like.


It has been so wonderful to be able to sit in meditation twice a day with Gerd, a co-owner of the farm who has been meditiating for the last 26 years, and Angela, their charming and chatty guest who is full of fantastic stories from her native Switzerland, as well as her many Asian travels.

I have done a bit of meditating in the past but it has been far too sporadic to ever become something especially rewarding or even peaceful. In the last week it has been immensely pleasing to get incrementally (by the smallest centimeters) better at simply being, and "nothing more, nothing less," for an hour a day.

After meditating in the morning (each session lasts half an hour) we have a fantastic breakfast of porridge, toast, fresh milk, bananas (sometimes, !!) and a great medley of various pastes and jams. The breakfast is rife with conversation about nearly everything under the sun, from the habits of the Swiss Army to the Irish Catholic Church to linguistics, et al, et al. We have several similar principles and thoughts and many different ones, and interesting insights and experiences from our varied backgrounds.

The work, as Gerd might say, is Vanderful (so different from wonderful), full of flowers and stringbeans and weeds and fertile ground and funny dogs and wonderful meals inbetween. Yesterday was especially satisfactory, with Matt planting a cherry tree and strimming (weedwacking) and shoveling and me transplanting herbs and calendulas and tying up renegade peas and weeding and weeding and weeding. Renate (Gerd's lovely spouse) and her gardens are just so great, full of color and knowledge and flavor.

I have to go look up some books. Take care, everybody!


Oh, PS! Those of you who are interested in organic farming in a big enough of a way should look into books by LR Miller and his publication, "The Small Farmers' Journal." He is so incredibly inspiring, encouraging, and a very great light for the American organic community.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hi everybody!

We are still in the neighborhood of Bantry, on a retreat center/farm that is run by two good friends of Tim and Sandra's. It is good, with pregnant cows, a jumping pony, a cat with a boxer's jaw and some very nice dogs. And so many nasturtiums.

Thanks to everyone who wrote helpfully about places that we could look into farming on or living in. We hope to stay here for the next few weeks, and then look forward to seeing some very good friends who are about to be in the neighborhood.

Bantry is very charming...not as touristy as Kilarney, quite tiny, with plenty of friendliness and pubs all over. Last Sunday we went to the last night of the Chamber Music Festival, and it was fantastically Kronos Quartetish in sound and completely fancy in look, taking place in the rich, bayside, gardened and marbled and velvety Bantry House. The last piece was played with candlelight coming down from the chandelier. Mmm.

We unfortunately cannot post any pictures because I lost our card reader. (Shortly before losing our phone, though happily that found us again, through a very kindly Irish medium.) In lieu of actual pictures, I can quickly tell you about a few of the colors and patterns around us lately...

But sounds: the gong at the beginning of sitting meditation (did I mention that this is also a meditation center, right here on this farm?), the horseshoes against the road as the farmers' daughter takes her pony out for performing

There are windmills that turn in the valley beside us, and all we can see are the very fingertips of the blades as they go slowly round. The ubiquitous nasturtium are going to seed, their little plump lumps begging to be pickled in a caper kind of way. The thyme is struggling to take a stand in the herb terraces, and the calendula is bursting and crowding in orange and yellow.

And the rain. When first we arrived in Ireland there was very little of it, but now it is with us several times a day, streaming down the sides of the polytunnel (in American English "hoop house" - like a greenhouse made of plastic), thumping rooftops, huddling the sheep.

And the sheep are everywhere, just as you hear that they ought to be in Ireland.

Anyhow, I ought to run. I would like to leave a longer message, with reflections on our just-passed four month anniversary here, but there just isn't the time. Soon I will try to be in town and use a computer at a cafe, but for now, we miss and love all of you, and oddly, being in Ireland makes us far more homesick, I think, than we were before. But we are still happy to be traveling.

With unedited love,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SOS and Hullo!

Hi friends!

Well, here we are, in west Cork County, listening to "world music" in a cafe in Bantry town, hustling through emails and wwoof postings and water and about to hurry back to the farm to do more "bits and bobs" of bee keeping, tidying up, cooking, dog petting, sheep admiring, et al.

Again, unfortunately, I have no time to write, but can list off a few more things. The farm is perfect, with its roof teeming with grasses and flowers and ghosts of guinea pigs, and the dogs are that sort of dog in the Disney movie "The Shaggy Dog," and Tim is the only bee keeper in Ireland to study and survey bee populations and Sandra is a social worker when she is not riding the horses and weeding the onions et al et al.

Ok the major IMPERFECT thing about this farm is that we unfortunately will only be able to stay through this weekend, as there were booking miscommunications and forgettings and assumptions and, well, we might be between a rock and a pretty hard place very soon, so if anyone has a suggestion about a place that might need some pretty able folk such as ourselves, please don't be shy and hollar to us good and loud!

In any case, we are very happy and better at doing all kinds of things than we ever were before, and we are healthy too and all of those other things.

I will write SUBSTANTIALLY as soon as I can - no internet at Tim and Sandra's, and town is a long walk or a less long bike ride from the homestead, so I don't know when next I'll get the chance to connect and scribble but hopefully it will be soon.

Miss you all and thanks for the various kindly messages that have indeed been received. Hopefully we'll be somewhere for long enough to be able to actually receive LETTERS - so lucrative!

Much Love and Rain and Green,