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Category Archives: Ireland

Well, stone the crows!

crowdamage 1Wish I had photos of the crows in the field, but they’re not terribly sociable
unless they’re laughing at me from the treetops…
so a photo of the damage to the potatoes will have to do.

It’s not for nothing that I’ve had the song, “Three black crows” by Blackmore’s Night going through my head all morning.

 

I was headed out to the sheds when I saw a field of black where the potato harvest was waiting. I have to say, I love crows. I love when they sit in the trees and craw at me as I go past, as though they’re sharing a really funny joke. As pretty as the sight is, that does not mean I like seeing them all over the grain or potatoes. Crows like sharing. They’ll dig up the potatoes close to the surface, peck randomly at the potato, then, in their generosity, leave the remains of the potato for us. I’ve tried to tell them that their notion of generosity isn’t working, but to no avail.

I was going to put out stakes with ribbons of plastic into the fields and, with that in mind, I was scouting through the sheds. In my hunt, I found the recycling bin… Beer Cans! So we have stakes, a bit of twine and beer cans. I reckon that makes this the most kitsch potato field around!

crowdamage 2

Recycling at its best!

 

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Farming, Ireland

 

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The indestructible spirit of the WWOOFer

A little while ago, I wrote an article for a magazine few people would get to read. It’s the WWOOF Ireland’s official magazine. I walked into the kitchen just the other day to find my own face laughing up at me. A goofier photo of me would have been hard to find! The photo was taken by a fellow WWOOFer, a lovely German girl with an bubbly spirit and a camera attached to her arm. She was relentless and the tiny hedges didn’t provide enough cover for me to hide behind.

Indestructable spirit of the wwoofer article - Corrianne sm

It was with mild surprise that I found they’d published my article. The article in question was inspired by news of one particular WWOOFer who’d moved on from the farm we were at, but it brought to mind many others I’d met and some of the incredible tasks they did with smiles and a healthy dose of fun.

The indestructible spirit of the WWOOFer
by Corrianne Lasevicius

Indestructable spirit of the wwoofer article - photo 2 small b&w

Long ago, when my friend suggested we try our hand at WWOOFing, my perception of WWOOFers was, at the very least, enormously different from what I have come to know of them. She described them as mostly young people who help out on farms. My imagination filled in the details of sun-kissed youth singing and chatting their way through apple harvests. Now, it’s not as though that never happens, but reality has painted a rather different portrait in my mind. We’ve been WWOOFing for just over a year now. The farms we’ve worked on have varied greatly, as have the hosts, but this article is about those busy ‘worker bees’ who flit though Ireland’s fields and gardens.

My thoughts go back to a German chap who was working with us at one farm. He had just left, but as happens among WWOOFers, we kept in touch for a while. He arrived at his new host, keen on the experience he’d be getting on that farm, as it was very different to the one he’d just left. The morning after his arrival, he went downstairs for breakfast to find the place empty. A note had been left on the table. The family had rushed in to hospital with the host who had suffered a heart attack after finding one of his sheep had been killed in a rather grim manner. The sheep had left behind a new-born lamb, which our intrepid WWOOFer had to care for and care for it, he did.

In what other field would you find a pair of young girls hauling logs that would make many men consider using machines and chains; all the while practicing their song they’d learnt for the local craic? There was the team of 3 who were instructed to empty the ancient glasshouse beds, the thin layer of soil hiding mostly very large rocks, then to fill them with the same plus a generous helping of manure and compost, only to be told to empty them completely for restoration.

Mud, mud, glorious mud! It isn’t just hippo’s that enjoy wallowing in the mud. Ask any Irish farmer and you’ll hear about last year’s rains. WWOOFers waded through it, turning the soil, planting, weeding – an especially delightful task in the mud. None of that came even remotely close to the sheer pleasure of chasing stroppy pigs through mud. For some reason, the same mud that sucks your wellies off has no effect on a prancing pig! We strongly suspected that the pig was enjoying watching the tiny band of WWOOFers struggle through the mud to get to her, knowing it was a futile task and we’d ultimately resort to bribery with juicy beets. Still, you’d often find the WWOOFers stealing a few moments to chat to the pigs or feed them tasty treats from the kitchens.

Indestructable spirit of the wwoofer article - photo 1 sm b&w

In keeping with the theme of Irish weather, the story must be told of the team of WWOOFers who were digging out an entire formal garden to be replanted. In the space of an hour, the weather changed dramatically every five minutes, quite literally. One enterprising WWOOFer decided to time the changes. In that hour, the ever-creative Irish weather threw sun, rain, hail, wind, then more rain, sun, hail and wind at them. It was a source of great amusement and entertainment to that team of workers.

I watched a diminutive Japanese girl overcome her horror at picking sawfly larvae off thorny gooseberry bushes to the extent that she eventually made it her personal mission to eradicate every last one of them. As she went to war on the sawfly, her attacks grew more creative. She bore her scratches by the gooseberry thorns with pride. You have to admire the spirit of the two Italian boys who dug a trench the entire length of a field with trowels. No, we don’t know why they chose to do it with trowels, but we do know that they had plenty of energy to go hiking afterwards.

One of the reasons we opted for our current farm was the goat milking. Having worked with goats before and loved them, sweet darlings that they were, I was keen to befriend another goat. Wait! This one has horns and knows how to use them. If just the right leaves from her favourite tree aren’t offered, she’s likely to use the horns on you. I learnt that the hard way. Day one left me with bruises. Day two left me without milk in the bucket, though the dogs enjoyed the spoils on the floor. I’m pretty sure that it’s the WWOOFer spirit that drove me back to her side for another go on day three. We’re friends now… at least, on days when all the stars are aligned.

Is there any other ‘career’ where the workers drag themselves home at the end of the day, exhausted and bone-weary, but rise to go back to the same work with a spring in their step, chatting and singing all the way… voluntarily?

Indestructable spirit of the wwoofer article - photo 3 small

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Farming, Garden, Ireland, Writing

 

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Tis Irish

Tis Irish
image

It's an Irish sort of day :)

A beautiful day to be out there farming… definitely am Irish sort if day :)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Ireland

 

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Goodbyes are never easy

I think I have too many blog posts around with that sentiment. Some day, we’ll actually be in one place long enough to avoid having to say that. On the other hand, we are making good friends all over, people who find little niches in our hearts and get comfy there. We’re also not too far from Killruddery, so if we have a mind to, we can go back to visit. To put it mildly, Killruddery was a special place with very special people. We will miss it terribly.

goodbyes2

In spite of the heartsore, we left with good ‘vibes’. The Thursday before we left, we went to dinner with Anthony and Fionnuala. It was a relaxed, informal affair where we chatted about our plans, The Cottage, plans for Killruddery and general waffle as conversations go. Friday was the start of the second weekend of the Christmas Fair, so we didn’t really get to speak at length with anyone. Fair time tends to be a crazy headless-chicken run-around for all staff. Saturday was spent in a futile attempt at packing, knowing all the while that there would be no time to pack on the Sunday. I did, however, manage to fit in a little milk tart making!

Sunday morning, I cleaned up while Jurgis chased deer and fed pigs. We had a lunch date with Lord and Lady Meath. Lunch with the Meaths was unusual, especially as we weren’t ‘regular’ staff. They were wonderful! We had a lovely roast beef dinner with wine. I think I have a new alcoholic passion…. ginger wine! Ooh, it was delicious! It reminded me very much of my old favourite cocktail, the ginger square. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to imbibe ginger in any form. We chatted about anything and everything, from deer fencing and pigs to trips along the Garden Route to saving tiger turd in Nepal. Warm, and definitely fond on our part, farewells were said and good wishes abounded before we rushed upstairs in the hopes of getting the roast done before our visitors were due.

We had Mirek and Larissa, our Polish and Russian friends, over for dinner, another wonderful couple to whom I owe a debt of friendship…. even if Mirek ate my mushrooms! I did a pork roast and served milk tart for dessert. We drank to everyone’s health with a fine bottle of pro seco bubbly that was given to Jurgis on his birthday. We’d kept the bottle to celebrate the arrival of his papers, but figured celebrating friendship was a grand occasion to open it. As usual with Mirek and Larissa, we laughed a lot in a variety of languages. It was a good evening. Though I paced the floors for hours afterwards, drifting between intense sadness, happiness and frustration over the still-unpacked goods, I knew all was well and would turn out fine.

Monday, all thoughts of ‘turn out fine’ were forgotten in my wailing and gnashing of teeth over cases that wouldn’t close. I went downstairs to say goodbye to Aislin and Cathrine. Gosh, I’ll miss those girls. Of course, we promised to keep in touch. Finally, the last suitcase umphed itself closed and was dragged downstairs. We came up by the kitchen stairs and left from the main entrance… I think that was a fine way to leave! I said goodbye to my portraits and thanked them for listening to my nightly waffles, joys and frustrations. Anthony and Fionnuala were to take us up to The Cottage in two cars, as they were going on a family trip into the mountains at the same time. Fionnuala very kindly packed us a ‘doggy bag’ of goodies, which, aside from being kind, turned out to be a wonderful thing. That night, we dined on reheated sausage rolls with Killruddery Christmas cake for dessert. Not bad for a first meal. Kindnesses and fond memories were recalled as we settled into our new home.

I drink a toast to friendships forged!

goodbyes

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in friends, Ireland

 

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They sailed away for a year and a day…

We ‘set sail’ from Brazil a year ago on a mission of sheer unadulterated madness – according to our contemporaries anyway. We got a slew of comments ranging from the positive “Go for it!” type to the “Are you crazy?” to “How irresponsible”. I eventually stopped telling people about it just to stop listening to the naysayers. Call me an ostrich.

The contrast was beyond description! I was trying to look for images that represent each place. We went from this…

SP

Sao Paulo epitomised everything I hated in a city…. the dirt, the litter, graffiti, pollution, vile smells, concrete. I ached for green, for softness. I would plant tufts of grass in planters in our tiled yard. This photo puts our city life into a nutshell, the very close proximity of neighbours, the concrete and our striving for green even there.

To this…

wales

Wales… how can I even describe our impressions there? Unlimited beauty, open space, Grass! Air that was clean and pure. Even animal dung had a clean smell about it. We worked hard… very hard… but it was good and satisfying. I enjoyed the goats! We fell in love with Wales. What a beautiful place in every sense of the word.

Wales came to an abrupt and rather tragic end due to circumstances out of our control. In a bit of a panic – we hadn’t planned to move on so soon – we went to stay in Northampton at the centre where Tat used to work.

northampton1

We met wonderful people and had the chance to relax and recoup… until relaxing became a chore. We weren’t used to it, but weren’t allowed to do anything. Luckily, there was a stunning nature reserve nearby where the hours could be whiled away pleasantly.

northampton2

Oh… and we got to see our first Snow!!!

Of course, we couldn’t stay there forever. We were in the guest rooms and they had an event they were booked out for, so we were on the move again. Moving on was becoming a little scary. None of this was in the original plan. This was where old and dear friends stepped in. We were on our way to Hemel Hempstead.

hemelhempstead

Northampton had prepared us for being back ‘in town’, though we were very much on the outskirts right next to a nature reserve. Luckily, Hemel Hempstead was a pretty place. We had fun times with our friends who’d known us since Tat was just two bricks and a ticky high. It was a time of shared memories.

Towards the end of our visit, I started stressing again. I got very sick with a cough that wouldn’t let go. I got to a point where I literally cried to the heavens one day… “Where to next?” The answer came from New Zealand and we applied to a place in Ireland.

Ireland

Our first steps on Irish soil after the ferry trip over… a very special moment! As I stood listening to that ocean, a deep sense of peace came over me.

tirnasi

Tir na Si (Land of the fairies) was a delight to the senses! Most of my work was in the tea room, but I snuck out whenever I could to spend time with my donkey friends. The animals were my favourite part of Tir na Si. Our hosts were lovely and we had a very comfy room. When not working, the farm was so nice to explore and relax on.

We were happy… but again, ‘fate’ stepped in. There was a mixup with our dates. Jurgis had mentioned the date of our return ticket that had to be changed (the booking system didn’t have a ticket date far enough in advance) and they misunderstood. Family was coming over from overseas and they needed the room we were in. We were sad to go, but our next ‘home’ was so exciting…

killruddery

Killruddery… there is so much to this place that it needs numerous blogs of its own. Adjectives fail me here. We’re very privileged to be living in the main house and need to walk through the tour part (I call it the museum) to get to our apartment. It’s so funny how one drops to a whisper when entering that part of the house. Jurgis is in piggy heaven. I work in paradise. That’s our lives in  a nutshell right now. We’re hoping this is going to be long term(ish). We’re super comfortable, loving our work and the people here are beyond amazing.

In short, this year has been a hellava ride. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Would I do it differently? Absolutely! Am I sorry I did it? No… not in the least. There are things I miss about Brazil. I was thinking of my students tonight. I miss them. I miss a few personal things that got left behind and yes, I miss the comfy salary I had and having two computers (sharing a laptop has it’s challenges). There are things about Brazil itself that had wormed its way into my heart.

Each place we’ve been to since has a place in my heart too. We’ve learned some valuable lessons and made life-long friends along the way. We definitely have come off with many stories to share when we’re old and senile ;) Here’s to the next year or ten! Cheers!

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in brazil, england, Ireland, travel, wales

 

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Retrospective

Last week just whizzed by. I tried to catch it and stall its rushing, but my efforts were in vain.  It was a busy week and, at the same time, a very quiet week.

Let me first introduce you to Crocky and his harem. Crocky is our highly temperamental feather duster…. sorry… silkie rooster.  We have a sign on the fence warning kids (especially the grown kind who have offspring) that he can be mean and has drawn blood on a few occasions. To date, we have no data on his attacks and can’t decide what makes him go for the jugular on some days, but not others.

crocky1
His harem is delightful though. We have Rhode Island hens and Barnevelders. The one Barnevelder is currently broody and warming a nest of prospective feather-bundles. We have speculated at length what they’d end up looking like. A mix of Rhode Island or Barnevelder and a white silkie rooster who carries his brain on his beak? They’ll be interesting if nothing else!

crocky2
Meet my glove’s nemesis…. mustard seed. The mustard is used here primarily as a green manure. We let it grow, then chop it straight into the soil where it was planted. Picking the seed was bad enough. It’s sticky and pulls at your hair (really tall plant). Then getting the seed off the stalks. Can you see the prickles? They’re little splinters that are out to get you. The mustard shredded a few pairs of gloves already. I’m no fan of the plant, but I guess it’s good.

mustard seed
Some wanted to know where I live. I have to be discreet here. We’re guests, after all. The driveway leads right up to the main house. The second-storey bay window is our day room. We look down on the driveway. If you have a moment, do find the first episode of “The Tudors” on Youtube. At the start of the episode, the horse comes galloping up that very same driveway! Yes, it was filmed here. “Camelot” was another that was filmed here. In fact, the list of films and TV shows that were filmed on this estate is pretty long.

k2
Another view… in this case, the first floor (second, to Americans) bay window is our apartment.

k1

Last night, we had our staff party at the Beach pub in Greystones. Ah, it was lovely! As per all drinking occasions, best friends were made and life-long bonds were forged (whether they’ll be remembered in cold daylight is another matter entirely *grins*). We drank, we sang, we danced, we yelled over the band and missed most of what was said (at least, I did). In short, we had loads of fun.

pub

I love my job. I love where I live (not just the house… the place… the town… the region). I love the people. I love my life. It is good :)

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in animals, fun, Ireland

 

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A fowl food rant

I don’t like gooseberries. Really! Ok, I like gooseberries, but the ingrates grow on thorny bushes that defy my attempts to keep them alive. There I was, picking off sawfly larvae and getting repeatedly stabbed by a nest of thorns. Right. Keep your durned larvae. See if I care. I’ll eat the raspberries and blackberries instead. So there!

I think there’s a food conspiracy out today. It started with chicken food. Or duck food… whichever way you prefer to look at it. Frank suggested the chickens may benefit and even like some duckweed from the longponds. I met Sayo and promised her an adventure that may or may not involve swimming. She cautiously agreed… what a good sport she is!

longponds
View of the longponds from my bedroom

I must point out at this stage, that Sayo is petit and does everything with Japanese efficiency. I am probably the direct opposite. Leaning over the water, noting that the local hare has dug a cave system near the edge – at least, I assume it’s him – I saved myself from going for the promised swim in the chilly morning air by doing a sort of dive-roll off to the side. I looked at my pitiful collection of duckweed and Sayo’s full bucket and decided that the chickens weren’t all that hungry anyway.

And no, I took no photos – for those who have the temerity to even suggest it. Hmph!

The chickens greeted us with the usual friendly, gentle “crrrrrck…. crrrrrrck” when they saw the buckets. See, they’re used to bread and cake treats in the mornings. The stroppy little silkie rooster just squawked and crowed and flapped and flustered as he always does. We tossed the duckweed to them. They rushed over, looked at it, looked at us and… “What is this?? Where’s our bread? Our cake? You expect us to eat vegetables??”  There’s nothing like a flock of chickens standing at the fence with heads cocked, looking at you as though you’ve deprived them of their very sustenance. Keep in mind that they do have regular chicken food, so they’re not starving. All the animals here are very spoiled. I caved. I sprinkled some cake over the ‘vegetables’ and they demolished it. Spoilt brats!

The rest of my day was the usual… totally different from any previous day. Cleared mud off the electric fences in the pig pen – we have determined pigs. Jurgis went chasing Lisa and her piglets twice – she’s become quite the escape artist. He also fixed up a nice brush cutter for us for the walled garden. That’ll help in our war against the thistle and nettle. I spent a fair time cleaning the soil off our drying garlic, then harvested some calendula flowers for drying. That will make a nice salve once I’ve sourced some beeswax. I need to have a chat with our bee-keeper on the subject.

calendula

Now back to fowl food. What is with this world that they sell ready-trussed chickens that still need to be plucked? If I wanted to pluck my own chicken, I wouldn’t buy it from the supermarket! The thing had so much feather, it about flew out of the fridge! Either way, I plucked (grrr!) the chicken, then spatchcocked it and roasted it in wine with freshly-picked tarragon and our own garlic. Very tasty! All in all, not a bad day and no, I’m not going to blog the fact that I was carrying my dinner to the table and managed to drop the plate-full of food on the carpet. Can we say emergency cleanup?

 
21 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2012 in food, Ireland

 

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