Continuing Our Irish Updates

Hello again, here’s the next part of our story, I think one more update and we will be all caught up!

When we arrived at Virginia Park Lodge, a wedding party was also unloading and arriving. We had to walk through the throng of very nicely dressed people with our backpacks and work jeans on, which I thought was quite comical, until we found someone to direct us. 

We were put up into two rooms, where I shared a room with another wwoofer from Italy. 

The gardens were absolutely stunning. It was the biggest set of polytunnels and largest amount of growing space we had seen so far. Even though other hosts had larger amounts of land, because the lodge catered to weddings, they had to make the entire place beautiful and they maintained a wide variety of flowers and hedges and trees as their ornamental garden. 

The fruit and veg from the garden was either used in the kitchen at the lodge, or was sent off to the other two restaurants in London that were owned by the same chef. Because of this, there was always something big and exciting to do. For instance we had to clear out and replant the entirety of two of the three huge polytunnels, just to make them more effective and to meet the demands of the kitchens.  

The gardeners and groundskeepers we worked with were so sweet and kind to us. They always made sure we were taken care of, as the Lodge kind of fell down on the job more often than not. The problem was that the lodge wasn’t ready to have wwoofers, but they still continued to take them on. Hopefully they’ll have made it better after we left. 

While we were staying in Virginia though, Maire and Martin (the aunt and uncle of our third host that I mentioned last week) made a point of seeing us and helping us out when they could. On our first Saturday there, the three of us and our new wwoofing friend Olga caught a bus to a small town about 30 minutes away to see Kitten Cottage’s pop up charity shop, just to say hello and offer any help. Again, the whole family was incredibly kind and offered anything that we wanted or needed without charge, which helped immensely. We were able to stock up on new pants, some toiletries, and something to read. 

Later on in the week, we got a text from Maire saying that she’d be by to pick us up and take us on a bit of an adventure. We went to see Loughcrew, an adventure center with zip line and obstacle courses, and the adjoining cairns. It was an incredible day, and ended with all of us holding new born kittens. 

We had a wonderful time getting to know Katy’s extended family, and we would love to come back to Ireland specifically to reconnect with everyone later on. 

Working at Virginia Park Lodge was a great experience, as we learned what it’s like to work on a larger scale farm. Of course it wasn’t as big as any kind of commercial farm, but it was considerably larger than the other family farms that we had seen so far. 

One of the gardeners that we worked with at the lodge, Pricilla, was kind enough to drive us half way to our next host, where he would meet us. It’s always sad to say goodbye to all of the new friends we’ve made, but you have to in order to meet more people and continue learning.

Thanks for checking in again! Here’s to hoping for more consistent updates from here on out. 

-R

Time to Catch Up!

Hello again, long time no post!

I obviously didn’t keep my word in that I would be updating more regularly- I am sorry about that. A lot has been happening, and we have actually finished our time in Ireland and have just arrived in the U.K. So, in order to catch up and try not to bore you all (whoever is still left), I’ll catch us all up within the next two or more pieces!

Since the last post, not only has about two months​ passed, but we’ve also made it through to our 6th and final host for our Irish leg of the trip.

We left off at An Ghrian Glas Farm, which was such an amazing farm to stay and work at. Our hosts were Katy and Tommy, along with their two dogs Lilly and Wren, as well as Gaston, their highly adventurous cat. We were responsible for the every day maintenance of the farm, including feeding the chickens and ducks and letting them roam, feeding and entertaining the pet pig Ola, and walking the horse and two ponies to and from their pasture. It was an incredibly entertaining and enjoyable time, and really gave us perspective on what it’s like to have our own farm and animals.

Katy and Tommy were some of the nicest and easy to get along with people we have met on this trip. Being around them and working with them was fantastic with never a dull moment. Katy was kind enough to give us all horse lessons, not necessarily to ride them but to just be more comfortable around them, especially since Ashley and I have never really interacted with horses on our own before.

Tommy worked out in the property with us on his days off, and over the course of three days he built an entire fence made of pallets nearly by himself. We just moved all of the pallets from where they were dumped off by the truck (I’m pretty sure that was the most intensive upper body work out I’ve had on this trip!).

While we were here, we were also able to spend an overnight trip in Galway, as the town near to the farm was located right along the motorway and was a quick bus ride away. Galway is one of my favorite cities anywhere, as it’s actually quite small and very friendly. When we went, it was too early for the tourist season to be starting, so we had a quiet and closer to a local experience than when we later visited in the middle of May.

The streets of Galway remind you of the history and age of the city, as everything is paved with old cobblestones, the buildings are all clustered close together, and they are always full of people bustling about. As we went during the middle of the week, there weren’t as many street performances but you still came across people singing their hearts out and performing amazing music for anyone to appreciate as they passed.

While we were here, I also was able to find an amazing artist and get a tattoo as a reminder of our time in Ireland. I fell in love with chickens over the course of our trip, and am now determined to have chickens at any place I end up living. So I  thought I might as well carry around a hen of my own.

One other notable event was that we spent Easter with our hosts. I’m pretty sure it’s up there in some of my favorite memories over the course of my life. It was just such a comfortable and enjoyable day, I always end up smiling when I think back on it! Our morning started with Katy knocking on our caravan door and delivering boxes with chocolate eggs inside, saying “everyone should eat chocolate for breakfast on Easter!”.

The rest of the day was spent getting ready to meet and host some of their neighbors who also had wwoofers staying with them, their baby daughter, another friend and her young son, and Katy’s parents. We helped to make a fire pit in order to roast an entire pig leg that they had from their farm the year before. We also were able to stack up some pallets for furniture, which worked surprisingly well!

Everyone was incredibly friendly and enjoyable to be around. Conversation was comfortable and easily flowed between everyone, and we stayed out well into the evening despite the chill. I suppose it was just the comfort of the entire day that really made an impression on me, but whatever it was, it was a great day.

As you can imagine, we were all a bit hard pressed to leave this farm for our next host. However that’s the nature of our trip, to move to the next place to see as many places and learn as much as we can!

Ireland’s bus and train system is less than ideal, and the only way we could see to get to our next town, which was only an hour away by car but no bus routes ran the path, was to go all the way back to Dublin, and then take a bus from Dublin to the town of Virginia. Fortunately for us, Katy’s mom was kind enough to give us a lift to Virginia, as she had to go and visit her sister who lived in the town anyway. So we all piled into her tiny car, and she took us across the windy roads to Virginia. We were dropped off at her sister’s house, Moira, who runs an animal sanctuary called Kitten Cottage. She houses any stray cats, kittens, lizards, hedgehogs, chickens, etc that would otherwise be killed or left unwanted. We were then taken into town to our new host, Virginia Park Lodge, by their brother, Martin. So over the course of the day we met a good portion of Katy’s extended family and were treated incredibly kindly and felt like family.

Thank you all for your patience, and the rest of our trip in Ireland is on its way!

-R

One Month Down

I can’t really believe it’s already been a month since we’ve left home. Today, while waiting for the bus, we sat at the same table in the same outdoor cafe as when we first arrived in Dublin. It doesn’t feel like much time has passed at all, but already we’re getting more confident and sure of how to travel and what it entails (however it should be noted that almost as soon as this rough draft was finished, I got us off at the wrong bus stop, so take what you want). 

So let’s get you up to speed with our latest leg of the trip. 

We’ve started and finished our stay with the second house in our trip, Dot, and she was absolutely lovely. She has a working partner named Peter who is a little bit harder to read, but his heart is in the right place. He has his goals and ideas for what the garden should be and how to get in there, and he makes sure to tell you how to do your tasks correctly. He was actually our go-to man when we wanted to know differences between Ireland and the US, little things, like where everyone gets tobacco if you never see it advertised anywhere, and why not many people speak Gaelic but all of the signs are first in the language, then English. (Turns out it’s illegal to show tobacco for selling- don’t know why, but that’s how it is. However nearly every kind of shop has tobacco for sale.) Gaelic, he said, was taught in most schools (read: Catholic) while he was growing up but the students were never taught how to speak. So the majority of the country can read and understand the language, but not speak it. And of course now there are the all-Gaelic schools were the language is being re taught and given a new life. 

In return for these bits of knowledge, we taught him a couple of terms he wasn’t familiar with and gave him some good laughs. 

Anyway, we had a marvelous time working with him planting potatoes and bush upon bush of gooseberries. 

Dot is a wonderfully kind and understanding woman, just trying to do what she can on her own. She is still very new to being a host, as we were her third batch of wwoofers, but we all improved by staying at Holly Cottage. 

She has two adorable little cats named Rose and Pettle, both of who claimed our beds as theirs and would share an afternoon nap with me nearly every day. Also, there were 16 adorably chaotic hens and 5 growing pigs. We had a great time hanging out with the pigs and fending off the chickens from getting into literally anything we were trying to accomplish for the day. After failing to learn how best to shoo them (and still unable to stop them from touching our freshly painted walls), we still agree that having hens would be a lot of fun and we’ll be looking into getting a bunch of our own when we’re back. 

Dot was also kind enough to drive us and drop us off at various locations near to her cottage, so we spent days about in Dublin City, Drogheda, and Bettystown. There was also a free day for public monuments and the like, so we got a nearly private tour of Newgrange. It’s a very neat and unique burial mound, and just a bit awe inspiring to get to go inside and see. 

So yes! Now we’ve arrived at our third host of the trip, An Ghrian Glas Farm, and are already in love. Somehow it’s worked out that each host has surpassed the last, which is both lucky and remarkable what we’ve had the fortune of meeting and staying with such lovely people. 

I hope that I’ll stay more up to date with these posts, as I’ve been falling down on the job recently. Thanks for hanging in there!

-R

Mill Little, Irish Thoughts, and a Bus Strike

I realize that we haven’t updated the blog since we basically​ arrived at Mill Little Farm in the west of Ireland, Country Cork, just west of a lovely town called Bantry. We’ve done so many things since getting here that I hope this post can cover it all. 

The farm we’re staying at is 60 acres, complete with three old goats, 8 chickens, four ducks, two polytunnels, many garden beds and a sweet and loving boxer named Lexi. Christine, our host, is an English woman whose been living in Ireland since the 80s when she purchased the property. She is vegetarian and cooks all the meals for us though there were a few nights where we cooked for each other. We are not the only wwoofers here either. Jerome and Arnoud are from France, Clementina is from Spain, and Christine’s personal friend Agi is from Switzerland. The two French guys are our age while Agi and Clementina are older like Christine. We’re a quiet bunch usually but once Agi gets started, it’s hard for her to stop.

Our typical day starts at 9:30 when Christine comes down from her house to the big blue house where we all stay to give us our chores for the morning. For me, it’s usually digging trenches and filling them with manure from her goats, I usually have either Reilly or Ashley helping with that too. Every morning around 11 or 11:30 we stop and have a coffee break and Christine checks up on our progress. If we’re finished, she gives us the next task. We work again until 1 or 1:30 when we break for lunch. Usually lunch is a soup and whatever leftovers there are from the previous night’s meal, after that the leftovers are given to the chickens. After lunch we go back out and work until we’ve completed our tasks or 4:30, whatever comes first. 

As I said, most of my time here has been in the garden beds preparing them for planting. What I do is dig a trench about a foot deep along the bed, fill it with goat shit, then cover it up with the dirt from the next trench. I work my way down the beds until I’ve reached the end. So when I’m done with a bed, it’s flat on top and the manure is worked into the soil- it’s ready to be planted. Other chores I’ve done is cleaning the polytunnel with a long brush because over the year moss and general dirt builds up on the walls. Polytunnels only work if they let in sunlight. One of the big tasks that took all three of us was mucking out the goat pen. Reilly was a boss and actually did the mucking while Ashley and I transported it via wheelbarrow to the compost pile. It was a dirty job, it smelled horrible, but it actually wasn’t that bad. Mostly it was tedious and just a part of life. The other thing that we’ve done a lot of is weeding. Since we’re here in the early spring most of our tasks were preparation for planting for the year to come. Still, it was a good time and Christine even said we’ve done a good job. 

Now, I know this post is long but I’ve got two more thoughts to get out. The first is about Ireland and the country landscape and the second is about getting to Dublin this weekend. 

Since coming to Ireland, I’ve been away from those great majestic rocks we call mountains. Like a spine they follow a line running north and south and the only reason most of us ever know which direction we’re facing is because we know the mountains are west. But the Irish hills they call mountains here surround you. The whole place is mountains. Instead, we’ve had to orient ourselves by the sea. We know the sea is west. But you can’t always see the ocean because of all the mountains! It has been strange adjusting to this, I feel direction-less, like a compass without a magnet. And just now that I’ve got my bearings here in Bantry, we are off again to Dublin. 

Which brings me to my second point. We just got word of a bus strike happening across Ireland at the moment. I don’t know the details of it (the why’s) but I do know that on Saturday we have to get to Dublin to meet up with our next host. The public bus system in Ireland is not good, buses only run to the big cities and not usually to the smaller ones and even if they did it doesn’t matter now since they’re on strike. But luckily this area around Bantry has an amazing taxi driver named Vincent who is, besides hilarious, a great guy. He has offered to take us to Cork, about two hours away, via taxi for only 20 euros each. That’s actually comparable to what we would have paid for the bus. Another lucky break we’ve had is by a private bus company called Aircoach which allows you to book online and is privately owned, therefore not on strike. Reilly just confirmed that we have tickets on an 11am bus from Cork to Dublin. So while the bus strike sucks for everyone, we are lucky that we were able to find another way to Cork. 

Here’s to hoping that our next host has better service or wifi. But I think all of us loved our time here at Mill Little. Hopefully some of you got to see our adventures in pubs and at the cliffs on Facebook. 

Much love from Mill Little, Bantry, County Cork, Ireland ☘️

~A

Playing Catch-up

This post is very delayed because the host that we are currently staying with has WiFi in one spot and the house that we’re in is a dead zone. Nonetheless, I’ll try and get you up to speed.

We flew from Denver to Reykjavik, Iceland in a 7 and a half hour flight and arrived at Keflavik airport early in the morning on Saturday. Keflavik is a very small airport and by the end of our almost 24 hour layover there we had seen pretty much all of it. And let me tell you, I am content to never return there. A few notes about our stay there: 1. Everything closes in the airport around 7pm so we were left with literally nothing to do, we couldn’t even eat. 2. The airport is small so there was little to explore and after 8-9 hours of sleeping in a big waiting area, we were kicked out because it was closing. 3. Everything in Reykjavik is expensive because it’s an island, one sandwich cost me $15 roughly. So yeah, that was interesting. 

The next little leg of our journey was to be a painless less than 3 hour flight to Dublin. The plane gates opened on time and then we promptly delayed boarding by about ten minutes. The backpacks that we have chosen for this journey are amazing. They fit everything I need compactly but they are on the large side. We made sure that they could be taken as a carry-on for the large planes but overlooked the restrictions for the smaller plane. Of course they didn’t fit the carry-on size restraint. So we had to spend about $100 each to check our bags. We had a separate fund set aside just in case this would happen but let me tell you, when the airline attendant tells you that your total for three checked bags is going to be 90,988 Icelandic and then you check Google and Google tells you that it’s going to be $844, you have a heart attack. The good news is that we’re in Europe now which means for numbers a comma is a period and a period is a comma. Instead of 90,000 Icelandic units we were actually only paying for 90. Their money is weird. At least euros make sense. 

I slept through that whole flight. I saw the sun rise and then immediately fell asleep for the duration of the flight. 

Not much needs to be said for the Dublin airport, only one major event occured here before we boarded a bus headed for Cork City, and that was passport control. We were drilled. He wanted to know pretty much everything about our trip and by the end of the encounter I was sweating and my heart was pounding. But, thankfully Reilly is a boss and handled it flawlessly. That’s an event I will always remember but would like to forget. 

The first bus to Cork City was a three hour journey during which time both Ashley and Reilly fell dead asleep and I watched The Martian. Before the end of the movie though I could not keep my eyes open and I slept for the last half hour of the bus ride. I woke up feeling disoriented and incredibly tired. The next bus came an hour after we arrived in Cork and took us nearly two hours to the town of Bantry where our first host Christine picked us up and drove us about fifteen minutes to the farm. The next post will take off from here though I may just post a slew of pictures first. 

Cheers,

~A

A Small Thank You

Two days. Today and tomorrow. Then we depart. It feels a little surreal, like how big life events feel surreal. I can’t believe that this is happening, but at the same time I know what I have worked for and I am so ready. But this post is not about me. I am writing this post because no matter how hard I’ve worked to get here, there is one person who has worked harder. 

Reilly and I have been planning this trip for at least a year and thinking about doing it for much longer than that. As the time passed, we realized that we could make this happen. But Reilly stepped up and ensured that this would happen. Everything that will be posted on this blog, all of the plans that have been made, all of the hosts that we will be staying with, all the trains, planes, and buses we’ll be taking, every memory that we will be creating in the next five months have a single origin point: Reilly. 

I can’t tell you how much she means to me. I can’t tell you how much love I have for her. I simply can’t explain what our relationship is. But I can tell you that my life and this trip would be nothing without her. This trip would not be possible without Reilly. Not only would nothing be planned, but there is no one else on this planet that I could have done this with. From start to finish, Reilly is the only person to push me so far outside my comfort zone and assure me that she would be with me every step of the way. I have grown in love, compassion, empathy, and patience since I fell in love with her and this trip speaks volumes to how much Reilly does for me in my life. I am beyond grateful, I am beyond thankful, because Reilly has given me so much in her life. 

My love, my moon and stars, I cannot tell you how important you are to me. I cannot describe how deep my love runs for you. You have done so much for me in these past five years. I hope that I have done something similar for you. Thank you. For the trip, for our lives, for you. This small post does not reach the tip of my gratitude, but perhaps it will suffice to say that I love you.  

~A

Countdown: two weeks away!

Hello all!

Well let me tell you, trying to figure out bus connections and flight schedules and the best ways to get around foreign countries all without knowing the local routes and tricks is a bit tough. However, I feel rather confident and proud to say that it’s all finished!

Well, mostly. I have all of the buses, trains, and planes (oh my!) bookmarked, just need to confirm with the hosts that those places are acceptable to be taken to and picked up from before everything is purchased. But I can breathe just that much easier, knowing that all of this hard work and stress I’m putting into the trip now will pay off and make everything that much smoother.

Who’d have thought that we’d have made it to this point, ya know? Two years ago, the two of us thought that it’d be a nice goal to work towards, something that should happen, but you never know, right? Well here we are, T-minus 13 days until the now three of us get on a plane and don’t look back for 5 whole months. It’s kind of terrifying, if I’m honest. Although, you have to scare yourself in order to grow and experience the world to the fullest, right? I’m sure there’s some famous inspirational quote floating in there.

To everyone who has helped us so far, thank you. To everyone who will be reading this and keeping up with our adventure, thank you and welcome. I hope that we will be able to document every exciting, nervous, new part of our journey as adequately as you all deserve.

I’ll be sure to check in before we leave.

-R

It’s Real

Well fam, it’s official. I’ve bought our plane tickets.

I know, you’d probably think that since we’re leaving in two months, we’d have done this by now. But no, I’ve been putting it off for one reason or another, you know money issues, no current deals, gotta make sure everything is fine at work…

Now, it’s real. We can’t just fantasize about taking all of the money we’ve saved and running away under the pretense of going on some great adventure- we now are officially going on an adventure.

Also, since our last update, we now have had the addition of another member of our group- conveniently named Ashley as well! So now we’re going for 5 months with two Ashley’s in tow.

And all of this will be taking place on March 10th as our leaving date. I’m so nervous! We still have the house to pack up and put all of our belongings between all of our relatives for safe keeping for the next half year..

Speaking of going for our 5 months, we only have a couple of short weeks left to cover with hosts, and then we’ll have the entire trip planned exactly how it should be going and who we’ll be staying with. Again, one would think that we’ve had that covered but farms don’t start planning ahead for the next season too far in advance.

I’m terribly excited for this trip. Scared, nervous, but always first and foremost excited.

-r

We’re Still Going, I Promise!

Hello all!

It’s been quite a while since last updating, however we come with good news! Our trip is finally coming around and becoming a reality!

So part of the reason why there hasn’t been any kind of update is that quite honestly, we were and are both terrified. Telling people and fantasizing about a 7 month long trip, moving across countries with only a week’s worth of clothing and supplies, and living with people you have never met before sounds like something only people in movies do. So we were quite discouraged for a while, avoiding learning more and sending emails to hosts. However, we’ve hit the ground running and have re-evaluated our situation with funds that we’ve saved up, things that we want to see and do, and have decided on a loose game plan for living after we return from this trip. And we can confidently say, it is happening!

Since we were so discouraged for that length of time, we have decided on cutting out the end portion of our trip that we originally were saving for hostels in Belgium and Holland. Our original plan of 7 months has been shortened to 6 months, with us in the process of cutting out just about another month. We are now into about 5 months in total, which is based off of a law that we just learned about in the UK that directly impacts volunteers, and the hosts that we have received answers from.

As we have it currently, we will most likely be leaving within the second week of March 2017 to make it to our first host in the southern part of county Clare. After their farm, we’ll be moving up to right outside of Dublin for a longer stay on a newer farm, that might be looking into getting pigs as well! Wouldn’t that be a fun experience, helping a family learn how to take care of pigs. There are still a couple of weeks to fill with another host, however the final one that we have confirmed is taking care of us outside of Northern Ireland for the last weeks of May. From there, we take a ferry to Scotland to spend our month!

We’re still doing our best to get as many responses back from farms as soon as possible so we know what dates we can buy our tickets for, but it feels like we’re finally able to breathe easier, knowing that we have places to stay for sure.

-R

What Ifs

Well fam, not gonna lie- I feel a little bit unsure currently.

Ashley and I have briefly discussed the state of affairs of not only our country with the upcoming election, but also the recent news regarding terrorist attacks, closed borders, and tanking economies. Makes you really think about the world and how small it can all seem when things start breaking down.

This unfortunately, has then led us to discussing our pending trip.

Disregarding our backpacks, we haven’t made any major purchases for our trip. We’ve been saving up, as I’m sure is understood if not known, but in order for us to still be able to go to the countries we’ve been dreaming of and spending the entire length of time that we’ve been planning on, that money might not stretch as well as we’d hoped. Brexit, to start, has been a major player in this. Additionally, France’s recent attacks and closure of borders has also created a bit of a scare for us. That’s not to say that we are merely concerned for these countries because we’re hoping to visit; no, we are very much concerned for anyone that may be living there or who has family and friends in those situations.

However this brings up the question of- what if we’re not able to travel like we hope?

This has been our dream trip and experience for such a long time, and we’ve been working towards it for just as long. Our plans have been laid out and our lease in addition to our belongings have been cut. However what if it can’t happen?

So the real question is- where should we visit instead? Potentially for less time? Ireland is still on our must-go lists for the trip, and it doesn’t seem to be as bad off as some of the other places that we have been planning on. However, that’s about as far as we’ve gotten. We were thinking next of going up north, to Denmark, Norway, Iceland, etc. Please, we’d love any ideas and opinions on what to do with the current state of affairs. Message us some ideas!

-R