The End of Ireland!

Well, it just looks like I’m not meant for regular updates. I am determined though to finish and have everything published and finished by the end of the trip! Speaking of, we’re into our last month abroad!! It’s really amazing that so much time has passed. Looking back on everything we’ve done and seen and accomplished it feels like we’ve been gone for forever. However now that the end is in sight, it seems like no time has passed at all. I keep having thoughts back to packing up our apartment and working in the produce department as if it had only happened recently. 

Anyway, despite it being close to finishing, we still have much to do, none the least is catching up on what’s happened since Ireland! My goodness we’ve really let this fall aside. Well, the hope is to finish by the end of this, so the deadline is in sight!
Alright, so when I last left off I had just finished the experience of working at Virginia Park Lodge. The host after the lodge was a German-Austrian man named Peter, who was incredibly kind and new to wwoof. We ended up being his first wwoofers ever, which was a unique experience. 

Peter and his wife had moved to Ireland in the 80s and had an entire farm full of sheep, horses for breeding, cows, dogs, cats, and plenty of veg! However as he has entered retirement age, he has a small garden with some squash and pumpkins, plenty of herbs, tomatoes, and some flowers of course. 

Since the farm was considerably downsized from years before, our primary work was waking up and taking care of his two remaining horses, Captain and Rapture. Captain is a young and rambunctious Draught work horse with beautiful coloring and a feisty but not mean temperament. Rapture on the other hand is an incredibly old and gentle Arabian horse. He was always such a delight to work with, especially since we were in charge of feeding and brushing them, combing their manes and tails, cleaning their hooves, and retraining them with bridles. Ashley M was the most inspiring when dealing with the horses, since she loves and cares for them so much. She was the only one of the three of us who was determined and patient enough to help train Captain, who did not take well to being led around. At one point I vividly remember him rearing up on his hind legs, not out of malice but mere annoyance at being told what to do, and she just calmly untangled the lead when he landed and asked calmly “are you finished throwing a fit?”. Our host was also incredibly impressed for her cool head. I was nowhere near to the two of them and I was nervous! Draught horses are not small. 

Other than taking care of the two horses three times a day, we helped Peter around the house with cleaning, weeding, planting, pruning… general maintenance. His land was quite expansive and located on a section of bog. The difference in conditions to plant and use the land for food and animals is amazing in comparison to non-bog land. Not having bogs at home, I learned to think of a lot of different conditions that should be taken in consideration before using the land. 

Peter is an incredibly knowledgeable man, and whenever we all sat down for a meal, or afternoon coffee and cake (yes, really! every day!), we’d all be engrossed in any number of topics. It varied from the latest scientific journals, to gun ownership, to practicing French! It was a fantastic place to stay and relax. 

Another amazing thing about Peter was he loved to bake. Like guys, so much. But he hated sugar, so anything he baked would be very low in sugar. It allowed him to use a wide selection of flavors though, and my goodness I’m pretty sure I gained weight while living there! Meal times were always all hands on deck, a full production. I learned to really appreciate making everything for myself to eat, and the importance in giving yourself the time to make something to eat from scratch instead of buying things pre-made from the supermarket. 

It was quite sad to have to leave Peter, he really treated us well and we had a wonderful time working and cooking with him. It was a fantastic stay, and a wonderful experience at being someone’s first wwoofers!
Which is in direct contrast to our last Irish host. 

Our last hosts I won’t bother saying much about, because I’ve rather run myself into the dirt talking about them. They were a couple who lived in Roscommon, near to where we stayed at with Peter. They had many grand ideas and plans for a farm, but not much else. It was… an experience, to say the least. We were taken care of, technically, but in short it was a long, long 10 days. It’s actually become a bit of an encouraging standard to compare tough situations to. Such as, “c’mon, we made it 10 days with those two, this 6hour bus ride will be nothing!”.

The important part about staying with them was the fact that when we did decide to contact wwoof about our stay there, they took us very seriously and were able to address our issues with complete and utter faith in us. There was never any second guessing our account of things and we learned that they were removed from the wwoof website after a home visit, which is incredibly comforting! 

There we have it, we’ve finally updated to leaving Ireland! It was incredibly sad to go, it was such a large portion of our trip and it really began to feel like a second home. Having a difficult host right before we left made leaving a bit easier, but regardless, we all three would love to return and visit our newfound friends! 

-R

How crazy is that? We’ve been gone for forever!

EDIT::

I completely forgot to mention the one good thing to come out of staying with our last hosts! We had another opportunity to visit Dublin, and were able to meet with Dot once again! For those of you who haven’t read these things, Dot was our second host in the trip and we have been keeping steady contact with her throughout the trip. We all really bonded with her, and I think she sees kinds of kindred spirits in us (at least I know I see one in her!). So that was definitely worth mentioning, as that really helped us to get through our short period of discomfort. 

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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, Maire, 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

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

Securing Lodging

Hi again!

So for the past couple of days, I’ve been re-researching the farms in France that Ashley and I are trying to set up for us to work and stay at in France. We both ended up changing our minds about one that we had originally picked, and instead traded it out for a smaller farm, closer to Paris. He has a small orchard, veggie garden, and some chickens to take care of, which is a good starting point for our first stay in France.

I sent an email, explaining who we are and why we were interested in helping out with that farm in particular, and the very next day, I had a reply- we’ve secured our first part of our France stay! 

It’s all becoming so real- I’ve officially contacted and effectively communicated with our first host (in French!). We’re still more than a year out from this part of our adventure, but my excitement keeps on ramping up. I’ve sent an email to the next (hopefully) host and am waiting for the reply. This one keeps bees, chickens, and pigs- two of which I mostly know how to handle. 

Here’s hoping for a quick reply!

-R

Travel Logistics

Hello again! Been a while since the last update, but I mean, we’re still 11 months out from our initial arrival in Dublin. Speaking of. 

So we’ve officially nailed down our departure/arrival/WWOOFing dates for the whole trip. We will be leaving from the US and arriving in Dublin on March 1st, 2017. We will then conclude our trip on September 26th, 2017 by leaving from Amsterdam. 

We will be spending two solid months touring the island of Ireland, followed by about two months between Scotland and London. As of now, we’ll mostly be staying around that main city, but we might take some day trips around since it’s not a terribly huge country.  

At the start of July, we’ll head to France. We’ll be spending the majority of our time in the south of France, right on the beaches during the end of July and all of August. I’m so excited for this part. 

We finally made up our minds about the last 3ish weeks of our trip, and we’ll be spending them between Belgium and Holland. These last few weeks will be the most financially stressing, however they’ll be a wonderful ending to the whole excursion. 

While Ashley and I were researching where we are going to be staying, we bought our joint subscription to WWOOF France in order to give ourselves plenty of time to work on our written French in order to contact our (hopefully!) hosts. In doing so, I tried to compare the best prices for train vs bus travel- let me tell you, buses are so much cheaper. One major caveat though- the bus ride from Nice, France to Brussels, Belgium will take an estimated 14 hours! 

… So we might just suck it up and buy train tickets for the long rides. We’ll see. 

-R