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

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

Pre-trip Trip

Good morning!

So for our little splurge for the summer, we’re able to do a little bit of a vacation to visit one of my besties in San Francisco. We thought this was a great opportunity to try out our travel backpacks! 

This was my general pile of stuff to pack up- enough clothes for 5 days, 4 nights, and an extra change of clothes just in case. I also packed two pairs of shoes, swimsuit, towel, and little accessories, so as to better mimic the kinds of things we’ll be packing for the Europe trip. 


Ashley had a meticulous and different way to pack than I did- she tried the straight military-esque folding, whereas I rolled everything. She had the same amount of stuff as I did. 


All packed up!

When we got the airport this morning (345am, geezus), check in and TSA were a breeze. Since our bags are carry-on size, no checked bags or fees associated with us. We had our gallon bags with our liquids all ready, too, so other than my backpack getting stuck on the security belt (oops!), there were no hold ups. 

They don’t weigh too much, and with the straps buckled across the hips, the weight isn’t even noticeable, so walking around the airport is pretty manageable! 

On the airplane, the bags fit both long and short-ways in the overhead bins, but to save space we put them in short-ways (like a hot dog, I guess). 

Overall, super easy to travel with! Definitely going to work out like a dream for our long trip!

-R