Thursday, May 10, 2012

Second Week at Crann Og

Tuesday I got back to work at crann og after a long weekend of exploring the local wilderness and closest sights. We did not do anything in the gardens MOnday since it was a bank holiday and it was raining throughout most of the day. Tuesday didn't look like it was going to be much better weather so Kirsten and I  started with planting and weeding out side in the raised beds before any rain arrived. We had about fourteen pea plants which had been started in empty toilet paper rolls which were to go into the edge of a bed that had been fed with compost weeks before. Once the plants were in the ground we build a tressil structure out of bamboo and long cut branches cut out of the nearby wood and bamboo garden. We then planted half a bed full of leeks taken from a small tray full of sprouts. Each small plant was forked out and placed in rows staggared a few inches apart throughout the freshly composted bed. We then joined the family for s bit of coffee and biscuits before moving onto jobs in the poly tunnels. We were to start by gathering seeds from a few different plants and putting them in labeled bags so they could be resowed elsewhere. Marion came out after a while and gethered us for lunch which was a fresh salad made from some rocket plants we had just cut back after seeding and a delicious omelet made from that days eggs. After lunch I worked to pull some giant mustard laf and broccoli that had started to flower and give it to the chickens for feed. I then moved a few wheel barrows of manure from the oldest pile and mixed it thurougly into the existing soil. I finished the day weeding in the small poly tunnel and watering the three rows of beds. The poly tunnels can be used through out the year with mild winters so many lettuces and brassicas thrive, oftern growing to unusually large and leafy plants. Two visitors that had wwoofed at Cran Og two years before we around to help prepare a dinner and share drinks with us after work. They had a ten month old baby with them which helped brighten the already high atomosphere. We had had a party over the weekend for friends and neighbors that where wanting to see them and meet the bab since they had worked here two years when they stayed a few yars back and got to know most of the community. Another wwoofer had also arrived on Tuesday from Germany which makes the labor even easier having more hands to share the work. Wednesday I started back with Kirsten collecting seeds and weeding in the poly tunnels before I got st up with the weed strimmer and got to cutting the orchards. It was an easy day of cutting and trimming the areas around serveral types of trees and fruit shrubs. We finnished just after four and headed in for afternoon tea and relaxing. I played with the dogs and went for a short hike in the woods. cool weather was moving in for the evening so the three wwoofers stayed in the cabin for a while around a fire haveing a few drinks and chotting before a great pizza dinner prepared b Julio and Eness who were visiting. We went to the pub for a few pints and rounds of billards with Flor and Julio before Julio had to head back to spain with his family in the early morning. It had been an exciting past few days and We all got to meet more members of the local community and saw a good amount of the area on bikes with our free time over the weekend. The first week flew by and I am looking forward to all the adventures I ill have over the next three to come.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

First Thursday/Friday at Cran Og

Thursday morning, after a good filling bowl of porage with raisins and honey Kirsten and I went out to the fields where the yurts and hogan were to rake some top soil over grass seed that Marion spread a bit earlier. The area had been torn up by an excavator a few weeks before when they dug a ditch around the edge of the field to help relieve moisture from the ground. The grass seed had been collected from a field on another organic field and sold at a primium price, mostly because of last years harsh weather which gave a poor yield. This area would ikely be used for campinh and fire circles when groups came to Cran-Og over the summer. They already have plans for two groups to come in the first week of June who will be having a whiskey drinking/cigar smoking gathering as well as a men's livelyhood group. We raked for an hour or so while Flor and Marion went down to the field where the horses are staying to move them to a new section of grass and prepare the fencing. We also raked up an area where the chicken were fenced in last so that seed could be spread there as well. I worked breaking up soil out of a large pile through a seive so we could spread a thin cover over the seed that afternoon. For lunch we had a large salad with breads and cheese of different varieties. The salad had a number of herbs and flowers that promote different nutrients and health benifits. Marion was headed out shortly after lunch to go to her daughters home to spend the night with her and her grand daughter so Kirsten and I were given instructions for cooking a meal for ourselves and Flor. I went back out and finished with the grass seed and joined Flor for the rest of the day to repair raised beds. The raised beds had been constructed out of the left over side pieces of oak logs from a nearby lumber yard and suppourted by mahogony steaks but from only window frames Flor had collected from old housing in Galway. To replace any broken or rotten pieces, the section of wood would be broken off with a nail bearer and the nails would be removed. Flor cut the new pieces to length and as I held it in place, he would hammer two large nails in to secure it. This way all the beds were formed out of mostly free and recycled materials. They didnt look the best presentation wise, but Worked well for food production which is what really matters in sustainability of a farm and family. We finished together around half past six, got showers and started dinner. We had a homemade spinnach pasta with sauce made from vegetables and herbs collected out of the gardens. After dinner the three of us went to the local pub for a few pints and some games of pool with a friend of Flors. Flor taught us some proper methods of shooting and getting the best accuracy with the cue, which me and Kirsten both tried our best to learn. We didnt stay out much past midnight because we were all very tired and wanted some good rest before the last day of work that week. We planned to spend the whole day fixing up beds so the job would be done and we could move on to planting and other jobs come Monday. It was another intersting and educational day with a few great conversations and new experiences. Although I was tired, I was still excited to start another day and get into more work the next morning. I slept well with the dream catchers that surround each bedroom to influence the balance of subconcious and allow each of us to wake energized and free of any negative feelings or energies. The peace of this place flows through every room and space, which any one could feel and apprieciate.
Kirsten and I left our hostel around half past nine with our belongings and headed towards the bus station across the Liffey in Dublin. It was raining and my heavy bag was weighing down on my shoulders, but we could not stop in fear that we might miss our bus leaving at ten. We luckily got to the station and got on the bus as it was ready to pull out and settled in for the five hour journey ahead of us. I realized after three hours we were not going to get to Galway in time for our next bus. Regardless we got there and made a few stops for supplies and got on the next bus headed to Gort where Flor, our new host was waiting. We met him and rode with him out to the farm which was about five or six miles outside of the town. There were several green open feilds full of horses, sheep, old irish houses, gardens and windmills along the road. Finally we came to an oragnd and red windmill at the entrance of a small gravel drive with a carved wooden Cran-Og sign by the gate. As we pulled in I got my first impression of the land I had been looking at on thier websight since last November. There we small gardens and shelters all around the red cabin house and a long side cabin nearby. They had a group of chickens, three horses, three dogs, two cats and a few pond animals within thier frog sancuary. We first went inside with Flor and another wwoofer that had been working here for the previous month for tea and introductions. Flor is an interesting Irish guy from Kerry whom has worked in England and Galway in his youth before opening a wood shop and starting the Cran-Og farm with Marion fourteen years ago. We chatted for about an hour until after Marion came in from working with the horses. I could tell within the first meeting that this was a very positive, welcoming, peacfull atmosphere with some great people. Kirsten and I were shown around by the other wwoofer and then unpacked out belongings before going back to the main house to join the rest for dinner. The first meal was organic shortgrain rice with spiced and cooked summer vegetables which had been frozen after harvest. We continued to chat and get to know each other for the next few hours with a bottle of wine that I had picked up to share with everyone for the first night and a few pots of tea. FLor's daughter Kate came by for a short while we chatted and introduced herself to us. Flor and Marion told us more about the land and the nature around the farm including a deep bog that had been grown over with vegetation which people who did not know the area would often fall into. Flor gave us a samll riddle about a structure in the garden which had been made from the dirt dug to make the crescent shaped pond within the frog sancuary. We were challanged to figure out what it was and what it did before we ate with them in the morning, claiming that a young boy had once figured it out in the same amount of time. We headed off around half past ten to get some sleep for the next day. The cabin we are staying in has two seperate bedrooms for us with several beds in each and a shared living space with sink, fire place, small couch and tabel. THe beds had very comfortable sheets wool blankets and nice comfortable pillows. The was a building next door which had showers which were heated by solar panneling and compost toilests. The small cabin was heated by plastic roofing which brought in more light during the day. We had tea and talked about how much we like the new host for a short while before saying goodnight and preparing for bed.
In the morning Lirsten and I joined Marion Flor and the third wwoofer who was set to leave at quarter to nine for her next host down in cork for the next month. We all had some porriage with honey and jam from nearby farms and some tea before discussing plans for the day. First we got out thier small shredder and started mulching some willow for the gardens. Kirsten took over with that job as Flor showed me the compost boxes that had been built out of pallets and explained how the different compartments should be divied for best breaking down of the materials. But before I started working we went in for a pot of coffee and prepared for me and Marion to take the three horses down to Flor'd daughters place where they could eat down her grass lawns for a day or so. They used English saddles which I haven't used in many years and bitless bridals for the two horses Marion and I would be riding and a rope halter for the third. We trotted down the road to Kate's place and set the horses loos into her side yard. We set up an electric fence across any areas the could possibly excape over and held the gate sturdy with large stones. We got a lift back to Cran-Og from Flor when he came down to help clear the area anything the horses could harm or be harmed by. When we got back, I set off to start on the compost for a short while before lunch. After a good meal we headed back out and I worked for about an hour on turning the compost between four wooden bins. Kirsten and I finished up the day weeding a small bed near the parking area for another thirty minutes or so. There were a few dandilions, thistles, and groups of nettles which had to be dug by their roots. I got stung by the nettles as I often do and rubbed some burdock on the spots to help ease the stinging feeling. We were told to drop our tools and join a group of neighbors and friends that had come by to celebrate the birthday of another girl, Beshley who lived in another cabin at Cran-Og and had just returned from a trip to a suprise gathering. A few Irish guys that lived nearby and a friend of Beshleys stopped in with drinks and food. We had a few drinks and set up a barbeque for some fresh trout that had been caught in a local stream by one of the guys earlier that afternoon along with some home made organic potatoe cakes with salad and fruity wine. We ate out by the yurts and hogan on a beautiful picnic tabel with benches that had been made from the trunk of a tree that had fallen near by earlier this year. We all chatted more about our different interests and exoeriences with wwoofing until the coals were hot and the fresh fish wall grilled. The food was ofcourse amazing and very filling. We each went back for more until there wasn't a scrap of anything left around the tabel. We cleaned up and the crowd headed in for some cake and tea while Kirsten and I went for a walk around the back boarder of the property which looked out into the local woodlands and the western sky with a beautiful Irish sunset. We joined the rest for tea for a short while before visitors left and we cleaned up and headed to bed. I planned to get some good sleep again to be prepared for a harder day. The first day was simple and really more fun than work.Tomorrow we will be getting into planting new seeds and transplanting sprouts from the large glass house of thiers to the poly tunnels and plots where thier vegetabes were grown. They get most of thier food out of the garden through out the year and store many preserves, herbs, and vegetables from season to season. I am very excited to be at a truely sustainable place with more aspects of a working small farm than anything I have seen in my trip to Ireland so far. On top of that, Its peaceful, welcoming and full of positive energy with a wealth of information and eagerness to teach and share knowledge. I can hardly wait to start the next day and find out what other good things are in store.

Back to Dublin.

Moday morning was the time to leave Burtown and I was rearing to go. Everything had been organized and packed Sunday night before Me and Kirtsen joined James, Jo, and Lesley for one last night of drinks and a good meal. All I needed to do that morning was strip my bed and clean out my room then it was off to the bus station in Athy at ten. The bus ride was short into Dublin with cool light rain as we got off at O'Connel Street and headed North in search of the International Youth Hostel. The hostel accepted volunteers to work twenty hours a week in exchange for a bed and one meal a day. I got set up and schedueled to work over the weekend for a few days before I leave and given a bed in a dorm with seven other guys my age. Most of them are French or Portugese so conversation is pretty short. ONce I was settled Kirsten and I headed off in search of some cheap cafe food and some good sights. We found a small five tabel cafe with a good deal on soup and a sandwich which was pleanty tasty and filling considering I had missed a breakfast in the morning. We then Walked over to Dublin Castle and around the Catherdral area of the south side. As we walked back towards Grafton Street to find a museum we passed a small produce and health shop full of all types of fruits and organic vegetables. We got some fresh fruits and a bottle of Irish apple and berry cider for a snack in the nearby park. The park, St. Stephens green had a large lake and several different garden areas. We walked through each part stoping at each display to read a memorial plate of admire a statue. After having our fruits and laying out on the warm grass in the bright afternoon sun as many other groups were doing across the lawns we walked to the museum square to check times the would be open in the next few days. We made our way back to the hostel, stopping at a value grocery store to get some light food and made a simple pasta meal with a bottle of five euro wine. We walked out to the docks on the Liffey after dark and to a pub in temple bar where some late night live music was playing. We were both very happy to have succesfully got into Dublin and found a place to stay so easily and now had seven days ahead of us to enjoy all of the sights and excitement of Dublin.
I got up at half past seven the next day and got a quick breakfast which was provided by the hostel and headed out for a morning walk. I had seen a park on my map that was only a few streets away which had some type of large water basin. It was an old resivior that was renovated into a public park with a small island and a flora garden which surrounded the pool. I circled the park a few times and headed back to the hostel to meet Kirsten and make plans for the day. Since it was a nice sunny day, we agreed to walk two kilometers North to the National Botanic Gardens. The Gardens are open to the public, but are also a facility for reasearch, breeding and teaching so there are restrictions against joggers, dogs, bikes, noise, or young children to maintain a peacful and natural atmosphere. There were two conservatories and several glass greenhouses between a variety of different types of garden features. I decided on a few areas I would enjoy the most that we could walk through since seeing the whole facility would take several hours and we wanted to see some other sights later on. we started in a green house full of Irish bred varieties of Primula. There were Primula of about any color you could think, including bright orange and iridescent green. We then went through the teaching greenhouse full of small experiment arrangments and variety trials. There was a native plant walk which led us to the vegetable gardens laid out into a circular arrangement of beds all planted with strong sprouts and low, sturdy netting. After wandring outside in the various topiary and annual displays we started into the conservatories. The first room was a cactus room with hot dry air, followed by the tropical display thick with humidity. The walkway led through a series of rooms, each a diffent temperature and varied condition for the species of plants. One section was all foriegn plants from around the world. Another was dedicated to several varieties of orchid and one full of parasitic and bog plants such as Drosera. After the COnservatories we walked through the woodland and stream areas full of several interesting trees, lillies, shrubs, early roses and a rock garden. There was a threatening storm, so we headed back at that point, stopped by the hostel and went off in search of a cheap lunch and the National Art Museum. We took a stroll around some shops and a few parks befroe going back to the hostel for dinner in which for the night was just going to be a large package of pita and some local humus. I looked through my photos from the day and looked up some more ideas of what wlse to do with my time here, then headed off to bed for an early night feeling very tired from walking so much all day. Nevertheless, I was a good day.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Thursday and Friday 4-12/13

Guests started arriving at Burtown early thursday morning while the two farm workers were still working in the patio and the outdoor bathroom. One groups of James friends that were travelling from London had told him they expected more and left without having tea or coffee or walking around the gardens much at all. I was set out to guide people around the gardens and answer as many questions as I could while handing out maps and information on Burtowns history. A few people asked where I was visiting from and decided they were better off on thier own once they new I was a hick American. By eleven I was tired of answering questions about the family and the age of the garden which I knew little about, So I went to work weeding instead. I was still feeling a bit sick from the last weekend and did not get much sleep because the kids were up most of the night running around and yelling so I did not want to be very sociable. Clara joined me in pulliing up a large section of celondine until luch with Lesley. We had a delicious meal of fish pie and potatoes with Lesleys mother, Wendy Walsh who is a very well know botanical artist and was the main atraction of the Burtown House and Gardens. We stayed longer than usual for lunch talking with Lesley about Wendy's life and career which was very interesting and made m wonder how well known she might be back home given the amount of horticulturists and garden enthusiests that wer stopping by to see her and her house. After lunch I moved onto planting a new row of peas and beans between the remaining rows of kale and brocolli. Lesley had insisted that each ridge be planted with two rows and that the plants be staggared six inches apart exactly. She told me how they would normally plant everything in seperate pots and start them in the greenhouse so when they get transplanted in the rows everything could be placed in perfect lines. when they were planted directly sometimes they would come up crooked and out of line and had to be moved. she gave me a six inch measuring stick to space out each seed as I planted and said to mae sure the were positioned upright so they would grow straight. This was the most time Ive ever spent on planting two rows of beans and peas, but If it looks that much better then maybe its worthwhile. I then took a while to go around the two greenhouses and the garden to list eveything that has come up and count the numbers of plants for each crop. I took the rest of the day to germinate some more seeds of mostly everything since th Fennels had now decided they wanted to sell organic vegetables from the garden at the cafe. That evening I talked with James about what it would take for them to become organically certified, only to find out they simply could not because of the sprays they use elsewhere on the farm andhaving used so little organic seeds or compost. Even the manure they added to every garden was not acceptable because it was too fresh and needed much more time to decompose. James suggested they buy a fe different organic vegetable from a certified grower nearby and mix in theyer own so the customers might not realize the difference. I disagreed. I thought they should focus on thier own food production formost and aim to get organically certified in a few years. If they have excess vegetables they could be sold without the organic label, but with the aspect that thy had a goal for organic production which might entise the customers the same way. That night, Natasha, Kirsten, and I shared some wine and watched a film by the fire which definately settled some nerves. There was a group of artists coming by in the morning to paint in the gardens and we would all have to be careful not to be in the way. The artists were all from England and had very nice equiptment to use. About twenty spread out through the property looking over various landscapes. I started the morning off working to refurnish six large metal pots which had to be scraped clean of the old paint and then re painted with atleast two coats. The old paint did not com of easy and had to be chipped piece by piece with a small chisle. In three hours I had only gotten half of one clean when Lesley came to me and told me the task was useless. They needed to be dipped in a very strong paint remover or taken of with a drill bit. I went to the vegatable garden to weed, but kept having to change areas because of the artists. If I started to get in thier view I would distract them or obscure thier perception of the landscape and I would be scorned and told to move by some very rude english men and women. After lunch I was put to work polishing silver with Clara in the main house. All of the utensils bowls and decorations had to be done in each kitchen and dinning room. There were hundreds of pieces, to the point that they only had one set of eating ware that was not fine silver between the three houses, and that was in the wwoofer kitchen. After about two hours of wiping down each pice with brushes and cloths, Jo came by to check on us and was unsatisfied with how we were doing. We had gotten off the dark tarnish, but they were not shinning the way she said they expected them to be. We had to go back over everything again until there wasnt even a tiny blemish anywhere on each piece. It had been a beautiful day, and I really prefered to be out in the garden doing anything but this, but didn't have much of a choice between the high class artists and Jos insistance on having all the silver ready for thier next party. I was really looking forward to the weekend by the end of the day, desperate to get some time away enjoying myself. Clara, Kirsten and I had plans to leave saterday with another au pair, Carly, that worked for on of James' close friends. I didn't know the plans, but didn't care as long as it was away from Burtown for a day or so. We all stayed up that night chatting about the new wwoofers' first week, which was not what any of us would have expected. Natasha as starting to get sick as well, and had been lectured for not working hard enough to earn her place with the rest of us and was planning to leave by Monday to go back to her previous host. She said she had never felt so unwelcome or unfairly treated since she started volunteering and traveling eight years ago and advised the rest of us to consider wheather it was worth to stay longer because there are so many great wwoofing hosts in Ireland and any time we were not comfortable or happy we could easily find somewhere that we would be. This was the first week since I arrived that I was not feeling good about Burtown, so I was cautious about being too critical. Yet still, I had plans to leave as soon as possible and move on to the next stage and hopefully find a more sustainable and peaceful place. I had been welcomed to come back to my first host or go early to my next one, but I had trouble deciding when I would leave and how I would tell the Fennels I wanted to go. I didn't want to stress about it for the weekend, so I put it to the back of my mind and prepared for the relazing few days off. 

Wednesday April 11

Wednesday I was finally back to work in the garden planting root vegetable with Clara on a clear warm day which we were both happy about. We got new packages of parsnips, carrots, beet root, raddishes, and spring onions to put into an area where leeks had just been harvested. I tilled the soil and leveled out the area while clara picked out any remaining leeks and weeds. We divided the area into four rows and started raking the ridges for planting. I started with two rows of carrot seed along with the transplats out of the greenhouse. Clara got to work planting onion seeds in the last row, and we saved the middle row to be split between raddished and beet root. These were all the crops that James had said do very poorly every year because they plant too early or too late and was really depending on us to get them right this year. The early planting of parsnips, beetroot, raddishes, and shallots had all been hit by a heavy frost and never came up so we were crossing our fingers this time would have better luck. once everything was in the ground, Clara was called up to the house to help with the kids and try to explain to the new au pair, Kirsten how to 'handle' them. Kirsten was having initial trouble getting the girls to listen or stop misbehaving without any type of disipline when they started throwing fits. She had tried giving them a 'time out' or short priod with out being able to have their toys, which James and Jo were against. I continued working in the garden, trying my best to ignore the girls running around trowing dirt and tearing up plants as Clara ran after trying to stop them. I started moving tomatoes and brassicas from the kitchen window to James' office in the stable yard. I then helped gather greens for lunch and putting a salad together since everyone was buisy with various tasks and taking care of the kids. It was just us four wwoofers and the kids for lunch, which did not go very smoothly as the two girls kept running away from the table and causing touble making it hard for anyone to sit and eat. James and Jo were both buisy with planning for the next day when the Cafe would be open and had asked to be left in peace for the afternoon upstairs. After lunch Natasha had to spend a while going around the gardens and picking up dog filth while I was asked to trim all the grass edges around the flower gardens. This took the whole afternoon, since there is so  much area that had to be gone over and all the trimmings picked up. The next day was a big day for the gardens and cafe because they had invited several groups of friends to stop in for coffee and free tours. We were all asked to do a clean up of the house and patio area after we finished working in the garden. James was understandably stressed over the cafe not being everything he had expected at this time and nerves were shot so everyone headed to bed after a quick soup dinner. The next day was atleast supposed to be clear and warm again, so I looked forward to being in the garden working again with Clara and Natasha. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

First week of April and James Birthday

THe first week of April was mostly spent getting ready for James Birthday party. On Tuesday a friend of James who worked as a carpender came by to construct a bar for the cafe. He arrived at eight in the morning to talk with them and determine what materials he would need. I spent the morning weeding gardens closest to the house where people would be gathering during the party. I was mostly digging clusters of celondine and dandilion sprouts. I kept leaving my task to help carry furniture and materials to the gallery as things were delivered. After lunch I helped arrange cabinets and shelves around the bar that had already been completed. I was asked to start scraping spots of dirt and paint off the stone floor that had been dropped as the walls and windows were painted. It wasn't an easy job and I couldnt get most of the spots up without heavy work with a wire brush. I spent the rest of the day doing this, but I didn't get far. There was still scafolding in the gallery so I felt like any progress I had made would be wasted when it was moved after the ceiling was finished. Yet the next morning I went back to the same thing scraping with a razor blade, wire brush and steel wool. Clara and I moved outside that afternoon luckily to trim the edges of the lawn and rake out some more of the lawn behing Wendys house. Thursday was the same routine, but with painting. We were to paint just about everything in the gallery including windows walls shelves, bar, and furniture. Four of us including James and a friend named Shane that would be sharing the birthday party. It again was not hard work, just monotonous and simple. As we finished the bar, Kegs arrived for the new gas tap which would be used for pints. James had ordered two kegs of Guiness and two of Carlsburg which would be expected to disappear by the second night. Clara and I offered to help some more that evening since there was still a lot of remaining work and the party was to start the next afternoon. ovr a hundred and fifty people we meaning to stop in for the party so naturally the idea of anything going wrong terrified James. That evening family arrived and everyone joined for whiskey and wine in the main kitchen. We all stayed up chatting and listening to music as James caught up with his sisters and in laws and shared stories about travel with Shane who had just arrived back from trips so several different countries. The next day was hectic ofcourse as James began to think of all the jobs that needed done sending me and Clara off on new tasks before we could properly finish the previous. Some of the jobs felt pointless, such as wiping down the fences and signs around the garden and raking the gravel paths out smooth so you couldn't see and indentions from walking. I made a quick run around the garden and green houses to water everything since I had not been doing anything out there at all since monday due to party preparations. Tension had been building up over the week, and nerves were shot from the fast paced multitasking and tidying up of evry part of the property. Then the crowd began to arrive and pints started going around. within an hour music was up, people were immersed in loud conversation and empty glasses were bulking up by the twenties. Almost all of the guests had travelled from LOndon or Spain and were obviously very high class. Many came in with fur coats and very fancy suits, talking with a very arrogant and annoying accent. Not many of the guests carried on much conversation with me or Clara often turning away after saying were we had travelled from. Anyone that did care to chat would have something to boast to us about like a two million dollar home in Barcelona or theyer own next big event that would be all of the best things to see. I met screen writers and artists from London as well as well known musicians, producers and a number of Lords and Ladies. I spoke to the manager of Slane Castle as well as a few other high class venues which accepted Woofers. The music went on through the night even with a couple amps being blown by spilled beer, thy were quickly replaced by another by James. James kept asking me to tend to fires and help people find drinks when ever needed while Clara and Lindsay were asked to walk around with two bottles of wine available for any one looking for some. Lindsay went around being curdious and obedient to James request pouring glasses for anyone that motioned. CLara and I didn't pay much attention to the idea of serving since most of the crowd had become very pompous and rude about want more drinks and more fun. Any time the music would stop of the keg would need changed guests would start wanting to leave claiming the party wasnt good enough. People passed out in chairs and hallways for short periods and then jumping back into the crowd with a fresh pint from the bar. A fifteen year old boy was in charge of bartending until ten in the morning, only getting a break from me of Clara who didn't know enough about tending to hold of the pushy crowd asking for all typs of cocktails and continuous pints. At ten the next morning when the bar shut down and people started to thin I headed for a bed and slept for a few hours before being awoken for more cocktails on the patio with everyone that stayed over. We drank through the day, with little to eat and got together agian that evening for whiskey and music in the main kitchen with the extended family. The next day I was starting to feel ill which I assumed was a rough hangover, but lasted the entire day together with weakness and being sick. Clara felt the same way and was sick as well, so we became suspicious that we might have gotten some sort of bug.Lindsay left that morning, over a month earlier than she had planned. She told me before she set off that I should reconsider my own plans and move on before I began to see the home the way she had. The same morning, the maid of the house who came in a few days a week waled out and quit, saying that cleaning up after the out of control party was the last straw and it was no longer worth the payment. Two new wwoofers arrived that night, but I was not up for being too social. James and the family kept hounding Clara and I to join them for a fifth keg and music with the new guests as a way to kill the hangover, but we both passed it up. The next day it became obvious we had gotten some type of stomach virus. We both had fevers and could not hold down any food. Luckily it was a bank holiday and we did not have to work. James had the two new girls clean galsses, organize the kitchen and clean the floors for a few hours which me and Clara saw as taking advantage of them. Natasha, a thirty year old experienced wwoofer from New Zeland was unhappy with the way she had been welcomed because James had appearently sat around drinking while he gave her cleaning tasks around the house and everyone else was resting. I could tell James and Jo both talked to her and treated her less curtiously than me or Clara for some reason, which was bothersom to us all. The other new wwoofer is an eighteen year old from Germany named Kirsten who was looking for experience with the English language and sustainable lifestyles. She was assigned to take care of the three children rather than Natasha who had experience as a nanny and more confidence with kids. Ofcourse the two girls were very unhappy with having a new au pair and began to throw tantrums and making messes which she had little ability to control. At one point during lunch one of the girls threw a plate of food because she had been asked to eat something she didn't like and when Kirsten asked why she did such a thing she replied in a loud voice "Because I can and you can't stop me" and ran away. After a rough first few hours as an Au pair, Clara was told to help out and explain how to handle the children. There was little difference in the behavior as they ran around screaming and making messes for the rest of the day. James was aggrivated with them both for not having more control while guests were still around. I don't understand myself how someone could do the job of looking after the children with James and Jos rules about no discipline or punishment for any bad behavior. We were told that we can tell them "No" as firmly as we could, but to never raise our voices, and if they disobeyed and did something wrong anyway, we were not to do anything but explain it was wrong and clean up after them. They did not want any of the children to be put in a time out, have things taken away or yelled at in any way for misbehaviors. The au pairs were to only offer rewards to the kids if they would listen and behave. So naturally, the kids became very hard to take care of and would only behave or listen when they wanted candy or rewards, otherwise they would ignor the rules and the wwoofers watching them often causing stress for everyone around. The tantrums lasted through the eveningand the next morning when the Gardens opened to the public. All three girls were eventually assigned to handle the three kids while James left for a holiday in Dublin and Jo managed the Garden walks and Gallery Cafe. Tuesday evening the four of us sat together and discussed the situation. We all agreed we each had plans to leave soon as the environment was getting very tense and stressful. Natasha was feeling unwelcome in the home and had also picked up a bug which was making it hard for her to keep up with James buisy work. Clara and I were fighting a virus and were taking turns resting or being sick while the other was working in the garden. I had decided to leave with the others within a week or so, but had no plans or idea how to go about it. I wrote my previous host, and my next host looking for new arrangements and started to get my bags together and ready for a quick departure when the time came. The weekend parties and opening of the Gardens had brought a lot of stress and completely changed the calm and peacful environment we had enjoyed for the past few weeks.   
Monday morning started off easy with a clean out of the chicken hutch. I gathered a few eggs and scooped out the poultry litter which we are collecting to spread in the gardens during the cool season. I spread wood chips in the hutch to replace what I had taken out for bedding. Clara and I then went back to rake the rocky soil that we had started spreading on Friday. One of the farm workers brought in a few more loads of soil to extend the lawn and I got to work with a larger rake to move the piles across the sod. We quickly noticed a lot of the new soil was filled with mostly thick gravel. This material was not going to work for growing and mowing a smooth lawn so me and Clara had to pick out all of it and bring in another few loads to rake again. This took the rest of the morning. Lesley was working to finish a few portraits which she planned to take to a framer later that day and sent off for a show. She came out to chat with us a few times but quickly went off claiming if she hesitated much longer her paintings would never be done in time. Each time she said this I could see her circle the gardens doing various tasks and chatting with james or on of the workers and then stopping by us again only to be even more rushed about getting back to her studio. Lesley, like many wise minds, often has more going on than she can focus on and most of the time seems very scatter brained. Eventually Clara and I got the majority of the gravel out with some lawn rakes and Lesley made it back into the studio. We ccoked with Lesley for lunch as Jo and James were buisy working with party plans. We had broccoli, potatoes and lamb with jellies which is one of Lesley's favorite traditional meals.
For the afternoon we planted parsnips and weeded some various beds. The Parsnips got an entire row, spread a few inches apart and covered with a light layer of top soil. I then used the tiller to go over a few areas around the brassicas and legumes to break up any small weeds. Clara followed behind gathering all the pieces into a wheel barrow. Clara then went to work on weeding th berry patches while I moved to the poppies. A large section of one of the beds was set aside for oriental poppies which were spread around the different gardens. A lot of scotch grass and two hour crawlers which are both quickly spreading weeds had taken over the bunches of foliage and needed to be carfully forked and pulled. For the last hour we helped James move in a bunch of large photo prints which were to be hung around the house and gallery. On Tuesday a friend of James will come by and build a bar and shleves for the gallery. It was going to be a buisy week getting ready for James birthday party on Friday. Most of his family and friends would be here along with a lot of locals and buisness partners. He was determined to give the best impression before the gallery and gardens opened the following week.    

Glendalough


Sunday morning Clara and I put together a salad and rice in containers with some utensils so we could take a lunch with us on our trip to Glendolough. We didn't know how long the day would be or when we would be back, so a packed lunch, even a small one was a good idea. We had planned to leave at nine to get a good start on any bad weather, since Saturday's clear sky and bright sun was supposed to be followed by clouds and possible showers, but Lindsay overslept and was not ready in time. We were soon in Wicklow once we got on the road. We passed some very interesting farm land and gardens on the way. One interesting sight was an olive tree orchard boardrs by cobble stone walls and a tall birch hedge. The were several sheep farms and small cattle herds in the valley at the bottom of the Wicklow mountains throughout the wide green pastures. We headed up into the hills, climbing fast and heading over the ridges through winding sharp roads. It reminded me of the roads in rural West Virginia, but were very foriegn to Lindsay who had never driven outside of New York before she came to Ireland. She took the road slowly as a line of locals began to gain behind us, again reminding me of driving the roads back home. The park where we were going to hike was in the same town I had met Jame's almost a month before when I traveled to Burtown from Avoca. The area was a reserved section of the Wicklow Mountains National Park with a series of trails the led to som of the higher ridge points in the area and over looked a large rocky gorge nearly a half mile wide or more known as the wicklow Gap. We parked and found the trail we wanted to try which was eleven kilometers to the top. On the way up we passed a monasary village and graveyard with a large old bell tower and churches. There were two large lakes in the valley of the mountain which were surrounded with parks and boardwalks. We hiked past a waterfall coming from the several natural springs through out the hill side and a few areas with shaped rocks and erie trees hich were prayer places for the old monks. When we got to the split onto the trail we wanted, we decided to go the opposite firection around the loop than the rest of the hikers we saw. This was a common tourist area so we were constantly passing by groups and families. The path started off steep and climbed the mountain in a zig zag past areas of thick pine and a lumber lurry. The higher parts were bare of trees and just had grass visable before the overlook of the other mountains in the area. It seemed like scenic views one after another once we passed a certain altitude.from th highest point we could see back to the valley of kildare on one side and glimpses of the Irish sea on the other. Before we started down the path leading to the bottom we sat and took it in for a mintue. The air, the smells, the view of the horizon and the lake below us was all amazing. The path down was mostly stairs. hundreds of them, winding back and forth through a thick forest and across grassy ridges be side the large cliffs dropping into the lakes. After looking over the edge too long I would begin to loose my sense of depth and how far away the tiny trees at the bottom were. We finished the hike and walked back to the car for our lunch. We considered taking our salad and rice back to the lake to sit and eat, but Lindsay was too tired already from all the walking and the lake was another one or two kilometers just to sit and eat. Once we sat down for a while in a patch of grass by the car I felt my own fatigue kick in and my calves start to tense up. It was a nice drive back as dark weather moved in and we stopped for some Irish ice cream to relax with. We got back to the house and settled down for the rest of the afternoon. I spent some time playing music and drawing, then I took a nap and sat around for a quiet evening bfore I started back in the gardens the next morning.

Thursday and Friday


Thursday started off as another cleaning day split between myself and Clara. Lindsay slept in until she was due to work with the kids at ten when Jo was headed into Athy. I took the play room and floors while Clara worked in the kitchen and taking care of our bathroom. Once she headed upstairs to clean the bathroom I hoovered and mopped the kitchen and hallway. I took some extra time wiping down cabinets and side surfaces which had spots from grease and dirty hand marks. With my first host I did my best to keep a tidy area around the wwoofer beds and kitchen, yet I don't think I have ever paid so close attention to having a perfect presentation, definately not in my own home. I realized quickly when I arrived to Burtown that the Fennel's had a high expectation for any volunteers. On my welcoming tour around the house I remember Jame's pointing out areas of dust, spots on windows, hand prints, or items out of place or not put away, all of which were cleaned quickly. I have always tended to leave dishes out or in the sink to handle later, and now every one is washed, dried, and put back away as soon as it is done being used. Already I have gotten very used to keeping up the clean and presentable environment.
Outside after cleaning I started helping Jame's bring in a load of small shrubs and plants that were spread around the patio and cafe area. We spent an hour arranging, digging, and watering the plants. The were a few nasturtium and geranium as well as various spring bulbs which were grouped together between small boxwoods.Then I took a load of anemone down to the nut grove to line a pathway. Each plant had a cluster of foliage and a few buds which would soon open. I burried the plants about an inch under the top soil which I broke up into a soft surface. It then took a while to carry several buckets of water down to the island from the stabel yard for all the plants. For the remaining time before lunch I walked through the beds for peas and legumes and picked out any small weeds. I spent the first part of the afternoon working in the potatoe bed to rake some loose soil onto the ridges then made slate signs for the different root vegetables that had been planted. I then edged and mowed the strips of grass between the various beds. I needed to bring sections of sod from the field to fill in parts of the strip to make a straight section with equal width. It took a few attemps at first to get a line right with pieces of sod, but by the end of the day it looked good.
I started directly after work to start on a root vegetable soup and a pumpkin spice cake. I had everything  chopped and in the pot by six and a cake in the oven shortly after. Jame's invited us out to the pub for music and drinks later that evening after we ate. Lindsay was happier staying at the house alone rather than join us, so she dropped us off and we got a taxi back at the end of the night. This was the last night we would have all gotten to go out and socialize together before she left. Nevertheless it was a plenty enjoyable night just with the three of us and a few thick guiness. I got some great video of the local music and storytelling that is held in the local historic pub each week. It has been the most traditional Irish pub I have been to yet and really have enjoyed every night I've gone. We got bak to the house around twelve and parted for bed.
Friday morning we joined Gile again to weed the flower beds. We first focused on a few overgrown sections of celandine which spread quickly and had to be removed as a whole. Each cluster of foliage had a bundl of bublets at its base which would break off and send up new shoots if they were not removed with the rest of the plant. We weeded until four o clock that day, going over every bed around the house pulling several wheel barrows of all kinds of weeds. It took effort to get into the backs and centers of the beds with out crushing other flowers. Some areas we even needed to crawl under trees and shrubs to reach small sections of weeds. We edged everything again and relined any straight edges, taking away and adding sod as needed. James then took us to another area where he was piling top soil. He asked Clara and I to rake it out over a bare area thich he wanted leveled and grown into a thick lawn. The top soil he had gotten was full of large stones which had to be collected as we went along. We spent most of the time picking out stones and wheeling them to a rubble pile on the other side of the garden. That evening we had a small dinner with the family and discussed our plans for the weekend. We had decided that Kerry, or anything on the West Coast would be too much for Lindsay to handle as a young driver with little experience on small irish roads. Instead we decided to go to an area in Wicklow less than an hour away which she had traveled before. We planned the trip for Sunday when we were all free. Saturday called for better weather, but Lindsay had to take care of the kids while the parents were buisy planning the party they were having the following weekend. If there is not an Au pair available, Jo and James become overwhelmed with taking care of the two young girls and a one year old at the same time. The kids are often sent off to sitters or left with one of the Au pairs just so thier parents can have a meal or drinks alone. I think Lindsay was getting eager to be on her way out of Burtown and free of the Au Pair responsibilities. The trip this weekend would be the last sight seeing journey around Ireland for her. Friday night Clara and I stayed up and watched "Im not there", A movie about Bob Dylans life after Lindsay went to bed early. We made some scones and a berry crisp made of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries had been collected and frozen out of the gardens to go with some wine James had given us for the weekend. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wednesday 3-28

Wednesday was the hotest day so far, reaching past twenty two degrees celcius in the sun. I started the morning building up the mounds that covered the potatoes to help with the daily loss of moisture in the heat. It took time to break up the compact paths between the ridges and hoe the soil into straight lines. It took most of the morning to get through the five rows and set up a sprinklet to ater them all. I moved onto weeding the asparagus bed afterwards whcih was covered in needles and dandilion which had to be dug up by the root and completely removed or else it would return in greater numbers around the same area. Before I headed in for lunch I gathered some tomatoes from the main kitchen window and moved them into the garden greenhouse. I labeled each variety of tomoatoe with a red pen as well as the different flower varieties I had germinated for Lesley whos labels had begun to fade from the bright sun and humidity. For lunch we had a vegetarian gree couscous and a large salad with bread. Lindsay was buisy with the kids and making school runs so Clara helped watch while one girl played in the garden while we worked. Lesley arrived back from Barcelona and went right to work helping in the garden. James wanted to get started arranging beds and planting the gardens on the patio next to the galler cafe so I helped him decide wich plants should go in now or hold off for another few weeks. We had to rake a good amount of soil and flattenout the beds to meet the patio and then arrange the lines of plants. I spent a good amount of the time pushing wheel barrows of top soil out of the old leek ben I had tilled the day before up to the patio garden. It was hot enough that this was the first day I had choosen to join the other workers in taking off my shirt and getting all the sun I could. The breeze was nice, and the smells of the spring blooms were relaxing. It was more like a day in the mid summer than the end of winter, even the pond was full of spring life. Wednesday night I fixed a plate of chips and some pasta with greens out of the garden. I sat out in the evening air playing guitar as the sun set and enjoyed every effect of the evnironment I could take in befor ethe sun dropped behind the tree line and the half moon ook over. I feel asleep early on the couch in the den that night watching old Cohen Brother's films and allowed the fire to burn out before eleven. The night was silent and peacful as a cool air settled  over the property laying a thin sheet of frost over the fields and ending the warm weather. Clouds where said to be moving in for the weekend along with cool breezes and heavier frost. I am worried that the sprouts that have done so well so far are in risk of damage, so we will try to be proactive with the plants in the the greenhouses and covering any sprouting plants with plastic in the gardens. A frost can shock and set back all of the vegetables for the season, and possibly even kill off any sprouts that have not yet broken the surface. In the past year, a heavy snow storm that outwieghed the past decade ruined perennial crops and gardens in the eary winter followed by an early and very warm spring. Many farmers planted early to make up for the lost crop but lost most of the early starts bcause of a late heavy week of frost in May. If the same where to happen this year, many farmers would lose too much of thier starting crops to have a successful season and would likely switch to more profitable short season crops that can be sold in market rather than the various greens and root vegetables popular on the dinner tabel. Sustainable food production can only be workable when the workers and family are well fed and suppourted. If crops are lost to weather and pests that would normally bring in the funds for equiptment and supplies, more land must be set aside to making a monatary income, which often would take away from the area used for property usage. Many farmers are more prepared this year with plastic covers and tunnels than ever before to ensure a succesful crop reguardless of frosts. Some growers that have been organic in the past have began using conventional methods and sprays to ensure a sellable crop according to some local farmers. Organic is the way of the land, but has become more and more difficult with the changing weather and economy in the past decade. Cool, wet weather, more so than in the long past has created an out break of various rots and mildew pathogens that have rarely affected organic growers in the previous generations of local growers. Consumers do not recongnize garden fresh vegetables the way they used to and even in farmers markets, geo engineered varieties of common vegetables are selling better than the organic providers. This weekend we have plans of traveling to Kerry, a beautiful scenic area full of farm land and sustainable projects where I hope to see a more positive opinion of the future in organic production.

Tuesday 3-27

Thuesday, after watering the greenhouse and pots on the padio, I set up the sprinklers and got on a set of waist high rubber boots that strapped around the belt. This as the third day of high sun and record temperatures for the end of March. The sky was clear blue and the sun was bright across the Kildare valley from six in the morning until eight in the evening. I was not bothered by spending the morning wading in the murkey creek water pulling clumps of stream grasses full of muck and various critters. I started down stream near a bridge with a small dam and worked my way slowly up the waterway. I raked large clumps of the tick grass with bundles of roots and soggy muck, throwing it high onto the back to dry out and die, making a silt sod for any grasses or plants to grow along the area over the summer. each step would stir up a cloud of dirt, so I would try to get as many clusters of grass as I could for each posistion I made moving along the creek bed. Many of the clusters of weeds and muck had small fish tangled which I would release and move back into the fresh stream water. I noticed sevral water intects including diving beetles, toe biters, skimmers, water scorpions and twirlers thoughout the grass and brush along the streams edge. Around half past twelve, a bit before lunch was served, I went inside and washed the mud from my hands and face that had splashed with every sling of grass out of the water. I changed clothes for the afternoon and started a load in the washer before I joined everyone for lunch. Clara had made a pizza with spinnach and garlic along with a large salad and bread. Afterlunch I got online to purchase a plane ticket back home through a different airline for about the same price I had bought my round trip back in November. I felt obligated to myself to stay for the summer as long as I could afford in order to get the most and best out of this experienc. I only wish I had realized this before I bought the original ticket and planned a few extra hosts for the summer. At this time I am planning to spend June with my first host as well as traveling for a week with my mother and two of my three sisters that will be visiting Ireland for the first time as well. My best bud Ryan will be coming for a few weeks in June as well and I plan to spend some time hanging out in Dublin and seeing an amazing Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on the 26th.
That afternoon I joined Clara in weeding various beds in the vegetable garden. She was focusing on an area of roses and raspberries while I went over the area for herbs and rhubarb. I went over the sea kale beds once more and covered an more shoot that had broken the surface since I last placed pots and slates around the growing sprouts. In the area I had cleared of year old herbs I started to plant collections of new herbs growing in stone containers. Each pot needed a large hole in the top soil to sit even with the bi annual and perennial herbs that were already in place. Clara finished clearing the two areas of raspberries so the following morning we could start moving runners and move on to other areas that needed cleared. I used the wheeled hoe to clear out the paths between the strawberries near a section of fruit trees until five that afternoon. I gathered all of the cut weeds and moved them to a pile outside the garden walls. We spent some time gathering broccoli and kale after we washed up so we could fix some pastas and greens for diner that evening. I made a noodle and cheese mix with broccoli and herbs along with a plate of curried vegeatables. The broccolli had started to dense up and was thickening every day in the high temperatures. It is some very tender and extremey tasty broccoli which blooms forseveral months through the early spring and summer. I use it in every dish I can along with the fresh kale and leeks which must be used up shortly to make room for everything I have germinated in the greenhouses. That evening I watched the film Finding Neverland with a nice fire from some wood I brought in that evening and a batch of cossaints I baked after our dinner of cod and vegetable sauce. Tomorrow we would finish weeding and prepare to sow some more seeds with one more day of clear bright weathe rbefore a cold front moved in for the weekend.

Monday 3-26

Monday morning I got up early for a big breakfast of eggs, kale, apples, porriage with bananna, and cinnamon toast with some herbal tea I had gotten from the health store in Athy over the weekend. I went for a short walk around the property line and went right to the gardens to meet Clara to plant some forest plants for Lesley. She had bought a few anenemes, crocus and other various bulbs wtih would be spread across a few ridges in the nut groove behind her stabel yard. We had four trays of plants so we split them up, placing them randomly between patchs of lillys, pachysandra, and gallanthus. This took about an hour and a half, then we moved onto cutting back an area of raspberries and Clara started pulling weeds around the area so we could later dig up any runners and put them back into the main rows of plants. Over the weekend the wind had blown off some of the nets covering the onions so we had to gather some more rocks and lay them down the sides of the beds to keep out critters and birds that had already pulled several of the onions out of the soil. A few areas had holes, so we also too time to tie them back together with pieces of bailing twine. I spent the rest of  the morning rotovating patches from a few weeks before to tear out any surfacing weeds and cut the soil even finer.
After lunch that day, Which was on the patio again in the warm sunshine, I got a hold of my airline to discover the price for transfering tickers. Since my origional ticket was a economy saver package, I would have to upgrade classes to transfere tickets which would cost over $1500. I went back to work for the afternoon without thinking much of the ticket situation and tried to enjoy the great weather. As soon as we went out I was needed to help James agther a hundred Achillites for a buyer from a local nursury which had run out of thier own supply. We dug clumps of ten and put them into small pots with compost and enough water to make it back to his own garden. These bulbs go for a high price because they take so long to divide and spread over an area. This garden is known for having one of the oldest and largest collections of Achillites in Ireland. After potting up the bulbs I went to water all of the pots and containers in the stabel yard as well as the small greenhouse full of verebena and flower sprouts. I then went back to the garden and harvested an area of leeks that could be weeded and rotovated. I gathered the weeds and stones and moved the rotovator to the bed. I went over the area a few times to level out the soil that had been built into a large raised bed for the root vegetables, but would now be used for cabbages and broccoli. For the remainder of the day I weeded areas near the stone boarder and set up a sprinkler to moisten the potato mounds and rows of beans and peas. After we finished, James showed me a section of the stream around the woodland that had been over grown with a creek grass that had to be raked out before it was out of control. I planned to start tuesday with waist high wellies and a rake clearing as much as I could before the afternoon.

2-23 Weekend at Burtown


































After a good breakfast and a run up the road and back I had a nice cup of tea with Lindsay and Clara then met up with James in the flower gardens to discuss the days tasks. Giles would be in today and would be focusing on weeding as many of the flower beds as he could to get control of everything before the gardens opend to the public in two weeks. Clara and I started by picking out obvious weeds around the edges and any clumps of grass growing in the beds. The cows that are being help on the property had gotten loose early that morning and had caused damage to part of the lawn and a few trees on the edge of the garden so me and james spent some time lifting prints with pitch forks. Any where the hooves had dug too deep and torn up the sod we had to leave some topsoil in place to not have and indentations left. The cows had gooten loose simply because a wire had been left unhooked by a farm worker the night before when they were bringing in the tractor from the fields. Around half past eleven I started using an edger to clip the sides of each bed and trim any over hanging grass. This was a way to enhance the apearance of the gardens and outine each curve of the beds with a sharp contrast from the green lawn to the dark topsoil of the beds. We had the same great curry from the day before out on the patio for lunch in the warm sun. After lunch I spent my extra time looking at flights to exchange my ticket home in August. I was nervous about what it would be costing me because the only flights I could find through my airline were twice the price of my origional round trio ticket. When we got out to the gardens again I spent most of the afternoon edging the beds. there were about six large curvy flower beds in the front of the house along with a few sections of hedges which had to be lined with string and cut straight in line with each other. As I moved through the beds, Clara followed with a wheel barrow and bucket to gather all of the cut pices of sod and grass I left as I trimmed. It was a long day of monotonous cutting and weeding, but we made a lot of progress in those beds, whcih would only grow more weeds to be picked before teh area was open forthe summer. After a light dinner, Clara and I went down to Lesley's where Lindsay was staying to watch some movies together with a bottle of wine Jasmes had given us and a nice pt of herbal tea. I stayed up later that night to sit by the fire and enjoy some whiskey and music until I finally tired out a while after mid night. Saterday morning the three of us made a trip into Athy to stop by the market and the health stores for odds and ends. I spent most of the day Saturday painting and writing outside in the warm spring breeze. The gardens had started to bloom quickly in the first days of spring and several Tullips and trees had began seting blooms. That evening James's sister and good friend had come by for the night and the lot of us enjoyed music and drinks for the night together.
Sunday morning most of the house slept in and we all got together shortly after noon for a cookout on the lawn. James made a few rounds of bloody marys and mojitos while the meat and vegetables were be fixed as everyone wandered around the gardens chatting about this and that going on around the country.  For lunch we had grilled chicken and spiced sausage from a local butcher in Wicklow along with chips, salads, pasta and grilled vegetables. It was a beautiful day with a light breeze so after lunch a few blankets were spread out in the lawn where everyone cold sit and enjoy a few bottles of wine and rosea for the afternoon. around Six, Clara and I took a walk out to a historic ridgeline where a large masacre had occured during the famine. We saw an amazing sunset and got to talk to some neighbors that had lived in the area thier whole lives. It was a great way to end the weekend as we all settled in back at the house preparing for the next week. James planned to have the gallery cafe completed and ready for pictures, tabels and the works for an operational serving kitchen in another month. It had already been a few weeks and I was feeling very comfortable in the place. The work was enjoyable and the house seemed like luxy, but the family and workers are laid back and enjoyable to be around. I am looking forward to the next few weeks as well. 

Thursday 3-22

Thursday is cleaning day, so Clara and I split the three areas and spent an hour straightening and hoovering. Lindsay was staying at Lesley's to watch her dogs while she was traveling for the week so she was not around to lead the cleaning spree as she normall would. We headed out into a warm sunny day, one of th first Clara had seen since she arrived. We were going to start the day preparing beds and planting onions which required rotovating, raking and placing a few hundred bulbs before lunch. I first had to gather tools and take apart the rotovator from its trench digging model back to a tiller. I spend a while piecing together the blades and forcing pins to hold them together and took the machine out to the rocky dry soil that we had to work with. I first went along and lightly scraped the surface of the bed, tearing jup roots and rocks on the surface as Clara quickly followed behind picking them up in a large pot and piling everything ito a wheel barrow. Once tje surface was mostly clear of weeds I readjusted the anchor of the tiller to pull the blades deeper and started turning the soil. I went slowly to shred the larger clumps of hard soil and ensure the machine was digging deep enough. I passed over the bed two or three times until the topsoil was light and easy to work with. WE used a string line to mark the edges of both onion beds and used a rake to start pulling soil into mounds along the line. One side was raked into a straight mound and then we would switch sides and rake a mound one the other line then flattening the two mounds together into oune large raised bed. The raised beds were raked and smoothed for a good planting surface and fiverows were lined out to plant about twenty five collumns of onions. One bed was all white onions and the other was all red. We finished planting just around lunch and went in for an amazing vegetable curry Jo had prepared with rice and potatoes with fresh bread. I was so hungry from a buisy morning I helped myself to seconds of the curry which they had a spiced mango chutne to add even more flavor. After cleaning up from lunch and taking a few minutes to relax, we headed back out to the garden and began putting nets over the onion beds to prevent crows and pigeons disturbing the sprouts. black flexible tubbing was placed a few feet apart in an arch over the beds down the entire length and black nets were streched over the tubbing covering the entire bedding area. Rocks were placed down each side of the netting to hold it to the ground and keep a strong tension across the top. We waterd both beds, cleaned up the tools and took the weeds and rocks to the compost piles.
We worked on transplanting bulbs again from half past two until quarter to four until James was back from Dublin and free to help us plant trees in one of the planations. We focused on moving blubs that were growing in the path of the lawn mower and tansplanting them farther back into the field. We also moved a load of snow drops to the pillars by the front gate mixed together with daffodils and white tulips. When we met up with James, we got the left over bags of trees from the previous Friday when we planted a few large sections of Birch and Ash and carried them out into the fields were a several hundred small trees had already been planted the year before. Several of these trees had been damaged by rabbits and needed replaced, so we used the left over trees to fill in all the gaps. We split up around the plantation, each taking a long row of trees and searching for any sparce areas. We emptied four or five bags of various trees across the large field and did not get every gap filled. It was after five when we finished and we were all worn out from the long day. We agreed to miss out on the pub that night and take an easy watching movies by the fire. We made seperate plates of pasta and shared some puddings for desert with a bottle of wine and headed to bed early. The weather was going to be warm and clear again the next day so I planned to rise an hour early and go out for an early run down the road.

Wednesday March 21

On Wednesday Clara and I started transplanting bulbs from the main garden to the drive out by the front gate. Lesley showed us around the different beds with different varieties of snow drops and various other bulbs. She directed us to separate the clusters and spread them around in groups of three to five bulbs so they would have a good chance at spreading furthur throughout the gardens. We started with a group of achillites covering a large area under a few trees near the front car park and filled wheelbarrows to be taken down to the main gate. We spread these plants throughout the areas on each side of the road, surrounding the trees which lined the drive. We transplanted about three loads and then moved onto snow drops. One variety we had been asked to start with had a thicker folliage than I had seen on galanthus and were said to have larger blooms as well. As I dug up each giant cluster I had to use a spade to separate the bulbs since the roots had grown so dense. once the clusters were separated I scaatterd small groups of bulbs along the paths where we had laid the achillites. We continued on with this variety of snowdrop which was growing in large numbers close to the house and spread them half way from the gate to the main car park, leaving room in the beds for each cluster to spread and set new flowers the following years. It was a fast paced transplant process given the amount of plants we had to move. I simply stuck the spade into the sod making a good wedge and pressed the bulb in place. stomping the sod back down around the plant for suppourt. The strip of grass closest to the road, about three meters wide was left bare so the lawn mower could easily pass and trim the sod without tearing  up any flowers or small trees. Around noon, Clara headed inside to help Lindsay prepare a lunch for us and I finished two more loads of snowdrops on my own. It was a tedious but easy process of digging, lifting, pushing and replanting a bit don the road. It was laid back and simple for a nice clear day giving me a chance to enjoy some music and clear my head from the past few weeks of fast paced weeding and preparingthe vegetable garden. For lunch we had a large salad with potatoes and curry. It was very appetizing and filling for the day even with the work being a bit lightr than usual. I started the afternoon germinating the rest of the vegetable seeds and sowing some flower seeds into trays for Lesley. She had gotten some snapdragons, corriathus and cosmos along with a few small packages to replace areas of annuals that had dies out around the gardens. I planted a good amount of cabbage and a lettuce variety called rocket which the family uses a lot in salads and stews. I had gotten another batch of carrots of a different varietym wich I sowed into a plug tray. I also planted a few more brussels sprouts and spring onions. Clara joined in to sow a package of leeks onto a styrofoam fish cooler that had been saved and works well for starting root vegetables. Leeks are used in the spring for soups, curries, fried dishes, as well as mixed in with other baked or cooked vegetables to add a soft onion flavor. I went back to the root vegetable I had sown in the beds the day before to build up the ridges a bit more since I had only layered an inch or so over the seeds and the top soil was drying out very quickly in the dry weather. Clara and I went back to transplanting bulbs for the rest of the afternoon until she left to help Lindsay with the kids and learn some of the guidlines of thier daily routine. I worked a bit later than usual as I wanted to mov a final load of snow drops around an area that had over grown with grass and wild flowers. In the fall when other bulbs would die back daffodils, muscari, and tulips ould be transplanted to this area as well to creat a screen of various colors stretching from the road into the tall grass and cattle fields. When the gardens open next month, this will be the path visitors follow from the car park to the main gardens and should be a welcoming and colorful scene as guests arrive. That night we enjoyed some tasty pasta dishes with garlic bread and wine for dinner. I stayed up late playing guitar and chatting with Lindsy until she headed up to bed and then built a small fire for myself. I enjoyed a few pices of the pumpkin cake I baked the evening before and watched a movie call SLC punk which I had seen years before and always admired for its ciniacal truth of subjects like anarchy and rebellion with men and women my age searching for truth in thier various views of the world. It kept me awake and thinking for most of the night as I returned to my Chili Peppers biography which would touch on similar topics that influence passion and music. The next morning we would be planting trees again. Lesley had left to visit Barcelona for a week and left a list of tasks around the garden that me, Clara and james would need to tend to in order to keep evetything in line for the opening of the gardens in only a few weeks.

Tuesday March 20

I started with planting some root vegetables Tuesday morning. I used an area near the potato plot I had sowed the early varieties in last week. I sowed a full row of shallots, which are mild Allium type onions next to a row divided into raddishes and beet roots. I divided each package of seeds throughout each row I had dug and covered them with a light cover of topsoil. I watered the rows with a light spray from the nearby hose and put labels next to each small mound. I took time to water the trays in the green house by the garden as well as the other small greenhouse in the stabel yard. The verbena I had cut the first week I had arrived had started to produce shoots from the auxillary meristems on the nodes I had left. In anothr few weeks when these stems produce a few nodes, I will cut them back again to provide a bush like plant. The verbena are spread around the house in various pots and small beds intersowed with other herbaceous species. I spent the rest of the morning weeding some potted plants and adding orgainic fertilizer to old soils. The weeds were easier to pull from the potting soil than the normal hard ground so I moved quickly among several containers spread among the doors, patios, and windows around the main house and the two small houses in the stabel yard. On my way in to wash up for lunch, I stopped by the chicken hutch and gathered the poultry waste and used beding for compost. This compost will bespread throughout the garden late in the winter amoung the various gardens and tilled in as soil is prepared before planting. After a break for lunch with the family I started germinating a few seeds in the potting shed. I started some more cabbages and brussels sprounts in trays and sowed two small rows of baby spinnach next two the previous planted rows of lettuce.
The weekend had been filled with rain, so not much needed watered today. I spent the rest of the day tidying up the stones that edged the garden beds and weeding areas that the tiller had not hit. We had discussed planting onions soon, so I focused on an area on the upperside next to two rows of Autumn rapsberries where I would rotovate and build beds later this week. After work I put together ingredients to bake a pumkin spice cake from some pumpkin puree from the freezer. I added ginger, cinnamon, nut meg, rosemary, and lemon peel to the mix for a interesting treat. This was the second time I had put this type of cake together, and was looking forward to progress with the recipe. Lindsay put together a delicious couscous with greens from the garden and some noodles with herbs for dinner. It was an early night since we were all still worn out from Galway, and the last night that Sean would be around.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Galway

I started off St. Patricks day walking to the store with Lindsay to gather goods for our meal later that morning as to get a better look at the nearby area of Galway. It was a clear sunny morning with clouds in the distance and the smell of fresh pastries from every shop. The locals were drinking early and the tourists were flooding in a line of green towards the parade route on main street. I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere full of songs and laughter as me and Lindsay poked our heads in some nearby health and garden shops. We met up with Sean and Clara at our hosts apartment and began preparing pancake batter, bacon strips, egg and viggie mixes, asparagus, potatoes, and ofcourse my own fried apples. Coffee was sparce, so the crowd joined in drinking Jameson neat. We had to leave for the parade before we finished cooking, so we put all the dishes to the side to finish after the noon celebrations. We watched the stream of bands, singers, and political statements for a while before ducking into a nearby pub named Garavans and having a few pints while we watched the rest of the grounps pass by outside. We headed back and finished our meal and cleaned the kitchen before the start of the Ireland England Rugby game at five. We scrubbed and put away everything we could, doing out best to have the place cleaner than when we arrived. We headed back towards town to start a pub crawl during the game. We started at a roudy place called Fibber McGees, and then next door to Richardsons. We stopped in just about every pub we passed until we got to a place serving hot fish and sandwhiches. We went aroound the downtown area meeting up with different friends and trying ouut different pubs. We made it a late and easily forgetful night, but was a great way to celebrate the local culture and see some great live music.
When I got up Sunday I went for a long walk through the city and around to the bay while listening to a few favorites on my Ishuffle. I followed the path along the river canals into the bay and under the spanish arch. I walked up one side of the bay and down the other through the coast line nieghborhoods overlooking a calm clear horizon into the atlantic. At one point I stopped into a large catherdral and listened in on a morning mass, enjoying the loud chorus of voices in each song and rehersed prayer. I admired lines of gardens full of daffodils, tupips and hyacinth sparking the shoreline with colors. I sat in some various spots overlooking the water and the town and considered the changes I have made so far on this trip. I can't help but aknowledge the calming truths and the realities about getting by and making a life clearer that I ever have. What qualifies goodness and good work, what pushes one forward and what pulls them back, how to find a smile in the most fearful of spaces and how peace and happiness are forces that can only be shared once found. I made some good conversation about traveling and education over a few pints in a pub before I found some lunch at an Ittallian bistro. I met back with the others and headed off to find another hostel for our last night, which we had come across a common one called Kinlay right across from the train station. The beds were not too cheap, but they did the job for a night. We all had an amazing time revisiting our favorite pubs and enjoying a bottle of Tullamore Dew with the local chinese take away. We all had fun meeting the locals visiting from all over the country and sharing stories of our travels. I finished the night chatting with the three girls I had a room with while we shared the remainder of our whiskeys. I passed out late and woke up early for thier complemetary breakfast to plan our day. I met Clara in the dinning hall and collected our belongings to store until we caught the train. Lindsay was saying her good byes to friends for the morning while Sean, Clara and I walked around the shop area, got a good breakfast and saw a few sights. In one booksotre we stopped by had a display of James's Photography books, Vanishing Ireland, which was nice for us all to get to see. before getting our last pint and heading to the train we walked through one last street fair where I found a beautiful wooden pocket sized pipe and clara found a bibliography of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for only three euros who I will be seeing in Dublin the 26 of June with my best buddy. I couldn't help opening it immediately and soaking in every work about each members highchool years and influences that have led them to be one of the greatest and most followed rock group today. It was a long tiresome trip back, where we all ate and collapsed early, exhausted from an amazing three nights in Galway.

Second Friday at Burtown

Friday morning was rainy and mucky as we got ourselves together with a pot of coffee and headed out for the day. Sean, Clara and me were working with James and the gardener Giles to plant several bags of trees including common beech, ash, oak, and elders. We started in an area near the main gate along the drive btween the main high traffic road and the property. A large area had been cleared and tilled the two days before in the dry weather to prepare for the trees. We were suited for the rain, but it didn't help the muck and grimmy roots cover out hands and clothes and we dug and placed each small tree into the dirt. We each had bundels of a given variety which would be alternated in small groupings across the area to an area leveled for a car park near the end of the lane. I had beech which had a bright oragne leaf throughout the cold season and a dark green foliage in the summer and fall. The are used a lot around the Burtown property for hedges and large accents in the landscape. We planted close to five hundred trees between the five of us that morning between that field and a strip of grassy area across from the main gate. After lunch, Clara and I helped James with the rest of the beech to plant a boarder around the outter fields. The rain was nonstop so James had told us when we finished the boarder we would call it an early day and go  in for showers. The first strip was a barrier between the first and second tillage fields, where we planted a birch every ten meters to replace the present trees that had grown too tall and become a mass of vines and ivy. The back boarder was much larger, surrounding a large multi acre field of rapeseed which is produced for its organic oil. We alternated between Beech and Ash trees from the back gate beside a plot of willows around to where the tree line meets a creek bed, using another few hundred small trees between four people. We finished around half past three and walked back to the house with soaked clothes and water filled boots from a day of solid rain digging and bending in the muck. This is the type of day that I am most thankful for a hot shower and dry clothes before a warm meal. We all ate, packed and organized before James gave us a lift to Kildare to catch our train west. I got my round trip ticket and waited anxiously for the train to take off into the dark countryside towards the lively city I have heard so much about. Sean and I were up in the air about a place to sleep that night with most of the hostels being booked and no word from friend for extra space. Luckily, the girl we met at the train staition which Clara and Lindsay would stay with had two couches in thier sitting room we could use if needed and no affordable hostel was found. We had a small to go dinner after dropping of our bags and then headed to the main pedestrian street to find a pub and some live music. The first place we tried, called The Ques was very crowded and had too many people moving in and out from the bars but had a very good band playing covers of some well known punk and classic rock. We only stayed for one pint and headed off to another pub and lounge where we got a booth big enough for all of us, but lacked a live band. We had a good night with plenty of laughs and great people watching. We stayed until the music stopped and the crowds started to thin and went off for a cheap place to sleep. The next day we would head to a grocery store and prepare drinks and lunch for the girls that would be hosting us that night. It was a good start to a great weekend.