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.