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.