Update Éireannach

I wrote the following to a dear friend recently. Let it serve as an update written in colloquial Colin, where capital Is don’t exist.

Ireland couldn’t be better.. Spent 2 months down in Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula stocking industrial food in my uncle’s supermarket, earning plenty of dough to … go support the organic food movement through Wwoofing for a few months! Cruel irony? This is my last week on my first Wwoof farm, Mill Little. I couldn’t have asked for a better first wwoofing experience, Alexon. Christine moved out here to West Cork (Coomhola specifically, near Bantry town) to live off the land as simply as she could. To make a few “bob,” she opened an English school here. That has sustained her very well, bringing much richness to her life it seems. She was one of the pioneers of this farm-English-school model, apparently.

I could go on and on about what i’ve learned! Lots about Irish music, culture, history, about growing vegetables in Ireland. For example, in this extremely wet, often very cold climate, and through an exceptionally cold summer (caused of course by global heating), Christine still managed to grow – tomatoes! Can you guess the only thing separating the tomatoes from Ireland’s harsh climate? A plastic sheet. Awesome! As far as livestock go, I learned how to tend (feed, shepherd, etc) goats, chickens, and ducks as well as basic gardening skills. I also did a bunch of breadmaking (like made 9 loaves in a single afternoon, jaysus chrai’), cooking, and even learned how to felt (made a rather druidic bag). I think my cooking skills have improved too. I’ve gotten faster. Everyone seems to like what i whip up… but i think it’s really still hit or miss with ‘t.

Alexon, you would DIE at this Farm. Christine (the owner’s) website does not lie when it says Mill Little’s a “little paradise.” The 7 acre part-farm, part-wildlife reserve teems with life. Christine single-handedly planted a small woodland here, and on the western side of the property she’s planting an entire forest. Lining the eastern edge is the gorgeous Coomhola River with multiple waterfalls, moss-covered rock faces, and swimming holes (plural), and easily-pluckable plastic detritus.

We get 6-9 eggs per day as well as up to one liter of milk! It’s actually quite challenging consuming it all. As much as i like dairy products and eggs (TONS), i’m not a fan of uncooked milk, which means lots of puddings and custards to be had.

I can feel myself maturing here, as this – my fourth and last week has me looking after all 7 acres of the farm. That really only translates to watering the polytunnels (plastic greenhouses), twice daily feedings of all the animals (did i mention the two cats?), and guarding Christine’s friend Andy as he milks the goats in the morning.

Among the things i’ve learned:

– To qualify as a farmer here and thus get grants (*erhem*… subsidies), you need to have at least 11 goats.
– Owning a few livestock is a terrific way to get fresh, super-high quality animal food whether dairy or eggs, and it’s generally low-maintenance,
– On smaller scales, goats are favorable over cows because the latter require lots more land to graze on and are much more likely to tip over, quite honestly (though goats have massively wide abdomens as if there were a huge sack of organs wrapped in a bag and tied at two ends of a feeble stick (the spine), so the two animals are neck-and-neck as far as tippability goes).
– Overall, Ireland has much fresher air than the US thanks to constant cleansing from precipitation and way fewer people/cars/industry.
– The Irish are extremely sarcastic and relish teasing one another. In fact, it’s better culturally speaking to demonstrate how much you care about someone through “takin’ de piss outta dem” than cheap compliments.
– The island ain’t called Emerald for no reason, and it deserves its popularity as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Every little nook and cranny here – small dirt roads leading to glens, simple brooks and streams too insignificant to be mentioned in tourist brochures – has a depth of beauty that you just have to see and feel. And i’m not romanticizing.
– The Irish speak Hiberno-English, a completely different dialect from American or British. With lots of loanwords and sayings directly translated from Gaelic, there’s lots to say about the language, so you’ll have to ask me in GChat, or accost me until i write an entire blog post about it, or something.

Meanwhile, in the Colinosphere, the weather’s been very reflective, full of a type of nostalgia Portuguese speakers call sausages – wait, i mean saudades. These are fond memories of experiences you can’t relive. The ones i’m relapsing into are of the past 5 years. I met such dynamic, unique people (yourself!) and left having formed several friendships that i intend to make last because my life just wouldn’t be the same without ’em. I’m really happy to have stayed a 5th year; that was when my bonds were sealed with said friends (sister!). The breadth, depth, and diversity of the college years – from protesting Prop. 8 in Long Beach 2008, to us marching out onto the streets of Irvine against the tuition increases in 2010, to the inspirational classes, though few. UCI leaves me dazed, but i’m determined not to let it have been the best years of my life. Unfortunate when people say that college was the best time of their lives, no?

Anyway, plans for the next 2 months: continue wwoofing near Dublin and Wicklow National Park, visit Spain for a bit, hang with the relatives in London, Wales, and Yorkshire, and finally visit Grace on my way back to Cali. With a possible trip to see the Swede. I may stay until past Christmas, if i can stretch the funds or earn a bit more cash along the way.

All the best, yaw!

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