• Nadine Almer

Day 122 - 127: Tullyquilly House - experiencing rural Northern Ireland

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

3.5. - 8.5.2021


Ireland showed what it is known for on Monday, a lot of rain and hail showers. For Stewart this was alright since he could catch up with a few other things while I could do the food preparation for the week ahead. Since he is working full time and has to manage everything around the house and garden by himself, he relies on food preparations to have a delicious variety of meals that do not take long to cook since everything has been cut down, all ready in the fridge. Preparation included chopping all the vegetables from the garden, making hummous and baking bread.

Slowly I was introduced to the daily and weekly jobs as well, like cleaning out the fire, getting firewood from the barn and cleaning the main entrance area after a day of boots with working dust and grass walk in and out. Before dinner I even had a chance to have a walk with Marjorie although this turned out to be no success. One of the farmers a little further away from where we are, protects his field from crows with a so-called "crow scarer". This means that every twenty minutes or so a loud bang, similar to a gunshot, echoes over the fields which not only fulfills its duty to scare birds, it also scared Marjorie. So much that for the remaining hour of our walk she tucked her head low, her tail in and would not sniff left or right. To be honest this first experience really took a toll on me. Marjorie is my one and only, her well-being, her needs are my first priority. I was not sure if this was going to work, only streets to walk along on with not much of other options to roam freely.

I needed to adjust myself in a new place and give myself to this experience of WWOOFing, living for a period of time in the life of someone else. It was not the life itself, the tasks or the host that made it hard, it simply was the fact that I could not attend to the needs of my dog. However, back at Tullyquilly House a delicious dinner and a preview of the next day made it all up. I just needed to give myself time to adjust, time was all I needed.


As I was writing my journal and reflected on the controversy of feelings this day brought up, I nearly got lost in melancholy for the island. All this past few months I was surrounded by endlessness, vastness of land and sea. There were no boundaries on where you could go, fences were allowed to be crossed, cliffs with rough waves crashing on them, beaches of white sand born directly out of a dream. Here all of the land has been divided into pieces surrounded by hedges and fences with no room for exploring, no real wilderness left. Concrete streets connecting small towns and occasionally somewhere far away a nature park. Then something happened.

As I looked up, I was immediately forced to come out of my head and smile. A huge, intense, vivid rainbow directly in front of my window as though specifically made for me in order to let me see something else.

There is beauty everywhere and even if I was not yet able to truly see it, I would be, I would find it. I wanted to, because this is the life I want to be living, I do not want to waste a single moment of it, this is the palett of experiences I want to have. I would not let the first dog walk cloud my judgement, I would give it my all and I would find a way to be content with what I could offer to Marjorie, be lovingly aware of the opportunities that lay ahead, kindly given to me by a host who opened his doors to share his knowledge, wisdom and life.

And while meditating before bed, gratitude flooded my body. Gratitude for having felt the way I did earlier, both the negative and the positive, and being able to see the beauty of it now. Gratitude for the past days and all the days yet to come. Gratitude for being able to see very clearly now what my brain can rob me of, prevent me from seeing. Gratitude for a rainbow that was sent at the exact time I needed it. I was ready for more beauty and eager to learn!


Tuesday's task was to finish the weeding and mulching of the raised beds in the "old garden", basically the time period pre- permaculture that now serves as a nursery for seeds to grow stronger before they'll be transplanted to the permacultural beds.

Also a few trees had started growing in the beds and others were ready to be transplanted from pots into the ground, which was the task of the afternoon. I enjoyed working by myself, the peace and quiet time, focus on the tasks ahead, soil and sun on my skin, the newfound content with where I was. Before dinner I had time for an afternoon walk to explore the surrounding area, I gave the concrete streets another try.


Turns out Marjorie and I really do not enjoy them but, and this is the most important thing, but she was able to be outside all day in a huge and beautiful garden and it seemed like despite the street walks we took so far, she also was adjusting to new environment and seemed content and happy. So even though the walk did not went well, as long as I saw happiness in Marjorie, I too could be happy.

After dinner, yet another delicious meal with so much flavours and textures, I tended to some mails and also started contacting other hosts in Ireland. My visa only lasts until the end of June and I plan to experience Ireland over the summer, returning to Scotland in late September or early October. Another day drew to a close and this time I felt really happy. Slowly I felt like I was connecting in some way, slowly I felt my energy tune in to where I was living.


Wednesday started with an amazing new task, weeding around little trees. Just across the street from Tullyquilly House lies a field that Stewart's father started to replant with trees thirty years ago.

Since then several different areas of this land has been introduced to all sorts of trees, including a range of indigenous varieties that Stewart has added since he took over the project. My job was to make sure that vigorous weeds would not kill the young trees and mulch around them so that they would have some time to grow before weeding would be necessary again. It truly was inspiring to see the land and getting the feeling of a forest again, the energy of it, the tranquility.

Birds chirping overhead, rustling noises from the wind in the treetops and all the microorganisms beneath me, like bugs and worms and caterpillars. Marjorie was in heaven too since she was free from a lead and could roam freely, follow any scent she wanted to. She was so worn out that she did not even want to have an afternoon walk which in turn gave me time to catch up on assignments for my online classes. After an early, spectacularly awesome dinner, I had my regular online class of "coaching" and had a nice skype call with my parents afterwards. Truly a good day.


Thursday was a special one. Stewart introduced me to the art of restoring and building old stone walls, typically here in Ireland and Scotland. This was so interesting that the day flew by and I felt more grateful than ever for having the chance to be here and having such a great teacher. I acquired knowledge about each and every step it took to build walls. In the end walls turn into barns and houses that are so resilient they could last for hundreds of years. The wall I was working on was at least one hundred years old, a very humbling experience to think that my hands were restoring something other hands had set the foundation for. Also this was Stewart's core project beside the permaculture garden, so I felt honoured that he would let me be a part of it. All self taught with books such as "Irish Stone Walls" by Patrick McAfee, he is a brilliant teacher, dedicated to his work and teaching you the fine and delicate art of wall building.


Step 1 Chips and Stones


Find all kinds of stones and wash them, otherwise the dirt on them prevents a clean and neat connection between them and the mortar. The so-called "chips" are very important for the wider holes in between and come in three sizes, as do the "building stones" that create the essence of the wall itself.




Step 2 Clean the walls


If you restore existing ones that is. Cleaning the cracks and wholes is required because of the same reason the stones need cleaning. The mortar and stones will make a better connection if there is no dust or dirt preventing that.





Step 3 Mortar

Make the mortar mix with a 3:1 ratio of sand with lime. Important life hack to add here, mix them first dry and add the water later on so that a more even mixture is created. As this mix only lasts for up to 45 minutes you need to work steady and fast, of course you can use it for other walls to "pin" (see Step 5) if it is not good anymore, a way to prevent costly leftovers.

Step 4 Moisture

Use water to dampen the wall and stones you are working with, that way the mortar will stick better to them.

Step 5 Pinning and Pointing

Basically pinning means that you fill the big holes up with stones that fit and put mortar around them, but not too much. This is very delicate work and a first step in itself as it serves the purpose of closing huge gaps and preparing the wall for the next step, which is called pointing. Pointing describes the act of making the wall look beautiful in the end, it means you close up any further small cracks, holes, put chips or smaller stones here and there to give it a better grip and less space for weather to compromise the surface of the mortar. Essential for both pinning and pointing is that the stones used to close gaps or give the mortar a better grip, do not touch the neighbouring stones. There needs to be a solid layer of lime on each side, top and bottom. Preferably with pinning it is advised to create a horizontal lime layer on top of the pinned stone that can dry overnight, creating the perfect condition to start pointing another day. Afterwards you need to cover it up with some old cloths, dampen the cloths and create a wet climate to keep it from drying to fast.


Step 6 Brushing and Sponging

After one hour you come back to the area you did the pinning or pointing on. Using a bucket of clear water, a brush and a sponge you go over the mortar. With swift taps of the brush you try to get the lime into every last crack and make the full connection to the stones surrounding it, with the sponge you do the same but can be more specific, also cleaning the edges of the stones during the process. With another wet cover to create a damp climate over night, you come back to it the next day for fine tuning. Especially with sponging to clear the stones of the mortar in order to let your wall be the result of a thorough, dedicated work. Here is a link for the full video explanation 'Stone Wall Building 101' on my YouTube Channel. This is my before and after as a first try wall builder:

I felt my body ache after this day, obviously it was a different, more physical work than the days before, but I so enjoyed it and getting praise for a good job feels very good as well. The day ended as it started, full of sunshine. Because of that I wanted to go for a walk with Marjorie to the nearby town of Rathfriland, which apparently is home to a bus stop.

In order to know where it is and where I could go to using the bus, I went into that direction for an afternoon walk. The town itself is, as I suppose a lot of towns are, loud and full of cars, there is, in my humble opinion, nothing special about it and more than that, not one green spot that would invite you to sit down and enjoy it. We did not find the bus stop but I did not mind. Walking home I knew a wonderfully delicious dinner and a very nice conversation was awaiting me.

With that, a good online class, and a new learned skill, I enjoyed my bedtime routine of yoga, meditation and journaling and went to sleep with a smile on my face.


Friday

I tossed and turned, woke up a few times before the alarm, worried I had not set it in the first place. In return this lead to a rather difficult start into the day. Nonetheless I assigned the "one-step-at-a-time" affirmation as the key to this day's success and was relieved to hear that Stewart himself did not feel that pumped as well. At first he suggested we'd split into two half days, one today and one on Saturday, but I was looking forward to a day off which I uttered shyly. Prepared to follow his wishes, after all it was his life I was being part of now and I would not want him to feel as if I was ungrateful, I nonetheless was relieved when he gave it at least a thought. To my pleasure though after he teased me a little bit with getting involved with the worker's union and such, he agreed to one full day of work on Friday and no work on Saturday, admitting that it was true. I haven't had a full day of since my arrival last Saturday, he needed a proper day off too. Either way, we both took it slowly and yet achieved all the to do's on his list, including more wall cleaning, chips collecting, mix preparing and pinning as well as an introduction for me to the concept of an electrical grass trimmer.

With an early finish and the sun up high, I fancied a walk even if it would be along a concrete street and off we went. Again the "crow scarer" with a loud gunshot echoing over the fields, made Marjorie turn around in fear and instead of a long walk we were back an hour later. This however gave me enough time for some nice sunbathing in the garden, after some yoga, meditation and my "arrival's ritual". It consists of me clearing my energy field with palos santo or sage, presenting the land and it's beings with a feather from Switzerland and paying respects, asking for guidance and protection. In short it is an introduction of my energy to the energy of the country or area I will be spending time in.

This day ended with a lot of appreciation as I finally felt like myself again. After a period of adjusting, now it felt as though I was here, fully and truly. Inspiration came, creativity was flowing and a ladybug on Stewart's driveway stonewall made my day complete.

Saturday

Sleeping in is one of the most precious things to me. Since I got here and Stewart's rythm is bound to his work, we always started early. Saturday meant sleeping in and I really needed it. So much indeed that after an one and a half hour morning walk through the "forest" field across the street and the most exquisite brunch, I started out to write but feel asleep after just half an hour on my tablet. By the time I woke up I needed to hurry as I agreed to do the nettle soup cooking, hummous and bread making as well as some extra leek chopping in preparation for the upcoming week. It felt so nice to just go outside an clip off everything I needed for the soup, in this case nettle and leeks (mashed with tulips, freshly harvested garlic, beans, salt and pepper).

Afterwards I had a nice walk, this time it felt nice indeed. I know the way to town by now, knew where Marjorie could be off the lead, had a few nice chats with locals and was back in time for a lovely dinner. As this first day of the weekend draws to a close and I can watch the herd of cows with their calves in the field next to the garden from my window, I truly feel like I have settled.

And what more I am looking forward to giving something of myself to Tullyquilly House, be it some organisational sheets, the trees planted or the walls I will help rebuilding. I want to show my gratitude and thanks and appreciation for letting me be a part of this energy, even if it is only for one and a half months.


I send you all love and light, beloved souls

Nadine

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