Day 217 - 242: A Place of Projects - Hello, Ballymore Organic Farm!
11.8. - 29.8.2021
And here we are, in the midst of nowhere. Surrounded by streets, fields and a lot of livestock.
Our hosts are Hubert, called Hugh, Nadine, his partner, and Bruno, the 11 year old sweet bear-dog.
Although there is a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle for meat, the main focus on this farm is on vegetable production. As a certified EU organic producer, in this area, and especially in the branch of farming, Hugh says he is somewhat a unicorn since everyone in Ireland is advised to intensify the beef ‘production’. All the more reason for him to gain experience with vegetables and how to grow a vast variety, being able to live off it and make it more organic than even the label requires. There is no real education in Ireland for organic production as well, so he spends a lot of time trying to broaden his knowledge and trying out new things that he sees online. He really is a kind- hearted and very motivated person, giving this farm his all.
An ordinary week this time of year consists of three days working on the fields, harvesting everything that had been ordered for market day on Thursday in Carrick-on-Shannon, two supermarkets from the SuperValu chain, as well as a few private customers. There is potatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, beetroots, scallions, onions, leeks, cucumbers and courgettes.
This is the time of year for harvesting a lot and selling everything, during winter there is more or less just the maintenance of the house, like firewood and cleaning, and the animals to be taken care of. On Thursday the red Van is off to get the orders delivered, afterwards some grocery shopping for own needs and keeping up with the household. Friday starts with harvesting potatoes or onions, making bundles of onions for drying and basically doing everything there was no time for during the first three days of the week when everything circles around getting the deliveries ready.
Since there is no way Marjorie and I can walk anywhere, which is the case with most WWOOFers, Hubert does his best to take us to hikes, parks and other places. It is just absolutely lovely how Hugh takes care of his guests, driving them somewhere and then with one call picking them up again.
Lough Key stood on the top of my list, it is a huge park and forest area and the closest I could get to being near water, have a glimpse of vastness and nearly undisturbed nature around me.
On a Saturday Hugh delivers food to the market in Boyle, so afterwards he took me into the forest park. Marjorie and I had from nine in the morning until two o’clock in the afternoon to explore the area, share a vegan sandwich and relax, ground ourselves, give awareness and mindfulness to this new part of Ireland we are able to experience right now.
I have not yet seen anything at all but we will be back. In my mind I plan to approach the park from a starting point in Boyle the next time. According to our host a path leads from the town directly into the park which will give Marjorie and I the opportunity to see Boyle and have a nature retreat afterwards, maybe even rent one of the small fisherman boats and float over the still waters of the Lough. But on the top of my list is having more times with the majestic trees of all sizes and shapes. There are some many varieties of woods, all with different energies to them, different ambiance, different sounds and smells. Seeing only a glimpse of them was not enough, that is for sure. And since I will be back on the Isle of Lewis for the winter very soon where there are no forests, I need to take in every single one I encounter before my departure.
Our second adventure, still in our first week here was as magnificent as the day in the Lough Key Forest Park. On our first market day tour we delivered goods to a garden and educational center in Knockvicar. Not part of this center but their immediate neighbour is an Alpaca Farm that offers walks with the animals.
One walk is a loop along and through a forrest with a section going along Lough Key as well. So on our first Sunday, Hugh drove us there and we were two hours outside, experiencing our first taste of County Roscommon. It was an energising feeling to be in a forest again, no sounds of cars or anything human near us. The simple joy of bees and other insects buzzing about their business and birds twittering their stories, occasionally a breeze making branches creak or leaves fluster. We encountered Cloontykilla Castle as well, right beside the Lough. Hubert told me beforehand that the owner of it was on a celebrated UK TV show called ‘Grand Designs” and has been working on this heart project of his for years and years on end. Apparently he will not be finished anytime soon. Either way it was an enchanting sight, coming out of the woods and seeing the grey stone towers emerge over a stretch of grass, swaying gently in the wind and then all of a sudden disappearing again between the branches of great, big trees by the shore of another part of Lough Key.
There is something calming about routines, like I mentioned in an earlier blog post, and by the beginning of week two I had seen a whole week’s essence of work. With that knowledge I asked Hugh if I could take off and explore Carrick-on-Shannon and meet up before they were about to leave and go back home. Marjorie and I were able to spend a little more than two hours and see all that Carrick has to offer. The delightful market space where you can find anything from fish, other meat, flowers, a wide assortment of baked goods, vegetables of course and sweet sins as well. With a holistic shop on one side and The Olive Tree on the other side, it is the perfect spot to spend the morning, have a few nice chats and buy everything needed for your week ahead.
Fish and all sorts of other meats, a variety of cheeses, breads, flowers, vegetables and sweet pastries, cakes, cookies, pies and muffins. The smells of coffee and all sorts of delicacies are just heavenly . Combined with the bustle of all sorts of people, chatter, laughing and children running around having fun, it makes for a gorgeous Saturday morning. Somehow it reminded me of the home I once called Aarau, where every Saturday a huge market took place. It brought back all the memories of my beloved medieval Swiss town, the colourful houses, greetings exchanged, small talk about the health of family members and mutual acquaintances. Carrick in and of itself is rather small, at least the core of the town. Outside the half-roofed market place runs a street where pubs, shops and stores are situated in colourful houses, all nestled up beside each other, all with different energies to them, all differently coloured. Here and there you find churches belonging to different religious beliefs. One very small church houses two tombs of commoners, who paid a lot of money to be buried there and who remain to this day the only two people in it. Kind of a morbid tourist attraction between a pub and a shop.
The bridge opens up on both sides to two beautiful parks. One rather small and the other more spacious, both directly by the river Shannon. Boats sway in the water, ducks and swans share their space and breadcrumbs from passers-by, even an area dedicated to biodiversity found a place in it. A smile appeared on my face when I discovered a secondhand open library, similar to the one by the coast in Moville, directly near the field of biodiversity with its multiple facets of flowers and bug hotels.
Back home, I felt the urge to realise another project that I have been wanting to do for ages. Both Hubert and Nadine, had loved a bench on the backside of their house, but it broke. Two and two came together because I wanted to build a bench out of pallets myself ,as I said, for a long time and they were in desperate need of a nice, comfortable seating area outside their house. And so it came to be that on my second Saturday here, I stayed in and spend my whole day sawing, sanding and screwing my very first crafts(wo)man job, I have to admit, I am proud of it. Since this bench came into existence, I have spend every single evening on there, sometimes even Marjorie hopped onto it and rested by my side, while I sipped a cup of rice milk, read another book or did an outside online course session.
Out of this experience another project was birthed, or in fact three more. Firstly Nadine and I, we will transform the single tray concrete wall, attached to the old barn, in order to make a lovely wooden background for a new seating area. A former WWOOFer build them a picknick table and after painting it, the decision was made unanimously that it should be placed at the front of the house within an outside sitting are that matched its beauty. Second on the list is something that lets my heart pump faster. Hubert has given me permission to make use of my previously gained knowledge about stone walls. So instead of plastering the barn to match the rest of the white house, I will have time to repair the outside of the barn’s stone wall where, if everything grows well, roses can climb up, completing the backside of the seating area and adding to the cottage-style feeling both Hugh and Nadine like very much.
And thirdly I will repair their backside bench and up-cycle the wood that is still good, match it to another set of transformed wood pallets and return to them their beloved sitting area on the back side of the house. There is loads to do! And I am pumped with excitement about it.
Sometimes I almost forget that I am travelling. All the better that there is Hugh, reminding me that he wants to take me to see places. And so he did. The following day, after completing the bench outside, he took Marjorie and I to a mountain, Becklieve, where the Carrowkeel Passage Tombs are located. It was the first day without rain since we arrived here and the sun was burning down on us while we walked along fields with livestock, through valleys and crossed bogs. We did not made it up to the tombs but I am certain we will give it another try, approaching from the other side then. However, it was not the sightseeing I was after but the simple joy of hiking again, through uneven terrain and crossing fences (obviously following a path, we did not give in to illegal activities!), and being able to be up so high that we were able to once again admire the view over the vastness of land. It truly was majestic when we came nearer to the mountain that houses the tombs.
A hundred shades of green, humming of insects everywhere and only occasionally the sound of a plane overhead. The calmness and stillness, the sound of Marjorie sniffing and my own breath, blended in formidable with the sound of grassing cattle, warning cries of sheep when we came near or the neighing of horses in the distance. A welcome change to the duties of a work week and the sight of the same grounds day in and day out. If there is time, and I am sure there will be plenty of it, I want to start at Castlebaldwin and hike up there once more. Less so for the attraction of the tombs, more for the spectacular view. Although I am pretty sure that the sight of a historical pagan cemetery will also fulfil my spiritual curiousness in awe and wonder.
Coming home from what felt like the top of Ireland, I saw the main house in a different light as well. It is situated on a hill itself and while eating dinner, seated on the result of my skills as a craftswoman, the red pallet bench, I saw the view from the house over the land falling down in a slope what seems to be the first time. The sun was setting, the sky was painted in light blue, pastel pink and shades of indigo, one single white cloud slowly making its way towards the Atlantic and a pale white full moon was rising from the other side.
Yes, we are happy here. Marjorie is once more in love with everyone she meets, a special place in her huge heart dedicated to Hubert. I feel exhilarated by the projects lying ahead, the meaningful talks I share with Nadine while picking vegetables with bare hands out of fertile, healthy soil and the kindness and warmth of both my hosts.
There is so much to do live for, so much opportunity, possibility, love, goodness, grace, humility, gratitude. So much life!
All of it now available to watch in motion picture, right here!
With all my heart to yours, I thank you, I appreciate you, I honour all of you!
Sending you, as always, love and light, my beloved souls, out there, everywhere across this wild, wide, wonderful Mama Earth