Cead Mile Failte !

A 'hundred thousand welcomes' to friends of all things Irish, organic, and environmentally friendly. I hope you enjoy my anecdotes and little vignettes. I appreciate comments. If you like it, why not become a follower? Click on Archive and then scroll down to the very bottom for the beginning of our story. Or see: http://Ioncehadafarminireland.blogspot.com/

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Obama Allotment

The previous piece of Irish news below obviously doesn’t carry the same importance here in the USA as when the Obama’s dig up a patch of their south lawn in March to plant veggies, for the first time at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. Not only has it provided healthy vegetables for the first family but also educated the nation’s kids (or at least a selected bunch of them) about health living, healthy food and the connection to a greener environment as well as the joy one derives from harvesting one’s own, at a time when obesity has become a national concern and rows for food stamps become longer by the week. For me it’s the political and environmental symbolism that counts. The plots were in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises helped control harmful bugs.
If you followed the news there, the crop was plenty.
And I'd veture to say Michelle's applaudable enterprise furthered many causes, organic and healthwise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Allotments back in fashion

On a weekly news round-up "Out of Ireland" that I'm watching here in the US regularly to keep up to date with my former country, I saw a report yesterday on the growing popularity of allotments. Enniskerry started this at the beginning of the year, converting fields into little patches of a few square meters for people who are worried where their veggies are coming from, what insecticides etc. are used on them, or the sheer price of them. Interesting- like back in the old days when people were so poor they had to grow their own. Or is it just happening because the Celtic Tiger is hibernating or comatose?

People who had never seeded anything before were surprised and delighted at the outcome. How easy it was. Nothing like your own grown carrots or potatoes. They taste different. The educational aspect was a joy to see - how parents got involved with their kids in this little project. The autumn crop was good and they were planting winter vegetables like cabbage now.

Enniskerry started off with ca. 50, now had 180 and expects to extend this program. Well done, Enniskerry! Close to my heart and home, I lived in Bray, both in Co. Wicklow, until I moved to the States.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Plow and Harrow –not a Pub but the Beginning of Husbandry

April is high time to get the land ready for planting. St. Patrick’s Day in March is often like a hallmark where the weather gods show some signs of benevolence. Alas, that first spring when we moved to Ireland was particularly inclement, cold and wet, so that the plowing for our vegetable patch remained in the planning stages for a while. It was particularly late in the year to get early potatoes in the ground. My Ex (he has a name, but let’s call him Mac), designed the layout of the vegetable garden with great care according to John Seymour’s suggestions regarding which vegetables go well together, e.g. , carrots and onions. This is important to know for crop rotation and minimizing bug infestations. We bought seed potatoes that had sprouted already at the creamery (i.e. farmers’ supply & feed store where small farmers also take their milk each day. Big farmers have their milk picked up by a dairy truck). Normally you can save money and make potatoes sprout yourself by leaving them in a warm place in the house. For convenience sake and in order to guarantee a big enough yield, he opted to plant in rows of 50 m in a corner of a sun facing wide open field adjacent to the garden below the house. It had a gate already for easy access from the road. At the moment, the field was grassland and needed to be plowed before we could seed or plant anything. He had bought a plow and harrow during earlier visits which he wanted to use with one of the two tractors we had schlepped over. I kept myself busy with unpacking the truckload full of moving boxes and setting up the house. Eventually the big day came where he would try to plow, the Saturday before Easter which happened to be his 40th birthday. My idea of a big birthday bash in Germany had been thwarted by his deliberate choice of moving day. Instead he spent the day huddled on an ancient tractor in a rainproof wax jacket jacket and a green woolly Aran cap.First the tractor didn’t start. We hauled it into the village for the local garage to have a look at it. I had never towed anything, never mind a tractor on narrow country roads. When that was fixed, several attempts to turn the naturally heavy, fertile soil failed because the land was still to sodden for the old plow. The afternoon had well progressed when the enterprise was aborted because the light snow flakes –unusual for this time of year- came down thick. Mac stood next to the tractor, smoking a fag, cursing, when a car on the road stopped. Out stepped Phil, the local builder, currently making big bucks in the UK. He was on his way to Mass in his fineries when he saw Mac’s predicament. Maybe stopped out of curiosity. We knew him, because he had fixed our chimney earlier in the year, not totally satisfactorily and there had been a dispute about it.Nevertheless, he climbed over the gate and walked on the wet furrows in his Sunday shoes. Having grown up on a farm, he must have known something that Mac didn’t because he managed to turn the remaining rows within an hour, just before dark. We invited him in for whiskey as a thank you and warm up. He took the glass standing in the doorway, soaked, on account of his shoes being clogged with earth and then preceded to church.I had hoped to follow a German tradition later that evening, the Easter bonfire, to say farewell to winter, but the wood I had gathered was too wet to ignite or burn. Instead I invited the neighbors and their four children to come over for a drink. They sat on our sofas like organ pipes, uncomfortable at small talk, but we toasted the birthday boy. So much for a 40th birthday party which our family and friends in Germany had anticipated. Our adventure was about to begin.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Big Move

We arrived on April Fool’s Day. Actually, it was April 2 when the kids and I made it over by plane. However, nomen est omen! (The name itself is an omen)
My Ex had traveled ahead with his Jeep and a tractor in tow. A beautiful Deutz 54. “Almost the vintage of my wife”, he used to joke. For an interesting viewing of this machine see: http://www.15er-deutz.de/http:/www.15er-deutz.de/. There had been two prior trips to haul over farm machinery that he had bought in Germany, a combine harvester and a threshing machine. The threshing machine was an enormous monstrosity, impractical to maneuver long distance, across the Irish Sea, and on narrow Irish country roads. But it was cheap and it might come in handy, you never know; if not as an actual tool, at least for the agricultural farm museum he was planning. My Ex was a hoarder (pack rat).
In order to handle it, it had to be dismantled. It was a 3-day job for an experienced farm machinery serviceman who was in his 70s. He had worked on these things all his life and his son had many years of experience under his belt too. Two pictures of the joke were taken to be sure to know how to re-assemble the machine in Ireland. And off it went on its emigrational journey.
I’m not giving the punch line away, but you can imagine it was never put together again. This Humpty-Dumpty was either too tricky or too big, parts were either badly marked and nobody around who had seen this type of thresher and worked on it. Or it was outright cheaper to rent a modern one when the time came. Starting the farm and keeping it running as a one man band kept its owner too busy anyway.
An 18-wheeler or articulated truck with all our belongings arrived a few days later at the farm. It had done the 200km journey from the port in Rosslare twice, because the driver failed to have the proper transport papers signed. We waited yet another day in an almost empty house. The huge truck blocked the country road for a full day while we unloaded. Whenever a car tried to pass, the truck driver had to jiggle it a few yards backwards and then forwards again. The neighborhood took to us from the start…

Monday, October 5, 2009

Haunted Houses

This is not a blog about ghosts but with Halloween coming up, I can’t refrain from telling this true one.
Ghost stories stand and fall with the trustworthiness of the person who vouches she knows it on good authority. And that in Ireland is usually the friend of a cousin once removed.
Leaving Killaloe, where we purchased our abode, on the road to Scarriff, there is a 2-story stone house on the left hand side. Its dark bare windows give the property an abandoned, foreboding look while the huge front lawn is always meticulously mown and the landscaping simple but well kept. In full view in front of the downstairs windows are several beautiful specimens of truly blue hydrangea bushes. These caught my eye while we were still farm hunting.

I wondered whether it was for sale because it was obviously empty, but I didn’t dare to walk up to the door and find out. The farm buildings belonging to this house are across the road. A huge sycamore tree towers over everything at the roadside gate, the tree trunk protected by heavy steel bars. I wondered what the obviously expensive enclosure was about.

Pauline, the guarantor of this story, my one time housekeeper and later friend, who likes a good yarn but is generally a reliable person, told me about the drama behind this house. She is, by the way, the grand niece of the Irish freedom fighter and hero Michael Collins.
In 1923, the times of the troubles, when Ireland was torn by a civil war, there lived a family of five who were IRA supporters. One dark night when all were in bed, there was terrible knocking of rifles on the door. It was the Black and Tans, the most feared and vicious British brigade, that all but terrorized local communities. Their primary task was to make Ireland hell for the rebels to live in. They meant business. Suspecting traitors in this house, they broke down the door, and killed the whole family bar a son of 9 years of age who manage to scramble out during the bedlam. He stole away and hid across the road in a tall tree, which saved his life. As the only survivor, he takes care of house and lawn and protects the tree in memory of the tragedy that befell his family.
Is the house haunted? Yes, everybody knows that and well, what do you expect after so many killings? Could I talk to the owner? No, he is a bit funny in the head, has never been the same since.
While we didn’t buy that house, I drove by it regularly, and each time couldn’t help remembering the horror that occurred in such a peaceful rural area.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ghost Stories

Well, the ghosts...! It's amazing how many haunted houses there seem to be if you start looking for them. Another estate agent (in Co. Meath) told us wild stories about his vast experience with haunted houses the minute he detected the interest of my Ex in these matters: moving furniture, creaking floorboards, and the chill in the rooms, etc. The usual. Co. Meath seemed to be particularly ghostridden. Since we were genuinely interested in one particular farm, we stopped by the neighbors to suss them out. The farmer's wife, a mother of 5, doubled as a school teacher. We reckoned she had her head screwed on the right way and wasn't into make-believe as such. No, there were no ghosts. Not anymore anyway since Father Gogarty had said mass there. So now for you! A little cottage down the road, abandoned for donkey's years but not in disrepair, sits looming on a curve in the road. An Irish friend, Sheila, explained to me that she saw Little People there at night sometimes when she came home late around midnight. Maybe a case of too much of the brown stuff? Doing my research for this blogs and all things Irish, I stumbled across a book with the title "The Lively Ghosts of Ireland," published 1967, by a German sounding Hans Holzer, an American, however, who traveled to the Green Isle regularly for research on haunted houses. What they often have in common is a tragic death that befell somebody in or around the house. And Ireland history with its 800 year long occupation and subjugation is full of tragic stories.Holzer's psychic travelling companion sometimes is able to set the ghost at ease, to send them home or lay them to peace. Marvelous. The interest in ghost lore -like in UFO's- never ceases. As a regular reader of the Skeptic Inquirer, I see that a lot of debunking is still being done in that magazine and needs to be done. I'll have a real haunted house story for you the next time. With real ghosts in our new home town...