dear and darling

Tuesday was for planting strawberries and thyme. Not a bad activity, in my opinion. I spent my hours digging in the dirt contemplating my imminent life. That will have it’s own entry soon enough, I think.

Afterwards Barak and I resumed training the ponies, which is supposed to be happening twice daily. They apparently need to learn to like people and walk in circles so they can be sold at market. They were terrified of humans when I first arrived, but today I got both of them to come to me without having to corner them. And I didn’t coax them with food either. That was pretty satisfying. And I’m glad the fear is gone from their eyes, I found that terribly sad. Animals in captivity always upsets me a bit, no matter the circumstances, but especially if they are obviously unhappy, or frightened, or some other negative emotion. The one I have mainly been working with is especially becoming trusting and affectionate. I will miss them when they go!

Wednesday produced a surprise trip to the legendary bog. We were to collect peat. Basically we piled the dry and mostly-dry bricks of it into wheelbarrows and bagged them. Pretty simple, but kind of difficult since pushing heavy wheelbarrows through gushy bog mud is…strenuous. It is not something I would choose to do for the rest of my days, but it was not as awful as I was made to expect by the comments from John and his sister. It is amazing, though, how mighty a ham and cheese sandwich can taste after a few hours of work. The day proved nice for the work, and the experience was interesting at least. My muscles will protest in the morning.

My hands are officially done for. I am finding it difficult to recall how a person can lead a normal life without having an assemblage of cuts and scratches adorning their skin. My feet have reserved themselves to forever dwelling in wellies. Today during a bout of sun I discarded my wellies and wool socks and sat outdoors. I think my body is unable to decide whether all of this new work and weather is beneficial or harmful…

So, I adore Irish weather. John said it would be hot his week. “Hot meaning…?” was my reply. Weather is entirely relative to where you are from or where you have lived. Hot here apparently is in the sixties. Psh, and they think Florida sounds nice. The temperature is dream-worthy, but my favorite part is the wind. I have never witnessed such fierceness in nature, never such hugeness to the wind, but I find it delightful. The sound, the look, the feel, everything about it has a way of surrounding you and demanding your marvel.

Well, now that I’ve given in to goat milk, I’ve decided to face my plant nemesis:
the stinging nettle.

Mainly because I researched it and it is high in iron. *sigh* my lack of vegan diet lately has presumably not done wonders for my excessively low iron, and so, nettle consumption it is. First I had some in tea, and that was admittedly lovely, and second I had it in a smoothie, and that too was good. Soup is next on the menu…

Things You Can Get Used To continued: various bugs and insects. Today I noticed a slug on my wrist and actually had to think about whether I was going to take the time/make the effort to brush it off.

to the woods and waters wild

I sampled some of the honey from our attack bees, and it is really quite lovely. It is the lightest honey I have ever seen – a light, light palish clear color.

Our new Wwoofer arrived today. The potentially Australian, potentially American, probably male Wwoofer. Turns out he is American. His name is Barak. It’s weird being around an American again. My adapted British/Irish terms feel strange on my tongue. His accent sounds flat and uncommonly common in comparison to the flavored rhythm of Irish speech and the stilted melody of non-native English speakers. It’s strange how you can spend enough time around foreign accents that hearing your native accent in a crowd produces a subconscious tugging on your mind, a slight disconcertion. I noticed this sometime last week. And now certain words catch me off guard – college instead of university, apartment instead of flat. Today I said ‘erbs’ to Barak, and five minutes later said ‘herbs’ to John without thinking anything of it until after the fact. It’s amazing how easily the brain can adapt. I suppose that means that at least I won’t have an awkward transition upon my return to the US where I sound all hoity-toity with my British/Irish vocabulary.

Saturday I was meant to go to the market, but Barak was not properly versed in feeding the animals, so he took my place and I remained at the farm. It was well enough, I had an extremely productive morning and accomplished everything I had planned by 11am. I rediscovered the joys of Pancake Saturday and now I pretty much want to make pancakes every morning. Luckily not enough to wake up earlier every morning in order to prepare them. Between apple pieish things and pancakes, I think I’ve lost all of my healthiness from soup and stone building.

The rest of my day off was spent photographing the farm, cooking meals for the remainder of the weekend (non-pancake meals!), re-feeding the animals, and tackling some more of Les Misèrables.

Sunday displayed real typical Irish weather. It began raining almost immediately after we finished with the animals. And then rotated through cycles of sunshine and greyness, cold and warmth. Barak opted to clean the kitchen, but I retired to my caravan. I nested with books in bed during the rain and perched on my stoop in the rays of the sun. I have abandoned Victor Hugo for the day in favor of flipping through various books of Irish fairytales and folklore that I saved from their dusty states on the shelves of the caravan.

pie-biscuity-pancake-stuffing/pudding

“You can get used to anything”, says John. He is referring to the intensified scent of the male goat, but I’ve found the statement to be true in general. Like not being able to use milk in oatmeal. Like not having a milk substitute. Or living in a caravan that would not be approved of by Mr. Clean, or using a compost toilet (true story), or being hands deep in fowl droppings and various disease-carrying germs every morning. Or the taste of goat’s milk…that’s right, folks. Owen kept saying ‘if you drink it the first or second day, you wouldn’t know the difference from cow’s milk.’ And my old stubbornness thought ‘yeah, but it smells just like strong, nasty goat milk.’ Alas, I resampled it today, and when it is fresh, there is indeed no discernible difference between milk from a cow and milk from a goat. Defeat acknowledged, case closed. Though milk substitutes are still superior.

Jana left today, so it was my first time as a sole Wwoofer. It also meant I was responsible for feeding most of the animals myself. Today involved harvesting for various restaurants in the area. I harvested rocket (arugula), chives, borage, tomatoes, and spinach. This all sounded dandy to me, until I actually started cutting into the rocket. There is a deal, and here it is: a local bee farmer is keeping his bees at John’s farm. Lots of honey, great. Until two days ago when said bee farmer cracks open the combs and examines? Takes? I am unsure of the specifics, let’s say he molests the bee’s honey. And now they are pissed. And our produce includes their flowers. And we have to be near these flowers and their neighboring plants. So naturally, pissed bees + large moving target nemesis = ATTACK!!! I have now been attacked multiple times by the multitude of pissed off bees. The first day I was keeping track of how many times I was stung (three), today I lost count around the time I was being stung on my head, face, and hand simultaneously. So yeah, right now my head hurts. And I wager I am a sight to see in the garden – whenever I hear buzzing I cringe and sink as close to the ground as possible. The dog, Bingo, whom I have not been especially fond of since our meeting, was in the garden as well (Jana calls him our personal body guard, because he literally follows the Wwoofers everywhere). I happened to walk in his general direction during one of my bee-inserting-stinger-into-flesh moments, and the poor dog started getting stung as well. I think he had no clue what was happening – he whimpered and darted one way and then the next, and he kept looking at me like ‘what did I do?’ That was the moment I started liking Bingo. Come to find, ten minutes later, that the bees were burrowing into his fur and he was still being stung. I couldn’t help laughing at his reaction at the time (he looked about how I felt), but I really did feel sorry for him. He was just trying to stay near me and he got stung because of it. Poor Bingo. I forthwith plan on being deserving of his unwarranted loyalty.

Later I was talking to Owen and said something resembling ‘I like honey, but bees sure are merciless when you get near their flowers!’ and he replied ‘well, they spend their whole summer working, and then in a few minutes someone comes and takes all their honey, all their hard work.’ So now I feel bad for bees too. I’m probably going to become one of those vegans who doesn’t eat honey, because now I feel bad for the bees. Oh, all of my apiary plans are teetering on the fine edge of destruction. But I don’t know, bees are kind of jerk creatures with no redeeming qualities other than their delicious honey-vomit and the pleasant scent of their freshly killed corpses.

All is well though, because the bees are departing tonight. Which is good, because now I can have something other than ‘please, God, don’t let me get stung again’ going through my head. I think today is the first day I have ever successfully followed Paul’s (Paul’s?) instruction to ‘pray without ceasing’.

I have not been very inspired to cook. After working all day and being covered in gross stuff I don’t really feel up to being creative, healthy, or productive. Which isn’t conducive to good eating habits. Today I intended to make an apple pie, because it is one of two things I knew I had ingredients for (the other being the previous evening’s supper). That is what I intended. Turned out the oven I wanted to use either doesn’t work or is one of the fancy (actually, thoroughly unfancy) ones that needs to be lit. Either way, I wasn’t about to use it, and I didn’t want to cook in the Wwoofer kitchen. So I decided to make a biscuity thing separate from my already cooked apples (fresh-off-the-tree because, guess what? I’m not in terribly hot, unable-to-grow-delicious-appley-things Florida!) This, in a frying pan. I decided to think of it more like an upside down pie, rather than a biscuity-thing-and-apples thing, because it sounds less complicated. As I was making the ‘crust’, I realized it was really more like a pancake. So I redecided to make it an apple cinnamon pancake. Therefore, I dumped the apple concoction on top (ultimately, what ought to be the bottom) of the ‘pancake’, and it started cooking nicely. Unfortunately, the pan was about fifty quadthousand hundred years old and the biscuity-crust-pancake was not about to be flipped. To add to the suspense, the stove cannot be turned below two, and therefore the bottom (ultimately top) of my pancake would commence burning in mere seconds. So I made a decision. I scrambled my pie-biscuity-pancake, and it turned into something between a stuffing and a pudding, which is what it remained until entering my stomach. This, in honor of the bizarre sequence of structural and titular changes, was topped with syrup. And it was delicious.

thoughts on couchsurfing

I have been wanting to try couchsurfing for a few years now, but this is the first opportunity I have really had. Or, the first opportunity I have taken, rather.

Getting started involves a bit of a conundrum. You need to have references for people to want to host you, but you have to be hosted to get references. Well, that’s not entirely true, you can host people (I would imagine you would need references for that as well) or you can attend meetings and events. Anyways, it’s not quite as easy as it seems initially.

Before coming to London, Christy and I made about thirty couch requests between the two of us. By the time we arrived I think we had heard back from two…and those were declines. Fortunately I found an emergency couch request group for London, and we posted on it the day before we arrived. We had three hosts respond from the emergency group, and later one host responded to our initial couch request.

We had an entirely different experience with each host that we stayed with, which makes perfect sense. Obviously everyone has different personalities, expectations, rules, and everything else.

All in all, two of our hosts gave us keys, two had us come and go according to their schedule, and I spent pretty much all of my time with my host in Cork, so the issue never arose. I made dinner for two of my hosts, and four of my hosts made dinner for me. I consider three of my hosts (as well as some flatmates) to be good friends, whom I will make an effort to see again. I co-surfed with six others, four of whom the previous sentence also applies. I surfed with people from Turkey, Ireland, Switzerland, England, Italy, Austria, Australia, and Czech Republic. I spent the majority of evenings with couchsurfers, doing something or other that I would have never thought/known to do if I had been traveling on my own. I always had somebody to ask when I was confused about something or needed a local opinion. I had a place to sleep, shower, and store my stuff every night while I was traveling. I spent about $20 overall on accommodation, and that was voluntary. Quite simply, I met incredible people whom I love dearly, and these are complete strangers from the internet whom I spent two to four days with. So I guess what I’m saying is: I am a huge fan of couchsurfing. I am rather addicted. And I highly recommend it.

You have to put some effort into it, and you should have a general backup plan, but it is well worth looking into. It makes your trip so much more personal and enjoyable.

the unpleasance of goat milk

My next host runs a goat farm. I had been planning on acquiring the taste for goat milk/products, because I have certainly never liked it before. I had been planning on it, that is, until I tried it again. Goat milk is horrible! I don’t even respect anyone who likes it, because it is not a flavor anyone should enjoy. First I tried it straight and that was gross. Then I tried mixing just an infinitesimal bit into my oatmeal with jam for some flavor. Also gross, though admittedly I stupidly used mint-plumb jam. I like neither mint nor goat milk, so mixing the two in an attempt to make something bearably edible was not likely to happen.

Anyways, I was talking to Jana today while we were planting salads, and I mentioned that I smell goat milk all over the farm, and I think both of us thought I was crazy. Come to find later, it was true! We acquired a male goat yesterday, and he makes everything smell stronger! So I was smelling the female goats that were tied to some trees on the opposite side of the polytunnel. I’m not being paranoid about goat milk.

On the other hand, I find goats welcomely clean. In comparison to the chickens and ducks anyways. I milked one yesterday. I had been told that I would be unsuccessful my first few times, but that wasn’t so. Though I was more slow going about it than is optimal if you are opposed to being kicked. I find it quite enjoyable. Which is kind of weird. Milking animals isn’t on the list of socially acceptable enjoyable activities. But whatever. I just wish that I actually liked the end product. And that it was vegan ;-)
I tried goat cheese too, and that was more acceptable. I plan on using the cheese as a gateway product to being able to cope with goat milk.

kit kats and refugees

Once again my life was want to change. It was my departure from the old newness that I had grown familiar with. This morning seems so long ago.

I awoke and said farewell to Gwenaelle and Cork city once again. Vivien and I shouldered our packs and headed in the direction of Limerick. We made a sign (cleverly reading ‘Limerick’) and waited by the interstate. I have never hitchhiked and never had much interest in the practice. Mainly due to the dissafety, but also due to innecessity. However, everyone I have spoken with here says that hitching in Ireland is both safe and effective. And I didn’t want to pay €17 for a bus to Cork plus some to get to Shannon. So hitching it was. As weather goddess I deemed it should not rain while we were waiting for a ride. Being weather goddess is so handy sometimes! Anyways, we waited for maybe twenty or thirty minutes getting only friendly waves and remorseful head shakes. Then a wonderful man named Patrick who was very late for a plumbing job in Limerick further tardied himself to give us a lift. The drive was about an hour, but we stopped halfway and Patrick bought both Viv and myself Kit Kats. I seriously don’t understand why the entire earth population isn’t trying to relocate to Ireland. The people here are endlessly fantastic. I had to go a bit farther North than Limerick, so Patrick dropped me at an optimal hitching location to Shannon. I parted ways with Viv and said thanks to Patrick, and walked the road to Shannon with my thumb out. It’s interesting hitching here in Ireland, because they drive on the opposite side of the road. It just feels weird, even though I’ve never hitched in America. Anyways, the rain (mist) commenced for my second hitching venture. Fortunately I wasn’t going far, and the second car that passed contained a friendly Liberian named Ferdinand. Both Patrick and Ferdinand gave me their numbers in case I needed further help. I was dropped at a shopping center where I was tasked simply (ha) with contacting my host to have him retrieve me. Well, I tried a payphone and wasted €1.50 because the detested machine ate my money. I found another and tried again. Seriously, only by God’s grace, I got that detestable contraption to connect me to my host, John.

My timing turned out to be pretty convenient as I arrived just before lunch. The entire trip took three and a half hours from Gwenaelle’s to John’s. I was briefly shown around and then I met the current community. John, Nicole, and their girls Saibh and Bevan are permanent residents, Owen is an occasional resident, and Jana is a temporary resident hailing from Czech Republic.

After lunch I stripped tomato plants with Jana. I have never been particularly fond of the scent of tomato plants, but today I found it quite nice. I also did some weeding in the polytunnel. Unfortunately I discovered it was littered with nettles. I freaking hate nettles. Upon my arrival here, we quickly became enemies. Seriously, they can be nice to eat, but I want to boycott them out of spite. No one should support so painful an object. Finally, I helped Owen cover rows of plants for the winter. This process was decidedly mudifying. The leftover child in myself is extremely pleased about the acceptability of being able to get really profusely muddy.

Here at John’s we are left to our own devices for breakfast and dinner. I opted to have tea and clean my caravan before figuring out a meal. The caravan is quite spacious and nice, but it needed scrubbing something fierce. I assigned a place to anything that was out and scrubbed down the counters and floors. I found recently that sometimes in order to feel at home in a place I need to clean it myself. They say you bond with a dog when you bathe it. Perhaps it’s something similar with places. Anyways, I feel more comfortable when it has been cleaned to my standard.

I had discovered a sizable store of incense, and after making myself a pb&j sandwich (with my new tub of peanut butter, because yes, my previous kilogram had been consumed within the past two weeks! Not solely by myself though. In fact I probably personally only ate about one fifth or sixth of it), I lit a stick and watched Ondine on my iTouch. And home was created.

an abundance of mayo, a lack of practicalities

Tom cycled away on Friday morning, leaving our party solely composed of girls. I had intended to resume building the wall, but between the weather, taking care of internet business, and helping with some cooking and cleaning, I never returned to the task.

Friday evening we had a party to attend. It was a farewell party up the road. Vivien, myself, and Laura were known as Switzerland, America, and Germany, respectively. It was an interesting atmosphere, and very different from the hippie party I had previously attended. There was a point in the evening where people took turns singing. The voices and songs alike were mesmerizing. It is a part of the culture here. Singing seems just to be a natural part of life. I covet the frequency and ubiquitousness of unextraordinary music.

The next day was the end of my time at Annie’s. I wish I could have remained longer, but it wasn’t so. We piled in the car and headed back to Cork city. Per usual, I quickly fell asleep. Being a passenger in cars already makes me sleepy, but winding up-and-down European roads also make me a tad nauseous, so sleep is almost guaranteed.

Laura, Viv, and I met up with Gwenaelle who had moved into her flat since we last saw her. Viv and I left our bags at her place, and we all headed out to a pub for a music session. We met possibly all of the French students at UCC, because apparently there is a ‘that person speaks my language!’ radar in every student studying in a foreign country. I had to say goodbye to Laura and Annie, but I was to spend another day with Vivien and Gwenaelle.

I found this gem, drawn by Tom at Gwenaelle’s.

We made Indian food for lunch, took a walk, and headed for another pub the next night. I’m not sure if in have mentioned already, but Gwenaelle is studying music in Cork. She is a brilliant fiddle and concertina player. She has been frequenting local pubs and joining in on music sessions. Viv and I were fortunate to attend one such session. It was really awesome! I am rather a fan of traditional Irish (‘trad’) music. Afterwards we went home, had dinner, and went to bed.