your fathoms will do

October the twentieth dawned clearish and bright like any number of days. But I was unaware of this fact. Yes, in the year 2011, on the twenty-second anniversary of my existence, I forgot my birthday. Which sounds completely pathetic, but I don’t mind a bit. I’ve never been keen on having a day dedicated to having a profusion of attention focused on myself. So being in another country, with people who don’t know my date of birth, and not paying particular attention to a calendar was a satisfactory birthday indeed. I spent most of the day in the process of deworming goats. Which, isn’t as unpleasant as it sounds.

I am becoming really fond of the goats. It took hardly any time to learn their names, and a few days later Liam and I could take them to pasture ourselves because ‘they know us now’. And they do. They walk confidently and trustingly along with us and they eagerly reciprocate our affection. Goats are lovely animals. Despite determining not to have favorites, there is a trio that has definitely secured a special place in my heart. Carraig, Oilean, and Kedra are their names. That said, I am honestly pretty attached to all of them.

Ed’s son is nearly an official fisherman, and he’s given me the task of making up his fishing lines. Apparently men are inferior at (or incapable of) tying fancy knots. Thank you mom, for teaching us knot-work. Homeschooling for the absolute win. So anyways, the list of jobs for which I am qualified continues to expand.

Ed is pretty involved in the betterment of Ireland, and he left today for a couple of days trip to Dublin. Which left Liam and I to manage Cleire Goats by ourselves. We did pretty well in my entirely inexpert opinion. For dinner I made pancakes. Neither Liam nor Duncan had ever experienced plate-sized pancakes before. They are officially enlightened.

On Wednesday we weren’t to open the shop, and since neither Ed nor Duncan were around to supply us with tasks to do, we had the day to do what we liked. Liam opted to catch up on How I Met Your Mother (I’m not bitter about him being on the latest season…), and so I slipped off down to the cliffs. I was informed later that Ed in fact owns all of the land that I explored. Which is amazing. How could anyone own such a gorgeous stretch of land? It just so happens that I discovered my favorite place on earth.

There is this sort of T-shaped peninsula thing, which I was initially hesitant to venture onto because….it’s really high. And the passage onto it is thinnish. And yes, there are sharp rocks at the bottom. But I did, because I like cliffs. And I apparently can no longer be bothered with danger. So, yeah, I found this secluded alcove cut down into the rock there. It is composed of half-sun, half-shade, partially sheltered from the wind, and carpeted with super soft, bug-less grass. Basically the perfect place to lay and just think. And…I wish I could just teleport there whenever I desired.

the road, taken or otherwise

This, my ever-changing, relaxed and purposeful, people, travel, and outdoor filled life has about the tangibility of a dream. If I sit and consider it I can scarce believe that this is an actual tangent of my life. Despite my emotional tethers to people and rituals in the states, and not un-expected issues coping with complete lack of normalcy, these past few months have been exciting, transformative, and satisfying.

I managed to exchange words with a few friends I haven’t spoken with in awhile and all of them asked ‘so…do you actually like it?’ I suppose that chronicling the events isn’t the same as blatantly conveying my sentiments on the subject. The answer is: absolutely! I could hardly be happier, and I am so glad that I came. I am so thankful that a handful of life plans fell through, that I shrugged off my attachments to familiarity, that I took up decisiveness, and strove for something that I really wanted.

I cannot comprehend returning to my life in Florida, resuming the status quo back in the United States. That reality seems farther than mere distance. I spoke for so long about waiting to make further plans until I ‘arrived in Ireland’ and ‘experienced Wwoofing’, and unbelievably both of those have been realized. A thousand tentative situations have streamed through my mind, but the concept of actually setting plans hadn’t really occurred to me.

I have no desire to spend another second of habitation in Florida, and I figure if I’m leaving anyways I might as well venture outside of the US. That idea also seems surreal. With no anchor to academics, work, leases, or other obligations I feel like little more than a spirit – able to travel with whichever wind it takes to. What freeness! But that freedom to fly does have weight to it. I don’t foresee returning to the States (to live) once, if ever, I leave. And that means leaving behind an awful lot.

For someone who puts so much stock in relationships, I tend to relocate myself excessively. Which doesn’t allow for flourishing relationships (though by God’s providence I have been blessed with more than a few anyways). I don’t give my roots time to really take hold. And that is something I desire. Really I would like to scoop up everyone I know and spread them around me wherever it is I should happen to reside for a lengthful amount of time. But that won’t happen, and so I am left with returning temporarily to any one of several places I detest in order to have a few extra months in current relationships, or leaving for somewhere new and starting something new.

I have no idea what the future holds, and only God knows what my life contains after Ireland. But, as my feelings are concerned, I hope to return to Ireland at least until The Epic Untitled Mosa Lina Road Trip. Lord willing, and Irish government allowing. I adore this place, I am infatuated with these people, and I have a few ideas for how I would like to spend my time here, should I be able to do so. If I am unable to remain here in Ireland, then I will research some other options, but for now I am starting to make the necessary inquiries and preparations for returning.

Anyways, that’s the desire. Now you are aware. You will have to wait, the same as me, to see where it goes.

where there are oceans

The drive from dear Cork to Rosscarbery, in western Cork has been the loveliest bit of Ireland I’ve seen thus far (this was before reaching Baltimore and Cape). I acquired transportation and accommodation with a previous Wwoofer of Ed’s (my next host). Her name is Lena and she is lovely. Her house (‘The Hideaway’ if we go by the sign outside the door, and we shall) is all whitewashed walls and wide windowsills glowing with golden sunlight. I spent the evening getting to know Lena and acquiring expectations and inside bits about Ed and the experience Wwoofing at his farm. The next morning I settled onto the upstairs windowsill with a constant cup of tea, and there I began three different books. In the afternoon I took the buses Lena had instructed, deposited my bag at a pub in Baltimore, and spent the day exploring the town by the sea.

Baltimore is admittedly what I pictured Ireland being. Dramatic cliffs peering over the ocean, white houses dotting the landscape, endless wind, and green, lots of green. I spent hours walking through the mountains, looking for sea glass in tiny beach alcoves, climbing cliffs, and discovering hidden caves. It was a lovely, gorgeous, magnificent day.

In the evening I took the small, orange ferry to Cape Clear (know mostly as just ‘Cape’).

At the farm, I was first greeted by Ed’s two German Shepherd guide dogs, one working and one retired. Next I stumbled across Ed himself, and another Wwoofer, Liam, from Canada. We had tea, brought the goats in, and I was queried ‘do you like cooking?’. Umm…yes, absolutely. Liam and I made dinner, which was followed by several cups of tea, and nobody retired until after midnight. Which is apparently going to be the trend. Does that bother me? No, no it does not.

There are seventeen goats here. One male, four kids, and twelve ‘ladies’ as Ed refers to them. Nine of which are milked once per day. These goats are ever so much nicer than John’s. Kicking is a very rare occurrence, I’ve been neither bitten nor headbutted, and the goats actually like people! I attribute this to how politely and kindly Ed treats them. He even sings to them while he’s milking. I am very fond of old Irish and English folk songs, and so milking alongside Ed is really pleasant. I’ve not partaken yet in either the cheese or the ice cream making, but I have definitely eaten the ice cream. So far I’ve had chocolate and strawberry, and both have been quite nice. It doesn’t taste very different from regular ice cream. In fact, the milk here is much less potent than the milk at John’s. Which, I will certainly not complain about.

I adore Cape. I umm…can’t really see myself not living on a mountainous island. I’ve sort of ruined the rest of the earth for myself. It’s absolutely beautiful here. The farm overlooks the ocean and various other small islands. I can see the ruins of a castle and a few lighthouses, and fields and fields of green. It’s that soft blowing-gorgeously-in-the-wind grass that you see in movies. Really, all of Cape is composed of scenery that is used for those epic and breathtaking shots. Every time I walk outside I am caught anew by the fact that I am in such a beautiful place. Yesterday Liam and I walked to the ruins and just sat there with the Irish wind moving busily about us, the ocean swelling with its constant sound, and simply basked in how all of the blues and greens of the earth, water, and sky mingle. There really isn’t enough poetry on earth to convey the magnificence of this place. Way to go, God!

Anyways, I am currently living in a house with my own room and an always-flushing toilet. How novel! It’s amazing how quickly you get used to things. I find myself having to try really hard to remember to flush the toilet. Meals here are dependent on the Wwoofers, which suits me just fine. We also have loads of tea each day. Again, I couldn’t be happier about that. There is a lot of spare time here. It doesn’t seem like it, because all of said time is devoted to tea and conversation. Ed has ceaseless stories, and Liam and I are basically old friends by now.

So, all in all, I am content.

the spider jar

This entry was scheduled to be ‘gallivants in Galway’, but life happened, and I remained at John’s farm. I returned to the market in Galway today, and this week saw me with more work than the last. I’d say John was away for a majority of the day, and so I was in charge. I really enjoy the market atmosphere. Markets, in my opinion, are the Bed & Breakfasts of shopping. Superior quality, lack of bureaucracy, existence of intimacy. I like the people who sell at markets, and the people who buy at markets. I like the colors, the scents, the sounds. Just everything is lovely.

Today I actually walked around Galway some as well. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to stay for the weekend. Even though I’ve fallen in love with Cork, I must admit that Galway does seem a better city. But, that is a city for another time.

Upon our return from the market (after a brief stop for ice cream), we were introduced to the new Wwoofer, Zoe, from France. She is from the Alps, near where I stayed threeish years ago. I spoke with her some, but spent most of my evening preparing for my departure.

Monday morning found me on a bus directed towards Cork City. Cork City once again. I made my usual stop at the Quay Co-op, purchased still more peanut butter (I still have just a bit left), enjoyed a fabulous vegan meal, and waited for my ride to Skibberreen (well, close enough), where I was to catch another bus, followed by a ferry from Baltimore to Cape Clear – southernmost (inhabited) point of Ireland and my final destination.

sometimes we do midnight gardening

I couldn’t begin to say the experience has been better at either John’s or Annie’s. But it definitely isn’t difficult to say the work has been more diverse at John’s. So far I have:

•Fed many animals many, many times.

•Milked goats.

•Trained ponies.

•Harvested dozens of foods including kilos and kilos of spinach, beetroots, rocket, kale, parsley, coriander, sage, basil, chives, borage, cucumbers, courgettes, tomatoes…

•Packaged all of the aforementioned and more.

•Stripped tomato and mustard plants and pulled them up.

•Planted various salads, thyme, and strawberries.

•Potted on seemingly hundreds of thyme plants.

•Sowed ever so many seeds.

•Transplanted trays of tiny salads.

•Rooted sage cuttings.

•Weeded herb and salad beds.

•Helped sell at market.

And probably more that I cannot recall. I’ve learned a lot here, but I wish I could stay longer. I feel like I’ve sampled quite a lot without being entirely satiated. Like I’ve seen a great trailer, but not the full length film. But anyways, there are other places, other things to learn. Everything happens.

a type of invisible scar

I think that I have permanently lost feeling in the tip of my right middle finger. Is one day too soon to determine whether something is permanent? Luckily there is a semi-interesting story behind this semi-tragedy.

Today all hell broke loose for the who-knows-how-manyth-time. I left Barak to the animal feeding in order to start the goat milking. Well, halfway through goat number one Barak came and requested help as the upstairs chickens and one of the rabbits had escaped. I intended to finish milking the current goat (the nicer one) and then go help catch the escapee animals. I was very minorly (why is majorly a word, but minorly is not?) perplexed when the goat toppled the bucket of oats, but oh what perplexion (this should also be a word) was in store.

On my way to help Barak, I discovered four goats had escaped as well! So I went and informed him of the newer, more urgent dilemma, and ran back to capture the four goats. Well, first of all I used my keen powers of observation to note that they had escaped because their fence had sort of caved in. The fence consists of several six foot high segments of metal bar sections spanning maybe ten or twelve feet each, and attached by ropes. The idea is that it can move about the yard in order to provide new spots of grass for the goats to consume. But, if each segment isn’t correctly angled it can fall inward or outward. Anyways, I used my fantastic logistical skills to determine I ought to fix the fence before recapturing the goats. It just so happens one of them, Trouble, followed me and went willingly back into captivity. Way to go, Trouble! So, as I was attempting, unsuccessfully, to rearrange the fence so that it would actually stand straight, suddenly one of the most painful sensations I’ve ever experienced came upon me. The index, middle, and ring fingers of my right hand were caught between two sections of the fence. And they were stuck. And it was tight. And heavy. And did I mention it freaking hurt? I tried pulling them out, I tried moving the fence, I tried sliding my hand up and down, I tried moving the fence some more. All the while my brain is flashing between

‘insert-more-profanity-than-I’ve-used-in-my-entire-life-here, this hurts!

‘my fingers aren’t going to work ever again!’

‘what do I do?!?’

more profanity in various languages

‘oh my gosh, this hurts so much I’m going to vomit. Am I going to vomit? I’m going to vomit!’

‘God, please help me!!’

My fingers were not their normal color nor their typical shape. I was neither impressed nor amused. I was also not sure what to actually do. I was stuck with a few escapee goats in a field, in great pain, half out of my mind, unable to move. (Afterwards I thought back to Aron Ralston and I have a whole new respect for that poor guy stranded in the middle of nowhere with his arm stuck in a rock.) Pretty much I was left with trying to really move the fence drastically and potentially (likely) breaking my fingers, or waiting for help. I don’t know how long all of this went on, my brain attributes a few years to the ordeal, but I imagine it was somewhat less. Either way, while my mind was strobing through the aforementioned thoughts, Barak came around the corner. I didn’t really trust what would come out of my mouth if I tried shouting to him, but my pain overtook my inhibitions and I did so anyways. I’m pretty sure I said something safe like ‘my fingers are stuck!’. So he came and tried shifting the fence, also decidedly unsuccessfully at first. The difference was he couldn’t feel the pain of the fence moving, so he could move it more than I could. And with me pushing my fingers with my left hand and pulling with my right, and Barak moving the fence, my fingers were freed from their crushed state between that cursed fence. The pain didn’t cease, but it allayed just the tiniest bit. Or perhaps that was just the cessation of my fears of never being freed from that awfulness. And forever having three useless fingers (or not having fingers!) I took a few minutes to jump up and down and walk doubled over and alternate between shaking my hand and holding it close like a broken wing. But, alas, there were still three goats to be caught. So I sucked up my pain and grabbed a lead/lasso (with my left hand, thank you) and trotted after the trio. I actually managed to catch one, but technically two because the one I caught was the mother of another and it willingly followed her anywhere. The other I swear is half-deer. At this point John and Owen joined our corralling party and we caught the final goat. And so the ordeal of animal-escape-chaos and finger-pain-hell was finished. But now, the following evening I cannot feel anything with my middle finger, and I suspect it may be permanently numb. At least I still have all of my fingers in their entirety, and as a bonus all of my nails are intact as well!

beautiful, intricate details

I can hardly comprehend that my time at John’s farm is nearing an end. Owen asked me, was I staying for another week, or two weeks. I thought, ‘surely two’, but there is actually only one week left. I remember arriving and thinking the time here would pass more slowly than it had at Annie’s, but that was an inaccurate assumption. It’s hard to describe all of the things I’ll miss about this place.

I will miss seeing the lights of Shannon, the airport from the doorstep of my caravan at night, turning the sky purple when it ought to be a deep blue. How the ducks always make me smile as I walk past them folding their beaks under their wings on sunny days, trying to absorb the warmth and hold it in. Walking outside and choosing which of the assortment of herbs will grace my evening tea. Having Bingo follow me everywhere and having just a hint of a jolly swagger of hopeful anticipation to his step when I’m off to milk the goats, creeping out from beneath my caravan in the morning, and laying on the rows of strawberries or salads that I’ve recently planted because that just suits him. The calm presence of John and Nicole, and the many tales of Owen. Those stupid goats, and Garfield chicken, the loner little black chicken, and the assemblage of eager bunnies, Trouble, and the ponies. The ease I’ve finally acquired in all of the various tasks about the farm. My dirty old caravan, the things it contains: the ingredients I’ve collected (mainly ones relating to pancakes), the map of Europe pasted on the wall of my room, which has taught me the capitols of the European countries as well as a few in both Africa and Asia, my Macgyver-quality contraptions for keeping various doors closed, the sweet smell of thyme essential oil and assorted incense. And finally I will miss [the return of] Pancake Saturday, and reading every night, then just listening to music while burning incense and having one square of chocolate.

From Annie’s there are things as well. I miss every day walking past the stone wall that I helped build with my own hands. Daily lunch of homemade bread and fantastic homemade soup. Last suppers when each person left, with homemade elderflower wine and candles. Having a river nearby where I could wash off the mud without actually showering. Picking fresh blackberries for my muesli or porridge on my way to breakfast. The constant enthusiasm and encouragement of Annie and all of the other permanents. Every story-filled building and object. The joyful atmosphere that hung so thickly, you couldn’t help being caught up and suspended in it. Annie and her family, their stories and their personalities. My co-Wwoofers. So much. Spending time with them whether during stone building or having tea was so precious to me. I miss each of their personalities, faces and voices, their individual senses of humor. I miss the sense of family that coursed through my stay with Annie.

I’m amazed how easily attachments are woven when they are so often and easily broken. But I’m excited to see what things the next place will produce that I will hold dear.