Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray ~ Rumi
Laughs, Love and Soda Bread
We just returned from a week and a half visit to see friends and family in Ireland. It is a beautiful country, as many people will attest, with amazing scenic views, quaint little farming towns and bustling city hubs. I often notice, however, that even as beautiful as the rolling hills of the countryside are, it is the people who make the trip so special. It was very difficult to leave after just one week full of laughter, quality time spent with loved ones, and the delicious homemade food. This post is a fond tribute to a wonderful holiday spent in the motherland.
Adventures in Ireland
Hiking is one of our all-time favorite hobbies, after playing in the garden of course. So, we are always on the prowl for hidden trails and out-of-the way scenic lookouts. Driving along a quiet country road we came upon a strikingly beautiful lake and pulled over to snap a few shots. Luckily we did, because just a stones throw away we found an entrance to a hiking trail! The only markings we saw on this trail were small homemade signs that read St. Columba’s Well, so of course we needed to see what this was all about and embarked on the adventure. The trail was absolutely gorgeous, surrounded by tall trees and brightly colored shrubs and brush. After walking for about 15 minutes we came upon a little lane that led into an alcove encircled with trees. At the bottom of this lane was a 1500 year old well. This well is believed to be at the childhood home of the boy who would become known as St. Columba, one of the patron saints of Ireland. It was really energizing to stumble upon something so old and still functioning. The water inside the well looked clear and clean.
The Magical Moss Field
Standing at the bottom of the alcove looking at the ancient well was very moving, but just to the right of us was a scene even more striking. We stumbled onto a beautiful, bright green moss field amid a forest of tightly grouped pine trees. The sun was shining down through the trees and illuminating the moss on the ground. The rays of sun gave this whole moss forest a magical appearance. At that moment, standing there taking in the gorgeous surroundings, I think I half expected to see a fairy start buzzing around – the place looked that magical!
The striking beauty of Ireland cannot be overstated, and the weather adds a layer of complexity to appreciate. In the course of one day you can experience almost every season from hail, to sunshine, to strong winds and rain and, if your lucky, another bout of sunshine!
Practically everywhere you look, there are grazing sheep or cows. Bales of hay are stacked high and stored for the winter feedings. You’d be hard-pressed to drive more than ten minutes in any direction without seeing a band of cows grazing or flock of sheep wandering the hills. And really the most striking thing is how happy the animals seem. Compared to how most farm animals are treated in the US, it is refreshing to see contented animals grazing on open pasture.
Staying on a homestead during our trip really brought the feeling of living in harmony with animals even closer. We had up close and personal access to a flock of backyard chickens, and this access was especially exciting and inspiring to us. Waking up in the morning (or afternoon!) and cracking a farm fresh egg into the pan was so unbelievably satisfying. As the eggs cooked in the pan, we could look out of the kitchen window and see the bird who gifted this lovely egg running around the yard! After a few farm fresh eggs, it is hard to go back to buying and eating the supermarket variety.
We were able to observe a flock of about 15 hens, going about their daily routine of eating, scratching and pecking. We were delighted to learn the they are very low maintenance, relatively quiet (even with two roosters!) and required minimal attention aside from feeding and locking up the coop at night.
Because of our stay on an Irish homestead we’ve become inspired in many ways, most specifically with raising backyard chickens. Even though we live in an urban area, we do have a fairly sizable backyard – enough space, in fact, for a small flock of a few pet chickens. We are so inspired, that since our return from Ireland, we have already cleared a whole 10’x20′ section for the chickens in our backyard, and bought a beautiful chicken coop with an attached run. We plan to assemble the coop before winter so it is ready for a few hens come spring.
In Ireland, farming is an everyday occupation. In America, it is not. Although we are sometimes looked at as renegades or as hippy dippy for our choice in vocation, it is something we feel compelled to actualize. The fact is that we could farm in Ireland, happily, but America needs us and other young people to help restore the family farm for this century. We feel called upon to help better the lives and health of people, animals, the soil, and Earth’s atmosphere. The current model of farming in America leaves a lot to be desired, and with that it the back of our mind, we will take a lesson from the Irish family farmer and his menagerie of happy animals.
We are more dedicated than ever to move full steam ahead with our urban farming plans, homestead goals and sustainable living aspirations.
Bring It On.