The first stop of the trip was made in Cloughjordan and our hostel was located in the Eco-Village. I had never experienced anything like it but it was an amazing learning opportunity. It resulted in an eye-opening experience for me on the topic of food. Being eco-friendly, the village strives to keep and maintain a vast array of locally grown food (Cloughjordan Community Farm).
The farm, spread across 40 acres, was established in 2008. When Pa (owner of hostel) took myself and eight others on a tour of the eco-village, he described the style of farming was based on CSA (community supported agriculture.)A few of the items that grow on the farm are potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, broccoli, beets, kale, turnips, parsnips, pumpkins, tomatoes, grapes, berries, melons and so much more. I came to realize since eating all of the naturally grown foods at the eco-village, that the sweetness and fresh taste is like none other. The farm is 100% organic which simply refers to no artificial fertilizers or pesticides as opposed to a lot of American grown foods on farms which have additives to make them last longer or grow quicker. Bruce whom is the lead gardner was asked with the question of what the main purpose of establishing such a large eco-friendly farm was and he responded with “we want to provide our community and those around the best produce, grown in the healthiest, most nutrient rich soil.”
Ireland as a whole relating to naturally grown food, is much healthier and fresher. Shopping for food and groceries, I immediately realized the fruits, and vegetables just looked so much more aesthetically pleasing than in the states. That assumption was confirmed when I was able to try them. I also realized there is not as nearly as much farmland in America as there is in Ireland. I noticed that supermarkets in Ireland seem to run out of produce much quicker than American supermarkets. America buys produce in bulk because they can. Ireland supermarkets depends on local farms (such as the Eco Village) to supply, and they do, until they run out. It is important to keep in mind that this observation is the result of 16 college students cleaning out a small local supermarket which usually does not happen every day.
Traveling around Ireland and experiencing the “water” situation for myself such as showers, I came to the realization that we as Americans are incredibly fortunate in the aspect of water. Considering water is so easily accessible in the United States, a majority of people take it for granted. I know in my personal life, after a long, stressful day at work or school I go home and take a long HOT shower. I do not generally think twice about the conservation of it or how much time I tend to use up before while the water is running. A good example of that would be when I brush my teeth and wash my face, I tend to keep the shower running because it is “warming up.” At the very beginning of our 2 week haul, we stayed at a community called the Ecovillage. I knew nothing about this place but obviously understood the main focus was on conserving energy, waste, and food. The first time I tried to use the shower, it took me a while to understand how it worked. The shower had one single button in the middle of it, which required you to press it numerous times if the shower was to continuously stay on. Pressing the button once resulted in around a 20 second burst of water from the shower. Having to go through this during every attempt at a shower truthfully got frustrating, but also made me fully understand the luxury of water I have back home. I realized back in the states, my concern was not how much water I was using or the amount of time I was in the shower, but rather when I felt comfortable to get out which most of the time is far greater than necessary. Ireland made me see things from another view and got me used to the idea of having to take shorter showers and keep the idea of water consumption in the back of my mind.
The Killray sheep farm is located in the parish of Bunowen, an hour away from Spiddal. We were dropped off by Dez at a road that would eventually lead the to the farm. It was about 25 minutes to walk to the establishment accompanied by a rising scorcher. The sun was relentlessly beating down on my black shirt. We finally arrived at the farm and the first thing that immediately caught my eye was the numerous baby sheet congregated in a pen to the side. I walked over, and dozens of tiny legs came zipping towards me. Little baby sheep, all in a herd took over the gate. I was excited thinking they may have wanted to give me attention, but then Tom told me they thought it was feeding time. A blue bottle was handed to me and my heart melted as I watched baby sheep surround me and push each other as they each desperately tried to steal a sip of milk. I asked why the lambs were in there own enclosed area and Tom reassured me it was for their own safety. Much like any other young living creature, they are prone to putting anything and everything in their mouths. The babies are too tiny to be able to eat grass, reason being why they are separated. I also saw an uncountable number of sheep across acres and acres of land stretching beyond Tom’s property. Sheep inside fields and sheep freely grazing elsewhere. It is on the top of green mountains that overlook the bay. I was curious how all of Tom’s wandering sheep kept hydrated and he explained to me that he and many other farmers use “catchments.” Catchments are structures made with rocks that are slanted downwards that have the ability to collect rainwater. This overcomes the daily task of filling buckets up with water and helps with the overall conservation of it. This is done in order to help save water while still hydrating the animals. Along with this natural process of H2O, sheeps main food source comes from the tall grass that grows and never seems to end giving the animals a large food resource.
Arriving in Ireland the topics of bogs and peat never failed to be regarded with the utmost importance. I had never before heard of these two terms and was not in tune with what they were, or the usage behind them but I was excited to find out. One of the biggest characteristics Ireland is known for is the bog. It covers about 1/6 of the island. For recent centuries, bogs have been exploited as a source of fuel. Many bogs in Europe have either vanished or are quickly fading, which makes Ireland extremely important to the scientific community, as well as the tourist industry. From bogs, peat is readily harvested, generally wherever there is high rainfall, which lands typically in western Ireland. A bog is formed when a lake or land with high rainfall begins to fill with plant debris which then causes new plants to grow on the older, decomposed plants. Once dug up, the peat must dry before it can be used as a source of heat. Following the harvesting of peat, immense amounts of Co2 are released into the air. The burning of peat is an extremely controversial topic. The environmentalists discuss on one side of the spectrum that turf is damaging to the quality of air, which it is because of the Co2. On the other hand, farmers who have bogland which contains turf do not want to let this source of fuel go to waste. Why would one pay for gas or an alternate energy source when one is readily provided and free? Peat is most certainly renewable, but the downfall is that the rate of replenishment is immensely slow. It can easily take thousands of years for a bog to to restore after just one years harvest. Not only that, harvesting peat is a very slow process. Tom, the owner Killary Sheep Farm discussed how a bog the size of size room can easily take up thousands of years to regrow which was fascinating.
Ireland is known for many of its small communities, and the CloughJordan eco-village emphasizes this unique aspect of the country. While walking through the eco-village, two words came to mind: simplicity, and sustainability. During our tour guides presentation, Mary discussed the idea of composting. The eco-village takes all of their food waste from each community member and eventually turns it into soil. This process is extremely complex and precise making sure each item of food is accounted for. Another aspect of the community is push-button showers that lasted for around 20 seconds. The idea behind this invention is to conserve the usage of water.
Eco-villagers are brought together by other shared values, such as attending the same church, sharing village responsibilities including education, tour guiding and running the sustainable business center. Additionally, villagers participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in which many villagers contribute locally grown produce. On the property, there is a barn that is utilized by many community members to supply and take fresh produce.
Community members are not only brought together by their desire to eat healthy, but to also conserve energy. Spending three nights at the hostel, I was able to notice little to no driving done by members of the village. Walking was much more heavily utilized as well as the usage of bicycles and all for good reason. The shared belief to walk instead of using gas which requires more money to be spent is emphasized by the majority of people making the decision to walk. One final community based program was building each and every house from reusable items. One house in particular, Pa explained had old car interiors that was the material for the roof which was fascinating to me considering you do not see that a lot in America.
All in all, this village was undoubtedly brought together by various ways which helped the community grow and prosper in the healthiest and most efficient ways possible. The members can congregate and relate to each other incredibly easily because of shared values and same ideas.
The following is a work of fiction based on recent events and experiences in Ireland.
I am writing to say hello and tell you about my day because it has been a few months since we have seen each other and our family misses you more and more. It is Saturday, which typically, a lot of people do not work, but a farmer’s job never ceases. My morning begins with the alarm clock distinctly ringing in the background as my eyes make the daily struggle to open. The morning sun is just beginning to peek through the darkness of the night, casting a golden shadow. I look over at the beside table… the numbers in red read six o’clock… time to start the day. There is a distinctive smell that flows throughout the tiny bathroom.. eggs.. bacon.. white and black pudding.. hashbrowns.. sausage. A combination of smells that is not new to me. Cara has made breakfast for the family. I quickly shave, rinse off, and put on clothes for the day. I make my way downstairs and see my two sons, daughter and wife assembled in the kitchen accompanied by the familiar soothing smell of peat burning in the fireplace. On the table, a traditional Irish breakfast is laid out along with freshly baked soda bread anxiously awaiting hungry hands. Everyone gets their serving, and sits down to give thanks. Having recently moved, my family and I live on a beautiful 80 acre plot on the mountain side with an immaculate view of the ocean accompanied with bogland as well. We have numerous sheep, cows, horses, and goats all divided up between different paddocks. Our biggest source of income these days is sheep herding competitions. You will never believe this…wool sheared from sheep has dropped in price to where one fleece has become worth 25 cents! It is taking a real toll on the family but the litter of puppies Bailey (Border Collie) just had will help. She has acquired a big name through sheep herding and her puppies will be worth a few thousand euros each. Today, I took Liam and Murphy to watch a demonstration of Bailey rounding up the sheep. “Come by,” “away,” “walk on,” “that’ll do” are the commands that echoed through the valley. Preceding that, the three of us went off to shear a few dozen sheep considering July is yearly marker. My sons have become experts and are a big help when I need extra hands. We have begun to use scissors to shear the sheep by hand and not electric razors simply because electric razors only seem to cut and hurt the sheep. The job gets done quickly considering one sheep takes around 3 minutes to shear. Meanwhile, my daughter (who recently engaged in horseback riding) tends to her horse and my wife is busy preparing lunch. Tonight, we will be doing more sheep shearing and looking after all of the other animals that reside on the land. Just your typical day in the life of a farmer… hope to see you soon sister!
When I was four years old, I can remember my dad and I were at a swimming pool. I decided that I would learn to swim by doing, even though I actually did not know how to swim. “Dad, watch me swim!” I said as I jumped in the pool at the five foot deep mark. Like a rock, I sank straight to the bottom. A few short seconds later, there was my fully-clothed father next to me at the bottom of the pool pulling me back up to the surface. What did I learn by doing? That I in fact did not know how to swim. Growing up, I lived in St.Petersburg, Florida up until the third grade. By the end of third grade, my mom and dad both acquired jobs in Boston and Fall River, which resulted in packing up and moving to Barrington, RI. In the summer of my senior year of high school, I was a hostess at Longhorn Steakhouse. One day, two detectives from the local police department came to have lunch. I spotted them immediately and did not hesitate to strike up a conversation pertaining to my interest of law enforcement and the possibility of a ride along. The following week, I was on a guided behind the scenes tour of the station and landed myself a ride along with a female officer. By directly communicating and taking action, I was able to gain new insight and experience relating to my intended career choice.
The underlying theme is learning and growth through interpersonal communication and action. As mentioned, I have always taken the opportunity to talk with a police officer whenever I saw one. I enjoy meeting new people as well as gathering different insights from new experiences. A perfect example would be this Ireland study abroad program I am about to embark on. The memories made and experiences shared will be important building blocks to my overall understanding and empathy of different cultures. In my major of criminal justice, I have come to realize it is pertinent to be able to communicate information properly in order to carry out the job efficiently. My chosen major directly relates to the theme of communications, which is already and will become an even greater aspect of my life when my career comes.