Out and about with Granddad.

My grandfather is a bit of a legend. He’s got that great old person vibe going on and since I got back, we’ve been heading off on loads of adventures together. He makes a great travel partner for a few reasons;

  1. He always has time and plenty of it.  No matter what time it is, he’s always ready to go off to some place. He’s never in a rush to get back either so all good.
  2. He’s a good co driver.He never comments on my driving and he doesn’t mind if I go the wrong way. In fact, he embraces the detour.
  3. He knows what he wants. When we go off, he’ll provide clear instructions as to what we’ll do. Anything outside of that is a bonus.
  4. He always has a story. Pat is a great man to tell me stories. Stories about what they used to do back in the day or sometimes a story about the fella who owns the land that we’re passing. Loads of stories.

While we try to do different things, we’ve excelled at a few activities recently;

  1. Giving field guidance. A little like Kim Jung Un in North Korea, we like to show up to random fields and offer our guidance. We’ll tell you how long it took you to move bales or cut grass or gather it up or whatever.We’ll offer assistance on how you could do it better or how it was done back in the day. We’re available any time.
  2. Farm Inspection services.  We also like to look at farms and throw out sentences on what’s where, how many animals there are, the conditions of the yard and so on.
  3. Grave readings:Possibly the most morbid but a lot of the time we end up in a graveyard and there’s nothing we enjoy more than reading graves. I read and Pat tells me if he knew them.If he didn’t know them, he moves on. If he did, he then tells me everything about them, where they lived, what they worked at, how they died and so on. We have spent many an afternoon hanging out and about in the graveyard!
  4. Stock taking: For a man of 90, Pat has better eyesight than I do. He can tell me how many cows are in a herd, how many bullocks in a field and so on. If you ever see a silver Yaris stopped outside your field, you’ll know it’s us counting your cows!
  5. Supervising: We are bosses of supervising activities.Pat has a walking stick that’s put to good use if someone isn’t doing something properly. You may not hear him from the tractor but you’ll see him waving the stick around!

This picture was from one of our recent farm inspections!

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Overheard at mass………….

Mass is one of the places I’ve started to go since I came home. I’m trying to keep on the good side of the man above, I suppose. Since I’m not the biggest fan of Sunday mornings, I usually go on a Saturday night in the church up the road. Except there are virtually no prayers said when I get to said church because it takes all I have not to die laughing at the characters in the back seat.

There are always three of them. Three auld lads of about 80 or so. I don’t actually know their names so we’ll call them Pat, John and Mick. Tonight Pat and John took up their positions in the back seat. “What about this weather we’re having” says Pat. “Great stuff altogether” replies John. Along comes Mick and the trio is complete. “Powerful weather lads, powerful weather”. What other greeting would you imagine? “WHAT” whispers Pat who we now clearly know can’t hear very well. A silence follows to be broken by a “and what about the evenings, closing in fast lads”. “Ah shur to be expected to this time of the year” “I wonder what priest it is tonight?” Must be Fr. So and so ’cause it’s 7.35 and he’s in to earn the overtime”

The bells rings and we proceed to try praying until the sermon. Fr. So and so gives the most dramatic interpretation of a gospel reflection sermon you’ve ever seen. Now since I wasn’t actually praying that hard, I don’t really know what the gospel was about but whatever it was made for a great sermon. The characters in the gospel sound a little sketchy; “he followed Jesus around everywhere looking at him and listening to him” How many people can say STALKER!

At least I was paying attention though. The fella in the seat in front of me was texting and another young wan was quizzing her father as to whether she could keep the basket money if the basket didn’t come around. It was after about 10 minutes that the trio behind me started into their critiquing. They had themselves in stitches and I was laughing so hard, I thought I was going to have to leave the church. I have never inspected the tops of my shoes so closely before.

Communion rolled around and the lads took in the crowd; “do you know that lad over there”? Pat replied with a “I do not but I’ll ask Johnny later and let you know. Maybe new to the parish”.Eventually, we said some all for one prayers (one prayer for everyone we know) and we waited for the priest to leave before we dispersed. Of course Pat still couldn’t hear anything so it was a chorus of “WHAT? What did ya say?” before I made the escape.

If this is a regular occurrence, I’ll book my seat for next week!

Cloughjordan Ecovillage

With the nation turning more green and a range of alternative living options available, I decided to visit Cloughjordan Ecovillage to see sustainable living in action.

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How do you get there?

By Car;

Moneygall is in North Tipperary and approximately from Moneygall. From the motorway, take exit 23 to Moneygall and then follow the signs to Cloughjordan.

When you arrive in Cloughjordan, the Ecovillage is approximately half way down the Main Street. It is at a small 4 way intersection, opposite a church.

By Train;

Cloughjordan has a train station that services routes from Dublin, Heuston and Limerick via Nenagh. For timetables, please go to irishrail.ie

Do you have to take a tour?

While you are free to drive into the village and look around, you must remember that there are people living here and to respect their privacy and security, it is recommended that you take a tour. You also won’t get the full benefit of knowledge if you just ramble around alone.

There are free tours every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. I met the guide at the Main Street entrance or you can meet at Sheelagh na Tigh which is a little cafe on the Main Street.

If you have a group or you wish to participate in a workshop or so on, you can email edvisits@thevillage.ie They have these kind of visits all the time and are very accommodating to groups.

What is an Ecovillage?

From their website, http://www.thevillage.ie;

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.

The Ecovillage in Cloughjordan is the first of its kind in Ireland and leads the way for the future of sustainable living in Ireland. It is located on 67 acres and has a community farm, woodland, allotments, houses, hostel and Enterprise centre.

The best way to understand is to take a tour and learn from the guide and that’s what I did earlier today.

My Tour.

The tour starts with a little introduction of everyone in the group. My group had 2 foreigners and 2 Irish so a nice mix of people. Looking at the map, it was pointed out that the village is divided into thirds. One third to houses and apartments, one third to the farm and allotments and one third to woodland.

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Immediately upon walking down the little hill, it is explained that the height of the buildings keeps with the height of buildings in Cloughjordan itself. I was most surprised to find an Ecohostel called Django’s on the left just past the entrance. This unique hostel is open to the public, year round and you can find out more on their website http://www.djangoshostel.com

Djangos Hostel seen on the left.

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We continued walking and saw examples of the various types of houses built in the village. Among others there are Cob, Timber Frame, Hemp crete and all cedar houses. All houses are low energy and share hi spec broadband as well as a community heating system. The village has a 2gha rating which I believe is the lowest in Ireland and they are working on lowering that number.

The community heating system is very interesting . Two 500 Kilo watt wood fired burners supply every home with heat. The cost is divided among the residents.
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Energy is also provided by solar panels which can be seen on the tour.
We continued on to the allotments. It is here that you can see research in action. One resident has his own allotment where he is researching growing techniques and so on.

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On the apple walk, you’ll find every type of apple you can imagine. Luckily, we were allowed to eat some of the ripe ones and they were juicy and delicious. There’s something to be said about eating fruit straight off the tree. Our guide even brough along a spreadsheet with all the information on all the apples.
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When we managed to pull ourselves away from eating the apples, we started into the yellow raspberries.
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Eventually, we continued on our way and off to the farm. This is a community farm where members can collect their vegetables every week. Anyone can become a member so check out their website if you are interested.

We finished our tour by sampling some more delicious fruit that we found on the way.

A few things struck me about the village. The people seem extremely innovative, motivated and dedicated. Along the way, we were introduced to projects and plans that were either ongoing or in the process of approval.

The aim of the village is learning. Everyone is open to learning about sustainable living or teaching it to people like me on tours. For example, the drainage system is quite unique. In several areas, depressions can be seen. These are called Swales. When severe rain comes, the water is collected in these swales and they fill like lakes. Then, the water can slowly permeate through the ground. This prevents flooding to the village.

This is the way of the future and the possibilities are endless. I was so inspired to hear of the work already done in the village but can’t help but think of the possibilities for the future. With new methods coming on board all the time, this village is only just growing.

Worth a visit?
Absolutely. I learned so much from my visit and found it quite innovative. It would be a great visit for families also. You can find out more details on their website http://www.thevillage.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.
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The not so great things about being home.

I’ve been home for about 6 weeks after being away for 6 years. While there are many great things about being back, there are also plenty of downsides.

1. People never let you forget that you left. No matter what, people always throw it back at you that you went away, especially if you have an opinion on something. I’m getting so sick of hearing “well while you were away we did it like this…..” or “in 6 years we’ve done……” It gets very tiring listening to it all the time and you almost have a time limit on how long you live in Ireland before your opinion counts.  I didn’t abandon anyone. Sorry for trying to further myself, I’ll just sit over here and write my blog.

2. You have to make friends all over again. Most of my old friends are either living in another country or have gotten married and are starting families. You think it’d be easier to come home and start over but it was actually easier moving to Korea and making new friends.

3. Sometimes you just can’t see the logic in Ireland’s way of thinking. Living abroad changes how you see things and the sometimes insular nature of the way of thinking in Ireland is indescribable.

4. There’s no positivity or leadership. Ireland has lost it’s positivity. There are a lot of problems, like every country, but there are no solutions or leadership coming through. It’s utterly depressing and you see it on every level from local to national.

I would love to hear what other returning expats have to say. In the meantime, I’ll return to studying. Catch me on Twitter @Iamshaunabrowne