*This post was written about a week ago, but delayed posting until we had moved on*
Summary after our first of 2 weeks on an Irish farm:
I literally do not know what to say about our current situation. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it….
We arrived from England just over a week ago to Dublin with no problems. We spent about 6 hours on buses getting from Dublin to Schull, which is in Cork Co., about as far South in Ireland as you can go. It’s a small sea side community that has many small dairy farms and some tourism.
We came to work on a farm in exchange for food and lodging. The work exchange is commonly called WWOOFing (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). We found these farmers through a friend of a friend, and we are supposed to work 5 hours a day, and we have 2 days off a week. 5 hour days seem to sometimes turn into 6, 7 or 11 hours. On this farm they have about twenty dairy cows that get milked twice a day, a few ducks, a chicken who prefers to walk through cow muck then roost on the kitchen stove, cats, they also farm potatoes, have multiple properties they rent on Airbnb, and are currently renovating old outbuildings into Airbnb rentals.
I started recording my thoughts for the first few days of work here:
Arrival Day: Waited 1.5 hours for a ride from the bus station to the house, no worries as there is a pub- we drank a pint. Go to farmhouse. Ok, a bit dirty, but look! 5 new French friends! And they are all engineering students. Yay! Jeff and I don’t have to talk to just each other anymore! This is an adventure!
Day 1: The French have the day off and Jeff and I are out to work. Shit get real (literally) when Peter (the dog) leaps from cow barn across yard spraying me with cow pies.
Day 2: Clean houses. Scrub ass ton of toilets. 8 WWOOFers are working, ‘Cara, can you make lunch?’ Woman back to the kitchen. Pm- made brick patio for Airbnb apartment.
Day 3: Rest Day. Walked into town to church, ate lunch at the local market- beautiful coastal walks.
Day 4: 11 hour slave day. Owners took parts from the toilet to put in the new guest house. Now there is 1 full bathroom for 13 people.
And then I stopped recording my thoughts while working, because it mostly involved a lot of colorful language.
As I type this, the WWOFers have been banished from the first floor of the house because the farmers have guests visiting. This is a little complicated because it is windy and rainy outside, Jeff and I are staying outside in the trailer (no internet outside), and there is only one staircase upstairs from the dining room. So I am literally sitting on top of the stairs next to the wireless router waiting for guests to leave so that I can exit the house. (One of the guests just asked, ‘Is that noise a ghost?’ ‘No, it’s just our WWOOFers.’).
You are probably thinking, ‘Cara- why the heck would you stay there?’ Hmmm, valid question!!!! Right now I’m kind of comparing this to something like reading The Grapes of Wrath. It’s pretty difficult to get through, but afterwards you realize it was a pretty worthwhile experience. Don’t burst my bubble people. I tend to be pretty high-strung when I have to live in clutter, and this experience has been extremely challenging for me emotionally. One of my personal goals this year is to get more comfortable outside of my comfort zone. This is definitely a place where I can work on my anxiety. I do not understand how people live in constant clutter. Clarification: I am not talking about having a messy house. I am talking about hoarding garbage. See below. This is one outbuilding that originally housed cows and horses, but has since been used to store....stuff. I'm sure at one time this 'stuff' was usable.
This week we turned this room (above) into a studio to rent out (ref.: Day 4 above). The picture was taken at about 2pm, and guests were booked to show up at 6pm. Thank goodness they showed up at 10pm. You probably shouldn’t use a toilet 10 minutes after it has been plumbed, or take a shower right after it has been caulked- these are minor details.
We have since cleaned out all 3 large rooms in the outbuilding that is pictured above wiht all of the 'stuff' in it. We were extremely productive (sarcasm) and relocated all of the rubbish up to the large pole barn. Don’t get me started on health and safety. (Mom- we’re ok. I’m making Jeff wear safety glasses.)
In addition to ourselves and the French WWOOFers here, there is 1 Spaniard and 1 German. It’s a true international house and Jeff and I have been so excited to learn about other cultures. All of the French and the German leave soon, so it will be much quieter here. I think the atmosphere of the house will be a little different, in a good way. AND we should have a real bed to sleep in. We are extremely grateful to have gotten to work with some amazing WWOOFers!
Anyway, we are leaving this farm earlier than we had originally planned (YAY). We will stay here only 2 weeks instead of 3, and then be able to use the money we are saving now to rent a car and take a week to see the rest of Ireland. The farmers are indeed nice people, but I believe they are in a little over their heads. On top of the Airbnb properties, animals and potatoes to take care of, they are expecting their first child in 1 month.
I’ll let Jeff give a more (uplifting) constructive summary of what we have been doing so far. I do believe that the next post will be of a more positive nature.
Enter Jeff: I had always thought that we might be literally shoveling shit when we were WWOOFing, so I think I was a bit more prepared mentally than Cara. I also am a bit better at rolling with things outside my control, at least in certain areas of life, so I think the past week and a half has been less taxing on me then her. Overall I haven’t minded this experience, and I’m focusing on enjoying the view and reminding myself that our account balance isn’t going down while we’re here, so we’ll be able to do more awesome stuff later.
Other than the super long day Monday, the work hasn’t been too bad. Manual labor feels good on the muscles that haven’t been super active lately, and I do enjoy working with my hands. Cara isn’t wrong that we are dealing with hoarders. They have the issue that most of the outbuildings either currently do, or have at some point, housed cattle and other farm animals so there is literally shit on most stuff. This can make it difficult, but I just take a deep breath and remember to wash my hands a few extra times a day.
While I am about as far from a pregnancy expert as you can be, I know that our host has a lot mental, emotional, and physical things going on, so when she does something I can’t comprehend, I just try to smile and let it go as a product of that. I do wish we could bring in a couple dumpsters and fill them with all the stuff laying around, but I know that won’t happen.
I’m trying to use the next week to focus on learning and experiencing some new things, as well as getting out and seeing some of the Irish countryside around the house. Overall, I think we’ll look back and laugh at this time, and it will probably be some of the most memorable for our trip.
So overall, I don’t think I would recommend WWOOFing unless you are very comfortable living in situations outside your control on other peoples terms. I haven’t had a bad enough experience that I would rule out of doing more WWOOFing later in the trip, but I do think we’ll ask some more pointed questions and try to get a better feel for what our day to day life will be like wherever we go next. We’ll cover those questions in another post though…