What Are You Doing There Now?

I am often asked this question when my friends and family back home find out that I am flying off to Ireland again. Coming to Ireland in the late fall, after the nursery closes and the firewood is put up and the hay is mounded in the barn, is something I have been doing over the last several years (7 years?). The first time I came was to help my friend Sally with a photo exhibit she was doing here in the town of Kilorglin. Next, it was to help her with her book project and collecting stories for A fair Day, The Horseman Of County Kerry. After that, I just kept coming and because we were (and are) having so much fun we’ve had to dream up new projects to warrant little ol’ me getting on a plane (which I don’t love) and leaving my home ground in Maine (where I am happily rooted) and then spending a goodly portion of the fall traipsing behind her as she conjures up new adventures. This year it has been helping her reclaim a farm in Glenbeigh. Reclaiming isn’t really the right description…. the land has been lovingly farmed and cared for over many generations. It is where a man lived his life and raised his cattle and did his chores and cut silage and helped birth calves and worked daily as all farmers do keeping with the tradition of such things. Now the man is gone, and though his nephew will continue to graze cattle and make hay on his uncle’s land, Sally has stepped in to help ensure that some of the buildings and barns are preserved. Right now the old house is getting a bit of a make-over….insulation, a new floor, a kitchen,, and a heating system. Like many of the old farms the house was not terribly insulated and therefor quite drafty…..a bit like our old farmhouses in New England, yes? The work has been going on for the last several months and before long ( 3 weeks!!!??) the house will be ready for a small gathering. Hooray!
Outdoors, two amazing stone workers (who are also sheep farmers) are busy mending some of the grand old stone walls that frame in the farm’s lush green fields. They’re building some new ones, too.

Lar and Pat
Farmers. Stone Builders.

I am in awe of their work, their keen eye for each stone placed or rock split perfectly and then positioned. True craftsman, really. I do love seeing the house being transformed into a much warmer and well lit dwelling. The crew working on that part of the project are genius as well, but it is the keeping and tending of those old stonewalls that has my attention. Knowing that each stone was handled before by some diligent farmer with an intention to contain his livestock and to create separate grazing fields reminds us of the work that was done before mechanization. Now history is coming full circle and being preserved by two thoughtful men who are honoring their roots and rural traditions. Slowly, carefully, and with great craft they are re-building the stone walls. Beauty, behold. Because I come from a long line of farming, my own roots dating back to the earliest settlers of New England and where stonewalls are a part of our own cultural landscape , I truly appreciate this commitment to land and farming and community. As I have said many, many times before…..traveling away from my life in Maine is never easy, but coming to Ireland is always a profound blessing.

19 comments on “What Are You Doing There Now?

  1. Well, now that I have goosebumps and a big smile, I say thank you for this timely post. I was going through my photos from Ireland earlier this afternoon so this was like a double feature. It is nice to know what you are doing and why. The photos are just lovely. I say this with all my heart – wish I was there. 🙂

  2. Well-built stone walls are such works of art. Haphazard-y ones are lovely too. I’m intrigued by how these walls look much like Maine walls, but yet unlike them too. The stones have so many shades of purple, green, and blue. Different geology, different walls. Phew, it’s so darn picturesque there, it takes my breath away.

    • Oh, Brenda, put Ireland on your bucket list. The stone walls here are similar, you are right.They are often built very high to keep in their mountain sheep, terrific climbers! The fellas working on the stone are very talented and of course a necessary skill for keeping in their own flocks and farms. Lar lives across the way and farms hundreds of sheep, his stone building skill is life long! You would love it here for sure!

    • I will, Pia. I am so taken by the steady rebuilding of those walls that i find myself chatting with those guys almost everyday. i asked them if there were many young people interested in learning this time-honored skill…not so much, I am afraid. So we have to be grateful for those who can still do such things!

  3. What a heartfelt blog and so many stories that bring the stones and the countryside to life. I understand how fulfilling and enriching this is for you. I don’t know a better person to express the spiritual meaning of all that beauty. Thanks for sharing your heart with your pictures and words.

    • Thank you, Rick….miss you guys and you are spot on, it is the rural traditions and those who preserve them that are so dear to me. Paying attention to these things I feel are essential. You are so good at this as well. That’s why we love reading the same books and hearing the same stories!

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