Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Hello, goodbye.

We arrived back in England last Tuesday and have subsequently done the rounds!

Thank you to Kelly who once again put us up in Bristol. As well as harvesting a million squashes we had a lovely evening catching up with people and eating delicious Thali, and saw the excellent Willy Mason at the Thekla.

On to mum and dad’s where we attended the world famous Fairford, Faringdon, Filkins & Burford Society Ploughing match, complete with duck-dog rounding, terrier racing and falconry displays requiring audience participation (head ducking). We also did some dog walking and relinquishing of squashes!

(Famous at last dad!)

And completing the triangle of rounds, so to speak, we are now in Shropshire for some last minute sorting, packing and squash eating.

The weather has turned decidedly damp and grey; it’s time for Spain. Do come out to visit us if you can. ¡Adios!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Allotment update:

Two days in Bristol and we managed to:

Harvest 69 squashes of various shapes and sizes…

Take delivery of 4 tonnes of well rotted cow manure…

And acquire the other half of our plot, which needed some serious attention!


Look out everyone – squashes coming your way!!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Homeward bound

Our last week in Ireland, and last week of WWOOFing for a while has flown past! The on-off rain has continued and although sad to be leaving Ireland (we’ve REALLY enjoyed it and very sure we will be back) now we are dreaming of sunnier climes soon to be visited…

Work-wise it was pretty much more of the same – planting a few more lettuces (we totalled 2,310 lettuce, spinach, chard and rocket plants planted in our two weeks at Sunny Meadow Farm. Believe me, I counted them!), picking lots more tomatoes, cleaning up a few hundred (or maybe a thousand?!) onions, helping the chickens move home and collecting their eggs, freezing a large box worth of French beans, playing with Naughty Kitty and Scooby, doing a little strimming and a little weeding – but thankfully not too much. A good variety of work, and that is something that makes for a good WWOOF!

We had a good night out in Portumna and a few more Guinnesses, enjoying the music of a few (English) friends of Dermot’s at their weekly session. And yesterday we took a trip to Irish Seed Savers which is close by – having a good look round and picking up a few unusual seeds to try on the allotment next year too. Today we took a trip to the nearby Lough Derg on bicycles and otherwise have been being very lazy!

Back to the UK on Tuesday, and I’m sure we will be seeing a few of you in the week or so before we head to Spain…

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sunny Meadow Farm

Now we are entering our last week of WWOOFing in Ireland… And it has continued to rain on and off, but luckily we’ve spent the week working in polytunnels – perfect weather for it!

We’ve been enjoying it at Sunny Meadow Farm, near Portumna (pretty much in the middle of Ireland). We’ve certainly been working hard – planting LOTS of lettuce, chard, spinach. And we’ve been eating very well and very healthily, pretty much entirely organic produce, most of it direct from the farm. You really can’t compare the taste of a tomato or courgette that’s been freshly picked with the excuses for such vegetables that come from ‘super’markets (all months of the year) – eat SEASONALLY, eat FRESH, eat LOCAL and eat so much more HEALTHFULLY and DELICIOUSLY!!

We spent a day taking the tops out of the tomato plants and removing the bottom few branches to help the crop to ripen. Quite an enjoyable job, plenty to eat and we really did have green fingers at the end of it…

We have also been enjoying collecting eggs from some very happy, healthy truly free range and organic chickens, makes a nice change!

On Thursday night Dermot (our host) took us to a small town near Scarriff called Feakle where we enjoyed the craic at a traditional ‘session’ – up to 12 different musicians playing a whole range of instruments materialized at about 10 o’clock and began to play. The evening ended (quite late and after several Guinnesses!) with random members of the audience stepping forward to sing traditional songs acappella.

Yesterday we had the day off and went to visit a friend of Dermot’s who is living ‘off grid’. He has recently installed a wind turbine and a bank of batteries, so for the first time in 4 years is enjoying the conveniences that electricity can provide to his log cabin – he no longer has to read in the evenings by the light of three candles for example. We had some very interesting discussions about various topical conspiracies, and touched on issues of food security – something that we are becoming more concerned about ourselves. For us, it is food security in the sense of where our food has come from, what exactly has it been subjected to and therefore what is it that we are stuffing in our mouths and what is it then doing to us? What conditions it has been raised in (animal and vegetable) and the ethical and moral side of food production – particularly regarding animal welfare. Do you really want to eat something that has spent its entire very short life indoors, devoid of natural light, being pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics in unnatural, cramped conditions, unable to express any natural behaviours? Well, unless the chicken or pork you are eating explicitly states ‘free range’ and ‘organic’, that is exactly what you are doing. And what exactly has that vegetable you have just eaten been sprayed with to make it look so perfect (yet taste so tasteless) and how on earth has that shiny apple from New Zealand survived travelling across the world and six months in a warehouse and yet still looks so good? WWOOFing has really highlighted for us issues concerning food production that we have long wondered about, but perhaps not taken so seriously before.

But it seems that beyond the above, more and more people we are meeting on our travels are becoming increasingly concerned about food security in the sense of ‘the security of the supply’, and it seems with good reason. Leaving aside for the moment the very serious considerations of the environmental implications of our current food consumption habits, the crucial issue is one of supply in a world where population seems to be increasing exponentially (perhaps this is the factor that will become most important in future years as demand grows and viable productive land and access to cheap oil diminishes - and don't forget that fossil fuels and intensive agriculture are intrinsically linked, without the fertilizers and pesticides derived from oil and gas, intensive food production is simply unsustainable) and just how much longer can the craziness of flying produce all over the globe in order to provide a continuous supply regardless of season continue to be financially viable given the world’s current economic problems?

Is it now time to start growing some of your own food, or at least to think local and eat seasonally?!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


I can now say that Matt and I are big fans of the Electric Picnic festival, it was brilliant!

We arrived in Stradbally in glorious sunshine on the Thursday and had the day to explore the festival setting up for Friday. A minimal health and safety session followed that evening where we got to meet the other stewards and found out our first shifts. We were all based in the Body and Soul area, basically a mini festival within a festival – it had cool art works (some which we recognised from WOMAD), a main stage which sat in a hollow, other stages, bars, tea tents etc.

Our first shift was 10pm until 4am and involved sitting on a gate backstage with a security guard, checking passes. Mainly we were just sitting, though we had some excitement when some guys jumped the fence (where they ended up in a caged area – we looked on giggling as they tried to find an escape route – we weren’t terribly good at being stern security guards!). The other shifts were spent in the body and soul arena and we had lots of fun chatting to the many mainly drunken but very nice Irish festival-goers. Our final shift began on Sunday night at 10 pm just as the first few drops of rain started falling. The few drops turned into relentless driving rain and lasted beyond 4.30am when we reached our tent – we were soaked through! We are grateful to the Hurly Burly cafĂ© for sheltering us, providing us with free tea and music to sing to.

We managed to catch a number of bands we had wanted to see – Modest Mouse, Fat Freddy’s Drop (who were absolutely brilliant), Mr Scruff, and more… Mainly we enjoyed going round the numerous smaller stages and we managed to catch Seasick Steve whose main set we had missed, also Babyhead, a funky Bristol band, Daithi O’Dronai a really lively Irish fiddler guy and Spilly Walker who were very dancy electronica. We also the met the basist of a crazy, loud, heavy rock-rap band ‘Noise Control’ who insisted we checked them out when we came off shift, which we did – the sparks were flying!

We arrived at our final Irish WWOOFing host absolutely exhausted, and promptly went to sleep! We are at an organic market garden and have been eating tonnes of delicious vegetables. 2 days in and we’ve dug up courgettes, planted long lines of lettuces and spinach and picked 8 big buckets of cherry tomatoes. We had pizza, cake, wine and beers last night too to celebrate Matt’s birthday!