January 12, 2017
These last few weeks, I have found myself looking back on my time in Ireland, life on the farm, my relationships with family, friends and food over the years. I’ve always said that I came to this country too early; that I wasn’t ready for full-time Irish farm living, but who would be? By now I’ve probably warn out my welcome, but, hey, I’m not going anywhere.
It was a circuitous road that led me to life in the Irish countryside, but as the years go on, it seems clear that I was perhaps always meant to live with my feet a little closer to the ground, more connected to the land, to grow and nurture and harvest and forage the fruits of the earth like I would a baby, to simply be more present and mindful because that is what truly makes me feel alive.
Don’t get me wrong. City life replete with the convenience of an endless array of drinking holes and restaurants, the seminal scullery of Whole Foods Markets, theatre, music, museums, and body contorting yoga classes on every corner will always be a craving, but I’ve never appreciated all those things more than I do now when it is an occasional occurrence, a half a world away. #That’s how to feel gratitude.
Rural living can be very isolating, and as well meaning and loving as my husband is, the growth of the family farm has forced him to not be as present here as he wished he could be over the years. Especially when we first moved into our country home. This blog and all that it has manifested was born out of that solitude. Out of all the changes and adjustments to my life in Ireland, I gotta say that the bits that have been most challenging have been becoming a mother in a foreign country and creating a new vision of my “life’s work” without a social element; without family and friends from America nearby to show me the ropes, provide pep talks and high-fives. (Waaaahhhhh, but thank goodness for social media!) While Richard wholeheartedly supports all of my ideas, it’s been up to me to navigate, put myself out there, carve out a niche for myself, and just get things done. Thank goodness necessity is the mother of invention. #That’s how to feel pride.
So, here I am working on an exciting new beginning again. Starting another evolution in farm life from scratch. #That’s how to feel scared and invigorated (and crazy) at once.
Now that Geoffrey is older, he and I can both spend more time on the home farm working. But, we will also start working the land for other projects, and we have an extra special new endeavour to embark upon which needs us. And, it also needs more people than us. And, since we are both people persons, this project means we get to invite people over to play. Whooopppppeeeee! #That’s how to feel JOY.
If you’ve been following along with this blog, you may remember a post awhile back where I described a charming little farmstead which is a part of our farm. It was purchased primarily for the land a few years ago and is a listed period property that includes a thatched cottage and a few small stone outbuildings. To others, she is NOT pretty at the moment. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think she is just divine. Her thatched roof has caved in and the buildings are crumbling, but there is so much soul in this farm. The townland is called Graigoor, which translates to “the hamlet” in English. Which perfectly suits because it feels like a sweet little settlement when you walk through the gate to see the cottage with a Shamrock over the door, tiny stone sheds, and small parcels of land strung together in the back. #This is reverence
I’m calling her #Fine Fettle Farm, because being there makes me feel good. (To understand the meaning of the term “fine fettle” read this story) Sure, this is not a totally new concept for me, but, now is the EXACT right time that I should be doing it. It will be a HUGE undertaking. But, I just can’t let it go. It’s calling me. This work is all about feeling alive and connected. Growing food has become one of the most unexpectedly rewarding experiences of my life. I feel completely exhilarated and in my element while sowing, weeding, harvesting, cooking, sharing the bounty, and just plain getting dirty. It is truly a gift.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Graigoor and have been looking into restoration ever since the very first time I first stepped foot in those lovely lush fields crowded by trees dripping in strands of ivy. After my dear mother-in-law passed away, I got notice that I had been approved for a small amount of funding to begin the restoration process. But, it just wasn’t the right time to dive into such an undertaking when there were so many other changes afoot on the home farm. Now the time is nigh, and I am working with the local Rural Development Programme to hopefully secure more substantial assistance to get my idea off into the ground. Either way (with or without financial assistance) I am taking it forward. #This is how to feel determined
The restoration of the cottage and buildings is just a portion of the main objective, which is to develop a thriving CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programme that will serve those who cannot grow their own and want to partner with a farmer for fresh weekly produce. In addition to growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs, we will offer subscriptions for honey, raw milk, cheese, yoghurt, and foraged edibles such as wild garlic, mushrooms, sloes, blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and whatever else the season and our hedgerows bring. Fine Fettle Farm will operate with the generous help of volunteers and part of the proceeds from each CSA box will go to a revolving charity.
A secondary goal of Fine Fettle Farm is that it will be a place to maintain physical and mental health while focusing on eating clean, seasonal foods grown and harvested on the farm. All who come to volunteer will be fed nourishing meals and accommodations will be provided if necessary. My hope is that city dwellers from here and abroad will come to lend a hand and experience a bit of bucolic rejuvenation as well. Eventually I’d love to offer workshops and events around food and wellness, but that will be after the buildings have been restored to their former glory and we’re up and running strong.
Wish us luck.
And, please message me if you’d like to get on the volunteer roster. We can’t do this alone!
Imen & Geoffrey McDonnell