Lately

Keeping up with a blog while living off grid has proven a touch tricky! When the sun isn’t shining I cannot use the laptop as it will completely drain our little solar battery set up. When the sun is shining, however, I tend to be outside living in it rather than sitting here at my writing desk. Today is one of those terribly Irish days that is somehow simultaneously bright and wet. Back home in California I had been accustomed to one weather setting- blue skies, no wind, and glorious golden sunshine.

An entire paragraph about the weather must mean that I am truly becoming a local. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a conversation with an Irish person that didn’t touch on that topic at some point or other.

Right, I came to update my friends and followers on the farm goings on. We finally erected our polytunnel and the chickens are currently in there doing the clearing work for us. Simon started clearing one of the abandoned allotments for our use as well. I’ll fill it with pumpkins!
The ploughing and sowing are finished- I have barely seen my husband this past month, so I’m pleased that we’re finally past that stage. Now he’ll be gone working silage for other local farmers, but at least I get him at meal times!

I haven’t taken any photos lately, bar those on my instagram. I promise I’ll get better at this whole blogging thing- I am aiming to post once a week, but sure, we’ll see how it goes. Now to go catch up on all the blogs I’ve missed!

Advertisements

The Pastoral Dream

yurtt

We have begun to build the polytunnel behind the yurt. It was up in a yonder hay field for two years, but in what turned out to be the least sunny corner. Every day by noon a nearby row of trees cast their shadow across the tunnel- bad planning (or lack thereof) on our part. Anyway, there are fewer trees around this field, thus we get a good deal of sunshine on bright days. Hopefully this translates directly into more tomatoes!

In the foreground of the photo is one of our allotments and Simon’s handcrafted chicken coop. The chickens have spent several weeks now scratching and clearing the weeds, thus saving the future allotmenteers a good bit of labour. Yesterday evening Simon moved the coop beside the polytunnel for the same reason- once the plastic goes up we will let the chickens do their work on the inside. When we put the polytunnel up two years ago we used the JCB for that purpose, but we wanted a cleaner method this time around.

toilet
This is our lovely outhouse and humanure bin. We have a rustic compost toilet in that 6×4 shed- we dump wood chips on top between each use, and when the bin is full we move it outside to… brew. This eventually gets dumped on the heap inside of the pallet bin. In the past year we have only filled it up once. Last November we emptied it into the hugel bed that I was standing on to take the above photo. The humanure had no smell at all and had broken down beautifully. We planted loads of kale on it, so eventually we’ll be closing the loop. 😉
yurtdoor

One last photo to show how far we’ve come in a year compared to my last post. The gardens are overrun with weeds at the moment, but spring is officially upon us, so it won’t be long before colour returns to the scene.

The Yurt: Day 1

I live, as previously mentioned, in a 16 foot yurt with my husband, our cat Kenobi, and our puppy Loki, although the latter will soon be in a kennel as he is growing at a disconcertingly rapid pace.
We get our water piped in from the farmyard, propane for our gas cooker, and a single solar panel fulfils our energy demands (3 LED lights and laptop/phone chargers). We have been living like this for a year now, and despite the various challenges that arise with this lifestyle, we are happy. I will eventually post photos of the yurt in its current state, but I thought it best to go back to the beginning and show our progress from then until now.

Myself and Simon unpacking the chestnut pole walls.
Myself and Simon unpacking the chestnut lattice.

We ordered the yurt from the UK based Yurt Workshop as their yurts are designed for this wild Atlantic climate. That and their quality was significantly superior to all of the other producers we looked into as most yurts are built for seasonal ‘glamping’ rather than full time dwelling.

The bare base and outhouse
Laying out the lattice on the base. The smaller shed there is our outhouse.

Simon built our base from several old power lines, 2×4’s, reclaimed insulation, and marine plywood. We never put down proper flooring to seal the plywood as our move came unexpectedly early. It is uncertain whether we’ll ever finish the floor as this year we intend to start building our permanent home- more on that later.

The solid oak door was a major selling point for us as it is both functional and gorgeous. There is a glass pane in the window and an inner shutter, along with a triple bolt.
The solid oak door was a major selling point for us as it is both functional and gorgeous. There is a glass pane in the window and an inner shutter, along with a triple bolt.
The inside when it was still outside.
The inside when it was still outside. To give you a sense of scale- Simon is 5’11.
The full length glass window with inner shutter was another major selling point. Most yurts on the market come with plastic sewn into the canvas cover.
The full length glass window with inner shutter was another major selling point. Most yurts on the market come with plastic sewn into the canvas cover.
This is where the two main lattice walls were joined together.
This is where the two main lattice walls were joined together. Simon is tying the knot here.
The beams laid out  and ready to lift.
The beams laid out and ready to lift.
The two tall poles in the middle are called baganas and are there to hold up the crown. Each roof beam slots into a corresponding hole in the crown.
The two tall poles in the middle are called baganas and are there to hold up the crown. Each roof beam has a bit of rope that attaches to the lattice and then slots into a corresponding hole in the crown. This part was more complicated than it should have been and took AGES to complete. It didn’t help that midway through a beam popped out of the crown and landed on my unprotected head. Always wear a hard hat kids.
A closer look at the beams.
A closer look at the beams joining the lattice.
The nearly complete roof.
The crown and nearly complete roof.
We had a good deal of trouble while hanging the inner lining as we picked an especially windy afternoon to pitch the yurt. It blew off several times before we were able to secure it.
We had a good deal of trouble while hanging the inner lining as we picked an especially windy afternoon to pitch the yurt. It blew off several times before we were able to secure it.
This is the felt insulation layer. Most yurts used for glamping do not include this layer, which is what makes them uninhabitable year round. This layer makes an enormous difference- when the fire is going we are warmer and drier than most houses in this climate.
This is the felt insulation layer. Most yurts used for glamping do not include this layer, which is what makes them uninhabitable year round. This layer makes an enormous difference- when the fire is going we are warmer and drier than most houses in this climate.
This is the final photo taken that day- we never took a finished outside shot!
This is the final photo taken that day- we never took a finished outside shot!

That’s all folks- for the nice Nikon photos anyway.

Forgive the low quality- I took this photo on my phone earlier today. Here is the yurt as it is now- solar panel in the herb garden, outer cover all wonky after several wind storms, and the weather beaten prayer flags dangling.
Forgive the low quality- I took this photo on my phone earlier today. Here is the yurt as it is now- solar panel in the herb garden, outer cover all wonky after several wind storms, and the weather beaten prayer flags dangling.

So there you have it- our little home.

A bright morning

Today is a happy Thursday filled with sunshine and birdsong. The morning frost has melted into glimmering dew, glittering like glass in the grasses of our little field. Already the allotmenteers are out there shoveling muck, pulling weeds, and gossiping happily amongst themselves. Spring has finally arrived here in Eire, but I am not outdoors to greet her. Instead I am here pitter pattering away at my desk, hoping to find clarity or closure or something in these words I type. 

I suppose I ought to introduce myself. Hello. I am a reluctant expat who, several years ago, met an Irish farmer, fell in love, and immigrated to this gorgeous albeit damp island. Ah what simplicity that sentence evokes and how utterly complicated the reality of it has been. Emigration is difficult for anyone who attempts it and I was no exception, as proven by my weekly therapy sessions. It was in my latest session that I was urged by my therapist to come back to blogging and begin to express myself again. I had been an avid blogger for several years before being bullied, stalked, and thus intimidated into silence by certain individuals who would’ve preferred that I never arrived on this island. Well, I am here and here I intend to stay, so to blogging I have returned and hopefully those people won’t find me again.

What I intend to share in this space is my unfolding life as an expat on an Irish tillage farm that is slowly changing from conventional farming practices to a more holistic approach to land stewardship. Currently I live with my husband in a 16 foot yurt beside a hedgerow surrounded by organic and permaculture gardens, a newly planted food forest, and several allotments. Our life is an experiment in alternative living which is fulfilling on a spiritual level, but sometimes quite frustrating on a practical level. We were both raised in conventional western households with hot water on demand and refrigerators (among so many other all too often taken for granted luxuries), so we’re still struggling to learn and adapt to our ideals.

Our ever growing family thus far consists of myself, my husband Simon, our pup Loki, Kenobi the cat, and four laying hens called Betty, Veronica, Midge, and Ethel. Welcome to my world!