This summer was fantastic.  I spent nearly a month in Ireland touring around music festivals and of course….farms.  How could I leave my own farm and not go to another one?  Ok ok I’m obsessed.

I ended up on Inis Mor, the biggest of the three Aran Islands, where my friend and I took a horse cart tour.  It was so much fun and so beautiful.  Strangely enough I even got a sun burn.  Who knew that was possible in Ireland?

The boat trip across was CRAZY choppy.  I stopped recording when the swells reached about 20 ft

I really liked the Aran Islands, more than any other place in Ireland to be honest.  It reminded me of the desert in a strangely green…wet…cloudy way.  No seriously!  It was bleak and filled with stones and obviously a tough place to survive.  I loved it.

Imagine trying to farm on this

 

Aran Islands Inis Mor

A beautiful, bleak landscape

They even are constantly dealing with drought conditions as the island is made of limestone and so the water has a tendency to perculate right through.  To combat this, they build troughs with a built-in rain water catchment system so that the troughs automatically refill with the consistent rains.  Genius!

Aran islands inis mor water trough rain water catchment system drought desert

How smart is this??!!

Plus the traditional Irish music was awesome!

The horse cart driver was a fella named Donal O’Flaherty.  He was an Irish language teacher who took over the family horse cart business when his father died.  After getting over his shock about meeting an american farm girl, he happily chatted about cows for most of the trip—to the chagrin of my non farming friend.

I convinced Donal how much I wanted to see local farms in Ireland and to my delight, he brought us out to his place on the island.  After putting away the horse, named Sligo Boy and whom he generally called maggot or donkey, we went out into the stone wall lined fields to prepare to move cattle.

Inis mor aran islands Sligo Boy donal o'flaherty horse cart jaunt

Putting Sligo away after a good day’s work

There are stone walls EVERYWHERE on Inis Mor.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  It was a really effective way of clearing the land.  Plus, when land was inherited, the fields were divided and divided again so that a ton of people own very small amounts of land.

Aran islands inis mor stone walls fields

Stone walls everywhere

I noticed there were generally no gates in the fields which is a little confusing.  Obviously if a cow can jump the wall to get in, it can jump the wall to get back out.

Donal showed me the trick though.  Like the scene in Labyrinth where the worm points out the opening in the wall that’s there but can’t really be seen, there were weak spots in the walls where the stones could be removed.  But good grief what a workout!!  I kept offering to help and he kept saying no it’s ok.  I figured meh he’s either being chauvinist or this darn american is annoying him or whatever.  I mean I understand.  There’s many times when people come to the farm and want to help and you just sort of want to get the job over and done.  One rock rolled towards me and I picked it up.  Holy moly!  What do they make their rocks out of over there?  That thing was HEAVY.  What an arm workout!

Once there was now a ‘gate,’ we walked down the paths between fields, blocking off openings with pieces of lumber left for that purpose until we got to another field with his cows.  Once again, Donal took down the heavy rocks that blocked the ‘gate’ in the stone wall.  Then he headed up the field to bring the cows down.

My job was to keep them from turning back while Donal led them to the next field.  When we got there, Donal told me that it was very helpful having someone else to move the cows.  That made me feel good.  It’s just a little thing, but it’s always nice to have an impact on someone even in the smallest way.