Our Visit to Ireland

If you are a regular reader of this blog you probably know that Michelle and I don’t fly so maybe the title of today’s post made you wonder, “How did Cam and Michelle get to Ireland?” And no it wasn’t a virtual tour; it was more a case of Ireland coming to us.

Immigrants from Ireland, many after the great potato famine, settled our closest village of Tamworth, and the nearby Erinsville. There is a wonderful group in Tamworth (http://srayner.ca/comhaltas/M_Language.htm) who regularly organizes Irish cultural events including a whole week during the summer when people come from across North America to learn Gaelic and soak up Irish culture.

Our community is always invited to participate and this year there was a concert held in the local Legion hall with the band “Four Winds” and they did indeed come from Ireland! (https://www.facebook.com/fourwinds.tradmusic?fref=ts)

The date of the concert was bad timing for us because Michelle was just coming back from Toronto after visiting with our new grandson and since it was a Wednesday night, I was busy weighing and bagging green and yellow beans. Yes, it’s quite a glamorous life here at Sunflower Farm during the summer! Thursday is CSA delivery day so on Wednesday I pick beans in the brutal sun and heat, and then pack them and put them in our cool root cellar. And yes, I’d love to pick them the same day, but with all of the other vegetables we pick fresh on Thursdays, it just wouldn’t work. And when I look at green and yellow beans in the stores that come from Mexico, I’m pretty sure beans picked 24 hours previously are a great deal fresher than the competition.

The organizer of the concert was looking for accommodations for the band members. He asked if they might stay in our guesthouse and since they were arriving late (after the concert) and leaving early the next morning, it wasn’t a problem. I got back from picking Michelle up from the train station just after 7 pm and had the beans packed and the kitchen cleaned up by 10 pm and the band arrived just after 11.

And what a delight they were. I love Irish accents, and am drawn to Irish movies because of them but to spend time with real authentic Irish people is, well, ‘brilliant!’ I say brilliant because it’s a word the band used often and their enthusiasm was truly contagious.

There had been a full house in town for their concert and Tamworth crowds are very enthusiastic, so when the band arrived they were, as one would expect with musicians after a concert, ‘pumped.’ They came into the house and just couldn’t get over how ‘brilliant’ it is that we are off the grid and how remarkably ‘brilliant’ they thought Sunflower Farm was (even though it was pitch black on their arrival) and it just went on and on. I could have stayed up all night listening to those accents if I didn’t have to be up by 6 am to start picking lettuce.

After they headed out to the guesthouse I fell asleep to the sound of the most enthusiastic laughter from the guesthouse. Clearly our houseguests were enjoying their stay in Canada so far.

In the morning Michelle helped with picking and packing the CSA boxes until 9 or so when the band members started getting up and coming into the house. Michelle served them some coffee as they took turns showering. (They were heading somewhere else for breakfast.) I came and went as often as I could since I appeared to be on top of the CSA box organization. And it was truly a joy to sit and learn about Ireland and Irish culture. I asked lots of questions based on my misinterpretation of their country and learned so much. And they continually reminded us how ‘brilliant’ they thought our place was, even more so in the daylight. I have now incorporated brilliant into my every day vocabulary. I have also perfected (or enhanced) my Irish accent, which I spoke to myself for two days before their arrival. I believe I only attempted to use it once that morning and they didn’t seem to take offence, which was good since it was used in with the greatest respect for their culture and the history of my community.

I must also say they were some of the most gracious guests we have ever had. Each of them thanked us many times for our hospitality, which, since I kept tromping in with mud covered work boots, was most reassuring.

We gave them all copies of our book, “Little House Off the Grid” and I don’t think I need to elaborate on their choice of words to describe it. And they happily returned the favor with the most detailed verbiage from each member of the band signed onto their CD. It’s a good thing CDs haven’t shrunk in size, or they would have been hard-pressed to fit it all in!

Four Wind signed CD

Before they left we did our ubiquitous photo in the front of the solar panels, which was their request. After living with solar power for 18 years I assume everyone is ‘over’ solar panels, so it’s always joyful to meet new people enthused about their brilliance. It is a very cool way to live and I never tire of people reminding me of how great they think it is. I need a reminder of this to sustain me during the dark months of November and December that approach on the horizon.

Four Winds Sunflower Farm

We have had many people visit Sunflower Farm, now from all over the world! Each time someone comes from a faraway place I’m always worried about how well we’ll get along. And each time I am amazed about the similarities of people and how much I enjoy their company. Each time they leave I feel I’ve made new friends and miss them. I hate to travel because I hate to leave this place, and I’m always so pleased when someone from faraway can bring his or her world to me for a while.

Four Winds CD Cover

Michelle and I have been enjoying the “Four Winds” CD immensely. We discovered Celtic music a few decades ago when we toured the East Coast of Canada and Cape Breton Island in particular which has nurtured it’s Celtic culture so well. And now, any time we want to we can fire up the CD and spend some time in Ireland. “I’ve got to tell ya, it’s brilliant!” (Said in my awesome new authentic Canadian attempt at an Irish accent)

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Spaces for the October 24th workshop here at Sunflower Farm are filling up. If you are planning to attend, please be sure to let us know.  Visit http://cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm for more details and to register!

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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