A Milestone Reached

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He celebrated with family and friends. Yesterday, however, was also another milestone for he and my mother, in fact, for our whole family. It was fifty years ago that they moved on to the farm where they live, worked, and raised their family.

Not many can claim to live in the same place for so long. While it is more common in the agricultural community than in more urban areas for folks to live in the same place for a long time, sometimes from birth to death, it is becoming much less common. We reminisced together as I visited wish him well on his birthday, about all of the folks in their circles who have left the farm over the years, how agriculture has changed, how all the one hundred acre farms are gone, how there are just plainly fewer people in the country.

The farm as it looked in 1963

The farm as it looked in 1963

I was there when they moved to that farm. They had three kids then, two more were born after the move. I am the oldest. I turned four a month after we arrived and still have some vague memories of moving. There are many more memories of the years growing up there. Most of the memories are good ones, family working together toward a goal (or a number of them), building things together, struggling together against the elements to get crops in the ground and into the barn. Growing up there, I didn’t realize how isolating the farm was with its constant demands, it’s never ending litany of morning and evening chores. Many of my peers lived the same way. It was just how it was.

As I left home for university and on to the rest of life, the farm served as something of a bastion, a solid thing which was relatively unchanging in a rapidly changing world, a way to keep in touch with the past, to stay grounded.

The farm as it looks today courtesy Google Street View

The farm as it looks today courtesy Google Street View

There was change of course. We milked cows all of the years I was on the farm. J and I bought the cows and quota back in 1989 and moved them to our farm. Mom and Dad carried on with a number of other enterprises and in recent years have rented out the land and buildings and have been enjoying their vacations and their volunteer commitments.

In two weeks the legacy will end. The farm will be sold by auction and they will make their first move in over fifty years to a cute bungalow in a nearby town. It will be a good move for them, closer to other people and services, but it will be difficult for them and for the rest of the family who have so many memories tied up in what we knew as home.

Ireland: Week One

We’ve been in Ireland for a week now, biking, exploring, eating. We’ve travelled a little over 450 km, all on our trusty tandem bicycle. J has been keeping a running blog of each day’s adventures at beyonddonnybrook.wordpress.com which I won’t repeat. This morning I just want to share a few general impressions about this wonderful place.

Since we are traveling by bike, slowly, our impressions cannot be extrapolated to the entire country. Much of our time, this week, has been spent in County Clare, on the midwest side of the island.

Paul, the hardware man and historian, from Kilrush. One of our many new acquaintances along the way.

Paul, the hardware man and historian, from Kilrush. One of our many new acquaintances along the way.

The people really make this place! They are so friendly. They may be particularly friendly to us because we are odd, showing up in an area with apparently few bikes, and on a tandem yet too. But, even as we walk in the evening, in our street clothes, folks have time to stop and talk, beyond just answering our requests for directions. As we meet folks walking along the narrow roads we often greet them and receive a greeting in return. J suggested that it was our greeting causing the response, not the friendliness of the people so, we experimented and waited for their greeting, and it still came. When we are not greeted we now assume the folks we are meeting are other tourists!

The castle on Inisheer. Not even a sign board for this one. Go right inside, but watch for cow paddies.

The castle on Inisheer. Not even a sign board for this one. Go right inside, but watch for cow paddies.

I find it intriguing the way, in the area we’ve travelled anyway, the people live in their history. The countryside is littered with skeletons of churches, castles, ring forts, and innumerable stone houses. We did pay to visit an ring fort interpretive centre, but otherwise these monuments to the history of this place are just there, the grass cut by cattle and sheep, sometimes with a signboard describing the happenings in the place, sometimes not. It’s such a contrast to our “build something new, bury the old thing” mentality. I’m sure the things we are seeing are now protected, but the fact they survived till now is amazing, providing the people with a constant reminder of those who came before them.

We have three more weeks here, another nine days on the bike north of Galway, then back to Dublin to join our friends, and a bus, to explore more of this wonderful island.