Living the Life

I thought it might be time to do another Blog. Life is full at the moment, possibly even brimming over. I take on far too much, I am aware of this. Things would be far more efficient if I just concentrated on doing one thing well but I have come to the conclusion that I would not enjoy life as much if I wasn’t juggling a number of ideas at the same time and enjoying life is my goal. Being productive, exploring the possibilities as they present themselves and there are always more possibilities out there even living in a small rural community like West Cork.

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I know what has got me thinking about this, it is going to college, as part of my studies they have asked me to come up with a career plan. This is probably a good idea but I have resisted having a career plan as that almost insinuates that I should focus on just one career and that really doesn’t appeal. I think what I have is a lifestyle plan and that has served me well for most of my life.

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When developing a career plan it seems to be about assessing your abilities and qualities and then matching them to a job, with these skills I would be suited to A or B. I feel a bit restricted by that, of course I could do a job that I have the skills for but what I would rather do is develop the skills that I don’t have, to challenge myself to learn new skills and see if I can apply them to my lifestyle.

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I may have understood things wrongly but working out what career you want and then trying to create a lifestyle out of it doesn’t work for me. The most important thing for me is to be able to live the lifestyle I want and consequently work out what I need to do to accomplish that. I think I need to illustrate what I am talking about with an example.

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I have coached table tennis most of my life, as a career I have progressed through coaching local club players, then regional players then national players. I have completed qualifications that have taken me from a Level 1 Coach through to Level 3, as a career I should now be looking to go further and progress to the next level but that would require me to move abroad or at the very least move to a larger town or city but that would take me away from my lifestyle which I simply don’t want to do. My lifestyle is the fundamental principle not my career.

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I want a lifestyle that is not dictated to by my career. So if trying to develop a career plan I first need to understand what I want out of life and I think that is a much bigger question. We are often defined by our careers I’m sure it used to be referred to as having a livelihood a general idiom which as a term appears to be more about quality of life rather than career which seems to be more financially driven.

A livelihood or lifestyle strategy looks at objectives pursued, and the associated opportunities and constraints in regard to the capital of the individual, the physical, the natural, the financial and the social. These strategies often depend upon multiple diverse livelihood activities involving different employment and self employment activities.

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In order to fully pursue a livelihood strategy it is important to be flexible and adaptable and to have a wide set of skills in order to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. The goals and objectives are set by the individual, for me environmental, social and economic sustainability are the main factors. Some might feel that without a career that they are risking financial insecurity but I would contend that the kind of financial security provided for by a single career has changed over the years and that the idea of a job for life is becoming harder to sustain and as for myself the idea of one job for life sounds a bit dull when there are so many new and interesting things to do with one’s life and there is a risk that investing in just one career is a risk in itself especially if that is dependent on an employer.

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The practical aspect of this is that I am constantly busy with different projects moving from one thing to another, some are interlinked while others are just further strings to the bow. This week I am managing the Goleen Cottage Market, attending Art College, growing veg, managing the Community Garden, studying Traditional Chinese Medicine, coaching table tennis and writing my blog, next week I will be….not sure but I will be definitely trying to cut the grass.

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C for Community

With all the hecticness of recent events I have had little time to ponder the universe. That is what I normally do when working in my own garden, lost in the sound of the wind, the chatter of the birds and the buzzing of insects, tending the plants and harvesting the spoils of the summer and autumn. As we move inexorably towards winter I often become more introspective, growth slows and the leaves fall, there is less light so less time can be spent attending and caring for the life of the garden.

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It is a perfect time to start new indoor projects and this year I am occupied and absorbed with Art College, a weekly routine of drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and printing has developed and I am loving and living it.

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Over the last couple of weeks due to imminent filming of the Community Garden we have been trying to finish off a few projects. The original intension was to do this gradually, to evolve the garden into a place and space of reflection but with all the attention and the opportunity to promote the purpose of the garden the ball started rolling and I have run along behind trying to keep up with its gathering momentum. Grab the opportunities as they present themselves or just go with the flow.

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I have been asked many times over the last couple of weeks what is a Community Garden, what is its purpose and why spend so much time building a garden when surrounded by so much nature; it is not as if we are living in a concrete jungle down here in West Cork.

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Well the clue is in the name Community. It is a word used so much these days its community this and community that, it is so often used that I think we do not even reflect on what we actually mean by it. We have community alert, community care, care in the community and I have been involved in our local community council since a couple of us sat around in a pub and thought we should have one of them and that was many moons ago.

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I have talked before about the me versus the we and how I originally moved here to get away from the rise of the looking after no.1 philosophy that swept through the UK so I am not going to pull at that thread again. But Community is about the “we” it is about us and how so much more can be achieved by the group over the individual. Communities are often geographical, when a group share a common space the street, the village or the town but we also find communities of like minded people or those that share a common interest being sport, hobbies or ideas such as church, or religion. There are cultural communities, the Irish have strong cultural communities all over the world and this provides a source of identity for those far from their original community a substitute for those deep family roots fostered in the land of their birth or even their ancestors birth.

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The connection with the land is a subject all of its own and I may well come back to that another time. In modern times we also have on line communities, I am aware as I sit and write this that I am participating in one of these every time I write a blog, I am reaching out to my community, those of you who will read this and to those who write their own blogs that I follow with interest, learning about lives from as far afield as America (Hi Judy), Australia (Hi Chris) and everywhere in between.

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I think it is one of the many reasons that social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have proved so popular, it enables people to connect and share their experiences, we are not alone, there are other individuals out there who want to feel part of something bigger than their own lives, who have a natural urge to care and share. My mum once told me that we have two hands, one for the community and one for ourselves and I have learnt that becoming involved in a community is not a totally selfless act, I get far more out of voluntary work that I have ever put in and it is a fair balance as the more you put in the more you get out. However I am not talking about cash, this world so often equates the value of their contribution in Euros or Dollars but there are things that have a much greater value than cash, peace of mind, contentment, feeling appreciated, purpose and being able to make a difference to other people’s lives including our own.

So back to the Community Garden and what is it for? It is a space where you can get involved, a place we can be proud of, the garden is whatever you want it to be and you can contribute however you want, the very act of getting involved of sharing, caring contributing, is its purpose and if I am right you will be surprised just how much you will get in return. The garden is for our whole community and that can include you.

 

Quite please, take one

As you might be aware I don’t usually blog so often but I thought I’d give you a short update on the filming yesterday. It went well I think, not quite what I had expected but is anything ever. The camera man Colin and Siona from GIY arrived around 12, I had told people they were arriving at 11 so there was a lot of “why are they not hear yet?” questions and I was the obvious person to ask. They were travelling down from Waterford so I had not really expected them to arrive early, I have done that trip a few times and it is at least three and a half hours and I usually know where I’m going. Anyway the mist came and went as we waited and caught up on a few jobs. We refreshed the sawdust around the circle bed and top dressed the spiral bed with a mix of compost and coffee grounds.

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The sawdust we get from my brother in law Andrew as he uses my barn as his workshop and the used coffee grounds come from the cafe Along The Way in the village. The coffee grounds have a lovely texture and a dark rich colour which looks well in contrast to the green grass and of course the smell is gorgeous. Coffee grounds are classified as a green manure as they have to break down, they do initially take nitrogen from the soil but once they have broken down they act as a slow release fertiliser. The saw dust does the same but are a more effective mulch, this particular batch had a warm orange tone as Andrew had been working with some particularly nice wood.

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Kate got stuck in to some weeding and cleared the grass around the willow arch a small but necessary job that has been needed to be done for some time. The willows didn’t grow as quickly as I had hoped but the soil is very shallow and there wasn’t really enough rainfall this summer but with a bit of luck they are now established and might make a bit of progress next year.

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Photo by Magda O’Driscoll

I thought the garden was looking really well and the dew on the grass gave a lovely shiny sheen and the colour was perfect. Their sleek black van eventually swept into the community centre and we got to meet Siona and Colin, it had been a long trip into the unknown for them as neither had ever been this far west before.

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While Colin set up his camera equipment I showed Siona around the garden bombarding her with all the stories which accompany the features in our garden, the Adopt A Pot Scheme, the Bird Feeder, the new gate, the yarn bombing, the playschool caterpillar, Foroige’s Bird Boxes, the All Ireland Pollinator plan, the pontoon containers, the recycled raised beds and all the sponsors involved in our small garden. I showed her around the polytunnels and discovered she was a big fan of watermelons, aren’t we all. So I picked one for her and just hope it was fully ripe, I still find it hard to tell.

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There was a bit of paperwork to complete and they seemed keen to have a number of different people to interview, Bob a local farmer who has been a great help already in the garden, Bernard our local Community Council Chairman, Magda a local artist and Maureen and Stephen working in the kitchen up at the Community Centre all agreed to talk on camera. I am not sure why that did not happen as by the end of filming only myself and Magda had faced the camera. I think my interview went well, talking is a hobby of mine, as Kate said they would probably need to shut me up rather than get me to talk. I know I am a chatterbox, have been all my life and especially when talking about something I feel passionate about.

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Photo by Siona Stokes

The weather was very unpredictable, it never fully turned into a downpour but the soft mist embraced us regularly and that presented a challenge to the camera man. The sun did come out and Colin took the opportunity to launch a drone for some aerial shots, I do hope to get to see some of that as it would really put the garden into context with its surroundings.

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A couple of local kids came up after school and we all got into the garden for some “action” shots. It was actually good fun and Ben, who is only 3yrs took delight in finding some nice juicy worms and entertained us with his enthusiasm.

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It did take a few hours but they were keen to get going on their return trip to Waterford. We managed to persuade them to stay for some leek and potato soup Stephen had especially prepared from the veg in the garden and Sarah-Jane from Along The Way sent up some scones. We had laid-out a fine collection of artwork from the Goleen NS on the garden theme which was a colourful addition to our day at the garden.

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After they left I kept remembering things I should have mentioned but we have had such generous support from so many people in the community I have to keep a note on my phone as I simply can’t remember it all. I would love to get the chance to do it again and tomorrow we will get that chance as a larger film crew are coming down to film a piece for the TV series Grow, Cook, Eat. I am really looking forward to that and I hope the weather gives us the chance to show off our garden to its full extent.

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Admiring the view

 

Finding the Energia

Today is the day we have a film crew coming down to film the garden. We won an award from Energia and GIY and got a grant to develop our Community Garden. It was like a start up grant as at the time we had a plot of land donated by the local Community Council but the rest of it was in the imaginings. That now seems like a long time ago and things have moved on. Very little is actually finished in the garden but is that not the nature of a garden. I have been working on my own place for 30 years and it is still a long way from being finished. That might be because I am a slow worker but it is one of the things I like about gardening, it is ever changing, the seasons and the inevitable growth of the plants make it an ever-changing landscape with some successes and some failures and seeing what works and what doesn’t keeps it interesting.

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These last couple of weeks have brought many changes to our Community Garden, having a deadline has concentrated the mind and given us a focus. The fencing is not complete but it has started to go up and I think it will make the place look cosy, hopefully it doesn’t cut the garden off from its surroundings but when the windbreak material goes up it will provide much needed protection for the hawthorn and crab-apple trees we planted earlier in the year.

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We have two of the raised beds in place now and that gives an indication of how they will look once completed. There are another four to go in; there is no real hurry as they won’t be in production until the spring but as some of the grant was initially provided for these we do want the grant people to see we were good on our word. Things have moved on in that department as we were able to get a few of the beds sponsored by the Barleycove Hotel and our local TD Michael Collins. We also got a bed sponsored by Julie Morrison and family who was part of a Trade Delegation from Maine who visited Goleen on their trip to the UK and Ireland. It was great to meet a fellow food enthusiast and someone who really appreciates the way that food is produced and sold at local markets. Another American connection Meurig & Kristie James who are living in California have also provided our local community with a bed so this has meant we have been able to buy enough materials for all 6 beds which I didn’t think would be possible.

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We have made the raised beds out of recycled plastic, it is guaranteed for 40 years, is UV protected and doesn’t leach, it was expensive but we think it is a worthwhile investment and it will make the garden far easier to use and I think it looks well.

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The community have really pulled together on this project and we have had offers of help and donations from all corners. I went to the garden yesterday and found it had been yarn bombed. I know it is supposed to be a secret thing but we all know it was done by a local craft collective “The Crafty Ladies.” They meet every Thursday morning in the hall and they had a table at our last Cottage Market. They yarn bombed the village during the festival and they were out again in force covering wheelbarrows, garden tools and some of the posts, it looks brilliant and adds colour and character to our small plot. We have a couple of painted bird boxes from our local youth group Foroige, a stone caterpillar from the playgroup, a native cherry tree from Goleen Harbour Adventure Centre and some unusual looking planters that were once part of the pontoon across Barleycove Beach provided by Ritchie from West Cork Engineering.

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We have erected a birdfeeder in the main central bed. I came up with a basic design using reinforcement bars and asked our local Head of Coastguard Paddy to weld them together. He came back to me with a suggestion over the base and fixed them on to this large chunk of rusty metal, very industrial looking. This piece of machinery came from a windmill, possibly the first in West Cork that stood overlooking the village when I first arrived built by Henning Voss, it originally attached one of the blades to the central hub. I just love the idea that we have recycled it from an alternative energy source to a central feature in our garden a bit of local history and I just hope the birds appreciate it as much as I do.

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As I sit here and write we haven’t managed to hang the new gate, the posts are in but as it is quite heavy we have to wait for the concrete to set before it is put into position. I think it is a perfect addition, the spiral pattern reflects the design of the garden and it has a little hedgehog in the corner, I love hedgehogs, not sure we will ever attract one into our garden but it would be amazing if we did. The gate was made by Tim Rowe over in Bantry, as I have mentioned previously he is a very interesting man and has a Vlog on Youtube called Way Out West where you can follow his various adventures.

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There are a few jobs that have not been completed, trying to fit in full time college and family life has been a challenge. We have 15 heathers donated from Deelish Garden Centre ready to plant and I have even dug the holes but as yet they are still in the tunnel. We have a couple of trees including a native Spindle Tree ready to be planted into containers, there is compost and mulch lying in bags by the polytunnel to be spread on the garden and a few plant pots that should be put around the garden. I will possibly have an hour or two this morning to sort some of the smaller jobs before filming starts but I am not going to stress myself out about it, the garden is the garden and I hope it will never be finished.

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I am very pleased that we are now a registered garden as part of the National Pollinator Plan and have a little sign to put up. I see the garden as very much an “All” Garden, Ecological, Environmental, Educational and Edible and being part of the Pollinator Plan is a major step in the right direction. The spring and winter flowering heathers, the wild flowers and the natural grass bank along one side of the garden should all contribute to attracting bees, hoverflies and other pollinators into, we need the bees and I hope we can make them feel at home.

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The weather looks overcast and a bit wet today which is a bit of a shame as a spot of sunshine would really bring the garden to life but you can’t have everything. So I am looking forward to the day ahead and getting the chance to show off our garden. Oh and another thing, we have another film crew coming on Friday so we might get a chance to finish off a few more things but I’ll tell you more about that next time.

I am always talking about the narrative when it comes to the garden, storytelling is a major cultural aspect of life in Ireland and I think we have a humdinger of a story in regards to our idea for seating in the garden, which I mentioned in my last blog. The characters include Magda the artist, Judy a fellow blogger from New England, Michael and Ann a local couple and the Mountain of the Pixies, stay tuned.

A Creation Story

So where was I?

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People seem to get hung up on the origins of creation, the where and how of it all, for me the question is more about, what is creation? As an animal my drive, my reason to be, is procreation. The amazing process of holding your child for the first time, there in your arms is incredible and I’ve been lucky to get to do it 4 times. My family is of my creation and the other way I can touch that ephemeral power is in my garden. God, Mother Nature, Jah, Science, Physics ultimate responsibility is not the issue here, that’s for another time but when you place the seed and a sprout pushes through the soft earth it is in that moment you get to witness creation before your very eyes, that’s powerful stuff.

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Creativity is the source code for creation; it builds nurtures and provides inspiration and vision. Creativity is my nutrient and my fertiliser. I was brought up with an understanding of the land, some of it instinctively learnt at my mother’s knee weeding the flower beds or picking fruit. For me we are the custodians of an incredible magic, earth-wielders, all those elements spinning through the universe, endless possibilities and we get to take a short ride. Creativity is the seed of endless possibilities, our very ability to survive is founded on this same element, adaptation, the evolving of a concept to a physical manifestation is creativity and this is shared by both the gardener and artist.

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Last year I re-examined my direction. I was in a good enough place, a stable situation but I think I was more of a passenger and it was time I took the wheel. The decision to take my life in a different direction wasn’t easy and I had to shed myself of some of the baggage I had built up. Do you know the expression “it’s ok to not feel ok?” I in no way want to trivialise a very important message but it made me think of my own phrase, is it ok to just want to feel ok? I want to feel more than ok, I want to love this life with a passion, to feel, in this moment, I had been the absolute best I could be. It’s what I have been teaching the players I coach at table tennis, the goal is not to win but to be the best you can be, that’s more than being ok. There is some kind of nonsensical coincidental symmetry that my initials are also OK.

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Some say it is fear that holds us back, fear of failure, ridicule and derision but it is by our mistakes we have the opportunity to learn the most. By accepting that I can let myself fail I am willing to try whatever needs to be done without being held back by fear or failure because I know I will learn more if I don’t succeed. I don’t know if that makes any logical sense to you but it is a principal of my sports coaching.

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I have listen to myself telling parents the benefits of playing table tennis and the main one is that by learning a skill in a systematic process a player learns self discipline, builds confidence, concentration and the ability to fully perform under pressure and that these are transferable life skills. It was time to practice what I preached and get back into training.

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I enrolled in a 1 year full time College course in horticulture so I could learn more about the process of creation. I loved the opportunity to explore the essence of life. I am in the process of completing a course on herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine creating creams, oil infusions and tinctures.

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This year I am once again back at college in an attempt to explore my own creative essence through art. My objective is not to win but to try to be the best I can be, for my community, my garden, my market, my family, my life. I have a very long to do list and I am looking forward to every single minute of it.

 

Here is a link to my latest audio story of our Community Garden

Some Naval Gazing

The rain is bouncing off the polytunnel like some manic ethnic drumming circle almost deafening, there is a chill in the air and the question is, is it winter yet? Feels like it. I cannot believe how energised I am at the moment and it still worries me, for whatever goes up has to come down and this particular roller coaster is getting to mind numbing heights and still climbing.

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I remember before I left the UK at that moment when I decided to say goodbye to my Filofax and to yupidom (Young, Up and Coming), the comedy duo of Thatcher and Regan were scaring the shit out of me as the world got swept up in the “I’m just in it for me,” and the responsibility of care in the community was argued out of society.

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My Dirty Hoe

Time to leave the ship and head out of town, sure I might be a rat but I was too tired from fighting the system and I needed to look at life from a different prospective. That time was the last time I felt so energised, I took a risk, rolled the dice and headed for pastures new, I still remember blowing in on a Friday as it was a very wet and windy 13th of September I thought the signs were ominous. Life was tough and a huge adjustment but the magic of West Cork wrapped itself around me like a familiar blanket and I’m still holding on, it is not the wind that blew me away but the beauty of this place has.

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Getting involved in the community was difficult, not because my neighbours weren’t friendly but because I was an alien with no idea of the culture, I stomped across the flowerbeds and I didn’t know where the path was, I tried to be gentle but was clumsy and inexperienced with the lifestyle and I made so many mistakes, I wince at those memories. But all through that adjustment (30 years later I still haven’t managed it completely) I had this energy, this vitality born of taking a grip of my own life and making a choice to live, to really live, not just talking the talk but walking the walk. Back then I felt self-sufficiency was the way to go. Feeding myself, surrounded by animals we would walk softly and if I couldn’t repair the damage in the World I could at least not cause more.

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I don’t know if it was a cop out, to lock myself away in a far flung place and turn my back on the problems but I felt exhausted from trying and I needed some ME time and to remove the log in my own eye.

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I don’t know where this urge towards activism comes from, my parents were very conservative (small c”), so maybe it was my education or just the angry teenager syndrome and I never grew up. I was a Punk and then a New Romantic, smashing down the walls of the establishment and rebuilding a new fluid society testing the parameters of what was acceptable and not, questioning ourselves and everyone around us, challenging the “straights” the “norms” and those who wanted the political and social landscape to remain flat and featureless.

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I discovered and became aware of the concept of equality, not through gender as of now but through apartheid and the example of Nelson Mandela. Ghandi was just a figure of history; I don’t know who the equivalent is now, maybe not every generation is lucky enough to have an example such as Martin Luther King Jnr. Or maybe we only get to see it in hindsight. Somehow I don’t think it will be Trump, Yap or the Boris brothers (Yeltsin & Johnston) but I have never fully understood how these things work and I could well be wrong I quite often am, as in the lyrics of one of my son’s raps “that’s a no flow zone.”

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So what’s the source of this energy? I don’t really know it must be a combination of things and I am really just trying to work it all out and writing this particular blog is giving me a chance to explore the notion, to get those thoughts in my head into some kind of order. I don’t know if it is important to discover the how but I get a sense that, if I do I might be able to keeping it going or even start it up again when I inevitably slip down the slope back into a familiar routine. May be some people feel like this all the time? Motivated, excited and enthusiastic about everything and everyone it is certainly new to me. I can’t wait to get up in the morning, there is so much I can do, so much I want to do, my brain jumps from one idea to another and the feeling is electric.

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I have taken to keeping notes on my mobile phone. I have different pages for different things. There is the Community Garden, a very long list of jobs that need doing, ideas for new projects, leads to follow, things to do before the TV Crew turns up in less than 2 weeks. But I’m not thinking “Oh no I’ve got to do such and such,” I am thinking “Oh wow! Wouldn’t that be great and I hope I can find the time to do it.”

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The Goleen Cottage Market has its own page, another voluntary community project. The Garden dominates at the moment as it is at the beginning of the month while the Market is at the end of October. This is just the second Cottage Market I’ve taken on and I’m planning on some kind of Halloween Theme. The to do list is almost as long and there is some overlap with the Garden. There is not only the geographic connection, they are right beside each other but the concept of the Market is commercial with a small “c” and Community with a capital C.

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The market or the “mart” has been a traditional cultural meeting place for hundreds of years, not only in Irish culture but all over the world. Trade is a major driving source in nearly all aspects of our lives. The explosion of the internet has shown what happens when you open up the market worldwide and we can buy from nearly anywhere on the planet. But like most things in life there are consequences, the consequence of the old village markets was a bringing together of the community, people sharing goods, sharing news, sharing their lives. Children would get to meet up and possibly get a treat at the market. Old friends would sit together and tell stories, keeping history, culture and traditions alive. Not in some organised special Cultural Event but in an informal, natural, organic way breathing life into some of the auld ways.

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So in the same way I envision the Garden helping grow the community and provide nourishment for body and soul I see the Cottage Market an important and vital organ creating opportunity for us to grow stronger together, during my self sufficiency phase I learnt I can achieve much on my own but in my current Community phase I know the power of WE is greater than you could ever imagine.

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Sky 2 Sea Colour Wheel

I do need to go and tick a few items off that list so the rest of my blog will have to wait. I have hardly touched on the source of this feeling of energy and I think it has much to do with education and experience and as I begin my second year at college, the first was horticulture; the nurture of the earth, once again I am exploring and it’s an art experience going way back to discover creation and my creativity, let’s get elemental my dear Watson.

 

I am starting to see the light, not at the end of the tunnel but brightly illuminating my body and mind. So good bye for now and I will try to follow this up real soon. If you got this far you must be exhausted but please click “like” and or comment I would love to hear your views.

TV Times

Life is pretty good at the moment, I am feeling very creative, have loads of energy, spinning too many plates and as usual when I get like this I worry that I am reaching some dizzy height before the fall. I am hoping that it is just my natural pessimism rather than recognising the natural pattern of my life. Every silver lining has a cloud.

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But why worry? Well because it is September, the summer is over and my garden, my life, is moving into that autumn phase, which here in Ireland it means damp soggy days and the build up to the winter storms ahead. There we go dark clouds on the horizon.

But if I am really honest I’m sat here going NO, not this year, not this time, I am so excited about what lies ahead I am finding it difficult to contain myself and even harder to express it as the white screen fills up with what I am writing. So where to start? Things might get a little jumbled, I’ll just jump in.

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On October the 3rd we have a TV program, Grow Cook Eat coming down to film at the Community Garden. If you have read my blogs before you will probably already know that I started a Community Garden down at our local community centre just outside the village. It wasn’t easy to set up, I live in a very rural area and most people are like, “why do a garden, what’s the point?” We are surrounded by land, it is a farming community and probably everyone has access to a potential garden plot, it is not like a city where growing space is at a premium. Well I think a community garden is more than just a growing space, it is a place where the community can come together and I have seen some initial signs of that.

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Most of the people and there are not as many as I had hoped, that have come down to the garden are not “local.” They are mostly people who have moved into the area, those who have chosen to move, not those who were born to this country lifestyle, these are often termed “blow ins,” which is a term that some think of as a negative label. Blow in and then blow out, transients not local. However I like being a blow in, I’m not here by an accident of birth, I’ve travelled all over the world and could live anywhere but this is where I decided to set down my roots and bring up a family, I’ve only got myself to blame but I know I chose well.

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The community garden is a place where everyone can come together and integrate; meet people who share a common interest. We can contribute and show pride in our community in a shared place that both displays the beauty that surrounds us and learn more about our environment.

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The garden is educational, we have had kids from the local playgroup & primary schools visiting the garden and we can show them some of the wonders that nature provides and maybe inspire the next generation to appreciate and consequently care for the world that surrounds them and God knows we so desperately need that!

I am hoping that I am preaching to the converted and that you are saying to yourself, well that’s bloody obvious, why is he banging on about it? But in reality I am having to explain why a community garden is a good idea and tonight I will be trying to express that to our local community councillors in order to get some support so when this national TV program comes to our small and very new community garden that we can show them that the community is right behind this project. Their program is all about encouraging people to grow, cook and eat local produce and I want our garden to be a place where people can learn to do just that and so much more.

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me with Grow Cook Eat presenter Karen O’Donohoe

They rang me a couple of months ago to ask if they could come to do some filming so I was prepared and have had it in the back of my mind and I have gone to the garden almost every day this summer as I volunteered to look after the 3 polytunnels that the community council use to provide vegetables to the social centre and our local meals on wheels scheme. But when they sent me an email last week saying would the 3rd of October be ok I have been galvanised to put some of the plans for the garden into action.

The wood for the fencing was delivered sometime ago, this is not only to define the limits of the garden but also a framework for the wind break material, this is badly needed as the site is exposed and the trees I planted for hedging will need protection if the garden is to thrive. I hope eventually that this mixed hedge of hawthorn and crab apple will do that wind break job and provide fruit but it will take time to establish in order to provide protection for the rest of the garden, I’m sure you get the idea.

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Well that wood needs to be put up and you would not believe how difficult that has been proving to be. There is the physical side of things, the garden is built on rock and the post have to go into that and along with that there has been some (a lot of) discussion on the best place for the fence, not by those who use the community garden but by those who seem resistant to even the idea of the community garden, hence this evening’s presentation to “persuade” the community council that the community garden is a good idea and help put up the fence.

There has to be some kind of analogy there with barriers being built and boundaries being crossed but I’ll leave you to make it yourselves.

I have got to say though the contrast in attitudes is amazing as there are so many people who share my enthusiasm about the garden inside and outside of the council and who are so supportive and helpful that I know the battles are worth it and they give me the energy to keep on swinging.

I don’t think there has been one day this summer where someone has not said something positive to me about the garden and complimented me on what I am doing and of course that is great and very encouraging but what I really want from them is not to compliment me but to take ownership and pride in the garden themselves, I need them to see it as their garden and their community and look what WE can achieve if we pull together. I know it only started in January and this will take time and I am hoping having a national TV series coming to this remote little corner of the country will go some way to achieving that goal.

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The signs are there, the writing is quite literally on the wall. We ran an “Adopt a Pot” scheme which has been so well supported it shows we are on the right track, over 40 pots now sit on the fence displaying names of local business, members of the local community as well as those from much further afield who for a myriad of reasons want to show support. We have a couple of pots which family members have sponsored commemorating those who have now left us and I occasionally get a little emotional that they have chosen our garden to remember them and I hope we can deliver a place where their memory will be honoured.

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One of our major plans has been building some raised beds for growing vegetables. This of course could be done in many ways and making a decision on the best course of action has been difficult and I would have rather had a few more people share that responsibility with me as it is a tough choice and spending our community garden money should be shared but I have decided to use recycled plastic wood. We have raised enough money through an award from GIY (Grow it Yourself Ireland) and Energia and a table quiz during the summer to buy materials for at least 4 raised beds and from day one I have been building up the soil in a corner of the garden to fill these beds and 2 weeks ago a local builder donated 2 tons of topsoil, which is a major step forward (shout out to the bad boys Diarmuid and Dáire of O’Regan Goleen Development Ltd).

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We have room for at least 6 beds so I have been asking around, the beds themselves will cost €100 each (not including delivery) so I thought I might see if anyone would like to sponsor a bed, this recycled plastic timber is supposed to last 40 years so it is not a bad investment for €100. We had a trade delegation from the US State of Maine visit our village. I know it sounds incredible, our village is tiny but we are well connected (Local man Michael Kingston brought them down to West Cork) and I asked one of the delegation representing a life science company (Julie) if they would like to sponsor a raised bed, would that not be amazing or as they say “awesome,” and I was telling our local TD Michael Collins (not to be confused with the famous dead one) the story of how audacious I had been in asking them and blow me down with a feather didn’t he reach into his pocket and sponsor one himself!

This got me thinking and I asked Mark at the spectacular Barleycove Hotel, who is always willing to support the community, if he fancied helping us out and the next minute I am walking out with another raised bed sponsored! So I will be ordering plastic wood enough for 6 raised beds! If I can get the others sponsored we can use the money saved for a seating area, I would so love to see some of the elderly members of the community sitting comfortably enjoying our garden on a nice sunny day, with maybe a couple of grand children playing or exploring the flower beds, what a scene that would make.

I know that most people who get my blog will probably have given up reading by this time, we have busy lives and who has the time to read my ramblings but would you believe there is a load more.

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I was chatting with a local man about the village and gardening and telling them about what we were trying to do in our community garden and a couple of plans I had in mind. I would love to see a proper path through the garden, one that those elderly people I was imagining earlier would use to get to that imaginary bench and he asked if I could show him what I meant. So off we went to the garden and I showed him the path I had dug out some time ago th

t is now over grown with weeds and full of stones I have taken out of the flower beds. Now he was the right man in the right place at the right time and he is Ritchie Barry who runs West Cork Civil Engineering, they do loads of construction work around the area and he told me that a path using 3/4inch gravel down and a compactor would do the job and leave it to him to sort this one out! I really can’t believe it, that dream, that imagining could just become a reality.

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He also told me that if we had a problem putting in the fence posts in due to the underlying rock that he might well have a rock breaker that would do the job. He is an enthusiastic gardener himself and he understood the purpose of the garden without any prompting from me. We chatted a bit more about the garden and I showed him round the polytunnels warning him about the leaky tap that has been the bane of my life this summer, the next day when I visited the tunnels I noticed the tap wasn’t leaking anymore, he had been in there and fixed it. That might be a small job for some people but to me it has been a thorn in my side and a real act of kindness from one gardener to another, I gave him a cucumber, seems like a poor exchange.

I started this community garden because I wanted to give back something to the community and gardening is what I do so it seemed logical. I am into self sufficiency, I often think that I have thoughts, opinion and views that don’t fit into the norm, I have learnt to be an outsider, a blow in and in order to get on I try not to rely on others so I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get any help. I set up the garden and fully expected that I would have to do most of it myself, what I didn’t expect was that there are others, more than I knew, who were willing to help and collectively we can achieve so much more. I am beginning to realise that some of the problems in regards to creating this garden actually lie with me, I need to learn to ask for help, I need to provide the opportunity for others to get involved, I know my attitude of self sufficiency gets me just so far and protects me from my own failures, I understand the garden bit but I have to learn a lot more about the community side of things, I have to start to trust in others and to open the garden gate and invite the community in.

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To this end I have got in contact with a couple of friends Adam and Kloe who have started their own incredible garden project over in Glengarriff (https://www.twogreenshoots.com/). Adam is a Royal Horticulture Society trained gardener with loads of experience and Kloe has qualifications in Zoology with Conservation, Sustainable Development and an impressive résumé working in various community groups, they are both so creative, enthusiastic and experienced, it might be a bit over kill for our small community garden but why not get the experts in to help with the planning and they have agreed to take a look and see if they can help us create a unique space within this unique and amazing community. Did I tell you I was a bit excited?

Oh and Art College starts today.