help exchange   Host 14446
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Help Exchange

All Year: Yes
Area (ha): 2
Persons: 4
Category: Organic Farmstay
Host ID: 14446
Country: Ireland

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Last Updated: June 11, 2017

On offer here is very primitive accommodation and washing facilities, early starts (wake up with a smile at 6 am most days!)and hard physical work, but a relatively flexible and relaxed work rhythm, basic food (but plenty of it), a great project, a fairminded host and the sweet sound of the Irish language!

PLEASE read all the information provided before deciding whether to write!

I check emails ONCE A WEEK, usually Fridays. If you need a quicker reply, do not waste your time (or mine!) by writing to me. I almost always accept every person who writes to me. So please don't write unless you are sure that you want to come here. About one tenth of the people who arrive here decide that they don't like it and leave sooner than planned. That is never a problem for me.

Availability: Most of the year. Looking for June and July in particular. I will be away between 15 July and 15 August, but would welcome a helper or two willing to look after the place while I am away. If you are interested in this offer, you must arrive 7th July at the latest, so I can explain the set up. Your tasks will be simple: feed the ducks and pick and process blackcurrants.

Short stay helpers very welcome, but very interested in a longer term helper. If youīve potentially got a month or more to spare (any time of year) get in touch. A longer term helper would have much more relaxed starting time and work hours.

I reply to every email I get. Because of the hard work and primitive conditions, not many people write. The weather can be harsh any time of year (wet, cold, windy), so please think about that before you write to me. But as you can see from the reviews, most people who come here enjoy themselves, at least to some extent.

No television. THERE IS NO INTERNET CONNECTION HERE. The nearest public internet connection is 8 km away. The use of computers, mobile phones, Kindles, etc is NOT ALLOWED in the main part of the house (you can use them in the covered porch outside). I charge 1 euro for every charge of your mobile phone/computer/tablet. It's free to recharge batteries for headtorches, radio and non-screen Ipods. There is a telephone which you can use to contact your next hosts and your family and friends. I expect you to pay the cost of any international calls you make, but you can receive calls for free. Accommodation dormitory style in the loft. If you are a couple you must sleep in the caravan, only. There is a very basic compost toilet. There is mains electricity.

Types of work: Cooking and cleaning in the house (cushy number, away from the weather.)

Outdoor garden work with hand tools. Digging, handweeding, moving manure in wheelbarrows and buckets, etc. If you are used to spending most of your life in front of a computer or TV screen, this will be the hardest work you have done in your life. But it will be good for you, and will bring a healthy glow to your cheeks.

Skilled jobs: If you are a plumber, carpenter, stone mason, electrician, horse trainer, or similar, you will find interesting projects here.

I value (much more than gold) helpers who are brave enough to come here. It is very important to me that nobody can say they have been overworked or exploited.

Six acre site in north Leitrim 15 miles from Sligo. Mostly planted with native trees, fruit trees and currant bushes.

It's hard, physical work outdoors, and from personal experience, I find that a good warm up in the morning is essential before starting work.

Apologies for the long profile, but it's mostly based on questions from potential helpers. It saves you time writing with extra questions. It gives you plenty of information to decide whether this is a suitable place for you.

Washing facilities: A bowl of hot water and a bar of soap. Or light a fire under the outdoor bath and in half a hour (if the wood is dry), you will have a very hot bath indeed!

What to bring: Prepare like you would for weeks winter hiking in the mountains: warm clothes, hat, gloves, long johns, sturdy boots (leather is best), rain jacket, rain trousers. If you have your own sleeping bag, all the better.

I started hosting helpers the summer before last, and I was gobsmacked by the -mostly- high quality of people who turned up. Many hands make light work, they say, and helpers have transformed the place and inspired me. I've met athletes, superb musicians, honest philosophers,martial arts champions, UNPRETENTIOUS poets (note the capital letters, folks!), artists, intrepid travellers, good cooks, experienced gardeners and woodsmen and intelligent and honest people. A staggering amount of work was done (thanks, guys!)but we also climbed a few hills, played a few tunes, did a bit of paddling, lake swimming and had a party or two. Your help and company was greatly appreciated, I am grateful every day for the improvements you made: you are welcome as friends anytime!

It's the usual self sufficient dream, heavily influenced by the Japanese peasant, poet and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka: to establish a forest garden, with a year round selection of food and useful plants, and modest but luxurious living space. In theory, it will be possible for a community of a half dozen people to live here in comfort and with plenty of food, without having to use money, fossil fuels or plastic. There's a long,long,long way to go yet, but a start has been made!

Fruit trees (apple, pear, plum, cherry), currant bushes (red, white and black currants and gooseberries) and a range of other trees (alder,birch, oak, willow, rowan, etc) are mostly growing well. The tree and shrub layer of the forest garden are quite nice: the ground layer is what needs to be planted now. Currently the ground layer is mostly buttercups, brambles, grass and rushes!

Your time and labour is very much appreciated, and I am very aware that you are volunteers.

Whether you stay on the farm or take a day trip, food is available for your free days. However, if you are staying on the farm on your free days, you're on kitchen duty for those of us working - cooking, washing up, emptying toilet and compost, cutting logs for the fire, bringing in turf, sweeping, making cups of tea and general cleaning and tidying in the house. Once the place is looking shipshape you're free to chill out reading, writing, drawing, playing music, going for a walk or cycle, etc.

I am an honest man, and a fair man, but not a rich man. If you come here, please keep a helpful attitude! I prefer people who take pride in finishing a job well, rather than clock watchers looking to minimise the amount of time they work.

Unfortunately, there may be days when you will have to work outdoors in very cold, wet and windy conditions! But if I ask you to work in those conditions, rest assured that I will be working alongside you. You will be surprised at how exhilarating it is to work in a force 8 gale and at how quickly you get warm when using hand tools.
Obviously, we don't work outside in hurricane conditions.

It's good to take some short breaks while working. Of course, if at any time you find the work too hard, too boring or beneath your dignity, please tell me at once, and you can have a break or a different job to do.

The best way to get prepared for a days work outside in wet, windy and cold conditions is an early morning run or cycle. Feel free to join me either on foot or on bicycle for a dawn run. Don't worry, I'm a slow runner, and happy to slow down further to keep pace with you, if that's necessary.

What type of work: There are many fascinating tasks and craft projects to start here, but at the moment I need lots of: moving manure in wheelbarrows, putting carboard mulch down, weeding around bushes and trees,cutting brambles, pathmaking and digging. It would be great if you can spend most of your time here doing these basic tasks. I welcome suggestions for more creative projects (there's good clay here, there's some dried weaving willow ready to be made into baskets and there is wood waiting to be turned into spoons, plates and gates.) There are skins of sheep,fox,hare, badger and pine marten waiting to be turned into gloves or hats (all came from roadkill, except for the sheep, which came from the local butcher). I hope to build the foundations for a cob house over the next few months. There is an important plumbing job to do: connecting a water supply to the back boiler on the woodburning stove. This will create a supply of on tap hot water, but itīs a big project, and if there is anyone out there with experience in this type of work it would be great!

Food: You will have to take your turn cooking! If you don't know how to make bread, you will learn here. Typically there will be choice of: Oats, eggs, pasta, potatoes, bread, greens, fruit, cheeses, pickles, etc. Don't expect meat every day!

Livestock: Rua, the amazing one-eyed marathon dog; Cat, the talkative elder cat Misneach and Cuthailach, the younger acts; varying amounts of ducks and chickens; loads of slugs, frogs, newts, magpies, etc.

There are many disadvantages - midges and horseflies are a problem during the summer unless it's windy; it's very often rainy, windy and cold and it's five miles to the nearest village.

Public transport is very infrequent (only 2 buses a week). The nearest surf beach is 20 miles away.
Hopefully you won't feel stranded; I travel a couple of times a week to Sligo, there are neighbours who may give you a lift and there is a selection of bicycles available on payment of a refundable damage deposit.

You will enjoy your stay here much more if you are the type who relishes a 50km bicycle ride or a 20km run.

I sometimes take people kayaking, and you will be welcome to come along on lake trips.

I enjoy speaking the Irish language (gaelic), Italian, Spanish, French, German, tipin bach Cymraeg and troche po Polsku!

If you speak one of these languages, please,please,please write using that language instead of boring old English! In fact, if you speak ANY other language at all (even Basque or Breton) , please use that in preference to English and I will with pleasure translate your email by computer. Let me know at the start of the email what language it is.

I prefer not to speak English, although I am not in the slightest biased against English speaking people. However, if you want to learn or improve your English, I am very happy to give advice, spend time teaching you and will correct any writing you do. But you have help me learn your language too, and you must be committed to learning English (ie, practice total immersion, no reading books in your own language, listen to songs and radio in English and a minimum of an hour a day written study!). If you're coming here to learn English, I strongly recommend you visit the website and get a copy of his "language hacking guide".

If the only language you speak is English, why not take the opportunity to pick up a few words of Irish from me or other languages from other helpers?

How to get here: Ireland is the island next to Britain. There are ferries from France (16hours) and Britain (4 hours). Check out Stena line and Brittany Ferries.

The nearest airport to me is Knock (Ireland west), but relatively few flights to UK, France, Spain and maybe a few other places. Belfast and Dublin are about the same distance, but thereīs more choice to Dublin. Try to avoid flying with Ryanair, because of its lack of honour in its business dealings.

From Dublin, take a bus (bus eireann) or train(iarnrod eireann) to Sligo. I live in LEITRIM, but go to Sligo first. The train is very expensive but if you book online in advance you might get a oneway ticket for 10euro. From Sligo there are two buses a day (except Sunday) to DROMAHAIRE. From there, you can get a taxi (I recommend Ciaran Clinton 0879164000: he knows where I live and does the trip for 10euro) to my place, which is in the townland of KILLAVOGGY. Itīs 500 metres up the hill from Killavoggy church.

If you take the taxi all the way from Sligo itīs only 30 euro (with Ciaran Clinton). The single bus ticket Sligo Dromahaire is about 6 euro.

If you decide to walk from Sligo, itīs only about 25km. In Sligo, find the Garravogue River and follow it along through Doorly Park as far as the path goes (a fabulous walk through woodland), and then keep going on the road, past the Holy Well (Tobernalt), until you rejoin the busier main road about 1 km before Dooney Rock. For the next 3km youīre on a busy, narrow, windy rfoad, so take extreme care. But once you reach Slish Wood, your troubles are over. Thereīs 4km of delicious track (no cars) through woodland on the shores the spectacular Lough Gill. You go back on the road at Inishfree, but these are very quiet roads, another few km to the quanit village of Dromahaire, past the ruins of monastery and over the River Bonnet.

Walking from Dromahaire to Killavoggy: Only 8km. Go out the village in the direction of Manorhamilton, past the Clubhouse Bar, and just past the nursing home, the main road bends left and the minor road goes straight ahead. Take the minor road for a few km until you īget to 5 Crossroads. Donīt take the main raod to your left, take the next left, a smaller road. Follow this road, staying on the main road until you get to Killavoggy.

Hitching. People do it, and it sometimes works very well. But take great care who you get into the car with!

Thanks to everybody for their generous reviews.

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