Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the past few weeks, and snow!

Jeff: A long time with no posts. As we’ve settled in fewer things have become notable and with the holidays community life has grown busy. Our home life is going to change as well. The home coordinators for our house decided to take a break. This creates a hole in the house which the community has asked Chelsea and us to fill, at least temporarily. We are not going to assume the role of “home coordinators” which are the people that take full responsibility for a house. But our duties will be expanded and we are moving into Rainbow House. So we must bid Lilac Cottage goodbye and move on to the big community. Though it will be sad to depart from our newly christened abode, we are happy and excited to join community life more fully by actually living in our house! We’re happy to make Rainbow even more of our home and become closer with all of those living there.

Notable adventures to date.
Monday, 4 Mondays ago – Chelsea and I took a car and headed out to Eniskillen, a town 30 miles south of the community. The day was beautiful and clear. After exploring the town and the castle, we went out for a hike. The hike was straight up a hill that overlooked Lough (pronounced loch, don’t asked me why…) Erne. The views were spectacular, we could see all the way to Donegal Bay. Then we went to see some old statues in a graveyard, they were ok but what was even better (for Jeff anyway) was seeing pheasants!! We saw 4 roosters and a hen. Terribly exciting!
Thursday, 2 Thursdays ago – We needed to pick up some people up from the Dublin airport at 11:30 and bring them back to the community. We were able to get off early so we could make more of an adventure about it. We had a map and a GPS (just in case) and headed off to find the ocean, something that we hadn’t seen yet. After driving for a few hours in fog along meandering roads that most often lead nowhere, we happened upon an unmarked little beach just before it got too dark to see. It was beautiful but not exactly picture taking conditions. Then we got to have a night in Dublin: walking the streets, shopping and eating. It really got me in the Christmas spirit, with the lighted streets, street musicians and young carolers in Santa suits, the mood was right on.

Chelsea: And today, snow! We awoke to a perfect snowy sunrise, and took a little longer than normal walking to the house. These Irish are all tough with the rain and wind, but put down three inches of the white stuff and everyone freaks. Many people wouldn’t travel today because of it, and all of a sudden everyone is wearing ear flap hats even though it’s not any colder than before. Don’t get me wrong, the roads are treacherous enough without the ice, and I guess I understand. We do not even have shovels in the community, so the shovelers had to grab the scrapers from the farm. Jeff and I have been feeling very smug about grabbing snow with our bare hands (aren’t we wild!) and giddy from it all. This afternoon there was a Christmas carols celebration in the hall, and greeting everyone at the door was a four foot snowman with pine for hair, apples (one yellow, one red) for eyes, and an onion for a mouth. Now I just hope it can hang on a couple days so that we can enjoy a white Christmas!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Irish Thanksgiving?

Hello! We are fully stuffed with our Irish Thanksgiving meal, sitting in the living room with a few folks. Dessie, right next to me, is dozing off. We have been cooking since yesterday morning, and it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself, complete with three kinds of potatoes for 17 people! Here’s a list of what we had, along with a photo of the leftovers.

All home made: mashed potatoes, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, creamed corn, cranberries, gravy (with just a little bit of turkey—we got two giant drummies from Asda supermarket but that was all) and vegetarian gravy. Top it off with two apple pies. Yummy!

We started cooking after breakfast with Jill, assembling all the ingredients that we prepared yesterday. Around 3:30 people began to assemble, and we made pilgrim hats! How cute are we?! By 4:15 everyone had arrived and we sat down for a meal. Jeff read a Thanksgiving story, and then we went around the table and each said thank you for one thing. In our hats, of course. Finally, one guest insisted that we sing “Oh the Lord is Good to Me” because he knew an American once who loved that blessing. Then, food! There was no American football to be had, because in a couple minutes we are going to begin constructing our advent wreaths. Some other day, perhaps January 10th when Joe Wags is on TV for the Junior All American game. (WHooooo!!!!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A day in the life... Chelsea

Well hello! It is amazing to me that I last posted few weeks ago, but it is true. My aim today is to post a day in my life. Many people have been asking what I have been doing, and though it seems very normal to me I guess it is not so normal to all of you. So here it goes.

We wake around 7am and hit the road. All Jeff and I have to do is brush our teeth and get dressed, because we eat breakfast with everyone at the house. Some weeks we are responsible for waking people up and making the breakfast, which means we get to the house a little earlier. Here is a photo of our morning walk, complete with rainy day weather. The walk is a nice way to shake out the cobwebs from sleep, but it sure is muddy. Usually my pant cuffs have mud splatters, and it is totally normal around here. After breakfast I usually do things like help with medicine, double check tooth brushing, laundry, etc.

AM Work
At 9:30 (supposedly, anyway) everyone goes to work. My morning task is in our house, cooking lunch with three other women. We have three hours to cook! It is too much, but means that I am doing all sorts of fun things. We also manage laundry and cleaning in there, so the time is certainly not wasted. First we head to the "store," which is a building all of 30 feet from our front door. There we have a community storage space filled with all the essentials. We pick up the vegetables and maybe meat for the day, and stock up on any of the essentials that we may be out of in the house. You know-- cereal, TP, flour, light bulbs. Several people are involved in maintaining the store, and some days they are in there doing their work in the morning as well. It is really wonderful, and a good way for the community to save money because it is all bought in bulk.
After we get our stash for the day (lately, a lot of root vegetables from the garden and thats about it) we start the cooking. We work on this massive beast called an Aga, which is basically an old-fashioned farm house stove. It used to be a wood stove, with a fire in the middle, warmer on the left, ovens on the right, and stove space on the top. The Aga and I, we have a love-hate relationship. I do not know how I would do cooking for 15 every day on a conventional oven. But, ug... the Aga is not an accurate stove or oven. You can "change" the temperature, but the only settings are 1 through 5, and it changes the temp of the whole thing at once but very, very slowly. The roasting oven is sometimes too hot while the baking oven is too cold. Baking cakes and cookies is difficult, as they are either scorched or doughey. Oh, and if it is a windy day the Aga may be lukewarm all over anyway. I am learning, and so far I have not burned myself on it (which is apparently impressive). So that is morning work. We are supposedly done cooking at 12:30 and eat at 1:00, but with my cooking style I am often steaming spinach right before we eat so that it is perfect. Some days I sit for that half hour, other days I do not.

Usually tasty, sometimes crazy. Today we made squash soup, paprika cabbage, and quinoa with lentils. Camphill generally (that is, not just this community) is stuck with some residual gender role issues. Not only do I cook with three other women (and it is the same in nearly every house), but we also serve up everyone when we cook. I and Christina, the other co-worker who cooks with me, serve everyone their plate. We sit down to eat and the first people to be served are asking us for seconds. Don't get me wrong, some people need help getting their food and I do not mind that. But sometimes I would like to enjoy what I am eating for a couple minutes! There are some people that recognize this, and others that do not. Anyway, sometimes I feel a bit like a 1950s housewife, which many of you can imagine, does not settle well with me. Jeff has been jumping in here and there to break the stereotype every once in a while.

In the afternoon I work in the weavery. Look how beautiful! Like I have said earlier, I do not actually do a whole lot of weaving, but a lot of finishing work. That can be as simple as tying the ends of a scarf, or as difficult as a bag or toy. Here, you can see a few of the things that I have been working on. The purple purse is my favorite, I just finished it today! Also, a big bag, a turtle, and a cushion. There is a whole lot of room for artistic preference here, which is wonderful. It is for a funny reason though-- the weavery here is not dependent on selling any of the products made. So they do not mind if we make crap now and again because there is room for mistakes. Don't get me wrong, we do still sell a lot of it. Soon we will have an advent fair, which is what the push is for now. A lot of the things we are working on now are for in-house consumption as well, as people prepare for Christmas time gifts. I am anxious to buy some items to send home! They really are beautiful. By the time I leave the weavery, it is dark outside already.

The evening is pretty mellow. Before supper some nights I help with showers, other nights I just chill out for a while. We usually help prepare supper which is a small meal here, just bread and jam or perhaps some cake or fruit salad. Afterward, everyone does their own thing. The house we are attached to is not particularly social, which is tough sometimes! If we sit together after supper, it is really just that-- sitting together. Jeff and I have made some headway getting people to talk with us, but it is slow in coming. People start heading off to bed at 8, and if we are "housekeeping" (which is two nights a week) we mop the floor and encourage people to do their nightly routine. There is more hand-holding in this respect than there was at Community Homestead, and I am trying here and there to encourage more independence. For instance, does a person really need me to get them to go for their evening juice? No, he does not, but the routine suggests that he goes when we say something rather than when he feels like it. Little bits of independence that could be encouraged. If we are not housekeeping we go back to the cottage when we feel like it. But if we are housekeeping, come 9:30 everyone is off to bed, and we start our walk home. I like this walk, as it is a nice reflection time.

Well, there you have it! This was a very long post, but I think our moms appreciate knowing what we do every day. If you have questions, please post them and we will answer them in our next one! Lots of love...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

People can't get enough of the pictures

Week Four: Jeff

Its been a few weeks since you have heard from me. Work in the mornings so far has consisted of tidying up around our cottage and Rainbow house in the community. The work has been intermittent but satisfying. Tomorrow I will start my permanent post in the garden. Being that it is fall going on winter, I will be helping to prepare for the spring. Some mismanagement over the last few years has meant there is much work to do and I am glad that I can contribute. To tell the truth, I have been quite stir-crazy over the past two weeks. The opportunity to allow for me to feel like I am actually contributing to the community, something I have been looking for.
The one negative aspect to this job is the Irish weather! Wet and cold are constants here. This hardened Minnesotan won't accept defeat in the face of some above zero temperatures and rain but I will surely relish in the four conscripted tea consumption times. The weather here is strange to describe because my concept of "rain" isn't what happens here. Very little of the day is actually pouring, the rest is drizzle or light rain and most days you can faintly see your breath. Being always at the dew point gives the impression that it is raining even when the sun is out. Sun showers are an everyday occurrence at give us a welcome showing of some blue sky and warming rays.

In the woodwork shop I have almost completed a giant owl (measuring about 2.5 feet high). I inherited this project from someone else and am rather uninspired with it. I will take a picture when I am finished. After I am done, I am going to be starting on some new projects that we can hopefully sell. The trick is trying to find projects where villagers can contribute. Right now many spend much time rasping lamp stands but it is a task that is quite uninteresting. If anyone has ideas or projects that they would want done for them, please let me know. As we progress, I will post the projects we are working on.

I had the realization last night that I am now settled here. Though I still have to wrap my head around the steering wheel being on the wrong side, most things here seem normal. I don't have to think about what a lorry or larder might be (a truck and a pantry, respectively), I just know. I am no longer concerned about public custom in public and have learned to navigate the phones, buses and taxis. I still look the wrong way when crossing the street but some things I don't think will ever change.

Chelsea and I are beginning to make friends but we are a rather odd age for coworkers it seems. Most of the temporary coworkers are younger, 18 or 19; it is common for Europeans to take time off before they go to university. They like going into the nightclub on the weekends and we weren't really those types even when we were that age so... they make us feel old. The permanent coworkers are in middle age or older. That leaves us smack in the middle. It leaves us to blaze our own trail and so far that has been fine.

I must go out now for a practice driving time to make sure that I am not going to kill myself or others while shifting with my left hand, driving on the left side of the road through roundabouts. Insanity over here, dumb Brits and needing to be different than the rest of the world...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week Three: Chelsea

Hello again! As we have been settling in, there seems to be less time for things like this. Or rather, we are finding other things to do other than spend our time on the internet. Like walks along the river looking at honeybees and mushrooms.

Irish weather has settled in, and yesterday we experienced gale-force wind combined with medium rain. I thought there was thunder... it was the wind sucking up air in the stove vent. One of the small houses claimed that they were going to be blown away. With the time change this weekend it is completely dark by supper time. I feel like knitting and hunkering down for the winter, but snow will never really come!

In the weavery I am learning a whole lot. I have only really done about an hour of weaving, since there are lots of other people who can do this part. Otherwise I have been doing finishing work, learning how to set up a loom, and learning how to create a pattern for people. One of the women I live with, Jill, is a fantastic weaver. She works very quickly on this gigantic loom to make shawls, rugs, and tablecloths. Most people follow a pattern that is designed for certain shafts to be lifted on the loom at certain times, but Jill has a natural knack for a modified tweed, and that is what she does for her cloth. It is lovely work, and the general feel of the room is quite calming on me.

Jeff and I have been making a point of trying to go somewhere when we have a day to do so. Last week we went to Derry, a.k.a Londonderry, which is in the very north of the island about an hour by bus from here. It is a walled city with a very torrid history, and was the site of Bloody Sunday. For the first time since we have been here, I was very aware of my Catholic background. What I did not know about the country is that a lot of the troubles were based on the civil rights movement of the US. In Derry Catholics (and some working class Protestants) protested the housing and employment situation in many different ways, both peacefully and not. Derry and Belfast were centers for this activity, or at least that is what the info in Derry told us. All over Derry there are murals and graffiti, some from the time of these struggles and some from, I do not know, maybe last week. Striking to see such open conflict. Anyway, you are all capable of finding out what happened if you are interested. But from our end, it was very strange being there. A very modern city, with big issues four hundred years ago as well as big problems in my lifetime. After all of our walking around we went to a pub where Jeff had his first Guinness, and I had a baked potato with "no meat"... which apparently translates to a can of tuna. Woops.

This week many people go on "holiday" for the long weekend, so at the house it will just be Jeff and I, Dessie, and Theimo (a farmer also attached to Rainbow). We will have a little break from the normal schedule, which Jeff and I hardly need at this point. Afterward we will have two days to ourselves to go visit Dublin. More to come!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jeff's first post!

Most of you know that Chelsea is the responsible and diligent one but its about time that I made my presence known on this here blog so here goes!

We are just about settled and I had my first day of real "work" today. This morning I got to pick carrots from the field. It is starting to get cold here and that means the crops have to come out lest they rot in the fields. It was quite nice working in the morning as the sun burned of the morning fog. I struggle to understand the farmer Jim through his thick Irish brogue but from his inflection I can usually tell the required response and I just laugh along when it seems to be right. I already have developed somewhat of a poor excuse for an Irish accent that I need to consciously push down. I don't want to sound the stupid american with the terrible accent. But I have already taken to saying Aye and Wee. It just is easier for communicatin'.

In the afternoons I am working in the woodworking shop with I am quite at home with. It is nice to work with tools again. We do almost exclusively carving which will be nice to bolster my creative side. As many of you can imagine, I miss the right angles and straight lines of furniture making but none-the-less it is good to be working with wood and building things again.

Yesterday we got a chance to go on an outing and we posted the pictures below. We are loving our new camera and Ireland will surely bring many more picturesque vistas to capture. We went with our house to some ancient stone circles seen in one picture below with me standing inside. We also drove around and stopped near an old stone farmhouse and the light was phenomenal.

More reflections to come!

Quintessential Ireland For You

Took a trip yesterday. These are some fancy photos from our time. Check out what beautiful work our new camera can do! We are quite proud and excited.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chelsea Post 2

Today this place finally felt like I imagined N. Ireland should. I have soggy boots and hair! This should not excite me as much as it does, and I am sure it will get old. There are so many things to talk about this first week, and I do not want to bore anyone such that they never read this thing. So, I think I will do most of this in list form. The essential bit is that I am feeling fine and in good spirits.

1. Weavery is as awesome as I expected, and I may even be learning to spin with a “villager” from the master spinner that comes in twice a week.
2. “Villager” is the term they use around Clanabogan for the adults with special needs. I am having and will continue to have problems with this. After all, if this is a village, aren’t we all villagers? It is a tricky thing to do, name a group of folks. I struggle.
3. We went into Omagh today. For a town of 20,000, there’s sure a lot of traffic! We shopped for conditioner, ate at a little-too-fancy pub (Jeff had Irish Stew… I had a cheese sandwich. I think I will be eating a lot of those here), and managed to get library cards. Navigating pounds and pence (pences?) was easy enough. A price x2 is the cost in US dollars, but everything is more expensive here, so it all seems just about right if I pretend the pounds price is dollars. Our fun-money stipend is comfortable.
4. Hot mango pickle sauce is an installment here, and I am in love.
5. Met a maintenance-man/tea-time-musician here named Adrian. Turns out there is something about the name… all Adrians are wonderful. He was quietly happy to see that I could sing some refrains with him. Also, I’m getting to know and love another man named Timmy, who lives in Rainbow. I am slowly learning some of his signs so that we can communicate, but he already makes me smile a whole lot.

That’s all for now, more soon!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009



Monday was our arrival, and since then I believe we have slept nearly thirty hours. We are still somewhat shell-shocked. We are living in a house called Lilac Cottage, which is quite nice, although a misnomer, as it has no lilacs to speak of. All our photos below are of this house, we have not had a chance to bring the camera elsewhere. This is the place we will sleep, but much of our time is in Rainbow House (I know.). Rainbow is where we will eat, socialize with everyone, and where many of our responsibilities lay. My schedule is set and I am quite happy with it, although Jeff still has some holes in his. Mornings for me will be at the house, doing domestic type things with three women named Jill, Kristin, and Linda. I understand we will do laundry perhaps, and cook the lunch meal for about 15 people (which is like dinner at home, the biggest meal). We have three hours to do all of this, which seems more than enough compared to the one hour I had at Morning Glory cooking for 12 folks. This just means I get to do more exciting things. Only one guy does not like spice, thank goodness! In the afternoon I will be in the weavery. On our tour yesterday we walked in there and I had to pull the doofy grin off my face-- I was a kid in a candy shop! Color everywhere, and piles and piles of yarn. I begin my time there on Monday. More soon!