Tag Archives: Smallholding

The Sweetness of Unexpected Pleasures

Photo lens filters, packages in the post, fortuitous flowers, spectacular sunsets and helping hands all have in common that they’ve recently come to bring me unexpected joy.

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First, a recent photo of our smallholding. I took the photo standing upon the wall at the top of the road using my Samsung phone and a €1.50 fisheye lens. I never dreamt the filter would work so great. It came in a €3 package, marked down from €8, along with a macro lens.

Here are a few photos of elderflowers, soon to be elderflower cordial, that I gathered and photographed with and without the macro lens attached. I have to play around with this lens to figure out how to use it better but it definitely has potential.

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The next unexpected pleasure arrived at my doorstep as a result of Nuala landing herself in a lower leg and ankle cast for three weeks. It wasn’t broken thankfully and the cast was just removed. When Sandra heard of her accident she said she was going to mail Nuala a card. Super surprise and big excitement when the postman dropped off a package of homemade goodies and fun and love addressed to Nuala and the entire family! I was surprised by how great it felt seeing her handwriting on a card as all our correspondences have been over the computer. A million thanks to her for such thoughtfulness.

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Three flowers have grown in our garden this summer that we didn’t plant. The orange and pink poppies I’m certain of, but the purple one I can’t identify. My guess is that they’re all gifts left behind by birds. No matter how they arrived, these fantastic florae are welcome to stay and put down forever roots on our smallholding. Their blooms are lovely and I admire their independence and determination.

A generous and loving family who are holidaying on Aran for the week stopped by to buy fresh vegetables. After talking a bit about the this and that of our garden, they agreed to a barter of time for food and returned the next day to help lighten our load. 245 garlic bulbs were dug up then laid to dry and a bed of rocket was cut down in order to regrow a second time. These overdue garden jobs were completed in not much more than an hour– so quickly that there was time to spare for playing, relaxing and sharing a meal together. It’s a day we won’t soon forget.

Whether intended or unintended, I’ve no doubt that the surprise element of these lovely gifts- quality, friendship, generosity, beauty, selflessness and time- made receiving them even nicer. It’s said that little things mean a lot. I think they mean even more and are even sweeter when they’re unexpected.

p.s. The (unfiltered) sunset photos are from 4th of July. Turning around and seeing our blue shadows cast on the side of the house was another beautiful moment of surprise which I was fortunate enough to share with a good friend.

A Story of Rain

Anywhere there’s a dip in the land of our homefarm, there’s a puddle temptingly waiting to be waded through by duck or welly boot.dsc_0020-2

The earth around us has reached its maximum water holding capacity and is now overflowing in many areas.

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This happens quickly on the island in relentless rainfall because the soil is shallow and just a few feet below, if not a few inches, are masses of solid limestone. Continue reading

Making a comfortable living from a small piece of land

As the word smallholding implies, we do what we do to support our family through a combination of cash crops and subsistence farming. We do all the work ourselves between the jigs and reels of raising a family and various other obligations and distractions. There’s no design laid out before us. Instead, season to season over the past several years we figure bits out and do it, always incorporating two essential qualities. The first and most important for us is to provide food for our family. The second is to do so while designing a modest, simple and functional area where others can discover that it’s possible to create their own supermarket on just one acre. We may not be making our entire income from it yet, but day by day and year to year we get that much closer.

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Three new outside beds were added to the garden in the last week. All three are at the north end of the polytunnel, one is actually an addition to the artichoke bed. We also divided the artichoke plants to double the amount we now have and there’s still room for plenty more.

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Puss in Pants

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Greta makings use of the lower half of last year’s scarecrow. Have a fabulous Thursday everyone. 🙂

“If you don’t build your own dream, someone will hire you to build theirs”

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Before shot #2

september-2016-before-shotThe above picture is an update on my Sept 22nd Instagram ‘before shot’ (left) that I thought some of you here might like to follow the progress of.  We’re determined to move leaps and bounds this autumn and winter towards our goal of making a business out of our gardens, therefore fulfilling our dream of working together full time and no longer working out of the home for other people. Continue reading

What’s cooking good looking?

This time of year sees me in the kitchen slightly more than the garden.  My intention is always to produce food that is good for us, tastes amazing, and makes us feel good from the inside out.  Here are a few things I’ve created during this last month…

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I’m feeling these are my best fermented eggs ever. I added in some nice pickling spices this time including coriander & mustard seeds, ginger, chilies, cloves, bay leaves, allspice, juniper berries, peppercorns, and cassia (which has an amazingly cinnamon-like flavour). They’re both sweet & sour at the same time and super nutritious & delicious. The carrots and onions give some needed natural sugars but add so much more than that to the finished product. 😍 Wish I could let you all have a taste!   Continue reading

August’s Garden

August is over so it seems time to get my backside in gear and post a few of the many photos I took around the garden throughout the month…

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The L, O, & E beds are in view, but the V bed is cropped out at bottom of photo but the photo above it has an excellent angle of it. Yes, they spell L O V E!

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It’s a Good Day to Have a Good Day

Every day won’t be the best ever, but there’s a best part to each and every day.  It may not be what you hope or expect.  In fact, better on these less than best (hard) days to stop expecting and instead wait with optimistic anticipation for the completely unexpected joys that appear out of seemingly nowhere from unlikely people, places, and things.

If there’s something ostensibly big keeping you from your joy, focus your attention on something small.  There are little miracles everywhere in nature just waiting to distract us from our thoughts of ourselves and our worries…

💛💛💛💛💛💛💛💛 Continue reading

Wholesome Work

Can you read my messy writing?  My far from complete ‘can’t wait to-do list’…  I was going to rewrite it neatly, but decided to spare the waste and instead trace the pen in rainbow colours to brighten it up for this post.

While the photo is all about my work that is creative, fun, and without strict boundaries, the accompanying haiku refers more to the laborious aspects of working to provide food for our family…

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working the body

harvesting diamonds and pearls

feeds autarkic souls

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The diamonds I refer to are those we harvest from the ground, the pearls being what we garner from the sea and shore. By now, you know that those aren’t the only gems provided by the earth, our little island, our neighbors, and our homefarm; we harvest, gather, barter, and recycle.

No surprise, it’s not always easy living out a dream.  We do it not only to support our family’s food needs and desires to be self-sufficient, but because we genuinely love the physical demands and the creative challenges that come along with choosing this lifestyle.  It nourishes our soul as well as our bodies.

The process of providing for one’s self and family gives an energizing rush– though, ironically, we’re often working while feeling sleep deprived.  We feel this rush when physical and mental boundaries are stretched to working out of our comfort zones, or sometimes it’s when we find creative/inexpensive solutions by putting our ideas together and trusting one or the other’s better judgement.

I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t admit that there are failures and disappointments, injuries and losses, timelines not met, plans that don’t turn out as expected (or, ugh, never even get started).  We get frustrated with ourselves, each other, the community, and the weather.  I’d rather talk about the blessings though, not the problems.  I prefer to write about the problems after we realize the lessons learnt from them.

Finding the balance between the planning and the trusting, the listing and the letting go, the doing and the just breathing, is something we are getting better at.  Like gardening, some things are meant to be learnt over a lifetime, one experience at a time.

Thanks to my friend Ronovan for his inspiring haiku words, ‘diamonds & pearls’, and to the four fab photo friends (myself included) who’s word ‘work’ is the theme of my photo and this post.  

 I hope all reading this are feeling balance between head and heart in all to do with work and life.

Melissa Xx

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