Hi everyone, it’s good to be back!
Mandy and I have been on a holiday that started out with an adventure. I’ve mentioned that my paternal grandparents are from Ireland and in 2018, my pops took us all back and had the cousins tour us around to see where we are from, where our folks lived, worked, and socialized and where they had brutal encounters with the Black and Tan, which contributed to my family moving here.
We walked the roads and saw the deep green fields and clear black streams that cut through them from the local mountains and visited the sites where our elders are buried. During that time, we learned that the Kerry Way is a long hiking trail that passes within meters of the small inn where my great-grandmother sold her garden grown dahlias (thought I was the first lol). It’s just a stone’s throw from the thatched roof cottage where my grandfather grew up. In that moment, Mandy and I got inspired to walk the trail at a future date to really get a deeper sense of the land my family is from. It’s one of those romantic plans you make, but aren’t truly sure you can actually do. Yet, 5 years later the stars aligned just right and we did.
We spent 2 nights adjusting to jet lag in a very rural pub where coincidentally Saoirse Ronan grew up shooting pool while her dad drank pints and socialized. The local farmers there took us in like their own and treated us like family. Quite a warm welcome. Then 4 days of hanging out with cousins who are the kindest most fun people you’ll ever meet. Then it was time to get over to Killarney and begin our hike.
We walked about 43 miles in 3 days (in part because I read the map wrong and had us hike up a mountain we were just supposed to hike past). The whole trail was incredibly beautiful. Mountains with waterfalls, draping down past fields of sheep, into valleys where horses grazed. The weather was kind with only occasional rainfall, making our fairly grueling passage a significant bit easier. Not sure we’d have made it otherwise. The day I made the wrong turn, was the day we were to end up at my grandfather’s pub to sleep for the night, but it was also the hardest day where we hiked up and down almost 18 miles over mountain passes time and again. It was harder than I anticipated, but stunning the whole way. We ran into a few German hikers, but otherwise it was just us alone in the mountains. When we finally got to a road, we hitched a ride for the last km to the pub and were picked up by what turned out to be a 3rd cousin’s wife. Small world.
All in all, it was all that I’d hoped for and a very generous gift Mandy gave me by not only joining me in those mountains, but by actually suggesting it in the first place. I’m a lucky fella.
To return the favor in some small way, I drove 5 hours through the rain on the wrong side of the road to get us on some horses on the Dingle coast. Mandy is a talented rider who never has the opportunity, so it was a great joy to see her running at a full sprint on top of a rainy mountain on the Dingle coast. Wet and sore, but laughing and happy, we ended our Ireland trip on quite a high note, both feeling quite fulfilled.
We then popped over to visit farmer friends on the island of Madeira in Portugal. Bailey and Thomas of Farmer Bailey fame and formerly of Ardelia Farms in Vermont made the big leap to up and move to “the Hawaii of Europe” and I see why. Those two brilliant fellas who have done a ton to bring new varieties of flowering plants to farmers all across the U.S. (as plant brokers) are also incredibly generous and fun hosts to boot. We did chat business a bit, but it was the prettiest “office” I can imagine the pleasure to do that in.
Mandy and I spent the following few days in Lisbon, discussing everything we could about the farm in an effort to make it a more efficient place that better achieves our goals. We of course did that over great food and drinks as much as possible and are now back home, excited to start implementing our new plans and grateful to have arrived on a few of the coolest days this summer has given Georgia.
The farm was well tended by our wonderful crew in our absence. The tunnel of mums and all the fields of dahlias look very healthy and we’re grateful to the team for allowing us time away. Our spring season actually starts in Fall, so summer is the only time we can actually leave the farm and take a breath, so we tried to make the most of it.
Back to work!