The first night we arrived at Ann’s we sat in the kitchen to enjoy dinner and digress from a long day of traveling. At the end of the evening, after the lasagna and dishes were finished, we got down to business. We wanted to know what workin’ on the farm would mean for the next two weeks. Most importanly, what specifically we’d be tasked.
Upon asking, Ann presented a (surpsingly accessible) A4 sheet with a list of projects. Ann has a remarkably stylish handwriting font which made each job look alluring. The list was filled with brush clearing, weeding, coppicing and painting, but there were a few bigger jobs which caught our attention.
During our stay we worked on several tasks together, but a couple tasks we made our own. It’s hard to say if we preferred working together or alone, both had their benefits, but we’re certainly most proud of what we accomplished alone.
Gettin’ Dirty in the Poly
One of the most unique parts of Ann’s property is her outdoor vegetable garden and the neighboring poly-tunnel. For those unfamiliar, the poly-tunnel is a semi circular structure made of polyethylene which traps and retains heat from the sun. It’s the best way to climate control your garden for temperamental plants.
Needless to say when we arrived, the poly was in desperate need of some TLC. A rebel force of weeds had launched a full-scale assault on the defenseless tomatoes, beets and sweetpeas. It was clear the veggie alliance was only moments away from certain death.
Hours were spent hunched over uprooting thousands of “little bastards,” as we endearingly began to call them. Not only does one have to rip off their wiry little weed-heads, but one must use a pitchfork to unearth the top-most 6 inches of soil exposing and yanking out their “mother-roots,” …another one of our shorthand pet names.
Once the army of little bastards had been thoroughly exterminated, Brit could focus on rebuilding the veggie alliance. Bags of fertilizer were mixed with the top soil, raked across to ensure even distribution. Sea weed collected from the beach during low-tide was used in conjunction to help return essential nutrients to the soil, a farming tactic which has been used for decades.
In all, Brit’s tireless work in the poly will enable Ann to produce more organic vegetables for seasons to come.
When the weather didn’t trap Brit in the poly, there was an outdoor garden to tend. Winter is off-season for outdoor gardening, so the beds needed a similar treatment to those in the poly. Sea weed from the shore was laid on the top the soil, then covered with tarps to expedite the decay. In a few months, the soil will be ready for seeding.
Surrounding the outdoor garden was a wooden fence. The frame had been built long ago, but needed pickets. The pickets were harvested from neighboring trees, clipped of their sprouting branches and then trimmed to size.
Brit individually nailed in over 250 pickets on the outdoor garden fence. A project that took several days.
During the day one could often hear the crack of a hammer and nail in the direction of the outdoor garden, knowing Brit was at it again, building her fence. The fence was finally finished on our last day at Reen. A legacy to be proud of.
You Best Get to Steppin’
Ann’s property sits on the northwest corner of a protected inlet, the innermost part of Blind Harbour. From her “front lawn,” she has access to shoreline at a couple beaches. The road to her house winds along a sandy beach, where the kayaks are launched on calm days. It then turns sharply uphill, around the poly-tunnel and outdoor garden, passes by the house and then back down the hill, in front of a couple bungalows, the boathouse and stable toward the beach again, completing the loop.
During one of the several times walking along this road, Ann began to speak of projects of past WWOOFers. New trees planted, new paths cleared, the list was long. It seemed like every prior visitor had left their legacy, often in the form of new life or utility created.
One of the bigger projects on Ann’s list was clearing and creating new steps down to a rocky beach. When we say “beach,” in this instance, it’s essentially just the end of the bedrock, which dips down to meet the ocean, covered in small stones. The entrance to these new steps would be just beyond a retaining wall that borders the road, through an overgrown portion of landscape separating the lower bungalow from the rocky beach. With these new steps, one could get from the rocky beach to the sauna (in the bungalow) directly.
We’re pretty sure this was Ann’s primary motivation for the new path and steps.
The job was tough and dirty. Trees were chainsawed and dug up. Miles of ivy and bramble branches were thrashed, literally. Matt used a sharp bladed tool called a “thrasher,” to clear the vines and overgrowth back. Imagine a baseball bat and a sword fall in love, make a lovechild in a night of passion, then you’ll get the thrasher. This was Matt’s weapon of choice to clear any and all brush. He would go around looking for reasons to bust out the thrasher on anything, even plant life that didn’t necessarily deserve it.
Once the brush was removed, the digging began. Trenches were needed to set the steps and level the distance between. Rocks and dirt packed the steps in place, along with wooden stakes sledged deep into the ground. The process was long and tiring, so Matt kept a decent video log. He put some videos and photos into a quick iMovie, so if you’re interested to see their progression you can watch the video on YouTube.
Unfortunately, the steps were left unfinished. Rain, wind and poor weather prevented the required productivity. To be fair, the job was ambitious, expecting to finish in two weeks may have been slightly unrealistic. It was an ambitious project that will hopefully be completed by another traveler who will share the passion and ultimately, the glory.
Aside from our major projects, we worked on several other diverse tasks on our own and together. See us in action in the pictures below.
Our experiences at Ann’s property and in southwest Cork were more than we could have ever imagined or asked for. We met so many friendly and hard-working people it has become an inspiration we’ll carry back home to kick-start a new life in Colorado. We are deeply grateful to everyone who played a role in our life-changing tenure in South Reen.
We picked a handful of our favorite memories, the ones we had on film, and put them into a small video and photo compilation. Thanks for reading and hope you can enjoy. Please leave us some love in the comments below, or subscribe to new updates with the form at the bottom of the page.
Looks like you kids did an amazing job. I am proud of you. Now that I see just what expertise you have, I am beginning my own list, and anxiously awaiting your arrival in Colorado Springs, I will put forth a Woofing program for you right here at the Erlenbusch Estates ! So thrilled to have such talent in the family.
Where are you off to now? We miss you. I have put up all the Christmas decorations and all of the trees in every room. The only thing missing are all my babies.
Yes, we are quite handy people to know now! 😉 We are in Scotland now. Will definitely be missing home around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Thanks for reading our blog, love you.
The chapters of your blog about the time you spent at Reen have made such good (and fun) reading. The video – B And The B Productions! – is great, too. Enjoy the rest of your travels. Your fortnight at Reen will be hard to beat!
Thanks Amanda! We were totally blown away from experience at Reen. We wouldn’t have changed one thing about it. So happy to learn you enjoyed our stories. Thanks for reading!
Wow – this is so incredible – I have loved following your adventures – and your video is beautiful. Reen looks like a WOOFers paradise – hard work in an amazing spot. So glad for you two, and can’t wait to read more. Awesome skills too! Can you help me build a fence like that? Love it.
Thanks aunt Amy! It’s been an amazing experience. I’m sure Brit could rustle you up a new wood fence, she’s pretty handy with a hammer these days. Love you.