Wild Summer Wanderings

I have been wandering here and there for awhile this summer, it’s fun to be footloose and fancy free – so to speak.

The weather has not been the best, however, this is Ireland and we have grown up with these weather patterns and have learnt from our mothers knee to just go out there and make the most of it – even if that means putting on waterproof pants and jackets, maybe even gloves – no I go too far, gloves are rarely needed 😉

I have been camping in a few different places and having some lovely fun. No phones and no modems – hence not much action on the auld blog of late.

On the advice of a friend I headed to a beach on the west coast to see this friendly dolphin I had heard rumours of.  On and off over the last few years I had heard of a dolphin along the west coast who liked to swim with people and I often dropped by various places to see if she was visible. Until lately I never saw her.

She has moved to a very accessible although quiet beach and she is really enjoying the company of the swimmers. I have swam with her a few times now and can’t believe how friendly she is.

She seems to really want to play and spends a good deal of time with people who enjoy playing with her and ignores those who, for whatever reason, don’t want to play, which means that anyone who feels nervous about being in the water at the same time as her, need not worry about her swimming around them.

I can’t believe my luck to have had such wonderful experiences in the water with her. I snorkel quite often and it’s quite something to be swimming along, just looking at crabs and little fish and then to see, just about a foot away, a seemingly smiling face of a dolphin looking back at you.

Although I know some good swimmers who are reluctant to swim with her and are happy to keep their distance and admire her from afar, I have never felt any fear in her presence.

Mostly I feel a sense of mischievousness when she is about, a playfulness, a childlike joyful sense of fun.

I count my blessings to have had the benefit of her friendship this summer.

Organising Help

Help is a wonderful thing, especially help from friends.

Asking for help is easier for some people than others and does not always come naturally. I had to learn how to ask for help, it was a hard lesson and one that I am glad I learnt.

It has certainly made my life easier to be able to ask for help and to be able to graciously receive it – the two do not always go hand in hand!

Now I also need to know when to say no to help.

We have been getting offers of help in building our house. We have also been advised by people that have already been down a similar road that it is not always  helpful to have help – perhaps I had better explain that one!

There are times when you are building with help that you may spend more time teaching the helpers/volunteers than you actually spend working.

It is important when you are working on a project that is new to you that you take the time to learn how to do it properly yourself before you can safely or easily instruct someone else in what to do. Perhaps you are working by instinct or feeling your way, which is fine when you are working by yourself but not easy when someone is watching over your shoulder to see what you are doing!

It may be that it is easier to do a particular job yourself rather than train a volunteer, especially if that volunteer is not there all the time or may even be a different person each week!

Sometimes you may have someone there to help and you don’t have any jobs for them so you can feel under pressure to find something interesting for them to do. You can feel that they have come all this way to help you and the least you can do is create some work for them. This may result in you not concentrating on the task at hand or worse – rushing a job which needs careful consideration.

You also need to match the job to the person, this takes time. If you know the person well it is much easier because you may have a feeling for what would suit them, what they are capable of making decisions about without always asking or checking that what they are doing is ok.

People have different natural skill sets, things that they have  a natural flair for and are comfortable and confident doing and it is important to try and match these skills to the job.

We can easily underestimate the simple things that one can do to be helpful. We had a friend visiting with us last week who really wanted to help and also to learn what she could about we are doing so that when she finds some land and the time comes for her to build her own place she will have a sense of confidence about the possibilities.

She did very simple things for us. Each morning she washed up all the dishes and pots from the previous night’s dinner. This might seem like a small thing but it was so much appreciated. It meant that after dinner we could all just socialise and hang out, play music or dominoes or watch a movie.

She came grocery shopping with me and organised big salads every lunch-time  and then cooked up a great big lamb curry that lasted for two evenings with the simple addition of a side dish of potatoes the first night and rice the second so that we didn’t have to think too much about food.

She understood that we were having problems working out some aspects of  setting out (squaring up) the frame for the building and left us to it, we needed the space to be cranky!

However, I have to say that her decision to organise the outdoor bath was the coup de grace! It meant that firstly she wasn’t hanging around waiting for something to do and secondly it was one of those things that I had often thought about and not gotten around to so I was really delighted that it was happening! It also meant that we were not feeling guilty about not having an interesting building job for her to do!

So the things we have learn are to say no to help if we are not ready to use it. If someone is really enthusiastic about coming and we don’t have anything for them to do we need to make sure that they are capable of working by themselves on non-building related things and if not then they will have to put off their visit for another time.

We need to be organised about having help.

It is really important that we have a list of jobs to do for people with different skill sets.

If something needs to be taught then it is better to teach it someone who will be a regular volunteer rather than teach it over and over again to once-off visitors.

If people really want to come just to learn then we need to barter something in return – food brought and meals cooked or second hand useful building materials as an example. It needs to be acknowledged that we will loose a good deal of time in teaching so I think that we really need to look after ourselves in this regard.

It is also important to look after our helpers by ensuring that all on site eat well and have fun, we would like the house to have happy builders who enjoy hanging out, helping and learning from each other. We also expect that we will  learn from those who come to help us.

Let’s not forget we need to have some energy left to play music and tell stories!

We do not just expect people to help without return, we are more than happy to barter for help given. If someone is prepared to give us a lot of work-time then we will return that favour after the house is built by helping when they are building themselves or by doing something that they need like assisting them to set up their own renewable energy system for example or helping with web design.

Help is wonderful, especially from people you want to hang out with, it’s just not as simple as it first seems…

Rain drops…

As I write I can hear rain drops pitter patter-ing on the roof light, it’s a lovely sound at night when you are warm and cozy and do not need to go outside.

We did get some really nice weather week before last and made good use of it too!

A couple of friends from different parts of the country had asked if they could come visit and was there any work that needed doing around the place?

What a silly question! There is always work to be done around our place – everyone is welcome – bring your workclothes and boots, a good attitude and a smile and your dinner will be on the table!

We got lots of work done and even managed to have lots of fun whilst doing it! Double whammy!

We cleared the yard of accumulated “this will come in usefull” stuff and neatly piled it in a better part of the yard. We organised a fox-proof container for keeping the rubbish (trash) bags in ’til it is time to go put them at the crossroads for collection.

We moved around a few old vehicles that actually do have a use – you just couldn’t guess it to look at them! One truck has a very reliable engine that will become our key-start back-up genny for when we have a few of those dark, non-windy days that sometimes happen in the winter, leaving us a little short of electrical power. We moved the truck nearer to where we keep our electrical control equipment and will incorporate it into a lean-to on the side of our workshop.

We shovelled a couple of years worth of couch-grass off the gravel on the yard – hard work! Anyone who thinks that the Earth is in jeopardy has never lived with couch grass! Seriously, the couch grass will inherit the Earth long after we are gone! It’s our own happy, healthy existence that’s in jeopardy.

The foundations to the house got some work done on them too! Now that’s what I call exciting! With a bit more ground-work by the two of us and another visit from some helpful friends and the foundations will soon be finished – yahoo!

Imagine, with all that work in just a few days we still had time to go for wee strolls, laugh at the lambs and their mums who pop in to visit, conveniently keeping our grass down and we even managed to have some really good chats with each other.

So now it’s raining and we are back to a more solitary existence and enjoying those moments too!

St Patricks Day

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Whatever that means to you…. Maybe green rivers in Chicago, trade deals in New York, for some binge drinking in Ireland and for others putting face paint on the excited kids of the local children’s playschool class. It is a very odd mix of activities isn’t it?

I loved St Patricks Day when I was a child, for starters we had a day off school which was always a cause for celebration in my book! Secondly, even thought we were in the middle of Lent we were allowed a free day – we could eat the things we had given up for lent such as Tayto crisps, sweets and ice-cream. Thirdly, we lived near a city which always had an exciting parade and it was fun to go watch it with our family and to meet friends there too.

Drinking alcohol was not a big thing in my family so my childhood memories of the day do not involve seeing people drink to excess and as I grew older it was not something that I associated with the day.

I found it a little boring when my college friends got “rat-arsed” on paddys day, although I was a party goer most other days of the year, I never could see the whole “it’s paddys day, we have to get extremely drunk” thing.

I am looking forward to the parade in one of the towns that I live near. It will be a lovely simple affair with tractors, both new and vintage, hopefully the fire brigade truck, the playschool kids in colourful costumes, brownies and cub scouts looking so proud. How do I know what to expect? Because it has been the same for the years that I have lived here and I really do enjoy it!

As I said, when I grew up we had access to quite sophisticated parades and they were great fun and very colourful and noisy with all sorts of marching bands, big fancy floats and often American bands with cheerleaders.

There is something really lovely for me in the simplicity of the local small town parade, it seems more real, more rooted in the community, not trying to be something that it is not.

Many people are happy to go and watch their local parade and then have a pint or two with their friends and neighbours and I do enjoy that sort of socialising and may well do that very thing today.

However I will leave early so as not to be in town this evening when it becomes messy and also because I want to cook a lovely meal of bacon and cabbage! – Yeah, I know, it’s a little cliché but I do love bacon and cabbage and today is a really good day for it!

What does St Patick’s Day mean to you? Whatever it represents I do hope that you have a lovely day and enjoy some fun with your family, friends and neighbours this week.