We quickly learned that despite the modest size of our first organic farm the owners were well known in Ireland. Well, to be more exact Rupert's wife was well known. She is the daughter of Darina Allen, the Martha Stewart of the United Kingdom. She runs the Ballymaloe Cookery Course which is an internationally recognized cooking institution situated on a 100- acre organic farm. It is also connected to the Ballymaloe House, a famous hotel and restaurant owned by her mother- in- law. Darina has several cookbooks sold internationally, a relish that is stocked in every grocery store and restaurant in Ireland and England and has revived the practice of farmer's markets in Ireland. The students are not allowed to take home the food that they make to their dorms so Lydia, our host and farmer, would go and pick up boxes of gourmet food for us to eat. I have never eaten such delicious food before; Indian mussel soup, gooseberry consomme, chocolate mousse and meats and cheeses from the Ballymaloe Cookery animals.
Rupert, the husband on our farm was hostile to us from the first day we arrived. He seemed to enjoy the fact that he had figured out how to get free labor but was annoyed that we were still
there at the end of the work day. One of our projects was laying hardcore and gravel around his house and driveway with small buckets. He and Lydia used their connections at Ballymaloe
Cookery to sell the Cookery school's surplus vegetables as their own. In fact, Rupert's own farm had not grown anything but a few heads of lettuce. They also sold Ballymaloe Jams, Relishes, and Salad Dressings as their own, without the label. Customers at the Farmer's Market would constantly ask us if the products were from Ballymaloe.
The above picture is from the Ballymaloe glasshouse. Tommy the duck eats the slugs rather than using slug pellets or pesticides. They've had some trouble lately with Tommy dipping into the lettuce stock, though.
One major highlight of the farm was that kittens had been born just a short time before we got there. One kitten we grew particularly attached to and brought him into our caravan to sleep at night. The kitten got very attached to Ian and would fall asleep in his lap.
During the weekends we took day trips to other areas. One day we spent at the Distillery, getting the historical tour and a sampling. Another day we went and explored some abandoned places a few miles from the farm and found a graveyard and an old stone estate.
During our two- week stay we grew quite attached to Rupert and Lydia's daughter, Amelia. She is turning two this November and has quite a personality. She calls all volunteers on the farm "people." So, she would call us over to her going "The people, the people!!" She loved to wander to our caravan and the only way we could get her back to her home was to offer a fistful of nutella. You can see the evidence of the bribery on her lips in the picture above.
We left our first farm on a Thursday after working the Farmer's Market in Mahon Point, Cork a second time.