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Gone Farmin' ’m Steve and I’ve gone farmin’ ‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple really. I decided to satisfy all my interests - food, travelling and growing veg - by backpacking from one organic farm to the next (aka wwoofing). With a background as a journa

Windy Hill Farm

IRELAND | Friday, 7 March 2014 | Views [1719]

Deep within the gusty countryside of West Ireland there’s an organic farm that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Located half an hour from Ennis, Clare, a small wooden plaque hangs at its entrance and reads ‘Windy Hill Farm’.

Run by Irene and Packie, the farm grows a range of organic produce while raising a handful of cattle to help support their self-sufficient dream. Supplying their organic fruit and vegetables is a polytunnel, vegetable garden and small orchard, which often inspires the diet on the farm.

Excess produce goes to farmers markets in the form of jams, pastries and other delicious treats. In fact, Irene is often the figure head behind these markets and can be involved in as many as four a week.

Irene is originally from the Netherlands and moved to Clare after falling for the allure of the Irish countryside on a holiday. Not long after the move she met local man Packie who was living and working on his family farm. Together they combine traditional Irish farming with a passion for all things organic and delicious.

When I arrived in late January it was a wet and cold Tuesday afternoon. Within five minutes of walking through the door I was drinking a cup of tea, having the chats and watching Jeremy Kyle who, at that time, was insulting some poor soul on TV. As this was my first wwoofing experience, I was somewhat cautious of the whole thing, but thanks to this homely feel and Irene and Packie's welcoming nature, I eased into life at Windy Hill Farm.

The next day Irene gave me a tour and introduced me to their 11 chickens, 12 ducks, 3 pigs, 3 dogs and 9 cows… as well as the goat, pony, donkey, horse and cat. Over the course of my stay I soon grew accustomed to the animals, some more than others. The cows were a sceptical bunch, which I suppose was understandable considering they were to be sent to slaughter soon...

My daily tasks involved collecting duck and chicken eggs, feeding and watering the animals, cleaning the sheds, walking the dogs and collecting turf for the stove. On top of this, I had varying tasks where I helped repair trees, pens and drains that had been damaged from the recent storms.

Irish weather was so awful throughout December and January that countless acres of land, particularly in the west, were left flooded. Windy Hill Farm didn't escape unscathed and one of the fields was still under two feet of water – which the ducks had promptly adopted as their new pond. Fortunately for Irene and Packie this water damage was temporary and I had my hammer to repair anything slightly more permanent.

Organic food was a constant presence at Windy Hill Farm and at each break Packie and I were treated to some of Irene’s home cooking. Breakfast was home made soda bread with marrow and ginger jam, second breakfast was a soft boiled duck egg or fresh black pudding and lunch was a simple ham sandwich. After work, dinner ranged from Irish stew to pork chops, fried pig’s liver and creamy chicken with boiled potatoes.

You may notice a lot of pork in the above dishes, which is not rare in Ireland, but it was particularly pig orientated at Windy Hill Farm due to Packie's recent purchase of a locally reared adult pig. This led to an unforgettable experience of butchering the entire pig, salting its meat for bacon and making fresh black pudding from its blood.

From this unexpected lesson in how to make bacon to cooking with new ingredients and getting organic farming tips, I seemed to learn something new each day at Windy Hill Farm. And to top it all off, it was all in the scenic setting of the West of Ireland. 

Irene and Packie were also great throughout the whole trip and provided me the best possible introduction to the world of wwoofing. By the time I'd returned to Dublin, I was already missing Windy Hill Farm, but on the bright side, the whole experience has left me even more excited about my next wwoofing destination – New Zealand.

Tags: ireland, organic, rural, wild, wwoofing

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