Once we decided we were going to move from the busy town in England that we had always lived in to relocate to a rural farm in Ireland; I’ve had this fantasy of being completely at one with nature, become self-sufficient and naturally transform into a ‘country girl’. As I daydreamed at work, I had images of me walking through meadows, with that healthy glow ‘country people’ tend to have from being outside so much in the fresh air.
To be honest, the transformation of becoming a ‘country girl’ hasn’t gone as smoothly as I had hoped. The reality of living in a rural area isn’t as simple as one would assume with no experience and can be rather challenging at times. The dreams of being self-sufficient have partly come true. We have a fabulous vegetable garden that we made from scratch and the use of alpaca poop has been a real success in the growth of our crops. We have even managed to sell some of our produce to a local grocer to supplement our tiny income. Unfortunately, I seem to fall in love with every animal I come into contact with and as a result, I am completely and utterly unable to eat my chickens. They currently have a wonderful life knowing that they are safe in the care of the crazy lady of the farm. I have this problem of naming everything I see; frogs, birds and even the odd insect have been adopted into the family, whether they like it or not. I will never make a proper farmers wife. So, although we are self-sufficient with fruits and vegetables, the local store continues to be the supplier of our meat!
The dreams of me walking through meadows in a pretty summer dress, with the sun shining down onto my skin and my hair blowing in the delicate breeze are rather amusing to me now. The reality is very different indeed. Yes, you can often see me walking across my fields with my gorgeous alpacas; but I’m usually in my wellies scooping up alpaca poop, stuck in the mud, in the rain, soaked to the skin, with my hair all mattered from the high force winds.
Despite all this, I actually love my new life. It might not have been a natural transition from townie to country girl but I’m loving the challenge and I’m loving the place I can now call my home. Oughterard, Co Galway.
The Oughterard Agricultural Show was the first event we had attended when we moved here a year ago. I loved looking at the animals, listening to the farmers talk with real pride about their livestock and the domestic arts competition in the community centre was a dream. I remember watching Kirsty Allsopp on TV some years ago, in some program about entering into country fair competitions. I loved it, along with the sense of community it represented and I hoped that one day I would have the time, energy and inspiration to attempt something new like this. I was hopeful that I would have some sort of involvement in the 2018 show.
A year on and we had in fact been invited to bring our alpacas to the show, we managed to sponsor one of the kids prizes and I had entered into the domestic arts competition. I was so excited about attending the show and being a part of the community. With a real buzz in the air about our alpacas, this helped make the day even more rewarding for us at Curraghduff Farm. The first hour passed very quickly and I sensed it was going to be busy. We brought two of our boys Alfie and Little John and they were great. I remembered the pride I observed from the local farmers last year and I too felt proud of my two boys. At this point, I got a phone call from a friend that was looking after the farm in our absence. “I think you need to get back Ruth, there’s something happening to Roisin, she looks distressed”. Roisin was pregnant and due anytime over the next couple of weeks. So, after only one hour at the show, I had to leave Stuart and Charlie at the show to go check on Roisin. The poor girl was struggling and this labour was definitely not text book. I missed the whole event with our first cria (baby) as Mary decided to give birth when I went to shops, after a month of bottom watching. I got back to the farm and it was all over, I just saw this little face looking over at me, waiting to be introduced. So, this time, I rang an experienced alpaca friend for advice, and decided to get the vet to come and have a look, even only to reassure me. I was so happy that we did as the cria had his foot stuck and it wasn’t going anywhere. With assistance from the vet, out he popped. He looked so tiny but it felt so magical to be involved in his birth. I loved him instantly and had a name picked out for him already. The vet went and I began to observe mother and baby to ensure he suckled from mum. As I sat on the wet grass, my bottom soaked to the skin and completely in love with this little fella, my phone rang. “Hiya Mum. I’ve been to the Community Centre to see how you done in the competition, your felted hedgehog didn’t win anything” he shared. “Never mind” I’m no Kirsty Allsopp anyway I thought. “But you got first prize for your card” he declared….
At that point, I decided I was indeed ‘a proper country girl’. Not the rose-tinted image of living in the country but the real, no frills but extremely in love with my new life country girl.