The Waste In Our Lives

In my experience living in New York garbage is as abundant as anything else; trains, delis on the corners, or the food trucks that line the streets. We don’t just buy food but we accumulate trash. Things we don’t try to use are left for the homeless person or the sanitation man or for no one, so our sidewalks are as much concrete as they are trash.

I’ve always recognized that New York is a dirty city but I never really thought about what all the trash meant. I never thought the trash really meant anything, I mean to an extent I stopped seeing trash. The trash is the train, the deli, and the sidewalk; the things that are just there, well fingers crossed the train comes before I pee my pants.

Here on the west coast of Ireland there isn’t garbage; there is only compost. I mean everything is re-used in some way. The metals, plastics, and papers are recycled in the regular way. All the food we don’t eat is given to the chickens, what they don’t eat is then put in a vegetable bed to fertilize the soil. The egg shells are dried and then smashed up and given back to chickens (makes stronger egg shells). The water that we boil eggs in has minerals that are good for plants so that goes into watering. Animal fat we don’t eat is given to Jess, the best Dalmatian in the world. If you kill a chicken (still haven’t sorted that out in my mind) the feathers can make dream catchers. Then most of it can be eaten. Then when you have the carcass you boil it to make broth. All animal poop is good poop. I just spent the morning shoveling urine and poop sodden hay to wheel up to the vegetable beds. Jars and tins are saved for the making of jams and the drying of tea. Then at another farm up the road we picked up donkey poop with our gloved hands and shoved it in bags for the compost. The same farm has a compost toilet. A little medley of animal and human poop is arriving at a garden bed near you very soon

Everything has a reason. The idea of discarding mindlessly, isn’t here. It can be burned, re-used, or reconstituted. The girl I’m wwoofing with eats everything that drops on the floors, she usually beats the dog to it. The truth is I work, play, in the dirt, animal poop, every day and I feel cleaner then when I ride the subway.

The detachment from things in the city, doesn’t exist here. In NY most things are foreign. Wraps, salads, or pizza slices are bought on the go. Meals and snack are bought frequently away from your home in small disposable packaging. Therein lies the ingredients for convenience and space. We buy nice things from nice stores that are functioned to be kept. I think in cities there is also this fear of dirt. Everything and anything can make you sick. Perhaps it is fear that prevents us from making anything ours, it is easier to keep the foreign substance out. To only keep the things with clean white corners, or the crystal clear glass of mason jars.

Here everything is made intimate. If there is a foreign honey or peanut butter jar. It is cleaned and packed away in a wooden box where it is sterilized twice and used to store jam with new hand written labels. All foreign is turned intimate. The poop from the toilet becomes synonymous with the poop of your dog and it all goes into making your flower beds, and in some cases vegetables, more plentiful and rich. There is no garbage here, perhaps because there is no fear. Nothing is seen as dirty and tossed aside before it can touch your shirt. Things are cared for.

I guess the concept of eating something covered with a little dirt from a rain forest rather than the invisible dirt from a subway floor isn’t new. But the idea of eliminating garbage from our lives, is something to think about. Anyway my three weeks here have already taught me to be less afraid of dirt. Something is dirty and kept foreign when you don’t see it as a part of you. Living here helps me to see how everything has a part in me.

The WWOOF Pack: Ireland Edition

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This is my 5th attempt to write about my wwoofing experience. Hopefully this start will stick. I read countless blogs over the summer about travelling, travelling in your 20s (because it is definitely different), wwoofing, round the word trips, packing, saving money, places to see for beauty and places to visit to party. I read so much about other people’s experiences and as I am sitting here living mine it doesn’t resemble any of the ones I read. I didn’t think it would, but I guess I thought I would be able to deliver my experience in a similar fashion.  To blog about traveling and wwoofing and bottle it into paragraphs that make sense. But every day I spend here becomes not about making sense but just sorta being here. And making bread.

When I first got here, I didn’t have the words but I knew there was a story. Arriving and being greeted by the friendliest woman who immediately made me feel as if I have found a friend. Followed by the breathtaking drive, along windy stone roads to arrive at a house surrounded by nothing but trees and chickens. I was greeted by the kindest Spanish girls with broken English but expressive faces. They took me on a walk to the lake and when we reached the lake’s edge they didn’t stop but kept going, walking straight into the lake. We got about 20 feet in before the water reached the top of our boots. It was a beautiful day with a pink, blue, and purple sunset over the gray lake and I turned to this girl I just met and asked, “Can I give you a hug?” She laughed and threw her arms around me and we swayed side to side, then turned and screamed, hurling our voices against the tree tops and hearing them drift back to us. I felt happy. That effortless, thoughtless sort of easy happiness that you don’t recognize in the moment because the moment is just that beautiful.

I have been here on Ti a Touric farm for about two weeks and I have so many of those stories that are composed of beautiful skies and people and the lovely gray coats of ponies. The indescribable moments that only nature can offer. There are a laundry list of things I’ve done that concretely illustrates what it means to wwoof in Ireland. I have fed ponies, donkeys, ducks, and chickens. I have touched the skin of a dead deer, rubbing ash from the fire into his coat to dry it out for a rug. I rode a tractor today. I have digged into the dirt countless times; weeded gardens, spread fertilizer, attempted to use a strimmer. Baked many delicious goods from scratch, bread, jams, and crust for amazing quiches and delicious pizzas that were cooked in a hand-made clay oven. I have picked vegetables from the poly tunnel and cracked eggs I’ve retrieved from the hens outside for breakfast. There has even been some rooster killings; that is a whole story of its own for another time.

That is a list of my actions, the things that the Canadian I am wwoofing with said I should blog about. But talking about all the activities doesn’t quite reach the root of the matter. Speaking of roots I spent about 6 days weeding the garden outside my host’s home and the irony was definitely not lost on me. I call my blog, my life, a series of displaced roots and I spent the majority of my time here on this farm dealing with roots. Pulling them out, cutting them, throwing them away, and saving a few to re-pot. My metaphorical roots have met literal rich, dark, dirty, and thriving roots. Roots that I am displacing and organizing and throwing away. Is it that through their separation I find my center? Or is it that the roots add to the metaphor, my displacing them mirror the same displacement I find in my life? Or is it just a lesson about the nature of roots? Removing them from the soil wasn’t easy but I think the earth here is fertile enough so that taking root will be. And once these suckers take root, it takes a 22yrs old full body weight with the help of a shovel and 10 minutes to get them out. So maybe that’s the lesson that I somehow circled around to while writing. The literal roots are teaching me about the roots of my life. To be displaced is hard and living in flux isn’t easy, but when I settle I can settle deep, sure and strong. Perhaps they are showing me a future where I’m certain a place is home.