It’s winter and I find myself floating in my 6mm suit, hiding behind my board, trying to stop the hail, the snow and the wind that is burning my face, I’m laughing and I realise I’m pretty much as stoked as a girl can be.
Winter has officially begun in Ireland and I am surfing an overhead left point close to our house with no one around. It doesn’t look pumping from the road, its hidden away a little from the beach where the wind feels onshore. After years of searching for a paradise on the lower latitudes I found the wave I was looking for all this time, I had been here as a child in a van with my father and sister, sat on the rocks but had the secret hidden in some soft corner of my mind. I have been told many times that as you grow older life gets easier, the decisions answer themselves and the mind madness of youth dissipates, I didn’t believe it then but wish I did.
Some friends thought I was crazy when I said I left Australia to live in Ireland at the end of summer, with no adjustment to the wet wild weather. But life here is good, its healthy and I’m growing. I surf everyday, practice yoga, and spend most of my days outside. I help the boys and the community on the few acres of land that we use for growing organic veg and a community garden, the one Irish legend Fergal Smith and Mitch Corbett started a few years ago, they wanted to change the way they lived a little and by growing veg and getting closer to nature they seem to be involved with a beautiful movement of a greener earth.
Surfing has given and taught me over the years, it has given me a deep respect for the ocean and a stronger connection to the land. The more I grow and learn the more I try to have a more positive impact on the planet. One of the biggest steps I made was to move to an almost vegan, organic plant based diet, it’s better for my body and its better for the earth. We make fresh nut milk and bake bread, keep chickens and grow 40% of the food we eat, then try to use organic, ethical and cruelty free products. I know how privileged I am to be able to make these life choices and that I have come to make these changes slowly and from a world of education, I always thought that green and organic was for the upper and middle classes, but it is easy and cheap, it takes time and labour but every stage of the change has helped shape me. I know I have a thousand flaws, I know that even the best person I can be is still not enough but should that stop me from trying. I’m massively trying to cut down my plastic consumption and the amount I fly. I know the impact it is having on the planet. It is a battle I have within myself. I had always looked and heard about sustainable, ethical and organic, I thought it was unachievable but since being here I have learnt that it has to start somewhere and then as the seasons pass we all learn more, what started with some tomatoes and spuds has in turn become half way there.
As winter passes, the work on the land continues. The last of the veg is being harvested, the root veg and brussel sprouts that can be left in the ground past the frosts. We have had to get inventive with celeriac and sweed recipes and have been eating beetroot twice a day for months now. With a freezer full of home prepared meals from the abundance of food in the harvest season we eat well.
Fergal and Matt have been working with the horses and spent time ploughing the land as it should be done. The local men in the pub said they hadn’t seen the land worked like that for over 40 years and it really was beautiful to be doing it right. They say that the weight of the tractors compresses the land too much. Really the earth doesn’t want to be ploughed at all, Fergal, Mitch and Matt would like to be using full permaculture and bio dynamics, but again we are strolling in the right direction.
Growing in this colder climate has led us to get creative and Mitch spent last winter building an underground glass house, combining the principles of passive solar heating with earth-sheltered building, this should mean we can maintain a productive garden year-round. It now has avocado trees growing; Mitch bought the seeds back from Mexico and has been nursing them on his windowsill along with apricots, figs and lemons. What a pleasure to be eating tropical foods without the air miles. I’m hoping the lemon tree will be given a new life as it has struggled through the unsympathetic Irish weather.
Through the closer darker months you have to get creative with your time, the days are too short for more than a surf or two and the land for growing doesn’t want to be walked on. We have all been busy, I’ve been playing on my sewing machine, trying to make swimwear out of recycled neoprene and turning old curtains into clothes like Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. We may take a holiday in December, somewhere with no air miles, Scotland or Cornwall. Last winter we took the train, ferry and cycled to Amsterdam to watch Ben Howard and the band play to thousands.
The weather is cold and harsh here but my mother always said there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing. We have a new rescue dog, so Conrads new friend is Father Ted. I am in love with them both and they make me get out of bed and walk on the beach on the cruelest of days. Matt told me staying in the cold is about keeping busy, making the most of each day and each ray of sunlight, talk often, walk more and chose how you feel. Life and how we live is our decision, the hard thing is realising that.