Back to Nature in Connemara

It was the time of the "back to the land" movement.  
"Living with less". 
The Whole Earth catalog era.

 I loved the idea of a "self-sufficient" lifestyle. 

So - back in the 1970's, I lived out in the West of Ireland, in Connemara. 

In a stone cottage on a hill. 

Overlooking Galway Bay. 
900 acres, with 2 lakes and plenty of bog. 

Cnoc-dhá-Locha, "Hill of Two Lakes". 

Or Knocka-Lough, as we called it.

I was joined by my boyfriend Wolfgang, who I later married. He loved it. 

The house had no electricity. 

There were gas mantles, like a Coleman lanteern, that ran off a propane bottle. 
One light in each room. 

The heat was from the big kitchen stove, which was fed with turf. 

Turf was dug out of the bogs around the house. 
Dug with a special tool, a sleán. 

It was heavy work. 

Laid out to dry. 
Then stacked, and dried some more.

Maírtín shows Wolfgang and Big Jim how the sleán works.

 Eventually, you have something that could be burned in the stove. 

Loading the dried turf onto the cart.

It burns beautifully, and gives off a lovely smell. 

Often these days, it's pressed into briquettes.
But back then, it was just rough-shaped turf clods.

There were 2 lakes, where you could catch trout.

But we weren't much good at fishing. 

There was no running water, but there was a well with a pump. 

Kind of like an outboard motor, and just as hard to start. 

It pumped water from the well into a tank on the roof. 
From there - "running" water. Heated by the turf stove.

With a cow that I milked every day. 

There were rabbits, which we occasionally scared to death, then skinned and ate. 
But we weren't much good at trapping, either. 

(Besides, they were awfully cute.)

We prised mussels off the rocks at the seashore near Spiddéal, (not easy!). 
I baked Irish soda bread daily, using the buttermilk from the cow. 

And made cheese. 

Planted potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomatoes.

We had 2 hens, Gisela and Gerturde. 

They laid eggs regularly - when we could find them. 
Wolfgang built a hen-house for them. 

Plus a cat, Wellington, and a dog, Cara. 

The winds roared across the bogs in winter. 

It was fierce - but also beautiful.

In fact, I've always thought Ireland has some of Europe's most beautiful beaches. 

When the postman had something for us, he came up on his bicycle. 

He would wait while I opened the post. 
In case there was "good news" or a "bit of money" in it. 

Otherwise, he'd be content with a cup of tea. 

We lived there until after we married.
We married in Ireland. 

Had a fine wedding party at Knocka-Lough with the neighbors, friends - and loads of music. 

In the warmest summer that Ireland had experienced in memory, 1976. 

Even a bit of dancing. 

The houses were simple, and the neighbors kind. 

(I once asked Sonny, "Why do you still ride the donkey?" 
His reply, "Ah, I never could learn the bicycle.")

These two neighbors were making poítín, homebrew liquor. 

-That's why they're looking a bit guilty.

Business - of all sorts - was conducted in the pubs. 

This was a very modern establishment. 

This one a bit more traditional. 

There was another pub, Hurney's - 
I remember a gang of us waking up in their hayloft. 

After a particularly memorable music session...

Those were different times. 

I'm glad we got to experience them. 

In 2019, I took the whole family to Ireland. 
The next generations.

Rented a castle. Walked the bogs. Drank Guinness.
Even - watched pigs racing.
That story, Ireland recently - is - here.