Cork was my starting point. Cork city, airport pickup by driver I’ve never seen or met, at airport I’ve never flown into, with vague assurances that someone would find me. Sometimes you just have to trust that your colleague has taken care of you, even if you’re not in control of the who, what, when, where of it. Sure enough, friendly, personable and oh-so-hard-to-understand-his-accent Raymond Carrigy did show up and I was soon on my way to meet the rest of the group at Longueville House.
We enjoyed a tour of the apple orchards from which they produce a really lovely cider and brandy, then sat down to a fantastic farm-to-table meal. Longueville House is a real find. Typical of the places Heather finds for our tours, it was stately, comfortable, locally-owned and our driver had never heard of it before. (I love introducing our drivers, who work a LOT of tours, to places that even they don’t know of because they’re so far off the beaten track. Secret, wonderful spots…)
Pigs are the recipients of apple parts not used in production of cider and brandy. Cyoooot!!!! Can I have a pig, please? Okay, no… because eventually they get VERY big.
We stayed at Longueville House for three delightful nights. On day two, we were joined by Irish knitwear designer Carol Feller. Put together a warm and elegant setting, a fantastic teacher, and a group of enthusiastic knitters and you have the makings of a great time. Carol is the author of several knitting books, including Contemporary Irish Knits and Echoes of Heather and Stone. I had heard her name and seen many of her designs via social media. She has a large following in the knitting world. I saw her at Edinburgh yarn festival last year. Unfortunately, her booth was so jammed with people that I didn’t even try to get in. What a treat to have her for two mornings of workshops! I found Carol to be warm and genuine, full of mischief and very willing to laugh at herself and this strange knitting thing we all do. I kew I’d like her right away when, on the first morning, I found her setting up for the workshop wearing a comfy tunic, leggings and cowboy boots!
The afternoons were spent visiting Blarney Castle and Mallow (skipped that to sit and catch up on work. Don’t worry. I’ll have the opportunity to kiss the stone on spring trips.) Another afternoon, we went into Cork city to visit Hedgehog Fibers, Vibes & Scribes and wander the town a bit. For you non-yarny types, Hedghog Fibres is a dye studio, started by Beata Jezek. As you can guess from her last name, she is not from Ireland. However she now calls Cork home and has quite a wonderful cottage business set up here and employing several folks (always an astounding feat for any craft business). HHF is known for wild color combinations, specked dye patterns and saturated dyework. The group went a little crazy…
Vibes & Scribes started as a book stre, then began carrying craft supplies for sewing, haberdashery, etc Then they got into yarn. The owner, Joan, had so many requests for a local, Irish wool, that she began to work on sourcing it herself. Irish yarn from Irish sheep, cleaned, milled, spun and dyed in Ireland. Believe it or not, such a thing did not exist when she started looking around. More on this issue later. So Vibes &Scribes has started their own effort to produce that very thing — plus add the word organic to it. Now you’ve made a tough challenge even tougher. But Joan is convinced there’s a market for the yarn. Based on what I saw and have seen since that day, I’m betting she’s right.
We also poked around Cork City that evening. Heather and I bought shoes. Odd but useful as I really didn’t bring rain-worthy footwear with me. Just happened to see a pair of boots I liked at a fantastic price. For the next two weeks, I’d be thanking my lucky stars for them.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the afternoon I stayed in to work, the group also visited a nearby farm — one of the wool suppliers for the Vibes & Scribes (actually) Irish yarn. Because the farmer keeps sheep for the organic meat market, he’s able to supply wool to Joan for her yarn endeavor. I believe he keeps Texel and Suffolk, as most Irish farmers do, but also a Kerry Hill or two and some Blue Faced Leicester. Hey, are those WOOL sheep breeds I’m mentioning? Yes they are. But keeping sheep for wool production is as uncommon here as hearing Yiddish. I mean someone might be doing it. But if so, you don’t hear it in public. Farmers here grow sheep for meat. Period. But again, more on that later… Here are some nice pics from that visit, shared by Heather. There’s our driver, Raymond, after happily visiting with the farm cows. He loves cows. he keeps cows, even though he says farming in Ireland is “finished”. It’s not for lack of love he says that, but for the great difficulties all farmers here face in trying to earn a living from farming. The deck is stacked against you. Most have one or two adults working off the farm to support it. Sounds a lot like farming everywhere, including the States. However, those that do it love it and those that can find a way to make it work get to be involved with their land and animals every day. Our visits and direct purchase of their produce – at home and abroad – help.
Next up, a big rock. Called Cashel.