Every child should have the experience of toddling next to their grandfather out in his garden listening to him gently reminding you to watch where you step. “You don’t want to squish those ripening strawberries.” Or hear him saying, “Only walk in between the fataí (potato) rows.” Most of my earliest memories are of time spent outside following my Irish grandfather around the gardens. Whether it was feeding the chickens, being chased by geese, milking the goat or climbing the cherry tree when he wasn’t looking, these memories grew me into the person I am today and my love and obsession with all things OUTSIDE.
That grá (love) for all things OUTSIDE is my passion and sharing it with like-minded people is what I treasure.
Fast forward twenty years...a phone call from the Irish cousins in Ireland to my grandfather resulted in them visiting their uncle Martin (my grandfather) in the US. Their visit to us brought forth that longing I had always felt to see this land my grandfather often spoke about. The following spring, I packed my suitcase and even my fear of flying did not hold me back from visiting my grandfather’s home. A whirlwind 10-day visit to see every tourist sight in Ireland, experience my cousin’s driving and trying Guinness was well, nice but it was not until we were travelling to my grandfather’s village of Baile na Ciille that I began to feel like I was coming home. We had just passed the Tír na Fhiia church and a landscape of lunar-like stones littered the area as far as the eye could see. What was I seeing? How could anyone live here? And then I saw it! Loch Baile na Cille before me and the Atlantic Ocean behind it with the Island of Inís Mor in the background. I had come home.
The next 25 years found me visiting Baile na Cille as often as possible. Taking in a pint at the local pubs, meeting more cousins and doing a little sheep farming with my Irish cousin Seamus, left me with seared memories upon my heart while feeding the soul of this longing I’d always felt toward the area and people.
Then it happened... A wee famine cottage next door to the family home caught my eye. The cousins said it had been sitting empty and for sale for the past three or so years and we should go look at it. So we got the key from the local auctioneer and took a look. (He must have given up ever selling it as he left the key in the mailbox and did not even accompany us.) I walked up to the front door, jiggled the key to get the door to open as it was all a bit rusty and walked in. I stood there taking it all in and immediately fell in love. I could see this cottage had a story to tell! So we made an offer on the cottage, negotiated back and forth a bit and fast forward another seven months and had that same key in our hands. Only this time, it was the owners of the wee little cottage commonly referred to as Tí Mícheál Eamonín And that is where our new Irish story begins...
We spent the next year restoring the cottage to let her beauty shine through. Being a famine cottage, she was built to withstand the harshest weather the west coast of Ireland could throw at her. And stand strong she has!
As I was washing up dishes on my first night in the restored cottage, a cat jumped into the outside windowsill and stared at me. “Isn’t that sweet!” I thought. Of course, she must be hungry. So I put down a saucer of milk just outside the door and kept enticing her in a bit with the saucer. This was no feral cat but definitely somebody’s pet! The previous tenants had taken her with them when they moved only to
find her back here on three separate occasions. This was her house! And she was not leaving. We have become quite fond of Cuitín and she is regularly found sleeping on the chair next to the fire.
The plan was always to holiday in Ireland six months of the year and spend the other six in the US or travelling abroad. Apparently, that was not God’s plan for us. January 2020: Lots of news about this new Covid virus in China was making the headlines and how it was slowly spreading beyond China’s border. March 2020 found us scrambling to fly back to the US amidst this Covid virus world crisis. Long story short, we made the decision during the Covid-19 crisis to make Ireland our home as there did not seem any better place to be in lockdown than the rural and isolated area off the west coast of Galway and its abundance of fresh sea air!
So here we are living the dream. And of course doing what I love to do. Building gardens, growing veg, cooking up a storm, tending to my KuneKune pigs and Zwarble sheep and tackling another renovation guesthouse project while sharing it all with like-minded people! Thus, TamiJoyFarm is thriving off the west coast of Connemara.