Today, we close the circle. Our travels through Ireland will conclude in 24 hours from now. Still, to this day, I’m not over the beauty. The thousands of shades of green. The incredible rich, vibrant colors of all the many flowers blooming as far as the eye can see. The hundreds of castles, churches and abbeys, holding the past inside their rocky, vine covered walls, like ancient time capsules. The bright smiles and chipper hellos from locals and travelers alike. The numerous small towns with their brightly painted buildings and historic pubs. I doubt that the memories will fade anytime soon.
I think the most interesting was hearing stories of the struggles of the proud, hard working Irish. The stories of sorrow and triumph. The strong, proud individuals that tried to make a difference for their countrymen in the time of need. The big men and women with large hands and kind hearts. The thick accents that change slightly as we traveled from county to county.
There were many times that I would be listening to our driver and I could envision the people he was talking about laughing and a dozen small children running around underfoot. The homes and land passed down through generations upon generations. The miles and miles of rock walls, the sheep dotting the green hillsides in white and pastel colors, splashed upon their backs showing ownership. The border collies running after them. Life, so simple and so hard.
The coolest thing about being on the road, often times, is the people that you meet. Our van draws a lot of attention and inquiries. If we wanted to be stealth…we’ve failed.
Most often the people asking are in the process of, or have already built out their own van. Some are dreamers, some envy our life, some think it’s cool. Some come around the corner in a parking lot, beaming smile, and ask for a tour. This story is about a happenstance meeting, as described above. A prearranged, karmic meeting, of a gal with a beaming smile, in a parking lot, took the tour and asked for our help. She offered us refuge on a 365 acre plot of timbered terrain, bought 30+ years ago by her husband.
It was early July 2021, COVID was mostly under control, although still a threat. We agreed to take her up on her offer and set out for Bandon and Coquille, Oregon. We talked about what we thought we might find and how much time we would dedicate. Someone shared their knowledge with us, it’s time to give some of that back.
When we pulled up to the house, written in purple paint was ‘Welcome C&J’. We have decided that if a local asks us to have dinner or stay on their property, we would take them up on the offer, if for no other reason than to see how the locals live. Be open to the hospitality offered. This was a little above what we had anticipated.
Jennifer was home and greeted us like long lost family. We sat down and chatted until her husband came back from The Homestead. The Mountain Homestead, this was what they called the 365 acres of a permaculture, unadulterated timberland that they own. It’s now protected by a conservation easement. Chip arrived and here stood an old hippie-type that showed his joy in his laugh and smile. We all sat down for dinner and talked for hours then retired.
The next morning was van day! We all went over what it was they wanted our help with. Chip and I ran all over the small town to try to find a few parts we needed. Small towns don’t offer much for van building or 12 volt conversions. We managed to pick up some of the items we needed but had to turn to Amazon for the rest. We managed to run the wires out of the circuit board and up to where the main power control would be (for lights and fans, etc.) and ground the electrical system. As usual, it took almost all the day to accomplish just those simple tasks.
We had two days till the parts would arrive so we opted to move up to the Homestead to wait out the weekend. We all made plans and headed out for the Homestead in Coquille, a 30 minute drive.Chip proudly drove us up to the property and we parked the van at our weekend retreat.
My imagination was running wild as we drove on towards this little piece of heaven. I couldn’t begin to wonder how Chip felt thirty years ago when he chose to purchase this land for conservation sake, never to be clear cut. A small piece of nature he could call home and share with like minded people. His plan of a permaculture society was real, his dream, his passion. Not many people can have a dream and see it to fruition.
Upon arriving to the turn off, the thick forest quickly closed in, a small creek flowed beside the road, birds sang, and the air was fresh and heavy with the sent of earth. The road was a single lane dirt road that in the beginning was just a deer trail into the property. Chip told us of how the realtor, he and his wife, all trudged threw the forest, crossing the creek and emerged into this wonderful clearing, now the main hub of the Homestead. How he worked hard to pay it off and create a community, build buildings, create a garden and bring fresh spring water to the main compound clearing. How his idea came to light and for a long while lived happily off his hard work and the land. You could feel the passion and see the joy this all brought him as his eyes sparkled and he became animated.
The first thing that we saw as we rounded the bend into the opening, was a terraced opening surrounded by 75’ pine, spruce and fir trees. Several rustic structures hugging the hillside, surrounded by fruit trees, herbs and a huge garden area, including a hoop house type greenhouse. The sound of silence. The birds chirping wildly. I felt a resounding sense of the Mother.
All the wood and materials sourced from the land. There is a full saw mill on the property where they made the wood planks. Tin and plywood made up most of the roofs. They have a root cellar, garden room, tool room and workshop under the main structure. Wood stoves provide heat in the rooms. They have composting toilets, and pump spring water to the property for drinking. There’s a full array of solar panels providing enough electricity to run a washer and dryer. An amazing feat of ingenuity, and a lot of planning. They lived on the land for 27 years until an allergy and illness, caused by a sensitivity to mold spores, caused them to relocate.
We walked around the property with Chip as he tenderly told the story of each building, the memories, the triumphs and heart aches. We picked and ate fresh blueberries, cherries, and huckleberries. We parked the van in a field of camomile and made this lovely piece of heaven our home.