Coughjordan EcoVillage, Ireland

I’m back in Ireland and with the nation turning more green and a range of alternative living options available, I decided to visit Cloughjordan Ecovillage to see sustainable living in action.

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How do you get there?

By Car;

Moneygall is in North Tipperary and approximately from Moneygall. From the motorway, take exit 23 to Moneygall and then follow the signs to Cloughjordan.

When you arrive in Cloughjordan, the Ecovillage is approximately half way down the Main Street. It is at a small 4 way intersection, opposite a church.

By Train;

Cloughjordan has a train station that services routes from Dublin, Heuston and Limerick via Nenagh. For timetables, please go to irishrail.ie

Do you have to take a tour?

While you are free to drive into the village and look around, you must remember that there are people living here and to respect their privacy and security, it is recommended that you take a tour. You also won’t get the full benefit of knowledge if you just ramble around alone.

There are free tours every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. I met the guide at the Main Street entrance or you can meet at Sheelagh na Tigh which is a little cafe on the Main Street.

If you have a group or you wish to participate in a workshop or so on, you can email edvisits@thevillage.ie They have these kind of visits all the time and are very accommodating to groups.

What is an Ecovillage?

From their website, http://www.thevillage.ie;

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.

The Ecovillage in Cloughjordan is the first of its kind in Ireland and leads the way for the future of sustainable living in Ireland. It is located on 67 acres and has a community farm, woodland, allotments, houses, hostel and Enterprise centre.

The best way to understand is to take a tour and learn from the guide and that’s what I did earlier today.

My Tour.

The tour starts with a little introduction of everyone in the group. My group had 2 foreigners and 2 Irish so a nice mix of people. Looking at the map, it was pointed out that the village is divided into thirds. One third to houses and apartments, one third to the farm and allotments and one third to woodland.

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Immediately upon walking down the little hill, it is explained that the height of the buildings keeps with the height of buildings in Cloughjordan itself. I was most surprised to find an Ecohostel called Django’s on the left just past the entrance. This unique hostel is open to the public, year round and you can find out more on their websitehttp://www.djangoshostel.com

Djangos Hostel seen on the left.

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We continued walking and saw examples of the various types of houses built in the village. Among others there are Cob, Timber Frame, Hemp crete and all cedar houses. All houses are low energy and share hi spec broadband as well as a community heating system. The village has a 2gha rating which I believe is the lowest in Ireland and they are working on lowering that number.

The community heating system is very interesting . Two 500 Kilo watt wood fired burners supply every home with heat. The cost is divided among the residents.
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Energy is also provided by solar panels which can be seen on the tour.
We continued on to the allotments. It is here that you can see research in action. One resident has his own allotment where he is researching growing techniques and so on.

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On the apple walk, you’ll find every type of apple you can imagine. Luckily, we were allowed to eat some of the ripe ones and they were juicy and delicious. There’s something to be said about eating fruit straight off the tree. Our guide even brough along a spreadsheet with all the information on all the apples.
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When we managed to pull ourselves away from eating the apples, we started into the yellow raspberries.
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Eventually, we continued on our way and off to the farm. This is a community farm where members can collect their vegetables every week. Anyone can become a member so check out their website if you are interested.

We finished our tour by sampling some more delicious fruit that we found on the way.

A few things struck me about the village. The people seem extremely innovative, motivated and dedicated. Along the way, we were introduced to projects and plans that were either ongoing or in the process of approval.

The aim of the village is learning. Everyone is open to learning about sustainable living or teaching it to people like me on tours. For example, the drainage system is quite unique. In several areas, depressions can be seen. These are called Swales. When severe rain comes, the water is collected in these swales and they fill like lakes. Then, the water can slowly permeate through the ground. This prevents flooding to the village.

This is the way of the future and the possibilities are endless. I was so inspired to hear of the work already done in the village but can’t help but think of the possibilities for the future. With new methods coming on board all the time, this village is only just growing.

Worth a visit?
Absolutely. I learned so much from my visit and found it quite innovative. It would be a great visit for families also. You can find out more details on their website http://www.thevillage.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.
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Oh to have some relish!

I’ve been in Korea long enough to not miss any food too much but there are some times that I could really go for a bottle of Lucozade or a double decker bar. Or when I’m on the first train home from Seoul on a Sunday morning, I’d love to know that a big fry up was waiting for me at home, but sadly it never is (*sob sob*)

Here are a few of the foods I miss from Ireland:

Relish:Let’s face it. Ssamjang is a fairly poor substitute for relish. Nothing says sandwich like a good spoonful of Ballymaloe Relish. For anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, you can check it out here. Eat that sandwich with a packet of cheese and onion Taytos and a cup of tea and it’s a perfect meal.

I’m quite partial to relish at the best of times and did bring some back with me at Christmas that I’m rationing but to have a constant supply of relish would be like all my Christmas’ in one.

While stalking the internet looking for relish the other day I found this on the Viking.ie website of all places.  All that relish in one basket……

Clonakilty fry making materials: Burnt sausages, a few rashers, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, brown bread are all the perfect Sunday morning breakfast. Any substitutes are just not the same here…..

Brown Bread: Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a slice of Mammy Browne’s brown bread. Of course I could and have made it myself but it’s just not the same.

Barry’s Tea: This one technically doesn’t count since you can get Barry’s tea here. There has not been a time in the five years I’ve been here that there hasn’t been a supply of Barry’s in my press. Boxes here are the small ones but I think I could somehow convince someone  to bring me this one………..http://www.vikingdirect.ie/catalog/catalogSku.do?id=0465&cm_cat=2000000361

Double Decker Bars & Curly Wurly’s: Double Decker bars and curly wurly’s eaten straight out of the fridge are perfection.  Other Asian countries stock Cadbury’s so whenever I’m on holidays, naturally I stock up on such items, tell myself I’ll ration them out but then have 75% eaten by the time I land in Incheon.

Cheese: Some mature dark cheddar from Kilmeaden is exactly what Emart needs to start selling. Cheese here doesn’t even come close to what it is back home.

Coleslaw: Here’s a random one. Coleslaw from Supervalu Roscrea is my favourite by a very long mile. It’s perfect and my attempts to replicate it have failed miserably. I got “coleslaw” with a meal I bought here once and what I got was nothing more than a dob of mayonnaise and a piece of cabbage. Imagine a sandwich with Bernie’s coleslaw and Ballymaloe relish. Since I try to keep things going to Tipperary and Roscrea in particular, here’s a link to their Facebook page

Fizzy Drinks: Or “minerals” as they are sometimes referred to in Ireland.  As mentioned above, there are times when you would just love to have a bottle of Lucozade or some club orange. So delicious, it deserves a picture;

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If anyone should so feel the need to buy and send me one of these, I would be your friend forever. In the meantime, I’ll continue eating this poor excuse of a sandwich while sobbing quietly in the corner……………..

Let me tell you a story……

Back in the day when I lived in Ireland, I had a driver’s license and a car. I would bomb all over Ireland in that great car (which has since passed away). This is the car, Suzy. Apologies for the fact that she’s sideways.

Suzy

In the 3 years, I was driving in Ireland, I only got breathilised once.  And what a great adventure that was.

It was a Friday night and my sister, Kathryn (I have 2 sisters) and I were returning from a Chinese in Nenagh.  We were driving the home car.  At the time, I’m pretty sure Suzy the Suzuki wasn’t yet on the scene.  It was a really quiet night and there were hardly any other cars on the road.  We were almost out of the town when we saw the flashing lights and realised that we were going to be stopped at the checkpoint.

Normally, this would freak people out but for me it was the first checkpoint of any sort since I got my full license so I was pretty excited.  We drive up to the Garda, roll down the window and after the usual small talk (where are you going, what are you doing here etc) she asked if she could test my breath for alcohol.  By this time, I was so happy that it was really happening that I replied “NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO problem”  The Garda looked at us and said ” I thought you were saying no. I’m just out of Templemore*, I wouldn’t have known what to do”. When I stopped laughing at this she gave me the instructions,

1. Blow into the bag

2. Stop when you hear the beep

It was that simple.  Not knowing how long it would be until the beep, I took a deep breath and blew into the bag. However, after about 2 seconds I heard a beep so I stopped.  It was more of a puff than a breath really but a beep is a beep.  At this stage, I’m pretty sure the Garda thought there was something wrong with me (possibly I had been drinking????) So she had to change the bag and then gave me the second set of instructions,

1. Blow into the bag

2. Stop when you hear the big beep.

If she had said that the first time, there wouldn’t have been any problem to start with.  So, once again I blew into the bag.  Except this time I almost ran out of breath listening carefully for the damn beep that eventually came.  I passed (surprise) and so we went on our way back to Ballybrowne.  That was the last time I was breathalised until………..a month ago.

Skip 5 years to my driving in Korea.  I’ve had my car (Spuddy) since November. In the last 4 weeks, I’ve been breath tested 3 times. That’s twice more than in my 3 years driving in Ireland. But the whole experience here is a little bit of a let down compared to the adventure in Ireland.  My first breath test here was driving home from Ilsan.  At first, I thought it was an accident scene, until the traffic was reduced to two lanes.  It eventually dawned on me that it was a drink driving checkpoint and again I was super excited.  I knew there was a blog coming out of this.

I drive up, roll down the window and expect to see a device similar to the one in Ireland.  Instead the police officer put a rectangular shaped device in front of my mouth and told me to blow into the square.  It took a full 2 seconds before the light turned green and I had to drive away.  What a let down.

The other two times I got stopped were coming home from Munsan and randomly outside my apartment complex in Geumchon.  I think there’s a conspiracy here somewhere, but that’s for another day……….

*If you’re not Irish;

a Garda is a police officer

Templemore is where the Gardai train

Nenagh is in Tipperary

An Irish girl in a Korean supermarket- Part 1

I will never forget the  first time I went to the supermarket in Korea. I  walked around aimlessly because I didn’t recognise half the foods. There I was, all the way from Tipperary standing in a supermarket in Paju looking like I walked in from another dimension! I think I came back out after an hour with a bunch of bananas, some apples and a carton of milk.  In 3 years, things have changed so I decided to write a blog on the things I didn’t recognise when I first arrived in Korea. 

For anyone who reads this from outside Korea and actually knows what they all are, well done. Remember I came from Ireland where these types of food don’t exist (or do but not in my part of Tipperary).

The reason this is part 1 is because I looked like a seriously random individual walking around the supermarket taking pictures of items and not actually buying them!  When I feel it safe to return, I’ll take more pictures. 

Lets start with 유부. You can read the English on the packet, Fried Soybean Curd. Its delicious with thick noodles, 우동, and you find it a lot on soups and the like. At the time I didn’t know that so I spent quite a while standing there thinking of creative ways to eat such a random food.  Thank goodness these packets have pictures otherwise I might still be there!

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Moving swiftly forward to my favourite aisle;

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About 80% of this aisle is dedicated to tuna or 참치 in Korean.  I love this aisle because how many different variations of tuna can there be? Quite a lot is the answer. In fairness there are other things on the shelf, but still a lot of tuna.  The rest is Spam, and other tinned fish and meat. Here’s a picture of Spam which is so great, it deserves a picture of its ownimage

Hhhhmmmmm…….disgusting. Or delicious depending on you. But what is Spam?? Lots of Americans are already familiar with Spam but until September 2009 I had never heard of it. For those who are currently sailing the same boat I was, Spam  is “chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder and sodium nitrite as a preservative”  For Lunar New Year, Spam came in amazing beautifully decorated boxes.  Nothing says “I love you” like a great big box of Spam. In case you still don’t understand how brilliant Spam is, watch this youtube video;  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE

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These white things are 떡 and you can tell my reading skills are amazingly brilliant. They come in different shapes but they’re the same thing.  These are actually deceiving delicious and can be eaten lots of different ways.  They are usually used to make 떡볶이 which looks like;

                                                       

Ddeokbokki comes in a variety of spiciness and of course if we get it at school it’s the “not at all spicy” version.  Ddeokbokki is great street food and nothing warms you up on a night out in winter like Ddeokboki!

 The only milk I drank in Ireland came from a cow and with a complete stretch of the imagination, a goat.  So imagine my surprise when I walk in to the supermarket and find an entire shelf dedicated to Soybean milk!   It’s super popular here and I constantly have people offering me cartons of it. It’s got a “special” taste and after a while it’s not that bad.  And probably really healthy. 

Milk

Whenever I go back to Ireland, I like to eat food prepared by Mammy Browne.  When I saw these dressings, I  heard my mother’s voice going; “You’d want to be an awful eejit to put Kiwi dressing on your lettuce”  So imagine the  astonishment as I stood looking at the Kiwi, strawberry, peach and other randomly flavoured dressings.  I’ve actually tasted them since and they’re not so bad( a little delicious if I’m being honest) if you don’t think  about how weird it is.  For 2,380won you can’t go too far wrong……..

 

Sauces

 

Quail Eggs

No school lunch is complete without a few Quail eggs.  Quail eggs are three or four times more nutritious that regular chicken eggs.  We eat them all the time here.  Personally, I don’t see much of a difference in taste but that’s just me. 

At this stage you’re probably asking yourself why I didn’t recognise the foods when the labels are in English.  I took these at a large supermarket which I didn’t know existed until about 6 months into my contract.  The one I usually go to is a totally Korean supermarket with none of these fancy English labels. 

Red Pepper Paste

Red Pepper Paste, a staple in the Korean diet.  This is used as a base in a lot of foods here.  The most common uses are in Ddeokbokki and bibimbap.  I know that now but at the time I was thinking why anyone would need such a disgusting looking food in such a large quantity. 

One last item, Mangosteens.  If it wasn’t apples or oranges, I hadn’t heard of them before I came to Korea.  And I still hadn’t heard of mangosteens until I went to Thailand in  December 2011 (Don’t judge me!).  These are the most delicious fruit I’ve ever discovered.  They taste better bought from a street vendor in Thailand but when all goes to all the ones in the supermarket here will do. 

Mangosteens

That’s about it for part 1. Tune in soon for an Irish girl in a Korean supermarket, part 2!