More Irish Adventures

If you missed Cyndi’s first Ireland post, you can find it here.

Emma graciously allowed me to return with another installment of Irish Adventures.  We saw so many incredibly beautiful and fascinating things, and met so many implausibly beautiful and fascinating people. It truly is a magical place.

Back in the early stages of planning, I told the friends I was traveling with that I would really love to visit a sheep farm. I did a little research and found the Kissane Sheep Farm near Killarney. It seemed an ideal plan. Kissane Sheep Farm is along the famed Ring of Kerry—a must-see on any Irish visit. The Ring encompasses a beautiful, winding coastal road with breathtaking views of lakes and mountains.

Don’t let the beauty deceive you. The Ring of “SKerry”, as we called it is not for sissies. For Americans, used to bigger being better, the quaint, scenic, Irish roads can be the stuff of nightmares.  There are lots and lots of tour buses in Ireland and when you meet them going the opposite way on the little road surrounding the Ring of SKerry, you are expected to make way. That’s what led to our doom—those rocks along the edge of the road have a tendency to jump out and destroy tires (tyres) and wheels. Well, we wanted adventure.

Eventually, we made it to the farm, and let me say, it was worth the trip. The view was unbelievable. Quite a crowd had gathered there already, as we missed our scheduled tour time, thanks to Skerry, but no matter—they were welcoming and accommodating.

Kissane Sheep Farm has been in the same family for nearly 200 years.  It is a traditional, working farm, raising Black Faced Mountain Sheep .  Sadly, times have changed. A traditional Irish sheep farm can’t make it on farming alone. They simply don’t get paid enough for the wool to make a living. The Kissane Farm managed to adjust to the changes, and now shares its traditions with thousands of tourists visiting each year. (Contact them ahead of time to make arrangements.)

Watching the work of the men and dogs on the farm leaves no doubt this is a professional operation. We were treated to a demonstration of sheep shearing, and clearly, John was an expert.  He took just minutes to shear the sheep and return it to the herd. At the height of the season, John will shear 200 sheep in a day—and that’s in addition to his usual daily chores.

Clearly, the highlight is the sheep dog demonstration.  Two Border Collies (Pepper and Rose) not only serve as the welcoming committee for tourists, they show visitors how their work is done. It was amazing to watch them move the sheep as directed through whistles and calls from John. We learned that one does the “heavy herding lifting” while the other watches for strays left behind and returns them to the flock.

Being out on the farm, with the wind and drizzle, watching the dogs and men work, it’s hard not to come by a lump in your throat. This is Irish tradition in action. The land has hosted sheep, dogs, and farmers for hundreds of years and some of the work is done the same way old great grandpa Kissane did it.  The beauty and ruggedness of the area has survived the passage of time. Fortunately, allowing a few of us fiber enthusiasts to peer into that world is helping to preserve it.

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