October is a busy month

I’m missing the brilliant New England fall foliage, but there has been plenty to keep my mind occupied. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Friday we saw a triple bill at Tipperary Dance Platform. It is a great little festival full of international talent, live performance, dance films, and classes. Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 10.08.15 AMThe choreographers we saw were from Mexico, Spain, France and the Netherlands. Traveling to see performance is likely to become our new norm – but Ireland is small enough that we can be most anywhere within a few hours.

Hughie started a job at Apple this month. He’s delighted to be using his French skills, and it is a great company to work for. Two words: Health Insurance!!! For both of us.

12138602_10153777364584416_7773405146163650687_oGareth has been cutting away at the dead trees and low hanging branches, diligently building up a store of firewood. We borrowed a chainsaw from my in-laws, and they gifted us an axe. The best thing since hammer drills… Our main conclusion is, we need a goat to eat away all the underbrush.

We’ve also made a start on the future library/music room. Wallpaper is coming down, and this weekend will be a bit of a plaster demolition party when friends come down from Wicklow. Any volunteers along the way will be well fed!

Hopefully we will be able to take on more work exchange residents in a few months, so if you’re traveling this spring or summer and want to volunteer a couple of weeks in exchange for living & art-making space, get in touch. We’ve added some new tabs to the website for programs (like the work exchange), events, and photos. It’s still in development, but let us know what you think!

image1(4)Tomorrow the surveyor comes to take measurements of the house. Soon, we will have drawings we can work from in planning the renovation. I have so many ideas!!!

I picked up some colored pens and a binder to store all of the brochures and magazine clippings I’m gathering. In the coming weeks we will cost out the electric, plumbing/heating, kitchen cabinetry, floor coverings and paint/wallpaper. This will help us determine what is left for the builder. The house has become my full-time job, and I love it.

Meet Fred, Olive, Luther, and Feta. We cat-napped them from Uncle Ollie’s farm, where there is a bit of an overpopulation problem (14 cats!!!).

Fred with Uncle Ollie                      Olive
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Fred, Luther & Feta                           Feta
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Fred showed up on the farm, out of the blue, about a year and a half ago. He is incredibly friendly and loves to jump into your arms to be held. He’s also a ferocious hunter. Fred does everything intensely, and I immediately fell in love with him last year.

Our two lovey American cats, Cashel & Spy, don’t go outside. They are finally figuring out the existence of the new cat-pack outside, and aren’t sure what to think.
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Feta is easiest to photograph since she’ll actually stay still! 12168042_10153777812224416_2127619357_n

Olive was a bit shy for the first two days, but now everyone seems to be adjusting to their new home. Which really is a pretty perfect paradise for a cat.


Warmth, finally

I wasn’t planning to blog today, but I’m feeling motivated to mark this momentous occasion: our first fire!

Weimage2ll, our first oimage1(2)ne inside. Hughie & Gareth have been building some bonfires in the garden as they tidy up the overgrown yard.

The chimney sweep came out today and cleaned four fireplaces, just in time for the cold weather.

I’ve got chicken stock on the stove and am going to try this Smitten Kitchen recipe for the Simplest Apple Tart.

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All while enjoying this fire, built by Gareth.



Under the Floorboards

2015-08-19 10.44.51This morning the linoleum in the hall came up. Yet again, the case of the lazy (or frugal?) painters! There must have been a carpet runner at some point, and the floor is painted around it. Same as in the bedroom. And the sitting room window trim is only painted up to where the valance/cornice would hang!!! It doesn’t really matter as every single one of these spots will be repainted or replaced, but it drives me a bit mad meanwhile.

Our wonderful electrician, Colm Quinn, and his team have started the rewire of the kitchen, dining room, bedroom and master bath today. Floorboards are coming up and new wires are being run. Under the floorboard s is where the spiders live. Fortunately, Irish spiders aren’t poisonous.

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The best news we’ve received this week is that we fully own our house! In Ireland, the last step of purchasing a home is registering with the Property Registration Authority. We got a letter from our solicitor, Eoin Joyce, telling us this is now complete! If you are in Cork and need a solicitor, I would not hesitate to recommend Joyce & Co. Both Michael & Eoin are a pleasure to deal with and are extremely reliable. (For my Americans, Eoin is the Irish for Owen, and is pronounced the same)

Here are some things I learned about buying property in Ireland (feel free to skip this section):

  1. It can take a long time. And not necessarily for any good reason. We put an offer on the house at the end of January, but didn’t close until early May. This timing actually worked out really well for us in the end though, so no complaints.
  2. Auctioneers (real estate agents) are dodgy. The one we delt with, especially.
  3. If you are buying a property abroad it is essential you have a lawyer you trust.
  4. Engineers are your one stop shop for assistance. In the US, your pre-purchase property surveyor only tells you what’s wrong. Officially, they aren’t supposed to estimate what it might cost to fix it. And generally, once you have their report it’s the last you see them. But in Ireland, a building engineer sees out the whole process with you – from initial building survey, boundary check, and map revisions before buying to planning, design, and project management on after purchase renovations. It makes a lot of sense. I’m certain you’ll hear more about our engineer, Anthony Kenneally, soon enough!
  5. There is a 1% fee called Stamp Duty that you pay when you buy a house. I’m not exactly sure what it’s for, but I had to get a PPS (social security) number in order to pay it.
  6. Property taxes in Ireland are pretty new – only about 3 years old – and the amount would make anyone in the tri-state area of the US green with jealousy!

Sorry if that bit was dull.

We’ve been doing a bit of gardening. It’s a daily battle of Jess vs. Slugs & Snails in the window boxes, but the roses are in bloom and healthy. The orange & yellow one was a welcome gift from Killeagh’s Tidy Towns.

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Just for fun, here’s a snap of our favorite barman dressed to impress (the kiddies) at a fundraiser a week ago. It makes me giggle. Happy Wednesday!

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Views From Up High

Remember the secret room we discovered? Well, it leaks. And Sunday night it was lashing rain, so Monday yielded an adventure to the gully where two roofs meet. It was filled with moss and ferns, so water wasn’t draining properly. We filled five wheelbarrows with the debris! It was a glorious day, and the sun felt so nice as we worked. Wednesday’s forecast is heavy rain, so we’ll find out then if our efforts improve the situation.

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Last week we cleared out the smaller room on the third story, which will eventually be a visual arts studio. (The larger room will be for movement, but was used as attic storage and thus is full of stuff.) We discovered the room actually had a fireplace at one time.

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Because it is the most unfinished part of the house – still showing the stone walls and the rafters, it’s where I find it easiest to imagine the house’s history. I wonder if this floor is where the RIC men stationed at the barrack would have slept? It was incredibly dusty up there, and popular with spiders, but now is open and clean. The floor needs to be painted, and eventually we want to expose the stone walls.

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I’m looking forward to having a place to work out on bad weather days, as well as my own home studio for making dances in. It’s something I’ve wanted for so long and now it’s happening – that reality is only hitting me now, as I write this!2015-07-29 13.49.27 2015-08-04 11.31.50

It’s been a long two-weeks since my last post. I’ve learned that slugs can be anywhere. Like in your kitchen, bedroom, or on your roof. I don’t particularly care for slugs.2015-08-04 12.35.08 I discovered that we have wild watercress growing alongside the river. We got business cards printed for Greywood Arts. We are hoping to get a proper website soon though, so stay tuned. We are in the2015-08-04 12.36.42 process of filling our second skip (dumpster) and it finally looks like some space is being made downstairs. People here have been incredibly warm and kind. One neighbor volunteered his van to take a big sofa set to a charity shop for us.  Another couple invited us to Sunday lunch and to watch the gaelic football. It was our first invitation in the village, and it really makes it start to feel like home!

I also learned just how small Ireland really is. People keep telling me you can’t go anywhere in Ireland without meeting someone you know. We finally got bikes, and Red Barn Strand (strand=beach in Ireland) is a 30 minute cycle from our house. After a walk along the water, checking out the myriad seaweeds and shells, we sat on a grass embankment above2015-08-04 12.34.04 the beach. A family settled on the sand in front of us, and it turned to be my in-laws’ neighbors from the lane, Joe & Paula!!! If we’d left five minutes earlier, or if they had sat ten feet further down, we would have completely missed each other! Paula is also American, and she gave me some great advice about setting up house here. Running into people you know unexpectedly happens from time to time, but that was the second time that week we’d done it. We spent two nights in gorgeous Dingle (it was Hughie’s birthday present) and went to a pub with a traditional Irish music session on. A man came in, sat down with his back to us, and joined in on the fiddle. Hughie said “that’s Brian from Fitzpatrick’s [in Montpellier, Fr]– I recognize the way he plays.” I admit, I was skeptical that Brian, who is Irish but lives in France, would just happen to be sitting in the same pub as us out on the Dingle Penninsula. But it was him! And we were delighted to hear him play.

Ireland has agreed to let me stay for a year!!! I have permission to work, too. As a spouse, it is an incredibly straight forward process. We brought our passports, marriage license, and proof of joint address to our appointment at the nearby Garda (police) station, had my photo and fingerprints taken, and we were done in half an hour. No fees. In a few weeks I can go collect the Irish equivalent of a green card, less all the time, stress and expense involved in the U.S.

Dining 2015-07-25 11.40.08Our dear friend Cian brought us the most thoughtful and somewhat outrageous housewarming gift: a hammer drill with a chisel bit. Yay power-tools! And yay Cian! He’s driven down from Wicklow multiple times to help us with the house, and is sharing his engineer knowlege to help us create our plan of attack for renovations. He’s also drawing up a schematic of the house, which I’ll share when it’s finished.

I keep meaning to make these short, but I want to share everything! It’s hard for me to prioritize, but I want people to actually read the posts. I also want to create a record of how our project develops. You can let us know what sorts of things you’d like to see on our blog in the comments.

Now, back to filling the skip and chipping plaster off the dining room walls!

A Place to Rest Our Heads

The general rule of thumb around here is: if it heats up, don’t plug it in. The only exceptions are the kettle and the hot water heater. Our electrician, Colm, nearly has a heart attack every time he visits, so we’ve agreed to install a new fuse box and re-wire the three rooms we use most: Kitchen, Master Bedroom & Bath. All three are comfortable enough for now. If only we had a proper cooker instead of our gas camping stove – but we’re making progress.

38 Master Bed 10We are working with the engineer to determine our short term and long term priorities. Up soon is getting the chimneys looked at to make sure they are safe to use. They definitely need a cleaning. Most likely, it will be fires and space heaters  to keep us warm this winter (after the new wiring, of course.) Fortunately the weather has been decent more days than not. Irish summer is a lot colder than I’m used to though, and I probably should have packed more warm things.

Spare RmLast week we got our first guest room set up, with two double beds. So if you don’t mind rustic and do like pulling plaster off the walls, you are welcome to come and stay. In order to dry-line and insulate, we need to strip the ground floor walls down to the stone. It’s a messy process, but also gratifying to reveal the raw materials of our walls.

Today we thought we’d share some before and after photos of our bedroom. And some inspiration for the future, too.

When we saw that house there was a massive crucifix above the bed. We had no idea what we were going to do with it, but were spared that daunting decision as the previous owner took it with her.

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So far, we removed the carpet and took down all of the wallpaper. Most of the paper came down easily, but the bits that didn’t were tedious! We scrubbed the walls with a bleach solution to kill any mold or mildew and get rid of the damp odor. All of the furniture was cleaned, too.

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Whoever painted the wood floor didn’t bother with a 7ft square in the center, so I got a rug from Ikea, though it doesn’t quite cover it all. We’ve also set up a work space, purchased a printer, and scored a free sofa from Done Deal (Irish craigslist). It’s a pretty cozy place to hang out, and the light is gorgeous. It doesn’t get dark until nearly 10pm right now, so it has been easy to keep working without realizing just how late is.

Today it looks more like this:

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From Casasugar.com

Someday: The plan for the bedroom is a funky/luxurious/vintage combination. I am torn between trying for a calm space and going over the top with fabric and pattern. I’d love to have fabulous wallpaper and a chandelier. I’ve been thinking white and gold wallpaper (maybe just on an accent wall?) but love some of the bolder patterns I’m finding.

In the meantime, we bought a new light fixture for the dining room and will bring the antique fixture there currently up to the bedroom. I think a dark painted floor would be nice, and maybe some velvety curtains. When we move our furniture over, we’ll put up our antique iron bed frame. I may swap in some marble top pieces, too. No idea what to do for bedding, but probably something bright. Eventually, we’d like to have a separate office, but I think the bedroom will continue as our workspace for the foreseeable future.

What do you think – white & gold or bright and bold?

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What would you do with the room? Let us know in the comments.

If you’d like to see more of our inspiration, I avidly collect images to two boards on Pinterest: Interior and Exterior

Image Credits: Calico Wallpaper, Apartment Therapy, Flckr, Domaine Home,
Marie Claire Maison,Marie Claire Maison, Harlequin Amazilia Wallpaper,
Schumacher Wallpaper – Birds and Butterflies

The Adventure Begins (This might be a long one….)

   Field                                                       We found a secret room. And a door to nowhere.
                                                      We also got water, electricity and wifi. And a car.
                                                                     It’s been a busy two weeks!

The auctioneer (realtor) told us the house had been vacant for about a year – but the locals say otherwise. Damp is our biggest enemy. It rises up the walls from the ground and condensation collected from the house not being heated for so long. When we arrived, we immediately stripped the bedroom and bathroom of their carpets. Carpet in the bathroom=GROSS! The mattress and anything that might be musty had to go. We opened as many windows as possible, though many were guarded by giant flies or painted shut.

Next, we found the stopcock for the water and turned it on. Well, Hughie turned it on because I didn’t want to stick my hand in a cobwebby hole in the ground. That taken care of, we nipped off down the block to the pub, O’Mahony’s.

Andrew O’Mahony has been the star neighbor (and barman – best pint in Killeagh, so we’re told.) We met him in December when we first saw the house, and he gave us the hard sell on Killeagh. He fills us in about village history and directs us to anything we might need. Like plumbers and electricians. Because we needed both in the first week.

When we got to the pub AndreVieww asked if there’s still a leak. Assuming he meant the patched one in the kitchen, we finished our pints of Beamish (a stout made in Cork.) But when we got back to the house, there was no water coming inside – and a small fountain of it spraying from a pipe in the yard.

Once the burst pipe gets sorted, we’re in business…or so we think. Still no hot water, but that’s what the electric kettle is for. Except, when you plug it in and turn it on, ALL of the lights in the entire house go off. (Okay, they dim, but in daylight it seemed like they were off.) Your kettle should NOT act like an additional light switch. Which is how we met Colm, the electrician. Shortly thereafter we met Colm’s dad – also Colm, in the pub.

Anyway, Colm the younger discovered that hardly enough electricity was coming into the house. He said we could leave the immersion (hot water heater) on for a month and maybe we’d eventually get hot water…  So the Electric Supply Board came out and sorted that. YAY hot water. YAY showers! While we were dirty, showerless humans, Andrew’s mom Betty offered up her shower to us. For me, this gets at the heart of why you would want to live in a little village. And Killeagh has welcomed us with open arms.
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One day last week, while I was stripping dank wallpaper from the bedroom walls, Hughie came in and announced he had discovered a room we’d never seen before!!! The house has an apartment attached which has a sort-of sunroom. The ceiling there has some water damage and the room holds just a wardrobe and a chair. We’ve stepped in many times – but for the first time Hughie peeked behind the wardrobe, and found a door! It’s actually kind of creepy in there. Definitely the room where naughty children get locked up. Filled with spider webs, and not much else. It also s explains why every time I try to draw the floor plan I end up with a big empty square at the center of the second story.

As for the door to nowhere11658991_10155719418390065_1414952435_o, it hasn’t yet been opened. It’s covered with vines (very Secret Garden) but seems to be on the exterior wall of the Coach House’s second story.

In our short time here, we’ve managed to get a car – a 2008 Honda CR-V with only 30,000 miles on it. Automatics are harder to come by here, so we didn’t have a lot of options. It’s perfect though, and has already carted a sofa, chair, mattress and garden tools.

We also saw a dance performance, a process-discussion, and two plays as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. Cork City is so close and is pretty easy to drive into.

The cats are adapting well enough. When we collected them at the airport, Spy had given the vet a fright by hiding under the blanket in his carrier. Both cats were just fine, though mega-antsy to get out of their cages. Now, confined to our very large bedroom, they are antsy to explore the rest of the house. Unfortunately, we have too many open doors and windows for that to be safe just now.
We are all settling in well, enjoying the best of Irish summer (today was rainy and cold, but mostly it’s been gorgeous,) and eating delicious local meats and produce. As I write this, I hear the water rushing in the river outside. It’s peaceful at the house, and at the nearby beaches where we’ve gone for walks & runs. But I’m definitely missing my family and despite all of the excitement and hard work ahead, I look forward to returning state-side in September for a few weeks.

Until soon,

P.S. Moving forward I’d like to post shorter entries more frequently. The first two weeks in Eire have been jam-packed and largely internet-free, but I think we’re finding our rhythm now. Cheers!

Killeagh bound!

2015 is the year we do something crazy. Crazier than moving across an ocean for love. Crazier than planning a wedding in three months. Crazier than living in seven different places in two years. Which are all things we’ve done since we met in the summer of 2011.

If you don’t know us already, we are Hughie and Jess, an Irish guy and an American girl that met in the South of France. We have a great story. A chance meeting, a whirlwind summer romance, moving to New York City. But it hasn’t all been sunny skies. There’s been loss and struggle, too. Of course we’ve made great friends and grown closer to our family along the way. It’s been an adventure – and it’s time for the next chapter to begin!

In 2015 we are buying a house. An enormous one. In Ireland. And it is going to completely change our lives. The plan is to open an artist’s residency program, providing lodging and workspace to performing and visual artists.

1 Front of HouseBuilt in 1767, our currently nameless home was formerly a guest house and a barracks. It is situated alongside the Dissour River, on the main street in the village of Killeagh, Co. Cork. The original building is three stories tall, and with a few additions over the years. There is also a sizable coach house, and about an acre of pasture and woods.

We will be 10 miinutes from the seaside town of Youghal (pronounced y’all), 15 minutes from the beach, and 15 minutes from Midleton – where Jameson Whiskey is distilled! We are about 30 minutes from Cork City, too.

As you might imagine, a house this size and age will require considerable work. Uninhabited and unheated for over a year, damp has crept in. Beyond the cosmetic, we need to install a heating system, upgrade insulation and damp-proof the ground floor. This incredible opportunity has infused our every waking moment with dreaming, designing and brainstorming. It is both an exciting and daunting task, and we invite you to follow along on our journey on this blog.

Wish us luck!

P.S. – And follow us on facebook! www.facebook.com/greywoodartsireland