In the early stages of planning this production, we told an acquaintance in San Francisco that Ireland was one of our first stops. He mentioned we had to meet up with his friends the Butler-Ritchies who are into green building, have kids around Given and True's age and they surf. An email introduction was made and 4 months later we are leaving their newly completed self-built cob house in northwest Ireland.
Fia, Colin, Daihti and Feile
The house. A 3-year labor of love. Built out of cob, a mixture of earth and straw. They are fully self sustainable by using only caught rain water, generating heat by solar power and a wood stove, grass roof insulation, plus the most ingenious refrigerator we've ever seen. They have committed to this way of life with such grace that it seems like a no brainer, from recycling to a compostible toilet, we could all learn a bit from them.
Almost all the materials in their house were found or salvaged, like the door frames and hand railing from fallen trees and wood floors from a retired school house.
Building with cob means no hard angles which allows for really comfortable curves.
The refridgerator: Such a simple concept, yet we've never seen this before. The cold is harnessed by the natural air flow around the outside of the house, channeled into the fridge with a series of pipes and then held in by slate stone.
Look at those eyes
With 13 people and two dogs all under one roof, our time here was a whirlwind of chaos and fun. The best part - I think we will all be implementing some of their methods into our lives. And as if they hadn't done enough for us, Feile also introduced us to her brother, a Uilleann Piper on Achill island....more to come on that.
After leaving the Butler-Ritchie family, we drove south to Achill, a beautiful sleepy island with a thriving traditional music scene. One of the local musicians is Feile's brother. John took up the Uilleann Pipes when we was 16 and has since devoted his career to playing and making them. He allowed us to film his workshop and a proper trad session at their local pub.
John's workshop is in an abandoned school house. Which, conveniently, has amazing acoustics.
Just about every piece is hand made in his workshop, from leather straps to ebony chanter. A full set of pipes takes about 3 months to complete.
The Uilleann pipe, the national pipe of Ireland, in a rough Irish translation means pipe of the elbows, named for its use of the elbows to pump air in rather than blowing like Scottland's bag pipe. Fun fact of the day: In Braveheart, bag pipes are shown but Uilleann pipes are what you hear on the soundtrack because the sound is less shrill.
Multi-tasking momma. One of our favorite things about Ireland is the family atmosphere at pubs. Baby in a bar? No problem!
This set of pipes is from 1924 and is the model that John emulates with his own pipes.
Just like Mike said with his Live Vicariously post, the local pub really is where you will absorb the true Irish culture. No leprechauns or shamrocks just honest, open, friendly people who are all game for a laugh and a pint.