The compost toilet, however, was not.
Together we studied the Humanure Compost Toilet Manual. It read, “There are two types of people in this world. Those that sh*t in their drinking water and those that don’t.”
We were about to experience how the other half lived.
The toilet was a yellow bucket with sawdust, placed under a wooden toilet seat frame. For 10 days we followed a routine of eat-excrete-sawdust-repeat. We bonded each time we had to collect another wheelbarrow load of sawdust or shovel the contents of the toilet bucket onto the humanure compost heap.
As a city girl travelling with my farm girl friend, the compost toilet was the source of many discussions as we sat around in our mobile home after a day’s work. And while no television, mobile coverage or WiFi will do that to a girl, the compost toilet was the first of many opportunities WWOOFing in Ireland provided to learn about healthy, sustainable living.
There were other lessons we learned about life in rural Ireland. Our involvement in local life included set-dancing lessons, trad music sessions, and a community harvest supper, all of which allowed us to share and exchange ideas with those interested in the organic movement and alternative lifestyles.
After three months of research and trip planning, I spent seven weeks in 2009 WWOOFing around Ireland with a friend. Following are my favorite places and suggested WWOOFing stays.
To view the full contact details for WWOOF hosts you will need to become a subscribing member of WWOOF Ireland.
1. Kinramer, Rathlin Island, County Antrim
Located on an offshore island, the owners of Kinramer keep a beef suckler herd and a sheep flock. WWOOFing with this family you will experience island activities involving wildlife conservation, community events, and fishing; the seafood is plentiful.
WWOOFers may stay in a caravan, dorm, tent, or house. The hosts describe “adaptability and patience” as key requirements, as work is dependent on tides and weather. Rathlin Island is a small community of approximately 100; therefore, services are limited and WWOOFers need to come prepared.
2. Green Hill Farm, County Donegal
Back on the mainland, Green Hill Farm is a small organic holding situated in the north of Ireland. Owners John and Mary grow their own vegetables, which are sold locally at markets, and they are keen to educate others on organic farming.
WWOOFers are welcomed from June to August. Accommodation is provided in a caravan/mobile home, and stays of two weeks are preferred. Bikes are available for volunteers to explore the area. WWOOFer feedback sings their praises as “There’s no end to the charm on Green Hill Farm.”
3. Beechlawn Organic Farm, County Galway
For those looking for a longer term WWOOFing position, Beechlawn Organic Farm provides placements for a minimum of four weeks. This young family welcomes help all year round, especially from those with experience in horticulture or market stalls.
WWOOFing here includes everything from sowing to harvesting – expect to work 8 hours per day. In your time off, hosts can provide you with bikes and travel information on Ireland.
4. Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat, County Leitrim
Accommodation at Ard Nahoo is in a self-contained mobile home and there is no television or Internet access. Work for WWOOFers varies; on our stay, we prepared for a weekend retreat by cleaning and restocking guest cabins. Other tasks include picking fruit, harvesting potatoes, weeding, and composting.
Spend your free time exploring the surrounding Sligo Way and Creevelea Abbey; bikes and walking maps are available to borrow. WWOOFers should embrace the idea of a compost toilet because holding on for the 40 minute walk to the pub each night is tough!
Basic breakfast and lunch supplies are provided, and communal family dinners are served each evening. The kids are eager to help you brush up on your Gaelic.
5. Snee Farm, County Sligo
At the foot of the Ox Mountains lies Snee Farm. There are a range of animals on this small holding, but they specialize in pigs and bees.
This host takes a hands-on approach, explaining “We grow our own vegetables, cut our own turf… kill our own animals.” Snee doesn’t cater to vegetarians, but that’s not surprising for a pig farm. They make their own wine and during the winter, make cheese and butter.
A normal work day is described as “hectic” and these busy farm folk request that once you’ve registered as a WWOOFer, you contact them by email or phone directly.
6. Moyleabbey Organic Farm, County Kildare
Work on the 13.5 acres began in 2003 and Moyleabbey reached certified organic status in 2006.
This family-run organic fruit farm is managed by Liam and Yuki, who will educate WWOOFers about macrobiotic lifestyles and bio-dynamic farming. They sell most of their produce direct but also sell at farmers’ markets, restaurants, and with other organic growers locally.
The diverse nature of the work here allows the hosts to open their doors to WWOOFers all year round. Accommodation is provided in a self-contained mobile home. Minimum stay is one month.
7. Carraig Dúlra, County Wicklow
Carraig Dúlra is a farm situated on the east coast of Ireland run by experienced WWOOFers Mike and Suzie. Volunteers assist with courses and events, organic growing, beekeeping, farm projects, and water systems.
Accommodation is in a campsite, with vegetarian meals provided. There is no electricity or hot water. WWOOFers will need to boil water for their washing, dishes, and laundry, as the hosts emphasize establishing a “connection with the natural world.”
8. Mill Little Farm, County Cork
If you want to immerse yourself in Irish culture, head to Mill Little in West Cork. During our stay, we participated in excursions that saw us set-dancing with locals, listening to trad music sessions, and meditating at a Buddhist center on the rugged Beara Peninsula.
Host Christine will have you helping with veggie and flower beds, goats and poultry while she runs her English classes over the summer. WWOOFing accommodation is provided in clean, bright rooms in a house, and meals are cooked communally using the fresh produce from Mill Little.
9. Milbeg Arts, County Cork
This 250 year old farm house is situated on five acres, comprising woodland and a veggie garden. Milbeg’s host, Annie, is also an administrator of WWOOF Ireland.
Farming methods used here include crop rotation, bio-dynamic permaculture, and raised beds. WWOOFers stay in caravans. One WWOOFer noted that WWOOFers not only eat well here, but “most nights there’s a group of people gathered around to chat, take a hike up Priest’s Leap, or maybe hitch down to a pub.”
10. Peter and Amanda’s Place, County Cork
Peter and Amanda’s Place is a two acre site with polytunnels, raised beds, ponds, and gardens. They prefer stays of two weeks and volunteers all comment on being welcomed as a member of their family.
Work here over summer to meet other WWOOFers and experience the beautiful Sheep’s Head Peninsula. Places are limited, so check their online calendar for availability.
Before You Go
Getting insurance: A special insurance policy for WWOOFers is available through OV Europa.
Getting around: Traveling around Ireland by bus and train will not only benefit the environment, but your travel budget, too. See Bus Eireann and Irish Rail (Iarnrod Eireann) for the Republic of Ireland, and Translink and NI Railways for Northern Ireland.