Soil conditions in Ireland vary considerably. The midlands have the richest, most fertile conditions. This is the region to grow grains, an indicator for its quality. Farm prices reflected this fact. The further north you go (Clare, Galway, Sligo, or westwards towards Kerry) the land becomes stonier and less suitable for multipurpose agriculture. While the countryside is beautiful with its dry stone walls, i.e. without mortar, the ground becomes stonier too. The walls, by the way, were erected by laborers in previous centuries that picked up the stones from the fields. They stacked them up into walls that created fences and boundaries around fields. Labor was cheap in those days.
We traveled pretty much all over the country, starting off on the East coast in Dublin. Heading west, the rolling countryside of Co. Kildare, home to stud farms, was very lush but unaffordable. Farm value is calculated per acre. If there is a house on it, it's thrown into the bargain. So it was an extra bonus if the house was livable or even in move-in condition.
We viewed farms that seemed to have good land and where the price was right. Talking to locals and neighbors became an eye-opener. Over a pint of Guinness, we stumbled over little secrets not mentioned in the advertisements. A mansion in Co. Wicklow was appealing to the eye with huge ballroom sized bedrooms, high stucco ceilings, and chandeliers. It had a beautiful, curving staircase with mahogany banisters to slide down on. The caretaker refused to accompany us in and show it from the inside, because it had a ghost. That, however, only increased its appeal to my Ex, "Think of its touristy value!" It gave me the creeps. The Irish are fond of ghosts, leprechauns, Little People, and other manifestations of the Irish spirit. The local banker confirmed the ghost's existence. However, during the conversation he let slip that some acreage was useless due to flooding in the spring just when one wants to sow.
My Ex fell in love with a place situated on a lake that had its own mill, forge, and power station. It also had about 15 rooms, some cracked windowpanes and miles of gutters that needed replacing. While it would have been an opportunity to run the house as a Bed & Breakfast in addition to the farming enterprise, I could visualize Himself pottering about fixing the place up for years to come. I pointed out the costs for central heating. Oh, there wasn't any yet, we could install it gradually. Thankfully, this particular gem of real estate -- like most property in Ireland was sold by auction and we were outbid.
Farms high up on hills were too windswept for certain crops and vulnerable in storms. Others had big and functioning outbuildings but the yards were too mucky for my taste.
At the end of our second reconnaissance trip, after an exhausting day and almost disillusioned, we found what we were looking for. The farm was located in a beauty spot near Lough Derg in Co. Tipperary, also within easy reach of Limerick, a university town, and Shannon Airport. From here tourists start their boat trips on the lake up the Shannon. Situated on a small hill, a pink house nestled under protective old trees, mostly beech and ash, and it had a very clean yard. I didn't get out of the car because my 10 month old was asleep on my lap. "Check it out what it's like inside and I can settle for it."
The price was right and it could be rented to interested neighbors until we were to make the big final move. Until then the property yielded a good return on our investment and we could use it for vacations. Take a glimpse at this neat video clip taken in Ireland: (http://www.irelandinpicture.net/2009/05/boreens-and-backroads.html) Thank you, Paz!
It resembles our little boreen, down to hedgerows of flowering whitethorn and grass growing in the middle of the road.
Now we had a farm but we weren't yet farmers. Not just yet.