From jig to soda bread: my ‘Irish for a Day’ farm experience

Photo courtesy of Harper Leigh

By Haley Burrow | Guest Contributor

When I signed up for a monthlong trip to Ireland, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When I think of Irish things, what comes to mind is usually clovers, leprechauns and Niall Horan. As much as I would have loved to have seen a real life leprechaun — or Niall Horan — I wasn’t expecting either of those wishes to come true.

After receiving the itinerary for Baylor in Ireland, I was excited to see an “Irish for a Day” farm experience. I grew up raising animals for the county fair, and even though Dublin is 4,500 miles from Waco, visiting Causey Farm made me feel a little bit closer to life back in Texas.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, I felt at home. To the left, we saw sheep and cows, and to the right was the biggest pig any of us had ever seen. And all of these sights were before our first official event of the day: making traditional Irish soda bread.

This bread was unlike any bread I had ever made before. Instead of using traditional measuring cups, we used mugs. To top it off, our guide, Andy, tossed us our eggs to catch (and only one person dropped theirs). Although I was chastised for mixing dough with my hands, this bread-making experience was incredible.

When the bread was ready to go in the oven, we explored the farm. As we walked around the main area, we fed animals straight from our hands, pet baby cows and caught chickens. I had a great time being able to surround myself with animals, and it seemed as if everyone else enjoyed it as well, even though it wasn’t as familiar to them.

The next event was learning how to do a traditional Irish jig. Andy described the dance in four parts, comparing them to different parts of a battle. I think it’s safe to say that we were all a little bit apprehensive of the dance, simply because none of us were used to it. It started off slow, but it quickly progressed into a fast-paced dance, and everyone was laughing and out of breath by the end of the song.

We then boarded a hayride and set off in search of a bog. There was a portion of the bog that people are able to jump into, and students travel from all over to do so. We didn’t know about it beforehand, so none of us were prepared to jump in. However, two of the students rolled up the legs of their jeans and braved the bog by walking right into it.

Our last bit of Irish culture for the day was learning how to play a traditional Irish drum known as a bodhrán. This drum is handheld and played with a type of drumstick called a tipper. It became apparent quickly that playing this drum wasn’t as easy as it seemed, as you had to hold it with one hand and play both the rim and the drumhead with the other.

After a full day of activities, we finished our farm adventure in true Irish fashion: by eating our freshly baked bread, topped with butter and jam and served with a hot cup of tea.

I know that when someone heads to Ireland for the first time, a farm typically isn’t high on their list of priorities. For me, it was one of the most rewarding times I had on the Emerald Isle. For anyone planning a trip to Ireland in the future and looking for a unique adventure, I would highly recommend finding an authentic Irish farm experience, even if it isn’t typically your cup of tea. It is not only a fun way to spend time in the countryside but also an easy way to experience authentic Irish culture.