Monday, July 7, 2014

Photos galore!

A final thank you to those who have followed us so closely over the past few weeks.  The opportunities and experiences had by the team were truly once-in-a-lifetime and would not have been possible without your support.  After the team wrote it's final blog, we boarded our flight to Baltimore from Charlotte.  It was a great, short plane ride and the team was clearly giddy to be arriving home.

To pass the time, the group worked on drafting their own limericks.  I've been begged to not share them publicly, but you'll have to ask the group to recite them for you when you next cross paths.  This team has a hidden talent for writing limericks.

As you know, the 2014 trip details are all available here, as are the 2011, 2010, and 2008.  If you missed any photos, please check out our flickr account.
Scotland photos 2014:
England photos 2014:
Ireland photos 2014:
And Ring of Kerry photos:

Enjoy!  If you have any questions about the Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging Program, please contact Kiera Finucane at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


On our final day of the trip, we spent most of the morning driving to Dublin, with, as usual, our rest stop used to satisfy our cravings for Cadbury chocolate buttons. Once we arrived, a "hop on" tour guide joined us and showed us some of Dublin's prominent sites, including a giant pope statue and St. Patrick's Cathedral. In the cathedral, we saw relic flags of English and Irish family houses, stained glass windows which told the story of St. Patrick, and a performance by an Arkansas high school choir. 

After several sightings of various Guinness memorabilia (it would not be an exaggeration to say that it adorns nearly every building in the city), we decided to have lunch in a local pub called the Blarney Inn, where Ian and Courtney reaffirmed their love for shepherd's pie and we all warily sampled fried goat cheese. We also sighted and very much appreciated the wisdom of a tee shirt inside, which proclaimed that "Irish men don't need Google, because their women know everything." Clearly, it was correct.

 When we finished with lunch, we headed to the Irish National Museum excitedly anticipating their "bog bodies" exhibit, which displayed human bodies dating from 400 B.C. that had been found, preserved perfectly by types of antimicrobial bacteria, in several Irish bogs. From the bodies, scientists had been able to conclude their ages, bodily proportions, causes of death, and even their diets. We then wandered through the exhibits for Ancient Egypt, Medieval Ireland, and the Vikings, before Anne almost walked through a wall and we hastily left.

Back at our hotel, we relaxed and gathered our strength for a boisterous night at The Merry Ploughboys pub, starting with performances of traditional and quite merry Irish songs with much laughing and clapping along on our parts. Following the musical performances was an exhibition of men who can kick their legs higher than we can and extreme foot tapping, otherwise known as Irish dancing. Here, both Ian and Julia had their wishes to be called onstage to join the dancers thwarted, although one grabbed our friend Kayla (from Minnesota FFA) and danced with her, much to our amusement. We have a video of it for future blackmail purposes (just kidding, it actually wasn't bad).

Once we had left the pub, we traveled back to the hotel, said our goodbyes to Minnesota and our other friends, and packed up for our trip home. After a whopping four hours of sleep, we were back on the bus heading toward the airport. We successfully navigated customs and only lost Cassidy for a short time, so we would call it a success.

Now back in the U.S., we've had a chance to fully appreciate all the people who made our trip possible, especially Kiera and Anne for maintaining their patience with us for two weeks and for feeding us, our families for their support, and everyone who contributed to this amazing experience. 

Quotes of the day: "He went to hell, but his wife got well, And is still alive and sinning. For the razor blade was English made, But the sheets were Belfast linen." --From "The Ballad of William Bloat" as performed by The Merry Ploughboys
"I feel like a salmon." --Kayla and Abby 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Livin' on the edge

This morning, we awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (okay, we may have resembled zombies for most of the morning) and boarded the coach heading to our first stop of the morning, the Gow family's dairy farm. On the way, we stopped in a small town, where we explored a small church, examined the thatched roofs on nearby buildings, and purchased a souvenir key chain, which somehow went missing approximately 3.5 seconds after it was purchased. At the Gow's farm, we discovered that, similarly to several other farms we have visited this week, they use a pasture-based feeding system, seasonal milking and dry periods, and crossbred animals to increase fertility. 

After our tour of the farm, a local pub valiantly attempted to serve the 47 of us lunch with only minutes of advance warning. While we waited for our food, we visited several major local attractions including the mysterious upstairs of the pub and the playground next door (life lesson: never turn down swings, especially not if they are several feet too short for comfort and you are constantly at risk of beheading yourself on its frame).

Once we had acquired more emergency provisions including but not limited to strawberry bon-bons and Curly Whirlies, we were prepared for our journey to the Cliffs of Moher, a beautiful and historic Irish landmark. At the cliffs, we succeeded in climbing the 600-foot-high paths, causing Kiera to have heart palpitations on multiple occasions (unintentionally, of course), and cross-country jogging back down to make it to the coach on time. Actually, Courtney, Julia, and Ian, out of breath from their run and clutching cramps, were outraged to find that Kiera, Anne, and Cassidy had somehow made it back to the bottom first, despite being spotted far behind only moments before. 

Having heroically made it to the coach with minutes to spare, we settled in for our ride to tonight's hotel in Galway City, where Julia and Courtney broke their vow to never take the stairs with their luggage ever again, and were strongly reminded why they had made said vow in the first place. At dinner, we tried lamb ribs and carrot/ginger soup, managed to spill sugar all over the table, and somehow ended up outside in an alley while looking for the bathroom. 

Quote of the day, courtesy of George as we drove through the town of Limerick:
"There once was a woman from Rubat,
Who had triplets named Nat, Pat, and Tat,
It was fun with the breeding,
But hell with the feeding,
When she found she had no tit for tat."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Ring of Kerry

                The morning started out much later than previous mornings this week, and with a hodgepodge of various types of foods. Then it was off to the coach where we were to spend a large portion of the day as we drove around the famous Ring of Kerry.
                Our first stop was in Moriarty’s, a well-known retail store with a vast array items spanning from clothing and jewelry to crystal and pewter. It was here that we were greeted with waitresses carrying glasses of Irish coffee, which most of the team did not find too appealing. They did, however, smell like pretzels. We then rallied back to the coach for the next round of our scenic drive, which took us past some rocks that dated back to the Neolithic age and the highest peaks in Ireland, before emerging out onto the western coast of Ireland, where we made our next stop in a town along the Atlantic Ocean.  

                We worked our way down the beach and waded into the water, ignoring as much as possible the slimy films of algae and seaweed covering the sea floor. The water was astonishingly clear and very cold. This also proved a great venue for another photo op, which also included our friends from Minnesota. Then the more daring of the team waded out further onto an outcropping of rocks where we took a combined photo with people from other states that were likewise willing to risk the potential loss of appendages due to frightfully sharp rocks and angry crabs, and wet clothing for the remainder of the day. After we reached land and bandages were applied to those in need, we hastened back to the coach where we would have only a few minutes of driving until we reached our next destination. At this small roadside stopping-area we took more photos and held some very cute Irish kittens. Then it was on to lunch where we enjoyed authentic Irish cuisine while overlooking the ocean and appreciating how lucky we were to be touring the Circle of Kerry on such a beautiful day. At our final stop we appreciated the beautiful mountains and lakes in a view known as Ladies View, because that’s the view that was most appealing to the Queens of England when they were in town. Upon attempting to use the bathroom at the restaurant, Julia tragically lost her water bottle as it rolled into an occupied cubicle.

                After returning to the hotel, we went on a quick jaunty (carriage) ride through the national park with our guide, John and his noble steed Nancy. After we were delivered back to the hotel and said our goodbyes to Nancy, we departed for dinner in town and then stopped by a small pub for a taste of Irish music at its finest. We briefly stopped by the local grocery store for emergency provisions of chocolate and tic-tacs, then headed back to the hotel.

Quotes of the day: “Hurling is a combination of hockey and second degree murder.” –George (our coach driver)

“I couldn’t find my blue pen and my soul was crushed.” –Julia

Don't forget to check out our pictures from the Ring of Kerry! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

After our early breakfast and coach ride to Charleville, most of the day was spent judging classes at their dairy show, which resembled a county fair complete with open-air grass show rings and deliciously flaccid french fries. In a series of several interesting plot twists, the extremely classy porta-potty flushed, we were served tea and scones before the contest began, and we were allowed to work together in our teams to judge classes ranging in size from one animal to fourteen.

Although we were intrigued and excited at the chance to pool our brainpower, we were kept on our toes (literally) running around the ring pursuing the ever-elusive and sometimes nonexistent identification numbers for the animals, as well as by Ian's ill-timed decision to become a mute in the middle of the contest. We also faced the challenge of speaking quietly or remaining silent for five hours straight, which we only endured by doodling dragons and unicorns between classes and with the help of an emergency delivery of chicken nuggets by Anne and Kiera.
Winner of the 3 year old Futurity and best udder in the show

After the contest, we had almost an hour left on the fairgrounds to explore, during which we got matching glittery unicorn tattoos (we decided that they are our team mascot). Though Cassidy opted out, Ian decided on a very stylish lavender color and Julia and Courtney stuck to classic blue. We then noticed a bungee-jumping-trampoline ride thingy on the midway and obviously had to try it. The fact that we got to do backflips twenty feet in the air while attached to giant bungee cords made the corresponding lack of circulation to our legs from the harnesses completely worth it.

To top off our thrilling day, we learned on the bus that we had won the judging contest, with Missouri 4-H in second and Kaskaskia Junior College in third. Even better, we got to the hotel with enough time for a trip to the pool, which was artfully adorned with Grecian statues suffering from wardrobe malfunctions, and for some sauna experimentation. By the way, we all chose the chicken for dinner tonight, hence the title of tonight's blog.

Quote of the day: "My reasons were totally baloney." --Abby Hopp (our friend from Minnesota FFA)
Also "My, my, my; would you look at those drapes." --Julia and Abby

Also, don't forget to check out our pictures as we travel around!  Here are the newest additions from Ireland:

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Gift of Gab

This morning, after we reconvened on the bus from our respective Bed and Breakfasts, we started up the road to Blarney Castle.

What separates Blarney Castle from every other castle in Ireland in is the Blarney Stone. The legend of the Blarney stone is quite simple. An Irish lord of sorts went and prayed to a goddess for good luck and eloquence, for a court case he was facing, and the goddess responded by telling him to kiss the first stone he saw. The lord was so overjoyed by the luck said stone brought (he won the case) that he built the stone into to the foundation of his castle. The Blarney stone is said to give the gift of Gab.

When we arrived to the township of Blarney, it was raining quite heavily, so we stopped and shopped in the Blarney Woolen Mills, which had a nice assortment of woolen sweaters and Guinness T-shirts. After an hour spent shopping, half of us (Anne, Courtney, Julia, and Ian) headed up to Blarney Castle, while Kiera and Cassidy stayed behind to finish shopping and grab lunch for the group. At the castle we proceeded to climb the castle tower up the quickly narrowing spiral staircase (much to Ian and Courtney’s dismay), to the very top. To kiss the Blarney stone, one has to lean backwards over the precipice of the tower floor, while being held up by an assistant to prevent falling (pictures will explain it all). After watching Ian almost reluctantly kiss the stone as he leaned over the edge, we had to traipse back down another narrow staircase and race back to the bus before departure.
On the bus we single-handedly ate an entire packet of Cadbury Digestive cookies (which are awesome, despite the name) and chocolate flakes.

Our first farm visit was to the O’Leary’s, which keep a herd with a mixture of purebred Friesians and Jersey crosses. We increased our knowledge of Irish Milk Co-ops, the crops of Ireland (primarily grass), and the breeding goals of Irish cattle men. Before we departed our hosts shared with us a lovely table of scones, jam, and tea, which was appreciated by all members of the group.

Our next farm stop was at John Murphy’s, who breeds purebred Friesians on his grass-feeding base farm, with his wife and three daughters. Unfortunately, because of the rain and wet ground, we did not get a complete tour of his facilities, but we did learn more about breeding goals of cattle, specifically for purebreds, and the laws that regulate the farmland in Ireland.

Our day concluded, and headed back to a hotel in the city of Cork, where we all enjoyed our dinner, except for Ian, who, because of scattered seating, ended up eating alone (oops).

“Do you hear that?”
 (Cows chewing grass quietly in the background)
 “That’s the sound of money.”
--Tim O’Leary

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Away at our farm stays

Hi all,

Kiera and Anne here.  Just a quick check in to let you all know that we are doing quite well here in Ireland.  Our hosts have been so very gracious from the livestock market to the two dairy farms we have visited, we've been welcomed again and again.  Currently we are all staying at Farm stay bed and breakfast type locations in the Kilkenny County.  Have no fear, the team will return to blogging tomorrow and I'm sure they will have many stories to tell.  Cheers!