Connect with us


An Irish Abbey The place the Grass Is All the time Hotter



This text is a part of our Design particular part about making the setting a artistic companion within the design of lovely houses.

Between Holy Week and the calls for of farm life, it wasn’t simple to get Sister Lily Scullion on the telephone in April. (“Sorry for the delay, have been very busy with lambing,” she wrote in an e-mail.)

However a packed schedule goes with the territory at St. Mary’s Abbey in Glencairn, the place 29 sisters are busy every day with work and prayer; making handmade playing cards, candles and Eucharistic bread; and tending the abbey’s grounds, which occupy almost 250 acres of County Waterford, close to Eire’s southeastern coast.

After which there may be the heating gas to be harvested.

In an effort to stay sustainably, the sisters not solely use photo voltaic panels to heat their buildings but in addition a little-known however mighty type of elephant grass known as miscanthus.

St. Mary’s is a Cistercian monastery, a part of a department of the Benedictine order. The land that the sisters of St. Mary’s Abbey farm was as soon as half of a giant monastic settlement known as St. Carthage of Lismore that was established within the seventh century and destroyed by Viking raids and Norman plundering.

St. Mary’s Abbey was established in 1932 by the nuns of Holy Cross Abbey, a Cistercian order in Dorset county, in England, which had quite a few sisters from Eire or with Irish roots.

At this time, the abbey is the one Cistercian monastery for girls in Eire. Regardless of being an enclosed order, it welcomes guests from everywhere in the world to its guesthouse, which is busy yr spherical. (“St. Benedict’s Rules for Monasteries” — written circa 530 A.D. — contains a complete chapter on hospitality.)

When requested what types of individuals want to go to and keep within the guesthouse, Sister Lily mentioned, “Everybody.”

“They’re right here principally to type of see what the life is like, they usually can attend the prayers” — which begin at 4:10 a.m., seven days a week. “There’s a great sense of peace in the whole area,” she said, noting that guests invariably remark on the serenity of the abbey grounds.

A former All-Ireland camogie player (that’s an Irish ball-and-stick game) from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, Sister Lily, who is 78, joined the order in 1980 and it was she who brought miscanthus to St. Mary’s Abbey.

She grew up on a farm, and agriculture is in her blood. About a decade ago, she attended an informational meeting with a company from Limerick promoting miscanthus as a moneymaking crop. After years of struggling as a dairy farm, the abbey had a keen interest in finding something new and profitable.

The plan to grow and sell miscanthus initially stalled, with the expense of trucking (“You’d have to pay a lorry to take it somewhere,” Sister Lily said) and the lack of a robust marketplace for the crop. But in the third year of planting, Sister Lily was able to sell some of the abbey’s harvest to a local business that makes briquettes for heating, and this gave her a new idea: producing fuel for their own use.

The abbey raised money to purchase an Axe Biotech boiler from Poland for 130,000 euros ($142,653), and since then, they’ve used the miscanthus they grow to heat the abbey’s buildings, including the six-bedroom guesthouse — a landmark structure with single-glazed windows.

The miscanthus is harvested, dried and then burned in the boiler. Asked if the boiler was efficient, Sister Lily said the first time she opened the door to the guesthouse, “The heat nearly knocked me out.”

The sisters of St. Mary’s Abbey are not alone in their enthusiasm for miscanthus. Emily Heaton, the director of the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, worked in the lab of an Irish crop scientist named Stephen P. Long as an undergraduate and has researched the suitability of miscanthus for use in the United States for two decades — specifically miscanthus x giganteus (Greef et Deu), the species that St. Mary’s Abbey burns for fuel.

“The ‘x’ means that it’s a hybrid,” Ms. Heaton said, noting that this variety is like “the mule of the plant world.” Native to Asia, it is a sterile progeny that resulted from the mismatched union of two miscanthus species.

“One parent is from the mountains, and the other is from the warm wet zones in Asia, so it can grow in cold alpine environs,” Ms. Heaton said. “It has a really wide growing range for a plant with little diversity.” This particular variety, she added, is not invasive.

All of this makes it ideally suited for St. Mary’s Abbey, where the environmental ethos is not just sustainability, but harmony. Every green initiative they undertake is done in the spirit of “contribution towards our common home,” said Sister Lily, using the evocative phrase that Pope Francis employed to describe our unique relationship with planet Earth in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’.

Though they work the land, making juice from the apples they harvest, and gathering wool from their lambs, St. Mary’s Abbey devotes 33 acres to unspoiled woodlands, 10 acres to an enclosed garden that’s free of pesticides, and 3.5 acres to wetlands. The remaining acreage is leased for tillage and used for miscanthus, cows and calves. There’s abundant wildlife of all kinds, and a balance between the crops that humans need and those that support all the other species that call County Waterford home.

Supply hyperlink

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2022 - NatureAndSystems - All Rights Reserved