Monthly Archives: March 2014

Mother’s Day

The first day I realized I could do this mothering bit was on Mother’s day, 2009. Philip was six weeks old. I had him dressed up in his finery, placed him in his red pram and ventured the Listowel Farmer’s Market which has since become a weekly treat for young Brosnan boys.  First it was Philip, now Daniel and I wonder who will be next to join our merry jaunt?

On that Mother’s day, some five years ago, I didn’t want conversation; it was a test. Could I get him out in the world and keep him safe? Trepidation. I was weak. If someone looked in the pram, I held my breathe for their judgment. Was he tiny? Cold? Please, just say handsome. I was missing my own mother acutely having just moved to the countryside and therefore felt very uncertain as I took tiny steps into this unknown world of motherhood practically blindfolded. So after hearing some praise, I bought some daffodils to place on my pram. A picture of peace, daffodils to remember the day.

I decided Philip might like to treat me for Mother’s day so we went to the Listowel Arms Hotel. Looking for reassurance, I asked the lady at reception if I could feed him. As only another mother who spots a nervous first timer can, she leads me to an inviting foyer with black and white chequered tiles and dainty tea setting. I feed my handsome little boy and tuck him under my arm lovingly while I finish my first cup of ‘civilized’ coffee since giving birth.  Philip stares up at me in awe while we share a peaceful moment in the warm foyer.

It was a little step for woman and baby but a giant step for this first time mother. The ladies in the Arms know us now and I have it timed. These days, I waddle to the counter with young Daniel, order a coffee, some scones and half a glass of milk (so as not to spill!). The natives smile at my jam-smeared son’s face and we flick through the pages of his latest ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ comic. I know I need to finish my coffee by the last story.  I do so in order to maintain some semblance of civilization in this busy mothering life.

The boys, as gentlemen in training(!), somehow know that this is a big deal to their quaint mother and oblige more often than not to humour me for the quarter of an hour it takes to have that coffee before running wildly, as is right, back into their world.  Somehow along the way, my young trainees have guided me, though not always gently, along this mothering route and I smile at the memory of the terrified young mother who had just discovered the delight of a stolen moment of calm with a young son.

Happy Mother’s Day to you who are, loves or remembers a beloved mother.

My First Trip to Hearthill

When first invited to visit Hearthill, I saw it in it’s worst light. It was one of those drab and dark days that only us Irish know how to do so well. So, weather wise, I was under no illusions. It was bleak and it looked lonely. What’s more, farming smells are even more pungent in bad weather and the dampness added little to my farmer’s efforts to coax me out of my comfortable city existence.

By this stage, however, I knew that I was going to spend my life with my lovely farmer. He had, after all told me at the end of our first date that he would think of me while milking the cows.   I’ve realised since then that a dairy farmer couldn’t pay a girl a higher accolade. Dairy time equals thinking time.

On that faithful day, some ten years ago, I stood on the roadside of the farm and nodded, I might have uttered a ‘very nice’ not wanting to commit but knowing, as he did, that this was a deal breaker.  The pessimist and city girl in me wanted to run back to my car and get back to ‘civilisation’ as fast as the wheels would carry me but the optimist and country girl in me decided to roll up her sleeves and imagine how our life would be.  Thinking ‘right, how will I make the most of it, how will I design a life that works for us?’

Eventually, when the question arose, I chose my farmer. It didn’t take long for Hearthill to become home, it has been my consistent friend even on the days when I’ve felt worn by the challenge of this completely new life.  It has played its’ part in helping me to make the best of the everyday, in gloomy days as well as glorious.

On Becoming Practical

Of all the prized traits in rural Kerry that a girl could possess, being practical is the most highly esteemed. If you are a practical Kerry woman, you will be forgiven all manner of ills. Unfortunately, whilst I’m wonderful in many areas (ahem), practicality may not have always been one of my strong points. I come from a long line of wonderful women who have never matched a pair of socks.

On a scale of one to ten, one being the girl who backpacks around the hotter climes of the world with a faux fur coat acquired en route as well as carrying several Russian (and therefore weighty) novels and ten being the woman who gives birth and then milks the cows, I can safely say, I started life in Hearthill at zero.

My initiation into rural farming life in practicality terms, was therefore brutal. The following is a short list of tasks put to me during my first weeks in Hearthill that served to highlight my impractical nature.

Running the gauntlet, I had to;

1. Catch a runaway calf.

2. Understand which way to run when the mother in law shouted ‘Go West’ in order to catch same calf (without the aid of a compass!)

3. Know how to avoid being pucked by a calf and thereby spilling the contents of a milk bucket when feeding probably the same errant calf.

4. Guess how much straw is needed to lay under a stall of calves. Carry the bales in and then spread the straw under the calves (trying not to be pucked until black and blue).

5. Invent ways to reuse the blue string tying up straw bedding so that they’re not left lying around.

6. Make sure you don’t find calf chewing and therefore choking on the blue string.

In the early days, I was determined not to let my new husband down but there are somethings that a girl doesn’t see coming, like a pucking calf or a sceptical mother-in-law. Yes, in Kerry, us city girls really have to earn our stripes especially when the farmer marries outside of the county bounds! Since then, however, I’ve gradually and unwittingly become more practical in nature. I may never reach the dizzy heights of milking cows immediately post partum but hey, if you need it, I can tell you what happens to Anna Karenina!

The Walk Back to Sallies

In the villages, towns and cities of Italy, ladies and indeed gentlemen put on their Sunday best of an evening and stroll up their main street or piazza. They are there to be seen, to have an icecream and chat, often dressed in their finest Gucci (a flurry of Italian past-times all in one walk). Our tribute to La Passeggiata in Hearthill is the stroll back to Sallies. The Wellies replace the Gucci alas.

The romantic in me loves that we have a field named ‘Sallies’, named as far as I can gather after a lady who once had a cottage there named Sally (Funnily enough) in the late 1800’s. It is exactly a quarter of a mile from our red gate and it has been a Passeggiata of sorts for us, the newest generation of Brosnan’s, since 2009. 

Generally, our Passegiata starts out as an escape from the house,  a venture out into nature, a ‘wearing them out before bedtime’ or simply a walk out of the madness for Mommy.   Sometimes, it involves actual work when cows have to be accompanied back the road when grazing there. Even then it is relaxing saunder with cows whose tummies are full and whose udders are empty and therefore not in a rush back to pasture. I cherish the memory of Summertime when the living is easier.

This morning’s stroll took myself and and young Master Daniel back the road. For the two year old whose vocabulary is widening by the yard and whose curiosity is awakening in every step, the walk back to Sallies is a wild adventure.  Our entourage also extends to our two farm dogs, Sammy and Pepe, with the occasional cat wandering along too. There are times, like this morning,  when the stroll home is not always as carefree.  One of the strollers had to be cajoled into leaving an interesting corner of a field having found a family of ladybirds and so the the quarter of a mile home seems more like a marathon to a mommy who is getting heavier by the day.

Our stroll is an exercise in manners, learning to wave to a passing neighbour whilst also being lucrative with blackberries on offer and wild flowers for picking at various stages of the year. This Passeggiata is a nod to my favourite Italian pastime, in appreciation of ‘La Dolce Far Niente,’ the sweetness of doing nothing which in itself is so much. Adapting to life as a country girl has meant a slowing down in pace, strolling alongside seasonal changes and understanding the value of the country childhood where children chat with animation about new discoveries with the freedom to run around a much loved field.

A Quick Run to the Village…

The labour ward is filling up, with two cows currently occupying the stalls, it’s a busy day in Hearthill. Our Chief Gynocologist came in to grab forty winks (long night in the labour ward too) and I decided to run to the village for supplies. Here is what I love most about the village.

  1. I get the local gossip. I have little or no interest generally in gossip but other peoples’s fortune/misfortune is currency in rural Ireland! (I’m sure there will be more of that anon – stay tuned).
  2. People in the village love my children too. They know where Philip got his name and knew the Philip that came before him. They’re interested in how they’re growing and it feels somehow like they have a vested interest in my boys.  In the words of Hilary Clinton, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
  3. I grew up in the city and didn’t know many people. Here, I’m the Corkwoman. A quick trip to the village means a guarenteed chat for this naturally chatty girl.  My escape means I get to chat to other adults(!) about any subject under the sun, once we’ve dispensed with the obligatory weather talk that is.
  4. I feel part of a community, that I am among friends and know where there is a network of  support nearby should the need arise.

People often ask me ‘How do you like it around these parts?’ While there is much that I miss of my life as a city girl and there are the days when living in a rural community is trying,  honestly, I can often reply; ‘I like it very much.’

Back in Hearthill, our farmer, despite being pounced upon by two small boys during my absense, needs awakening.  He’s back out into this lovely March day to care for the two cows bellowing in the haggard. Another fine Spring day.