Monthly Archives: April 2014

A New Story

I watch my boys run along a ditch outside and while the mother in me has her heart in mouth for fear that they might fall, the city come country girl in me is acutely aware that these little boys are creating their own story. The last children to run the ditch, were my husband and his sisters while their own mother held her breath at the thought of their falling and I become aware, yet again, that these indeed are hallowed grounds.

Walking onto ‘the land’, on marrying into the country, you come to know that you are indeed walking into another person’s story. Sometimes as an unwanted tagline in a family’s history as it readjusts, begrudgingly at times, to fit you into it’s storyline. For families are exactly that, once actors but now bearers and collectors of a generation or more of stories; stories of love, happiness, disappointment, hilarity, joy, mourning, tragedy. I too, carry my own stories, mostly cherished but at times difficult to bear.

The truth is being a Cork city girl, I owned the banks, streets and bad paving of my beautiful city. It was all mine. The ground most trodden was mine in the way that we claim ownership over something we know and love. I own the street where I walked home from school with my sister, the pavement where my parents met for their first date, the no.3 bus route, the chimneys of the local brewery, the path to my Nana’s house. At times, now I too begrudge, the friends and family who get to walk in my hallowed home, acting out their lives on my territory.

While not so easy to begin with, it is easier for me to see now how marrying into a farm was difficult for the last generation. How frustrating it must be for the past generation to watch a new story unfold, in it’s own way, over a treasured childhood playground. As a young newly wed, I had no idea, and I wince at the memory of awkward encounters with this family treasure trove of stories and land. But I too, am just passing through Hearthill, granted and please God, for a long life, and I am one of the newest generation of family storytellers. Loving this place, bringing new actors onto it’s stage as my family take on their own roles watching our new drama unfold. With respect, there is room for everyone to be written in, newest generation and old.




Only a few more cows left to calve telling me that soon it will be my turn. I feel a lot of empathy with my heavily expectant counterparts; the slow and laboured march to the water trough and the constant grazing. Like their own calves, my two little boys are full of teaspach (a local term used to describe the exuberance and spirit of young calves when new straw is scattered around them or on hearing the familiar splash of creamy milk reaching their bucket, a wholly bucking, jumping, break dancing show).

Teaspach to the heavily expectant mother is the most challenging. While one doesn’t want to break their spirit, a mother has to use up some of the battery life on some exercise that ensures everyone in the farmhouse gets a full-nights sleep. I find living on a farm helps; obviously, there are safety concerns that young cowboys have to adhere to but the farm is a veritable childhood obstacle course designed (in my mind) to help the farming mother harness some of that exuberance.

There is no shortage of adventures. Provided with a knapsack that includes a biscuit, toilet roll binoculars and a fascination for any insect/rodent/small animal or bird that moves; little boys can safely tour the perimeter of an adjacent field in full view of their mother. And every little find provides a relay back to the same mother to show their findings or perhaps a little kiss for a nettle sting. Spirit in tact, they wander back on their expedition.

Bringing the cows in for milking is another luxury in the world of heavily expectant mommying. There are few calls as welcome to a mother who has just prepared the dinner and washed up as ‘Boys, do you want to bring the cows in for milking?’ Oh yes they do! Suitably attired they walk out the door behind their father as I flick on the kettle for my real cup of tea; the ‘cows come home’ cup. An utterly bovine experience that allows me to sit for a moment while my ladies in waiting chew the cud outside the window in harmony.

Buona Domenica

It’s been one of those weeks in Hearthill, everyone from the tetchy toddler, sick older brother, cranky mommy and patient farmer need a dose of tender loving care.  And so, administrating the dose, I refer as always back to the Italians in praise of all things bright and beautiful. They do it all so well; abundance, style, living, delight.  As an Italophile I try to bring a touch of La Dolce Vita into our home as often as I can moreso to remedy any lack of lustre that the Spring might impose. Just for today, Indulge me……

The Italians take the ordinary and translate it into the exquisite on a daily basis but more so on La Domenica, Sunday. It starts on Friday evening, down the little sidestreets, at the clink of the espresso cup on saucer after the obligatory fix of caffeine coming home from work, on collection of pastries for weekend treats, you begin to hear the echo of ‘Buona Domenica’ in big cities and small villages alike throughout Italy. ‘Buona Domenica’, ‘Have a Wonderful Sunday’ and even though it’s Friday, that Sunday moment is brought forward to signal the beginning of something special at the end of a week’s hard work.

Here, in Hearthill, Sunday is the day when the wellies are abandoned, fresh coffee is brewed, hot French toast is placed alongside the Sunday newspapers. There is normally a walk on a local beach, a leisurely chat with neighbours, delayed milking. It is a day for homemade pasta, fresh herbs, bambini covered in tomato ragu, leisurely dinner time. As with all good things alas, the moment when the milk machine is fixed onto the udder arrives and the familiar thrup, thrup, thrup of the milk machine comes echoing from the parlour signaling the end of a lovely Sunday and the beginning of a new week of work on the farm.

Buona Domenica….

Faraway Fields

From where I’m sitting the grass is green. But the farmer isn’t happy yet. Not green enough, not dry enough. A bit too soft for the girls (his cows). An after dinner tour of a field with his young sons has him perturbed. From the house, I see him walk in the field, shaking his head with his sons in order of height shaking their little heads in sympathy after him. This time last year we didn’t have enough grass in front of the cows, this year it’s too wet. It’s as if he himself is responsible for the earlier bad weather that has left ground drenched. There are a number of factors governing grass growth that fall within a farmer’s remit but the weather is in God’s realm as it were.

Farmer’s, for the most part, work in isolation. They spend hours in the milking parlour, in fields fencing, in tractors alone with too much time for thinking. There is, as with other businesses, a lot of competition. However, unlike other businesses, you are not for the most part, in competition with other farms for profit. This has allowed for many profitable cooperatives to grow over the years in this country. No, It is a different kind of competition that pushes farmers at times. Have you got the cows out yet? How much are your yearlings making? Have you still got fodder for cows? All your manure spread? Pride.

My job as farmer’s wife is complex. Like the priest in the confessional, I listen to what he percieves are his farming sins. I let him talk about all he believes he is doing wrong, farm wise, before offering my tuppense worth, some perspective. I’m the coach in his corner, spurring him on, reminding him of the bigger picture. The accountant, advising him when to be prudent when the milk cheque is stretched. The partner, keeping the flag flying on the home front, some delicious dinners, a creamy sponge, a chat about what his little boys have been up to. The girl, sprinkling his life, when needed, with some joie de vivre and therefore reminding him that faraway fields are not necessarily always greener…