Monthly Archives: May 2014


Now it’s here. The drawing of silage grass has halted for one evening. Tractors parked and as the sun is going down, the countryside is aglow. The Kerry mountains, our constant companions, have a purple glow; our Brandon, Slieve Mish, Stacks and Macgillicuddy reeks stand proud before us, a backdrop to what is the most beautiful evening of the year.

And for what at times can be such a cruel stage, our home here in Hearthill, is radiant tonight. Suspended is the memory of storm, the bitter showers of March, the turbulence of October. Our cows are out at night now and their calves have just tasted the delight of the first prance in green grass. And how the grass is green, and how it smells when it is bursting out of the ground, in answer to the fruitful sunshine and showers of April and May.

A mommy is typing wistfully as her little boys sleep keeping an eye to the clock on contractions that come to nothing while a Daddy paces a garden with the lawnmower waiting for news of anything that might be stirring. No news tonight. We enjoy the same calm that Hearthill bestows on us at the end of the day as at the end of a season. Toys that have been fought over in the day are tossed aside, echos of roars to the table have quietened, cows bellowing for milking are muted for one evening and I wish I could live for longer in the calm that reigns at just this moment.  But our baby will have to arrive soon, another voice, if God is good to us, again.  One that will compete for attention in the chaotic family life of this farm in North Kerry, learning, we hope, to love it as we do.

In Praise of the Sponge Cake

You know those Sponge cakes that smell of yellow, they are so full of fresh eggs. Eggs that are beaten into local creamery butter (because you have to support the local creamery) and castor sugar. Eggs that soak up the sifted flour and baking powder and that flirt with anyone who smells them baking in the hot oven.

And you just have to heat the strawberry jam and when just warm, you have to add fresh chopped strawberries. And when sponge and jam are cooled, you just pour jam on your lower sponge and top it off with whipped (not overwhipped) cream on top. Best to have little boys watching this bit for maximum dramatic effect, jaws dropped.  Spongy bedmate placed on top and sprinkled with icing sugar.

This is beaten in minutes, baked in twenty; friends, family, children and husbands will remember you in their wills or at the very least, will remember you for the lovely sponge you made on the day they came to visit, started school, needed a friend, or lost a calf.  According to the Hearthill School of Thought, there is nothing a ‘dirty’ Sponge cake won’t solve. Lastly, throw on the kettle and slice.

“Not Telling You your Business but…

…I’ve been following you around the village and I need to tell you how miserable farming is at the moment.” It’s lucky that it it a beautiful Summer’s day because I tell you, this farming can be a miserable business. They have the worst PR machine in the country. Purpose of Public Relations; to reinforce a brand’s identity. Hence, farmers not great on the old PR front.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have heard farmers narrate the changing of the weather like no poet can, philosophize on any aspect of the countryside with eloquence but when it comes to discussing possible outcomes, farm wise, they can be a miserable bunch. It’s as if they have a radar. If there is the slightest chance that you might be struggling on the farm, if the weather has turned against you, an animal is sick or it’s just a ‘bad year for farming’, ‘they’re’ immediately onto you.

Now, I’m not a girl immune to the odd bout of negativity myself but if pushed into a corner, I can produce an optimistic outlook for you. You see, I’m the sensitive type, I take what you say to heart, especially in the days before I had children when I had time on my hands for thinking. So when, for example, a farmer told me on a trip to the village that this was the worst year he had ever encountered in farming and that ‘there wouldn’t be a farmer left in the country come Autumn,’ I was ready to pull the suitcases down from the attic.

Hobby farmers are the worst, those who have come off the land, left agriculture, kept a patch of land for a couple a cows and a horse for the children and therefore know everything about the lay of the land. There is one particular gentleman locally, who I am convinced chases me around the village just to enquire as to how difficult a position we find ourselves in on a given day. So far this year, he has advised me(!) not to dream of putting a slurry tank in a wet field, not to send any whitehead bullocks to the mart and to take heed that the milk prices will be turning for the worse come August. Dear God, deliver me from all evil, It’s like listening to a Nancy Griffith song on a loop.

I have my own farmer trained now, although in fairness, he is quite a jovial soul. He knows the look by now, the ‘don’t-tell-me-it’s-the-end-of-farming-life-as-we-know-it’ look. It does force him, for better or for worse,  to put a positive spin on this farming life and so he saves the misery for the trip to the creamery where I’m sure even the bags of ration complain.

Yet somehow, somewhere mid rant, I might hear some hope amidst the sighing and tutting that tells me that all is not lost. A twinkle in the eye of the complainant that tells me that as Mrs Doyle suggests that maybe they just like the misery and that we will live to milk another cow.

“And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They’ll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we’ll work these crops with sweat and tears
You’ll be the mule I’ll be the plow
Come harvest time we’ll work it out
There’s still a lotta love, here in these troubled fields.”

 (Nancy Griffith’s ‘Trouble in our Fields’)

May All Your Sons be Bishops

I’m right in the middle of the nesting phase in Hearthill. The fine weather has allowed me to get all the necessary baby accoutrements and clothing washed and aired and so we’re ready for the arrival of my little Brosnan. The fine weather and by fine I mean, warmish, dampish, soft (a great Irish word for describing the rain that just dampens the grass and ground enough whilst leaving the rest of us soaking) has meant that silage ground is ready for mowing. It’s an unspoken topic here really. Should he mention to the hormonal other that a silage dinner may need to be cooked in the next few weeks? Best not. But we can see the grass grow now. Everyone in Hearthill is happy and ready for what this fine Summer has to offer.

As for the title? I overheard it last weekend in the local hospital where one nurse was thanking another for lending a hand. First coined by Brendan Behan, the lovely Kerry nurse had used it in thanks. So to you who has been reading along this last while and to you who has helped the grass grow, in the Kerry way; ‘Bless you and May All your Sons be Bishops.’

What Sport!

You see, I can hold my tongue. I hold it when my city friends say something along the lines of ‘Can you believe it, Dave couldn’t put the children to bed tonight because he was playing indoor soccer. Can you believe him?’ At the risk of alienating half my readership and my dear friends, I just have to say; for the love of Jay, when Dave is finished putting the kids to bed tomorrow night, could you send him up to give me a hand?

Don’t get me wrong, love the farmer, love the life but hate the timetable. Picture the scene. Stage right; Enter almost 37 week pregnant mother (I know, I do go on) with two cups of hot chocolate. Five year old complains that his chocolate is too hot while the two and a half year spills the contents of his cup, albeit accidentally, over the plug socket. I try to remain calm but it gets harder as child number one who is looking for the longest book in history for me to read spills his milk all over his sheets. And exhale into the downward dog, if only a). I could breathe effectively b). kneel.

So while the plan was not to have to go downstairs again, I now have to change the sheets and find replacement sheets for a single bed in an overcrowded hot press. Back upstairs, change sheets and now time for reading books. I love reading, I love that my children love reading but I’m getting too near to the labour ward for imitating Tomas the Tank’s irritating friend Percy and for fielding questions on Fionn Mac Cumhaill; our latest obsession. To boot, I have to explain why replugging the bedside lamp into the wet plug socket is not such a great idea. Meanwhile, number three (in situ) is enjoying the antics and decides to kick me in the ribs, apparently loving my Percy impersonation.

Outside, I hear the milk machine work away while the farmer dials me up to remind me to tape Match of the Day. And back downstairs. So if you’re reading Dave, and herself is driving you mad, I do a lovely cup of tea, have match of the day taped and the kids are just lovely. Just saying…

Hello God, it’s me, Girl in Wellies

Dear God,

Obviously, I’d like a healthy baby, world peace, an end to world hunger etc. etc. but there’s this little lotto ticket in my hand and there’s this lovely Relais Blu hotel somewhere between Naples and Sorrento who I’m sure would love the opportunity to pour me a post partum Martini with the solitary green olive.

So, I’m just saying, if you have a minute, and you’re not too busy, well, you know yourself, it’s been a long Spring. I’ve been a good enough mother (which is apparently all you ask). I didn’t really make too much of a fuss of the 160-tiles-blown-off-the-roof thing in February and I have tried to keep my complaining about cows calving under the 140 character twitter allowance. But if you can’t, that’s ok, thanks again; you are good to me.