Monthly Archives: September 2014

Dear Minister

I’m writing to you to request an extra allowance for farmer’s wives who happen to be the mothers of young sons. You see Minister, you must allow in your estimate of how much water a family can possibly use for the unimaginable quantities of water that some families can go through. Allow me to illustrate using the example of one such family on a dairy farm in North Kerry, namingly mine.

This morning Minister, my second son (three years old) decided he needed to wash the dogs. This began at circa 8am and may have continued until I realised he wasn’t making noise in my immediate vicinity circa post coffee 8:15am. The dogs are clean but the son was not. Bath number one. Later that morning, several buckets of water may have been used to clean up the ‘accidents’ of a certain toilet training toddler. The baby (four months old) who is being weened, Minister, ate solids for the first time today followed by a healthy evacuation of the bowels. Bath number two.

The washing machine is not shy when it comes to consuming water. Why, just today, the same machine washed one load of farmer’s milking clothes, one load of sheets and one load of baby clothes. It’s bedfellow, the dishwasher, is contemplating an all out strike and the negotiations are ongoing. The milk pasteuriser requires a large volume of water to cool the gallon of milk that is brought in from the parlour every second day. Three boys, Minister, three boys.

In the evening, in order to give the farmer’s wife a break from the general washing, cooking, mopping up, bathing et al, the farmer (heeding the warning signs) takes the two older boys to bring in the cows. This as you can imagine Minister on a damp enough day is not a clean job. At approximately, 5.30pm of an evening, two walking mucky boys reappear before me. Clothes in the washing machine and boys in bath number three.

So you see, Minister, in your calculation of the average water usage of Irish famililes, you need to be cogniscent of the fact that there is a farmer’s wife out there who is a slave to water consumption. We are not ordinary mortals when it comes to water Minister, and the allowance could be up to your own discretion. Let’s say, I wouldn’t be adverse to a shopping trip to the capital or indeed, a medal. With that Minister,  I’m off for a hot bath myself and a stiff drink of something, preferably not water.

Sun Sneezes

The cows are grazing to the West of the farm. And so with my four month old in his sling facing forward, I wondered into the setting sun on a lazy September evening to bring the cows home to milk. At his first sight of these black and white masses in front of him, the little one dances with delight, arms and legs wriggling to the gentle bellows of these beautiful animals.
There is no need for the ‘how, how, how’ of the farmer’s call to milk. No rush, the year is ours now to spend as we wish. Circling the cows in slow motion from the periphery of the field, we herd them gently towards the parlour. In a slow shuffle behind the cows on the dusty farm road, we are not unlike an elderly couple waltzing. It’s a dance with my little boy as he sneezes at the setting sun.

Green and Gold Jelly

It is no secret that I have a Love/Hate relationship with Kerry. Love stemming from the day I first looked into the blue eyes of a Kerry farmer, hate from the day a Kerry relative refused me jelly and icecream. It was the Munster Final day Cork stopped Kerry from getting the ‘four in a row’ and I love jelly. A couple of years later, I remember giants in red jerseys coming to my school hall as us young things got our first taste of the majestic on seeing these giants in red lift the Sam Maguire cup to our roars. Corcaigh Abu we screamed to the honey pot.

This week, Kerry is alive with green and gold and I’m having to suppress the hate bit. There is a five year old Kerry boy (who has to be surgically removed from his Kerry jersey) at my skirt tails in the kitchen asking me questions about the Kerry team. Until now, I’ve made it my business not to take that much of an interest so I’m stuck. A poster is lifted up to me; ‘Who’s that fella?’ ‘Oh he must be the Gooch?’ ‘No mom, he’s the fella with the orange hair’ ‘And who’s that fella?’ ‘Oh, that’s grouchy.’ ‘No mom, that’s the Star!’ ‘And who’s that fella?’ ‘Harpo? Go ask your Dad!’

I overhear the Kerryman recite the rollcall of Kerrymen to his excited son; their green and gold giants. And as I contemplate how to layer Green jelly on Gold, I think I need these Kerry Giants to try their hardest to bring some majesty to my little boy’s life in the form of the same Sam McGuire cup. Just try your hardest we tell our Kerry boys, just like the Kerry team. The hate seems to be disolving in the pouring of the jelly.

He’s here Watson

Have no fear, Sherlock is here defrosting my fridge with a hairdryer. I’m not at all optimistic that the man I called out to fix my fridge has ever opened a fridge door before. To the refrains of ‘that’s very interesting’, I’m trying to have faith in the man. But time is running out. Already, we’re about to eat soggy defrosted fish fingers for lunch and I’m googling Dinners for emergency defrosted freezer food. Whatsmore, I’m struggling to ignore my Granda’s Kerrymen jokes streaming from my memory banks. I have afterall, produced three future Kerrymen and married one. A good one. But it’s difficult when you’re watching a boyo swirl a hairdryer whilst saying ‘Quick draw’ in your kitchen.

Well, he might get to the bottom of the Mystery of the Noisy Motor by teatime, if not, readers, don’t be stuck for defrosted mackerel.

The Best Psychiatrist

I cornered a local woman in the village recently. It was during one of my crazed escapes from Hearthill, grabbing ten minutes of ‘mommy time’ before having to face the reality of the three sons. So this particular local lady is in my top ten favorite village people. She has a brood of children, some of whom I have had the pleasure to teach and they seem to be the most well adjusted, happy and healthy children I have met. And I wanted to know how, and I quote, how she managed to do it. The conversation went along these lines.

Me: How did you do it? They’re amazing.

Herself: Ah stop.

Me: Ah go on. How did you do it? (Trying to look a tad nonchalant)

Herself: Ah thanks.

Me: (Directly looking her in the eye) No really, how did you do it?

Herself: (Laughing) You’re hilarious. (The lady isn’t getting the point)

Me: (Trying not to beg) Seriously, how?

Herself: Well you know what, God is a great psychiatrist, and sometimes, when it got really bad, I took off to a field, had a cry and talked to God, he’s free.

Myself: I’ll try it. (Leaving the poor lady bemused but smiling)

Skip forward two days. Having given up on jolly phonics, on the toddler spilling the contents of a small baby bath on the floor and strung out on my small baby not sleeping, I take to the field.     So I start off the conversation, fully aware that I am a pathetic hypocrite, only coming to pry on the interventionist God today, half blubbering, half pleading, making sure to thank Himself for my holy Trinity of healthy and happy boys. Onto the hard stuff and here I’ll spare you the details. Somehow, somewhere mid sentence, I fall asleep, in the field. In the field. It might have been ten seconds, it was no more than a couple of minutes. It was, however, enough to put the farmer’s wife back on her feet and back into the ring. This time, intervention came in the form of a short nap, in a field. God was telling me to get some sleep and he didn’t have to ask twice. I slept, my friends, in a field and his(!) advise was free.


We’re not quite wrapping the year up but we’re thinking about it. We’re squeezing the rest out of the sunshine, wrapping that luscious grass left to us into bales. Tidying up corners. The tractor has been serviced for the long winter nights of giving silage to the cows. An eye to the clock, we’ll have to milk earlier now, the light is disappearing fast. On our morning’s stroll, we see the swallows getting ready for their imminent departure, they could be swooping to the delight of an almost three year old’s squeals. The blackberries will not make it to the jam pot this year, they are smeared on the faces of two little boys in Kerry jerseys.

Neighbours are chatting on the roadside, Kerry has made it to the All Ireland football final this year and every aspect of their game needs dissecting. Could the Gooch be fit enough, would Galvin come out of retirement? September is all about possibility. And in the Autumn of a good year in farming, anything is possible. Breathe easy, a good crop of silage is saved twice now; you could even reseed a field. Walk tall amongst the cows, the year has done well by them. You have done well by your animals.

There’s talk that the weather will hold for the Listowel races where farmers meet for their yearly gathering to celebrate the harvest. Lucks in, there might be a trip to the Ploughing Championships up the country. In Kerry, while they dare not to hope, their county team will bring them to Dublin for the big match. And while the Cork native in me begrudges their place in the final, the Hearthill native drinks in the possiblilty that September brings. The possibility that the county team will just polish up an already good year.  That Kerry might even deliver the beautiful football they are known for. The anticipation is palpable. Love them or hate them, they are the promise of majesty on the field and for a while in September, anything is possible.