Monthly Archives: February 2015

Spring in your Step

Oh stop, I’m not about to get all domestic on you. Far be it from me. No, instead, we’re coming out of hibernation in Hearthill and the mother of the house is in for a dusting. The bones, tired and a bit achey after the long winter’s hibernation give the odd creak, crying for movement.

With this in mind, I put on the runners and take to the road. If you were to stop and think of the obstacles that would stop you from taking to a road in early Spring in North Kerry, you’d never leave the house. Take your pick, early slurry spreading residue, mucky ditches, howling gales, Atlantic spray, Kerry rain.

You’ve been given thirty minutes break, between calving. There’s one cow in the haggard with the crubeens out (calf’s feet showing) and another in the calving unit who looks like she won’t settle down to birth for a while. The farmer will mind the children for thirty minutes, so you have that time to throw on your runners and run. Out away from the domestic into the freedom of the mucky open road. There’s humming and there is hawing.

Sur’ I won’t now, it’s too late, too cold, you’re busy.

Go on.

Warming up for the first five minutes, I drift into the gentle jog that will bring me up the mountain (hardly a mountain by many standards, more like a gentle slope but there’s no telling them) to the sounds of my first track. It can be anything, one of many playlists that will accompany me on a run.

You have to push yourself on the next leg of it. Can’t do it. Keep going. Have to salute that neighbour. Red faced. Breathless. Nonetheless, alive.

You might walk for a bit and then run again and before you know it you are running and singing and feeling alive. Refreshed. Delighted with yourself. Energized.

My first walk to Hearthill eight years ago had me ringing the farmer half way to come an collect me. I had the signs of a decade of good living in a booming economy and the fitness levels to accompany it. So, I know as I face into some months of getting back on track, that I can do it.

Early morning runs await me as the days get brighter and the farm gets busier. A stolen thirty minutes from a busy farm in Spring to put that spring back in the step.

Home Alone

Did you know, there are websites dedicated to nappy changing? Someone out there, took the time to compile paragraphs of words to deliver you information on how to change a nappy or diaper depending on your location. Information overload? Perhaps or perhaps not. Have you found yourself with a baby not knowing what to do. Maybe you were in a busy hospital where there was no immediate nurse available to show you how to do this? What do you do? Google, nappy changing.

Just in case you’re under any illusion that I’m sitting here knitting, baking, writing three books at the one time, I’m not. I’m stuck in a house with three little boys who cannot leave the house for anti-biotics or rain. I’m climbing in and out of the same day while the farmer calves the cows. Hey, it’s his job. But I’ve have corrected pooh pooh pants for the last time today, now I’ll ignore while I ponder on what a terrible mother I happen to be. That’s how it goes right?

If you listen carefully, that’s the refrain. As rapid as long skirts became minis, society is changing. From extended to nuclear family in micro minutes. In the absence of the mother/ mother in law barking at you in the corner to put a hat on that child or to start peeling the potatoes, we’re making our way through the maze of motherhood, often alone. Certainly, in the countryside this is the case. And what’s more, there is very little support in the way of care for your children, care for you or indeed facilities that will help you do either without a significant drive in the car.

I find myself feeling around in the dark mostly hoping that I’m taking a good enough shot at the target. It’s hard though when two of said children are still in nappies and all three seem to be preparing themselves constantly for war. Fighting, bickering, certainly not loving. And doesn’t it seem that everyone else’s children are perfect or at the very least grand? Come on though, it gives us all a pleasure to watch someone else’s child throw themselves down in the supermarket and have a good old tantrum. For a nanosecond, I watch and think ‘that mother, no control’ until a moment later, a toddler of mine is mine is re-enacting the same number.

I reach for the top shelf of a library of books on raising children. T for tantrum, a scan through a paragraph and find it’s perfectly normal. Right. Oh, nose picking, n, n, n, nnnnnose picking, right talk to your public health nurse. All of a sudden, I’m a walking encyclopedia of sometimes useful facts about motherhood but completely ignoring my own mothering instinct on how it should all work.

As I type there is a wide eyed boy asking me to pay him attention. It’s his turn in the queue of three. Listen, if you’re out there reading this thinking I have the answer, I don’t. My body gave me the strength on three different occasions to bring these little people into the world. And I forget that I come programmed to do this. I don’t have the answers, sometimes, if I listen carefully though, I have some for myself. I need to tell myself, they don’t need organic food or linen baby grows or me singing them Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a loop, they just need me. Don’t look to me for answers. You, my dear friend, have them within you.

Don’t wait for an occasion to tell her she’s great, hug a mother today.

You can also read more this week at

Do you come here often?

You have some hope of wooing a farmer (or avoiding one) if you are a country girl but little if your reference for all things country is the memory of Glenroe of a Sunday night. We thought ye were funny you country folk, a bit gray and crusty looking but oh so quaint. Look where that train of thought got me; right into the milking parlour.

So, picture it. You’re trying to impress him. And you’re a high pitched city girl telling him that everything is so funny and cute and horrified and amazed at the same time that the cows are lifting their tails and he is oh so brave and amazing that he instinctively knows when to shift away from that shower of cow dung. Dreamy.

Little did that farmer’s wife in waiting know that inwardly he was wishing me out of the parlour because I had the poor cows nervous and raising-the-tail-ish. The poor girls. There’s oohing and aahing at the sound of the machine, the sight of the milk buckets, the clusters, even the dip. Swoon, the milking apron. Aw, the calf house, the straw, the ration trough. Ouch the calving jack.

Cringing at the memory of me a wide eyed city girl walking into a milking parlour to keep him company. Wishing myself in hindsight out from under his feet. You, in your flowery wellies, he’ll say, well you knew what you were letting yourself in for. Well Holy God, how could I have known? He had me at ‘Let the cows out.’

Yours in mucky love.

There’s more on love and farming in Hearthill in this week’s Irish Country Living ….


It’s amazing the vocabulary you acquire on a farm each season, or maybe it’s the vocabulary I put down each season in order to remember the new words. With this month, there’s springing, the filling of the udders or dugs as cows become heavy with calf. Apparently, the pin bones are softening, indeed. They hear tell, that things are shaping up, coming along nicely, they’ll be sick to calf soon.

If only. The farmer is skirting around the cows and like the Dad pacing up and down the aisle outside the maternity ward, he’s waiting for news. Anything stirring? We’re late, overdue, pin bones not so soft. Indoors, whilst, I’m enjoying the extended break, I know that it will intensify the really busy period when the bovine maternity ward starts filling up. For when it’s busy, it is really busy. Picture not actually seeing your husband awake for weeks on end. Now that I’m an auld pro, I know it really can’t last forever, just a few weeks. A few weeks of nudging him awake at the breakfast table, dinners going cold, answering ‘where’s Daddy?’ pleas.

Springing. Sleepy farmers. Cows delivering lovely new calves. A Daddy less dinner table. Busy farmer’s wife. Days getting longer, weather improving. Fun outdoors, birds hatching, hedgerows growing.

Springing, any day now.