Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Waiting Game

We’re three hours into the Easter holidays and I’m already thinking of telling them Easter Sunday is tomorrow. Would it be so wrong? It is after all a moveable feast. There are already a couple of Easter Eggs eyeing them from the top of the dresser and they want to eat them. How do you explain to two little boys that they have to wait a week and two days before chocolate eating extravaganza?

The toddler has asked me five times in the last hour if it was Easter Sunday yet? Can we eat them as breakfast on Easter Sunday? How many can we eat? Which one will we eat first? Is my egg bigger than his? What time do other children get up to eat them?

Aren’t they funny? Simply put. No. People continue to tell me at every sigh to enjoy them now while they are young. While their problems are small. I am. I do. I get it. They’re adorable. I love them but they’re not cute 24 hours a day. You get the moments that take your breathe away regularly enough, smiles that leave you on the verge of tears brimming with pride but as for answering incessant questions on Easter eggs, I ran out of steam an hour ago. I’m on automatic pilot, looking at the clock, knowing that I will be cooking the dinner with two very lovely boys sitting at the counter asking me questions about chocolate. And I know that someday I will miss these moments. Sadly, I know.

The cows continue to calve. The farmer continues to be missing in action somewhere in the farmyard. Today he’s spreading slurry. It never ends.

These are the ramblings of a farmer’s wife tired of Springtime. One who has started the post baby diet. Left craving chocolate.

Is it Easter Sunday yet?

Dinnertime

And the living ain’t easy. I don’t want to give up I think as I’m punching the air in the pantry. I’ve come to hide to take several deep breaths instead of throwing a tantrum myself at my longing for one peaceful dinner.

One peaceful dinner where the baby doesn’t throw his spoon on the floor with a giggle, twenty times. One peaceful dinner where my toddler sits at the table and eats. One peaceful dinner where I’m not lecturing the six year old on the value of eating meat and vegetables. One peaceful dinner where we chat, dissect our day, eat our meal. Imagine, all of us eating and enjoying our meal. And by one peaceful dinner I mean, one whole mealtime from lift of fork to final quiet burp without a spillage, a tantrum, a sigh or a complaint. Just one.

Let’s face it, it would be easier to put on the TV, put them in front of it, chat to the husband and let them eat whatever. But I won’t give up!

Now for the science bit.

Research says. Research says. Obesity. Research. You can skip this bit if you want. High achievers. Dinner together. The experts say. Research on diabetes asserts. Obesity. Family bonding. More research. Seriously, how are we supposed to digest?

Look, I’m not looking for Walton like family meals, ha ha happy nudging and joshing each other. I just want a peaceful enough dinner. Does it happen? Will they reach a reasonable age where it just clicks. I’m not looking to hear a hearty laugh as they pass the potatoes, just one meal where we don’t look like one of the bad families from Nanny 911 or what have you.

I can see her now, the Nanny Lady. Anne, your mealtimes are just crazy. You’ve got to get this together, you can do this. Now, this is the naughty step, come to eye level with them and explain and that is where I lose her. Put them on the naughty step at dinner, I’m hungry. Eye level, I’m hungry. Explain? I’m hungry Nanny. And the question on everyones lips is ‘Does Nanny 911 actually have kids?’ Just saying.

What makes the whole situation worse in a farmhouse, is that we often have another man who works on the farm joining us at mealtimes. He’s a part of the furniture around here, we consider him a friend but it is not easy trying to discipline your children in front of someone else. It often makes the situation more fraught. There we are, trying to make idle chat about the weather, grass and greyhounds (don’t ask) while simultaneously trying to get food into three young boys. Honestly. Why haven’t I been canonized? And you know, that they will be worse because they think they will get away with more. Sometimes, I think If he could pick up his plate and go off and eat alone, I think he would. I would. Poor man. Poor us.

I know I can say this to you. I know if you have children under seven, no, eight even, that they can be hard work at dinner times. I know you won’t judge me.  If they’re not, knock yourself out, feel as smug as you like, but please, for the love of God, just don’t call Nanny 911, I promise I’ll eat all my dinner.

Bacon and Cabbage

How could you like a dish that promised to put ‘hairs on yer chest’? I hated the smell of Bacon and Cabbage. Nasty green curly leaves soaking in ugly water, a dish for men. Cork city on Sundays after mass reeked of the stuff, city mothers everywhere plaumausing their spouses and sons (a bonus if your daughter liked it) with bacon that knew certain death by boiling.

It was a dish I had banished to the recesses never to be cooked by my fair hand, not in my kitchen, not at my dinner table. When I was single. Then comes the handsome lump of a husband who loves bacon and cabbage and you ignore him for the first couple of months. He’ll have to be satisfied with the memory of the smell of it from his youth. Not in my kitchen, not by my fair hand. You know what’s coming, resignation.

So, darling like, I asked my husband’s mother how he liked his bacon and cabbage. I might have been gushing, it was the honeymoon period. ‘I was thinking of making him bacon and cabbage, how does he like it?’ My first mistake was asking her how he liked it instead of how to make it.  It was like I had just declared my undying love for her son at her threshold, Oprah style. Not very North Kerry this heart on your sleeve lark I can tell you. The poor woman wasn’t prepared for it, she was indignant, I was mortified, she rattled something about bay leaves and onions to get rid of me and I, pretending to listen, skulked as fast as I could out of the kitchen, red faced and none the wiser on the boiled bacon front.

It took a while to get the hang of it but I think I might have perfected it to the point of cheering him up on a cold March day when he’s had little sleep and in need of a restoring bowl of his favourite dish. I realize that on reading this, you’re thinking I’m a 1950’s housewife daring you to make your husband happy and you could be right that I’m be putting the woman’s liberation moment back a hundred years or so but I’ll take my chances;

Bacon and Cabbage; Love on a plate.

This is one of those dishes that looks after itself. Technically, you should boil the bacon alone first and pour the first boiling of water away to take away the first blast of salt. I put carrots and onions roughly chopped into a big pot along with the lump of bacon and cover it with water. Add in a half handful of black pepper corns and two bay leaves. Leave it boil away, largely ignored until it starts to smell nice and it feels like a cooked slice of bacon when you insert the knife. (It could take from 40 minutes to an hour. You know yourself). For the last twenty minutes, add in the cabbage leaves and a good knob of butter. Why not? The bacon is served sliced hiding under cabbage, delicate onions and carrots alongside a heap of buttery potato mash with juice poured on top. Oh and don’t throw away the ugly water, you can use it as stock in tomorrow’s soup.

It’s boiling away here and it smells less like Sunday after Mass and more like a Kerry farmhouse on a Spring day, delicious. So there you are, that will put hairs on yer chest and may I add, it might just put a pep in your step.

Saturdays

If there is to be a weekend in farming, you begin to get a whiff of it on Saturday afternoon. The milking will continue twice a day, rest assured. The slurry tank is filled and makes it’s way to the field for spreading, cows will continue to calf but it’s the weekend. The farmhouse is in definitely in weekend mode.

On this very beautiful sunshiny Saturday, the smell of butter baking amid eggs, flour and maybe some chocolate sets the mood. The cakes hardly get a chance to cool as very young men come and eat them in compensation for Saturday jobs. Jobs in this instance is a very loose term, there is no room for perfection here, just prizes for effort. A car wash is really a little boy wash as they stand before me soaked while the car watches on crying out for soap and water.

Dinner time comes early, there might be a sit down with a newspaper and coffee in the afternoon for the farmer’s wife before the children are bathed and settle down for the Saturday night movie. All very ordinary I assure you. The stuff of life, the stuff of Saturdays.

St. Patrick’s Day

We’ve spied a cow in calf as she broke through a wire into fresh grass to calf, no matter. Cow and calf safe and back together.

Watched our local parade with our eldest dressed up as a knight.

Walked back the road in the sunshine that St. Patrick sent us to enjoy today.

For dinner, Irish Steak with mash, gravy and broccoli. Dessert, Bread and Butter pudding using our own milk and cream.

Just a day, a bit more special than the others it seems.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

 

One Born Every Minute

Or so it seems. The cows are calving very regularly now and it’s hard not to wince at the bellow of a cow in calf as the sound carries across the yard to the house. I’m only nine months after having a baby myself so I can empathize somewhat. The husky bellow, the discomfort, the fidgeting, trying to find a comfortable position. I stand back at a distance to watch her as she finds her own pace. A blister appears that will burst and eventually you see a pair of crubbeens appearing.

You hear her breathe heavily and shift again knowing that she has to deliver this one safely and that she has been put here to do so. She might stand and then lie down again until eventually, fulfilling her purpose, pushes everything she has into her abdomen to deliver that calf. From the shadows, I will her on. You can do it. That’s it. It hurts like hell but you have to. Come on. And then, greedily I wait for that rush of relief that comes when a mother pushes her young safely into the world. In a slide, so quickly, a moment never to be revisited but as a ghostly feeling in the memory of a womb. The rush into the world, parting from the one who has carried you, the mother. It is difficult to describe the relief that you feel when that rush happens, just before the cord is cut or the afterbirth arrives. It is the feeling that you have said the most important prayer of your life and it has been answered aloud.

Thank you to my mother and yours.

Happy Mother’s Day.

The Peak

It’s been raining all day, that messy, drowning wet rain down on top of the farmers of Ireland. I’m sitting up waiting for the farmer of this house to come in for the evening and it’s half past midnight. Last night, he didn’t get in until midnight after a very long day, we sat and he ate a sandwich and he slept for an hour. There was a heifer to calf so he left and he didn’t arrive back into the house until 6am just in time for breakfast with his sons.

After Breakfast, straight out again to the farm whereon during milking, another cow calved and possibly one after. He left at midday for the mart and came back to find another cow had calved in his absence but luckily he had some help today. After dinner, it took two men to man the maternity ward as several cows calved at the same time. They milked the cows for the second time and fed the new calves while another cow calved. He’ll be in shortly (it’s 00:40) but there’s a heifer to calve (heifers are first timers who often need supervision as they are nervous and might also have complicated deliveries).

This is the busiest day of the season.

I never hear him complain. Ever.