Monthly Archives: May 2015

To the Mart

He may only be three going on four but already you get glimpses of the man he’ll become. I’ll be talking to Daddy he tells me excited at the day that lays ahead. I’ll be up on the big box with Dan (as he calls Daddy) when we sell the calves. The same calves who he tried to feed some weeks before. The same calves he let lick or morelike swallow his little hand previously.

He walks down the drive with a little swagger behind his father who is busy trying to think of what else he might need for the mart. Calves, check. Calf cards, check, phone, wallet, keys check, little namesake, check. The rain pours down on them but little will dampen the spirits of the three year old, who carrying the ham sandwiches on Thomas the Tank backpack, will drive with Daddy in his tractor to the mart.

The city woman in me used to wonder what we would tell them about the days we would have to put calves in the trailer to take to the mart. It used to make me a little sad but I’ve come to realize that my life as a farmer’s wife is less of a novelty now and more the norm by the year. That these little of boys of mine while adoring their animals, know from a young age that taking the calves to the mart is a part of the job. Not a time for sentimentality mom.

Just before being lifted up high by his Daddy towards his little seat on the tractor, he gives me one big wave and a happy smile. He’s off for a day at the mart, a day with Daddy. Such a big boy now.

In that Pint of Milk

In that pint of milk is the ponderings of a Dairy farmer. Where will the cows go next? That field might be a bit wet after the recent rain, best put them in the High Field for now.

There is the watchful eye on protein and fat content, is there enough, is it good enough?

Behind that Pint of Milk are reams of paperwork, waiting for the farmer’s wife’s attention. Incomings and outgoings, all to be put in order, as soon as you can.

In that creamy milk is the call from the boys for the creamy bit, the nightly hot chocolate, the pour at breakfast, the sour milk for tomorrow’s bread, the icecream on a Sunday.

The farmer wipes the cow’s udder, places on the cluster, rubs a pap and the milk flows as the cow feeds on some ration. A gentle squeeze on an empty pap, cleaning, some dip, she feels the tap on her leg by the farmer’s hand, telling her to move on. Her milk moves through the dairy pipework into the bulk tank, to the tock, tock, tock of the machine awaiting collection. She saunters into the yard and towards the field again.

Back into year’s green green grass. Grass that brings on her creamy milk for that evening’s milking.

All in that pint of milk.

Keep her country

By my reckoning, it takes you a couple of years before you get into the swing of this country living business. The first year you might find yourself opened mouthed, at times awestruck, sometimes dumbstruck, perplexed and amazed. It is without a doubt a culture shock. I’ve known culture shock, I’ve travelled a bit and so I thought, hey, it’s my own country, how different could it be?

Different. To say the least.

So what’s so different? Let me illustrate with a few examples;

In the country, everybody knows everybody else. What? In the city, I knew my immediate neighbours plus a few more. That was it. I knew those neighbour’s offspring and maybe the odd eccentric aunt. In the country, you’re expected to know everyone and that everyone seems to be in someway connected to half of the village and you have to remember this. You really have to remember this she types cringing.

Country people love funerals. It’s not actually about the deceased, well it kind of is. Yes, you attend a funeral to support your neighbours, show your face, lend a hand but mainly it is a bit of a social gathering outside the funeral home. Was there many at it? How did she look? Were you talking to anyone? Be they sad, tragic or in celebration of a long happy life, they are the reason to put on a nice scarf or clean shoes and meet your neighbours. They bring moments of solidarity to a community in sad times and a nice chat on a bright evening at others.

The countryside is very quiet at night time. You might hear a cow bellow or a milk truck of a morning but there are no drunken brawls (more’s the pity) to speak of or cars zooming past on a nearby street.

Anyone can drop into the house, anytime. The general rule of thumb in the city is that if you find someone in your house uninvited, you call the gardai. Here, depending on the day, someone in the farmhouse kitchen; ask them if they would like tea. They will, on the odd occasion, wonder in the door and see if there is anyone there. Beware of the city woman yielding a hurley.

Everyone waves at you when you drive past them. I love this, I have loved it forever. As a young girl visiting country cousins I thought it just so lovely and would practise giving the little lift of my index finger in a parked car alone. Hello neighbour, how are you? Be it from tradition, habit, good manners or acknowlegement, it gives me a little chuckle as I do it habitually on the school run each morning.

So there you have it, some few examples of why you might find your local city woman perplexed in the countryside. Go easy on her. She’s just seeing you countryfolk in a whole different light, getting the hang of your turn of phrase, your quirks, your family tree and your unquenchable thirst for tea.

Keep her country.


A difficult day is one where your little boy arrives home from school and his eyes are not shining. It’s even more difficult when it happens a few days in a row. For one reason or another, he finds writing really difficult and it is breaking his little heart. A little heart that I have held precious until he took it out into the world, un-mommyed.

Instinct alone was not directing me on this one. I had used up my resources, my tough lines, soft kisses, big hugs, go get em’s and so had to reach for the big guns at homework time.

‘I can’t do it. I give up.’ he cries thoroughly unused to not succeeding, not believing that he is brilliant (mea culpa). Here, I realize I ignored the hundred and one articles available at a click on how to praise appropriately but forgetting myself daily, I tell him how fantastic he is. To me, anyways. Ridiculously, in that little ‘give up’, I see wasted opportunity, a graduation not attended, potential not achieved, in other words, hysteria of a mother on seeing her first born down-trodden.

Hysteria aside, I reach for the most fantastic weapon us modern mothers have in the face of our child’s adversity; knowledge. Like his mother, this son of mine is a dreamer, an idealist and a believer (though he still has a good excuse at six to assume such roles, me not so much). When your mom has told you a thousand times that you’re doing great, you’re fine out, you can do it and there is still doubt, there must be another voice to tell a six year old boy to keep going.

So thankfully, there’s youtube.

For no longer was it me telling him but some more brilliant others. Winston Churchill in warbling chinny Queen’s English told him to ‘Never, never, never, give up.’

JFK told him that when he chose to go to the Moon, he did so not because things are easy but because they are hard. 

And good old Albert Einstein, well he discovered atoms (I think) and some equation that mommy doesn’t really understand but he didn’t like school and found writing very difficult. Very difficult, indeed. ‘See, just like you.’

For a boy who loves soldiers, space exploration and scientists (!), who better to tell him that the windy road ahead can be navigated than these, his new heros. His hearing those words for the first time, I heard them too. And thanked those heros for the words of hope that continue to keep on giving.  Today, they brought the sparkle to a little boy in Kerry finding the homework tough.

And to the mommy who will try anything (and more than likely too much) to keep him going.

Walking into Light

Somebody, somewhere (which is a lazy way of saying that I couldn’t be bothered googling it at 6am in the morning) came up with the idea of the Darkness into Light walk. Starting at 4am, over 100,000 people in our country began walking a 5km pilgrimage into the light of the morning in aid of Pieta House, an organisation that helps those who are feeling suicidal or are self-harming.

That spark of inspiration, an idea that grew in the mind of one very clever person motivated over 100,000 people to awaken from a deep sleep at 3am to get to the starting line to walk for those who need help, support, the love of a community who believe with intervention that they can in no little way help to show those in trouble the way back to the light.

Today, though deliciously, I got to chat to many local people that I’ve come to know in my new role as a ‘Kerry woman’, I walked for the most part alone as the community of Listowel came together. In doing so, I was able to partake and eavesdrop in on many early morning conversations in the spirit of giddiness (what are we doing up at this hour of the morning in the honour of God) and good intention.

Birth stories were exchanged, ten stitches in all, war wounds, lost high heels at last weeks wedding, the sausages that were awaiting him in the fridge, her shiny medal displayed on her jumper as she walked in from school, the ankle that was starting to give him gib all in the most melodic North Kerry accent.

Normally, at Listowel race course, we’d be gathered to check out the fashion at the races, meeting up after the harvest in September to place a token amount on a horse without really having much of an idea about races but knowing a lot about community.  The same familiar faces there to show support. The message was clear though nobody really needs it spelt out.

Walking into the light, I remembered how I was complaining all week about having to do this, this chore. But was so glad I did. It is a reminder to do good, to offer kindness (too often undervalued),to love others. Maybe it’s the adenaline which is quickly wearing off, but it was a lesson, once again, on the beauty of humanity, the capacity of people to come together to do something so beautiful, so kind, to show that there is always light. There is always light.

The babies are waking, the cows are bellowing, this light, along with a lot of coffee will fuel this morning but for now, I know that it is great to be alive, to be a part of something inspired. Now, for a quick nap, let me tell you, it’s tiring being this great.

Enjoy the light.

What’s Wrong with Walking?

We all have our obstacles that stop us from getting out on the road and exercising. Be it the boyfriend who eyes you funny when you don those lycra sweatpants or the thought of the hill climb back to your house, we meet them all the time. Mine is the lady, a walking obstacle, driping with judgement, who pops up on occasion on my road and asks ‘What’s wrong with walking?’ as I run past.

Somedays, what I’d do for some city anonymity?

‘What’s wrong with walking?’ is a phrase I’ve heard before in Kerry, especially seeing as there are more runners on the country roads and so there is a bit of a backlash to this new ‘fad’. So here is my response, though I doubt if this lady ever reads my blog unless of course I become a world famous writer, thus giving her the chance to ask me ‘what’s wrong with reading?’

So my Lady, in order to get out on the road today, I procrastinated by eating my lunch, thus giving me an extra hour to digest. I then had to find a cleanish pair of socks (though not matching) to wear on my run, I had to change a nappy, pass the baby over with instructions, beg the baby to return my soaking wet earphones from his mouth (which meant I only heard every second word of my running soundtrack today) and avoid fifty questions about, well, the world in order to get out the door.

I ran as always out the door, into the air, which today looked like it might pour on me and I ran and ran and ran. I was feeling really hot and sweaty and to be honest a bit miserable and about to give up when I came across my walking obstacle poised, like the meany girl in the school yard, waiting to deliver her blow. I sped up (wondering why I hadn’t just avoided this route on a day when I wasn’t feeling the running love), waving a hello, warm day isn’t it, only to be delivered my ‘what’s wrong with walking?’ blow again.

Not that I owe you an explaination but here it is, I run so that I lose the baby fat that after three pregnancies and labours have left me, well soft, as they like to say around here. I run to get out all the pent up energy that builds up during the day of doing stuff for everybody else. I run to feel alive, I run to have more energy, I run to have a waist again. Someday. There’s little wrong with walking Lady, I do it all the time but as per my choice, I run, run like the devil around the country roads around my farm because it makes me feel and eventually look good. So there.

So ignore that obstacle, that pair of tight trousers, the blushing at the boy you have a crush on as you run past sweaty and unkempt, that steep hill or that passive aggressive neighbour and walk, dance, run, summersault like you just don’t care.

And one day, my Lady, I’m going to run past you, like an Egyptian.

The Bellow

At this point in the year, the promise of the pillow is everything. The adrenaline has come and gone and has left us a farmer who is tired out, body and soul. Once again, I fell asleep waiting for him to come into us. He ran behind, there was a calf sick, the tractor gave trouble, spreading went on. There are a number of reasons that would delay a farmer from eating a supper and sinking into a well deserved slumber this late in the Spring.

The pillow had just taken the weight of his weariness as that blasted cow gave a bellow. A long, relentless bellow that had both myself and himself sitting upright in the bed trying to figure out the bellow. Where are they? Do they have grass? I thought I heard it to the left of the house? Is there a cow in to calf? And so, despite my insistence that I go in his place, my farmer dragged himself from the bed to make sure all was as it should be outside.

It could go any way I thought, those misplaced bellows have previously had us rushing into clothes in the middle of the night whereon we’ve chased errant animals back to their patch.You always have to follow up on a bellow. Tonight, I begrudged the cow her bellow, one that took my husband from his much needed sleep. A while later, I hear the back door shut again and his heavy legs pull up the stairs.

All is grand he whispers as he soaks back into his side of the bed, to much needed rest.