Monthly Archives: April 2016

Girl in Wellies 2.0

She thought she knew it all. Had this farming business down. She was wrong.

You might have noticed my absence over these months. I haven’t been away. Still here throwing a shape as they say on a farmhouse in North Kerry. However, to add an extra dimension to the household, I have returned to college (on a very part time basis) to study agriculture. Yes, I’ll say it again, he did see me coming. Studying for ‘The Green Cert’ has benefits for our farm and our plans for the future but what I wasn’t expecting was the fact of how little knowledge of farming I actually had and whats more this new venture in learning was a step into the virtual unknown. Indeed.

I had mentioned to a couple of friends that I was thinking of doing it. The city friends, knowing me, laughed. Did she ever see herself studying farming, didn’t she avoid farmers around campus for fear of ending up anywhere other than a swanky European capital without a filofax or shoe budget to her name (ah the notions of a twenty something language graduate, bless). The country friends, both male and female, have looked at me in awe, telling me their own stories of farming college, the year they ‘gave in Pallaskenry’ and said ‘Fair dues,’ smiling all the while at the poor misfortunate that didn’t really know what she was getting herself into.

The first few visits to college have been tragic. Examinations not going well (something as a top student, ahem, I was utterly unprepared for), and the dawning realization that not having grown up on a farm or not having really been listening to my husband talk about the farm (yes dear, spreading in the High Field, I hear you, should I take in the washing?), I am swimming up the proverbial slurry pool without a paddle. Pooooh- eee.

I mean did you know there were different types of Grass? Nor did I! I thought it was classified by colour; green, greener, greenish, yellow tipped, dark green, oh, that’s green. Forty shades what? No apparently, it’s all Perennial Ryegrass this, Scutch Grass that, Cocksfoot, Timothy, Yorkshire, Meadow Fescue to name but a few. And I think my girlish charms are not going to get me out of this one. (Not that I batted my eyelashes and said Green when asked, no, no!) And they’re going to test me on this. Really! I kid you not. Stand in front of this grass and identify them they’ll say. Identify them? Trust me, they are very similar. Please note (though you may have it figured), if you’re a botanist, this is most definitely not the blog for you.

Turning this around, I see this new phase in my educational life as a opportunity. One that I hope to share with you, if you want to listen that is. Climbing up the next step on the agricultural ladder as I leave the flowery wellies behind for a brand new pair of the more serious Dunlops. If nothing else, farming prepares you for a life of overcoming the odds, all the while with the good farmer by my side, explaining as I go along. You know, I might just learn to wade well through that river of slurry, emerging as a newer and better version of myself. Stranger things have happened, like they’ve labelled grass!

Yours, Girl in Serious Wellies, version 2.0.

All Grown Up

Being Irish, you live in a very small community. You have different groups of friends, family, first cousins, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours in generally a small area. You probably frequent one area more than others for most of your life. You move around, you see how others live in the country, in the next county over and realize that have one very common and special bond, being Irish. Even if you move away, you have one eye over your shoulder to see what the mood, the form, the craic is at home.

The celebrations of the Easter rising last month were special. We celebrated being a nation one hundred years and commemorated the people who gave their lives that it might be so. And more than a collective coming of age it celebrated a country who at last is very much, as the French would say, feeling good in her own skin. In the celebrations, the nation’s trek to the capital or the local commemorations of our own here in Ardoughtar, there was an air of confidence that was never, in my memory seen before. We rallied this last century trying to feel at home, understand at length what it means to be Irish, rebuilding broken spirits, settling into ourselves, growing up. And there, in our casuals, on stage, in the audience, on the streets, on parade, waving tricolors we were, at last, quietly and cooly confident to call ourselves a nation of Irish citizens.

And with that comes, as always, great responsiblity. It goes without saying. Every country, especially a little one on the periphery of a continent must do it’s best to represent its population and will, as a country on this Earth of humans make mistakes, fall foul to pride and then get back in line again. So here we are, open for business as always, in the aftermath of the party, clearing up with the memory of the lovely festivities that allowed us to party and call ourselves Irish in a new and very special way. Realizing that we have a lot to offer, are beautiful and are now mature enough to really live it.  Is mise Eire freisin.

The Going is Good

And that ladies and gentlemen was March. We’re glad that’s out of the way. Now on walks back the road, we’re assessing the fields. While you’re on the way back the road, he says, tell me what way is Sallies. So we walk our usual route and pass our small river that divides Hearthill from Ardoughtar and watch as the water that has poured down on us during recent weeks runs out of the fields. That’s a first good sign. The water is draining. Now for the main test, walking through the fields.

There is a scientific way to do this but I’m not the strong student of agricultural science yet that I have the authority to describe it so forgive me if I skimp on the detail. I begin by telling himself that the lower field, Sallies, was waterlogged by the gate. It always is he reassures me easing my dramatic tendancies that ten years a country woman continues to cling to me for effect. Our eldest son tells him the grass was picky. The two others boys tell him by the muck on their boots that it was soft enough but it was good exercise as small legs had to lift high to make their way through the fields. Enough grass. Is it fit for grazing? You’re asking me? Well, I’d say yes. Em. Yes. We’ll see the cows back there this week. And the higher field in Ardoughter? Could I put the yearlings in there? Oh, the pressure. Yes, I’d say yes. Strong enough, plentiful I add trying my best to describe it accurately for him before he confirms it with his own eyes. The yearlings could go back there.

Yearly, I become more accurate (and more interested) in describing the condition and quantity of grass though you might agree that I have a bit to go. But who would have thought that watching the grass grow on an Irish farm in North Kerry would be an interesting occupation for a former city girl. Although stranger things have happened. The going is good to soft. We’ll take it.