Author Archives: annebennettbrosnan

About annebennettbrosnan

Farmer's wife, mom, language teacher, baker, stand in gapper, good friend (that's the intention), bon viveur...

Blackberry and Apple Crumble

With summer holidays comes more boys, with boys come more appetites. And what to do when their friends call over? Feed them.  Ah, but I love it. Boys are great fun when you know how to channel their energy; they spend the summer outdoors playing football, soldiers, swinging, fighting, jumping on hay bales and thus running up a ferocious appetite. So the challenge is to feed them and entertain them or do both at the same time.

One day this week, I put six boys out the door and up the field in search of blackberries.

‘Take your time.’ I said. ‘Make sure and get good ones’ I said knowing full well that blackberries had only started ripening on the ditches this past week and they might be a while. A good cuppa of coffee worth of time. Give a group of boys a mission and it becomes competitive. They’ll do their best they say and walk up the field armed with a little bowl each with the eldest carrying the metal pot to put the full collection into. They look determined, hungry, rearing for blackberries. With the little pot they’ll be able to score their ability to collect as many while the metal pot allows them to hear the plop plop plop as each blackberry hits the bottom of the saucepan.

After some fifteen minutes my army of blackberry pickers arrive back into the back kitchen to me with a miserable collection of berries; their faces smeared with a familiar purple syrup.

‘And did you leave any for the crumble?’ I ask them. A few little shrugs.

‘I have the pastry ready!’ (that familiar Cork lilt raising at the end of the statement to assure my sons that their mother means business thus prompting them to lead their friends back up the field). Cruelty!

Going out the door, rallying his troops, my eldest assures the rest that his mom does make a very good crumble. ‘It will be worth it.’ he says dividing up the blackberry army again, urging them to keep the loot for the tin and not the tummies this time.

I return to the kitchen and in the time it takes to rub butter to flour, sugar, oats and a pinch of mixed spice, my boys are back to me with a more substantial offering.

‘It will do’, I tell them smiling, washing the blackberries and pouring them in over the pastry.

‘Off with ye, I’ll call when it’s ready.’

I hardly need to call them as they pace the back garden with the smell of the baking pastry and blackberries calling them.

‘Is it ready yet mom?’

“No, I said I’d call ye.’

There’s hardly time for the poor crumble to cool when there is a row of hungry boys before me salivating.

I ask Philip to call the men off the farm for the tea, I set a table for nine (!) and we sit down together and eat our blackberry and apple crumble with icecream and tea. There is little talk. There is oohing and ahhing while all these men and boys contemplate the just melting blackberries over buttery pastry, topped with crumble and vanilla ice-cream. There is hot tea. We’ve all worked hard today and the ditches did us proud providing us with a feast fit for a king or a table of hungry men, boys and yours truly.

A memorable blackberry and apple crumble; the stuff of summer holidays.

Your life jacket

I love how Irish women, and men too of course, of a certain age wave goodbye with a ‘mind yourself.’ How lovely that after chatting to a friend on the street that you haven’t seen in ages to remind them, almost subconsciously, to mind themselves on parting. Wherever you go friend, make sure that you’re looking after yourself, till we meet again, adieu, take care, mind yourself. And how important it is to do, to mind ourselves that is.

I discovered this code among mothers at a young age standing by my mothers skirt-tails. It would take an age to get home from school as we’d always be stopped chatting at some point with our mammy and a neighbour. They’d chat, sometimes whisper, gossip, complain, tear up over the everyday wear and tear of life and on leaving one or the other would utter the reminder to ‘mind yourself.’ Yes, dear friend, in the daily furore of minding children, running about, cleaning, caring, hanging washing, loving, working, cooking; mind yourself.

I consider myself a bit of authority on the subject of minding myself considering that

  1. I’m the mother of three young sons (sorry boys)
  2. I frequently find myself running on empty pleading for five minute’s peace.

It’s that feeling when you have fed the children, washed them, dressed them or pushed them to dress themselves, switched off the tv, changed a second nappy, pushed them out the door, heard them say they’re hungry again all before you’ve had your own breakfast, shower or moment to yourself. But I just fed you? But I haven’t even eaten myself. Ah, now you’re being a martyr. And before you knowing it you’re shouting or bursting for a break or stoically getting on with it. What to do?

So, to the best piece of advice I have ever received as a mother;

Put on your own life jacket first. Yes, the air-hostess standing in front of you imaginarily pulling on an inflatable life jacket said it first. In the case of an accident, in the scramble to survive, put your own life jacket first. But of course. It makes sense doesn’t it? You can’t save them until you’re safe yourself. You’ve got to mind yourself first. Even in the less dramatic everyday situations when you’re not considering getting safely from an airplane, we’ve got to consider putting our own selves, sanity, safety first in other to mind the chizlers. Easier said than done says you.

And God be with the days when taking a break meant going out with the girls or a day at the spa. Since having the children, the bar has lowered somewhat significantly. And come on, you know me now, I still have the lovely days out but breaks are often less scheduled while the need for a break has increased significantly. So I’ve had to make my own list of emergency breaks that means that I escape albeit momentariy from the craziness of motherhood and domesticity. Needs must. So in no particular order, my break in case of emergency box includes;

  • A cup of herbal tea (when I’ve had my limit of coffee)
  • A run (if it’s a half an hour I’ve got)
  • Chocolate (for serious breaks; alas they’re frequent)
  • A phonecall to a friend (sounds like my one phonecall from a cell)
  • A chapter of a book (I’ve always read, since having children, I’m a real polymath)
  • A walk through a field (there’s no shortage of those)
  • Apply handcream (there’s always a tube somewhere)
  • Toilette, (yes, when I’m destressing, I cleanse, tone and moisturise, quietly in my room, closing my door to that madness beyond)
  • That lovely glass of really nice wine after their bedtime, need I say more?
  • Meditation, I have an app for that!
  • Laughter, seek out some laughs, radio, audiobook, call to my mother
  • Write, this blog was born out of my need to mind myself when I was heavily pregnant while busy with two other little boys on a busy dairy farm.

There are a lot more beside but these are my go-to breaks when I’ve had it, I’ve folded one t-shirt too many, stopped too many little boy arguments, buttered too many bread and jam sandwiches without a pause of my very own. Nobody schedules those breaks, alas, so we have to make sure and take those breaks for ourselves.

In other words, my friend, mind yourself.








Sometimes blog pieces just write themselves. We’ve had a busy few days and so this evening I find myself sitting down to keyboard after an evenings weeding. I was cleaning out the lavendar which is per chance one of the only flowers (shrubs?) that I have managed to grow or indeed overgrow in my garden. It is so satisfying to pull the overgrowing grass out of the lavender patch as the bees have buzzed off for the evening and I have to wriggle under the plant to get to the grass and the smell oh the smell of the purple lavender. And pulling the grass, however careful, I pull some long strands of purple flower with it and so separate them and place them aside to continue weeding.

Job done, I sit on the toddler’s soft surf board (perfect for gardening, saving the knees) and pull the leftover strands of lavender into a bouquet, I snip the ends tying them with chord when my collie Pepe comes to sit with me. His loving head on my legs  for a while until his giddier comrade, Sam, our other collie, comes looking for equal attention. And then, and this is possibly the bloggiest I’ve ever gotten, three of our kittens; Lily, Hermione and Harry (for that’s what the children have decided their names are today) peer from under the lavender bush and come to join in.  To think I spend the whole day shooing, shouting and brushing them out of my kitchen. What is more, I know I am but a dog’s snarl and a mother cat’s hiss away from the bubble bursting but I’ll keep going.

The lavender makes it to the vase, the red wine to the glass, and the farmer to the seat alongside me when a sneaking eight year old peers around the kitchen door grabbing a blanket and a chair to sit at the door of the farmhouse while his younger brothers sleep. It may be August but it’s not warm, it’s cold but it the summer cold that sits on your skin unlike the October Irish cold that gets right under.

It’s all very very good, the stuff of perfect summer evenings.


All summer long

I came in from town laden with bags and shouted to the boys to help and realised this is it; all summer long. “Daniel, clear away the lunch cups, Philip stow away the shopping with me. Anthony, put the toilet roll in the back kitchen.” Orders as my little army go about their chores.”But I’m hungry mom (as last years’ mommy has matured to mom by one of them)”, “I mean I’m literally so hungry I think my head might explode.” Gruesome.

At the sink while they work away undoubtedly putting the goods away in the wrong place, (last week I found salad in the freezer, chilly), I pull the beards from some mussels. I explain to them as they go about their chores in the kitchen that you have to throw away any opened mussels before cooking and any closed mussels after. OHHHhhhhh. “Can I help?” Can you help, I think, by making the whole job longer? “Why yes.” There are no deadlines, no lunch boxes to fill, no rush to bedtime. “You can of course.”

So we stand pulling little beards out of salty mussels and he talks about the smell of them, about the sea they might have come out of, about how they might miss their mommy mussels and I know that these three boys, though growing quickly, are mine; their fights, their questions, their ladybirds in jars, all mine, all summer long.

Enjoy Summer 2017, all summer long.


“Who left the kittens back in?, they’re not allowed in. Their mammy needs a break.” On my way to hang out the washing, also known as a break from the incessant fighting that Saturday morning brings, I step over one, two, three little kittens, then over their mother who is looking for food. At the back door, I step over a very furry, lazy collie dog. I know, it sounds mean but I’m carrying a large basket of washing and have a kitten hanging off my trousers and the lout will not get off the warm step so that I can get out. I’m almost out of the treacherous situation when I hear the echo of ‘hungry, hungry, hungry’ from cats and children and spy a farmer working in the field who’s giving me the would-murder-a-cup-of-tea look. I place my kitten back into the madness, move the collie, wave hello to the farmer and place my basket down.

Into the wind, I shake each trouser, underpants, tee-shirt, mismatched sock and take my time, methodically, placing each item on the washing line. There is peace at the washing line. The Atlantic breeze promises to dry this load while the menacing cloud overhead thinks about raining on my washing parade. I feel grass tickle my toes, as I reach from washing to peg to line. I could hang out washing all day. Often, I have to. A rotation of young boy dirty clothes, farming overalls or duds as they re known here, towels, sheets, loads.

But all good things, alas, must come to an end as I pick up my empty basket and breathe in deeply before my next foray into all too well known territory. Back into kittens, roaring, fighting, forgiving, shouting and kettle boiling. That’s Saturday, I think as I pour myself a coffee, open my computer and let them all play on.




Business and Pleasure

Never mix them they say. Business and pleasure.

But on farm we mix business with everything. Sorrow, joy, mundane domesticity, parenthood, family, community, you see, everything. The business is the farm. The house in on the farm. The farmer, husband, father is on the farm. The farm is at the dinner table. The wellies are at the threshold. The business is everywhere.

So how to separate them? Oh you want an answer? You thought that was where I was going with this? I’m sorry, I have no answers yet.  It is, I must say, the work of a lifetime for this farmer’s wife, not to be answered in one blog post, alas.

I remember in what seems a lifetime ago, the ctrl+alt+del moment before leaving the office. Upon one three-finger move, I’d pick up my bag and leave my desk and work behind. Finito Benito. Clock out.

No such buttons exist on the farmstead. Or if they do, I haven’t figured out which buttons to press yet. So, in other words, I have at times pressed the wrong buttons. Sigh.

It doesn’t come with a manual this farm. I took it on without any training. Sure, I had seen the work of a mother and her family but I hadn’t seen them on a farm. I had never seen a cow. I didn’t know where farmers put their dirty clothes or how to get their farming stains out. Administration asked me if the cow had difficulty calving? I hadn’t a clue, she didn’t say! Just put number two down, he’d say, assuring me that I’d pick it up as I was going along.

I was a chatty girl but was lost for words when trying to put food on the table for several men whilst making idle chat with them about the weather. It took me a couple of years to figure out that we talk about the weather so much because the weather here is everything.

I did not have experience with throwing a family event in a farmhouse. Again, several other blogposts. I didn’t have a cake that I always brought to stations.

I had a house without boundaries, a farm that I knew nothing about, but a husband who was delighted with his gregarious city girl. Material to work with you might say.

So as to the separation of business and pleasure, farm and family, milking parlour and love; you got me. It might even be a business idea for some wise farmer’s wife out there, to provide consultancy for the women who decide to take it all on. Lessons for the woman who decides to marry a farmer, his farm, his family, his community, his business.

Well I was looking for an idea for a book.

The what not to do when mixing farm business and pleasure.

Chapter one…










I never ask for help. I should really really ask for more help. Here’s why;

I called upon every Saint and his mother today, in no good way. Silage 2017. And as per every year, I’m at the cooker preparing to load shovelfuls of food onto plates for the men who in fairness, work so hard to bring in the grass for the silage pit. It was hot and the kids, now, another year older and faster were begging to go to the big tractors. Please, please Mom. Please. No.



But please.


Ah go on, please Mom. Please (Running out of patience yet? Think sweat, tractors, hot lasagna, three boys pleading).

Then comes the cursing, generations of bad words rolling from my tongue good-o. And I, she who has read ALL the literature on rearing children lets it all out in a tidal river of frustration. Vulgarities, extremities, prayers, blasphemous pleading so that they would, let’s say, get out from under my feet and by that I-don’t-mean-out-under-a-tractor. If you please.

And I still didn’t ask for help. So I cursed anyone and everyone who wasn’t there to help me. Me with the young children, me with the men to feed. Poor me that has been going since six this morning. Me who, eh, well, you know, just woe is me. Poor old me with no-one to help. Why? Because I didn’t ask? Why should I have to? And, so, the conversation or rather rant starts all over again. The same rant that washed the dishes, swept the floor, bathed the boys, read the story. A cross old woman’s rant that roared up for the love of … well you know yourself, all that is good and holy, for the boys to go to sleep.

No doubt, I’ll hear my refrain in some way, sung back to me over the coming days by one little mouth or another. No doubt, I’ll wake up in the morning and remember my temper and the shower of woe-betides, no doubt another occasion will arise where I’ll choose martyrdom over help. But I’ll try to do better. That’s all we’ve got.

Silage 2017. Saved. Thanks be to to to


And Just Where Have You Been?

Young lady? Lady indeed. And me now almost a certified farmer. That’s where I’ve been. My head stuck in agricultural books. I kid you not.

Today, I had to present on an article entitled ‘The Five T’s of preparing your bull for Sale’; toes, yep, teeth, got it, you have’ll have to mention treating and testing bulls and what else? Well, I did mention I’m a lady, I dare not go there. But let’s just say the fifth ‘T’ is of utmost importance with regards to a bull in the reproduction department. Aha! Keep that Eureka moment to yourself.

We had divided up the presentation with a nice Kerry boy who was to discuss the offending ‘T’; it’s temperature, shape and whatnot. Another lady farmer’s wife was to introduce the topic, while the lovely boy was to gentlemanly discuss the fifth ‘T’ until we learned he was away, on holidays, and he had taken his ‘T’ paragraph with him. What was a girl to do? There were blushes. Ooooh. There was stuttering, t, t, t. There may have been some mumbling. There was description. More mumbling, blushes from the audience. Oh la, la. We made our way through the presentation, segueing through material that while the audience, a group of male farmers, equally unused to discussing the fifth ‘T’ in public with women, diligently, kept their eyes off the speakers and on their tables.

So it was a very minute step for women in agriculture and one giant step for the Cork city girl who little thought twenty years ago that she would be literally lost for words, in search of a bull’s lost ‘T’.

It’s good to be back.


It’s a date

We should check this one out, he writes, on a restaurant review in last Saturday’s paper. ‘It’s a date’ I write and ‘look at this’, I go on, circling a home exchange advertorial that suggests that we could up sticks for a couple of weeks and swap our farm house for a Manhattan penthouse. We get cocktails, you get milkshakes and oh so much more besides. And here, Mr and Mrs New Yorker, if you could milk the cows; that would be great.

I leave a sandwich, he eats it.

He leaves a pile of washing; guess what, I wash it.

‘Don’t forget’, I write on a post-it, ‘to ring your man about the concrete’. ‘I won’t forget’ he writes back. ‘Good’ says I.

He records our favourite programme, I watch it.

He texts at bedtime to see how the kids have settled to sleep. They miss Dad I write and then think again and erase it, text instead ‘good, they’re all sound’.

And then the rains stops and the cows go out. They can, at long last, spend time outdoors during the day. And as he fences around the house to leave the cows out, we arrive, en famille, to ‘help him’ fence, we fill in the gaps between the scraps of newspaper, texts and sandwiches. The Spring or the intense calving period is coming to an end. We’ll be there to  walk the cows out with Dad. To bring them in for milking, to let them out. In our wellies, chatting to fill in the Springtime gaps. Spring takes him away, the cows out in the fields brings him back. That most certainly is a date.




Only a day for Scones

It’s only a day for scones. Brown ones, fruit ones. The calves have started arriving, en masse. There’s a vet in the yard who may or not come in for tea so it’s only a day for scones. While they’re cooling on the table, I take our littliest for a ‘cycle’ back the road. We walk past the farmyard, all activity, keep rolling back our road and stop to see the donkeys, one brown, one mushroom coloured, and then go on watching my little man as he tries to keep balance to go up the hill to see the chickens in our neighbours’ yard. Aw the little chickens.

The walk back home is a drag, a pull with a promise of some tea and scones. A call to the farmyard to tea, holding a bike and a toddler, I hurry in only to put on the kettle. I notice the raspberry bushes are growing leaves, the daffodils are promising to come up in answer to a very shiny February day. I might plant some broccoli there in a month, some carrots there. A lot to do.

We’ll have the tea first.