Category Archives: family life

Ah, Sleep

I think if I were to read the blog tags retrospectively they would mention sleep and children quite often. It’s been a consideration of mine these past seven years, an obsession really, given the time of our lives.

‘Did you get up last night?’ he might ask. ‘No, they slept through.’ High Five.

Last Saturday morning, I found myself early in a park in Cork. At nine in the morning to be precise. And there I met a woman with her children who was at nine o’clock in the morning trying to ‘wear them out so they’ll sleep the night.’ At 9am. In the morning. And because we’re just coming ourselves out of the crazy torturous sleep schedules of young children, I had to bite my lip so as not to offer this lady advise. You see, she admitted that she hadn’t sleep in two and a half years. The age of her eldest daughter. Two and a half years of no sleep. And it’s not too distant a memory that I’m unaware that the cruelest thing to do to any poor creatur in such a state is to offer her advise. Because she has tried it. How do I know? Why, I’m a mother of young children, I have tried it. All.

And whatsmore, even though I have children who were relatively good sleepers (mainly because if they looked like they wouldn’t sleep, I’d drive them to the local beach and release them like labradors to run until they looked tired), I would have lied. Because as you know, worse that the person who wants to advise you on how to give your children a nights sleep, is the person who tells you (smugly) that their children always sleep. Until ten o’clock in the morning mind you. I haven’t slept past eight o clock in seven years (and it was 6.30 until three months ago).

If she hadn’t been a perfect stranger, I would have told her to go off for a sleep for herself on the park-bench while I watched the children. Odd, definately. Instead, all I could lend this lady was a listening ear. Listen to the delirium of a body who has not slept in a long time as she raved on incoherently about children and the suggestion that her mother recently gave her of putting diluted whiskey in their bottles. It’s how it was long go. Apparently. Happily, we laughed that suggestion off.

So, if you’re off to bed in the sweet knowledge that you will sleep soundly, my friends, sweet dreams. As for all the rest of you night warriors, keep the faith and the whiskey in the cupboard. If you must.

Bouquet

So I cleared the breakfast ware earlier than usual this Saturday morning to make room for my bouquet of grasses. I was standing on the road herding the cows into the parlour yard for the farmer, I have my uses, when I saw along the hedgerow a meadow of grasses. It’s that time of year, we’ve had heat, sun and now moisture and the hedges are bursting with colour. I was a woman with a one track mind, not the cuckoo flower or daisy for me today, no, I was collecting grasses.

My farmer tells me that the field the cows had just come out of was at one time, perhaps fifty years ago, similar to my beautiful meadow. With reseeding, advances in agricultural knowledge, the grasses for grazing are made up of ryegrasses and clover. Now for the science bit. Such grasses are hardier, better for grazing, have more mid season regrowth (don’t ask me questions), are higher in sugar, have a good PH and are ideal for preserving
IMG_0625 winter food for the cows. Why, the clover is even fixates nitrogen, essential for growth of the sward. I know, I don’t recognize myself. Who is this knowledgable lady? Ta-dah.

So where does that leave our lovely meadow. Well outside the grazing paddock, out to pasture. In the farm’s memory, you could nearly see another farmer spreading a seed-drill of cocksfoot, annual meadow grass or scutch to name but a few. And here we are grazing our cows on ryegrass,  perhaps whispering a hello to great grand children. Wouldn’t that be grand?

So this amateur botanist is away now to clear away the table for the next meal that may or may not include men cutting our grass for silage. It depends I suppose on whether or not this passing shower will turn into rain all day. Such a precarious business this grass growing.

A bouquet of grass for you Madame/Monsieur.

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.

In an old Parisian zoo

We walked to a local market with our two young children in buggies. We were visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris and needed a picnic. Knowing I wasn’t going to bring young boys into Parisian restaurants, I came prepared; plastic cups, cheese knife, napkins, healthy appetites. The Boulangerie along the way provided our breads and dessert. The market filling our picnic basket with a cake that was also cheese (but not a cheesecake) and fruit. I spied a delicatessen and left my farmer, or Dan as he is known off the farm, in the shade with the buggies to buy some cold meats.

In the tiny charcuterie, no bigger than a newsstand, locals were filing in to buy lunch. With two slices of pork terrine en croûte and some delicious cold meats, I saw the little shelf where the obligatory bottles of lunchtime red wines were held. Now I love my local butchers but he doesn’t sell wine, only in Paris I thought and it would be rude not to partake in the local customs, I placed the gorgeous bottle of red alongside my purchases. The owner seeing Dan with the two buggies in the shade, asked if we were picnicing. Then I’ll open the bottle for you he said. So matter of fact. So natural. So French.

We chased two little children around the oldest city zoo in the world, trying to catch butterflies in beautiful glasshouses and eventually settled ourselves down to our banquet fit for Marie Antoinette. It was August and we knew how to avoid the tourist trails, in years to come we thought, they would see the highlights. That day, they were young and hungry and blissfully unaware of the city around them. For their parents however, nothing was going to stop them enjoying their most favourite city, no tantrum or awkward buggy. The tastes, the pungent cheese, the baguette, the red wine, real grapes, we melted further into the day.

Later, as we walked ‘home’ along the Seine, we took full advantage of our afternoon nappers in their buggies and pulled into a cafe overlooking Notre Dame enjoying some coffee and crème brûlée.

We repeated that picnic under the Eiffel Tower and in the Jardin des Tuileries over our few days in Paris. Happily, we filled that holiday with nothing but family life, happy to be in Paris. I had learned years earlier, at nineteen, that Paris was more than a city and returned as often as my pockets would allow in the years to follow.  This morning, after these atrocities, I find it hard to describe what Paris is. I reach into my inkwell, seeking solace and know that Paris, to me, is just vitality, good living and truth. Values that I hoped on that sunny day in an old Parisian zoo, in the crust of their baguette, my sons would come to learn too.

Moi, je suis Paris et je suis tellement triste.

After Dinner

You’re on the final sprint by after dinner. Homework done, dinner eaten, you can taste the freedom. The boys kick about, watch television, chase each other outside on fine evenings. To wash up now or later. Later, later. The house has the appearance of a day’s living as dinner smells settle and activity levels wind down. The farmer kisses all goodnight and heads out the door to milk the cows. It’s a solitary half an hour drinking coffee, reading, surfing the internet, procrastinating, making a phone call while all the household goes about their own business for a little while.

What comes after is work. Cajoling into pajamas, co-ercing into tidy up, washing faces, teaching how to brush teeth, listening as the milk machine goes across the road. Lights are on in the farmhouse earlier now, we cosy into bed and settle into stories. We visit castles, old Ireland, swim underwater, sail pirate ships and say a little prayer. How much do you love me? Oh, that’s a very long way. Sleep now. Sleep.

Mostly they oblige, three little heads peeking above the blankets as they drift into dreams after a hard days work. I resist the urge to sleep myself and drag myself down the stairs to nighttime radio, washing up, baking bread if needed and organizing. I boil the kettle for the farmer’s supper, switch on the outside light waiting for him to come home. There is much living in a day around here. Rightly so.