Category Archives: The Living is Easy

About now

About now, you’ve finished early, taken the tie off, flung it on the backseat or relaxed in your casual Friday gear; you’re off to collect the kids that extra hour early. It might be a Chinese for supper, or that new Asian street food place you like. He puts that wine you like in the fridge and you buy the croissants for Saturday morning or pancakes, he makes pancakes on Saturday morning as a treat. It is, after all, the weekend. I dream of your weekend sometimes, remember, that time when, in a lifetime ago, I clocked out early on Fridays and met up with the gang after hours to exchange out of hours office gossip over cocktails and local beers. Dream of how himself might finish at five, collect the kids while I get my hair done for a night out.

And so to now, how can I describe the weekend to you on the farm? What changes on the Friday, moreso, Saturday to whisper take-that-break? As usual, I can only describe this evenings scene. Friday is market day in our nearby town and myself and my almost four year old make it our business to shake hands with the fish monger (they’ve built up a friendship) and pick up enough fish to feed, let me see, two men, one woman, three boys for dinner.  And then from under her awning, local farmhouse baker, Audrey, who has been up since 5am baking delicious cakes, saves me a job and I carry home dessert for after our meal of fish. The children, like yours, come home without homework and they disappear, to play, shout, cartwheel. This evening they are pirates, all three with hats on as they shout orders to each other while the cows look on, chewing their cud, happily in the sun, until the farmer and his pirates swashbuckle into the field to bring them home for milking.

As to the cats, on weekdays I shoo them out, there are four, Coco and her children Hermione, Harry and Tom (formerly known as Lily) but at the weekend they remain hidden happily in various parts in or out of the farmhouse, in an available basket, basking in the sun on top of one of our collies, Sam and Pepe. I might wash the ware, or not straight away. There’s no rush, the weeks work is done in the farmhouse, I listen to my radio, light a candle, chill that wine, think about writing to you, watch my pirates as they laugh into the Kerry air surrounded by cows and cats and dogs, their family.

The work really doesn’t stop but it might move down a gear, but don’t tell anyone. We continue to milk the cows twice a day, feed calves twice a day, move wires, fence, feed remaining silage to heifers, clean out cubicles for any remaining animals housed, go to the creamery for supplies to keep us going for the weekend, fix water troughs that might need mending, spread fertiliser, slurry, agitate same slurry and an innumerable amount of other chores so that we can have Sunday afternoon off between milking. Phew, you say.

My friends have stopped asking, we’re not really available to meet on Saturdays but we’d love to see you Sundays. We’re great friends on Sundays, between milkings. And yes, it is difficult. But it reminds me to book a babysitter, to remind himself to finish milking early on Saturday. It is our life, one that I know, though it has it’s moments, now, I have come to love. I’ll take my chair and book and tea later and sit outside and watch all my pirates chat with their Daddy as they bring their cows in and delight in the weekend that is here.  Sometimes I bring the cows in but not on Friday evenings let it for Daddy and boy time as they take off along with the cats, dogs and cows to wonder over to the milking parlour all enjoying each others company. And I breathe in the weekend and exhale the busy week that was. Another weekend on a dairy farm as I take my little break.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Ooooooooooooooommmmmm

Picture the scene. A farmhouse in North Kerry, Ireland, November, 2016. It’s windy and cold outside. The farmer of the house is milking the cows. Inside, in the main living area of the house, there are three young boys running everywhere while a mother shouts commands. The children in response jump off the couches, scream at lost blankies, pout at the injustice of it all.

They arrange the meditation cushions, fighting all the time about who gets what colour. The mother, determined, pulls the cushions into a circle. There is a crashing noise in the background. A black cat appears from the kitchen looking coy. She’s undeterred. She asks the children to get down on their cushions. They’re going to meditate.

“May we safe from inner and out harm” And by that she means that the eldest takes his foot off his brother.

“May we be happy and peaceful” hoping that her emphasis on peaceful really resonates in their inner sanctum or that they just stop talking long enough for her to get to the end of the sentance.

“May we be healthy and strong” repeating her lifelong wish that they get to adulthood without her losing her mind.

As she sits in the lotus, eyes closed, in this scene of chaos of sprawling limbs and giddiness, she smiles. Maybe just a little.

“What about the om’s Mom” the second boy giggles. Oh God, she thinks, not the oms.

And then echoing throughout the farmhouse, on a rainy morning in Kerry just before schooltime, three boys and their mother hold some ‘Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooms’ for longer than is descent and louder than is possible.

Sometimes, after this ‘practice’, they arise from the cushions having got the crazy out, othertimes, they pull her up willing her to go on. Mostly, the poor woman gets up shaking her head walking towards the coffee machine, dejected. Why does she do it?

She hopes that they remember that in the craziness, that there was for a few moments, at least, a smiling mom in the middle of it all. That they can always find peace in the middle of all the chaos. Repeat.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmm.

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.

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.

Six Years

I’m six years a mother. Don’t worry, the six year old is catered for by way of a cake, party, present but this is my moment. Stand back. Six years seems so paltry a figure for describing such an event. A small step for womankind but one immeasurable step for me. Drumroll please.

I have been changing nappies for six years. Since 15:15 on the 2nd of February, 2009, I have been feeding, kissing, changing the nappy of one boy or another. If this was a TV audience, there would be a grumpy looking man with a queue card saying ‘Applause.’ Instead, I’m holding the queue cards and I’m telling you what to do. Applause. Louder. Call that a round of applause. Six years people, three boys, feeding, wiping poos, minding, loving, adoring, worrying over, playing with, pampering to, reading stories to, nursing better, don’t-ing, cajoling. And what’s that you mumble from the back? I chose it? Oh yes, I did. But by God, I’ve earned it. Uproarious applause please.

Now for the sentimental bit. I love them all but the first one was a pretty good template. Despite being my first, and therefore the guinea pig, he has withstood my awful singing, woeful nappy changing attempts with and flashes of ridiculous looking silly temper. He is and will always be the first one to snuggle under my arm first thing in the morning. His smile makes me weep sometimes. He is beautiful. From 7lb and 10oz of tiny goodness, he has set up shop in my heart and grown into the most handsome little gentleman any mommy will ever have. That woman in the front is raising a hand. Don’t want to know about your Grandson Mrs, have her removed!

If motherhood is a test, then I’m the student with the writing up her sleeve and the ‘please God’ look on her face in the exam hall. Yes, I’m six years a mother and it’s been worth the slog. What’s that? A standing ovation. Oh you.

Happy almost Birthday, my boy Philip

 

 

There’s more, I’ve written for Irish Country Living this week…. http://www.farmersjournal.ie/views-on-farming-from-a-city-girl-173739/

 

Breaking Bread

It’s time to break bread. Now, if reader you find yourself in front of a farmer, let’s say, at an altar, anytime soon, listen carefully. You may not know it, but unknowns to you, he is going to craftily get you to bake him fresh bread every second day. You heard it here first.

At first, there’s outrage. ‘What d’ya mean your mother bakes you fresh bread?’

Then there’s denial. He couldn’t possibly want me to bake brown soda from scratch?

Followed by compromise. Look darling, this bread company delivers really delicious bread. And it’s fresh.

He says nothing (Watch out for the quiet ones).

Ok, I’ll try it once.

This is tasty. What if I were to add some honey for a bit of sweetness.

It’s missing something. One Egg.

And colour. A spoon of sunflower oil.

He still says nothing. There is, it seems, the beginning of a wry smile. And a habit is forming.

A really hot oven and the smell of baking bread rises above the noise and farm odours. A dish of water at the bottom of the oven and the bread is moist.

Eight years have passed.

Then comes the little voice that says ‘I love it when you put brown bread and jam in my lunch box.’

And the ‘don’t you make a lovely loaf’ from visitors.

‘Mommy bown bed.’

When the milk cheque is seeping out through the holes of the purse, it’s less expensive and it might just keep the doctor’s bills down.

And then there are the days with three children and getting to a shop when you live in the middle of a field seems impossible and you realize it’s just easier to put on the oven.

If you let the a jug of milk out for a couple of nights, it’s butter milk and that’s when your bread is so soft it brings a tear to the farmer’s eyes.

And then, you know he’s got you. Listen carefully to those vows. He might just whisper ‘In sickness as in bread’ while you stand there grinning and nodding at the cat who just got the cream.

Halloween Etiquette

At each house a new rule is added.

House number one; when someone gives you sweets, don’t fight over the bag.

House number two; you actually have to say trick or treat.

House number three; please don’t groan when someone mentions giving you a fruit.

House number four; don’t go into the house and make yourself at home.

House number five; never go to more than three houses on Halloween with three small boys.

Halleliyah, they’re in bed, in a sugar fuelled, salty kind of sleep. I’ll take it. I can’t actually be sure that they brushed their teeth. Don’t judge me. I am on Day Seven of the Mid Term Break and addled that Halloween came at the end of same Mid Term Breakdown. You name it, I’ve done it, I’ve danced with them at the Jazz Festival in Cork, had family to visit, played with them, had a hot chocolate picnic on the beach, watched movies on a loop and I am pooped. There is no adjective in the recesses that might sum it up better. Pooped.

I drag myself around the farmhouse to finish some chores in preparation for Day Eight of the never-ending midterm and decide to go out and visit the farmer in the parlour to tell him of our travels. And then I discover it. The fresh air, the clear sky, the starry night. In my earlier scurry around bewitching the neighbours, I hadn’t noticed the beautiful night. Maybe it’s the trick of the starry night but I forget that my children are clearly not ready to be out in public and tell the farmer all about our adventures. How our Philip’s eyes lit up when he revealed to his teacher that he really isn’t Frankenstein. Our wild Daniel chasing the neighbour’s terrier around her garden. Their delight at ‘spooking’ everyone. The joy that they bring. The photos that were taken of young Brosnans out scaring.  Maybe this starry night has gone straight to my head, more likely it’s the sugar, but in the end few rules apply. It’s a spooky but groovy kind of love.

Happy Halloween.