“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.

Tea in a Bomb Shelter

So, I was having tea in my friend’s bomb shelter.

In 1998, in Croatia. We had been writing to each other, Matilda and I, since our early teens and I had finally had the chance on a year abroad in an Italian college to take a ferry across the Adriatic to meet Matilda and her family. Our letters were teenaged about our would-be-loves, poetry, exams, dodgy song lyrics; you know the kind. On my three-week trip (there was no getting rid of me), I spent the first couple of days trying to diplomatically ask what had happened and quickly learned to avoid asking any questions about the war. I was twenty-one.

I spent a lot of time in college dorms writing out U2 lyrics, chatting about exam pressures, our aspirations, the latest arthouse film we’d seen, trying to learn beautiful Croatian phrases ‘Hvala.’( Did you know the Croatian word for elephant is the same as the Irish word for Goodbye? Well, almost. Slon, Slan. Trivial but necessary.) We were college students of the same age but we were decades apart in life experience. My new Croatian friends often hurried me past traumatized veterans walking the marbled streets of their city streets, glossed over the bullets in their college walls. They loved their city, their country and I couldn’t blame them for wanting to show me their best, for wanting to leave their worst behind.

However, on the third week, Matilda brought me to see where the family had stayed when the bombing became too hard to bear in their city. Their bomb shelter as it were. It wasn’t dark or underground, it was lovely as I remember it. It was a small square room, painted yellow. It had a view out to the sea. It had a piano, a large table, a bookshelf and a couch. It was all very ordinary. It was from there she had written her letters to me.

So even as a nosy and pretentious Arts student, I learned that war was very ordinary. There was no drama, just huge disturbance to a person’s life. Even now, words like massacre and bombings hold no real value in my thinking but disturbance does. For what is war to a young person but a diversion from their course? Absolute loss of reality, family members, dignity and normality. That’s what war is when you are on the ground.

And there it is on our TV screens again. And to us it means a share or a like on social media. A retweet. But it’s not real for us and we search for it’s meaning to feel we are doing something. But there really is no real meaning to us. No reason. Out there, however, tonight, there is a bunch of ordinary college students who are displaced, who are being pulled from their future and diverted into survival by a war that has nothing to do with them really. Remember them.

For Matilda.