Tag Archives: countryside

A Man’s World?


Jumping out of bed at 6am, I got the kids lunches’ ready, ran around a la crazy lady, blew kisses in their general direction and drove out the drive. Packed lunch and serious wellies in the boot, I was ready for a day at farming college. Or so I thought, for the only thing that wasn’t in the boot was the spare tyre that I had taken out at the weekend to make room for a very glamourous hatbox and a particularly classy umbrella for a cousin’s wedding (and a few other bits beside). So to my dismay when I heard the clang, clank, wop of the tyre bursting thirty minutes into my journey, I wasn’t feeling particularly clever or ready to become a farmer. No, my friends, I was feeling like a bit of a girl. A big girl foolish to be precise.

At this point, I must apologise to my fellow women, my sisters as it were for the following retelling of yesterday’s day at farming college. It was not my intention at the outset to let down the female population by being such a girl when faced with the mechanic and farming tasks that were put before me. But there was a wedding, a day’s teaching and three small boys to knock the masculine out of me before. And while I didn’t quite mention the lovely post wedding nails that for the first time in my life I hadn’t managed to chip, I put in an SOS or SON (save my nails)  phonecall into my farmer to come and a).bring the tyre and b). change said tyre. I know, girls, you’re rolling those eyes. For it was just as well, my hero came for not one person stopped to help out this damsel in distress as she was stood in a lonely country road staring confusedly at a wheel jack.

So now sweaty, tired and late, how I hate to be late, I arrived at farming college with dirty hands (I did try!) trying to catch up as the tutor explained the differences between the different breeds of bulls before us. Bull. Oh dear. They didn’t quite look the same but at this point, I don’t know if I quite cared enough. ‘Enough of this theory business, now to the heifers’ he said. ‘You’ll have to separate this giddy heifer,’ he said to me. To me! ‘No Sir, you don’t quite understand, normally himself does the separating (takes one animal out of the herd), I just stand back and stop them.’ I, the lady on the farm, normally stands in the gap as do a lot of farmer’s wife in the country, it’s a part of the job description. At this point may I also point out that there are a great number of very successful real farmers that are women but I am most certainly not one of them. Yet. No excuses taken, into the ring of heifers with me.

I didn’t quite ask the giddy heifer if she would like to leave the shed but I wasn’t far off. I could see from the corner of my eye that the tutor and fellow students were quite amused but was determined not to let myself down (I hear ya sista!). Eventually with some coaxing and polite tapping, I managed to get the unhappy girl out of the shed with two of her companions. The object of the task was to place them in an adjoining pen and I just about succeeded. A mucky job. But it didn’t stop there. For before I even got a whiff of a cup of coffee, I had to dose and inject a cow, take her temperature (I’ll leave that to your own imaginations) among other similarly unfamiliar tasks that would not generally take this farmer’s wife from her kitchen.

Having quickly eaten a lunch afterwards, we were back in the sheds estimating a cows weight, weighing her, separating calves for mart, assessing their price and for the piece de resistance dehorning some calves. The tagging (tagging calves’ ears with their number, think ear piercing) I just about managed. I thought that would be useful to help the farmer out next spring but the dehorning just about brought me down.  I must add by this stage in the day, the men in the group who had grown up dosing and dehorning animals were very encouraging and helped us girls (for luckily I wasn’t alone) all the way. Fit to drop later that afternoon our tutor informed us there was just one more task as he put us fixing up a temporary fence. Enough already. Was there no end to this day?

Look, most importantly, there are now a great many more tasks that I can help my farmer with. In fact my day led to a very animated conversation over dinner about cattle conditions and the price of poly heifers. Who knew?  I think, you know, that this industry could just about do with some female intuition and know-how just about now and why, there is always a bit of room for a touch more glamour.  N’est ce pas?



Keep her country

By my reckoning, it takes you a couple of years before you get into the swing of this country living business. The first year you might find yourself opened mouthed, at times awestruck, sometimes dumbstruck, perplexed and amazed. It is without a doubt a culture shock. I’ve known culture shock, I’ve travelled a bit and so I thought, hey, it’s my own country, how different could it be?

Different. To say the least.

So what’s so different? Let me illustrate with a few examples;

In the country, everybody knows everybody else. What? In the city, I knew my immediate neighbours plus a few more. That was it. I knew those neighbour’s offspring and maybe the odd eccentric aunt. In the country, you’re expected to know everyone and that everyone seems to be in someway connected to half of the village and you have to remember this. You really have to remember this she types cringing.

Country people love funerals. It’s not actually about the deceased, well it kind of is. Yes, you attend a funeral to support your neighbours, show your face, lend a hand but mainly it is a bit of a social gathering outside the funeral home. Was there many at it? How did she look? Were you talking to anyone? Be they sad, tragic or in celebration of a long happy life, they are the reason to put on a nice scarf or clean shoes and meet your neighbours. They bring moments of solidarity to a community in sad times and a nice chat on a bright evening at others.

The countryside is very quiet at night time. You might hear a cow bellow or a milk truck of a morning but there are no drunken brawls (more’s the pity) to speak of or cars zooming past on a nearby street.

Anyone can drop into the house, anytime. The general rule of thumb in the city is that if you find someone in your house uninvited, you call the gardai. Here, depending on the day, someone in the farmhouse kitchen; ask them if they would like tea. They will, on the odd occasion, wonder in the door and see if there is anyone there. Beware of the city woman yielding a hurley.

Everyone waves at you when you drive past them. I love this, I have loved it forever. As a young girl visiting country cousins I thought it just so lovely and would practise giving the little lift of my index finger in a parked car alone. Hello neighbour, how are you? Be it from tradition, habit, good manners or acknowlegement, it gives me a little chuckle as I do it habitually on the school run each morning.

So there you have it, some few examples of why you might find your local city woman perplexed in the countryside. Go easy on her. She’s just seeing you countryfolk in a whole different light, getting the hang of your turn of phrase, your quirks, your family tree and your unquenchable thirst for tea.

Keep her country.

What’s Wrong with Walking?

We all have our obstacles that stop us from getting out on the road and exercising. Be it the boyfriend who eyes you funny when you don those lycra sweatpants or the thought of the hill climb back to your house, we meet them all the time. Mine is the lady, a walking obstacle, driping with judgement, who pops up on occasion on my road and asks ‘What’s wrong with walking?’ as I run past.

Somedays, what I’d do for some city anonymity?

‘What’s wrong with walking?’ is a phrase I’ve heard before in Kerry, especially seeing as there are more runners on the country roads and so there is a bit of a backlash to this new ‘fad’. So here is my response, though I doubt if this lady ever reads my blog unless of course I become a world famous writer, thus giving her the chance to ask me ‘what’s wrong with reading?’

So my Lady, in order to get out on the road today, I procrastinated by eating my lunch, thus giving me an extra hour to digest. I then had to find a cleanish pair of socks (though not matching) to wear on my run, I had to change a nappy, pass the baby over with instructions, beg the baby to return my soaking wet earphones from his mouth (which meant I only heard every second word of my running soundtrack today) and avoid fifty questions about, well, the world in order to get out the door.

I ran as always out the door, into the air, which today looked like it might pour on me and I ran and ran and ran. I was feeling really hot and sweaty and to be honest a bit miserable and about to give up when I came across my walking obstacle poised, like the meany girl in the school yard, waiting to deliver her blow. I sped up (wondering why I hadn’t just avoided this route on a day when I wasn’t feeling the running love), waving a hello, warm day isn’t it, only to be delivered my ‘what’s wrong with walking?’ blow again.

Not that I owe you an explaination but here it is, I run so that I lose the baby fat that after three pregnancies and labours have left me, well soft, as they like to say around here. I run to get out all the pent up energy that builds up during the day of doing stuff for everybody else. I run to feel alive, I run to have more energy, I run to have a waist again. Someday. There’s little wrong with walking Lady, I do it all the time but as per my choice, I run, run like the devil around the country roads around my farm because it makes me feel and eventually look good. So there.

So ignore that obstacle, that pair of tight trousers, the blushing at the boy you have a crush on as you run past sweaty and unkempt, that steep hill or that passive aggressive neighbour and walk, dance, run, summersault like you just don’t care.

And one day, my Lady, I’m going to run past you, like an Egyptian.

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.


Mother’s Day

The first day I realized I could do this mothering bit was on Mother’s day, 2009. Philip was six weeks old. I had him dressed up in his finery, placed him in his red pram and ventured the Listowel Farmer’s Market which has since become a weekly treat for young Brosnan boys.  First it was Philip, now Daniel and I wonder who will be next to join our merry jaunt?

On that Mother’s day, some five years ago, I didn’t want conversation; it was a test. Could I get him out in the world and keep him safe? Trepidation. I was weak. If someone looked in the pram, I held my breathe for their judgment. Was he tiny? Cold? Please, just say handsome. I was missing my own mother acutely having just moved to the countryside and therefore felt very uncertain as I took tiny steps into this unknown world of motherhood practically blindfolded. So after hearing some praise, I bought some daffodils to place on my pram. A picture of peace, daffodils to remember the day.

I decided Philip might like to treat me for Mother’s day so we went to the Listowel Arms Hotel. Looking for reassurance, I asked the lady at reception if I could feed him. As only another mother who spots a nervous first timer can, she leads me to an inviting foyer with black and white chequered tiles and dainty tea setting. I feed my handsome little boy and tuck him under my arm lovingly while I finish my first cup of ‘civilized’ coffee since giving birth.  Philip stares up at me in awe while we share a peaceful moment in the warm foyer.

It was a little step for woman and baby but a giant step for this first time mother. The ladies in the Arms know us now and I have it timed. These days, I waddle to the counter with young Daniel, order a coffee, some scones and half a glass of milk (so as not to spill!). The natives smile at my jam-smeared son’s face and we flick through the pages of his latest ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ comic. I know I need to finish my coffee by the last story.  I do so in order to maintain some semblance of civilization in this busy mothering life.

The boys, as gentlemen in training(!), somehow know that this is a big deal to their quaint mother and oblige more often than not to humour me for the quarter of an hour it takes to have that coffee before running wildly, as is right, back into their world.  Somehow along the way, my young trainees have guided me, though not always gently, along this mothering route and I smile at the memory of the terrified young mother who had just discovered the delight of a stolen moment of calm with a young son.

Happy Mother’s Day to you who are, loves or remembers a beloved mother.

My First Trip to Hearthill

When first invited to visit Hearthill, I saw it in it’s worst light. It was one of those drab and dark days that only us Irish know how to do so well. So, weather wise, I was under no illusions. It was bleak and it looked lonely. What’s more, farming smells are even more pungent in bad weather and the dampness added little to my farmer’s efforts to coax me out of my comfortable city existence.

By this stage, however, I knew that I was going to spend my life with my lovely farmer. He had, after all told me at the end of our first date that he would think of me while milking the cows.   I’ve realised since then that a dairy farmer couldn’t pay a girl a higher accolade. Dairy time equals thinking time.

On that faithful day, some ten years ago, I stood on the roadside of the farm and nodded, I might have uttered a ‘very nice’ not wanting to commit but knowing, as he did, that this was a deal breaker.  The pessimist and city girl in me wanted to run back to my car and get back to ‘civilisation’ as fast as the wheels would carry me but the optimist and country girl in me decided to roll up her sleeves and imagine how our life would be.  Thinking ‘right, how will I make the most of it, how will I design a life that works for us?’

Eventually, when the question arose, I chose my farmer. It didn’t take long for Hearthill to become home, it has been my consistent friend even on the days when I’ve felt worn by the challenge of this completely new life.  It has played its’ part in helping me to make the best of the everyday, in gloomy days as well as glorious.

The Walk Back to Sallies

In the villages, towns and cities of Italy, ladies and indeed gentlemen put on their Sunday best of an evening and stroll up their main street or piazza. They are there to be seen, to have an icecream and chat, often dressed in their finest Gucci (a flurry of Italian past-times all in one walk). Our tribute to La Passeggiata in Hearthill is the stroll back to Sallies. The Wellies replace the Gucci alas.

The romantic in me loves that we have a field named ‘Sallies’, named as far as I can gather after a lady who once had a cottage there named Sally (Funnily enough) in the late 1800’s. It is exactly a quarter of a mile from our red gate and it has been a Passeggiata of sorts for us, the newest generation of Brosnan’s, since 2009. 

Generally, our Passegiata starts out as an escape from the house,  a venture out into nature, a ‘wearing them out before bedtime’ or simply a walk out of the madness for Mommy.   Sometimes, it involves actual work when cows have to be accompanied back the road when grazing there. Even then it is relaxing saunder with cows whose tummies are full and whose udders are empty and therefore not in a rush back to pasture. I cherish the memory of Summertime when the living is easier.

This morning’s stroll took myself and and young Master Daniel back the road. For the two year old whose vocabulary is widening by the yard and whose curiosity is awakening in every step, the walk back to Sallies is a wild adventure.  Our entourage also extends to our two farm dogs, Sammy and Pepe, with the occasional cat wandering along too. There are times, like this morning,  when the stroll home is not always as carefree.  One of the strollers had to be cajoled into leaving an interesting corner of a field having found a family of ladybirds and so the the quarter of a mile home seems more like a marathon to a mommy who is getting heavier by the day.

Our stroll is an exercise in manners, learning to wave to a passing neighbour whilst also being lucrative with blackberries on offer and wild flowers for picking at various stages of the year. This Passeggiata is a nod to my favourite Italian pastime, in appreciation of ‘La Dolce Far Niente,’ the sweetness of doing nothing which in itself is so much. Adapting to life as a country girl has meant a slowing down in pace, strolling alongside seasonal changes and understanding the value of the country childhood where children chat with animation about new discoveries with the freedom to run around a much loved field.