Tag Archives: family

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.

Andante, andante

If September is the composer’s marking ‘allegro ma non troppo’, in October, he instructs ‘andante, andante’. What’s the rush? The cows aren’t in a rush. Walking them in from the field these days, we’re not to proud to plead with them to come into the parlour. If you’d be so kind girls to leave the field and produce some milk. We’re the kind of household that are very in tune with our cows. They’re slowing down, go on so, put on the kettle.

During the busy period of the year, with young children climbing out of every crevice, or so it seems, and paperwork mounting up, it was a sink or swim sort of situation. Dinner prepared the night before scenario, busy planning Sunday night for the week to come, sorting cow’s cards, filing the incomings and outgoings. It was the first time in almost nine years of marriage, the accountant saw us before the deadline with accounts in order. Who are these people?

I mean, we’re not home free, work will still be done, in fact if you’re a visitor watching the poor farmer come and go while you sip your tea with the farmer’s wife, you mightn’t see the behind the scenes slowing down. The worries don’t subside, you still have to keep an eye on the food ahead of cows for the winter, there are still evenings of planning for the year to come. He’s still milking twice a day, but he’s not spreading fertilizer or feeding calves or making silage or or or. No, have a biscuit, he’ll be on soon.

The light is creeping away on us, a chill is most definitely in the Kerry air. It will carry us through the high and low notes of this Winter’s sonata. And in he walks, as if he can smell a hot cup from down the high field. And he does like cake. Andante, andante does it.

On Silage

You may read this, and I hope it happens, and feel a wave of nostalgia at the image of the pit. ‘Come down off that, you’ll tear the plastic!’ Personally, as a city girl, I feel robbed of the endless days running over tyres and sliding down plastic. As the country mother, I feel the sheer dread of the forty foot drop over the top of the pit. As the farmer’s wife, I breathe deeply with relief at the mountain of silage ahead of the cows for the winter.

It’s done. The silage is in. The week was spent busily feeding ‘silage’ men and keeping children inside the gate. As you can imagine,  the small boys just wanted to be on the road looking at the huge machinery bringing the grass into the pit. ‘Come in off the road!’ By Thursday, the men were on top of the huge mound rolling down the plastic to cover this year’s pit. Tyres were piled on top on a blustery June week to keep the plastic down and weights were placed around the border to ensure it stayed put. In it’s winter home, the grass sealed in plastic without air will become pickled in it’s own juices.

The tractors on the road are fewer, the slurry needs spreading on the bare root fields after mowing. The farmer is happy with the crop this year, knowing that he’ll peel back the plastic slowly this winter and with the loader of his tractor, chomp into the mound to feed his cows. Phew.

To the Mart

He may only be three going on four but already you get glimpses of the man he’ll become. I’ll be talking to Daddy he tells me excited at the day that lays ahead. I’ll be up on the big box with Dan (as he calls Daddy) when we sell the calves. The same calves who he tried to feed some weeks before. The same calves he let lick or morelike swallow his little hand previously.

He walks down the drive with a little swagger behind his father who is busy trying to think of what else he might need for the mart. Calves, check. Calf cards, check, phone, wallet, keys check, little namesake, check. The rain pours down on them but little will dampen the spirits of the three year old, who carrying the ham sandwiches on Thomas the Tank backpack, will drive with Daddy in his tractor to the mart.

The city woman in me used to wonder what we would tell them about the days we would have to put calves in the trailer to take to the mart. It used to make me a little sad but I’ve come to realize that my life as a farmer’s wife is less of a novelty now and more the norm by the year. That these little of boys of mine while adoring their animals, know from a young age that taking the calves to the mart is a part of the job. Not a time for sentimentality mom.

Just before being lifted up high by his Daddy towards his little seat on the tractor, he gives me one big wave and a happy smile. He’s off for a day at the mart, a day with Daddy. Such a big boy now.

Link

A difficult day is one where your little boy arrives home from school and his eyes are not shining. It’s even more difficult when it happens a few days in a row. For one reason or another, he finds writing really difficult and it is breaking his little heart. A little heart that I have held precious until he took it out into the world, un-mommyed.

Instinct alone was not directing me on this one. I had used up my resources, my tough lines, soft kisses, big hugs, go get em’s and so had to reach for the big guns at homework time.

‘I can’t do it. I give up.’ he cries thoroughly unused to not succeeding, not believing that he is brilliant (mea culpa). Here, I realize I ignored the hundred and one articles available at a click on how to praise appropriately but forgetting myself daily, I tell him how fantastic he is. To me, anyways. Ridiculously, in that little ‘give up’, I see wasted opportunity, a graduation not attended, potential not achieved, in other words, hysteria of a mother on seeing her first born down-trodden.

Hysteria aside, I reach for the most fantastic weapon us modern mothers have in the face of our child’s adversity; knowledge. Like his mother, this son of mine is a dreamer, an idealist and a believer (though he still has a good excuse at six to assume such roles, me not so much). When your mom has told you a thousand times that you’re doing great, you’re fine out, you can do it and there is still doubt, there must be another voice to tell a six year old boy to keep going.

So thankfully, there’s youtube.

For no longer was it me telling him but some more brilliant others. Winston Churchill in warbling chinny Queen’s English told him to ‘Never, never, never, give up.’

JFK told him that when he chose to go to the Moon, he did so not because things are easy but because they are hard. 

And good old Albert Einstein, well he discovered atoms (I think) and some equation that mommy doesn’t really understand but he didn’t like school and found writing very difficult. Very difficult, indeed. ‘See, just like you.’

For a boy who loves soldiers, space exploration and scientists (!), who better to tell him that the windy road ahead can be navigated than these, his new heros. His hearing those words for the first time, I heard them too. And thanked those heros for the words of hope that continue to keep on giving.  Today, they brought the sparkle to a little boy in Kerry finding the homework tough.

And to the mommy who will try anything (and more than likely too much) to keep him going.

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.

A Gift

There are few days as beautiful as a sunny Sunday morning in April. If you rise early enough you catch it before the house builds up to its usual crescendo of activity. For now, it is still, sunny, wakening, calm. From my coffee perch, I hear a cow bellow, the birds twittering over green fields, the farmer getting the parlour ready for milking. The gate closes for the cows arrival, there is the familiar drop of buckets on the dairy floor.

The cows wait outside the parlour for their turn to bring us their milk. The milk tank will fill with their bounty and as they wander from the parlour out to the gorgeous green grass that April has brought here, the milk will be collected.  It’s off to its destination, a fridge away from here, filling another little boy’s breakfast bowl we tell them.

Here is the gift of another beautiful Sunday in April, fresh milk for our pancakes, growth in the  fields and good health for the family and animals in our care. No better gift.

Have a lovely Sunday.