Tag Archives: farmhouse

I walk with you

So I thought I was having a bad week. And then I thought again.

It’s been a tough week. As I type I have one little boy in arm my arms burning up with a fever, medicated to cool down into sleep and there is little else for it but to hold him for a while. His brothers are shivering and feverish on the couch. It’s one of those parental days when you put it all on hold to get them back on their feet.

It comes on top of a lot of other things. The bills, the poor milk cheque that we thought would resolve things, the upcoming anniversary trip that maybe we shouldn’t take. The parlour that looks like it might never be built. Poor me.

And then I think of her. She’s putting layers of clothes on her boys so she’ll have enough for them to survive the Eastern European winter. She can’t carry non-essentials. Leaving photographs behind, his first baby hat that she kept because she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away, the little sheet on the wall with the first scribble of his name. Will they make it? Will they survive the walk? Where will it bring them? Will they make it out of the war zone alive?


He is beginning to cool down. He breathes deeply in his little sleep and of course I know he’ll be alright. The bills, well, you know, they always get paid. Farming is a sticky old business. One year you’re doing good enough to invest back into the farm with a new road, an extra spread of lime, reseeding and then along comes the year that is wet and the market dictates your every move. And we sulk a bit (well I do anyway), adjust the budget and recollect ourselves and count our blessings. In a few hours time they’ll be up and running around, fighting and healthy. The parlour, believe me, will get built. It will Dan, it will. We’ll take that trip because we can. And we’ll laugh the whole time. And continue to count our blessings.

So as I sit and type with my boy in arms, I walk with you. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But I walk with you. That you and your little boys be safe, that you are delivered to safety soon.

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.


The shed is empty in July. The cattle are dotted in fields around the house. The cows are in the High Field. The heifers in Sallies for a while. The calves to the West of the Sheds.

Each field has it’s history. A name recalling a particular story in the life of the land. Ardoughtar is the King of all fields, reseeded in the past five years it is the driest and most abundant. It was the site of the original farmhouse, on the ‘mountain’ and enjoys majestic status. Cattle rarely graze there and their visitation to Ardoughtar indicate a bad year. Not enough grass, ‘we’ll have to drive them to Ardoughtar.’ It normally serves along with Sallies as fields for silage grass.

Then, there’s Sallies. It was named, from what I can gather, after a lady who used to live there named Sally, funnily enough. In my imagination, I see her as an old woman with a stool out the back garden taking in the most beautiful view on the farm. She might have just been going about her business, but this is my story afterall. Sallies field is the one we walk to most days. It is approximately a quarter of a mile from our gate and I have watched my boys go from buggy to to walking to running on that road and it will always be precious to me.

Next over is the Mash, or marsh to you and me. It’s a good lump of land but wet enough, marshy. Prone to reeds, it has a river (a very small stream but there’s no telling them) running along it’s border. It is most definitely the next for reseeding, she sighs.

There’s the High Field which borders the milking parlour. The field West of Houlihans, our neighbour, the field West of the Sheds (there seems to be only one direction here) and the Pump Field (they definitely ran out of steam in the naming department).

A field I hold dear is the field behind our house, funnily unnamed. When cows graze there, I meet them as I hang out my washing to the calming sound of their chewing. The odd pet cow will come over to suss out the farmer’s wife and for the pat on the nose. Beautiful animals that they are. I love that field. The boys sometimes roam there and I can watch them from my window. We know where the rabbits live in that field and where the blackberries are most plenty come September. Still, it is nameless.

How do I get a name to stick? How does a nickname come about? Slowly, it’s becoming the Field around the House but that’s not romantic enough for the farmer’s wife. She’s high maintenance you know. The name comes to stick organically in the life of a farm, from the mouths of it’s owners rushing around getting work done, planning for it, putting cows grazing in it. And yet, it’s the Field around the HouseHearthill, Home. 


I sat in the same place almost a year ago to the day, celebrating my birthday at forty one weeks pregnant, unable to fit any clothes, unable to sit still in a restaurant or a cinema or able to enjoy the usual birthday treats. I sat there with the farmer on a scorching Sunday eating a bag of salty chips watching people come and go like the waves behind me, to-ing and fro-ing in their usual manner. Forty one weeks pregnant and utterly miserable. Have you tried walking the hills people asked in their are-you-sure-you’re-not-just-holding-the-baby-in way! Yes, I walked hills, why on that very hill, the hill to Ballybunion’s Ladies beach, I thought I was going into labour on more than one occasion that very week I’ll have you know. A year ago. Almost to the day. 

What a year it’s been. Everyone takes to motherhood differently you know. I’ve taken to it each time like the only undignified swan of the flock in shallow mucky waters. What an analogy. You see, I start out wanting to be graceful, gliding, swanlike but end up stuck and I’m sure in what is a very tiring situation, covered in mud and squawking as that swan would in the messy post storm pond. Where am I going with this? Beats me, I don’t particularly like swans.  And there you have early motherhood for me. Messy, confused, undignified. And the little signets do well enough but it’s taken me on three different occasions almost a year after the birth to pull the mind, body and soul back into some proportion. And yet, it always does in the end you know.
So, there we sat earlier today in the same spot, me and this darling boy as he smiled at me in all his perfection, my gentle, sweet baby. Sitting there on that same hill, under the same brilliant blue sky, a tad cloudier mind you and I saw that steep hill, the year that had past, tides that have come and gone and left me this beauty in their stead and me an utterly transformed woman, yet again. Anthony a year old, me a year older sharing a moment on our hill overlooking the Atlantic under a dramatic blue sky and might I add, gliding.

A Rainy Bank Holiday

The June Bank Holiday weekend is a trial for the summer holidays. At this stage, we’d be hoping for good weather but already in the style of a good-auld-Irish-can’t-complain-about-the-misery-sur-tis-green episode of non-stop rain, I contemplate a farmhouse in Kerry for the summer with three young boys. I can do it. I’ll make the best of this by God.

I awake at 7am after a lie-in. Normally, these boys wake earlier. I sneak downstairs, fuel up on coffee and get the breakfast ready. Some minutes later the house arises with ‘That’s mine’, ‘no, mine’ and ‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.’
Up the stairs I go and have the perfect parenting conversation, I think.
Right boys, says I, we can have a good day or a bad day. A good day includes, fun, kindness to one another, giggles, hugs, imagination and anything else my just awakened mind can dream up. A bad day, on the other hand, involves cross boys, a grumpy mommy, a boring day, tears, hoarse voices and have I mentioned a grumpy mommy?
We decide on the good day.
After eating breakfast, cleaning up and dressing, we decide to start as we mean the summer to go on and not switch on the television right away.
We did lego yesterday. We baked yesterday and I ate all the substandard dinosaurs. I am full to the brim with one-legged stegosaurus.
Puzzles it is. Yes, I can work with you and you. At the same time. Find the pieces around the edges first. You want your bottle? Ok, pet. Great work. Well done. I am helping you. And you. Drink up. Oh, you have a poo, let’s change that. I do help you. All the time. Let’s play tidy up the puzzles. Come on. You too. You have to. Because I said so. Great stuff.
Toy hospital? I’d love to. Girls can be doctors too you know. Yes, I’ll be nurse once you know I could be a Doctor too. You two be Doctors because you’re the boys, no, no, because you insist, no. no, because you make great, caring Doctors. Yes, your doctor outfit is here. Yes, I’ll make the beds. Yes that toy Dog can be a sick cat. Yes, and her too, she can be an elephant with a broken toe.
Oh now, you’re Dogs and I’m the vet and you’re hungry dogs, ok, Mommy Vet will get something nice for you to eat. Let’s sit down and have a nice snack together, oh you still want to be dogs, who are chasing each other, and me.
Followed by Superheros, Hide and Go Seek and crawling races.
It’s 9:15am.
A good day. Where’s the remote?

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.


It’s been a long day and I’m rambling here, trying to stay awake. The farmer is still outside as it continues to be our busiest period of the year. Honestly, how does he keep doing it? Today, I brought our two youngest boys to our nearby town, Listowel, to do a few messages, as my mother would say.

And there I witnessed something incredible. Remember, it’s late and I’m tired so hold your judgement on what I might find incredible. Low and behold, I found that my toddler had turned into a young boy. I mean a proper young boy. Outside of the incident where he showed the lady in the hotel his eyeballs (could have been a lot worse), he was dreamy.

Ok, I’ve been holding back on you. Up until now, I haven’t been that honest really because as I’m his mommy, it’s my job a). to love him and b).to be his PR woman by way of telling you ‘Oh, he is a little rap-scallion, a rogue’ etc. etc. but let me tell you when it came to the terrible twos (which by the way carries on for a good two years), he was awlful. He is what a boy is meant to be, uproarious, boisterous, spirited times ten. I no longer own a functioning lamp in my house, this larger than life Tasmanian devil has broken it along with a television, several telephones and so many pretty cups I’ve stopped counting.

And I know, it’s easy to judge and think that boy is just unruly but mainly he’s just a real character, taking over the room, a force to be reckoned with. He will break your heart and then take it back and fix it up with a hearty laugh and a hug. That said, it has been really stressful taking him out. I mean really stressful. So today, prepared to cajole him along the streets in Listowel with narration, plaumause, promises and ashamedly sometimes threats, he defied me ultimately by being absolutely adorable.

I had forgotten that it happened with my first son too, overnight, he turned from ‘terrible three’ to ‘fabulous four’ and life got a lot easier. So hold tough Mommy and Daddy if you’re reading this thinking you have produced a little heir who you will be most likely visiting behind bars someday, for unexpectedly, one day, something readjusts and they turn into the lovely boy  or indeed girl they were meant to be and you think, well you don’t think, you take a gigantic sigh of relief. Phew. That was hard work. Now, go and enjoy them.

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.

Nollaig Shona

I timed the day according to the TV schedule and naps. Nap one, film one, trifle. Nap two, film two, stuff the turkey and so on. It’s an especially busy day on the farm. The farmer was getting work done so that it can almost run on auto-pilot (by a farmer stuffed with food) for the next few days.
As is the tradition in Kerry, an electric candle is lit and placed on each window of the house. Welcoming the baby Jesus. As a girl, I had heard about this in school in Cork city by the Kerry teachers who came our way. It sounded romantic. And this evening, we’ll see it as we drive through our village. Houses in the village will be alight with candlelight as we drive by ushering us towards the church. Sceptic or not, these traditions are beautiful and compassionate.
At home, Santa will drink a glass of our milk tonight with a hard-earned mince pie. The mother of the house will have to run the gauntlet first, getting to that glass of something sparkly by midnight whilst wrapping presents.  Little boys are asleep dreaming of presents to come.

From our hearth to yours.  Happy Christmas from Co. Kerry. May yours be happy, safe and peaceful.

Nollaig Shona o Ciarrai.

Anne, Dan, Philip, Daniel and Anthony.


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.