Tag Archives: farming

Twilight

Ah, October’s dying light begins early on a Sunday night. Everywhere, the fields are tinged with orange as the mist descends on County Kerry. It is the habit this time of year for farmers to stop milking Sunday evening to have a full on family day. A farming holiday, unofficially.

This evening, as I drive from the local town home to the man and boys in my life, the country holds its breathe. When Ireland plays we’re like a country of first cousins. Can we do it? Surely. Our country plays rugby against France and later soccer against Poland. We’ve one game down, the collective ‘we’ have beaten the French. We did it. As the cousins gather in front of the television sets in awe of the crowds singing the ‘fields of Athenry’ thar lar; the countryside is almost abandoned.

I run in the door just in time to celebrate the final try by Ireland, we beat the French. It’s a great country you know. The light is all but gone now and the country is reawakening as the farmer walks out the door farming the green fields that inspire our song.

He waves as he runs out the door and I call him back and say it quietly. Imagine. I know he says, don’t say it he says holding his hand up. Imagine if we did it? Shhhh, imagine if we won the World cup? And for tonight in this Irish orange mist and twilight, anything is possible.

Imagine.

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.

Teddy Bear

From space, I’d imagine Ireland has an even thicker outline today. The population is most certainly on if not heading to the beach. The sun, after months of heating Europe to cinders, has eventually arrived to the periphery of the continent to sur’ God help us, Ireland. Nice of ye to leave some heat for us, danke schoen, merci, grazie, gracias.

It gives the country an instant makeover, in one weekend, we will burn our own teddy bear shaped hole in the ozone from the barbecues, deck chairs will be wiped down and sun lotion by God, will be applied. There’s still a chill, we’re not talking heat high in the teens, celsius wise. No, we’re just talking the appearance of sun.

If nothing else, it will keep the farmers happy, nobody was willing to say it, but it was a little bit wet there for a while. I intentionally stopped talking about the weather. I mean it’s not as if the weather is a surprise really. There’s a reason we sing about Ireland and its’ forty shades of green. From the window, I see all forty of them today, mossy, limey, emerald, yellowish green, cabbage green, avocado (mind you) and shamrock green (we mustn’t forget) to name but a few.

The lady in the shop nearly hugged me when I said it was a nice day. ‘Isn’t it, isn’t it’ she shouted, ‘and we were starting to think the summer forgot us.’ Never, never, the summer would never do that to us. For it is the saddest thing in the world to see an Irish person downhearted. It is true, we are very friendly and we do for the most part try to keep a sunny disposition for the audience at least. The smile there for a while was beginning to fade so as part of a seasonal bailout to put the smile back on the Irish person’s face, we got some sun.

What am I doing talking to you people? There’s a beach to get to. Children to dunk into a near freezing Atlantic. Ah bless. That lovable ridiculous optimism of ours. You gotta love us. Who wouldn’t love the people from the country shaped like a teddy bear? It’s the sun, it’s gone to the head already.

O sole mio, enjoy the sun wherever it shines upon you.

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.

In that Pint of Milk

In that pint of milk is the ponderings of a Dairy farmer. Where will the cows go next? That field might be a bit wet after the recent rain, best put them in the High Field for now.

There is the watchful eye on protein and fat content, is there enough, is it good enough?

Behind that Pint of Milk are reams of paperwork, waiting for the farmer’s wife’s attention. Incomings and outgoings, all to be put in order, as soon as you can.

In that creamy milk is the call from the boys for the creamy bit, the nightly hot chocolate, the pour at breakfast, the sour milk for tomorrow’s bread, the icecream on a Sunday.

The farmer wipes the cow’s udder, places on the cluster, rubs a pap and the milk flows as the cow feeds on some ration. A gentle squeeze on an empty pap, cleaning, some dip, she feels the tap on her leg by the farmer’s hand, telling her to move on. Her milk moves through the dairy pipework into the bulk tank, to the tock, tock, tock of the machine awaiting collection. She saunters into the yard and towards the field again.

Back into year’s green green grass. Grass that brings on her creamy milk for that evening’s milking.

All in that pint of milk.

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.