Tag Archives: farming

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.

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.

Just a Spring Day

It’s just a Spring day on an ordinary Dairy farm in North Kerry. Farming wise, we’re on the threshold of the year. You need not react to anything the sky bestows on you as it has this year’s farming faith in her hands. Last week it rained and rained and the cows stayed in, the land was wet and we knew we needed a couple of good, dry weeks.

Low and behold, she turned, April has come and brought with her some fine weather. Drying the fields weather. I dare not type it. It’s fine weather. We know, April could throw anything at us yet but sur’ we’re ready. We’ve been here in all states of Grace, smiling, knowingly. The farmer himself, being of Hearthill, is more adept at not reacting to the weather, his wife on the other hand wills it to be and then it is or it isn’t.

For today, there’s talk of wobbly tooths, sunshine and a hot chocolate picnic on the beach. All under a powerful sky, to the backdrop of the mountains of Co. Kerry, Ireland. Ordinary stuff. Ordinary, beautiful stuff.

Your Spring day to enjoy.

One Born Every Minute

Or so it seems. The cows are calving very regularly now and it’s hard not to wince at the bellow of a cow in calf as the sound carries across the yard to the house. I’m only nine months after having a baby myself so I can empathize somewhat. The husky bellow, the discomfort, the fidgeting, trying to find a comfortable position. I stand back at a distance to watch her as she finds her own pace. A blister appears that will burst and eventually you see a pair of crubbeens appearing.

You hear her breathe heavily and shift again knowing that she has to deliver this one safely and that she has been put here to do so. She might stand and then lie down again until eventually, fulfilling her purpose, pushes everything she has into her abdomen to deliver that calf. From the shadows, I will her on. You can do it. That’s it. It hurts like hell but you have to. Come on. And then, greedily I wait for that rush of relief that comes when a mother pushes her young safely into the world. In a slide, so quickly, a moment never to be revisited but as a ghostly feeling in the memory of a womb. The rush into the world, parting from the one who has carried you, the mother. It is difficult to describe the relief that you feel when that rush happens, just before the cord is cut or the afterbirth arrives. It is the feeling that you have said the most important prayer of your life and it has been answered aloud.

Thank you to my mother and yours.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Six Years

I’m six years a mother. Don’t worry, the six year old is catered for by way of a cake, party, present but this is my moment. Stand back. Six years seems so paltry a figure for describing such an event. A small step for womankind but one immeasurable step for me. Drumroll please.

I have been changing nappies for six years. Since 15:15 on the 2nd of February, 2009, I have been feeding, kissing, changing the nappy of one boy or another. If this was a TV audience, there would be a grumpy looking man with a queue card saying ‘Applause.’ Instead, I’m holding the queue cards and I’m telling you what to do. Applause. Louder. Call that a round of applause. Six years people, three boys, feeding, wiping poos, minding, loving, adoring, worrying over, playing with, pampering to, reading stories to, nursing better, don’t-ing, cajoling. And what’s that you mumble from the back? I chose it? Oh yes, I did. But by God, I’ve earned it. Uproarious applause please.

Now for the sentimental bit. I love them all but the first one was a pretty good template. Despite being my first, and therefore the guinea pig, he has withstood my awful singing, woeful nappy changing attempts with and flashes of ridiculous looking silly temper. He is and will always be the first one to snuggle under my arm first thing in the morning. His smile makes me weep sometimes. He is beautiful. From 7lb and 10oz of tiny goodness, he has set up shop in my heart and grown into the most handsome little gentleman any mommy will ever have. That woman in the front is raising a hand. Don’t want to know about your Grandson Mrs, have her removed!

If motherhood is a test, then I’m the student with the writing up her sleeve and the ‘please God’ look on her face in the exam hall. Yes, I’m six years a mother and it’s been worth the slog. What’s that? A standing ovation. Oh you.

Happy almost Birthday, my boy Philip



There’s more, I’ve written for Irish Country Living this week…. http://www.farmersjournal.ie/views-on-farming-from-a-city-girl-173739/


Faraway Fields

From where I’m sitting the grass is green. But the farmer isn’t happy yet. Not green enough, not dry enough. A bit too soft for the girls (his cows). An after dinner tour of a field with his young sons has him perturbed. From the house, I see him walk in the field, shaking his head with his sons in order of height shaking their little heads in sympathy after him. This time last year we didn’t have enough grass in front of the cows, this year it’s too wet. It’s as if he himself is responsible for the earlier bad weather that has left ground drenched. There are a number of factors governing grass growth that fall within a farmer’s remit but the weather is in God’s realm as it were.

Farmer’s, for the most part, work in isolation. They spend hours in the milking parlour, in fields fencing, in tractors alone with too much time for thinking. There is, as with other businesses, a lot of competition. However, unlike other businesses, you are not for the most part, in competition with other farms for profit. This has allowed for many profitable cooperatives to grow over the years in this country. No, It is a different kind of competition that pushes farmers at times. Have you got the cows out yet? How much are your yearlings making? Have you still got fodder for cows? All your manure spread? Pride.

My job as farmer’s wife is complex. Like the priest in the confessional, I listen to what he percieves are his farming sins. I let him talk about all he believes he is doing wrong, farm wise, before offering my tuppense worth, some perspective. I’m the coach in his corner, spurring him on, reminding him of the bigger picture. The accountant, advising him when to be prudent when the milk cheque is stretched. The partner, keeping the flag flying on the home front, some delicious dinners, a creamy sponge, a chat about what his little boys have been up to. The girl, sprinkling his life, when needed, with some joie de vivre and therefore reminding him that faraway fields are not necessarily always greener…


A Quick Run to the Village…

The labour ward is filling up, with two cows currently occupying the stalls, it’s a busy day in Hearthill. Our Chief Gynocologist came in to grab forty winks (long night in the labour ward too) and I decided to run to the village for supplies. Here is what I love most about the village.

  1. I get the local gossip. I have little or no interest generally in gossip but other peoples’s fortune/misfortune is currency in rural Ireland! (I’m sure there will be more of that anon – stay tuned).
  2. People in the village love my children too. They know where Philip got his name and knew the Philip that came before him. They’re interested in how they’re growing and it feels somehow like they have a vested interest in my boys.  In the words of Hilary Clinton, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
  3. I grew up in the city and didn’t know many people. Here, I’m the Corkwoman. A quick trip to the village means a guarenteed chat for this naturally chatty girl.  My escape means I get to chat to other adults(!) about any subject under the sun, once we’ve dispensed with the obligatory weather talk that is.
  4. I feel part of a community, that I am among friends and know where there is a network of  support nearby should the need arise.

People often ask me ‘How do you like it around these parts?’ While there is much that I miss of my life as a city girl and there are the days when living in a rural community is trying,  honestly, I can often reply; ‘I like it very much.’

Back in Hearthill, our farmer, despite being pounced upon by two small boys during my absense, needs awakening.  He’s back out into this lovely March day to care for the two cows bellowing in the haggard. Another fine Spring day.