Waiting for a little bit of icecream
It’s white – is it a kitten? Is it a lamb? is it a ball? Will it move on its own?!
Waiting for a little bit of icecream
It’s white – is it a kitten? Is it a lamb? is it a ball? Will it move on its own?!
Are farmers born or made? Just because a person is born into a farming family, does that make them a good flarmer? Are there city people who are capable of being good farmers?
Succession is a huge issue for many farmers. There’s a huge familial tie to the land in Ireland which means that people don’t tend to sell up and move to another farm that often – part of the reason could be due to the stamp duty but there’s also that familial tie to their own land. Some farmers would find it very difficult to sell up and move away if none of their children wanted to farm but if a young adult doesn’t really want to farm – are they going to be good at it?
There’s a lot more to farming than meets the eye really. For example, growing grass is much more involved than people think. Many think that grass just grows but there is quite a skill in good grassland management and ensuring that your cows are eating good quality grass to maintain high levels of protein and butterfat in a good supply of milk. Farmers also need to be able to think outside the box, work long hours, have a natural affinity with animals, have a good eye, do as many of their own tractor repairs as possible … and the list goes on.
When I was growing up, I’d quite a dismissive attitude of tillage farmers! After all, as far as I could see, they only farmed for part of the year as most farms in Ireland aren’t that large and they usually had tidy yards as they didn’t have stock whereas I saw my dad working all hours. Are farmers that just work with crops real farmers for example? Of course they are – it’s all a different form of farming the land, different skills are needed that’s all.
Are those who manage farms but don’t actually get their hands that dirty – are they farmers? Is Prince Charles a farmer, for example? Hmmm. He certainly cares about the environment, he owns a lot of land yet can he be considered a farmer? Probably – if one considers the UK stereotype of a gentleman farmer.
I do think that there are people who are farming who probably shouldn’t be. There used to be an expression that the first generation buys the farm, the second improve it and builds it up and the third buries it as in they lose money and it just doesn’t flourish. I’m not so sure it happens as quick as all that. I do think farmers looking to their sons or daughters to inherit need to be giving them responsibility from a young age though, be there to support them in their decisions but give them autonomy. Let them learn from their mistakes. I remember a young 19 year old buying Angus X Friesien heifers from us as sucklers. His father let him pick them out, let him bargain and was going to let him run that side of the business and I thought, more power to him.
I look at my husband and I know he’s a much better farmer than I would ever be. He’s much more passionate about his cows, he’s better at driving, he can pick up a cow on heat from 2 fields away, he’s much more sensitive to an animal’s needs, he’s more in touch with the earth too – I keep meaning to take a video of him using a sally rod to detect water underground!
There’s many more women taking to farming now too – but that’s another blog post
As Paul Harvey said in his 1978 speech on ‘So God Made a Farmer’
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.
What do you think? Are farmers born or made?
My father moved up to Garrendenny Castle when he was 7 back in 1945, his father having inherited it from an uncle who bought it around 1908. Before that it was owned by the Warren family for about 30 years and before that were relatives to the Butler family of Kilkenny Castle, albeit very much the poorer relations.
Garrendenny was often described as a “poor man’s castle’ consisting of relatively small rooms, one room wide in the 3 storey part with a tower stairs linking the rooms. My family lived in it till 1973 and it’s pretty derelict now, providing an atmospheric backdrop to the cows as they make their way to and from the milking parlour. The following is an extract I compiled from various sources for a book we created for our local church’s 200th anniversary last year.
The Butler Family – Lord Galmoy
Edmund Butler, a branch of the Ormond Butlers, leased the lands of ‘Kilgorey, Crettyard orse Garrendenny’ from William Hartpole in 1708. The ‘castle’ was small and the land poor …. A footnote (in O’Hanlon’s History) mentioning the prevalence of ‘shrubby wood, bog and decayed timber’ over the countryside.
In 1795 the hereditary right to the title of Viscount Galmoy passed to Edmund Theobald Mandeville Butler as the owner of Garrendenny. Neither Edmund Butler nor his son Piers Theobald pursued the claim but when Piers died unmarried in 1824, his younger brother Garrett successfully proved his right to succession and assumed the title and disregarded an attainder placed on it a century before.
Garrett married Mary Ryan of Kilabban in 1835 and nothing further is known of her but it is believed that she and a baby were buried in Kilgorey. In 1840, a baby baptised at Mayo was described as ‘the illegitimate daughter of Garrett Butler and Eliza— spinster of Mayo.’ Garrett married Ellen Burke in Dec 1840 even though they’d only met 3 weeks previously which suggests it was an arranged marriage for financial reasons. The marriage wasn’t announced until April 1841 and by that time, Ellen had been dismissed from Garrendenny Castle. Garrett and Eliza had a second illegitimate daughter that same year. Divorce proceedings were taken in 1844 but each application failed when Ellen and Garrett were shown up to be adulterers. Local lore has it that Ellen went mad and that was why Galmoy got rid of her (bit of a Wuthering Heights type of story except the Garrendenny Attic wouldn’t have been big enough to hide away in)!!
Garrett had four daughters Elizabeth, Anne, Geraldine and Isabella and two sons Edmund Fitzgarrett and Pierce by 1849. He possessed 800 acres across Garrendenny, Crettyard and Kilgorey. He died on 28 March 1860 aged 60 and is buried at Mayo where the slab marking his grave records him as the 9th Viscount Galmoy.
According to a letter written in the late 1920s by the grandchild of Garrett Theobald Butler (Lord Galmoy), he was a great yachtsman and was a Charter Member of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club. Apparently another branch of the Butlers ‘The Lonsboroughs, settled in the midland counties, are another branch, very poor too, but received just the same.’ Lord Galmoy’s children seem to have been impoverished compared to other gentry and of course, being illegitimate at that time, would have raised many an eyebrow. ‘The boys were the “young Lords” to the tenants and servants, and the girls “my Ladies”. Why the women folk should make such a compact to say nothing of their family and just bury themselves, I can’t understand. They were very sore at general treatment from grandfather, and felt they hadn’t sufficient means to carry their rank properly. Nowadays, that sort of thing doesn’t matter. The old battle cry is “Butler-a-boo”.’
According to another letter copied from the 1930s ‘all the Butler children were illegitimate – I could never get Aunt Belle or Cis to talk about it but rumour has it that Garret Butler’s wife went mad soon after their marriage and they never had any family. Eliza Fitzelle was the mother of his children – he is buried in the local Church of Ireland at Garrendenny’.
2 daughters of Garrett and Eliza (Anne and Geralda) moved to New Zealand. One of their daughters Elizabeth Butler was living in Belfast when she married William Nicholas Pratt in 1868. They had 7 living children. Their first born was Mary Elizabeth Pratt and her daughter Joan Ferris moved to Canada.
Elizabeth and Nicolas’s sons William and Robert emigrated to New Zealand. Their daughter Ann (Nan) married a banker and they emigrated to South Africa.
I’ll fill you in on the Sixsmith family later in the week
I wish I had photographs of us as kids working and playing amongst the straw and hay bales in the fields as they were put one at a time onto the trailers to be brought back to the farmyard. Many of my childhood memories revolve around the straw and hay – between bringing picnics to the field, stopping for icecreams on the way home if it was a long draw, the blisters on the hands, the sense of a long hot day going on forever – the straw and hay making seemed to be the highlight of the summer.
My main memories involve being hurt or terrified! I remember my dad was buying straw bales from a neighbourd. For some reason, our workman wasn’t around. We had borrowed the neighbour’s trailer to draw them up (I think that was part of the deal ie if you give us your trailer, I’ll buy your bales) so it was a much more significant load than on our small trailer. I was on the trailer, lifting and pushing the bales into place while my dad was spronging the small square bales up onto the trailer. I was going higher and higher with each row. After about 7 rows which was probably about 20 feet from the ground, the ropes were put in place to secure the load and it was time for me to scramble down. My dad has moved away to talk to two men who came into the field. I looked down the back end of the load (where I normally scrambled down) and felt I was going to go end up sliding down rather ungraciously and hitting off the ground! I walked to the front of the trailer and reckoned if I wriggled down and held on I’d be able to get a foothold in above the raised bit at the front of the trailer (about 3 foot high at the front) and would then be able to jump from there to the ground.
I started to slither, I was holding onto the straw bales at the top, my toes were looking for a toehold but I had forgotten that the bales of that row jutted out over the edge of the front of the trailer – there was no toehold and the straw I was trying to hold onto was v slippery. The next thing was I heard a thud (which was me hitting the ground) and I looked up to see three very worried faces looking down at me. I was inches away from the steel towbar that links the tractor and trailer – if my head had hit that, I was dead!
Moral of the story – when climbing down from a high loads of small bales, always climb down the rear of the trailer!
Will I Stay Or Will I Go?
Another straw memory was when my dad and I were drawing in bales on our old small trailer (I was about 1o or 11). We were only driving along the road for about a mile from the farm. The last load was only 4 or 5 bales high and I asked my dad if I could ride home on the top of the trailer. As it was a small load, we weren’t bothering with ropes to secure it but he said I could. I felt ten feet tall as I sat on the bales as the tractor moved along.
Then the trailer hit a bump and the bales started to move. I was sitting in the middle of the trailer and it really felt as though if the trailer was to bump again, the bales might actually leap into the air. Would they land back on the trailer or would they land on the road? Would the bales on the right land on the road and would the bales on the left land in the ditch? Which was the best option – to risk being stung alive by nettles or being run over by a car?
I wriggled up to the front of the trailer on my tummy and sticking my head ‘over the parapet’ I shouted at my dad. Apart from the fact that his hearing isn’t the best, he was totally oblivious as he bumped along in the old Massey Ferguson tractor never once looking around to see if his eldest pride and joy was still alive or not. I wriggled back to the middle and held on as best I could.
Then we started up the hilly lane to our farm and it felt as though the entire trailer load of bales was going to shoot off the back of the trailer. I lay in a star position, tummy down, and I’m sure I prayed for that 400 metres. When we got to the farmyard and I discovered I was still alive and well, I was most perturbed to hear my dad say that there was no way the bales would have moved!
Stacking bales and bringing them into the sheds was so labour intensive then. Now, huge round bales are moved by a huge tractor bale fork but back then, men would use sprongs to lift the bales and women and children would end up with blistered fingers as they’d use their hands to lift them.
We used to bale hay for elderly neighbours too and we used to love going there. They had lots of small fields with overgrowing hedges and they always seemed more mystical and mysterious than our fields. We’d always end up with some pocket money too at the end of that week!
Bulls in Dungsted!
I was about 8 or 9 when both of our bulls ended up in the dungsted/ slurry tank. We were doing the annual herd test and the bulls were left till after all the cows were done. Somehow, one bull broke out to where the other bull was and as bulls do, they started to fight, and fight and fight. One bull drove the other one back, he fell against the gate and both of them ended up in the dungsted. All my dad and the other men could do was watch as the bulls spent the next few hours lunging at each other through the dung, then disappearing down for a few minutes until they gained the strength to propel themselves out of it again. It wasn’t the best thing to watch two animals worth a considerable bit of money in such a situation and not able to do anything. They ended up going over to the outfarm to test the cattle there and after about four hours, both bulls had managed to get themselves out. Both were so exhausted they couldn’t fight any more!
A Little Journey
My cousin from Kerry was staying with us one summer and we had run away from my younger sister, up through the wood, through a field and out into ‘Garrendenny Lane’. I was never the best at finding my way anywhere (I’m still useless) and when we came out at a road, we weren’t sure where to go but we didn’t want to go back. Walking down the road, I suddenly realised where we were and we’d come to the neighbour’s house (from other end) that we frequently visited and helped them to make hay etc.
Surprised to see us and with no phone, they decided they’d better bring us home but their only transport was a small blue Ford tractor with a small blue transport box behind. How I now wish I had a photo of John O’Neill in his tractor! They put a bale in the box and we were delighted with ourselves chugging along the road. My sister ran out to see who was coming and I can still see her mouth fall open in amazement to see us arriving in the blue transport box having last seen us disappearing up the wood.
Bringing in the cows
I started bringing in the cows when I was about 8. I can remember going for the cows with my dad to a field past Lynup’s Hill. The cows normally travelled home along a path at the low side of the hill but for some reason most of them took off up the hill. My father exclaimed in annoyance (very politely, no swearing at all!) and told me to follow home an old lame cow who had no intention of going the long way home up the hill.
‘But I don’t know the way’ I said (told you I’m useless at geography). ‘Just follow the cow, she knows it’ was the reply. I can still remember walking along the dusty path beside the wood behind the old lame cow, marvelling how well she knew the way home and we were probably the same age!
A year later, I was bringing in the cows on my own. The next year was a much wetter summer and I can remember getting stuck in the deep mud coming up to the milking parlour and my dad having to come and lift me and my wellies out of the mud!
That’s enough memories for one night I think. What’s your best farming memory as a child?
I must get some old photos from my mum and scan them in – I will do soon! I’ve included photos from when my own kids were smaller in this post. I wonder what their memories will be of? We are so much more safety conscious now but then again, there are many more dangers – machinery is bigger, faster and there’s many more of them. Going to the outfarm to collect conkers every autumn will be a good memory. Why collect conkers? Well, when they have been roasted in the oven and dried so they don’t go mouldy, they make great pretend silage etc for a little lad to move from one side of the living room to the other!
Silage was started today and ended – it had been a dull day and when the mist came, we called it a day, they had only cut a few rounds of one field at that stage anyway. Tomorrow is to be sunny with isolated showers and hopefully the showers will stay away.
I’m off to Wales in the morning! For a ACT cross border couple of days – blogging workshops,, a visit to a distillery and a cheesemakers. Typical but maybe the silage men will appreciate my cooking more next time. As Brian said, they won’t be as scared coming in when they know I’m not there
I’ll be back later in the week to tell you all about it and about the tweeting farmers and June being Dairy Month. Apparently last Saturday was World Milk Day – did you know that?
I didn’t get to do ‘wordless Wednesday’ this week so here’a Farm Foto Friday instead!
Did you know that a heifer (female) calf that is twin to a bull is almost certainly infertile? Apparently bovines are the only animals that this happens with – goats and sheep can have multiple births and all will be fertile.
The reason is that the testosterone in the womb from the male renders the female calf infertile. That’s partly why twin heifer calves are such a bonus in a dairy herd as not only are both fertile but dairy heifer calves are worth more than bulls. We had one twin heifer a couple of years ago that was seen bulling (on heat) and subsequently went in calf and is still in the herd. This may have happened as her reproductive system developed when the levels of testosterone were low.
We have 3 probable ‘freemartin’ yearling heifers this year. Brian had noticed one showing signs of being on heat so when the AI technician was inseminating other heifers, he got him to check her the other day. He could feel one ovary (through the rectum) but she doesn’t have a cervix or vagina. So she has some reproductive organs but not all of them – the presence of the ovary caused her to display some signs of being on heat but there’s no way to get her pregnant. What happens to these infertile calves? Freemartin heifers are fattened at 2 years of age and sent to the factory.
Do twins stay close throughout their lives?
We have had sets of twin heifers that seem to recognise their relationship all through life. One set of twins were separated as yearlings for a while into 2 different batches and yet, when reunited, continued to always graze close by each other and come into the milking parlour in the same row. I’ve noticed twin calves lying close to each other in the pens too. It just shows blood is thicker than water