Getting a farmer away for a holiday is easier said than done. They will think up a million reasons why it’s not a good reason to go. These will include the months of calving / lambing/ breeding / harvesting / sowing / repairing / grass management. If they don’t have a regular workman, they’ll be worried about the capability of the relief worker not to mention the additional cost to the holiday of paying the relief worker. There’s also the extra work in getting things ready before you leave – I don’t know about you but it can make us wish we weren’t going away!

In our case, the only slot for getting away on holiday is the second week of January, a couple of weeks after  Christmas and yet about three weeks before calving starts. The cows are ‘dry’ (not giving milk as they’re having a rest before calving) hence there’s no need for a relief milker. All the cattle are indoors so there’s no need for grass management. All we need is someone to come in for a few hours each day and feed all the cattle in their sheds and check that none are ill.

We didn’t get away last January because of the ‘bull beef crisis’. Bulls that were supposed to go to the factory in early January didn’t go until February or March. Apart from the fact that our holiday money (and then some) went on feeding these bulls with meal (after all, we couldn’t say to them, sorry, the factories don’t want you yet, you have to go hungry), there was too much risk attached to getting someone in with 60 bulls on site. We also kept thinking they’d go ‘any week now’. We’re back to steers now, selling the two bulls that were used to sweep up last week. No problems getting factories to take bulls at the moment – it all shows it’s down to supply and demand and there were just too many on the ground last year which meant that factories could pull the price on bulls, then wait until farmers were desperate, take in bulls and pull the price on steers and heifers. All well planned and orchestrated!!

Some farmers will argue that they don’t need a holiday. I think all do – to recharge the batteries, to renew enthusiasm, to help them think outside the box, and to appreciate that they have. If they have kids, it’s a great way to spend time with them plus it’s not good for children to see all work and no play.

Anyway, not having bulls this year meant that one excuse was removed. I just had to work on the others!  The kids were really keen on a sun holiday this year, we’ve never brought them on a sun holiday as most places are too far away for 5 or 6 days at this time of the year. In the past we’ve gone to Cork, Euro Disney, London, Cork, Euro Disney and Paris at this time of the year.

Farmer on holidays

Off we went to Lanzarote. I only booked 3 days before we left as if the forecast wasn’t going to be good, the last thing I wanted was listening to bored kids and a moaning farmer. It was fab! Had a couple of showers but the sun was out, the breeze was refreshing and it was warm enough for our Irish skin. We sunbathed, we walked, we ate, we cycled, we went on a trip, we swam, we read books …….

Yes, we read books. Before a return to farming, Brian would have read novels occasionally but the kids have never seen him read anything beyond farmers papers but he read The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan and The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly. It was lovely discussing both books with him – I really enjoyed that. Much more intriguing that discussing articles in the Farmers Journal or various bulls in AI catalogues!

I got to read lots of books. The kids splashed around in the pool in front of the apartment or headed off to play snooker so there was lots of half hours snatched to read. What I liked about the resort was that it was all on ground or second level, most apartment were like little narrow terraced bungalow in a large courtyard with the pool in the centre, they had about 8 of these. I hated the look of the tall apartment blocks with small balconies where you’d have to crane your neck for a decent view. We were less than 5 min walk from the beach too.

Farmers on holidays

Books I read (as I’m not going to review all of them in individual blog posts)

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill – the first Simon Serrailler novel, crime novel, a good read, not particularly scary but is intriguing.

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly – Another crime novel, excellent writing, nice the way all the various storylines tied together at the end.

Call the Vet by Anna Birch – a nice read, will review soon

The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander – historical novel, well written but I wasn’t riveted. Here’s a good review of it though.

Poison Bay by Belinda Pollard – absolutely brilliant, reviewed it last weekend.

Pentecost by J. F. Penn – I was disappointed with this, thought it would be better. It’s a bit like a very very very simplistic Da Vinci Code.

Everything a woman needs to know before she marries a farmer by Joyce Surrenne Penny – I came across this recently although it was published in 2012. Given that my next book isn’t going to be a million miles from this in subject matter, I was intrigued. It’s an A-Z of what every woman marrying an Australian farmer should know – lots of practical tips but not as much humour as I thought there would be.

Now that I have my iPad and I love it (Samsung Galaxy was so clunky), I’m going to be reading more ebooks! I still prefer reading paperbacks and browsing in real bookshops but I want to read more indie publications this year too and it’s just more affordable sometimes to get them via ebook.

Anyway, back to the farmer and the holiday. Did he relax or was he worrying about his cows and all the things that could go wrong? It didn’t help that a cow lost twin calves the weekend before we left, there’s always the worry it will happen again.


He did relax! I think the change in temperature helped. He totally got away from it all and none of us wanted to come home. I think the weather recognised how we felt and lashed rain just as we were checking out so we’d feel better!  We’re back to it now and panicking a bit that it’s the middle of January and there’s so much to do but we’ll get through it. The batteries are recharged now before the calving starts. The kids said it was the best holiday yet and we’ve lovely memories of good times spent with them too. After all, it won’t be that long till they won’t want to be seen with us!

So, to summarise – how to get your farmer away on holidays without too much grumbling:

  • Organise a good and reliable relief worker
  • Emphasise that he will be a better farmer if he has a break
  • Remind him how he admitted last year he could have done with a break
  • Emphasise the kids are growing up and opportunities for family holidays won’t be around for much longer
  • Just go and book it!
  • Go to a place which has a different climate – helps if he isn’t thinking about the weather at home.

Do you have any tips to share on getting farmers to take those holidays?

would you marry a farmer snippet 2
Tractor Safety on Farms

Ireland has seen 25 farm deaths this year, the most recent being a farmer smothered by barley and a lady killed by spooked cattle. These include at least three children. One child was on the tractor with his father and got down to play, his father didn’t see him in the grass and mowed him down with the mower. Another child died when a parent didn’t see him and the tyre of the vehicle pinned him against the wall. A girl died when the bucket of a digger fell on her. All tragic and my heart goes out to them. A parent’s worst nightmare, not only are they tragedies but the guilt that must ensue – I can’t even comprehend how a parent can get over it.

As parents and living on a farm, it’s our responsibility to make sure our children are safe, as safe as the possibly can be. The kids are always strapped in in the car and the tractor isn’t any different. When we got a new tractor in 2005, part of the reason was because we wanted one with a decent passenger seat and a safety belt. When the contractors are here cutting silage, our son loves to go out on the tractor with them. I’m sure all the contractors think I’m the fussiest mother out as I always insist he goes on a tractor that has a seat and a safety belt and with a driver of some maturity too.

Tractor Safety on Farms

However, the HSE has brought out three new rules for farm safety and if a farmer is discovered to have broken this rules, they will be fined. The first two are sensible – if a PTO shaft is unguarded, that’s too dangerous and is an offence. Unguarded PTO shafts can kill or remove limbs in seconds and they do tend to be overlooked as in ‘I’ll get that repaired someday’ so I think that one is long overdue. Another is agitation or slurry points left unguarded – another sensible and obvious precaution.

The third one states that children under the age of 7 must not be on tractors, even if they are on a seat with a safety belt. Now, I can understand that the intention is that children, from day one, are not encouraged to go out on tractors and then maybe they won’t want to. But what if they want to be out with their parent, if parent and child want to spend time together, if child escapes from house and heads up the yard and parent is driving and doesn’t seem them. Our kids are fairly cautious and sensible but you just never know when they are young, what notion they might take. I know of parents having to lock children in to prevent them going outside and then the child climbs out of a window! I’m of the opinion that having a child on the tractor is one of the safest places for them. Kids move fast. That 3 year old that was pinned by the wall probably knew that standing out in the middle of the yard was unsafe so stood by the wall so he wouldn’t be hit by the tractor. Unfortunately, the tractor driver didn’t seem him. If they are on the tractor, you know where they are. They are stationary and strapped in.

When I was a child, we loved going out on the tractor. If Mum announced she was going to town (which we hated) we would all shout ‘Dad, what are you and Tommy doing, are you on the tractor?’ knowing that if they were tractor driving, we could go with them. The Ferguson didn’t have a passenger seat but the Zetor was like a multi-person vehicle. My brother, being the youngest, sat on the passenger seat, my sister sat on the wide mudguard behind and I, was the eldest, sat on the mudguard by the open door (ie the door was taken off for air-conditioning purposes, plus having to open and shut a door was considered too time consuming I think).  There were times when I stood in the open door of the Ferguson or on the drawbar at the back with a roller behind me. Madness – yes!  There are times when I see tractors on the road with 2 or 3 kids on them with their dad and yes, I agree that using a tractor as a multi-purpose vehicle is not ideal. If there was a crash, could they be killed? I don’t like seeing kids sitting up in the back window, the window open and using the ledge as a seat – to be honest, it puts the heart crosswise in me. But strapped into a seat – how is that less safe than being strapped into a car?

Garrendenny Farm

Of all the tragic farm accidents that happened, none have involved children being in the cab of a tractor, to the best of my knowledge. If I thought that this measure would save a life, if I thought that lives were genuinely at risk, I’d be behind it and I’m sure other farmers would agree.  Much better if the HSE were to insist on seats having a safety belt and limit the number of children on the cab to one – I can understand that. There are times when both kids and the dog are on the tractor with Brian, the photo above is after we had been separating bulls on our adjoining farm, the distance was short, the speed was slow (it has to be or they’d have been bumped into oblivion on the bumpy lane).  However, I fear the HSE are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Realistically speaking, farmers take their children out on the tractor with them as a part of childminding. However, it’s also a lovely way for them to spend time together. When our son was younger, he insisted on going for every single load of straw with Brian. Fabulous memories for both of them. If we’d thought it wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t have happened.

What do you think? Is it going too far or does it sound appropriate that children under 7 are not allowed in a tractor cab?

Hug a Tree

Are you stressed?

Apparently we are busier and more stressed than ever before. Between being stuck in traffic, long commutes, meeting targets and having to be contactable via social media and email, as human beings we are not responding well to these pressures apparently. At least farmers don’t have long commutes I guess!

Causes of Stress in Farming

Farming can be a stressful occupation not to mention one of the most dangerous so we focused on ‘stress and wellbeing’ was the topic of the #agchatirl last week. This study by a discussion group and published by Teagasc shows the main reasons for stress amongst farmers.  It makes for interesting reading:


As you can see there’s plenty there for farmers to get stressed about with so much of it being outside their control e.g. world prices and the weather.  It certainly made me think as there’s lots there to ensure that Brian and I are stressed! Apparently the main causes of stress were long work hours with an average being 70 hours. I’m not even going to add up how many hours Brian works per week at certain times of the year. As you might expect, weather patterns and grass management can be stressful. Poaching, by the way, doesn’t refer to people stealing rabbits or other wildlife from the land but refers to heavy land being damaged by stock in wet conditions so that you see more mud than grass! It’s been a great summer for us this year as we have heavy land so the conditions were ideal.

Cashflow is another difficulty and this year was very stressful for anyone supplying factories with beef as prices were poor and farmers were left having to continually feed finished cattle knowing that their profits were disappearing with each passing day. I was working out our cashflow from now until February last night and thought we weren’t doing too bad until I realised I’d forgotten to add in the tax bill we have to pay on Thursday! We won’t have income from beef until February and the milk cheque in December will be small so it means that there is almost no farm income for 2 months but loans and direct debits will still be collected so cashflow needs to be calculated.

The farmers questioned in the survey stated that having a supportive partner (refers to a wife) makes a huge difference but I think this works both ways. If Brian was continually stressed when coming in for meals, it would stress me out too. On the occasion when one of us is stressed, the other tends to be quite realistic and state the usual ‘money is only paper’ or ‘as long as sickness and death happen out in the yard’.  We also recognise that we enjoy being self-employed, being our own boss and not having to tolerate too much that we don’t enjoy.

Hug a Tree
Hug a Tree

Loneliness and isolation can cause stress too apparently and I often wonder if I would feel lonely if I didn’t have social media. I love the fact that I can tune in and out of social media depending on whether I want to chat or not. I do think farmers have to enjoy their own company and be happy working on their own a lot of the time. While some farmers still have labour on their farms, more and more are working on their own.

Although the weather can cause stress, it’s a case of dealing with it as best you can and putting things in place to try and minimise damage to the land (ie roadways) while maximising the amount of grass the cattle can eat. What really stresses both of us is if cattle are ill and the vet lab can’t tell you what is wrong. Or if we losing a calf when you feel you should have saved it can destroy the mood for a wee while.

Dealing with Stress

As the Teagasc publiation points out, stress can have serious effects on mental and physical wellbeing. If farmers are tired and stressed, it can lead to accidents, even death. One thing that Teagasc is trying to encourage is that people ask for help. The IFA had a number of ‘talk and walk’ events last spring which were well attended. I think farmers are masters in bottling things up – often to their own detriment.

I did feel stressed coming up to the blog awards. There were two important elements to the awards – ensuring the judging was being completed to a high standard and ensuring that the event was going to be a good night. I had too many things on in a relatively short time too – my own fault but heyho.   I wasn’t interested in attending a day spa at all but I decided to book myself in for a morning with Sylvia Shirley after the awards.  I have to admit that when I arrived I was wondering if I’d achieve as much relaxation going for a long walk. However, there is such a relaxing atmosphere there, you can’t help but feel that you’re unwinding with each minute. I had a facial, a back massage and some reiki and it was bliss. I dozed off during the massage and doing the reiki.  Sylvia said I had one of the most relaxed backs she has worked on – no knots at all, which surprised me. Maybe I do deal with stress fairly well after all.

Caroline Cunningham Reflexology

I went for a reflexology session with Caroline Cunningham too. Caroline is working in a fabulously light, high, white room that makes you feel so much at ease the second you walk in. It really is a beautiful space. I found the reflexology to be really interesting as well as relaxing. I have very ticklish feet and I was wondering would I just end up giggling but not at all. Yes, I fell asleep again!  Not only did my feet feel great after it, but my whole body felt relaxed and rejuvenated too. Caroline was able to tell me some interesting thoughts about my personality based on my feet which I found to be fascinating.

I know reflexology has lots of benefits. I do think it’s important, whether it’s a massage, a reflexology treatment or a cycle, to take some time out. For me, I like walking, cycling and reading. Brian likes gardening. But going to another place, a really calming environment, for a treatment really boosted my energy and ‘feel good’ zing too. I tend to put going for treatments on the long finger but I really should book myself in occasionally.

Do you find stress  gets you down sometimes? What do you do to alleviate it?

Farm Succession - son or daughter?

I’ve been meaning to blog about the topic of succession for a while, particularly since we discussed it in an #agchatirl topic a couple of weeks ago. If you remember, I was at a Teagasc conference a few months and one researcher mentioned how she had been speaking to a female farmer aged 19, who was working on the home farm and relief milking for other farmers, yet she knew she hadn’t a hope of inheriting the farm – even though her brothers weren’t particularly interested in farming. I’ve heard of farmers in their 60s and 70s being resistant to leaving farms to daughters but her parents are probably not much older than Brian and I.

There’s so many issues surrounding succession – there’s delayed succession which means that sons (and daughters) could be in their 40s or 50s when they inherit which means they are perhaps too old to take risks, the bank may not be forthcoming in giving them 20 year loans and perhaps their enthusiasm for farming has waned too. Another is the reluctance to let daughters inherit. An important issue is the need for the farm to either support two families or to ensure that the parents have enough to live on between old age and personal pensions.

Farm Succession - son or daughter?

Sian Bushell, a succession expert who has visited Ireland on occasion to speak on the subject, was our guest expert for the #agchatirl topic. As she said, it’s not only older farmers that are against female farmers but she also made the point that the child most suited to farming is probably the best successor. not necessarily the male. We discussed reasons for sons being chosen and yes, some of it is undoubtedly down to tradition, the way it has always been done and some of it may be due to the continuation of the surname being attached to that land for more generations.



Donal Ryan and Lorna Sixsmith

There seems to be a plethora of articles recently about people becoming depressed or fixated with trying to keep up with the ‘Joneses’ on social media. People are putting pressure on themselves to be as successful, as slim, as beautiful, as rich, as happy as their Facebook friends. Some are leaving social media to get themselves out of that loop.

I enjoy Facebook – I know that people either put up the very good or the very bad (or yes, there are those who put up the boringly mundane) stuff about themselves but generally there’s a feel good factor – people showing holiday photos, days out, funny pics, their baking successes and flops. I can see why some would feel under pressure to rise to the occasion with their own facebook updates. If all of your mates are putting up pictures of brilliant weekends and you’re sitting at home with the Late Late Show yet again – but if there’s one good thing about being over 40, it’s that you get to the stage that you don’t give  a damn about what anyone else thinks. I was amused once when chatting to someone who worked in an office over a weekend and she remarked how the day out would be something to tell her co-workers about on Monday. I went ‘gosh, do people still do that?’ I’ve been self employed for so long or maybe it is because I see people’s updates on social media that I never think of comparing weekend or relating events.

It made me think – do I envy the success of other authors? As a self published author, do I feel constricted by own very limited success and do I envy them, do I want to be them, do I want to be them so badly that it almost paralyses me? No. I hugely admire JK Rowling for example but I know I’d never write the genres that she writes so I just enjoy her. I met Donal Ryan last night and listened to him talking about his books and his writing and publishing process, his thoughts on being rejected so many times and his huge success in the last two years. I admire him for his writing skills, his passion, his staying power, his humour and yes, I would love if my books sold more widely but I don’t want to be like him so much that I want to copy him. He really was inspiring and he inspired me to think that I should pull my 40,000 word novel out of dropbox and see if I can do something with it later this year.

Donal Ryan and Lorna Sixsmith

I wasn’t always like that though. Five years ago, I wanted more children – to the extent that I was depressed. Hearing of people being pregnant with their third child was like a kick in the stomach. Seeing families with three or four children was difficult. I had the two most wonderful children in the world, I knew I was so lucky and yet I couldn’t feel it. I would tell myself that I was lucky to be so blessed and yet it was like I was numb, I just couldn’t feel it.

Owen Fitzpatrick wrote a post recently that reminded me of something he said to me at the time and yes, it worked. It took a little while for it to sink in and infiltrate through my numbness and my thick skin but it got there.  I had invited a friend, her husband and their two children for Sunday lunch and the week before, I heard the news that she was pregnant with her third child. I was seriously considering cancelling their visit as I really didn’t want to be thinking horrible stuff for days about someone that I really liked and obviously I wanted her to have a happy and healthy pregnancy.  Watching ‘Julie and Julia’ a couple of weeks ago reminded me of it too – when Julia gets a letter from her sister announcing her first pregnancy, she is overjoyed for her sister but weeps with the agony of it.

I had phoned my “straight-talking-no-bull shrink” from the Not Enough Hours programme, and Owen asked me if I would like to swop my two children with my friend’s three children. My instant reaction was one of horror. Now, of course, her kids are fabulous and she is going to think they are the best in the world but there was no way I would swop my two for anyone or anything. After all, not only did I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t have children and desperately wanted them but I also felt sorry for all the people who didn’t have kids as wonderful as mine!!! And, yes, I still do!

It took a while for the depression to shift fully but I know that what Owen said to me that day definitely shifted my mode of thinking. This blog post explains it much more fluently than I ever could but essentially you may envy someone else their success and their popularity to the extent that you would like to be them but if it cost you everything you hold dear in your own life, would you really want to be them?

I think the best feeling in the world is to be happy in your own skin. Yes, I wouldn’t mind being thinner, taller, beautiful but to be honest, I don’t want to be thin bad enough to make me eat significantly less and go running every day so I kinda have to be happy with how I am. I’m not sure if those feeling came with hitting 40 or not but it is wonderful to feel genuinely happy and blessed on a daily basis and also to not give a sh1t what anyone thinks too. No comparing with the Joneses! Apparently farmers tend to be very risk adverse as they worry about what the neighbours would say if it didn’t work out – I don’t think Brian and I were cut from that mould somehow.  As Owen says, we owe it to ourselves to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be, to learn from others and be inspired by them but to realise how lucky we really are – just as ourselves. And no, I wouldn’t want to be Brian O’Driscoll either or his wife – imagine having to play rugby or listen to rugby stories or horror of horrors, watch rugby from the sidelines on a regular basis! Having to help out during difficult calvings or talk about AI bulls is so much more interesting – I promise!

How to be a good farm wife

What is a perfect farming wife? Are you one? I’m certainly not but I guess I have worked out some ways to cheat at it!

The perfect farming wife according to the farmer must:

  • Organise his paperwork and be able to find the piece of paper he left on the table three days ago
  • Be an eternal optimist
  • Be flexible – never tie him down to an exact time for anything
  • Cook hearty meals
  • Organise his wardrobe so he can find co-ordinated ‘good’ clothes easily
  • Pair his socks
  • He’s a family man and would love to see his children interested in farming so an heir and a spare are important
  • Be good at budgeting money
  • Be able to multi-task. Looking after children, cooking meals, keeping baby lambs alive, keeping an eye on a calving cow, answering the telephone – and all at once, should be a piece of cake!
  • See bringing dinner to him in the field as a good idea


Remember you marry the farm and the in-laws as well as the farmer so the perfect farming wife according to the in-laws must:

  • Produce an heir and a spare
  • Able to feed the farmer nourishing and hearty dinners
  • Create a meal in minutes when contractors drive into the yard
  • Become involved in various community events, able to whip up sandwiches and scones to bring along
  • Bring in an income yet be free to go and collect tractor parts if necessary
  • Ensure the farmer and the children are smartly turned out for all off-farm outings
  • Keep the house and garden tidy
  • Never leave your clothes hanging out for more than 3 days
  • Be able to drive a tractor, feed calves and deliver lambs

I am not a good farm wife but I guess I try to cheat the system somewhat. It’s my parents that live nearby, not my inlaws so I guess my poor mum only has herself to blame when she realises what a hopeless farm wife I am at times. I do get involved in occasional community events but keep some homemade biscuit cake in the freezer for occasions when cake is needed quickly. It is so so easy to make.

How to be a good farm wife

I’m not good at paperwork at all and as all the post sits at the end of the kitchen table until it is filed, it sometimes creeps further down the table towards us so we end sitting on top of each other until I bite the bullet and sort it out. I work from home so I’m kind of always available to stand in a gap or dash off for an emergency part.

I can’t create a meal in minutes unless it is teatime. We have hens now again so if there really isn’t anything left in the fridge (which happens surprisingly often) it’s a tea of toast and boiled eggs. If the biscuit cake had time to defrost, there will be biscuit cake, albeit sometimes somewhat chilled!

I don’t organise anyone’s wardrobe! I was at a meeting once where a farming lady commented on the state at some men at the mart and how their wives were to blame. If I see a very scruffy male farmer, I never think of the wife, I just presume the farmer is old enough now to know whether to tidy himself up or maybe he was too busy. I feel my farmer is old enough and smart enough to know whether to change out of his dirty jeans or not. Having said that, there are times when I nip to the local shop when I look in a rather dishevelled state too. Winter is fine as a hat and coat hide a multitude of grubby unironed clothing.

How to be a perfect farm wife

I’m very flexible re timetables so that works! Even more flexible than the farmer! I can multi-task too, in fact, I prefer multi-tasking as I then have the perfect excuse if the dinner gets burnt!

How about you? Are you a perfect farming wife? Do you have the capability to be one? Or do you have any ‘cheat tips’ to share.

Images = illustrations from the book
would you marry a farmer snippet 2
Fresh Eggs

My childhood memories of my maternal grandmother are of going to collect eggs with her in a huge henhouse where eggs were piled in tall and wide egg laying boxes along one wall, she would fill a huge green bucket with them and we would give each egg a quick wash or wipe before putting them in trays. She ran a flourishing egg business with what seemed like hundreds of hens and chickens. The hens roamed in the field and in the winter, she would make them a hot mash to warm their cockles :)

A few years ago, we bought 18 hens from a man who was giving up the commerical egg business. At €2 each, they certainly were great value for money – we had eggs coming out of our ears for weeks and weeks. Some of them lived for at least another two years although we lost two to the fox. The children were about 3 and 5 when we got them and they used to love rounding them up to put them to bed on summer evenings. We got some chickens for meat a few years ago too.  Since then though, the shed I used to have for the hens has been used for calves during our compact calving season so I never got around to buying more.

I got four back in January as I needed a ‘cute’ factor for the Sunday World feature and once the hens arrived in the yard – Brian had to help me make a house so now the 4 hens are now living happily in what was the compressor house for the old milking parlour.

Fresh Eggs

We are getting 3 or 4 eggs most days. I had presumed they were all laying in the mornings and I was collecting them at around 10 am once I’d finished feeding the calves. However, one day I collected them at 8:30 as I was heading off and was surprised to see four eggs there. Another day I collected them at 3pm and there was 6!!  6 eggs from 4 hens – something was strange. It turns out that they are laying throughout the morning, probably all laying by 2pm as far as I can make out.  I’m letting them out to roam around in the late afternoon and then they go to bed by dusk and I just shut them in when I’m finishing off the evening jobs. They love to get out, one is particularly adventurous and it is nearly impossible to keep her in when I am feeding them in the morning. I’m often having to pick her up and deposit her back in.

Free Range Hens

It has happened twice that I’ve found broken eggshell for one egg in the laying box – probably being there since the previous day meant it was tempting!  I bought Fiona Dillon’s book ‘Food from an Irish Garden’ before Xmas so decided to peruse it to see if it would tell me how to deal with it. Brian’s suggestion was to burn her beak!! The book has excellent preparation tips as well as symptoms for all the types of mite that hens can get – I was surprised to read this as we’ve never experienced this the few times we’ve kept them but I guess we have just been lucky or else never noticed! However, it didn’t tell me what to do if a hen eats her eggs but luckily Fiona is on twitter so I am able to ask her there. Apparently the old wives tricks such as filling an eggshell with spices or curry don’t work (so I guess the burning of the beak is out too!). Fiona suggested isolating the offending hen (I’m not sure which one it is though), making sure they have enough calcium and tricking her by putting a golf ball in the nest. Thinking about it, they might have been low on grit when it happened so that might be the reason. I’m collecting the eggs twice a day to reduce their temptation to do it too.

Kate loves eggs and on seeing there was one huge egg yesterday (I winced for the poor hen when I saw it), she was frying eggs for tea yesterday evening and was very excited when the huge egg had two yokes! As far as I know, it happens more with older hens so I wonder will this pullet be a frequent duo yoke layer!

And a bit of a change from feeding calves in the evenings – tomorrow evening I will be talking about crowdfunding and selfpublishing at the English Literary Society in UCD. Well, they say a change is as good as a rest :)

And if you’d like to find out how to add a banner image to your blog posts like the one below – check out Spiderworking’s tutorial post.

would you marry a farmer snippet 2
hen party

I realised there was more to training someone to be a perfect farming wife when Geraldine, journalist with the Sunday World, arrived for her day of farmwife training here. Dressed in jeans and a checked shirt but with a pink Stetson hat, perfect protection against splashes from a cow’s rear in her opinion, I showed her how to milk a cow by hand and by machine.   Feeding the lamb, she was forgetting to tilt the bottle up so the milk would flow. She did a great job of hunting the yearling bulls but it was holding the hen that revealed her to be a city girl – when she became anxious about a scratch on her arm from the hen and went off to get an antiseptic wipe from her bag in case it became infected that I realised that perhaps I’m more of a hardened farming wife than I thought.  It was good craic and the article was published in last week’s Sunday World complete with lots of pictures.

50 Shades of Hay - Farm Wife Training

Learn how to be a perfect Farm Wife:

hen partyFor those who might like to learn how to become the perfect farming wife and have good craic at their hen party into the bargain, At this farmyard hen party venue, you and your friends can learn how to milk a cow, churn butter, catch a cock, round up the sheep, throw wellies (this is important as if the farmer is driving you mad for any reason in the future, you can threaten him with your practised good aim) and of course, make the perfect loaf of brown bread.

There’s full details and booking forms over at I’d love to hear how you get on. It sounds like great craic.

The lovely people at are also stocking my book ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’ on their online store so you could either order it with other henparty goodies or ensure you have it as a reference guide to your farmyard training day.

If you are a farming wife, what advice would you share?

I’m teaching an online blogging course at the moment over at We Teach Social and one of the things I tell my blogging students is that reading other blogs can inspire your own posts. I have been thinking about writing a post to a younger self for a while and two blog posts I read recently have made me put fingers to keyboard here.  I’m conscious that I’ve always been fairly independent, matter-of-fact, relatively fiery at times, always wanted to write a book but the inspiration or the timing never seemed right. However, I am convinced that those who say ‘Life beings at 40′ are very accurate.

Elaine at NewFarmerette was bemoaning hitting 36 last week (and yes, I have to admit that I was thinking to myself that she is still a young ‘un with nothing to worry about but I can also remember what it feels like) and Tric at My Thoughts on a Page just wrote about her previous reluctance to put her writing out there.

Hitting 40 was a bit of a sore point. I had always imagined we’d have 4 kids by the time I was 40 or I’d be pregnant with our fourth. Having had first and second at just 33 and 35, I had it all planned to have third and fourth at 38 and 40. But life doesn’t work to plan and yes, I struggled with that and with some depression for a wee while.

Garrendenny Farm 2013

Now that I am 44, I couldn’t be happier or more content and I’ve learnt quite a bit about myself too. That I really don’t give a s**t what anyone thinks – not really.  Yes, I’d be delighted if everyone loves my book but realistically that is not going to happen. I was nervous sending it out to a few friends who are helping with the proofreading as I really do care about their opinion and yes, it would be great to read glowing blog reviews and hear that people think it is really funny but if it doesn’t happen – I will still have written a book. I’ve been meaning to write a book for the last 6 years and have 40,000 words of a novel somewhere. Yes, I may take it out again at some point – at the moment, I’ve caught the farming book bug and have another planned for next year.  The crowdfunding made me realise that sometimes you just have to put your shoulders back, push the fear aside and go for it.

Letter to my 39 year old selfI love feeling contented. I went through a period where I was a fog, where I hated getting up in the mornings. I wasn’t badly depressed either, not compared to some. I love that while it is hard to get up when I’m tired and it’s cold, I’m happy bouncing out of bed. I’m happy walking the kids to the bus, happy that my 9 year old still holds my hand and gives me a hug before the bus comes, happy to walk back up to the house and get stuck into my book or a ghost blog or a social media lesson.  I’m not religious as such but I do feel blessed to have two such wonderful, caring, beautiful, intelligent, fabulous kids. The husband isn’t bad either!

I’ve also learnt that I will never make a good housekeeper but life is too short. Someday I will get a cleaner.  I said to my husband earlier that I need to plan a really nice day off as a reward once this book goes to the printers and my ebook is formatted – otherwise I will just keep writing.  While the house gets its quick hoover and dust, furniture needs to be pulled out, wardrobes need a sort out, windows need a clean (no, not a clean, a scrub), hotpress (airing cupboard) needs to be emptied and sorted, oven needs to be cleaned, rooms need painting, floors need a good scrub, leak in shower needs to be sorted, kitchen cupboards need to be cleaned out, broken window needs to be fixed – you can see why I just want to keep writing and ignore it all.  So, before I embark on a week of cleaning, I need a treat and I couldn’t think of anything. I’m not into spas, I would stick pins in my eyes before heading off a girly day of shopping, I can’t sit in the house and relax with a book and ignore the mess so I am trying to think of something that would be a big treat – some time to myself but doing what? So, 39 year old self, sort yourself out and don’t work so hard that you forget what you enjoy doing in your leisure time.  I will probably head to a favourite bookshop with €50 in my pocket and then go to a nice cafe and read for a couple of hours.

I’ve always known that I’m an intensely protective mum.  I’ve known that others thought I was a bit mad when the kids were young, when I didn’t chastise my son for crying easily, when I fed him till he was 2 although heavily pregnant with Kate, that I wasn’t worried about him being so sensitive or so ‘young’ for his age. I’ve been amused that people thought I was mad still feeding my daughter too till she was 29 months, even though she was so tall for her age (I lost loads of weight – it was great, and neither of them have any allergy problems which was my main reason). I’ve learnt in the last year too that I definitely don’t care what others think, that even though the teachers are wonderful, sometimes you just have to tackle parents and be blunt (and boy, can I be blunt when I am protecting my kids!!!) and it does sort things out and that is all that matters. I will never be the most popular mother in the playground but I’ve never been the type of person to need lots of friends. Give me one or two good friends and I am happy. 39 year old self, don’t wait so long to kick ass next time.

5 years ago, Ireland was a very different place. People were much more materialistic, the emphasis seemed to be on monetary success. I’ve never been that materialist (just as well – there’s very few wealthy farmers around) and as long as I have a few decent items in the wardrobe, a reliable car, a warm house with an open fire, good books, can afford my health insurance (yep, I don’t trust the Irish medical service) and the whole family is healthy, I’m happy. It is nice to have reached a stage, even though the country is in recession, that so many other people are like that too – they value what they have and it isn’t all money in the bank. Yes, I know people are struggling and I’m wincing thinking of our current overdraft too. My 39 year old self used to feel that I should be wealthier, not necessarily to display it, just to feel wealthier in monetary terms.  Sorry if this makes you cringe reading it but if this is what middle age and one’s 40s brings in terms of contentment, I’m looking forward to my 50s!

So, 39 year old self, keep doing what you love – blogging, writing, being a full-time mum. Grab the bull by the horns, be impulsive, collaborate with brilliant people and let things grow naturally (blog becomes book, klck bloggers network becomes blog awards).  I didn’t even know about blog awards early in 2010 and in 2012, I’m organising one – who knows what the future holds – as long as you are prepared to go for things, anything can happen. The journey is the best bit of any goal so there’s no panic on winning a huge achievement either.

Blog Awards Ireland 2013

Just to give you a heads up as the blog might be down for a couple of days as we transfer everything across to the new website. It should be available on though. Now that this personal blog has become more businessy (yes, I have a book to sell!) I wonder will I feel the need to start another personal one – it will be interesting to see. I have plans to write posts here from the perspective of a dairy heifer calf once a favourite is born in February. Looking forward to that too. The next month is going to be busy but very exciting. I’ll have an exact date from the printers too later in the week regarding when I’ll have the book in my sticky paws. I will leave you with a draft of an illustration from the book (we are changing her skirt to a jeans) – I love this one.

Would You Marry A Farmer?

A conversation about farmers wives and our uses on twitter led to a discussion about ‘IMAGE’ for farmer’s wives/farmerettes.  By the way, a ‘farmerette’ is a girl or woman who works on the land and is even mentioned in Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. I know farmer is a non-gender specific term but I like ‘farmerette’.

Mini farmerette

Personally I think it is a shame if a farmer’s wife doesn’t get involved on the farm – partly so she knows what he is going on about and understands the stresses and the need for the long hours, partly because modern farming can be very isolating for the farmer and partly because it can be fun to be out working together. Let’s face it, if your husband is working 16 hours a day, you’re not going to see much of him unless you don the wellies and head out.

“And didn’t she up in sorgues and go and trot doon and stand in her douro, puffing her old dudheen, and every shirvant siligirl or wensum farmerette walking the pilend roads, Sawy,”

Finnegans Wake

Obviously some women have their own careers and their 9-5 work to commute to, not to mention if there are children to look after but I do think it is a shame if they are at home and their ‘area’ is the house and his is the farm.

My Calf Feeding Garb
My Calf Feeding Garb

Talking about ‘image’ on twitter made me laugh too, it followed a tweet I had said about my dad paying me a compliment as I carried 4 gallon buckets full with milk across the yard. ‘You’re a hardy girl’, he’d said!  Obviously when you are feeding calves, you’re going to get mucky, the trouser waterproofs are going to stink of milk and muck and although I have 3 coats for the farm so I can get them washed in turn and they don’t get too manky, even one wear means that they do get somewhat smelly.  Preparing for a ‘farmerette’ photoshoot last week with only a day’s notice and no time to go shopping, I did think to myself that the English image of a ‘farmerette’ would be nice fitting jeans, a pale check shirt and a tweed jacket.  However, I don’t own a tweed jacket so I decided to opt for my green coat which would be bright for the paper and as it will soon become my farm coat anyway ….. as it’s getting a tad old and shabby. I didn’t even have pink or floral wellies to flaunt!

“She had one vanity, however — that of having her picture taken nearly every day in her farmerette clothes.”

Hidden Treasure

But what does an Irish farmerette look like?

I often do wonder how I should be representing myself in terms of my ‘sartorial elegance’ locally. I’m in the local post office almost on a daily basis because of the online shop. If it is on the way to or from a training, I’ll probably be in ‘business dress’. If I’m working from home, I’ll be wearing jeans and a sweater. If I am giving Brian a hand on the farm or on the way to the  outfarm, I’ll be in jeans, old coat and wellies.  I often think to myself that those who know me know I do get dressed up occasionally but what about those who are looking at me in my wellies and thinking to themselves ‘so, she’s a social media consultant is she?!’  Well, I don’t worry about them too often!

“So he’s still puzzling over what he regards as an anomaly, afarmerette who knows the difference between De Bussey and a side-delivery horse-rake, a mother of three children who can ride a pinto and play a banjo, a clodhopper in petticoats who can talk about Ragusa and Toarmina and the summer races at Piping Rock.”

The Prairie Mother

I remember Elaine, the New Farmerette commenting on how she will wear a little make up on the farm but I put that down to the fact that she is meeting the general public with her riding school business too. I have to admit that if I’m not visiting clients or training, days and days could go by without me putting on any makeup and even then, I’d wear very little.  My dear hairdresser knows that I always want a cut that needs little attention, a wash, a quick brush and then it is abandoned to do what it wants. Thank goodness though, I had gone to get it cut the week before the photoshoot especially when he told me it had been 13 weeks since I’d last had it cut – no wonder it was getting a bit out of control!

The Irish Country Magazine, on its launch last year, used images of red wellies beside red stilettos to show a modern farmer’s wife – the image being one who farmed during the day and went out on the tiles at night, one who was as home milking cows, driving tractors and lambing sheep and still had the style to dress fashionably in the evenings.

farmeretteIn another twitter chat yesterday, I and some other ‘farmerettes’ decided that we should have a ‘tweet/meet up’ and put faces to the avatars. Jokingly we said that perhaps there should be a ‘farmerette test’ to see if one is allowed join, an initiation test.

Here’s the list we came up with and how I’d do!

  • Carry two 4 gallon buckets of milk —— No problem
  • Assist at a Caesarean section ————Yes
  • Hold a womb while it’s being stitched —-Never had, but no prob
  • Drive a tractor ————————–Hmm, not if it has to be in a precise straight line as in spreading fertiliser
  • Reverse a trailer through a narrow gate —- I am spacially defunct and can barely reverse a car, wouldn’t be able to do this through a wide or narrow gateway!
  • Nail varnish not obligatory, welts on hands are —- Yes, welts on hands from carrying aforementioned buckets but only during calving season
  • Stop a gap ———————————-Yes, many years experience
  • Milk a cow, goat, sheep or mare ————2 of them
  • Understand and appreciate the many uses of twine —- for tying up dogs, holding up trousers, acting as firelighters etc
  • Carry a bag of feed on your shoulder ——-Depends on size of bag but yes!
  • Stack small bales on trailer while on a hill —- Years since I’ve done this but yes, I think I can remember!
  • Dose / Inject cattle ————————–Occasionally
  • Run fast after cattle ————————-I can run, not sure about the speed!

Okay, I think I pass!!  Would you?  Btw, feeding calves is sufficient to pass ;)

Mini Farmerette

If you would like to join us for our tweet/meet up, do leave a comment or send me a tweet or follow the hashtag #farmerettes. We have yet to decide on a venue or the date but will do soon.  I’m intrigued as to what the conversation will be like, after all, we won’t have met each other before and our common interests are social media and farming. It should be interesting!

And I’d love to hear your opinion – what do you think regarding farmers’ wives? Is it important they help out on the farm and should they think about their image while doing so?

Oh, by the way, if you would like to read the article about me in ‘Horse and Countryside’ I’ve embedded it into this blog post (couldn’t embed it here as it’s not and it needed a plugin)