Rural Rhymes

December’s Moon

By Harry Leahy

The robin held her gatepost

where she shared it with the ice and snow

but as she looked down on the frozen ground

she could find no morsel down below,

the cows had made their call for hay

the hens and ducks and the geese were fed

when December evening sky called time

and the Sun had lowered her weary head.

Calves lay warm and plentiful

half lost in their bed of barley straw

the robin had bade her hungry farewell

and the cat pretended he never saw,

as our sun was lost to a Winter moon

that shined frosty slates upon the barns

and that timeless silence once more descended

across this valley of sleepy farms.

With our summer days on memories page

no rose or primrose could be seen

as naked trees swapped frosty gems

to replace their luscious leafy green,

no lazy summer sun hung high

to warm the heart or touch the face

and them wild birds gone’ to some foreign land

to escape this hardy winter place.

Our fading memories of harvest mornings

are blown away by this old wind’s blast

and our penance in this purgatory winter,

is displayed by the robin’s unwelcome fast

where this hungry day lays cold and dead

lamented by the north wind’s bitter tune,

but the jewel of my winter sky has awakened

in a galaxy of stars, my December moon.

Chef’s Tip

It’s not too early to start prepping for Christmas dinner if, like me, you will have multiple mouths to feed. Gravy is one thing I can never seem to make enough of on Christmas Day, so I cheat a little bit and make some in advance, for freezing. Roast a few chickens and, once cooked, remove all of the meat from the bones (use it in salad or curry). Then, roast the bones with some carrot, celery, onion and fresh herbs. Once well browned in the oven, add them to a stock pot (add some boiled water to the roasting tin and scrape all the bits from the bottom), cover the bones and veggies with water and bring to a simmer. I let this pot simmer for several hours, until reduced by about half, then add a slurry of flour and water. Stir until thickened, then cool and finally freeze in freezer bags until needed. Add this to your turkey juices for a rich, indulgent gravy.

Growing wild

with Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc countryside management specialist

Rose hips.

Look out for bright shiny scarlet red rose hips on the briars of the dog rose. They contain seeds within protective irritating hairs giving them the name ‘itchy backs’ by children putting the hairy seeds down each other’s backs. Some birds are able to extract the seeds. Rose hips are an important source of food for birds and mammals such as field mice who eat the flesh of the hips. Rich in vitamin C, they are used in rose hip cordial. Does anyone remember collecting plastic bags of rose hips for their national school as part of a national collection to be sent to Africa?

Picture of the week

Lucia Black, almost three years old, helping uncle Christy feed the moo moos in Shercock, Co Cavan. \ Sarah Black

Quote of the week

Occasionally, when we feel we are “doing all the work”, it is a good idea to stop and acknowledge the other jobs that your partner may be doing or indeed the children. I speak of non-Christmas chores that continue all the year around.

Psychotherapist, Claire Lyons Forde on Coping with Christmas.