Rural rhymes

Turf cutting with my father Part 1

By Trevor Johnston

As I look back;

I see him still.

Paring away the turf bank

Brandishing the broad spade

A young bronzed- back

Cuchulainn parrying the sod.

He carved his way through the heather

As he filleted the bog.

Young offspring cavorted

Through the hoary mounds

In joyful abandon.

Their toils would come later.

His wife moved in his wake,

Discarding the tufty top turves

To the bog hole

Where they formed a sure platform

For later work.

At last the work was over

And he stood back to rest

And admire the labour.

A big black kettle gurgled

In its nest of black turf

Bubbling and boiling

The hens eggs placed within.

His wife rolled the eggs

In the rushen straw to cool.

And the kettle returned to the boil

With a different mission.

Soon we would sup

Strong black tea,

Sweetened with white sugar

Moistened with cows milk

From a Lucozade


It was a feast.

Strong tea, cold hard boiled eggs and buttered

Slabs of bread.

Soon the right footed

Turf spade, freshly sharpened

Would be unfolded.

He spat on his hands

A ceremonial suture

Of the spittle to the spade

As he returned to the toil.

Number of the week

Chef’s tip

There’s nothing better than a well-stocked spice drawer. No matter what type of cuisine you’re craving for dinner, the right combination of spices will always leave you feeling satisfied. Do you enjoy Mexican flavours? Try a mixture of ground cumin, ground chilli and oregano. A Thai curry or stir fry? You can keep dried lemongrqass and Kaffir lime leaves in your spice drawer (I found mine at my local Dunnes). A mix of Ras al Hanout and cinnamon will provide nice Moroccan flavours and for an Indian-inspired curry, try cumin seeds (not ground), mustard seeds, cardamom pods, chilli powder and turmeric. Spices have a fairly long shelf life, making them the perfect flavour investment.

Growing wild

with Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc countryside management specialist

Look out for Greater stitchwort along the base of hedges, clambering over other vegetation to give a stunning display. Each snow-white star-like flower has five large petals with a deep division giving the appearance of ten petals. The long graceful stems have long grass-like leaves with tiny shark-like teeth helping the plant to climb . The name comes from its use in folk medicine to cure stitches or pains. Bees, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles use it for pollen and nectar. This starry display characteristic of old hedges is part of our native Irish biodiversity.

Quote of the week

We were learning about farming in hectares but in Jersey we’re lucky to have a field that is over two acres

Becky Houzé.

Tweet of the week

Photo of the week

One girl and her calves: Rose Farrell from Co Wexford checking in on her calves. \ Teresa Farrell

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Welcome to a week in the country: dandelions, loose strings and agri fashion

A week in the country: rural rhymes, chef's tip, lambing time and lady’s smock