I love spring, everything is waking up. Birds are chattering, busy, busy flying to and fro making their nests.
We spot bees, great fluffy bumblers, bumbling about from dandelion to dandelion, and other solitary ones we don’t know the names of, but we are happy that we are encouraging biodiversity on our farm.
The spring flowers start popping up out of the cold ground, bringing cheer to our faces as the girl’s trot around on their ponies.
Fond memories of tulips
We have lots of daffodils. One autumn I planted them all around our gateways and verges, just to give every passer-by that lovely spring cheer.
Tulips are actually one of my favourite spring flowers.
When I was a kid, my brother and his school hockey team won the All-Ireland Schools Hockey Championship. It was amazing!
Our team - Newpark Comprehensive School - were the underdogs in every way, but oh so talented.
They came out on top, beating all the best schools in Ireland, and securing their ticket to the European Schools Hockey Championships.
They were the underdogs there too! We didn’t even have a proper squad kit. We raised funds for months, raffles, quiz nights, sponsorship.
Finally, we landed - team and supporters - in The Hague, Holland, to play the intense tournament there.
I have memories of trams, clogs, caramel waffles; of laying the boys' hockey uniforms out to dry in the sun between matches, they still only had one set of kit!
And the fields and fields of sun-drenched tulips of every colour, in neat rows as far as you could see. So tulips are a favourite, but daffodils are cheaper, so there’s plenty of them around the farm!
Whatever about flowers, it is the sounds of spring, of new life, that really show it has arrived.
Every day when we opened the sheep shed door I would stop and listen.
Most of the sheep in the shed were not in lamb, but there were a handful of expectant mothers indoors.
As we are playing down in the sheep shed, we hear the different ewes making their different noises and we’d have great fun imitating them.
There’s the granny with the smokers cough - whoowhey-whoowhey; the girl acting like a boy - barrrr, barrrr; the one with a sweet stuck in her throat - wheeetuu, wheeetuu.
One day, opening the door, we heard a very distinctive sound - the bleat of a newborn lamb. There is nothing like it. The girls were so excited.
A tricky birth
Even with my limited sheep knowledge, I knew this birthing mother was having trouble. Luckily, Michael was nearby to swoop in to the rescue.
The girls, their little faces scrunched up with worry, were a super helping hand, holding this and that, observing closely and commenting often.
Following doses of calcium, magnesium and oxytocin, the ewe was revived.
As she had very little milk, the lambs were stomach-tubed powdered colostrum and we even bottle-fed them for a day or so too, so mummy sheep could get her milk flowing.
It was a great experience for the girls and, despite the tricky start, all was well for the lambs and ewe in the end too.
Doing your best
Farming, like any walk of life, is full of major and minor triumphs and disappointments.
Our lambing is nearly over now. Most of the sheep have lambed outdoors and while riding around the farm, we check on the new arrivals and also count the losses.
The girls see the reality of life and death and we reassure them that, in life, we do our best and be satisfied with the outcome in the knowledge that we have done our best.
As for the boys in Holland, they too did their best, got through to the finals and became one of the best hockey teams in Europe - pipped at the post but they gave it their all.
What an experience, what a memory. Love tulips!