Ever since I was small, each day spent at home meant learning all the different tasks that go hand in hand with the running of a farm and it was certainly one way to keep my brother and me out of trouble.
From the joy of bringing new calves into the world to the less glamorous plumbing and mechanical work, we learned all these essential behind the scenes jobs by watching and listening to the older generations patiently explain things to us for the umpteenth time.
The start of breakfast for the ladies & lads this morning ??
I wouldn't mind someone serving me my meals twice a day!! pic.twitter.com/spF8Ve1grW— Karen McCabe (@LadyHaywire) December 10, 2021
This month I gladly handed over some of these tasks to my older brother who managed to visit us for a fortnight before Christmas. As siblings, we’re definitely a case of chalk and cheese, with him working in cryptocurrency and finance while I always preferred more manual outdoor labour.
It certainly made my father smile to watch his daughter teaching her dear brother how to lift bales with the front loader so they could be carted into the shed for feeding.
However, there’s something about a sibling friendship that always remains strong regardless of time and distance apart and just like we were as kids we were back to being thick as thieves together for the time he was here.
There's a reversal of stereotypical farming roles around here! Brother has gone off shopping whilst I do the tractor work ????????? pic.twitter.com/bs9xAp4Ktt— Karen McCabe (@LadyHaywire) December 13, 2021
Trying to explain to him why certain cows were treated like old friends brought up the question of having favourites in our herd. Most farmers would claim that every animal is treated the same but there’s usually a soft spot for an older or more characterful character in each herd. There is something special about forming a bond with an animal (regardless of species) and if we don’t experience it at some point in our lives, I believe we miss out on a key human experience.
A case on this farm is my father and the 16-year-old ‘Maxy’; a name which can be traced back over generations of breeding to an ancestor of hers which was purchased from a local family called Maxwell.
I grew up watching Dad treating all the cattle with care and respect but he always held the cows from this line in great regard. In fact, it was a bull from this family that won me my first red ribbon in the showring, and kickstarted my love of cattle shows.
Bearing that in mind, and considering the old girl’s age, I couldn't let her last year here pass without acknowledgement. For Christmas I commissioned a portrait of her to be painted, which turned out better than I could have imagined and her watchful gaze is on us forevermore as she has taken pride of place over the fireplace in the living room.
The one & only Maxy is finished & ready to head home to Ireland this week. Thanks so much @LadyHaywire for the commission.?? I have loved painting this lovely face and can’t wait to see her hanging on the wall x pic.twitter.com/pJxatfTjSk— Nikita Jane Garner (@NikitaJGarner) December 6, 2021
These older cattle remain a reliable stalwart in every herd, teaching the younger stock manners and lessons in herd hierarchy. Even at her age, there’s not a single younger cow here which dares to go up against the ‘Queen’ in old Maxy, she remains the only cow we have that can saunter anywhere in the shed without a single challenge from another beast.
It’ll be a sad day when she leaves this farm, as she has brought so much joy over the years, both with her antics and the numerous ribbons received from her progeny.
And on that note, the final thing for me to say in 2021 is a Merry Christmas to everyone and here’s to an enjoyable and fruitful year to come.
According to Maxy here, tinsel is delicious. I'll take her word for it ????— Karen McCabe (@LadyHaywire) December 24, 2019
Merry Christmas everyone! ???? pic.twitter.com/YkEo12bSvq