Amii McKeever

A huge tree fell in the field beside the house during one of those three storms that whipped the country some weeks back. It was part of a group of trees that my Grandad planted around the farm decades ago.

Its age saw it tower over the acres of younger forestry now growing behind it. Although sad to see it lying in the field, Dudley, Eunice or Franklin, whichever of the three it was, could be described using: “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”

The timber will heat the fires in the house – if not this winter, then the following one. We are 10 years in our house and although consideration was given to moving to a greener heating system – a topic we covered in some detail back in January – inflation has it on the “back burner”.

This month, it is also 10 years since my predecessor Mairead Lavery founded a little publication called Irish Country Magazine. To celebrate this milestone, our sister magazine has had a complete makeover.

We would love to get feedback from Irish Country Living readers on Irish Country Magazine. Do you buy it? Why? What do you love and if you don’t buy it, why not? Please email me at the address above with your thoughts.

Pat Collins, Dower, Castlemartyr, Co Cork. / Donal O' Leary

As I wrote the article recounting Pat Collins’ career from jockey to grass measuring (P6-7). I was reminded of what I was doing while Mairead was establishing a magazine.

Like Pat, I was completing the solo travel element of my Nuffield Scholarship. But, unlike Pat (and any other Nuffield scholars in 2022), I was in Russia.

Considering what has happened a decade later, I read back through my Nuffield report to remind myself of what the farmers and consumers I met were thinking in 2012.

I wrote about a headline that appeared in The Moscow Times the week I was in the city. “Vegetarians thrive despite widespread prejudice – St Petersburg residents share why they have given up meat despite criticism from all sides including the city’s chief dietician.”

The article went on to claim that Russian state officials warn that “vegetarianism is an indicator of mental illness”. Food propaganda was rife and government fuelled.

Although those headlines sound crazy, there is actually no need to go to Russia for false information about food. We have it right here.

Last weekend, The Happy Pear – a pair of high-profile food ‘influencers’ – posted misinformation, since condemned by nutritionists, relating certain foods to breast cancer incidence.

Any misinformation is bad but when it comes from “influencers”, it may be considered credible, which makes it more dangerous. This week in Health Bytes (p14) Margaret Hawkins writes about a recently published book called The truth behind food and cancer.

Returning briefly to the 2012 Russian consumer, a pig farm manager in a huge piggery near Belgorod told me that the culture of the country is what’s most important in terms of food. He said that: “In Europe [many] people do not remember being hungry while in Russia not having food is not a distant memory.”

My Grandfather, who had lived through a war, abhorred waste of food or fuel and would have agreed with that. It was his foresight that planted that huge tree as a small sapling all those years ago.

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