While in the process of designing our house on the farm, our architect asked us for a “wish list”.

“Anything you might like in a house – practical or impractical,” he said. “You might not get everything, but I will do my best.”

You might laugh, but the first thing on my list was instant hot water (I never really understood the whole immersion thing!). This made the architect roll his eyes (“Janine – of course you will get instant hot water!”). I just wanted to be sure!

Otherwise, I kept my wish list short: a separate entrance to the farm (for mucky boots and mucky dogs), skylights in my kitchen and – the most frivolous item – a veranda.

Canadians love a good veranda. I think it’s because our winters are so horrendously long. When the weather finally becomes pleasant, we spend as much time outdoors as possible – rain or shine. A veranda enables this. We keep rocking chairs and small tables out there and bring out our morning coffee. There is nothing nicer than having your first cup of coffee outside.

The only problem? The bugs. When the weather warms up in Canada, swarms of black flies (little guys who suck your blood; leaving crusted, dried bites all over your body) come alive. Within minutes of taking your seat, they have found you – and they’ve brought their mosquito friends along for the fun. Some mornings are manageable; others are not – you can only sit outside for a few minutes before you’re overcome. For this reason, many now opt for a screened-in porch as opposed to an open veranda.

I think rural Ireland is ideal veranda country. Our winters are short and relatively mild and black flies are non-existent. At this time of year – even with the rainy, chilly weather we’ve been having – I have still been enjoying my morning coffee outside; admiring my garden and listening to the birds.

However, bugs are still an issue. Lately we have been at serious war with the houseflies. They come out of nowhere; their numbers far greater than our own. My last week has been spent swatting, setting out traps, wiping windowsills and cleaning windows where unfortunate splats have occurred. These flies are no joke – and they bite; unlike any housefly I ever encountered in Canada. As I write, our old farmdog, Ben, is whimpering in his sleep as they launch an early-morning attack.

Yesterday, I was checking my pumpkin patch when I heard a noise behind me. We have two dried-off cows in the yard, and one was trying to get my attention. She looked at me imploringly as she fought the swarms encircling her legs. We have since treated our herd to help them along – you do feel bad when they can’t escape or control their environment.

the tradition of coming together to work and then enjoying a nice meal to celebrate are the same as they have been for centuries.

Reading Shane Lehane’s folklore article on p13 brought back some bug-filled memories for me. At this time of year, members of my family are still “saving the hay” back home. They have tractors now, of course, but the tradition of coming together to work and then enjoying a nice meal to celebrate are the same as they have been for centuries. I recall spraying myself liberally with insect repellent before climbing the wagon; stacking and arranging square bales in the hot summer sun before sending them up a conveyor belt into the hay loft in the big, red barn.

Then we would have dinner, sometimes at my Aunt Joan’s house, where there would be potato salad and soft dinner rolls and cold, sliced meat. And I would count the fly bites behind my ears and on the back of my neck and then my brothers and I would go for an evening swim in the river.

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