You can see the Mourne Mountains from our farm. We’re at the foot of them in Co Down. I come from Co Armagh, but the views here are lovely.
Any of my family that come to visit say: “Oh my goodness, you’re just blessed to be living here.” It’s a beautiful part of the country.
I’m one of 12, so I’ve seven sisters of four brothers. In Armagh, we would have been in sucklers. It wasn’t a very big herd and we had sheep too.
Bad dogs hunt away from home – my husband John came up to our area for a carnival and we met there. We’re married over 25 years now. I always did want to marry a farmer. I couldn’t have lived in the town. I’m a country girl and I love the country. I’ve always wanted to be outdoors and I’ve always wanted to be involved in the farm.
We’re dairy and beef here. We’ve a really good milking parlour that we got in a few years ago. The old one, I don’t think any of us really wanted to be out in it, but now this up-to-date one is great. I love getting out any mornings I can. The extra hand is always good, it hurries things on.
We would do our own bit of contracting. It’s more for ourselves and we’d help the odd neighbour. The machinery is really for ourselves, because when you go looking for a contractor in the height of silage season, it’s very hard to get them. So we have our own and we’ve three big boys, our adult sons. We nearly have our own wee outfit.
John’s family own a guest house and restaurant in Newcastle, it’s the Golf Links. It’s right beside the Royal County Down Golf Course.
Back to school
Education and that there, it was really secondary for me and I didn’t attend school that much growing up. To be honest, I didn’t like it and I studied more when I left school. I realised how much I did love education when I left school. I would have stayed at home every day only I was made go.
Daddy was working and Mammy was at home with the younger ones. We had pigs and hens. I loved making up the slop for the pigs and seeing the wee piglets being born.
Someone had to be at home to help and I was always volunteering. The more you miss school, the more you want to miss it. That’s something with my own children, I didn’t let them miss, because I knew myself, when I was given an inch I took a mile.
I left school and I was doing office type work, but when I had my own family I realised that I definitely wanted to work with children. So I went back to night class and I did my qualification so I could teach early years, that’s under sixes.
It really was difficult going back to study, because the three boys were small and I had to get childcare because John was milking in the evenings and he wasn’t in until late. It was something I really wanted to do, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have put in the big effort that it was.
I work for the NHS now in Surestart. It’s working to promote early vocabulary in children under four. I’m a speech and language therapist assistant, facilitating the story time and rhyme time for the children. It’s busy, every day is different. It’s really lovely work.
Reading to children from a young age is so important. With Surestart it’s all about early intervention, their brain is developing more in those early years. I think a child, if they are struggling with their speech, they can struggle socially and their start in life can be more difficult.
Facilitating the story time, as I’ve done it for so many years, I just seemed to be coming across the same books and not having enough variety. So I decided to write my own. It’s a series called Boomer & Blanky, based on Hollybush Farm. The characters are Boomer, Blanky and Farmer John, who is based on my husband.
The first book I released before Christmas was published by a publishing house in Belfast, but the second one that was out a few weeks ago, I self-published.
This one incorporates clothes and farm machinery. The clothes have blown off the washing line onto different farm machines.
All the books will be based on the farm, because I do think all children like the farm. I know wee children who are in the town, but they still love farming books.