“I’m a third-generation herbalist on my dad’s side of the family. My great-grandmother was from Sleaty, Carlow and she would have been known as a healer in those days. My grandmother took up the mantle but she would have only seen family.

I turned against it all and then I came back around again. When I was younger, y’know, I knew better. Years later my Dad was feeling unwell and he was saying, ‘Mam would help me with this,’ and it triggered my memory. People presume I am against medication, although that could not be further from the truth. I do consultations with people and make personalised tonics for them aswell as balms and tinctures, using a lot of herbs I find in the fields around me, through my business Yarrow Lane Herbs.

I am from Carlow town originally but I am now living over the border on my husband’s family farm in Killeshin, Co Laois. Neither myself nor my husband are involved in farming, but we are very happy to be living here. We have our own cat called Bowie and a neighbour’s dog visits most days too. She is looking at me here now as I talk. When she sees the car coming along the lane she runs after it and hangs around at our back door. She is a pet.

Community of Country Life

For the first couple of months I was wondering, ‘are we trying to act like the country people?’ but the community here in Killeshin are absolutely amazing. There is a local shop down the road, the pub, the cafe and hairdresser – everyone knows me now, they might not know my name but they know who I am. I feel very blessed here, it is a beautiful part of the country and they are very good on community.

I got to know the local farmers when I asked them for permission to walk their land collecting herbs. I have herbalist friends in America who have to buy nettle seed. There is nothing like the Irish countryside for me. As a choice, I would always want to be out in the country. It is just in me to want to be in the country and to be part of the community of country life.

There is nothing like it. I’ve travelled around the world, living in Australia and New York, but there is nothing that can beat driving down a country road in Ireland. I don’t care where you are from, there is a wow factor, especially around here. We live on a hill, so coming down it, the views are something else no matter what time of year it is.

I do payroll two days a week at ifac’s head office in Kilkenny. I love figures and numbers and trained as an accountant when I was younger. I like the social side of an office-based job. Any farmers or businesses that get their accounts done with us normally have a payroll. So, we run the payroll for them, for ifac clients, rather than ifac staff.

I deal with farmers everywhere from Sligo to Wicklow. I have had a few invitations to call in if I am ever passing, but the work is mainly office-based. I used to do the payroll for a potato farmer in Wexford and he was kind enough to leave a bag of potatoes at one of the roadside stalls for me one summer.

Knitting a friendship

I am part of a local knitting group here as well. It’s like having lots of grannies taking care of you. They are an amazing group of women. My friend invited me along and I was reluctant to go because I did not knit, but she promised me I would learn and that was five years ago. I have been going every week since.

We rent the local parish hall and we knit and we chat. It is so much more than knitting. We are involved in each other’s lives. When one of us was sick, the women could not do enough; driving her to hospital, bringing her food, helping her in the house. If anything goes wrong with any of us, they are there and it is invaluable – that just came from a knitting group.

It is the power of women connecting and having each other’s backs. We knit hats and scarves for the homeless and we knit a lot of cardigans for premature babies, stuff like that. It is very important to me and my life.

When someone comes in to the group, the women will show them how to do the plain and purl stitch and then once they have the hang of that, the moss stitch. They will also show you how to crochet. One of the women makes quilts so she has taught me to make quilts. It is passing the knowledge on. We are trying to pick up the thread – excuse the pun. I knit my own jumpers and I always get a compliment on them and it’s the pride of ‘I made this’.

This International Women’s Day, it is important to me that I honour the women who have gone before me. My grandmother and great-grandmother did not have the freedoms that I have, so for me to be able to go out into the world and do what I do, I could not do this without them going through what they had to go through.”

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