My name is Patrick Mulcahy, and I am the Mindful Farmer.
I live on Ballinwillin House Farm in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, with my wife Miriam. We have three adult children and two wonderful grandchildren.
We farm organic deer, wild boar, goats and – lately – Dexter cattle; it is the only farm of its kind in Ireland or Europe. I don’t say this in a boastful way, it is just the way we farm and is a mirror of the type of farming I was reared with in west Limerick in the 1950s and 60s – just with different types of animals.
My dad and I operated as mobile butchers
In those days, we produced all our own food: vegetables, pork, lamb, beef, turkeys, chickens, geese and eggs, and we butchered and preserved our own meats. My dad and I operated as mobile butchers – moving from farm to farm, butchering small animals – and every slaughter day was a huge occasion; not only for that farm but for the surrounding parish and community.
When the day’s work was complete, the women of the parish would make puddings and sausages, which would be devoured at the following hooley along with song, dance and storytelling. This is partly where I get my rootedness in the land – a rooting so deep it gives me a great sense of joy.
A private retreat
I was about eight-years-old when I first remember witnessing the daily activities on our farm. In the evening, I would retreat into the quiet and silence of the day by the river that runs alongside the land. There were many trees overhanging it and I made my own private little retreat there.
That is where my mindfulness practice began
I used to dream about where the water flowed and I would make little wooden boats: imagining my dreams and prayers into them to meander along until out of sight and into the next farm. That is where my mindfulness practice began.
Each morning when I woke up, I would imagine my bedroom window as a window of wonder and I would dream and pray for relevant issues and problems to be dealt with on that day. Six decades on, I still repeat that very same exercise as I wake each morning. I give thanks for the gift of the day, for my life and the lifestyle which comes along with farming, I give thanks for my family and then I look to my window of wonder and pray for a great and happy day for everyone I know and work with.
I designed for myself and the guests who come to retreat here
This all happens in the first three minutes of the day. It prepares me for any challenges I might encounter (and with farming you can be sure that there will be new challenges every day).
I then head for the garden and the thinking path, which I designed for myself and the guests who come to retreat here. We have three gardens at Ballinwillin: one for mindfulness, one for meditation and one for forgiveness. These are all surrounded by a thinking path of approximately 400 meters that’s complete with little messages about life, the earth and the spiritual world.
I only spend about five minutes here, before breakfast, to absorb the powerful healing of Mother Earth and its electromagnetic influence on my body. Then it’s off farming: checking the fields and the animals to give them their morning feed, which is especially important on colder mornings when extra nourishment is needed.
Food from the Earth
At around 9am, I head to the kitchen for a homemade breakfast: wild boar bacon, pudding and sausages and eggs from the hens on the farm. I don’t have a fried breakfast every morning but on a chilly morning it is very tempting. On other mornings I have two boiled eggs and Miriam’s amazing brown bread.
We farmers are the salt of the Earth and the relationship between the farmer and the land is a poem with words but also with quality produce. I will end this with my usual message to all my friends: continue to pray, blessed and powerful healing to all who need it, and wear your smile.