When you mention that you’re a farmer’s wife to people, you might hear ‘Ah, but it’s a great way to rear a family!’ If you let the teller go on, you’ll see a nostalgic veil come over their eyes and you might even get a lovely anecdote from their youth. It appears, to me at least, that nothing inspires a smile as much in that person as their remembering of that life on the farm.
What's more, I’m convinced one of the reasons I ended up in this predicament, I mean marriage, was my jealousy of country cousins who owned a hay shed. One fine summer, it was filled with hay and I was filled with farm envy. I wanted to be one of those frolicking, carefree youngsters you may have read about in The Famous Five. It was about freedom in green fields and Cork city didn’t seem to offer as much of either.
And then comes the pair of icy blue eyes of a North Kerry dairy farmer who tells you that he’ll be thinking of you whilst milking the cows. What hope was there for me? Three pairs of matching blues eyes followed on and just like that, I was a farmer’s wife and mother to three beautiful boys on a dairy farm in Kerry. Who saw that coming?
As the veil is lifted, I began to see farming for real. Now, I saw it through the eyes of someone who was dependent on those fields being green and that farm being safe for frolicking.
As a farming mommy, I saw the dangers of farming as I shooed them out the door. For outside the threshold of my kitchen was also their home, our farm. Acres of green grass for adventures, hay bales for climbing and baby calves for feeding.
As the city mommy who feels the fear of the cars zooming past on the estate, I have the dread of steel gates, tractors not seeing my boys and runaway animals hurting them.
Being a hands-on and practical kind of city cowgirl, I get roped in to help on occasion. Who doesn’t on a dairy farm? To that end, I bring in the cows sometimes and it’s not chore, especially on a hazy summer’s evening. So wellies on, I head out the door, I’ve got the ‘how, how, how’ down although the cows tend to ignore my poor excuse of a call to parlour.
On a summers day, I might walk them up the road, one to three children in tow and the cows, God bless them, look massive from behind. Hefty. In fact, ludicrously big. And I think, I have my children out here with these lovely but significantly larger animals. And my older boys, while they could give any other boy a run for his money, wouldn’t outrun a giddy heifer, a cranky cow, a bull. No, not a bull!
It doesn’t bare thinking about. And yet, it is something we have to think about. It’s easy to become complacent especially if you’ve grown up on a farm and you think you know the animals well. Easy to think ‘we grew up with it,’ and not see the dangers as clearly as someone who has just walked in and seen a cow for the first time.
It’s such a busy business this farming, labour intensive and nonstop as each season hands us a different set of to-dos. In our rush around our farm, it is easy to overlook the dangers that are putting our children at risk.
This new life started when youthful dreaming and farmyard reality met and married. Motherhood, indeed parenthood on a farm requires a similar marriage. How to keep our children safe whilst promising them the childhood that will bring the look of nostalgia to their eyes as they remember an anecdote from the farm and home of their youth.
Giving our children memories of a home where they were out of harm’s reach, protected and safe.
Read more by Anne here