Farmers, says Wendell Berry, are inherantly more attuned to the cycles of birth, life, age and death than the modern population at large. The more I allow myself to meld with the rhythms here at the O'Connor farm, the more I realize the truth of this.
The onions I planted yesterday are just sprightly little shoots, demurely pressing their way through the rough soil of the polytunnel. But they will grow to be large and delicious, filling the stomachs of my hosts and their customers.
The female calves that Gerard keeps out in a barn are next year's milkers. Their brothers will be sold to the beef people when they are old enough. Gerard believes in keeping a "closed herd." He says it's cheaper and keeps diseases out.
That dairy cow with the sick udder that bleeds into its milk is on its way out. It's not getting any better and it slows up milk production every day. Gerard told me that he's going to sell her to the beef people. He figures she'll fetch him a couple hundred euro and that all in all, her meat will likely fetch a few thousand. Think about your next steak or burger. Gerard tells me that only the younger dairy cows end up filleted and wrapped in cellophane; the older ones usually end up at the dog food factory.
The girls that I play monopoly with on almost a nightly basis now will grow to be beautiful women some day. Their aren't many asians in Ireland, so they'll stand out their whole lives. Probably lots of Irish boys will hit on them, though they'd better watch themselves with this lot. They're tough as nails.
Will they do well? Will they go to university and get nice normal modern professions? The way she plays monopoly, Anna could go into business, she's cutthroat enough for sure. I wonder, will any of them take over the farm? Gerard is about the fifth generation to work this land, yet he leaves behind no clear heir. He tells me that there's an old prejudice against female farmers, but even that is slowly disappearing. Times change, cultures change, nations (we hope) change. People, at some fundamental level, stay the same.