Rural rhymes

Feeding the Calves

Niamh Kelly

The tractor engine quietens down to low rumbling.

Shed door hinges rattling as calves start to demand fresh milk for a drink.

Churns are rolled along through puddles and mud.

The metal casing warmed by its contents, resisting coldness in the morning air.

The door is swung wide open, forward push the snouts of hungry calves.

Before they try to go escaping into farmyard fields,

the doorway blocked again by human legs.

Two hands raise up a churn to pour without a single spillage. Skills learnt from routine.

Full buckets carried into calving pens and slotted onto bars of gates.

The calves attempt to climb each other over to the feeder, so impatient to propel themselves in front to suckle first on milk.

Another chore is finished. Farmers watch delightedly at wagging baby tails before satisfied calves fall asleep.

Tweet of the week

Growing Wild

with Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc countryside management specialist

Look out for guelder rose, which is not a member of the rose family, but a hedgerow shrub growing up to four metres tall. Guelder rose thrives on damp soils, often near a drain. It is found in limestone areas.

The large heads of showy white, fragrant flowers are very distinctive containing two different flower types. The outer edge of the flower head has a circle of larger flowers which are sterile, their function being to attract insects.

There is an inner disc of smaller flowers, pollinated by insects, becoming bright red translucent berries in autumn – part of our native Irish biodiversity.

Chef’s tip

With my parents visiting from Canada, we have been indulging in some of my family’s favourite meals over the past few weeks. We love a good casserole, and a few days ago we made one of my death-row meals: curried chicken and broccoli bake.

It’s basically a divan - the classic chicken and broccoli bake - but with a few added ingredients. Mix together 1tbsp of curry powder, the juice of a lemon, a can of condensed cream of chicken soup, a container of sour cream, a big dollop of mayonnaise and thin it out with some milk or cream.

Season with salt and pepper, add a big handful of mature Irish cheddar and pour over cooked diced chicken and broccoli florets. Top with crushed cream crackers mixed with melted butter and bake at 190°C for 45 minutes - serve with rice. Perfection.

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Welcome to a week in the country

Welcome to a week in the country