Farm Ireland

Friday 21 October 2016

A day of life experiences from the cruel to the sublime

Ann Fitzgerald

Published 29/06/2016 | 02:30

Ann Fitzgerald
Ann Fitzgerald

Our daughter Sarah recently made her confirmation and the day got off to a bad start.

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As Robin was heading out early as usual he swept by the hen-run with the scraps from the previous night's supper. To his dismay, all four hens lay dead.

When hit by a crisis, it's natural to ask why? We have been visited by wily Reynard the fox before, but he would just take one for food. Then we spotted a pair of neat skin punctures on their necks. This is a sure sign of a mink kill.

The American Mink is an alien species to Ireland, brought in to be bred for their pelts. Ireland's first mink farm was established in 1951 and there were 40 breeders when mink farming was its peak.

The demise of the fur trade coupled with escapes, deliberate releases and the lack of any natural predators has resulted in the mink spreading throughout the island.

It is easy to say nature is cruel but is that just a simplified explanation for a more complex behaviour?

The mink is one of a number of predator animals that exhibit what is called, obviously enough, henhouse syndrome, whereby they kill more than they can immediately eat. A few months ago, a pack of nine wolves in the US state of Wyoming were found to have slaughtered 19 elk. However, they will often return to eat more of the carcasses or bury them to eat later.

When the girls got up, Robin sat them down and gave them the news. We believe in being open in such matters.

When we first got hens, the girls saw them as pets. This was our second batch and the bond, while still there, is not as strong. Within an hour, Ruth was talking about getting replacements. Sarah will take longer to move on.

Thankfully, after that, the day got better. We enjoyed an uplifting service, after which we returned home to a delicious hearty meal (prepared by local lady and catering queen Shelagh Maher), wine and fun in the company of good friends and family, including my aunt, Sr Maura Magner of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

The confirmation was conducted by Bishop Michael Burrows, who is a gifted orator.

Having performed 200 such services to date, he decided this time to ask the confirmands (confirmation candidates) what they would like him to preach about. They suggested the journey of life.

This is a topic which, as Bishop Michael himself says, he could speak about all day. But he only had time for a few aspects, one of which was how we should all become more focussed on the journey itself rather than the destination. We should allow ourselves the freedom to enjoy life rather than always putting pressure on ourselves with rigid targets.

He spoke of how St Columba (521-597), considered to be Ireland's third chief saint, after Patrick and Brigid, stepped into a currach in Lough Swilly and let the tide take him where it would.

It took him to Scotland where he founded an abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the area for centuries.

"The more we experience, the more we are," is a saying that resonates with me and rang especially true on this day.

Indo Farming


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