Back when you couldn't come in from the cold
A Romanian girl who is currently working in Ireland as a teacher was the subject of an article I read recently.
A Romanian girl who is currently working in Ireland as a teacher was the subject of an article I read recently.
While attending a funeral recently, I found myself musing on how uplifting and therapeutic the entire ceremony was.
After decades of dithering, the Government, with seemingly great reluctance, has finally legalised the use of medicinal cannabis.
It is estimated that by 2030 computers will have become more intelligent than humans. Given the low standard of Dáil debates, you could be forgiven for thinking that this has already happened.
Farming is, yet again, in crisis. Now where did I hear that before?
When viewing hardwood thinnings stacked ready for haulage at roadside, how often have you heard the statement "It's only fit for firewood".
Christmas, with all the associated lunatic shopping, is now long over.
A number of years ago I saw Michael when driving along one of the many byroads of Co Leitrim. He was walking slowly, with a stick in his right hand, and on his left shoulder he carried, with obvious difficulty, a large branch.
Small outlying farms can be a hindrance as well as a help. Anyone who has to travel daily to check on livestock or move them to and from land that is perhaps 10 miles from their home farm will know what I mean.
Occasionally I find myself fortunate enough to attend an event that will remain in my memory for decades.
As I write this, it is early October and the annual leaf fall has just begun. With the shortening of the days, glorious colour changes in the trees and hedgerows are slowly altering the landscape.
We have all heard of places that have an evil aura and a sense of doom about them.
With so much discussion regarding Britain's exit from the EU taking place, it is perhaps timely to, yet again, evaluate our feelings about our nearest neighbours.
Contributors to the media are constantly seeking news that will capture the reader's attention.
One of the nice things of being one's own boss is that we are in control of when we take time off.
Good news has been a scarce commodity in the agricultural sector in recent months but the announcement that the European Investment Bank, along with others, is to support a €200m investment in Irish forestry confirms that the industry here has finally come of age.
Here in the east of Ireland, we have been enjoying an unusually dry winter with relatively high temperatures.
Books on self-help and business management have always been popular and many of them make useful reading, but one I picked up recently comes from a very different angle.
It is only as we grow older that we understand fully the truth of the saying: "The more we know, the more we realise how little we know". We never stop learning and every day is a school day. Almost regardless of age, the career opportunities available nowadays are greater than ever, but how many make the most of them?
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. That has never stopped me making New Year resolutions, however, even if many of my aspirations fail to reach fruition.
During autumn and early winter broadleaved trees are a stunning sight.
We should hold yet another referendum to decide, for once and for all, who actually runs the country. Is it the Government or the trade unions?
Winter is upon us so once again we have to contend with those long, cold, dark and damp nights that chill the bones unless we have a decent heating system installed to keep us warm.
Young people are being constantly advised to save a portion of their income on a regular basis. This is, of course, wise and sensible as it can then grow into a worthwhile amount to use as a deposit on a house, a pension or just to provide security for those inevitable rainy days that affect most of us at some point in our lives.
Two books, both of them recollections of childhood during the 1940s and 50s, came my way recently.
We all get strange ideas from time to time and yet when we think them through, sometimes they are not so odd after all. Who would have thought we would ever be purchasing bottled water, yet fortunes have been made from its sale.
A recent visit to some well-known gardens in Co Wexford made me ponder on what truly deserves the term "great".
'There's nowt so queer as folk" is an old saying that I always understood had been written by Robbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet who composed 'Auld Lang Syne'. I was mistaken, however, and apparently it is of Welsh origin. It obviously means that people sometimes behave in a very strange way and is of little importance other than I was reminded of it while reading newspaper reports highlighting outbursts by a few individuals who were demonising forestry in Leitrim.
The recent referendum in Britain has thrown up more questions than answers. While a small majority voted to leave the EU, no one seems to quite know why.
For the majority of farmers, choosing the right car can be challenging as it is difficult to justify owning a comfortable and reliable family car and also a jeep-type vehicle for towing.
An amusing email I received recently describes a conversation between an elderly man and a young man concerning life during the older man's youth.
Asking the question "What the EU has ever done for us?" is a bit like that famous moment in the Monty Python film The Life of Brian when a group of Judean revolutionaries, led by that brilliant comedian John Cleese (pictured), belligerently asked: "What have the Romans ever done for us".
While reading Paul Theroux's latest book Deep South which relates his experiences during four seasons spent wandering through the Southern States of America, I realised that I drive almost every day, along lovely country roads but frequently fail to notice the finer aspects of the landscape.
Forestry conferences can be tiresome affairs with the only benefits being the opportunity to meet with fellow timber growers and share ideas during the breaks.
Gender equality or sex equality, is the view that both men and women should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender.
While having what little is left of my hair trimmed recently, the barber, an affable and courteous young man began with the standard conversation opener "Are you doing anything nice for the weekend?"
Gardening is such a huge and wide-ranging subject that it leaves us all in need of advice and inspiration. I can think of nowhere better to get both than at the upcoming Bloom festival. Now known as Bord Bia's Bloom, the festival takes place in the Phoenix Park Dublin over the June Bank Holiday weekend.
What a difference a day makes. In Ireland, when the sun shines, our rural landscape comes alive.
Have you ever spent a freezing evening standing on the edge of a football pitch, proudly watching your son or daughter competing with the under 10s, or maybe just loyally following your local club playing an away game?
When I was in my early twenties a friend and I got the bright idea of running a mobile discotheque. I mention this because it was so successful we found ourselves earning more money than we ever had before in our young lives. There wasn't much competition then and like so many things in life that succeed, timing was everything.
The floods that hit many farms in the West last winter made compelling viewing on the TV news at that time. There is nothing however to compare with seeing something at first hand and when in Kinvara recently, a friend took me on a tour of some of the worst affected areas around Ardrahan in Co Galway.
My local town of Kilcock no doubt mirrors hundreds of similar towns throughout Ireland which were formerly prosperous and then began to fall in to a long, slow and seemingly inevitable decline.
There are many ways of getting rich and some say one of the easiest is to write a book on that subject.
There is much soul searching taking place in Ireland these days regarding who we are, what we have achieved and how society is to be managed for the coming decade.
We are in grave danger from the imminent arrival of a bewildering new range of pests and diseases. Year round rises in temperature have already facilitated an increase in the numbers of insects that prey on our trees.
Whenever the legendary American investor and billionaire Warren Buffett speaks, it is always worth listening.
Despite some who would look at the past nostalgically, Joe Barry argues that we are one of the most equal and prosperous nations on earth.
Have you ever wondered at the difference between the service the veterinary profession provides and that which we humans receive when we are ill or injured?
A recent TV programme showed a startling experiment in human behaviour being carried out on the streets of London.
While writing this I found myself returning again and again to the reasons why I now try to consume only organic produce, either from my own garden or from the nearby organic markets in Trim and Naas.
Bananas are one of the most popular snack foods available. They are tasty, full of healthy vitamins and minerals and arrive conveniently self-packed in their own bio degradable wrapping.
No one believes in fairies anymore, do they? Of course not. Ask most people and they will say that it's all old superstition that has no place in the modern world of the 21st century.
As often as possible, I try to visit Dublin on a Sunday. It's nice to stroll around town, have lunch in one of the numerous good restaurants and spend an hour or two in the book shops and then head home again.
The recently launched d 'Land Availability for Afforestation' document is welcome and has appeared following a lot of time and study spent on the issue. It confirms there is too much marginal land lying semi idle at the moment and the owners of such land could greatly benefit from planting it.
My phone line was down recently thanks to one of those many winter storms which we will all just have to get used to.
It is difficult to turn on the news these days without hearing mention of the housing crisis.
Even the most sceptical among us must by now be convinced that our climate is changing. We might argue over the causes but the effects are dramatic.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Sceptics might laugh at this but in general, if we have the right attitude to life, we can always turn difficulties to our advantage in some small way.
Like many adults, I tend to view Christmas time with mixed feelings. While I abhor the commercialisation of this holiday period and the pressure it puts on parents and others to spend lavishly on family and friends, I cannot forget the magic it brought to my own childhood.
Whenever I visit the Burren or pretty much anywhere in the West, my thoughts always turn to the attractions of moving to a small house with perhaps an acre or two.
Perhaps this comes from leading a sheltered life but up to very recently, I had no idea what Black Friday was or what it meant.
Sometimes one picks up a book with a touch of apprehension and a slightly heavy heart. You know that feeling, when you cannot help but think, this is a book I know I really should read but do I want to?
If we are to believe what we are told through the media, eating meat has the potential to kill us. Funny one that. I seem to recall also being told some time back how dairy products were lethal.
The Irish Timber Growers Association held a field trip recently and for once we gathered in a place which was easy to find, had good car parking and actually contained excellent pubs and cafes.
Do you live near a town or village in a rural area and within the commuter belt of any of our large towns or cities? If so then you will no doubt share my outrage at the way that town centres are being allowed to wither and die.
Didn't our team's performance in the Rugby World Cup make us all feel proud to be Irish despite the disappointment of last Sunday's exit to Argentina? There we are, right up there among the best in the world, showing far larger nations what can be achieved in international sport.
Wicklow is frequently referred to as the garden of Ireland. It is a place of great natural beauty and also contains some of the finest gardens that are open to the public, which include Avondale, Kilruddery, Mount Usher, Powerscourt, and many others.
While on my way to our local post office recently, I ran in to a friend who mentioned he was about to visit the Men's Shed. "The what?" I said. "Our new men's shed" he replied, "Follow me, we can have a cup of tea there"
One of the few good things about the darkening autumn evenings is that they remind us it is time to plant spring flowering bulbs.
When producing meat, milk or corn nowadays, the margins over costs are tiny and any saving or benefit can make the difference between profit and loss.
Farmers are notorious for ignoring issues relating to their general physical wellbeing.
I have been taken to task in the past for writing too fulsomely about the books I review. This would be fair comment except for the fact that I only write about those I really enjoyed. The hundreds that I pick up and read a chapter or two of and then discard are simply not worth wasting time on.
There is no break in the empty silence save the whimper of the winds. Not a bird voice is upon the air. Nothing but pasture and sheep and stone walls and the western wind and loneliness." So wrote Michael Bulfin as he passed through Connacht on his famous cycling trip round Ireland in the early days of the 1900s.
Standing in the bog of Allen near Lullymore recently, I was struck by the vast potential on the cutaway sections for the installation of solar panels.
The onset of autumn always brings with it a bittersweet feeling.
At this time of year businesses tend to shut down and like our politicians, many people take time off and maybe enjoy a lengthy holiday.
The recently published figures from Failte Ireland for last year's most visited Irish tourist attractions make interesting reading.
Being an avid reader, I frequently write on what I consider are the best of the many books I have acquired. Occasionally I get taken to task for mentioning one that is long out of print but readers should take note that there are excellent internet bookstores such as Kenny's bookshop, Alibris, AbeBooks and others who stock a huge range of both current and out of print literature, frequently at very reasonable prices.
Given the good weather we are enjoying and the ever-improving standard of our guest houses and restaurants, a holiday at home in Ireland surely beats travelling abroad.
In the early 1900s, William Bulfin cycled throughout the length and breadth of Ireland and wrote in detail of the people and places he encountered on his travels.
Harvesting and chipping entire trees is a woodland management system that is new to most of us but given the current demand for wood chip it appears to be a useful option. Everything, including the branches gets used up, so it really is only appropriate on dry sites that don't require brash mats for heavy equipment.
At 7.45am on the opening day of the Bloom show in the Phoenix Park, I made my way from the already busy car park to view the show gardens before the main crowds arrived.
As I gazed out of my hotel window, a gale blew in from McSwyne's Bay bringing with it bursts of hail and stinging rain.
There are many differing opinions regarding what type of building design is appropriate for the Irish countryside. A clean, simple, unfussy look is generally accepted as best but residences of all appearances, shapes and sizes continue to spring up along our minor roads and lanes, often in the most unlikely places.
When walking through the countryside, it is not uncommon to come across rows of daffodils or a line of fine beech, oak or lime, unconnected with any buildings or earthworks and surrounded only by open pasture. It can be fascinating to ponder on their origin for they are often all that remains of what was once a fine garden or estate.
April was a wonderful month, especially given the great spell of fine weather in the latter few weeks. The ground had dried up well and we were kept busy drawing out the thinnings from the winter felling. It is important to remove these promptly and stack them in an airy, open place.
The referendum on May 22 will decide if people of the same sex should be allowed marry. We are also being asked to vote on whether or not we should reduce the age barrier for people standing for President from the current 35 years down to 21 years.
The announcement by British firm Center Parcs of its plans to develop a holiday village in Coillte woods near Ballymahon, County Longford is great news for the rural economy.
There was a remarkable range of products on view at the recent Energy Show, a popular event now held annually at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
Our concept of poverty has changed dramatically over the centuries. Being poor used to be almost a prerequisite for admittance to heaven, but somewhere along the line, attitudes changed.
It is now 20 years since I first planted trees under what was then a new and innovative afforestation scheme. After much lengthy planning and research, I eventually planted approximately 150ac. Happily, this proved to be an excellent investment.
I wonder how many others share my intense dislike of shopping in large supermarkets.
The REPS scheme has been one of the best and most innovative farming initiatives I have been involved in to date.
Most of us will at some point in our travels have seen the lovely thatched cottages that partially line the main street in Adare, Co Limerick. They make a striking tourist attraction, as do the equally quaint cottages at Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.
There are so many wonderful places in Ireland to visit that I feel time may be running out if I am to get to them all before I die.
When I was a child, regardless of the main farm enterprise, virtually every farmer kept a cow.
It is widely believed that you can't buck the markets.
It is a well-known phenomenon that people like to travel abroad to view ancient monuments and sites of great historical importance.
Cold hard weather is great for the sale of wood fuel but not so welcome for our wildlife.
Hardly A week goes by without our reading some article on food related health issues.
In his memoir What the Curlew Said , the late John Moriarty described how when he was a young boy growing up on a small farm in Kerry, a broody hen would be kept in safety sitting in a butter box under the kitchen table.
Towards the end of November I spent a few days driving through Connemara to view at first hand the landscape described in a fascinating book titled 'Connemara after the Famine". Written after the Famine, it contains the records of a survey carried out in 1853 to assess the value of the Martin estate which had recently been put up for sale.
Over the past 50 years we have seen periods of both inflation and deflation, along with decades of economic stagnation.
"Let's Connect" was the cheery heading on a letter I received recently from my local bank.
While listening to news of the protests against the installation of water meters I had what is often nowadays described as a 'light bulb' moment.
Forest Research Ireland (FORI) has recently published a report announcing a draft of measures to expand on and improve forestry research in Ireland. Initiatives such as this have to be warmly welcomed in these rapidly changing times.
Walking in the great outdoors is well recognised as being one of the best possible tonics for both our physical and mental well-being.
The benefits that flow from having a large group of farmers gather under one roof to talk about forestry and timber should never be underestimated.
There has been some lively discussion since the launch of the Draft Forestry Programme 2014-2020. Surprisingly, many of the comments have been negative and because of this and having welcomed the programme initially, I felt I should study it in further detail.
Autumn is perhaps our loveliest season of all, especially when the weather is as kind as it has been this year.
One wonders where it will all end. If the current prices for beef, lamb and corn tell us anything, it is that any farming system that is not losing money is probably only operating on a shoe-string.
The following is an amended version of an email I received recently. The original made me think of how much the experience of childhood has changed in 60 years.
An Irish homeowner with a new mortgage of €200,000 is currently paying almost €4,000 more in interest per year than his or her Eurozone counterpart. This startling fact was revealed recently by Brendan Burgess on the financial advice website Askaboutmoney.com.
At last we have a machine that is designed specifically for farm forests and mixed species woodland. It has been a long time coming but finally, after two decades of the current afforestation scheme, we now have a forwarder available that is specifically designed for Irish woods and Irish conditions.
On summer evenings just after sunset, when the swallows and house martins are heading for their nests, hundreds of bats emerge and take over the task of patrolling around my home, helping to keep the flies and midges under control.