Tuesday, 3 December 2019

SAVING THE HAY



SAVING THE HAY

He was very meticulous about cutting and saving the hay. As soon as June arrived he was out and about studying wind and weather and examining growth in the various meadows.

“The man who waits for a fine day will always get it.” he was fond of saying.

He checked the bottle and turned on Radio Eireann for the weather forecast. They said it would stay dry. He was not convinced. He went outside and looked up at the sky and back at the towering MacGillicuddy Reeks shimmering in the distance. There was a gentle breeze from the west. A good sign. He made up his mind.

“Run down to Mikey Noble,” he instructed the youngest of us “and ask him if he could come up and cut the long meadow by the road as soon as he gets a chance.”

Mikey Noble owned a Massey Ferguson tractor and mowing machine, and was very much in demand at harvest time.

Mikey arrived the next morning to great excitement and we cleared the heavy stones away from the gap so that he could drive in to the meadow.

He started mowing at the verges and worked his way around in ever-decreasing circles until he arrived in the middle. When he was finished, swathes of grass in neat and uniform rows lay drying under the noon-day sun while nature took its course.

“God spare you in the health.” himself acknowledged as Mikey gathered up his traps and drove away. Payment would be made at the end of the month when the next creamery check arrived.

The scythe was carefully sharpened and honed. He then went around cutting any headlands that the mowing machine could not reach. Not a blade of grass would be wasted.

“It is all in God's hands now.” he observed as he surveyed the meadow of mown hay before shouldering his scythe and slowly heading for home, with the rest of us following behind. The next couple of days would be critical. Any break in the weather and the crop could be lost.

He was out and about early the following morning. A heavy dew fell during the night but the rain had held off. There was fog on the mountains but it would soon lift.

We milked the cows, ferried the milk to the creamery and did our various chores. By midday the fog had cleared and the sun was beating down from a clear blue sky. He walked over to the meadow and examined the drying hay.

“We'll give it another hour,” he decided " and then we'll turn it.”

An hour later we arrived back in the meadow with our pikes and began the tedious job of turning the hay. He led the way with a three-pronged pike, walking along and quickly flipping over the swards of grass with an ease born from years of practise. We followed with our humble two-pronged pikes and tried to keep up with him. By early afternoon we had turned all the hay and the meadow now looked like a furry blanket.

He gazed anxiously up at the sky where an odd cloud had begun to appear.

“We could be close to rain.” he predicted. However, there was little we could do now but wait. We were at the mercy of the elements.

We went home and ate the dinner and he turned on the radio to get the latest forecast. It was not good. There would be showers later in the evening.

“Come on,” he said, collecting a couple of hay racks from the barn and heading over the road “We'll rack it in to rows and make creabhars before the weather breaks.”

There was a sense of urgency now as we worked quickly in pairs, one racking the hay and the other gathering it in to small heaps. We finished as the first drops of rain began to fall. The creabhars offered some protection against the weather but it would be only temporary. If it kept raining we were in trouble.

It rained on and off all evening but there was a drying breeze between the showers. He took some comfort from this. “It'll keep it fresh.” he said.

The next morning the rain had stopped and a warm sun began raising steam from the damp creabhars. We grabbed our pikes and shook out the hay again. It was a race against time now and we kept going until it was all turned.

The waiting continued. The midday sun beat down upon the meadow and the hay slowly began to change from green to gold. In the late afternoon we turned it again, exposing more green underneath. The blazing sun continued to do its work.

The forecast said we could expect more showers overnight. He took a gamble and decided to leave it as it was, saying “Tomorrow will tell its own tale.” We headed for the house, our day's work done.

His judgement was sound. It stayed dry overnight and in the morning the mist lifted to reveal a deep blue sky and a scorching summer day.

We waited a couple of hours and then racked the hay into rows again. He went around lifting fists of hay and examining it closely. It was dry and crisp.

“We'll start gathering it now” he said, satisfied that it was finally ready to be made up.

We went along the rows, piking the hay into piles. We then collected the piles and began making them into cocks of hay. Himself directed operations, laying down the bases and then heaping hay up in to cone-shaped structures. As each hay-cock was completed we secured it and tied it down with sugáns, himself using his penknife to cut the twine to the correct lengths. It was heavy, back-breaking work and we paused occasionally to catch our breath and take a drink of water or cold tea.

Finally, we were finished. Twelve impressive cocks of hay stood straight and tall around the meadow like ghostly turrets from some medieval castle.

He sat on the ditch, reddened his pipe and puffed away contentedly as he gazed out at the fruits of our labour.

In all his years of farming it was his proud boast that he had never yet lost a meadow of hay. 
This may have meant very little in the grand scheme of things but, in his world, it meant everything.


LOCAL NOTES

CELEBRATE THE SEASON WITH MICHEAL ENGLISH:
A reminder that Micheal English will give a Christmas themed concert and will also sing a selection of his own popular songs next Friday, December 6. A few tickets are still available.  All proceeds will go towards the ongoing maintenance of St. Ita’s Hall – the Hall on Main St. that provides a warm comfortable convenient meeting place for up to 20 groups including the youth club, crafty corner, writers group, Wednesday club to name but a few. Tickets at €25 are available by ringing the dedicated ticket line on 089 4356981 or from Moss the Farmers, The Coffee Pot, Ann Lyons. O’Donoghues Spar and Kathleen’s Foodstore in Abbeyfeale,     Around the county, Ardagh where our  pastor Fr. Tony comes from tickets are available at Greaney’s Butchers, in NCW they can be purchased at the Zip Yard and in Hayes’s Newsagent.  Tickets are also available in Pat Buckley’s Templeglantine, Templeglantine PO, the PO in Duagh, the parish office in Listowel, Collins’s in Athea and Daffys in Kilmallock and Lisselton.   If you’d like to dine before attending the concert Leens Hotel are offering an Early Bird Dinner and Ticket for the concert for €45,  reservations to be made directly with the hotel at 068 31121.  Doors open at 7pm and there will be a raffle for giant hampers.

WEDDING BELLS:  Congratulations to Fiona Harnett and John Murphy who celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage in Abbeyfeale  recently. 
BOOK LAUNCH:  Fluid Forms:  Liam Flynn.  A Limited edition of 128 page hard back full colour coffee table book featuring over 90 colour photographs of Liam Flynn’s artwork will be launched at 6.30pm on Wednesday, December 11 at Abbeyfeale Library.  Everyone welcome.
SHOP LOCAL:  Vouchers will be available to give as Christmas gifts and help encourage the shop local campaign.
SEENAGER CHOIR AKA JIMMY AND THE JEZEBELLES:  25 beautiful ladies, with voices to match plus an array of African drums and Jimmy!  In Concert at Glórach Thursday, December 5 at 7pm.  Abbeyfeale’s latest close harmony choir have been put through their paces, during the past 5 weeks, by none other than Ruth and Joyce O’Leary, otherwise known as Sephira, who will orchestrate and conduct the entire evening. Therefore, we may expect a thoroughly professional performance from the ladies as they sing and drum their way through such classics as The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Edelweiss, your favourite Xmas Carols and many more tunes that have become standards.  Who knows, Ruth and Joyce may even perform a song or two! Jimmy Dennison is the token male presence in the choir, however, we have bolstered the male numbers by adding Kerry Seanachai Timmy Hannafin to the line up, who can brighten up any winter’s night.  Free admission tickets from West Limerick Resources 087 9042477.
 CONGRATULATIONS:  Jack Ennis’s uncle Padddy Finucane would like to congratulate Jack  and the Brosna team on reaching the North Kerry Football final on Sunday, December 15 in Ballylongford.
CHRISTMAS TRACTOR RUN:"Estuary Rollers will hold a Christmas Tractor Run on Sunday, December 15.   Registration will begin from 1.30pm at Abbeyfeale Mart with a fee of €20 per tractor. The run will start at Abbeyfeale Mart before heading up through Abbeyfeale Town, it will then continue to Athea, Moyvane, Tarbert, Glin before concluding for refreshments in The Knockdown Arms. There will also be a prize for the most decorated Christmas tractor. All proceeds are in aid of a wonderful local charity - Milford Hospice."

ABBEYFEALE FOR AFRICA CAKE SALE:  The annual cake sale to support Fr. Tim Galvin’s Mission in South Sudan takes place on Sunday, December 8 at St. Ita’s Hall from 9-1pm.  Calling all our usual bakers and supporters.  Home baking can be left into Batt’s in the Square for collection or delivered to the Hall on the morning of December 8.  As always we appreciate your continued support for our local man.
ARA COFFEE MORNING:  Abbeyfeale’s Active Retirement Group are hosting a coffee morning on Friday, December 6 with the proceeds being donated to the Christmas Lights.
NIGHT AT THE OSKARS: Casting night for Abbeyfeale’s Night at the Oskars was on Tuesday last in St. Ita’s Day Care Centre.  The events company will now come back to us shortly with the films that they have chosen and the participants in each film, they will then provide acting coaching .  We will shortly have a date for the commencement of the training which will take place over 4 weeks.

CONCERT:  West Limerick 102fm Community Radio Grand Variety Christmas Concert  in The Longcourt House Hotel on Wednesday, December 11 at 8pm.  Admission €15.  Doors open 7.30pm.

GATE CLOSED:  The church gates will be locked each evening at 8pm for the winter months.
YOGA CLASS:  Wednesday from 7 – 8.30pm Abbeyfeale Rugby Club.  Ring Mike on 087 2732591.
NOONAN’S CHRISTMAS LIGHTS:  The landscape is lit up with the lights from Noonan’s lights which were officially switched on last Friday night.   
MANCHESTER UNITED CLUB:  Paddy Finucane is sending out a call to old and new members to join him in reforming the Manchester United Club in Donal and Ann’s Bar at 9pm on Friday, December 13.


WEST LIMERICK SINGING CLUB: The club meet on the first Friday of each month in Philip Enrights, The Ramble Inn, Church Street from 9pm.      

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL:  Annual church gate collection on the weekend of December 7 and 8.  

FIRST FRIDAY REFLECTIONS WITH FR.  SHOJI:  On the First Friday of each month, Fr Shoji will lead an hour of Praise and Worship in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel beginning at 9am.

HARNETT MAGAZINE:  Some Harnett Reunion magazines are still available at Ann Lyons Shop and from James Harnett, also the final items of Harnett merchandise are available at Heavenly Gifts.
KNOCK ALL NIGHT VIGIL:  Pro-Life Vigil on Saturday, December 7 Saturday midnight to Sunday morning departing Dero’s Main St at 3pm on December 7.  Contact Deros  064 6631251.

GLÓRACH:  Bingo every Monday night at 8.30pm