When Jack and I met in 2014, I had recently “unemigrated,” moving back home to Ireland after six years in the U.S. I was one of the lucky ones, finding work shortly after my return. The job brought me to Dublin, and it was there I met the man who would soon have me herding cattle, wrapping bales, and unable to resist a pair of purple wellies at the Tinahely show.
He was a part-time farmer back then —working in finance in Dublin during the week and farming at the weekends. I was fascinated by this double-life of sorts, and had a thousand questions, a good many of which I asked that first night over drinks in the Porterhouse, Temple Bar. (Two and a half years later, and no doubt Jack would be quick to add that I haven’t run out of questions yet.)
We covered a lot of ground in those early days, and it was during our third date, if my memory serves me, that Jack told me he would never live any place other than Kildare. Even if he could, he wouldn’t want to, but as a farmer, a landowner in his own right, and the eldest son in a family of six children, his future was, in a way, already mapped out for him.
It was a strange concept for me, someone who, in my twenties, at least, would have been considered a “gypsy soul” of sorts, moving around once every two years or so —first to Scotland to study, then to the U.S. and various cities within when jobs and Visas willed it. I’d lived in many different places without finding “home” in any.
While I didn’t think much more of Jack’s disclosure at the time, now, almost three years into our relationship and more savvy to the realities and responsibilities of farming life, I wonder if perhaps, without even realising, he was testing me back then —issuing a fair warning, my get out of jail free card. Because just as farming itself is an undertaking, so, too, is embarking on a relationship with the one who subscribes to that life style. I make that statement as the girlfriend (and sometimes silage-widow) of a man who in his first year of full-time farming experienced a BVD outbreak, a tractor accident and the theft of a quad bike —not to mention the worry and frustration of payments that were delayed or refused. And what he went through, I went through, too —albeit with one degree of separation.
Indeed, being with a farmer is not without its challenges. But Jack’s loyalty to the land has never been one of them.
I think it was no accident that I met Jack when I did. When I came back to Ireland, it was because time and distance had afforded me clarity. I might have taken the long way round about doing so, but I had finally realised where “home” was, and I was ready to put down roots. That not long after, I should meet a farmer —someone who by the nature of their profession is tied to the land— seemed fitting. After so much movement and upheaval, it was a welcome change to meet someone who was, by occupation, synonymous with being stationary.
So perhaps there’s some irony in the fact that now, two and a half years later, I find myself unpacking once again and settling into life in another new location —this time, in the land of the Lily whites, and Jack’s home county of Kildare.
I don’t know what the future holds: who amongst us does? But I find myself looking forward to 2017 with a quiet eagerness. Though I write about the trials and tribulations and the lessons and the laughs that go with it, up until now, I’ve been experiencing life as the partner of a farmer from somewhere on the verges. But that part of our journey has come to an end. With the Dublin-Kildare divide no longer between us, I’m in the thick of it now. And happy to be so . . . though I might well sing a different tune come March when the calves and lambs come thick and fast and nights of uninterrupted sleep are few and far between. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
For now, I’m savouring this latest stage in our journey. I take nothing for granted, of course, but it’s a nice feeling to have as we head toward a new year —that feeling that though in transition once again, this time, things are moving in the right direction.