The farm we bought had a km of a river without a name, about 10 feet wide, narrower in the summer and swollen during the winter. Well, in my view a brook really, but nobody used that term. The previous owners, an elderly couple that wanted to retire still had experienced salmon to swim upstream for hatching purposes. These people had no children, therefore sold the farm in order to move to a single-storey bungalow with all the mod-cons like central heating and no stairs to climb. (First thing I had done to the house was have a heating system installed when we took it over on a cold November day. While that was put in, I stayed in the hotel.)They must have been the hardy bunch to survive just on the kitchen based coal fired stove. The water heating stove in the dinigroom sent hot water up to the bathroom; heat of some kind but hardly enough for somebody who did not grow up accustomed to frosty windowpanes inside a room- like most Irish had. They were also responsible for the water pipes to be laid from the well to the house, meaning in their first years of marriage they carried buckets of water for hundreds of yards up and down hill.Ironically, they were of German extraction, their forebears came from Palatine in the late 1800's. Their family name in German meant "Miner". As we had downsized considerably from our new German home to this 3-bed house, we referred to it as the "Humble Miner's House" whereas for people in the village it was always the Big House. This was a term usually reserved for really big houses belonging to the Protestant gentry or (hated) English landowners.
Unfortunately, we never spotted any salmon in the river, only some little unidentified fish – but we were not knowledgeable in fishing anyway. The lowest point of our fields had a ford with stepping stones where you could walk through it for most of the year. The word ford still exists in ‘Oxford’ and in the German town’s name of Frankfurt.
A path wide enough for a tractor wended its way down from our house to the river through a big field. It was badly drained and couldn’t be used for grazing until we had draining done a year later. Cattle could get stuck in the mud there. Not pleasant for the rescuers either! For us it was the swampy field.
The by-product, however, was the most beautiful scene of thousands of yellow wild lilies or flaggers, as they are called in Ireland. At the end of May, I had a brainwave and thought I could sell them to the tiny flower shop that didn’t have much of a selection, mostly carnations and plastic wreaths for graves. The children and I picked arms full. By the time we put them into water up at the house, they started to shrivel as one-day creatures do. When Mac decided two years later to have drainage put into the field I quietly cried about the loss of wildflowers and the beautiful scene, sacrificing that to productivity.
Until a few years before we took over the farm, water of the river was connected to the mains and used in the village as drinking water. The pump house was still there but wasn’t serviced anymore since it had been taken out of use. The tap down by the school, however, was still working and supplying people who came to fill empty milk containers, gallons size.
I often sat by the little brook, listening to the gurgling noise of the water. A kind of mediation to ease my mind, communicate with nature, and take in the beauty of my new home- the move had not been totally of my free will.