Just back from an evening walk. This is my favorite time to walk, no matter where I am. Having had an industrious day that included some gardening and the cleaning out of the tiny press shed in hopes that I can print there this week, I decide to take the short walk that Erica suggested: over the stile and then along the edge of the wood until I got to the top. But when I get there, I realize I don’t want to stop, so I head back down again through the field to the path that divides the pastures. The fields are ringed with electric fencing. It can be difficult to see, especially in low light, so I walk with caution. I have Simon’s stick with me with its forked top, useful for lifting the fence lines. The cows are just at the end of being herded toward the milking parlor for their evening run, so I don’t have to dodge them, and I would not have tried to walk through a field of cows at any rate.
This walk is a walk of smells. I catch a good whiff of slurry—cow, not pig. Pig slurry has an indescribably acrid odor; it is cow manure on steroids, but it is also one of the reasons why Irish dairy products are among the best in the world. At some point there is a very strong aroma of vinegar, and there is the persistent smell of silage, which is in the midst of being cut. The sour smell of manure waft up at points, and other more indefinable, at least to me, animal-y odors come and go as I walk.
Once past the cows I head up the lane, past the woman with the self-sufficient homestead (geese, goats, hens, a large garden, a poly-tunnel greenhouse and, for good measure, a tiny house at the edge of the small property) and eventually onto the road.
The road is a road and not a lane because two cars can pass on it, barely, without one of them having to pull onto the grassy edge, although two cars hardly ever meet. For the mile or so of walking I do on it tonight, three cars come by, all from the direction of Newcastle, the closest village. Three cars seem like rush hour here. At one point just beside the road there is a cow congregation, waiting dutifully for the farmer to herd them into the milking parlor. They know when they’re supposed to go, even if the farmer is late. Just past the cows is the very last of the elderflowers, their heady days past.
The road heads away from all three sets of mountains, which ring the plain on three sides, leaving a forth side open to spill out toward the flat horizon. The Comeraghs are at my right, the Knockmealdowns behind me, and to my left, the mysterious blue mass of the Galtees.
Now I’m sitting outside while the swallows dash by overhead with their evening chitter. In the distance I can hear a tractor going back and forth across a field despite the gathering darkness. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so the silage must be cut now, while it’s still dry.