ST Patrick’s Boys National School in Skibbereen has won prizes for its school garden, but this semester the agrarian education is continuing in the home of local postman, Kieran McCarthy.
Kieran, his wife Mary, and their three children – Jamie (7), who is in first class in the boys’ school, Ella-May (4), and one-year old Danny – kindly offered to look after the school garden to make sure it was watered and well maintained during lockdown, but they also got three hens and three chicks into the bargain.
‘While we were looking after the hens, and their twice daily feeds we noticed that one of the hens was sitting on four eggs,’ said Mary.
Mary, who comes from a farming background, knew it would take 21 days for an egg to hatch so she said: ‘We were all on tenterhooks.’
Mary said she was Jamie’s age when she first saw eggs hatching on the family farm in Union Hall, and it was lovely for her to see that tradition continue.
‘We were there to see the first egg crack, last weekend. After that, we relocated the hens and the eggs to a coup we had prepared in our backyard, so now we are going to have a maternity clinic here for a few weeks.’
Mary said the children are enjoying every moment of it. ‘Jamie has been extremely responsible in caring for the hens and looking after the chicks.’
She added: ‘There is a natural farmer in him.’
The fourth egg never developed, but the three remaining chicks were named by Jamie. He chose – for reasons best known to himself – Grace, Judy and Rachel.
Commenting on the school garden, Mary said there is great delight – after having watered all the seedlings in the Geodome for the last few weeks – to now be planting out carrot, spinach, kale and pea seedlings.
‘We are also currently digging out the winter spuds and distributing them to our neighbours on Cork Road,’ she said.
Teacher Brian Granaghan – the driving force behind the garden project – accepted Mary’s offer of help when the lockdown was first announced with indecent haste. The fact that the McCarthy’s are knowledgeable about gardening and live close by in Cork Road were something of an added bonus.
Mary said: ‘It’s a great space. The pupils and parents are lucky to have it. And for now it has become a second playground for our children.
‘They are learning how a seed turns into a flower and have themselves been busy planting out seeds.
‘We are fortunate – given the current restrictions – to have so much time outdoors.
‘And, as tough as the restrictions are, we are all blessed that it is the summertime, and we can get out into the sunshine.’