He who has water and peat on his own farm has the world his own way. -Old Irish proverb.

Category: Family (Page 1 of 2)

A View from Afar

Please enjoy the view from Panama!

Madelina showing off a Christmas present:

Bebo, Yami, Chelo and Dilsa dancing the night away:

The twins, Ashley and Darinel, enjoy their first ever visit to a swimming pool:

Ana and I grinding corn for bollos, a traditional Panamanian dish:

Elsa, filling corn husks with the bollo masa:

A lovely tarantula:

The kids, alligator ‘hunting’:

The lovely Panama landscape:

The lovely Panama landscape, i.e. mud, all over my boy:

Fun at the beach:

Armando in his Panama digs:

Ana, enjoying a laugh with her Aunts:

Marcel, being a goofball as usual:

Our nephews, Chelito and Joseph:

Yami and I, mixing up the tamale masa:

The view, when we returned:


The Farmers Have Flown the Coop

Being the Midwestern, rural, hospitable and generous people that we are, we’re giving our family a long-lasting Christmas gift this year:  the wonderful and most desirable opportunity to experience winter chores for 3 weeks! 

And while they’re here basking in the winter glory and having the time of their lives…..

we’ll be in Panama, suffering with the heat and the humidity and the terrible, terrible company of friends and family.  

 We’ll suffer through the tropical fruits….

 the mountainous vistas….

the comfort of mom/grandma….

 the pristine beaches….

the fun with cousins….

the jokes and hilarious stories told by brothers…

the reminders of why you fell in love with your husband…

and the comforts of home.

It may be a long ways from Irish Grove, but it’s home all the same.

Yes, it’ll be rough.  But we’ll make it through the next few weeks somehow.  And so, since we won’t be seeing you for awhile….we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See ya in 2011!

Flynn Family Reunion

Every summer we have a Flynn picnic at a local Forest Preserve shelterhouse. Everyone in the family is invited, but usually just those of us that still live in the area show up, eat some good food, play a few games and catch up with each others’ lives. Every three years, however, is the BIG Flynn reunion. The one where everyone makes a little extra effort to come, even those that live across country.

This year was one of those years. The year for the geographically-extended family to come back to their roots and hang out near Irish Grove for awhile. The Flynn’s have been in America for 6 generations and counting.  So there’s lots of us by now.  Here’s a small sampling of the crowd.  Can you still see a family resemblance?

Lots of cousins. 

Lots of Flynn’s. 

Lots of love.


You’ve seen this picture before.  On the left is my Grandpa Lowell, on the right is his brother, my Great-Uncle Donald.  They were the second generation of Flynn’s to live on and work this farm.  They were partners, as you can see noted on the side of the truck, but eventually, as their families grew, they decided to divide the farm between them.  Our road runs right down the middle of the original farm, conveniently splitting it in two, so Donald took the west side and Grandpa took the east. 

This morning I’m wondering if these men ever imagined that 65+ years and 3 generations later their grandkids and great-grandkids would even still live in the area?  More to the point, would they have guessed that their great-grandsons would become great buddies? 

Could they have foreseen that these two boys would run free around the exact same farm where they grew up, and that they, too, will share wonderful memories of working and playing with their cousins on this lovely family land?

Maybe they did.  Maybe they somehow knew that, even in a vastly different time, the bonds between our family and our land were strong enough to keep us close to home.  Or that they were strong enough, at least, to bring us back when we had decided to take on the outside world for awhile. 

I bet if they had thought about it they would have seen the possibility.  At least they would have felt the hope that it could happen that way.  I know that I’m guilty of thinking that way once in awhile.  Thinking about whether this farm will stay in this family past my generation.  Will my kids, or Laura’s kids, or Matt’s future kids come back to Irish Grove after they’ve tried on the outside world for awhile?   What about the Donald Flynn side and their kids?  Will they?  It’s anybodies best guess, really; everyone must make their own way this world.  But I think I’m safe to say that Grandpa Lowell and Uncle Donald would be pretty pleased to see these kids, these boys, in this day and age, tearing around their barnyard.  I know it pleases me.

One question remains, however, and it’s something that haunts me from time to time.  Do you think Grandpa Lowell and Uncle Donald could have imagined this?

31 Thoughts

Two nights ago, I received a startling phone call at 12:54 a.m., from my dear husband, who had gotten stuck in the middle of a snow drift, about a mile away from home, after working a 12 hour shift, fixing snow plows that keep the roads passable, during a snowstorm that dumped 8 inches on us, with 30 to 40 mph winds.

He said, “Get dressed, don’t wake the kids, grab the tractor, don’t worry about the loader bucket, it has the blade on the back, and come plow me out.”

Here is my progression of thoughts, upon receiving this phone call:

1. I’m warm and sleepy.
2. It’s cold and snowy and windy out there.
3. I don’t want to go.
4. Marcel needs help.
5. He’s stuck in a snow drift.
6. It’s just around the corner on Trask Bridge.
7. It’s really not that far.
8. Maybe he could walk home.
9. We could get the car out in the morning.
10. Anyways, why didn’t he take Brick School Road?
11. Everyone knows you should take Brick School when it’s cold and snowy and windy.
12. Armando was sick yesterday.
13. What if he needs me?
14. I shouldn’t leave him.
15. What kind of mother leaves her sick kid alone at night?
16. What if the girls wake up and don’t find me here?
17. Marcel called and he needs help.
18. I don’t feel so good.
19. Maybe I’ve caught the flu from Armando.
20. It’d be hard to clean up vomit from the cab of the tractor.
21. And then we’d be stuck driving a tractor that smells like puke for the rest of the year.
22. I think I’ve forgotten how to drive the tractor.
23. Anyways, it’s cold and snowy and windy out there.
24. And if the situation was reversed, Marcel would not want to get out of bed and plow me out.
25. But he would.
26. And he’d come as quick as possible.
27. And he wouldn’t make me feel bad about waking him up on a cold and snowy and windy night.
28. Aw, crap.
29. I’m going out into this cold and snowy and windy night.
30. To rescue my husband from a snow drift.
31. I’m a good wife.


Rountine chores on a livestock farm can be a pain in the you-know-where because of the numerous small obstacles you must pass through in order to get to the work at hand. Whether we must check on the animals, move fences or cut hay, we have to pass through a handful of those necessary but pesky fieldgates.

Now opening and closing fieldgates is easy. Easy as spreadin’ butter on a hot summer day. But each gate requires us to stop vehicle, exit vehicle, open gate, re-enter vehicle, drive through gate, stop vehicle, exit vehicle, close gate, re-enter vehicle and be on our merry way. Usually we’re on that merry way for about 2 minutes at which point we come upon another fieldgate through which we must pass.

This is where the little whippersnappers have started to come in real handy. Now all I do is drive up to the gate, sit back, relax, and let the kids earn their keep.

Please observe the beauty of our new fieldgate routine:

Armando finds it easier to undo the chain from the other side of the gate. Hey, I don’t care. I’m kickin’ back in the truck, jammin’ to some tunes and checkin’ for nose hairs in the rearview mirror.

Look at the little whippersnapper, all hard at work. Sometimes the chain gets hooked up on the barbed wire and stops him up a bit, but the little bugger is determined, man. Ain’t no barbed wire gonna get in his way.

At this point I’ve moved on from nose hairs to my eyelashes….didn’t they used to grow thicker than this?

Oh, well look at that. He’s gotten it! Time to snap out of my rear-view-mirror beauty session and get to work.

Armando not only opens the gate, he opens it with style. Lookin’ good, bozo-brain!

And there it is. The signature thumbs-up. Gate’s open and I can drive on through. Easy as slicin’ chocolate pie on a hot summer day. I tell ya, kids really come in handy on a farm.

Next time I’m bringing along a nail file. Farms can be hell on the hands.


Your seriously inexperienced, underpaid and over-appreciated rookie Irish Grove farmers have returned from their much needed vacation. Not to say that we don’t love it here in Irish Grove, we do. But the last 3 years have been exasperatingly full of non-stop change. Change of the life-altering type.

Dad died. Marcel and I had a momentary brain fart and took over the farm. I developed stress-related Rosacea. (So in addition to grief and stress I got to look like a frickin’ bumpy red tomato face.) Grandma Ruthie died. We bought out Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jim’s share of the farm for a pretty penny. I use the word ‘we’ here in a most general fashion, if you know what I mean. Marcel and I bought the house and 5 acres from the newly established Irish Grove Acres, LLC (namely, Mom, Laura Matt and I). We also established the farm’s business entity, called Irish Grove Farms, Inc. We paid our attorney and accountant some serious cash. And then we decided to go organic, much to the chagrin of our most beloved local farmers.

Now I’ve got a question. Don’t they say that ignorance is bliss?

‘Cause somehow in my case, ignorance has been a stressful, Rosacea-inducin’, sleep-preventin’, head-scratchin’, mind-boglin’, marriage-testin’, steep uphill-battle.

Of course I should add that I decided to go back to work part-time just 3 months after Dad passed, my kids have stubbornly refused to stop growing up and involving themselves in normal kid stuff, and Mom decided to go and get married, of all things. That’s right, she’s planning on merging a whole new family into this craziness!

To the Dirkson family, I have only one thing to say. “Run For The Hills While You Still Can!” There. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

So when you heard the “Calgone Take Me Away” screams echoing through the neighborhood, I really meant it. And luckily someone did take me away. (Although it wasn’t Calgone….Marcel wouldn’t have approved.)

Someone named Marcel took me away to Panama for a whole 2.3 weeks. And it was lovely. Divine. Peaceful and serene.

We spent 2 weeks surrounded by Panamanian family and friends whom we love and who love us right back. 2 weeks of 90 degree sunshine bliss. 2 weeks of not knowing anything about world economics, Korean test missiles, or mass shootings. 2 weeks of Spanish speaking. 2 weeks of playtime heaven for the kids, who literally ran wild with their cousins from sun-up to sun-down. 2 weeks of home-picked oranges, grapefruits, coconuts, and other local fruits found on their farm.

2 weeks away from the stresses of Irish Grove. Just what the doctor ordered.

“Irish Grove, I love ya. But sometimes too much togetherness can lead to problems. Hope you don’t take it personally.”

Happy to be back and at it once more. Your favorite rookie farmer,

Country Girl Goes to the City

We leave for Panama tomorrow morning.

And it was exactly one week ago today that I had a rare moment of clarity. An awful, stressful, panic-inducing moment of clarity.

It was about 10:30 PM and I had gone to bed. I was lying there thinking about everything I needed to do to prepare for our trip. And, coincidentally, feeling rather self-congratulatory at how organized I (thought I) was.

As I was falling asleep, however, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. A horrible, dread-inducing, heart-sinking-ly terrible thought: Passports.

I knew, knew in that very instant, that Madelina’s passport was expired. I jumped out of bed, to check, and sure enough, I was right.

I have been suffering mild anxiety attacks ever since.

I can’t breathe. Can’t. Breathe.

What to do? Well, thank heavens Chicago has a passport office. (The next closest is located in Washington D.C. Or Houston, TX. Or Denver, CO.) And we found a telephone number to call to make an appointment for passport emergencies. Luckily we could get in right away, so we dropped all other plans and headed to the Windy City the next day.

Madelina was happy, because she got to skip school and make a trip with her parents to the Big City. And the Big City to a country bumpkin like Madelina is pretty darn exciting. She was all “Wow, look at that!” “Whoa, mama, look at that!”

So I gave her my camera and let her take pictures of whatever she wanted.

Here’s Country Bumpkin in her natural habitat, after climbing down the rope from the hay loft:

Here’s Country Bumpkin on her way to the Big City:

Here’s what she found exciting about the Big City.

A pretty church.

Airplanes flying over the highway. This was a BIG highlight.

The El train.

And graffiti.

But then.


Then she saw something wondrous.

Something incredible.

Something unimaginable.

She saw the Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile.

With an Irish theme, no less.

And then, well, then this Irish Grove Country Bumpkin felt right at home.

And I dare ask, who doesn’t wish they were an Oscar Mayer Wiener?

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