Story for the Day: Sowing
There really is nothing more attractive than watching two hardworking men bonding with their young sons.
Beryn stopped at the end of the path and looked up to find Aiden and Adaoire standing in the large field beside the house, sacks of wheat grain slung over their shoulders and their sons running eagerly about. He smiled and leaned against the fence as he paused to watch them.
“Come a-here you two,” Adaoire playfully growled, gripping the straps of the boys’ overalls. He plucked them from the ground, their legs dangling and their cheeks in a glow, and planted them firmly at his sides. “Now,” he said kneeling down, “we spread the ash through this here field and raked it over to put some nutrients back in the soil, right?”
“Right,” the boys declared.
“Good. So, now what we gotta do is broadcast the seeds.”
“Why are we plantin’ when the frosts and the snow are comin’, Da?” asked Little Aiden.
“That there’s a good question,” and Adaoire’s heart warmed as he said it to see his son’s interest. “We like plantin’ in the late autumn to give the wheat time to grow a little before winter sets in. Sure it don’t grow up in the winter, but the roots grow down and spread around the field. When spring comes and the ground thaws, the wheat starts growin’ up, and then by summer, we got ourselves a whole field to reap. Here,” he said, taking his son’s hand and placing a few grains in his palm, “you and your brother are gonna take a handful of grain and toss it out from left to right like this.” He moved his son’s hand from his chest out to his side. “Then, you’re gonna do it the opposite way with the other hand. This here is broadcastin’.”
“How many grains should we take to sow, uncle?” Little Adaoire asked Aiden.
“Always take a few more than you need,” Aiden replied, giving his nephew a handful of grain. “Field mice and the crows might come and take some, and some may rot in the soil. Careful, though: take too many, and the wheat won’t have room to grow. You go ahead and give that a try.”
Adaoire stood and with a gentle push encouraged his sons to advance. They went as they were instructed, sowing from right to left and then left to right, carefully watching their movements and the motions of one another to make certain that they were performing the task correctly.
“That’s right,” Aiden called out, “Take one step with your left foot, and sow with the right hand, then another step, and sow with the left.”
They observed the children as they followed their elders’ tuition, walking heel to toe one foot before the other and turning their heads to mark where the grains fell as they cast it round.
“Aye,” Aiden sighed presently, watching the children with forlorn looks, “they’re growin’ right up.”
“Don’t say that in front of Deal,” said Adaoire, smiling, “She’ll start cryin’ about how big they’re gettin’.” He paused and looked thoughtful, beaming with pride as his sons examined one another’s work. “I’m sure glad you and Tris are here to help us raise ‘em. Don’t know what I woulda done with two babes while tryin’ to look after Deal and manage the farm.”
Aiden scoffed and folded his arms. “Sure, you gave us sons to look after, Adaoire. We woulda shared ‘em even if you’d never asked. I can’t leave my brother to take care of two babes and do everythin’ in the fields myself. Besides, you named one of ‘em after me.”
“I couldn’t name him after Da,” Adaoire rejoined. “Caoimhin’s too hard to spell.”
Aiden removed his hat and playfully slapped it against his brother’s arm. They laughed, and Adaoire shooed his brother’s hand away with a dismissive gesture.
“Wouldn’t’ve minded lookin’ after the babes just me and Deal,” Adaoire said, “but we’d’ve had to get a few hands round here. Havin’ ‘em for the threshin’ and shearin’ in one thing, but I’d rather tough it out, get up earlier, go to bed later, and do all the work with you.”
The twins exchanged a conscious look, and then withdrew their gaze to the field.
“We got good girls,” Aiden observed. “They share everythin’ right along with us.”
“Aye,” was Adaoire’s assenting sigh. “And pretty soon these two will be helpin’ us all the time.” He nodded to his sons, who were just remarking the last of their grains and examining the ground for any places they might have missed.
“If they wanna help us, Adaoire,” Aiden gravely mused. “They might have a right good time helpin’ us now and all, like we did with Da when we were young, but later when they’re old enough they might wanna do somethin’ different.” He had felt the contradiction in his words as he spoke: the interest the boys had in their work, the inferences they made and the questions they asked reminded him too much of Adaoire and himself when they were young and learning the trade from their father. All his aspiration was in seeing their children inherit a farm that had been in their family for four generations at least, the last flourishing Donnegal foothold in the kingdom’s countryside. Where the name of Donnegal was once well dispersed across the breadth and expanse of Tyfferim, the death of their father’s cousins many years ago and the reclamation and reinstating of the land during and after the war had left the Donnegal name only one farmstead, though it was one of the largest in Tyfferim. He was soon forced to check any melancholy notions when the children returned, eager to continue and demanding to know what was to be done next.