Last year, I was approached by a Dublin production company that wanted to pitch a show to Irish television network, RTE, about my life as an American married to an Irish farmer and the ins-and-outs of day to day life on our farm. A girlfriend back home wondered in jest if it would be called ‘The Real Farmwives of Ireland’ complete with an MTV-style logo featuring a pair of mucky pink wellies with a shimmering gold dusted title animated across the front of them.
While that idea made me chuckle, it also made me seriously consider the idea of real Irish farm wives. I have met many fascinating + inspiring + modern women in agriculture since moving to the Irish countryside that I admire profusely, and YES, there should be a show about these ladies! I am always thrilled to meet other women who manage to farm on some level and run another business or a busy career on the side, feed a family of their own and often extra workers…most of whom are mothers as well. Some may have been raised on farms, and others like myself, moved to a farm without a clue as to what to expect.
Perhaps I won’t be producing The Real Farmwives for Irish television anytime soon, but I would like to share these fabulous farmerettes here with you all, and I hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I have.
First up is Lorna Sixsmith of Carlow, County Laois. I stumbled upon Lorna over a year ago when I was looking for an Irish online boutique that stocked stylish decor/gifts for children. In my search, I came across Garrendenny Lane Interiors and found brilliant bits & pieces on the site including a locally crafted wooden alphabet snake puzzle which I ordered straight away. I received a confirmation email immediately and it arrived two days later in the post without a hitch. After that, I realised that Lorna also had a blog and lived on a farm herself. Needless to say, she is quite an inspiration to me. I’ve been following her blog as well as her her sales in the online boutique, and am particularly fond of her amazing wallpaper selection and the die-cut prints with common Irish sayings.
Here’s a little about Lorna, her farm, family and Garrendenny Lane Interiors…
Life on the Farm
I was brought up on this farm and we inherited it from my father 9 years ago. We had been living and working in the UK, Brian has a PhD in microbiology but was brought up on a farm and would have loved to farm so we decided to come back and the timing worked well with us starting a family too. Brian is originally from Coolkenno, which is 25 miles away.
Our farm is dairy and beef, we have a British Freisian herd and keep all the male calves to beef when they are sold to the factory at 2 years. Brian has worked really hard and really enjoys it and we sell many of our replacement heifers. I don’t milk the cows, unfortunately with eczema, I am allergic to straw, hay, pollens, and depending on how my allergies are, they will determine how much I can do outside. I do help out in the spring with feeding calves and herding, etc., but have to admit I tend to be a bit of a ‘fair weather farmer’. The children vary in what they love doing. Our 9 year old son loves machinery and will spend days on the tractor with Brian during the holidays. Our 7 year old daughter loves the goats and we sometimes get a couple of pet lambs which she loves feeding etc. They help out by helping to feed calves, move cattle, that kind of thing.
What do I love most about country living? The space, the quietness, the good feelings that walking across particular fields can evoke, the views, the feeling of having nature right beside you. Farming is a wonderful (although long hours) way of life.
Garrendenny Lane Interiors was started in Nov 2007, initially as an interior design consultancy service with sales for fabric and wallpaper brands. It was started as a business to operate from home, which turned out to be a very sensible idea with the way things have altered with the economy. The online store was added the following August, when we managed to get broadband!
I used to be a teacher, but when living in England, we would buy a house to renovate and decorate and once it was finished, we would get itchy feet and move on to another project. We were both working during the day but weekends and evenings were devoted to DIY, unfortunately being self-employed now means neither of us have the time for it! After having the children, I wanted to work from home – partly to be with the kids, and partly to be on the farm, and as I enjoy interior design and decorating, I did a diploma course and it went from there.
The name Garrendenny Lane originates from the farm, I was thinking along the lines of a romantic country sounding name like blueberry lane and as we actually have a lane that runs thru the farm called Garrendenny Lane, we decided to go with that – I hadn’t realised that so many people would find it hard to pronounce! Our address is actually Garrendenny Castle, but that sounded too ostentatious so went with Garrendenny Lane.
I love going to the European trade fairs – seeing all the new products, designs, new fabrics and wallpapers, deciding what to order etc. I write occasionally for local magazines as well as Interiors magazines so enjoy the trade fairs from that point of view too, doing the research for the articles. To date, I have tended to source stock that is either not available elsewhere in Ireland or is hard to find (and many UK sites will not ship to Ireland) so I wanted Garrendenny Lane to be the go-to site when people want gifts or home accessories for their home that are different, individual, beautiful and competitively priced.
I decided to relaunch my website in 2010 as with the changes in the economy, and the fact that I was finding it hard to juggle all the balls in the air (interior design, fabric & wallpaper sales and the online store), I decided to concentrate on the online store. The existing site was very attractive, but the online store was only one small part of it and hence it wasn’t necessarily that easy for people to find. It also meant I could work around the children. I still do interior design, but it has tended to be for existing clients or word of mouth recommendations.
So to recap, I tend to source stock from European suppliers, particularly Scandinavian. However, following a survey I organised before changing the site, there is a definite interest in ‘Made in Ireland’ products and I have decided to target the UK and the USA with quality, elegant, unusual Irish products that are beautifully made by talented craftspeople and will be adding to my ‘Made in Ireland’ suppliers considerably. I don’t tend to sew anything myself I have to admit, but I enjoy taking an old piece of furniture and adding my stamp to it, but I just don’t have the time at the moment.
Will is 9 and Kate is 7. I find the balance works well, I work on Garrendenny Lane when they are in school and then am free to bring them to activities, do homework, spend time with them and I also work on the laptop in the living room when they are playing etc. They get on really well and play well on their own and together. Our living room does tend to be more of a ‘playroom’ but I prefer that and so do they so more often than not, there is Lego or a farm taking up half of it with a doll’s house taking up another quarter! The extent of my involvement in the farm varies on the time of year, Brian works long hours so it does tend to be me that does all of the running around to swimming lessons, Beavers although Brian will do some in December and Jan when the cows are dry! Then I am like a single mum again from Feb - May!
The children would love to help me by wrapping up orders, but I tend to have to dissuade them – they love helping when new products arrive and help me when I am checking the orders, emptying boxes etc (they love playing with the huge boxes that arrive – and make houses, boats, tents etc with them) They will test out the products for children too!
What is new for Garrendenny Lane Interiors? Anything special for the holidays? Tell us about your blog(s)….
There is an information centre on the website where people will find answers to many decorating and design queries, there is a wallpaper calculator on the wallpaper pages, there is a gift reminder service so people can input birthday dates for their friends and families and receive reminders so they need never be late with a birthday gift again, e-vouchers that can be emailed to the recipient, we stock many wallpapers that are either exclusive to Garrendenny Lane or aren’t widely available – that kind of explains what sets Garrendenny apart from the rest I guess.
While there are lots of other web based shops, I think Garrendenny Lane does and will have lots of advanced functionality, great products, user-friendly, good search tools, informative blog posts and articles – plus our products are different, beautiful and competitively priced!
Our Aw Go On poster is a firm favourite and of course, was inspired by the Mrs Doyle of the Father Ted episodes. It has been reduced in price to spread some pre-Christmas Irish love :), the Irish blessings in typographical prints are very popular too.
Our Irish Christmas cards provide some good Irish humour and are certainly very different.
Lorna is offering readers of this blog a special discount for purchases (last shipping date to the US is 6th Dec). Use the code FARM22, to get 15% off purchases until 20th December. Visit Garrendenny Lane online at http://www.garrendennylane.com.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my first installment of The Real Farmwives of Ireland. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!