I turned green on St. Patrick’s Day, but not for a festive reason. The septic tank was clogged. Eastern Europeans who live on the farm love their fried food, but they also like to dump all that fat down the drain.
The result is a mini fatberg, either in the tank or more commonly in the manholes on the way to the tank.
Farmers usually lose their squeamishness at a young age, but dealing with foreign faeces is simply too much for me.
But these are the joys of living in the country, minding your own garbage rather than relying on an anonymous community worker to magic it all up.
Luckily I have a great set of wands with all sorts of different heads designed to screw, push or pull any blockage the human body can create.
Unfortunately, just as I was twisting and twisting the rods to shift the plugs, the head attachment didn’t disengage and disappear down the 2 foot deep manhole!
I stared into the stinking, soupy mess, muttering expletives and contemplating hard on giving up attachment to the septic tank’s fangs for the rest of the time.
But there was also a loud voice in my head warning me that attachment would simply create an additional block that might never be released.
So, with a heavy heart, I went in search of the “extra long” gauntlets, knowing full well that a new level of rudeness awaited me.
I gathered up old wooden planks to lay out over the mess that seeped over the floor surrounding the manhole.
Let’s fast-forward this account so you have a chance to finish it without throwing up your last meal.
I got the attachment. I unlocked the shaft. I have taught various people about hot oil and how to deal with their waste.
After a hot shower, I introduced myself to my wife again. She doesn’t know all the details, otherwise she would never let me near her again. So keep that to yourself.
Instead, I checked in on Twitter to see how St. Patrick’s Day is shaping up around the world.
I came across a video posted by the State Department which stopped me in my tracks.
It was a two-minute video entitled ‘We live under each other’s protection’ which reflects on the role Ireland can play in these times of strife and bloodshed around the world.
It was so beautifully attuned to Paul Brady The island that it was good for me inside.
It also reminded me of the great work my better half’s school had done during the week. The focus was on the idea of raising money for Ukraine with the sunflower seeds that we buy in large quantities on the farm for our summer cut flowers.
Sunflowers are a national symbol in Ukraine and I figured that if we put 10 seeds in an envelope with some planting instructions and charge a fiver we might raise a few shillings for the Irish Red Cross.
People are great at contributing to a good cause and this was just a way of giving back, a small thing that could bring joy and hope in the months to come.
The icing on the cake, however, was when the local national school in Stamullen got the children to put together the packs and personalize them with their own illustrations.
The results were excellent and the kids had the feeling that they were really doing something for a good cause.
So I made a post on Twitter announcing the fact that I had these packs available to anyone who wanted to raise money and was blown away by the response with literally hundreds of replies, requests and retweets, and lots of love and support .
In fact, the first thing I did the next morning was to go to my seed supplier in Holland to get another 10,000 sunflower seeds — otherwise we have nothing to plant ourselves.
But it was so rewarding to be able to contribute around €250 worth of seeds, labels and envelopes and to see this turn into €5,000 cash for the Red Cross.
It also reminded me that social media isn’t just about people taking nuggets from each other.
I’ve become very withdrawn from Twitter over the past year, mostly because every time I open my mouth, some environmental guy comes up to me and labels me an ignorant and irresponsible thug.
It’s getting boring and I’ve given up trying to get into it. Too bad, because that would be tantamount to the exit of the environmental lobby from the strategy group that was tasked with shaping the future of agriculture last year.
There are some parallels here with the war in Ukraine. The only way to stop the senseless slaughter of innocents is to get Russians and Ukrainians to talk, no matter how much they detest each other.
The only way to make meaningful progress in protecting the planet is to have environmentalists and farmers in the same space.
A bit like handling the septic tank, it’s a job that only gets more uncomfortable the longer we avoid it.
Darragh McCullough runs a mixed farm in Meath, elmgrovefarm.ie
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/comment/darragh-mccullough-what-unblocking-a-septic-tank-taught-me-about-dealing-with-environmentalists-41467622.html Darragh McCullough: What unlocking a septic tank taught me about dealing with environmentalists