Being married to a farmer has its challenges, there’s no doubt about it. Being married to a farmer means that you end up being bottle-washer, calf rearer, taxi service, book keeper, midwife, cook, cleaner, grass measurer, negotiator, sales person – you not only become a farmer yourself but you have to be one with bells on! So how do you stay married to one?
1. Take Everything With a Pinch of Salt
Farmers get stressed and they say things they don’t really mean. There’s no point getting upset about it, you just have to remember that he loves you really and at that moment, your presence is irritating him because the whole world is irritating him – the dog, the grass, the cows, the rain, the sunshine and yes, you too.
We were scanning cows this autumn and I knew I had put the date in the diary so I’d be at home to help but that morning, I had forgotten all about it as I was getting kids ready for school. It was a foggy morning and I received the retort ‘You’re as useful as sunglasses in fog’ as he stomped off up the yard. ‘Hmmm, hormonal’ was my thought to myself as I got the kids out the door. What had happened was a favourite (pregnant) cow had shown signs of being on heat the day before which, of course, meant she had lost the calf. Hence, he was wondering if there were any other nasty surprises lurking for when the scanner started his work.
You have to believe you are good at what you do, otherwise statements such as ‘feckin eejit’ when you don’t stop the right calf or ‘useful as sunglasses in fog’ might get you down so take it all with a pinch of salt.
2. Learn To Cook Quickly
I’m not a natural cook. I’m not one of those people who revel in chopping vegetables and adding this and that to make something taste better. I chuck it all in and presume it will be lovely when it comes out. And, if it isn’t, I don’t lose sleep about it. I listen to how I could make it better but don’t retain that information. There are times when I cook a lovely dinner and there are days when I get the statement ‘there wasn’t too much love put into that dinner’.
Armies march on their stomach and farmers farm on their stomach too. He’s going to need his meat, potatoes and two veg to keep him going so being able to cook a roast dinner, casseroles, stews, steak, baked ham etc is something that needs to be learned sooner rather than later. You also need to be able to cook meals that could be ready 30 min early on the rare occasion he decides he must have it early, but also still taste good if he is two hours late. I have to admit that I just presume ‘hunger is a great sauce’ and it tastes wonderful if he is two hours late.
3. Consider the Wedding Date
When planning your wedding, consider the wedding date carefully if you want to be able to celebrate your anniversaries with a night out or even a holiday away. There’s not going to be a chance of getting away from it all for a few hours if you get married during the calving, the sowing or the harvest. He may have plenty of help on the farm now which enables him to get away for a honeymoon but that could change for the anniversaries!
From experience, August isn’t too bad for dairy farmers but December or January could be even better!
You have to be able to multi-task to be a good farmer’s wife! That means looking after children, cooking dinner, keeping the place reasonably tidy, writing a cheque for the sales rep that just called in and keeping one eye on the calving monitor in the corner of the kitchen all while glowing beautifully, not sweating!
5. Laundry Rules
You must establish rules regarding farming laundry from day one otherwise there will be many fraught moments. Farmer pockets have a habit of hiding important receipts or sharp nails and fencer staples. Should you happen to miss the receipts, they will be a sodden mess. Should you find the fencer staple, you’ll end up with a sore fingernail! Tell him to empty his own pockets before they go in the laundry basket and many arguments will be prevented.
6. Hone Your Telepathic Skills
Just like when you are going out with a farmer, you need to hone your telepathic skills. If you can’t understand his shouts of ‘That One’ or ‘That black one’ as you let the wrong animal through the gap, you’ll be deemed to be a total failure at identifying cattle. However, what you have to appreciate is he thinks he is being clear in his communication, just as he thinks that you know exactly what he means when he asks you to pass him ‘that yoke’.
You have three choices: attend sign-language classes together, take the shouting meekly or shout back and then make up later on. Sorting cattle can be enjoyed really as it can feel good to tell your farmer he is a blethering idiot for not realising you’re not telepathic. Alternatively, maybe you’ll have developed those skills after three or four decades of marriage!
7. Set The Table Early
It usually happens that the dinner has been cooked for quite considerable time before he comes in for it. However, it can occasionally happen that he comes in for dinner when it isn’t ready. And yes, he will be impatient. While you have the dinner cooking as fast as possible on the stove with the steam bouncing off the saucepan lid and steaming up the windows, set the table as you see him walking in. Seeing the table set communicates that the dinner is on its way. Put the latest edition of his favourite farming paper on the table too and he won’t even notice ten minutes go by.
8. Put A Sock In It
He should realise that leaving his dirty socks under the bed is almost grounds for divorce particularly if he hasn’t got to bed for the last three nights due to cows calving and they’ve been on his feet in his wellington boots for the last 72 hours.
9. Weather Reporter
Be prepared to listen to endless reports about the weather forecast and to be able to relay what it said in the latest forecast. There will be certain time of the year when every online report is checked as well as the 9 o’clock news, the barometer, the sunsets for degrees of redness and of course, scanning the sky. I don’t know about you but I could be listening to the news waiting for the weather report and then something happens to distract me and I don’t hear it at all. Big fail!
10. Excellent Navigator & Driver
There will be times when he will need you to drive the tractor or the loader. If you are like me, you may not drive the big machinery that often so each time you are treated with disdain as you check you know what you are doing. You need to be good at orienteering too and realise that when he says he wants something brought to the ’round field’, that it isn’t actually a round field, it just has one rounded corner – they just ran out of inspiration when they were naming the fields!
11. Eating Pet Lambs Without Qualms
There’s no point in having a small freezer when living on a farm as each year, most farmers will have a couple of lambs, perhaps their own chickens and a beef animal in the freezer. If you have named them, you’ll find that they taste fine after a couple of months – it takes that long to forget that the leg of lamb you are cooking was once the cute little Daisy that you delivered and bottled fed for weeks. Our little Daisy is yum!
12. Be Thrifty
There are certain times of the year when you will need to be thrifty, when there won’t be any money coming in for a couple of months and you’ll either have to have built up a cash reserve, smile nicely at the bank manager or become adept at telling the suppliers that the accountant has all the cheque books. It’s handy if your salary from the farm is still paid into a personal account each month – so you can still buy food and other essential such as books and shoes!
Driving Miss Daisy Driving Mr Farmer
You always wear a safety belt when in the car anyway, don’t you? But there’s even more reason to wear one when travelling as a passenger with a farmer. He will suddenly put on the brakes and drive at a snail’s space to look over the hedge if he spots something noteworthy in a field. To you, it might just be a few cattle or a field of wheat but he is carefully assessing them as he glances back at the road occasionally to make sure the car is still on it! When you find yourself looking over the fields too and agreeing with his comments or doing it yourself when out for a drive, well, what can I say – you need the kids to grow up and drive the two of you around!
Always bring your driving shoes with you if you don’t like driving in heels. This isn’t because he decides he would like a drink on a night out and asks if you will drive home. It’s because, despite all his best intentions, he starts to get sleepy after as little as ten minutes of driving and you end up being the chauffeur. Staying married to a farmer means taking over the wheel or you never know where you might both end up!
14. Fast Runner
If you’re not a fast runner, if you’re not capable of racing around a field to retrieve a wayward bullock, then buy him a good dog. Believe me, it will be worth its weight in gold if it is a good one. Not only will it save much shouting, swearing, panting and angst but it will be a lot cheaper than a divorce! I’m useless at running and love the fact that our dog is telepathic as well as fast.
15. Easily Entertained
I’m afraid you have to be happy with very little entertainment. Apart from not getting a night out together for months on end when it’s busy, you will probably find that when you do get away for a few days away, he finds it hard to forget about his ladies (the cows/sheep/cattle), he might even hanker after visiting a mart or other farms and will still peer over hedges. You’ll notice him brighten up as the holiday nears an end as he looks forward to seeing the other ladies in his life again.
16. Brilliant Bread Maker
You can’t be a proper farmer’s wife without being able to make bread – so says so many farm opinions! And no, I’m not talking about using a bread maker – fresh brown bread, soda bread, rolls, fruit scones, spot o’dick – the lot. There’s an extra challenge here too – if you don’t make them as nice as his mother’s baking, he will always hanker after his mum’s bread. If it is nicer, she will never forgive you! There’s no happy medium – she will either consider you as a useless case, not able to keep her son supplied with good dinner and fresh baking or she will never forgive you for usurping her in the baking stakes as well as being number one is his life.
Tip to farmer here – say that your wife is the best at baking bread but your mum’s scones are the best. Keep them both happy and you’ll stay alive.
17. Make Memories
Appreciate the small things like being able to go for farm walks together, laugh at the funny things such as when you get splattered with cow muck as a calf runs past you, celebrate the achievements with a night out, involve the children in the farm and create memories for all of you. Even the drag of bringing dinner to the field can be turned into a romantic or fun picnic with a little imagination!
And this is one for him – a helping hand around the house is always appreciated. Foreplay starts with unloading the dishwasher!