With St Patrick’s Day coming up, a common question that is circulating online is ‘What does it mean to be Irish?’ ?Having written a book which poses the question ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?‘ and answering the question with a ‘yes’ in the book, I was inwardly amused last week to hear myself muttering ‘who would be stupid enough to marry a farmer?’ as I tried to get a stubborn (and stupid) calf to drink milk late one night. It’s not as easy as it looks to get a strong calf in a headlock and get a teat into its mouth especially when I was in serious need of a sugar boost. It’s amazing how a cup of tea and some chocolate can revitalize one – we go through bars and bars of Cadbury’s chocolate here during the calving! I was back to normal the next day but for a few hours, I was hankering after a 9-5 existence.
Are Irish farmers different to other farmers in any case? Hard for me to say as I haven’t met that many from other countries so I’ll have to leave that to you to let me know in the comments!
#1 He Has A Family Farm
Ireland is well known for its family farms and with the resurgence in the appreciation of family farming with 2014 being the Year of the Family Farm for the EU, every member of the family working on the farm is valued. Yes, that includes you. Even if you are not up to milking cows or driving a tractor and your roles are limited to ‘stopping a gap’ and keeping pet lambs fed, it will be hugely appreciated. They may let on that they expect more but they’ll be quietly proud of your farming achievements.
#2. He has an Irish Mammy
All farmers have mothers but the Irish farmer has an Irish Mammy! Is there a difference in the nationality of the mammy? Of course there is! Did you not read Patrick Kavanagh in school?
The Irish Mammy may be fearsome but she is wonderfully devoted to her children and you will become one of her favourites too – as long as you either feed him well, let her continue to give him his dinner abd /or produce her beloved grandchildren to continue the farming tradition.
#3. He Owns His Own Land
Most Irish farmers own the majority of the land they farm. While some will rent additional acres, very few Irish farms are tenanted (as is a common feature of British farming). Therefore, you can truly be mistress of your own domain and of all you survey – unless your mother-in-law lives beside you of course. Well, the bank might own a considerable amount of it too but they don’t really count! That is considered normal on many Irish farms.
He is passionate about his land – it is as dear to him as his own children will be. Land only changes hands about once every 400 years on average in Ireland. If you don’t like where the farm is, you need to change your mind because his land is in his soul, he will never move away if he can help it. Each field is named too – just like a child.
Farms can be fragmented so there is the delight of bringing dinner to the field for a romantic picnic every so often.
#4 Irish Farmers Are Poetic
Irish farmers may not be as famed for their poetry as some occupations (ie poets!) but they actually are quite poetic. He will never describe a wet day as just ‘wet’ or ‘raining’. Descriptions will include ‘it’s pouring out’, ‘that rain would cut you sideways’, ‘a grand soft day’ or maybe even ‘it’s torrential out there’.
#5 Irish Farmers Tend To Be Good Craic
We’re well known for our craic and banter in Ireland and have a good old slagging of each other. If you are out with a gang of farmers, you can never be sure if any of the conversation is serious as friendly advice and abuse is thrown around. Even when things are going wrong, they will usually see a silver lining somewhere. The expression is ‘take the piss out of each other’ which means endless teasing.
#6 Small Community Living
Living in a small rural community means that everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everything that is going on. In times of trouble, the support is there and when things are going well, ah well, people will mutter! You won’t have to introduce yourself to anyone or tell them anything about yourself when you move in – they will know it all already and may surprise you by telling you where you were last week – just in case you’d forgotten.
7. Irish Farmers Like Their Food
If you like cooking good wholesome food, it will be a marriage made in heaven. He’s been brought up on hearty dinners of half a side of beef, half a saucepan of floury spuds and two veg. In fact, as long as you can cook at all, he will hoover it up and usually be appreciative. If you prefer ‘fancy’ french cuisine or vegetarian food though, he is likely to complain that the main course is actually a starter.
8. Irish Farmers Are Fit & Tanned
Unless he is a farmer that sits on a tractor or quad for most of the day, he is likely to be fairly fit from walking to do the herding, manhandling sheep and cattle at various times of the year and generally rushing around. You won’t have to purchase a gym membership for either of you – ever! Feeding calves, walking to get the cows, walking up and down a long milking parlour, running after escaped sheep – it all provides lots of exercise.
What about the tanned bit? Well, Ireland isn’t that hot but as he is outside so much, his arms and other exposed areas tend to develop a nice tan. It stops at the shirt sleeves and shirt neck though – hence it is known as a farmer’s tan which isn’t so attractive when you see the contrast of tanned and snow white skin!
#9 Colourful Language
Living with an Irish farmer means that you will be exposed to language that you never heard before. While some will be terms like ‘yoke’ (which means any implement he can’t remember the name of) and ‘ synchronising heifers’ (which doesn’t mean them swimming in unison but getting them on heat at the same time), you will also hear swear and curse words like you’ve never heard before – particularly when cattle break out or he is training heifers in to milk for the first time.
#10 Isolation or Beautiful Solitude
If he lives ten miles from the nearest town which includes 2 miles up a grass tracked boreen, you may view it as the back of beyonds. Could you ever live anywhere so isolated? The solitude is wonderful though particularly if you have a creative side and want to spend time writing, painting or cooking, it’s perfect. If I spend more than 2 days a week in the ‘real world’ I get pangs for a full week on the farm. Yes, that could happen to you too – if you marry an Irish farmer.
So, would you marry an Irish Farmer now you know what it means to be married to one! Don’t forget to check out my book in paperback or on kindle if you want to find out more 🙂
Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC)
Despite your best efforts to convince me otherwise, I don’t think I was ever cut out for a farming life Lorna. That doesn’t mean I can’t relate to this, or appreciate many of the fine qualities of the Irish farmer. Both my parents coming from farming backgrounds and many of my relatives still farm. It’s a very special way of life that is uniquely Irish and it will always have a special place in my heart.
I’d love to know how many Irish people are two generations removed from farming – so many city people seem to have memories of visiting grandparents on farms during the holidays and at weekends. Big changes in just two generations or thereabouts.
I don’t live with a farmer but I live next door to lots… not so sure about the fit and tanned though as they drive everywhere (they’d be the first to admit that 😉 but you are so right about the other points! They have lots of land, are extrordinarily poetic and friendly, always having time to pass a few words as we meet on the roads and would go out of there way to help others. You’re absolutely right about the Irish mammy too – they are quite different from any others I’ve met! My husband would love to be a farmer and would thrive in it but not coming from a farming background, we’re unlikely to every buy a farm (even if one were available) so make do with our little smallholding 🙂
I think having a little smallholding is more enjoyable in many ways cos you aren’t dependant on it for your income – unless you are of course, then it becomes just as stressful at times as any size of farm.
Yes, there are farmers who have quads and jeeps and put on weight once they get past a certain age, usually around the 40. They’d be a lot healthier if they walked around. We have neither so he’s spending a fortune of stuff to prevent his knees giving it. Farmers struggle a lot with creaky joints too 🙂
There’s a rumour in England that Irish men are all good looking. I have to say I was expecting to be met by a bunch of gorgeous lads when I stepped off the ferry. Unfortunately the rumour was over exaggerated.
I love reading your posts Lorna but mostly you persuade me that I definitely wouldn’t marry an Irish farmer, particularly if they have an Irish Mammy hanging around somewhere!
I have to admit I often thank my lucky stars that I have my mum living on this farm, not because my MIL is terrible or anything but I think most MILs would have run me by now. My mum only has herself to blame for my non domesticated status 😉
M T McGuire
It sounds pretty idyllic. McOther is a lawyer. He works very hard but I can’t help him, which is difficult sometimes, Because I wish I could. Also he’s usually in London, or an office somewhere.
Farming sounds more like my dad’s job. Hard work and silly hours but he was always on site somewhere and popped back home for things from time to time.
Thanks M, yep, it is nice having them nearby and being able to help out even if it is hard work at times with long hours. I’ll remind myself of that the next time I’m feeding calves at 10 pm 😉 I’ve said I want calf milk by 7:30 at the latest 😉 Lawyer work in London sounds stressful to me, writing sounds much more relaxed in many ways doens’t it?
I remember you writing once about McMini’s night terrors. Our 11 y o has suddenly starting having them but we didn’t know what they were as neither of them have ever had them. Because he was vomiting and had headaches, we got worried so brought him to hospital yest. Ended up being there for 24 hours as they did various tests but all was clear thank goodness, i was imagining all sorts of things. Seems to be pre-puberty night terrors!
BUY THE BOOKS NOW
Subscribe to My Blog Posts
Subscribe to My Newsletter