Being a farmer’s wife means that you have half a dozen roles really. If you have children, you’re likely to effectively be a single parent for part of the year. You’re likely to be mistress of lots of farming jobs, to also be a cook, taxi-service, collector of spare parts, deliverer of dinners, negotiator, book-keeper, midwife, tractor driver, stopper in a gap, livestock breeder, milker of cows, feeder of calves, restorer of life to lambs and half a dozen other things.
For some reason, people expect perfection in a farm wife – be it from the mother-in-law, the neighbours, other farmers …. they all expect a farm wife to be a wholly capable woman who can multi-task with abandon and achieve half a dozen things at the same time. ?As we inherited from my parents, I have my mum living nearby and I tell myself that she only has herself to blame for bringing me up to be so rubbish at domestic stuff. Most of these tips are from her and I use them occasionally!
If you sometimes feel that those plates are spinning high in the air and are in danger of crashing in a circle around your feet, here’s a few tips to help you pretend you’re a perfect farm wife! I’m afraid I haven’t included any on how to be a sexy farmer’s wife so if you have any to share, please do.
1. Know the Many Uses of Vinegar
Vinegar has so so many uses from getting rid of limescale on taps and showerheads to cleaning windows. I put vinegar into the washing water when washing windows and apparently it makes them shine so I reckon it saves me some elbow grease. You can use it on a shower screen too and it will help get rid of the limescale stains. There’s lots more uses too but that’s enough for me for the time being. Another way, of course, is to get a windowcleaner to do your windows!
2. Baby Oil
We have a slate hearth and fireplace and nothing brings up the shine like baby oil. I just give it a good scrub occasionally ie about every two months and rub it with kitchen paper and baby oil. It looks so good that I always tell myself I should do it more often.
3. Signature Dish
Every woman in a small community needs a signature dish, something she can bring along to a community event that everyone loves and yet is really easy to make. You must, of course, guard the recipe like a state secret because the last thing you want to happen, is that someone gets the recipe and makes it too. Mine is biscuit cake – I can make it in about 15 minutes and it stores really well in the freezer. But ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone it is so quick to make.
4. Pewter rather than Silver
Don’t even consider buying silver candlesticks or anything silver! Go for bronze or pewter instead. Do you know why? When exposed to air, silver tarnishes and will need regular polishing. Pewter and bronze will actually lose some of their patination if you polish them so just give them a quick dust. Saves lots of time!
5. Adding Value
Whatever kind of farming you do, you can really show off if you make something from the farm produce. For example, if you’re dairy farmers, make your own butter, cheese or clotted cream. You don’t have to make it for sale, just enough for your family consumption and to bring as a gift when visiting others will suffice to impress. If you make your own bread from grinding your own wheat, that is seriously impressive.
6. Many Uses of Newspaper
Other people may just recycle their newspapers but you know how to make use of them for advantages. Scrunched up newspapers are perfect for drying freshly washed windows. I’m not sure how it works but the newsprint dries them with a shine and leaves them smear-free. I also scrunch up newspaper pages tight and use them as firelighters.
7. Grow Your Own
Any self-respecting wife has to produce something of use from her garden! I’ve given up on ?most vegetables and am sticking to things that are hardy and easy to grow. I don’t weed often enough either but I have the strawberries sorted for this year. We dug the raised bed over and used an old carpet (carpet pattern side down!) to cover the soil, cutting out small circles and re-planting a strawberry plant in each hole. The carpet should eventually die away (great way to recycle too) but in the meantime, it should keep weeds down too. I’m looking forward to a good crop of strawberries this year.
8. Make Jam
Growing your own fruit leads on nicely to making your own jam. You can’t serve bought jam with your freshly baked scones to your mother-in-law! Impress them with your homemade jam made from your own garden fruit. Using jam sugar makes the process almost fail-proof I promise!
9. Bicarbonate of Soda
Every farm wife needs to know the many uses of bicarbonate of soda and always have some in the cupboard. Apart from being a handy cleaning agent (often used with vinegar and/or lemon juice, it can be used to treat a calf affected by bloat.
10. Perfect Chocolate Mousse
I had never tasted Angel Delight, I was always a bit sceptical of how something so powdery and in a packet could transform into a yummy dessert so I was intrigued when a lady told me she fooled family (including her mother-in-law) for years with her Angel Delight Chocolate Mousse as they thought she had slaved over a hot stove for hours whereas in reality, it had taken her minutes. I did try it. I have to admit I wasn’t keen on the taste at all but hey, it worked for her.
If you have any tips that have worked for you, do share. I’ve a lot to learn before I finish writing this book! ‘How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife’ will be out in September, all going well!
M T McGuire
Your mum sounds a bit like mine. She uses lemon juice for some of the vinegary things, depending what she has in. I use it on taps all the time. My mum in law gave me the tip about windows and newspaper. I loathe housework so my tip is to get cleaners to come and do every two weeks so if you miss a week, yourself there’s someone else to keep it ticking over. Mine cost me ?40 a month and I’ll probably starve before I stop spending that ?40. Phnark!
I know how to use them – doesn’t mean I do so all that much. Now, please tell me you don’t get your windows cleaned every two weeks – I presume you mean thae rest of the house?
Every now and then I think I should get someone but then I think how we’d have to tidy up first (well, that would be half the battle I guess) and then I think how do I want the kids having someone cleaning for them – is it not better for us all to pitch in every now and then and do an okay job? And then I forget about it for a while. When money starts rolling in from the books, I’ll get one – feel I could justify it then – or when the kids leave home and I have no one to help me!!
I’m with you on all but the last one, Lorna! Angel Delight? Ugh! And absolutely no need when you can whip up a real mousse in about 10 minutes with just 3 ingredients. Farmers’ wives need cheaty recipes that make it look like it was harder than it really was, but without actually compromising. They also need to know how to get from scruffy jeans, wellies and wind-blown hair to “nicely presented” in 5 minutes flat!
Hi June, oh, gosh, I went from feeding calves on Monday morning at 9:30 to being dressed in my smart suit and wearing some makeup and leaving house at 9:55 hoping hair would dry by the time I got to where I was deliveirng a presentation! Yep, have that one sussed.
Agree, I have a couple of good recipes but not many. Do you have any to share?
June Molloy Vladi?ka
Here’s an easy chocolate mousse. Apart from melting a bit of chocolate there’s no cooking involved, Just 3 ingredients and it’s ready in minutes. If you set it in glasses or ramekins it will really look like you slaved and I bet it’s even quicker than the Angel Delight!
I went to the hairdresser in my wellies today, hair matted from being in a headband all day. She didn’t bat an eyelid…
That does look scrumptious and I’m impressed with the organisation too re using yolks for mayo and the whites for the mousse.
I’m pretty sure my hairdresser would look at me if I walked in in my mucky wellies 😉
Lorna this is all extremely commendable (if not exhausting – I had to lie down after #6) but the vast majority of farmers’ wives I know of my own age also have full-time jobs outside the farm (I think you have about 7? Or is that 14?)
Is there any way perhaps of wiping out numbers 1-10 and scrawling instead “bring home a wage that takes the pressure off horrendously cyclical farm earnings whilst of course garnering the eternal adulation of your extended family who never moan about anything because you’re so amazing to be doing what you’re doing never mind not insisting on a 3-month holiday in the Seychelles during peak calving season”?!
That’s true Tara, lots of farmers’ wives are working full-time now and yes, some of them will still feed the calves in the evenings or feed contractors etc. I do like your replacement suggestion but the thing is, for most MILs, even if a DIL is working full-time and yes, paying the mortgage let alone perhaps supplementing the farm sometimes, she still has to be able to do all the things that traditional farm wives did – in order to be worthy of compliments!
The teacher is seen as a ‘laying hen’ by the way, bringing in a wage and yet around during the summer to help with hay / silage / childcare etc. 🙂
Oh, my God. A laying hen! I get the sentiment, but all the same if I ever hear anyone described as such to my face the speaker will be in full receipt of a punch into theirs. 😉
Well, I think they are described as such without anyone actually saying it to their face! In the 70s, marrying a teacher was as valuable as having an extra 20 cows and they were 20 virtual cows that didn’t have to be fed or milked! Nowadays it’s probably equivalent to a large herd!
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