Apparently in the 1940s and 50s, there were many single farmers in Ireland – partly due to not being able to afford to marry as they looked after aging parents and partly because some women had decided that marrying a farmer would be too much like hard work and wanted to marry those with other professions/jobs.
Admittedly, it can depend on the type of farming and the size of the farm. However, the advice tends to be relatively standard – farmers tend to be similar in many ways!
I’ve been married to Brian for 20 years now, 10 years as a scientist where he worked mostly 8-5:30ish and did all the cooking as well as lots of DIY. For ten years too as a farmer when it couldn’t have been more different, he’s working longer hours but is around most of the time but does very little cooking. We were just saying today that when we retire, he can claim the kitchen back again and I’ll gladly pass it over to him. Now I’m counting the years to retirement!
Here’s the advice if you are thinking of marrying a farmer:
1. Sorting Cattle
When sorting cattle, bear the following in mind: (sorting means dividing a batch of calves or cattle into 2 groups, perhaps separating male from female calves or dividing them according to size/thrive).
You will probably be standing by a gate as your loved one sends the relevant calves or cattle in your direction so you can let them past the gate into the shed. However, if a wrong one comes towards you (beside another one or even two) you are supposed to intuitively know this and wave your stick to separate them, sending the wrong one back to the batch and the other into the shed.
‘The black one’ – does not mean that the animal is all black. It simply means that it has slightly more black on its coat than its comrades. The same goes for ‘the white one’!
‘The bull, let the bull in’ doesn’t help when you have 3 calves heads coming towards you and you can’t see between their legs.
‘The biggest one’ – You must learn to tell the difference in size between calves, even if one is only an inch or so taller than the other.
Above all, you both must appreciate that any bad language hurled at each other while sorting cattle can be forgotten about once they are sorted into their two separate batches. In fact, bad language is expected and can even be enjoyed as at what other time can you tell your loved one he is a F**king idiot for not realising you’re not telepathic.
2. Moving Bulls
Moving yearling bulls can be a dangerous task and it is important not to belittle the dangers. Having a good cattle dog is imperative and we are lucky we do. But it still involves standing in a gap at some stage, behind a gate pulled over partially if there is one there, gripping a sprong or pitchfork tightly ready to jab it into a bull if need be.
When moving yearling bulls and your husband leaves the door on the tractor open so that you can jump in should the need arise, it is comforting to remember that should a bull attack you, that you 1) have good life assurance and 2) that your husband will probably risk his own life to save you!
Tip: it helps if you wave your arms, dance and shout too at the bulls if need be. No one but your husband will see you so don’t worry about looking a fool.
3. You Become A Chauffeur
When driving anywhere, your husband is likely to fall asleep after an average of ten miles so you turn into a chauffeur if you are travelling with him – doing the driving while he nods away in the passenger seat, waking at intervals to marvel at how quickly the journey is going.
4. No Domestic Gods
Even if your husband cooked most of the meals pre-farming or pre-marriage – don’t expect that to continue. The children see it as a novelty when Brian cooks which I find worrying so this winter, he (as a much more creative cook than I) is going to teach our very keen 8 year old to cook some meals and experiment a bit too. I, for one, can’t wait for the cows to be dried off!
5. Illness is not recommended
Don’t get sick! Once your husband has milked cows and calved cows for a week while experiencing ‘flu – you will never get sympathy again. Instead, there’s no time to get sick – according to farmer husband.
6. Single Mum for Ten Months of the Year
Driving children to activities coincides with milking cows. You might have friends who go to the hairdresser on a Saturday while their husband brings the children to football. Forget about the hairdresser – you’ll be standing at the side of the football ground. Fancy a quiet peaceful hour in the evenings? – you might get it if you’re waiting in the car outside a Scout hut. Remember too that most farms are at least 20 minutes drive from all these activities so it is a case of doing the grocery shopping or sitting in the car as it’s not worthwhile heading home and back in.
7. Scrub up well?
Farmers aren’t known for their dress sense but for hard wearing jeans, t-shirts, warm jumpers, dirty wellies and yes, splattered with much on occasion. One advantage is that when he (and you!) do get scrubbed up for a night out, that you both look pretty impressed with each other and fall in love all over again
8. Chauffeuring again
Going on holidays or travelling different roads than he normally would means that your farmer husband has lots of entertain him when he does wake up occasionally in the passenger seat – as long as you’re not driving along the motorway! Looking over the ditches to see what crops are going, how they are yielding, at the quality of the grass, if silage has been cut yet, whether the cows look in fine fettle or not – it’s all fascinating to a farmer. Expect your conversation to be interrupted by ‘they have their cows out already’, ‘wouldn’t it be lovely to have a dry farm in Cork’, ‘those cattle could do with feeding up’, ‘that silage is light/heavy’ etc
9. Telepathic Wives Required
Being telepathic is handy. We usually have our main meal at 3:30 when the children are home from school. When they are on holidays, it tends to be a bit earlier, 2:30-3ish. I tend to text him to let him know it will be ready shortly as heaven forbid he might have to waste 5 minutes waiting for it. However, even texting him may get a reply that says ‘be home in an hour’ or perhaps no reply at all and then he wonders why the dinner is dry/burnt/less appetizing. However, my cooking is sometimes not the best to start with so blaming lateness can sometimes be handy!
10. Signature Dish
When you marry a farmer, you also marry the farm, his mother, his father, the rest of his family, the dog and all the neighbours. There’s often lots of parish and community events for which you will need to bring a dish or ‘traybake’. Apart from the fact that people will know lots about you, you may be judged on the quality of your own ‘signature dish’ so it’s great if you have one up your sleeve. Never compete against your mother-in-law on this by the way – choose something that is completely different. Biscuit cake is mine – easy to make and everyone always loves it.
Still thinking of marrying a farmer? Now that I have derided the occupation, I’d love to hear what farmers’ wives (and wives to other occupations) think?!
Update: 24th November – this blog post became so popular that it inspired my book ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’ which is now out and can be purchased here. It’s a quirky and witty look at life married to a farmer and how you can prepare yourself as well as staying married to said farmer!