The Un-Ordinary Life of a Farmer’s Wife
By Lois Hoffman
From the author’s experience, farmers typically spend more time “on their dirt” than with their wives.
Photo by Lois Hoffman
A farmer’s life is anything but ordinary. There is never a schedule; no plans for anything. The weather dictates chores of the day; he dabbles in welding, forging, woodworking, mechanics, and predicting the grain markets, among other things. He or she works the most unusual hours.
Needless to say, it takes a special kind of woman to be a farmer’s wife, partner, or significant other. During planting and harvest seasons, there are other titles that she also holds–some of them we probably shouldn’t talk about. If she wasn’t born into this kind of life, it doesn’t take long to find out whether she has what it takes to hack it year after year.
You Change Clothes. Often.
When you are on a farm and you venture out of the house, you get dirty, period. Even if it is only to walk to the barn to ask hubby a question. That does not exist. It never fails, there are always innocent little tasks like, “can you hand me that wrench,” “grab the grease gun (really, can you not see that I have a white shirt on!), “I lost a nut under there, can you just crawl down and get it”, and a lot of other little tasks. So, in five minutes or less, you go from clean to grubby.
He asks you to go to town and get groceries, because it’s too wet to get in the field until at least noon. So you put on your clean clothes and head out the door when you hear the roar of the combine heading to the field. OK, so you head back in and put your grubbies on.
But, you really need a few groceries so, after a long day, he says he is just finishing up a couple things in the barn. You wash up a bit, change clothes and finally make it to town. On the way home, you get a text (you just know what it is, and your first thought is to ignore it, but you don’t). “When you get back, I need just a little help holding something.” OK, change clothes again.
I used to wonder how comedians on TV changed costumes so quickly between skits. Now I know!
Meal Prep is an All-Day Affair
We gals all have best friends, but they all take a backseat during planting and harvest season. Crockpots and Instapots become our new best friends. Supper is when the day is done–whenever that is–and it can be anywhere between noon and midnight. You guessed it: It all depends on the weather.
It’s a good thing that we are good at multi-tasking. We can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner ready at the same time. We need to be creative for lunch, making something that can stay hot or cold and is easy to transport to the field besides sandwiches. Most things will stay hot or cold for the trip there, but sometimes it is a “hurry up and wait” for just the right time for the guys and gals to take a break to eat.
Even more challenging is if you also help in the field and need to have lunch ready so you can run, grab, and go.
Of course, when all else is done for the day, there is meal prepping for the next day. Freezer meals are also a lifesaver during these times. After surviving yet another spring planting and fall harvest season, any farmer’s wife could easily be a short-order cook anywhere.
When the work calls for it, farmers work long hours.
Photo by Lois Hoffman
We Have Our Seasonal Activities
Many farmers don’t realize it, but life actually does go on in the outside world, even during their busy times. Hard as it is to believe, people actually still get married, have kids, and celebrate other life events during planting and harvest. Imagine that!
Go on and send us invitations to birthday parties and anniversaries, but it’s a pretty sure bet that we won’t be there. Whoever thought of getting married or having a child in the spring or fall anyway? Nope, instead we’ll be dropping off a gift, making a phone call, and giving quick hugs early mornings, way late at night, or during quick breaks during the day.
You know when everyone else is going to greenhouses and picking out their flowers for the deck in the spring or enjoying a sunny fall day at the local apple orchard during autumn? Well, we get to do the same things except it’s usually on cold, wet, and miserable days. By the way, what is it like to go on a beautiful sunny day? Just curious.
Many have discovered the benefits of yoga and other exercise. Even though some of our hubbies guffaw at these practices, they should be truly thankful when they need someone agile enough to “crawl in that tiny space” or “wriggle under there and loosen that bolt.”
Did you ever wonder how many steps–and minutes–we save them by “climbing up there,” crawling under that,” and “running for that”?
Two-way radios, cell phones, and hand signals (ugh!) are great, but there are still those times when we are just supposed to “know” what our farming partners need. There are those looks that say a hammer will fix it, get the grease gun, or grab a wrench and socket. Heaven forbid that we don’t know the correct size socket that fits every part of every piece of machinery. This is complicated, do they want a deep socket or a short one? Usually, they crawl down and get it themselves. Of course, this involves a little or lot of grumbling.
Silent ‘I Told You So’s’
If we have learned nothing else over the course of being with our farmer, it is that there is no such thing as normal conversation for a farmer during planting or harvest. If it concerns the crops, well they are all ears. Words on any other subject just blow right on through.
After it winds down, we hear things such as, “I didn’t know the mower blades were that bad!” You want to say, “I told you so,” but you don’t.
“I didn’t know these parts were here.” Again, you almost blurt out, “I told you so,” but you don’t.
When they finally catch up on their reading, there are remarks of such surprise like, “I didn’t know so-and-so got married” or “Did you know so-and-so passed?” Ah, you don’t even think of saying, “I told you so.” At this point you just shake your head and walk away.
We love our farmers and we know they love us. We just hope they appreciate the un-ordinary lives we take on by being farmers’ wives. Only the strong survive.
It’s all in a day’s work, for the farmer–and his wife!
Photo by Lois Hoffman
Lois Hoffman is a freelance writer and photographer covering rural living with more than 20 years of experience, contributing to Successful Farming, Country, and Farm & Ranch Living. She lives on a 37-acre hobby farm in Michigan. Read all of Lois’ GRIT posts here.
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