Greetings Farm Wives! Draw near, my sacred group of women. Women whom no one else can understand except a fellow farmer’s wife.
We are a unique, select group of women. We live and breathe the farm that has become not a source of income, but a lifestyle. We think in terms of grain and livestock sales, and we force our minds to be at peace in living with a lot of assets and not much cash. We are on a first name basis with our banker and our accountant is used to our frantic phone calls when we are frustrated that the Quickbooks accounts won’t do what we think it should. We’ve grown used to the smell of manure and know it as the smell of hard work and cause for callused hands. I like to think of the wives as the backbone of every farm operation. The one behind the scenes that no one sees, but has their hand in some part of most every transaction and business deal. The wife is the glue. And sometimes the glue can get a little sticky when there is so much to manage.
This is an attribute and reflection of the nuances that we experience from the perspective of the farm wife. We have a few unique things to manage that most standard households don’t. Let’s scratch the surface here and see if you can relate, connect, laugh.
What farm wives experience. There are the papers that need to be managed, paid, filed, entered, and then quickly found when your husband pops his head in the door, thinking you should know the answer off the top of your head. Even if you have bills set up for auto-draft, more papers keep coming. You wonder how it is possible that you can get caught up for the month and can already feel behind for the next. There are the mass amount of government and loan papers and the 15 copies that are legal size which annoyingly, don’t fit in your file drawer. It’s like they wanted to create a secret farm code to keep you on your toes with the FSA, CRP, EPA, DNR, ARC, MMP, ETC.
Then there are the clothes that are a second wardrobe for him and require more space than they deserve because he really only wears the same five outfits over and over. Of which never get completely folded and put away before he starts to wear them again. We accept that he will never part with the free jackets and hats he received from seed and equipment dealers and you might as well allow enough space in your front closet for it all. We pick our battles.
Of course then there is the smell and dust. Both in and out of the house that will never seem to totally go away no matter how many Pinterest hacks you try. Sometimes we wonder if it’s just ingrained in our nostrils and that’s why it never seems to dissipate. I always hope I don’t smell like manure when I go to town. Let me know if I do.
They receive more farm magazines than anyone could fathom possible. So. Much. Paper. And of course they plan to read them all, right? So they pile up on the counter. And then by the toilet. He never notices that the pile stays about the same as I snag a few from the bottom each time I burn the trash. [oh, burning the trash…those are comments I’ll leave for another day.]
And what about those little pieces of papers with hand written notes on them that you find laying around. Most people would think it’s trash, but oh no. They better not be thrown out or you’ll be in trouble. Big deals and important phone numbers are on those little scraps. More paper.
Of course there is the extra food and meals to manage. And extra freezers to keep stocked and organized. The concept that we should be able to make deli sandwiches for seven guys at a moments notice seems a little ridiculous, especially when you live miles from town. But, you’re glad you’re good at improvising because some how you always manage to pull it off. The evening meals are laborious with the amount of pans you have to wash, but it feels good when you get the compliment of a delicious hearty meal to keep the combine crew rolling into the dark hours of the night. If someone would have told me I’d actually have 4 casserole pans in use at one time, I’d have laughed.
For many of us farm wives, we also have the privilege of living in a house that’s a legacy in the family. It was built way before our parents were born and we have worked to make it our own, while preserving and make-shifting the odd arrangements of small rooms and old wiring. Plus adapting to some of the “treasures” that were left behind in the house before we moved in. I put the silverware in a different drawer than where my mother-in-law had kept it, and it was a debatable topic between my husband and I for a while…but thankfully he was willing to adjust, all things considered. [Are you comparing me to your mother?!]
And if we live in the family homestead, then we get to enjoy the dynamics of doing business with family during the week and seeing them on Sundays for dinner. All sorts of blessings mixed in with the generational dynamics and the changing of the guard. I’ll just leave it at that, for now.
The wives are the jack-of-all-trades. We have a meal in the oven as we get the phone call that we need to come outside and watch the gate so the cows don’t get out. Or my favorite of being told to drive equipment that I don’t really know how to use, and being reminded to be sure not to spill the feed. Thankfully I can’t get fired [that I know of]. My mother-in-law told me it’s best not to learn to drive the equipment or they will expect you to help. I think I can see her point.
It’s the same for all of us. I don’t say this all to rant, these aren’t negative things. But rather to come together and laugh and connect. We don’t realize it’s the nature of the industry, we aren’t alone in these occurrences. We can take these odd similarities and support each other to know what we do to make things work best and how to adjust as the farm grows and our relationship dynamics evolve.
Because each one of these crazy things, makes us love our role that much more. Makes us honor and respect the sacrifices our husbands make. Very few industries or careers require the same type of structure and support. The same lifestyle perspectives.
The things I love and cherish: that my husband has a short commute and can pop in the house at lunch time. That I have a mother-in-law who understands the pressure. Choosing to value his callused hands and his sore feet with the occasional foot rub.
I love that we can sit outside and see the stars for miles and smell the freshly turned dirt. The dirt that his family has sacrificed so much to expand. I love the casual gatherings and the way farmers can talk for hours about the weather while standing in front of their pickups. I love the boots and the hats, and the wranglers of course! I cherish his growing forearms as proof of this hard work, day in and day out. Not many business owners are working alongside their employees, getting just as dirty as everyone else. I love watching him out the window as the dog idolizes him and they walk in step together, all day long. I respect the fact that he can work hard all year, make no money because of one damaging thunderstorm, and still get up and keep working, with a positive outlook for the next year. We get to participate in a lifestyle that is rare for most Americans.
[I’ll stop there so that I don’t start sound too much like a Country song.]
If anyone would have told me that I’d be drinking a domestic cold brew in a shed as a Friday night activity, I would have thought my life had made a wrong turn. But instead, that’s where we gather. A hard day, a cold beer, and fellow companions who know what each other sacrificed that day, based on the dirt on your hands. It’s a diamond in the rough.
So farm wives. You think everyone else knows how to do it all. To manage it. To pull it off. But darling, they don’t. We are all figuring it out day by day. The papers, the clothes, the manure. A day at a time, and we are here to support each other through it all. And to support our husbands.
After all, we’ve been called to be the wife of the farmer. The backbone. The neck. All which is required to keep the head up right. We are the gift.
I’d love to hear if you have certain farm-wife instances that have made you laugh or cry. The things that make your lifestyle unique. Comment below, on Facebook, or email me.
I love working with women to restore order to their homes, but especially farm wives. Let me know if I can offer support to you.