Farm Ireland

Saturday 22 October 2016

The secrets of being the perfect farm wife

Ann Fitzgerald

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

Lorna Sixsmith with her children Kate and Will.
Lorna Sixsmith with her children Kate and Will.

Did you know that eggs that are at least four days old make a lighter cake, or that a holey welly makes a perfect pot for growing herbs?

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These are among the trailer-full of useful hints and tips contained in How To Be a Perfect Farm Wife, the brand new book by Lorna Sixsmith, which goes on sale today at the Ploughing.

A follow-up to the very popular Would You Marry A Farmer? it captures the rich essence of life on Irish farms in the early 21st century and the always-changing, ever multi-functional, role of the farmers' wife. But its delightfully witty and heart-warming style is sure to appeal to an audience far beyond the farm gate.

Years ago, most farming wives came from a farming background and knew what to expect when they got married: long hours, hard work and a fluctuating income. The challenges today aren't much different but many of today's farm wives feel inadequate as they don't necessarily have the knowledge to reverse trailers, feed calves or understand the farm lingo.

Among the highly pertinent questions answered in this book are: How to feed eight contractors with ten minutes' notice? How to keep on the right side of the mother-in-law? How to deal with the stresses faced by farmers, which also includes PHT (pre-harvest tension).

Interwoven with interesting snippets of information and history, including newspaper small ads from down through the years, this book is also a tribute to the much undervalued contribution of generations of industrious Irish farm women.

Obviously, given the subject matter, issues related to the kitchen get plenty of coverage. So there is a host of tried and trusted farmhouse recipes, including the author's signature chocolate biscuit cake.

Her tips include the many uses of bread soda and the suggestion that a half lemon placed in your dishwasher for a wash will leave a fresh smell and remove water marks.

Most importantly, there are also tips on how to cheat to give the impression that you are a perfect farm wife, like how to win a prize at the local country show or using superglue when a zip goes in the husband trousers.

I laughed out loud several times, as when reading the description of how to teach a calf to drink from a bucket and the story of the friend who was pleasantly surprised that her husband had emptied the dishwasher only to find something very different inside.

She also addresses issues that many would be too embarrassed to admit to, like how to hide your smalls on the clothes line or whether you have time to put on your bra when jumping out of bed to help round up escaped calves. Then there is the tricky problem of what do when the husband's signature is needed and he is miles away.

The author is a feminist though not in the 'femi-nazi' way.

So she urges farm wives to foster a strong sense of independence in their daughters and to encourage the belief in their equal right to farm.

At the same time, if a father-in-law comments on some part of your anatomy, feel pride rather than offence. Small hands with short fingers may have hampered your playing of the piano but they are ideal for helping to deliver lambs.

Farmers always tend to be rushing, with one job running into another, but, when there is something to celebrate, go out for a meal or bake a cake. This will also, she points out, in a theme that runs throughout the book, help children to see that farming isn't just about work.

Being a farmer's wife herself, the author knows only too well the many hardships of farming. But this book brings a sense of energy and perspective to the subject, which is refreshing and ultimately uplifting.

Above all, she urges farm wives to have a sense of humour. "Be capable of making him laugh when crying is the only other option."

Indo Farming


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