Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Turning a good catch into an ideal husband

It's one thing landing a farmer as a partner, it's another turning him into an ideal husband Lorna Sixsmith tells our reporter

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Lorna Sixsmith and husband Brian pictured with children Will and Kate on the farm in Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Lorna Sixsmith and husband Brian pictured with children Will and Kate on the farm in Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

In the 1960s, many rural women considered farmers to be less than model marriage material.

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While urban ladies had piped water at the time, less than half of rural homes had the same luxury so country women were left to pump and carry large buckets of water for hand-washing dishes and scrubbing clothes.

The Irish Countrywomen's Association established a campaign encouraging brides-to-be to refuse to marry until their partner had clean water running in the house.

The organisation even produced clever posters that read "Who said Love, Honour and Carry Water?," urging women to demand better living standards before the big "I do".

For the most part, they listened, and now, five decades later, the farmer has become a highly sought after companion. However, they still need a little guidance every now and again.

Lorna Sixsmith, dairy farmer, mum, blogger and author, has tackled the issue in her new book 'An Ideal Farm Husband'.

"In the past, a farmer wasn't considered ideal at all. It's really in the last 10 years that a farmer is seen as a good catch".

"It comes down to changing stereotypes. The farmer used to be seen as a Beverly hill-billy, then we had the Glenroe farmer. But now we've the farmer calenders, the glossy supermarket adverts with a good-looking farmer standing on a grassy hill, prize cattle around him, looking very wholesome and attractive," she said.

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However, his relationship with his family and farm are what really counts. Ms Sixsmith got "a little braver" with her third book, however her trademark humorous vignettes remain central."I dealt with more demanding topics in this book. I wanted to include perspectives from different sides and provide reasonably balanced opinion, while being frank too.

The challenging topics include succession, pre-nuptials, sexism, retirement, living near the in-laws and mental health - these are all important to farming life and while I wanted to explore them sensitively, I want people to find my writing engaging too," she said.

The mother of two, and wife of Brian, said the biggest lesson a farm husband can learn from her new edition is that it's not always possible to keep everyone happy, so he must prioritise.

"Sometimes he needs to put himself first and give himself some "me time" and while at times he might feel he has to walk a tightrope between his wife and his mother, it doesn't have to be like that," she said.

However, she stresses that life will be a lot easier if his wife and kids feel they come first.

She said the biggest lesson a farm wife will learn is that it isn't easy for him to keep two women happy (his wife and his mother) and he does try.

"Particularly for wives from a non farming background, this book will help them both understand each other".

"It's important he knows that conversations with his friends and family about who died last week, who was left what in the will, who cut their silage, who sold cattle, who bought sheep, while fascinating to him, will be exceedingly boring to her if she doesn't know any of the people he's talking about," she said.

All work and no play isn’t fun for anyone’

Life with Brian, Lorna’s Sixsmith’s husband of 24 years, has helped her illustrate the quintessential farm marriage.

From dosing calves and milking to sorting, counting, feeding and calving on their farm in Garrendenny, Co Laois, Ms Sixsmith believes all the stresses and challenges of farming can bring couples closer together.

“I don’t think an ideal farm husband really exists  but I think it is a man who puts his family first and I can’t but describe my husband. It’s somebody who is a hard worker, is environmentally aware but also very conscious of animal welfare, someone who is good at what he does and has a positive outlook on life,” she said.

“We were out dosing calves the other day and that is not just because I’m helping him but we actually get to spend some time together and I make the point in the book that as a farmer you’re really lucky to be able to spend time with your kids and your spouse in this way because you’re around,” she said.

“Taking the time in the busy day to give each other a hug or take an hour out to spend with the kids, all work and no play isn’t fun for anyone,” she said.

The former secondary school teacher, who started farming in dairy and beef with her husband 10 years ago when the family returned home to Ireland from the UK always runs themes and topics by Brian before they make the page.

“I let him read it to make sure he’s happy with the content because I share quite a bit of our personal life in my books but he’s very supportive and great to bounce things off, he even comes up with new ideas,” she said.

The author believes her new book, which is a companion to her first ‘Would you Marry a Farmer?’ and her second ‘How to be a Perfect Farm Wife?’ will also enhance marital relations on farms.

“It’s mainly written for the man to help him understand the complexities of modern women. However, there are quizzes within so she can gauge how well he is getting on, it’s a book they can read together really,” she said.

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