Heather Maude: Marrying into Ag
Christmas through early spring is proposal season. If you’ve recently taken the leap and plan to marry a farmer or rancher, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some you’ve likely heard, but others may not present themselves until after the “I do’s.” For those who didn’t grow up in the lifestyle, here a few things you’ll likely encounter.
Yes, shutting the gate, or leaving the gate as you found it, is important, and should you ever mess it up you’ll be sure to hear about it. What you may not know is there are other “things” that need to be left a certain way to prevent your husband from losing his mind.
This could include the exact saddle rack and peg his tack is to reside on. Or, a specific pair of pliers that stay in the passenger door of the feed pickup because they are best for rolling down the window when the handle falls off and goes through the hole in the floorboard.
That gross old sweater hanging in the barn is actually quite valuable to him on that exact nail. You won’t know what most of these are until you inadvertently move or misuse one and realize that what you assumed an inconspicuous object apparently makes your husband’s life go round. Don’t worry, he’s not crazy and you’re not the first to accidently mistake a basic object as a basic object.
Vaccine guns, needles, OB chains and a medley of other used livestock equipment will show up in your kitchen, with a trail of mud/manure evidencing the route via which they were delivered. Vaccine bottles will end up next to the milk in the fridge. Milk replacer will be mixed in the kitchen sink in your favorite bowl with your best whisk. On occasion your bathtub may host a cold calf or lamb who will also get use of your personal hair dryer after its warm dip. It happens, it’s a mess, all the stains will not come out. Try to keep your good knives and favorite blankets out of direct reach to prevent them from being used in varies kitchen vet practices, and roll with the rest.
You will inevitably be the most useless appreciated help your husband can find at times. When he’s stuck or broke down, needs someone 6’4” to hold the other end, or is elbow deep in a pulling backward calf and completely irritated, he may mutter about wishing so and so would answer their phone so he could get some help. Best to let it roll off your exhausted, dirty shoulders as you work by his side to remedy the issue and not respond with a sarcastic, “Me too.” He most likely doesn’t mean you aren’t helpful, he’s just frustrated with the situation as a whole.
Should you have children, you will be compared to various animals, usually cows. Everything is fair game, from weight gain and attitude to milking ability and breeding back. It’s considered humorous in the ag world, and most– if it not all– women have either laughed or become irritated at such verbal antics. Either way, it will not stop, and that’s worth keeping in mind as you decide your response.
Most ag men are the cheapest spenders of huge sums of money you’ll ever meet. You’re going to have sticker shock at some point – no major improvement or investment on a farm or ranch is cheap. I’m talking six figures not-cheap. The same man who could barely comprehend the “outrageous” cost of getting married will drop quadruple that on some green paint without batting an eye, usually with the statement, “It will make us money, too,” or, “It’s a long-term investment.” It’s your choice whether or not to ask him what he considers you.
Whatever you learn, you will be expected to do. If you’re not certain driving a semi is something you’re up for, be cautious when asked about learning to drive said semi. The same with mechanic-ing, spreading manure, castrating pigs, etc… I’m not suggesting finding ways to limit your helpfulness; I firmly believe in having some understanding of how all things on the place work. But, just like he may not know how to set the dishwasher to get lasagna off your best pan or what combination makes the old washing machine go an entire cycle without leaking, it’s not pertinent that you be an equal expert in all he does.
Most importantly, it’s worth it. Even when you’re overwhelmed with the mess, the chaos and the sheer volume of work to be accomplished, it’s more than worth it. You may be compared to a cow while pregnant, but your kids will have an unprecedented upbringing. The times you’re openly touted as useful help and thanked vehemently for saving the day more than make up for the less enjoyable ones. You’ll learn that mud means grass and that drying off a calf with your hair dryer and a lump in your throat means he’s going to make it.
You will get to ride the highs and lows of life side by side with your spouse, seeing and experiencing everything together in this fascinating combination of lifestyle and never-ending work. That is a unique and special blessing granted to precious few, and it will become both more evident and cherished as you go.