“Romance is not dead, it just looks different on our farm.”
— Mae E. Smithhisler, 1900
This is the week for red hearts, lacy valentines and talk of old-fashioned romance. It is also the week for run-of-the-mill farm chores, not to mention some of those unexpected extras that farm life throws our way.
Tell me how it is possible to be romantic in 4-buckle arctics and army green coveralls, and I’ll promise you rights to a made-for-television movie. I suppose it is possible, but there are many farm women out there who will tell you it’s sure not easy.
Instead of candy and flowers, have you ever received a cultimulcher for this February holiday? How about a spiked-tooth harrow? These are true stories, and it could only be told, with tongue-in-cheek, by an American farm woman that one Valentine’s Day brought a case of new milking machine inflations her way — complete with a red bow on the box!
Years ago, I attended a day-long seminar designed for farm women, with such topics as time management, stress management and financial planning for the farm family. I was seated next to a woman named Patti, who helped farm 450 acres with her husband in Darke County, Ohio. During one of the breaks, Patti confided in me that time management wasn’t really a problem in her particular situation.
“Where I really want to be is with my husband most of the time, and with our farrow-to-finish set-up, we’re together a lot. What I really wish they would teach us is how to keep romance in a marriage when you work together in hog manure seven days a week!”
We all laughed and several other women added their humorous insights, but later I realized that she really did have a point to be taken seriously. Some relationships can thrive on that good ol’ farm togetherness, while others will eventually be doomed by the drudgery and just plain dirty hard work.
One woman said that even though their dairy farm tied her down, she made her husband promise her that on Valentine’s Day, he would take her away every year, no matter what.
One year, a prized heifer was down after a difficult delivery of a big bull calf. The couple went on a weekend get-away anyway. In the days before cell phones, this woman said they called home so many times to check on the heifer that their phone bill was higher than their hotel tab, but at least the promise was kept.
Getting up and heading to the barn 365 days a year can in itself be sheer drudgery, then throw in such added extras as the livestock getting out or the manure spreader breaking down, bills rising while income doesn’t, and tensions can rise. Arguments can take on an employee-employer kind of feeling.
Romance can be fleeting, but real depth comes from shared frustrations and accomplishments, and no one knows the range of those two emotions more than farm couples.