13 March 1998

Dear Mum always had the last word

"Thats how it is with farming, Mum." I lost count of the times I said this from the first day I met my husband to the day my mother died – and I dont think she ever believed me, just thought it was another excuse for being late or even absent!

Everyone reading this will know exactly "how it is". You are leaving the house to go somewhere and a cow starts a difficult calving, a piece of machinery breaks and has to be mended now or the cattle all escape.

However, have you noticed that if you are going off to a sporting fixture or perhaps a shoot, then someone else can be left to deal with it and "hurry up woman" – never mind if the washing machine has just sprung a leak and flooded the utility room, your bitch has just started whelping or your daughter has just rung up in floods of tears with a major crisis.

Funny, isnt it?

However, Mum couldnt have objected to our way of life too much as she was constantly coming to stay. I think she was trying to bring a little order to our house, which she did, albeit temporarily, waging war on mud, straw and dog hairs, implying that they should never be allowed to invade the house, let alone the menfolk rushing in donned in smelly overalls to grab a bite to eat.

I eventually gave up making excuses but when I once said I was tired of it all Mum said "But thats how it is with farming, dear" – I never could win – or perhaps she was worried I would give it all up and move back home.

I did try to point out the other side of the coin. Being answerable to no one (except your partner and the accountant), being able to shut the door and escape to outside jobs whenever the weather was too good to miss, bringing up a child in the practical but caring world of farming, the satisfaction of working alongside your partner, having neighbours who can always be relied on – and life is never boring.

I also have the self-satisfaction of running the farm office which meant that when I married, I didnt have to give up work, just getting paid for it!

Most importantly in my mind I feel that our way of life keeps the extended family together. Most family members have worked on the farm at some point in their lives and are constantly returning – in-laws, nieces and nephews, even Mum still makes her presence felt.

One niece runs a nursery and regularly brings her pupils on visits and the great-nieces and nephews are already being groomed for future employment.

Working together as a family unit keeps us in touch with each other and makes for lively conversation at mealtimes. Mum called it arguing but we call it discussion – "Thats how it is with farming, Mum".

Margaret Tebbit