Our article, “10 ways of coping with being a ‘harvest widow‘”, seemed to strike a chord with all those spouses leading a largely solitary existence while harvest is under way.
It provided some tongue-in-cheek tips on dealing with the situation, making the most of it or actually grabbing a few hours with your husband or wife (assuming you want to, that is!)
After reading the article, Emily Styles in Suffolk shared a few pearls of wisdom for surviving harvest that she’s picked up in her nine years as a “harvest widow”.
1. Perfect combine teas
Teas that can be readily transported to the field and consumed easily out of some sort of Tupperware (or old ice cream tub) are a must. My three children love taking their daddy his tea and it’s often quite a highlight of everyone’s day.
Teas that I have found that work well are my cheesy banger pie, pasta bake/macaroni cheese, home-made pork-and-apple burgers and chicken cobbler. They stay warm on the journey and are easily eaten on the move (well, while the auto steer is on).
2. Form a harvest club
Get dates in the diary with your fellow harvest widows. My best friend and I (who is also a farmer’s wife with three children) have formed our own club.
We meet every Saturday without fail (Saturdays are often the worst day during harvest, as everyone except you is doing something with their family) and on a week day, too, so the children can play and we can stay sane! Being with a fellow farmer’s wife and mummy who understands is invaluable.
3. Plan ahead
Organise days out and visits to see friends in advance. Having dates booked in your diary helps to give a structure to those long harvest days, especially when you have kids to keep occupied.
It makes you feel better, too, when everyone else is jetting off on holiday and you’re bored with explaining how you can’t go on holiday in the summer. Ever.
4. Keep in touch
Long hours on the combine often result in my children only seeing their daddy briefly in the morning before he’s off to feed the cattle. Trips out to see him when in the field are great fun and keep everyone together.
5. Be independent
Remember you are perfectly able to go it alone and do anything yourself over the summer. I’ve become quite handy with certain DIY jobs over the years.
6. Be flexible
Plans change. It’s no good trying to organise anything with your other half over harvest (especially attending weddings – I find them particularly tricky), so be flexible and hope your friends don’t mind a late RSVP.
7. Stay calm and carry on
Keep your composure when you try to ring your other half and find they are stressed because something isn’t going well.
It’s better to leave them to it and contact them again when the particular problem has passed or been solved.
If you ever ask about what time something might happen, get used to an answer along the lines of: “How long is a piece of string?”
8. Blue jobs still exist
Don’t let your farmer wriggle out household jobs just because it’s harvest. The bin still needs emptying and putting out – and better him than me on that one!
And don’t believe anyone who tells you that being pregnant will get you out of harvest duties, because I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t make it any better or easier or make it finish any sooner.
I have been pregnant over harvest three times, and was still climbing combine steps and running around with combine teas.
9. Attempt to be a mind reader
Sometimes I have to be a mind reader to guess where he is, what time I can visit and when it’s best for him to have his tea.
You will also need an encyclopedic knowledge of field names. The best bet is to just continue with your agenda and getting on with the stuff you need to do. Sometimes they have to fit in with you.
10. Light at the end of the tunnel
Keep in mind that it will rain at some point, which will give some let-up. Harvest will also be over at some point. Although don’t think about drilling yet… it’ll only worry you. Chin up, only four months till Christmas!