I’m told that the best place to find a farmer husband in Ireland is at the National Ploughing Championships, a three-day mid-week event that this year attracted more than 279 000 people. Not that I’m looking or anything… but it’s been on my bucket list now for a number of years – the Ploughing, that is, not the farmer. Mind you, I could well be tempted. Some of those lads had to be in search of a wife themselves, but it’s hard to compete with the latest Massy Feguson. Most of the punters were there to see the 460 or so stands displaying everything from supermarket food to combine harvesters. Apparently only 10% (myself included) actually go look at the ploughing itself.
You could eat your way around the Aldi and Lidl stands (the sausages were in the great demand) or enter competition after competition to try to win a year’s supply of fertiliser or heating fuel. There were fashion shows (wellies are all the rage this year) both for people and animals, and displays of all sorts that made sure everyone was catered for. Had I been in practice, I’d have signed up for the Welly-Throwing Competition. As it was I had to tear myself away from the sheepdog trials. Just about anything passes for entertainment and it’s the simple stuff that’s the most amusing.
On the radio during the week in the lead-up to the big event, Lorna Sixsmith was being interviewed (she’s written a book called Would you marry a farmer?). And she was at the Ploughing – am raging I missed her stickers:
I dated a farmer once. And while we were stepping out, I read the Farmers Independent on a Friday with a religiosity that bordered on fervour. I knew all there was to know about artificial insemination, silage, and calving. I could find my way around a milking parlour and even managed to milk a cow or two by hand. That skill is still with me. It’s like riding a bike – you never forget. I was as familiar with cattle prices then as I am with the forint/euro exchange rates today. And I knew enough to know that you have to get the lingo right – drawing cattle means moving them, not painting them. Leave the easel and the oil paints at home. Thank you, Lorna. And as for the abbreviations and the acroynms? You’d need a degree to figure out what they’re talking about.
But back then, farming was farming. Today it seems to have gone all technical. Do you know that cows have showers now? Custom-made jobs, too. And these calving cameras had me going for a while. It’s all high tech stuff and I suppose it has to be really – there’s no reason in the world why modern technology should have passed the farmers by. And, believe it or not, there’s a UK-based Internet dating site specially for them – Muddy Matches. ‘Tis a far cry from the days of John B. Keane’s John Bosco in The Chastitute. Bachelor farmers these days apparently think more about the land they stand to lose should a marriage not work out than all they stand to gain if it does.
I hadn’t given much thought to what sort of farmer I’d be into, were I in the market for one. But apparently tillage farmers, according to Lorna, actually have down time and there might be some chance of a holiday once a year. The dairy ones are early risers and are at it year ’round. And as for the breeders… am not sure I could compete with a prize heifer. I have a thing for undivided attention and sharing it with a beast who is regularly titivated might be too much for me. Mind you, there’s always Seamus.