Best kept under wraps

I text him around noon. “Will I come out to you later?” The sun was shining and the air was warm. In late July, summer had finally arrived. Everyone was in good spirits, and I was looking forward to rounding off my day by catching up with Jack over dinner, as was the routine we’d fallen into each Tuesday.

So when his response came through a few hours later —“Tonight’s not great, I’m afraid. We’re making silage,”— I was disappointed, to say the least.

He’d been late to text that previous night on account of making silage. In my ignorance, I had assumed that the job must be close to being done, and so, I’d come to work with my Orla Kiely weekender bag packed in anticipation of the usual Tuesday overnight in Kildare. It sat under the desk now, taunting me.

What’s a townie to do when her farmer doesn’t give fair warning that his silage making might impact on quality together-time?

I could administer a dose of the silent treatment, though I suspected this might go unnoticed if he was as busy as he seemed to be, thus completely defeating the purpose of a silent protest. Alternatively, I could throw an almighty hissy fit and send a multiple-message rant about how devastated I was, how I’d carried my bag all the way into work for no good reason, how I clearly wasn’t a priority — that sort of thing.

If my two years in the field of farmer-dating have taught me anything, however, it’s that it’s a naive and foolish woman who would ask her farmer to choose between his lady and his land.

I settled on a mix of honesty and empathy in the end, telling Jack that I was disappointed at not getting to see him, that I wished I’d known ahead of time that he would be tied up, but that I wasn’t cross: that I understood these things had to get done.

To someone more familiar with farming life, perhaps that in itself was more of a reaction than was necessary. But I’m still learning.

He replied an hour or so later, “I’m sorry about earlier,” he said “I guess for the moment you’re a silage widow.”

I’ve been called a good many things in my lifetime, but this was a new one on me. I countered by asking how that was even possible before I’d earned the title of “silage wife?” A playful, if only slightly pointed, question, I thought, and one that was met with an equally pointed silence.

Following some damp weather, the silage-related tasks resumed later that week. Four nights passed without us seeing each other, but I looked forward to the Sunday we’d set aside to make up for it — a day that would comprise of the Tullamore Show, takeaway, and Netflix.

bootsWhen we returned, then, from Tullamore to discover that there were twenty-odd bales still to be wrapped and Jack asked if I’d mind him finishing the job, I decided that if we were to make the most of our Sunday together at all, I would need to suit up and, quite literally, boot up. I pulled on my lovely new purple wellies (a spot-purchase at the Tinahely Show) and followed Jack out to the paddock. After I’d watched him work for a few minutes, he asked if I’d like to have a go.

He showed me how to load the bale, which lever to pull to rotate it five times in the plastic wrap, how to raise it, and how to cut the wrap. After a few wrong-direction lever pulls and a moment of panic when the cab began to heat-up prompting me to ask if it was going to explode, I had succeeded in wrapping my first bale.

I dismounted, alighted —whatever the term is for removing oneself from a tractor— and stretched, sore from turning in the seat to watch my progress. Never mind AgTech: I reckon there’s a fortune to be made in a fleet of mobile chiropractic units that does the rounds of rural Ireland during silage-making season!

Overall, my one bale was a relatively meaningless contribution to the several hundred that were wrapped in total. Instead, its significance lay in its being representative of a shared experience for Jack and I — and a valuable lesson in farming life, too. Next summer, when the sun shines, bringing with it the absence of a certain someone from my life for a few days, I can assume my role of silage widow with less of the histrionics, and more of an understanding and appreciation of what is another essential task on a farmer’s annual to-do list.

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