There are fundamental differences between the way men and women communicate, and in the farm family, there are even more differences … and even more ways that the train of communication can derail.
For farm families, the work list and hours are both long, while patience and manpower during critical seasons can often run short. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and not enough days in the year to get through the list of tasks.
Commands and requests are often done in passing, and that can lead to misunderstandings.
And it doesn’t usually take long for the thunderheads to start forming afterwards.
Take the time my husband asked me to set the ladder down after he’d climbed up a tree with a chainsaw to cut off a limb. I set the ladder down underneath the tree and he cut the limb … and guess where it landed.
My husband was up a tree without a ladder. Literally.
Who but my husband would know it would land right there? After some loud and inappropriate spewing, a loader tractor got him out of the tree, but I was secretly wondering if the car had gas in it. How I wish he’d asked me to put the ladder somewhere specific. I just didn’t know at the time.
Or how about the time he asked me to help field cultivate, and go all the way around the field when I was finished? I did finish and afterwards I began to go around the field … which was fine … until I started into the corn field that was planted next to the bean field just a few days earlier, which I suppose I should have been able to discern since he was planting beans.
My husband flagged me down in his old tractor, waving his arms for me to stop. When I asked what was wrong, he shouted to me that I was to go around the bean field, not the corn field, too. (Two fields, one tract of land.) The worst part was that our sons (who were 5 years old then) asked their dad if I was supposed to be over there.
When I heard “go around the field” I thought, (literally) “… go around the field.”
My husband instructed me once, saying quickly before he left for the day: “The sows get two buckets out of the south feed bin,” he began. “The sows east of the farrowing house get two buckets out of the south bin. The gilts in the north pen get two pails out of the south bin. The sows in the farrowing house get four pails out of the east bin – three sows to a pail.
“The baby pigs in the farrowing house get a bowl of pellets out of the bucket that’s sitting on the south pen on the west side of the farrowing house. The waterer in the back of the barn needs to be filled, and the sheep in the west yard behind the barn need a bale of hay. Then, walk through the hog house, the nursery and the barn to make sure nothing is mixed up,” he tells me, handing me a bag of medicine to put in the waterer for the sick pigs in back of the barn, telling me the amount to give and directions for mixing.
I took some aspirin before I even left the house, for the headache I knew was coming.
Probably the most mystifying of all languages for the farm family is his hand gestures to indicate what should be done next. He says he’ll do “this” when he wants you to do (this), and he’ll do “that” when he wants you to do (that). And in the thick of things, he makes some gesture that I’ve never seen before, and when I try to outguess him, it’s usually not the option he would have chosen.
Luckily, I have just the right hand gesture for him if he has frustrated me, too, and the meaning of the gesture that I’ve communicated is quite clear.
Women may use twice as many words in a day than men do (as some scientist with nothing better to do has determined), but maybe there’s a reason. We’re used to having to say twice as much to get the point across to people who don’t always listen or take us seriously.
And besides, hand gestures simply aren’t very lady-like sometimes.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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