Posts Tagged ‘farming’

The Yorkshire Shepherdess

Saturday, August 15th, 2015 | Books

Amanda Owen is a hill farmer in Swaledale, at the top of the Yorkshire Dales. Typically, I saw an advertisement for her book signing at Waterstone’s two days after the event took place. I had never heard of her, or her book, but it sounded like a good read.

Turns out that it can be pretty hard work up there. Especially when you’re on the hill tops in a slightly Wuthering Heights-esc setting, albeit in the Dales rather than the Moors.

Impassable roads, being occasionally cut-off, power cuts and bats invading my house are probably near the top of my list for things I wouldn’t enjoy too much. Free range children has it’s appeal though. Letting them run around as they wish; getting stuck into farm life.

Though no doubt still a handful when you have seven! She never had long labours, but by the end it was pretty much a slip-and-slide. She would feel “a bit off” a few hours before, no contractions, then when it came time they would slide out in a few minutes. If only all labour was like that.

The book is essentially a biography of how she got from Huddersfield to Ravenseat, with plenty of details of farm life along the way. It’s a cool story.

I felt the tagline of the book was rather misleading, however.

How I left city life behind to raise a family – and a flock

She grew up in Huddersfield, which is a town rather than a city, and she was hardly a city-dweller that wanted to try country life. From an early age she wanted to work with animals and was soon doing freelance farming. Escape to River Cottage this is not.

I did enjoy reading it quite a lot though.

The family are also featured on the documentary series The Dales which I started watching a bit of after the book.


The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 | Books

It is quite a mouthful of a book title. It is also a very big book. At A4-sized in hardback it makes a good addition to the coffee table. Though if you have a coffee table you might not be the target audience.

It is written by John Seymour, now deceased, and updated by his protégé Will Sutherland who is himself now 70. It also comes with a wonderful strap line.

The classic guide for realists and dreamers

It covers everything about running a smallholding. Literally, loads of stuff. How to divide up your land, what to grow where, how to grow different types of plants, rearing animals, butchery, harvesting, foraging, making cheese, pickles, chutneys, curing and preserving meat and vegetables, and crafts and skills.

The crafts section alone is a treasure trove. Composting your toilet waste, renewable energy, wood and metal work, basket making, rope, pottery, spinning wool, building, thatching and even making your own soap are just a selection of the activities covered.

There is also a whole section on brewing beer and making wine. I am now forever going to be disappointed in any book that does not have a section on brewing beer in it.

The advice is literally down to the ground (and below) and practical. Sometimes brutally so. Check out this passage on lambing.

If a single lamb dies and you have another ewe with twins it is a good thing to fob one of the twins off on the bereaved ewe. Put the bereaved ewe in a small pen, rub the twin lamb with the dead body of her lamb, and try to see if she will accept the new lamb.

If she won’t, skin the dead lamb, keeping the skin rather like a jersey, and pull the skin over the live lamb. Almost invariably the foster mother ewe will accept him.

Genuinely good advice, but a bit of a shock to us city-dwellers.

In some ways this book put me off adopting a more rural River Cottage-style lifestyle (Hugh recommends this book in one of his River Cottage Q&A). It sounds like a lot of hard work. By comparison, going to work five days a week and using the money to get Sainsbury’s deliver me my weekly goodies is probably a lot easier, even if it is less satisfying.

John encourages the reader to start small however. Perhaps baking your own bread or a small vegetable garden (I know have both of these things). Or maybe even brewing your own beer. I have not tried that one yet.

If nothing else, it is a nice piece of escapism, away from the highs and lows of that Monday morning feeling and it’s far more pleasant companion, the Friday feeling. Though I do plan to try out a number of his recommendations.