Nothing can prepare you…
As I have gone from spending 70% of my day sitting down at a desk to running up hills after sheep it is only enviable that I have felt extreme levels of tiredness. Over the last few months I have been known to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere (most recently in the passenger seat of the tractor…). I have also been partial to an 8pm bed time! However, that being said, its a really nice type of exhausted (if that makes sense!), the kind where you sleep really well – no restlessness like I was used to in my old office job. My body has been a bit in shock I think, I’m finding muscles that I didn’t even know existed. As I’m constantly getting in and out of vehicles to open gates I have built up really strong arms where I have been hauling myself in and out – not to mention all the fencing we have been doing. I have really noticed a difference in my physical fitness, not only am I fitter, I am also much stronger than I used to be (sometimes more out of my stubborn nature to save face, lifting ridiculously heavy post and the like).
Gloves, always gloves
My hands…my poor poor withered hands, they really have taken a hammering (sometimes literally, actually). I now religiously wear gloves to protect my hands, but its a real battle to know which ones work best. My dilemma is that I was wearing massive ski gloves over the winter as we were darting around on the quad bike on the downs and they were freezing, but it left me unable to do ANYTHING in them as they were so bulky. Then I tried what I would call ‘heavy duty’ rubber coated gloves, these were good for fencing, but my hands were still FREEZING and if they got wet it was game over. So now I take a range of gloves out with me and have average around 3 hand outfit changes throughout the day to suit the occasion. I then get home and dowse my hands in hand cream in the evenings – I find O’Keeffes the best so far (here), but thoughts and recommendations welcome?
Bailer twine can solve 99% of problems
If I had a pound for everytime I heard ‘Lau, could you just grab me some bailer twine’ I would be rich. We literally use it for everything, wonky non closing gates, holding stuff in the trailer, electric fencing…it is the biggest problem solver. Give me bailer twine a knife and an iPhone and I reckon I could do almost anything on the farm!
Take time off the farm
This is a really important one. We’ve had 2 weekends off the farm since we moved to Cocking Hill around 6 months ago, its just so hard as there is so much to get done all of the time and having time off is just not a priority. A compromise we have found is to book to have friends staying, that way we can get some ‘farmy stuff’ done aswell as going out for a yummy pub dinner – they have fun as they think its a novel experience and we get some jobs done – everyone is a winner!
Get yourself a decent flask
Tea/tea breaks are key in farm life. We take a flask out everyday along with some biscuits and it just helps to break the day up a bit. Also, the farm is such a stunning setting, but when you’re running around ,checking sheep and feeding out silage on the tractor..as cheesy as it sounds, its nice to park up in a nice spot and appreciate the land around you. We’re on flask no 3 now, as the first 2 broke, the 1st one I actually ran over with the trailer (!). We’ve found the thermos (metal NOT plastic, NEVER plastic as they just aren’t heavy duty enough) works best (here).
People love to talk about farming
One thing I love, is whenever I say I’m a farmer, people always want to chat away to me about it. It’s a really rich, interesting subject to talk about. Conversations usually lead to remarks like ‘When I was watching Countryfile last week….’ or ‘on the Archers…’ – it nice to feel proud of what you do for a living.
There will always be good days and bad days
I’m not going to lie…we have had some pretty tough days. Farming is an amazing job when the sun is shining, all your animals are healthy and the grass is plenty. But its a different story when its hammering down with rain and your perched on the side of a hill battling with the wind putting up temporary electric (that you know your going to have to take down in 2 days again!). You’ve just got to remember that when its good, its REALLY good.
Trust your instinct
I’m not only learning to be a farmer, I’m learning to be a shepherdess as well. This means spending time learning what the sheep are like when you move them, and also learning what the dogs are like too. To date, I’ve been a bit unsure of myself as lets face it, I have no idea what I’m doing yet. But I’m slowly realising to trust myself a bit more and go with what feels intuitive.
There is no such thing as a five minute job
Never count your chickens before they’ve hatched. In other words, never say ‘well, lets just go and move that mob of sheep and then we can have the rest of the day to get on with x, y, z’…this will automatically mean that you will arrive at the field to move the ewes and there will be a multitude or problems in doing so…just because you have said the words out loud that ‘it will be an easy job’. It is sods law.
When we’re having a bad day, I always remind myself how lucky we are to have an opportunity to not only work for ourselves, but to be surrounded by amazing views and doing a career many aspire to have. The first few years are going to be, no doubt, pretty grueling, but hopefully once all the ‘setting up’ has finished we’ll have a bit more time for weekends and more time off…but for now there is always tea and plenty of hob nobs to keep us going!
Thoughts/advice on a postcard please…or just in the comments box below, I’d love to hear from you all!