Life on my smallholding by Dana Fawcett
Far away from Audley Stanbridge Earls, and in my other life, you’re likely to find me knee deep in the river that runs along the bottom of our paddocks, fishing out escapee lambs – or perhaps searching by torchlight when after doing a headcount you realise there aren’t the right number of piglets or lambs safely tucked up at the end of the day. It might even be that the turkey (Lorraine) is stuck somewhere.
When I moved into my current home, on the site of a working smallholding, I thought I’d fully embraced what this looked like. I’m not sure that hourly night feeds were what I’d envisioned, when 4 tiny wobbly lambs appeared – and ewes just aren’t cut out for such work! Or racing to the livestock vets when one ewe was struggling to give birth, while another was foaming at the mouth!
I’ve nursed farrowing pigs through the night, and watched in wonder as tiny warm soft piglets are fired out, all while the sow is calmly lying on her side – nothing to see here – in the quiet darkness of night, with hooting owls for background sound. I’ve watched as young guinea fowl follow a chicken around – because she sat on the eggs and by default, became Mum.
Four years on and I’m happily part of the furniture, the guinea fowl and geese, no longer sound off alarmingly and pace the fence line when I come home, I think nothing when I come home to find a mule in the back garden, or a horse gazing in curiously at me when I open my bedroom curtains. Listening to lambs chatting to each other as I’m drifting off to sleep is now part of ‘my normal’.