Love British Food Fortnight

So it’s Love British Food fortnight, a campaign which promotes #britishfoodisgreat and our fantastic agricultural industry!

So it’s Love British Food fortnight, a campaign which promotes #britishfoodisgreat and our fantastic agricultural industry!

I was delighted to be selected as a 2018 Youth Ambassador along with 13 other inspirational young farmers: Richard Bower, Milly Fyfe, Ed Ford, Georgie Gater-Moore, Luke Winton, Ethan Kinney, Katie Smith, Chris Manley, Linsey Martin, Mary Ankers, Jack Hodgeson, Josh Dowbiggin and Harriet Wilson. CO-OP Farming Pioneers are also taking part and NFYFC is supporting.

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Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the launch at Elystan Street, London – a Michelin star restaurant run by Phil Howard.

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Raymond Blanc, Liz Earle and Candice Brown, ambassadors of the campaign, also attended as well as DEFRA’s Secretary of State Michael Gove.

It was great to hear speeches from all ambassadors about the importance of seasonality and their desires to promote British food and farming. It made me feel proud to be a part of a dynamic industry that’s being recognised for its high animal welfare and environmental standards.

Following this, the chef produced a 3 delicious BRITISH courses using the NHS hospital budget of £4.05 per patient.

It was fantastic to see what could be produced from such a small budget and demonstrates that there is no reason, especially in terms of expenses, why the public sector cannot champion British farming in their institutes!

The event lasted for 2 hours and I loved chatting to both the bake off winner and the maker of the best moisturiser about the importance of connecting consumers with the provenance of their food and their future involvement with the campaign.

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We also got a goodie bag full of scrumptious British produce!

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Get Involved  

Over the past week I have been driving my family mad by stopping every few seconds to take some photographs of farm life, filming videos in pens of pet lambs to using fodder beet as a sign prop for photographs.

But anyone can get involved with the Love British Food campaign, from farmers to consumers!

Simply film  yourself saying ‘British Food is Great’ and post the film on Twitter with #BritishFoodisGreat and tag in @LoveBritishFood.

Not only will you be helping promote this important campaign but you could win a gourmet holiday in a boutique hotel on the south coast, including a meal for 2 at Michelin-starred restaurant The Elephant courtesy of Simon Hulstone.

So why not get involved in sharing the #britishfoodisgreat message and championing our hardworking British farmers!

Check out their website for more information about the campaign and how you can get involved http://www.lovebritishfood.co.uk

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Farming Mothers

Since it is Mother’s Day this Sunday, I thought I would blog about why our farming mothers are the show winning breed!

Since it is Mother’s Day this Sunday, I thought I would blog about why our farming mothers are the show winning breed!

Being a farm mum is by no means an glamorous job and these women are the unsung heroes in our lives as they juggle chaotic work schedules with daily domestic chores.

Here are five reasons why having a farmer for a mum is the best thing ever and why I am incredibly proud of mine!

Giving 110% 

If you look up the definition of ‘hard work’ in the dictionary, you’ll find the words ‘farm mum!’.

Joking aside, ever since I can remember, my farming mum has played a integral role on the farm, from holding the fort and calving cows by herself with two young children in tow, to working 24/7 during lambing months without a single day off.

Yet her working day doesn’t end when she removes her wellies since there is dinner to prepare, washing to sort and overalls to shorten.

She’s the unofficial ‘farm manager’ giving 110% to everything she turns her hand to and selflessly puts her own needs last for both the good of the farm and family.

If anyone deserves a spa break, she does!

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Documenting a rare ‘day off’ with a selfie!

DIY 

Another perk of having a farmer for a mum is her ‘Do-It-Yourself’ mentality.

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Easter Bonnet Making Pro!

From making a variety of costumes for World Book Day to decorating a spare Animec box to store my 21st birthday cards, she is an incredibly resourceful woman and knows how to utilise available materials.

But beware, once she has got an idea in her head, there is no stopping her!

Who said girls can’t drive? 

Farming mums smash gender stereotypes on a daily basis – after all there is no such thing as girl jobs and boy jobs on the farm.

Mum’s driving skills could rival any male as she tackles winter snow and ice without a flinch, carts numerous bales around on the tractor during haytime and reverses a trailer into the auction loading bay in ONE GO so many times that I’ve simply lost count!

She has demonstrated that you shouldn’t let your gender define you, especially in the farmyard – rather you should just work hard and give everything your best shot.

Chef Sheila 

Farming mums are renown for cooking up a feast and my mum is no exception!

With cooking secrets and techniques passed down farming mother to daughter for countless generations, she has mastered the culinary art and produces mouthwatering mains and delicious desserts on a regular basis.

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Ready, Steady, BAKE

It is no wonder that friends always ask if they can stay for tea!

And don’t get me started on her roast dinner…. MMM.

Unfortunately I don’t seem to have inherited her cooking gene, despite all the cooking lessons growing up, as I burn toast and can just about fry an egg – but I can bake luckily!

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Mum’s Christmas Dinner!

Always There 

No matter how stressed or busy they are,  farming mums are always there should you need advice, a giggle, a cuppa tea or a lift back from town at 2:30AM….

We don’t deserve them really!

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No such thing as a babysitter!

Here’s to all the farming mums out there – you are doing a fantastic job and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

And finally, Happy Mothers Day MUM!

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11 types of people you will always spot around the Auction Mart ring

Up and down the country auction marts are at the heart of the farming industry, fostering a sense of community whilst functioning as a trading facility for local businesses.

Up and down the country auction marts are at the heart of the farming industry, fostering a sense of community whilst functioning as a trading facility for local businesses.

Here are eleven types of people you will always spot around the auction mart ring – be sure to look out for them on your next visit!

Old Timers on the Back Row

The back row offers a bird’s eye view for local retired farmers who still want to remain in the farming loop.

You’ve noticed they religiously attend most sales to speculate in farming gossip and trade  and are more than prepared for the nostalgic “Back in my day when I saw farming…” conversation: experience has proven nodding and smiling a satisfactory response.

The Scribe 

The scribe can be spotted perched at the ringside, frantically scribbling prices down in the catalogue for some winter reading back home.

Heaven forbid their biros run out mid sale!

Seasonal Visitors 

Usually after something specific but determined to secure a bargain, these farmers occasionally show their faces at seasonal sales.

To mum’s delight, that’s dad coming home with two turkeys instead of one from the CCM Auction Mart Christmas Turkey Sale, exclaiming ‘That’s one for the Aga and one for the freezer!” 

Three Generations 

Farming is often a family affair and a trip to the auction mart is no exception, especially as it counts as a well deserved day out!

From babies in prams to young farmers to great uncles, you can usually spot the three generations from the clothing they are wearing; in most cases that’s tweed flapcaps, checkered work shirts or schoffel fleece jackets.

Whoever said farmers weren’t fashionable clearly never visited an auction mart ring side.

The First Time Bidder 

Often nervous looking with their ID number in hand, these first timers are ecstatic when they win the lot – if only they realise how addictive that feeling becomes!

Happy vs. Grumpy farmers 

Depending on the trade you can usually identify which farmer has had a good day at the office or a bad one from their facial expressions – stay well back if you spot a frown!

The Luck Giver 

Some farmers prefer to deliver their luck in person and can be spied dodging in and out of the crowd, scratching their head as they try to put a face to the name or remember who they were looking for in the first place!

The Contract Buyer 

Patience is a virtue and one that the contract buyer has mastered.

They are completely focused on the task at hand, and only leave their well worn auction -side spot once they have filled their trailers/lorries up.

The Fine Diner 

A well known regular in the auction mart cafe regardless of time of day, you know to look for him in there first!

The farmer only the auctioneer can see

Self-explanatory as you try to work out who keeps outbidding you!

Here come the girls 

Farming is no longer the male dominated industry it used to be and the presence of women at the auction mart ringside has increased, much to my delight.

From daughters being promised a good old auction dinner to wives lending a hand with last minute pre-sale prep, our female presence is certainly there and not one to be ignored.

Watch out boys – here come the girls!

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Dad and I selling sheep

So these are eleven people you will always spot around the auction mart ring – be sure to look out for them on your next visit and let me know if you spy any more!

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A classics student’s guide to Ancient Rome

Despite being an undergraduate classics student fascinated with Ancient Rome, I had never been to Europe’s eternal city.

Despite being an undergraduate classics student fascinated with Ancient Rome, I had never been to Europe’s eternal city.

So when Ryan treated me to a New Years break in Rome as a 21st birthday present I was ecstatic and could not wait to visit the city littered with history.

Here’s a short summary of what we got up to and some of my favourite places to visit! I’ll apologise now for the historical lectures.

The Flavian Amphitheatre/ The Colosseum 

Cliched, I know, but The Flavian Amphitheatre, as it was referred to in antiquity, was incredible.

Completed in AD80 by Emperor Vespasian and his successor Titus (thus named after the family!), it is said to have seated 50-80,000 spectators who attended the various gladiatorial shows, animal fights and sea battles.

It is safe to say I could barely contain my excitement the morning we headed off to see it.

 A friend had previously advised us to purchase a €12 combination ticket at the Roman Forum first, meaning we got to skip the massive line once we arrived at the Colosseum. I would definitely recommend doing this!

Despite the place swarming with tourists, both inside and out, it was INCREDIBLE!

The sheer scale is enough to make your mouth drop open, especially when you register it was built in ancient times without the building technology we have at our disposal today.

No wonder it is classed as an UNESCO site, it is simply mind boggling.

Walking around, I wished time travel was possible just so I could attended the gladiatorial games which were usually held twice a year.

However, I would’ve been stationed at the top of the Colosseum due to the seating hierarchy laws, looking down at the action, a gut-wrenching thought!

We loved it so much so that we went twice, the second time with a professional tour guide with access to lower levels and the reconstructed arena floor.

Overall, this was my favourite tourist location, not because of its extraordinary scale but the rich, varied, and brutally bloody history of the place!

The Forum Romanum / Roman Forum 

Ancient Rome’s showpiece, the Forum Romanum was once the very centre and seat of the Roman Empire, fulfilling the day to day political, religious and commercial needs of its citizens.

It was a place where ancients citizens dreams were materialised and sometimes crushed, whilst symbolically visualising Rome’s wealth and power to both its Empire and beyond.

It was, to put it simply, the centre of the world as they knew it, and its constant rebuilding and renovation reflected the Empire’s changing political climate.

Whilst not much is left today, I marvelled over the fact that I was strolling where AUGUSTUS, Rome’s first emperor, once strolled, and delighted at the archeological remains I had learned about in my lectures, such as the Basilica of Iulia or the Temple of the Vestal Virgins.

Again, I loved this tour but probably because I was already familiar with some of the remains discussed in my lectures!

Palatine Hill 

Home to affluent Republican Romans then Imperial Emperors,  the Palatine Hill towers 40 M above the Forum whilst looking down on the Circus Maximus at the other side simultaneously.

Not only is there a fantastic view at the top to take awesome photographs of the Forum and Colosseum but is rumoured to be the location of the cave where the mythological founders of Rome, twin brothers Romulus and Remus, suckled the she-wolf and later founded Rome.

Since entry is included in the combined ticket, it is an archeological site not to be missed, even if just for the views!

Theatre of Marcellus 

A building less well known, the Theatre of Marcellus was dedicated by Augustus to his deceased nephew and pre-dates the Colosseum, opening in 13/11BC (speculated in ancient sources!).

It is the only surviving theatre from Augustan Rome so provides an insight into what the others would’ve been like.

You cannot gain entry unless there is an event open to the public, but it is one of the buildings I will be discussing in my dissertation, hence why I look so excited!

Definitely worth a flying visit when in Rome.

Pantheon 

Again, another building in impeccable condition! Commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ right (and left) hand man, the original Roman temple burned down but was rebuilt by Hadrian, dedicated approximately in AD126.

You can still see the original inscription from the Augustan period, walk on Hadrian’s marble floors which have never been repaired and pay respects to some important tombs of Rome’s past!

Thus, it is a place with a plethora of history and its free entry warrants a visit.

Ara Pacis 

Erected in the Campus Martius by the Roman Senate in 13BC to honour Augustus’s return to Rome after his time in Gaul and Hispania, it is an altar dedicated to Pax, Goddess of Peace and visually reflects Augustan attitudes towards civic religion.

The one I am standing in front of is the 1938 reconstructed version, since the original was submerged in mud and only part of its remains were found.

It is now preserved in a museum close to the Mausoleum of Augustus (his tomb!) a fitting touch, don’t you think?

Circus Maximus 

Due to visiting Rome during New Years, I failed to get a picture of the Circus Maximus due to preparations for the concert taking place at the weekend. It is basically a long thin ditch in-between two valleys.

It is  where Rome held its famous and popular chariot racing for centuries, with emperors constantly renovating and monitoring it to suit spectators’ needs and is another building I shall be discussing in my dissertation on Augustan spectacles!

My final two sites are not related to Ancient History you may be happy to know. 

Trevi Fountain 

Every time we visited the fountain it was jam-packed with tourists taking selfies, people tossing coins for good look or girls posing for the camera in fashionable outfits.

This made it incredibly hard to get a good picture but perseverance paid off, albeit on Ryan’s part, and we managed to get one!

It is the largest baroque fountain in Rome, and arguably one of the most famous fountains in the world, dating from 1762 and featuring in several notable films.

So swing by with an icecream, (there are plenty of great ice-cream places nearby!) and check it out!

St. Peter’s Basilica 

Located in the Vatican City, it is the most renown work of Renaissance architecture and largest church in the world!

We queued for 2 1/2 hours to gain entry and paid €8 to get to the top of the dome. But the wait (AND ADDITIONAL 500 stairs!) was worth it for this view.

Simply breathtaking, even on a slightly foggy day.

So those are my top places to visit in Rome if you love ancient history or not! I hope you have enjoyed my post and as always, let me know.

Finally, thankyou once again Ryan for an amazing present – what an experience and I’m lucky to have shared it with you!

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10 signs you know Christmas has arrived on the farm!

As I’m feeling slightly festive, a rarity for me, here are 10 signs you know Christmas has arrived on the farm!

The 3 Wise Reps 

Similar to the nativity scene, the festive period warrants an annual visit from local reps who come to the farm bearing gifts of calendars, chocolate and whiskey as a thank you for your custom over the past year.

It is an age old tradition replacing the advent calendar; as soon as you see the rep, you know Christmas is around the corner.

Double order everything 

Most things shut down over the Christmas holidays and the farming industry is no exception to this rule.

Experience has taught you to order that extra proven to tide you over until the New Year, as feed wagons don’t and won’t work on Christmas Day!

But for some reason the bills keep coming…

Beware the practical presents 

Being pragmatic is something every farmer has a knack for and this is most evident in the giving of practical presents at Christmas time.

Try and look excited as you unwrap yet another pair of overalls, new wellingtons or a head torch for lambing time: it was bought with good intentions, honest!

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Make sure the turkey fits in the AGA 

Farmers get overtly excited when they realise they can secure a bargain and this happens every Christmas with a visit to the local Turkey Sale.

Despite going to purchase a 17lbs for Christmas Day, it’s not unusual to leave with not one, but two cheap 22lbs!

And whilst you personally may delighted with your bargains, the person cooking the Christmas dinner certainly isn’t when they realise the bird doesn’t fit in the AGA.

Cue a few curse words, some last minute butchering skills and a promise that next time you’ll just stick to the prescribed shopping list!!

Jobs before Presents 

It is still a working day meaning daily jobs, such as milking and feeding up, need to be complete before any presents are unwrapped!

On the plus side, the folks are used to getting up early, meaning you never needed to wait for them to wake up as a child before you could open anything.

Rating fields in terms of sledging speed

There is something enchanting about fields covered in glistening untouched snow – especially for a child growing up and playing on the farm.

With slopes and fields galore, you have ranked each one over the years on how fast your sledge will go down the hill and still have favourite field to sledge in.. even at the age of 22!

However, please note that sledges, ropes and quad-bikes do not mix and will only end in tears…

Holly Seekers 

Christmas time means holly seekers come out in force, looking for berries to make some festive decorations.

And whilst it is tempting to send these festive people found rummaging in your hedgerows away, experience shows acts of kindness are sometimes rewarded ….

Like that time when we awoke to find a handmade wreathe on our doorstop!

What’s a Carol Singer? 

Certainly something only found in films.

The mere thought of carol singers trekking all the way down the snowy and slippery lane just to sing you a song is simply absurd and amusing.

But fair play if anyone has ever turned up outside your farmhouse and belted out a carol or two!

Lost Christmas Walkers 

Everyone loves a good countryside stroll and for some reason townies choose the festive period (Christmas Eve/Day/Boxing Day) in particular to go on one.

Be prepared to answer the door to a lost walker half way through your turkey dinner: it is guaranteed to happen one year!

Mouthwatering Kitchen Smells 

You certainly never went hungry at Christmas time in a farm house.

From Christmas cakes, mince pies and festive trifles to homemade stuffing, pastries and cheese sauce, farmers wives and mothers have the festive menu perfected and you are guaranteed to leave the table feeling as obese as the turkey you just devoured.

You have dreamed about this meal all year long and every year it just keeps getting better.

And nobody’s Christmas Dinner will ever come up to scratch!

Those are my 10 signs Christmas has arrived on the farm. But what are yours?

I hope you have enjoyed this festive post.

All that is left for me to say is Merry Christmas Everyone and a Happy New Year!

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9 things farmers want countryside walkers to remember…

Everyone loves going for walks in the country.

It is hard not to with such amazing scenery, crisp fresh air and abundance of nature. There is just something homely and tranquil about it.

Yet the countryside is also a hectic workplace for farmers up and down the country who are just trying to make a living the best way they know how.

As farmers, we want everyone to be able to enjoy the countryside as much as we do taking care of it, but we really appreciate some respect for our workplace when you are out and about on your weekend strolls.

Here are nine things farmers would like countryside walkers to remember…

       1. Cows live in the countryside too!

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No matter how fluffy it looks, do not pet the calf!

Contrary to social media opinion, cows, bulls and calves still occupy the fields on a regular basis and are often found chudding happily away without a care in the world.

But be prepared for their reaction to you and your dog, especially if there is young livestock nearby.

After all, cows are protective of their newborn young – something seven year old me discovered!

Remember to remain quiet and calm when walking through a field of cows and calves, avoiding any startling movements that may spook them.

And should the worst happen, let GO of your dog and its lead – it can outrun a cow, meaning you can get to safety separately, saving yourself buckets of sweat and a lot of swearing!

      2. Pick up your dog muck 

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A local farmer’s sign! CREDIT: Lorraine Keogh

Dog poo is known to spread Neosporosis – a disease causing cows to abort their calves or become infected if carried to term.

It is a massive pet peeve for farmers, since it only takes dog walkers a few seconds to pick up poo and dispose of it correctly, but failure to do so can cost a farmer his livelihood!

Poo really isn’t a big deal –  farmers deal with tons of it on a daily basis, whether cleaning out sheds, milking cows or muck-spreading.

So take some responsibility and clean up after your pooch – after all you really wouldn’t like it if we came and left our cow crap in your back garden!

3. Buy an up-to-date map .. and stick to it! 

Like most things in life, changes can happen and land is no exception to this.

New ownership means that public footpaths are often redirected to suit a farmers’ long term plan, meaning you should use an up-to-date map to avoid trespassing and being shouted at!

It will also save you knocking on farm house doors/ walking into lambing sheds to ask for directions and taking up a farmer’s precious time, meaning you have more time to explore the countryside, and the farmer can carry on with his daily tasks like normal.

      4. Leave the gates alone

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Leave the gates alone!

If you find the gate open, leave it open.

If you find the gate closed, leave it closed.

Farmers leave gates exactly how they want them and nothing is more frustrating than moving a flock of sheep or herd of heifers to find someone has shut the gate which they are supposed to be turning into!

Just leave the gates alone. Please.

5.  Don’t interfere

Don’t get me wrong, farmers appreciate your concern and are grateful when you inform us about something wrong you discovered on your walks.

But more often than not, we are aware that our tup is lame or that there is a gap in the fence and we are dealing with it. There really is no need for you to interfere.

Unless it is something urgent, such as the pigs have escaped and are making a mud-bath of the village green, presume we have it covered!

6. Unless a sheep is on its back 

Please intervene if you see a sheep on its back struggling to get up – it is ‘rigged’ and will not be able to get up by itself.

7. Don’t rely on 3G 

It may be the 21st century but the countryside still has sparse 3G and limited signal!

Chances are google maps will fail to load and you’ll be stranded in a field completely lost, with limited signal to call for help should an emergency occur.

And whilst you think you may look really cool re-enacting the Simba scene, you just look like a daft townie to farmers, who forgot to buy an up-to-date map and lack a common sense of direction.

Just put your smartphone away and enjoy the countryside in all its glory. You can Instagram that photo of the view once you are back home with a cuppa.

      8. It is private for a reason 

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Farmyards are incredibly busy and sometimes dangerous workplaces, making them private for a reason!

Just stick to the footpath.

We are not trying to hide anything from you, rather prevent an accident from occurring – we are often not aware of your presence and so have not factored it into our (mental) risk assessment of our task.

The last thing we want is for a member of the public to be hurt on our farm. So please just stick to the footpath, and if you do have to cross a farmyard to reach your destination be quick and quiet – no dawdling!

9. Keep your dog on a lead around livestock

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Time for walks

The countryside is a great place to exercise your dogs but please remember to keep them on a lead around livestock.

If I have to shout at any more dog walkers, I will go blue in the face!

Yes, most of you keep your dogs on leads when in fields with livestock and I cannot thank you enough.

But for those that don’t, try telling the farmer who has found his beloved flock dead, maned and stressed your excuses: ‘my dog would never chase or kill a sheep/ he’s so well trained he doesn’t need to be on a lead / she’s too small to do any damage’ and then watch his reaction.

As owners, you should realise dogs have sudden instincts and every dog is capable of harming sheep, regardless of temperament, size, breed etc. Just take some RESPONSIBILITY.

The last thing farmers want to do is lawfully shoot your pooch but sometimes there is no other alternative.

Just keep your dog on a lead around livestock. It is that simple.

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No better sight!

So those are my top nine things I, as a young  farmer, would like countryside walkers to remember during their weekend strolls.

It really is possible for everyone to enjoy the countryside and still be respectful to the people and animals living and working there!

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Lord Mayor’s Show 2017

This weekend I was extremely fortunate to represent North West Farmers (Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire) at the 802nd Lord Mayor’s Show, London, on behalf of the National Farmers Union, New Holland and The Worshipful Company of Farmers.

This weekend I was extremely fortunate to represent North West Farmers (Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire) at the 802nd Lord Mayor’s Show, London, on behalf of the National Farmers Union, New Holland and The Worshipful Company of Farmers.

For those of you thinking, what on earth is the Lord Mayor’s Show, it is one of the most popular historic civic pageants in the world, dating back to 1215 and is basically an eccentrically British celebratory pageant through the streets of London.

I was delighted when I received the email back in August from the NFU announcing I had been nominated and selected as their ‘Young Farmer’ representative for the North West region, and have been counting down the days until the show ever since.

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One of the magazines we were featured in!

And what a weekend it was.

After all, it is not your average day that you escort a brand new T7 tractor and C8.80 Combine down the narrow streets of the capital city on national television live!

I was super excited, having only been to London a couple of times previously and couldn’t wait to meet the other seven young farmers who I would be sharing this unique experience with.

I travelled down on the Friday and despite getting lost twice on the tube and abandoning google maps for the old fashion ‘ask a stranger for directions’ technique, I finally made it to The Grange St Pauls, arguably the most luxurious hotel I have ever stayed in!

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Which to choose?!

After the excitement of finding two queen sized beds in my room, both for me, we all met in the lobby and headed off for an official show briefing.

Following this,  we went for dinner at The Paternoster, kindly provided by New Holland.

I have never felt so full in all of my life, especially since there was a mix up with the starters and I ended up with a British bangers board all to myself!

Every part of the meal was delicious and if you are ever in London, I highly recommend checking out this restaurant – you will not be disappointed.

During dinner I got the chance to get to know the other young farmers in a more informal manner, as well as meet the New Holland and NFU team in charge of organising the event, including the then NFU president Meurig Raymond.

Once the meal was over we were provided with our jackets, caps and to everyones’  delight, a model T7 tractor each.

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Big kid alert!

Never have I see a group of Young Farmers so excited over a toy!

DAY OF THE SHOW

Up early in true farmer fashion, we headed out onto the streets for official photographs with the New Holland kit.

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After the two minutes silence for Remembrance Day, the parade started and what a sight it was to watch!

There was so much noise, colour and performance going on that you simply didn’t know where to look.

We were number 101 in the pageant and after 45 minutes, we finally set off, promoting the “PROUD TO PRODUCE YOUR FOOD” message to the onlooking general public.

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We got an incredibly reaction, from children cheering, hi-fiving us and pointing to the combine in excitement to the elder generation thanking and smiling at us from every direction.

Even the mayor seemed delighted with his hamper of British produce and New Holland toy tractor!

It was humbling and encouraging to see so much enthusiasm for UK agriculture from all generations lining the streets, especially with the lurking Brexit negotiations making the next ten years uncertain for most farmers, and the fact that by 2050 there will be 9 billion people needing to be fed.

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Tight squeeze!

It made the freezing cold and aching jaw (from smiling too much) worthwhile and filled me with optimism that the British people are keen to #backbritshfarming and learn about the provenance of their foods.

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Pre-parade brew and selfie

All good things come to an end and in a jiffy the parade was all over.

We parked up the machinery for the final time and after saying our goodbyes, headed off in our different directions.

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If you ever get the chance to represent UK Farming at the Lord Mayor’s Show, do not hesitate!

It was, hands down, one of the best opportunities I have ever experienced, from meeting a fantastic bunch of people proud of our industry to promoting the important #backbritshfarming message to the general public both in person and on national live television.

I simply loved every second, and all memories from the day, as well as my toy tractor, will stay with me forever!

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Thankyou to everyone involved for making the day successful!

Here is a short video from the NFU summarising the day.

Watch the parade here at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09ffqph/the-lord-mayors-show-2017 (We appear at 1:12:27 if you don’t want to watch the whole thing!)

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Mental Health and Farmers

Mental health is a subject that unfortunately attracts so much stigmatism. But it is time to change this!

Mental health is a subject that unfortunately attracts so much stigmatism.

But it is time to change this!

With campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health, there is a clear need for more awareness in today’s society, with more and more people suffering with Mental Health.

Whilst I am not quite ready to share my experience with you all just yet about battling Anxiety and Depression for many years, I am proud to say that I am getting better at managing it and feel in a positive place.

It is for this reason why I am joining the bandwagon (to put it colloquially) and spreading awareness about mental health on my blog, especially when considering that agriculture is a high risk industry for suicide with farmers statistically less likely to seek help.

Tip Number 1. Talking  

Yes, it is horrible to talk about your mental health battle to family/friends/professionals.

I speak from experience.

It is never easy to admit that you cannot cope, that things are getting on top of you, that you simply can’t go on. In fact it is pretty damn hard to do and takes an incredibly amount of courage.

Yet trying to cope alone ended up making my depression and anxiety more severe in the long term.

In hindsight, I wished I had opened up sooner and got the help I needed rather than letting it get so serious.

My advice, as a young farmer and someone who has experienced these terrible diseases first hand is just talk to someone.

Whilst I know how lonely and isolating the countryside can be (when the only other lifeform is sheep), there will always be someone or something to talk to; for instance, your best friend at YFC, the Auction Mart Café waitress, amazing charities such as RABI and FCN, professionals like doctors, strangers (phone-lines are always available) and even your beloved sheepdog!


After all, farmers LOVE to talk and are always up for helping someone wherever and whenever they can. It is an industry that has a strong community vibe, so don’t be afraid to utilise your auction mart visits.

Getting your feelings out of your mind and into the open is such a relieving feeling and whilst you may encounter close-minded people (I know I certainly did and I let them prevent me seeking further help!) openness is key to recovery and is the reason why talking is my number one tip for mental health sufferers.

Tip Number 2. Keep On Going

 It can be incredibly hard to just keep on going when fighting your mental health on a daily basis. I certainly found it draining: I was disengaged with everything, had no appetite and wanted to sleep all the time. This meant my hobbies and studies suffered as a result.

Farmers suffering from mental health may know this feeling of giving up when faced with daunting daily routine chores.

Points like ‘there is no point mucking out the cattle shed today, it’ll be covered in crap again tomorrow’ may run through their minds leading to further points such as ‘whatever I do is pointless and will make no difference’.

By ignoring this negativity and getting stuck in with daily tasks, the farmyard can offer a great distraction from the troubles occupying the mind, making you rationalise the initial problems and their consequences once you have had some time to rethink them.

So, my number two tip is keep on going. You have got this!

And if you find yourself lacking motivation, a good distraction will take your mind off your problems and allow you to rationalise it later.

Tip Number 3. Be Yourself

My final tip is to be yourself.

There is no need to be constantly comparing yourself to others,  whether it’s about friends, jobs, relationships etc.

It is a fruitless exercise – the ‘the grass may be greener on the other side’ kind of thing.

Yes, others may be good farmers, have the latest machinery, are popular in the YFC scene, or have fantastic stock, but being envious won’t make you feel any better – infact it’ll make you feel worse!

Moreover, chances are, that they too have some area of their ‘perfect’ life that they would do anything to change. Like you.

So the solution is simple. Just be you and do your own thing – being an individual is far better than another sheep!

I embrace my difference, and so should you.

***

So those are my three top tips! Guaranteed that they aren’t the easiest, but they were the most effective for my mental health battle.

I hope they are useful to you.

Let’s smash the stigma surrounding Mental Health and remember that’s it’s okay to not be okay!

Helplines to call if you/ family/ or a friend is struggling with mental health:

Royal Agricultural Benevolent Society (R.A.B.I) – 0808 2819490

Farming Community Network: 0845 367 9990

Mind: 0300 123 3393

Mental Health Foundation: 020 7803 1100

Farming Help (Frontier): 03000 111 999

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Beijing Trip: Bizarre, Beautiful and Brilliant

In August I was selected to go to Beijing on a three-week Study China programme, funded by the UK government and delivered by The University of Manchester.

In August I was selected to go to Beijing on a three-week Study China programme, funded by the UK government and delivered by The University of Manchester.

Seeing as I had never travelled beyond Europe before, I was excited by the offer and jumped at the chance to experience something completely new and outside my comfort zone!

Despite not knowing anyone going, leaving behind family and friends for three whole weeks and the extremely hot weather forecasts (those that know me know that I am terrible with heat/sun) I booked my flights as soon as I could and didn’t look back.

And I am so glad I went because Beijing is simply completely out of this world!

The 3,000-year-old city is traditional yet vibrant, a place slow and fast simultaneously, and despite spending a whole three weeks there, I felt I had barely enough time to scratch the surface of this phenomenal city.

Here’s a summary (I tried to keep it short!) of what I got up to during my time in Beijing and some helpful tips if you are thinking of visiting this bizarre beautiful and brilliant city.

Beijing Normal University 

The study aspect of the programme was fantastic – we were put up in a 4* hotel on campus, made friends for life (shoutout to Beth, Izzy, Boney and Emily!) and had some amazing teachers who encouraged us to utilise our experience and go and explore the city!

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Home for the next three weeks!

We attended Mandarin lessons most mornings, with Tai Chi and Calligraphy lessons every now and then, and had weekly tests to check our understanding and progress.

Another culture experience was that we got to spend a day with a Chinese family! We visited their house, met their families and cooked dumplings together. It was cute and a great way of experiencing the culture for ourselves.

We also took part in a class performance at the closing ceremony to showcase our new language abilities – our group sang a classical Chinese song called ‘The Moon Represents My Heart’.

Here is an official youtube version of the song – much better than our version by miles!

Somehow, I managed to graduate the scheme with 97.5% –  yet I cannot speak a word of Mandarin now that I am back in England.

I am so glad I went to Beijing on a study abroad scheme – it allowed me to live in a culture completely different to my own and offered so many unique experiences that I simply would’ve missed out on if I was just travelling.  I urge everyone to go on a study abroad scheme if they ever get the chance!

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Graduating with my girlies

Beijing Zoo 

I must admit, I love a good zoo.

Founded in 1906, Beijing Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in China, and has a collection of rare animals’ endemic to the country – such as PANDAS.

After managing to negotiate a student ticket and admission to the panda house and sampling the most disgusting ice lolly in the world (Pea flavoured?!), I got to see them and they were awesome!

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This took a lot of negotiating :’)

Rolling around, eating bamboo, they looked so content with life.

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Happy Panda!

One drawback of the zoo was that I was constantly photographed!

Being tall and blonde, I was slightly creeped out by the constant staring and pointing, but found it bizarre people wanted to take photos of me and with me.

I left the zoo sunburnt, harassed and regretting my decision to go there in the first place.

Tip – Beijing Zoo may not be for everybody. I would however suggest a visit to the Panda Sanctuary in Chengdu instead if you have time, as the money goes towards the care of the Pandas rather than upkeep of the place. 

HouHai 

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One night we visited Houhai, a large artificial lake, located in Xicheng District of central Beijing, that is famous for its surrounding bar street, traditional courtyards and restaurants.

Whilst on the hunt for dinner, I came across the cutest fan shop and simply had to treat myself to one! Its pattern reminded me of the traditional Chinese rural setting and I thought it the perfect souvernier for myself.

We spent the rest of the night drifting in and out of the bars, watching bands perform and taking photographs of the beautiful scenery. The place was vibrant and filled with local youths and tourists, meaning that whilst we did attract some attention, we were more than comfortable walking around the lake, soaking in the atmosphere and listening to the local talent.

Tip – The restaurants and bars are slightly expensive as it is a touristy place. I would recommend a visit to Wudaokou, a student area in Beijing, which is a lot cheaper and full of bars! 

Acrobatic Show 

I have always wanted to see a Chinese acrobatic show and luckily for me, the Study China programme had arranged for a trip to us all to see one at the Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatic Show.

Performing were the National Acrobats of The People’s Republic of China – one of the longest running and most distinguished circus tropes in China.

And boy did they impress – ranging from skilful to daring, the troupe performed nail biting and super human physical feats in creative choreographed routines that make you gasp in awe at and think, is that even possible?

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Tip – You must watch an acrobatic show when in China – they are some of the best performers in the world and will shock/excite you all in one go! 

Tiananmen Square 

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Tiananmen Square

Seeing as we were in Beijing we had to stop by Tiananmen Square (also known as ‘The Gate of Heavenly Peace’) and get a selfie with Mao.

The city square is the third largest city square in the world and is where Mao famously proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Subsequently, it has great cultural significance as it is the site of several important events in Chinese history.

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Statue outside Mausolean

The square was bustling with people ranging from tourists to locals, who are paying their respects to Mao. Interestingly, you can visit Mao’s embalmed body for free in the Mausolean between 8am-12:00pm – though there is some debate whether it is him or not.

We decided not to (on the account of it being a bit creepy) and just settled for trying to get the perfect picture with Mao in the background and wondering around the square.

THIS WAS A BAD IDEA.

Within seconds of posing for the camera, we were bombarded by Chinese people wanting to take our photographs/have photographs with us/pointing and staring.

It all got a bit too much (it was also a really hot day – 34 Degrees Celsius!) and we quickly headed for the subway to escape the paparazzi frenzy that was beginning to form.

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We all finally got a group photograph!

Tip – Go early in the morning or evening to avoid the swarm of locals wanting to take your photograph – it will also give you better photographs as less people in the background. 

Also go to the toilet before setting off/ try to hold it in – the toilets here were the worst toilets I experienced during the whole of the trip, in terms of smell and cleanliness. 

Yonghe Temple (Lama Temple) 

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If you love the smell of incense then this is the place for you!

Yonghe Temple is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet and is still an active place of worship, despite the masses of tourists that visit daily.

With magnificence decorative arches, Tibetan prayer wheels, red walled buildings and stone lions hidden by dense clouds of incense, it was easy to get lost in thought whilst wondering around and exploring the different themed prayer rooms. We certainly did!

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Lama Temple feat Incence

However, it was extremely hot and we found no place on site to purchase a bottle of water, despite the numerous gift shops selling overpriced gems and incense to burn.

Oh, and it threw an unexpected thunderstorm – there wasn’t many places to shelter, since it is an extremely busy place so we ended up getting slightly wet.

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Tip – Bring a brolly, bottle of water and asthma inhaler just incase.

Chinese Cooking Class

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Ready, Steady, Cook!

The Chinese are known for their culinary expertise and I was lucky enough to have a private Chinese cuisine cooking lesson with a 5* chef!

It was so much fun: from chatting to the host Carlye about the culture and his experiences in the capital to learning about how to cut shiitake mushrooms and the correct way to fold dumplings, I enjoyed every second of the class and got to eat some delicious dishes.

The host even provided us with the recipe to make each dish and photographed the whole evening so that we would have some pictures to remember the experience!

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Tip – I would recommend going to a cooking class. You will learn so much about Chinese culture as well as sample some of the best foods you will eat during your time in Beijing! 

BeiHai Park 

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Sun starting to set

One of the largest, oldest and best preserved ancient imperial gardens, BeiHai Park was a delight to walk through.

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Said to have been built due to a Chinese legend regarding three nearby ‘magic mountains’ whose gods had herbal medicine to help humans gain immorality, it was finally opened to the public in 1925 and attracts hundreds of visitors each year.

With its large lake, beautiful scenery and selection of adorned bridges/doors/walkways, it was a sanctuary of peace for us that offered us an escape from the bustling city for an afternoon – despite being situated in the heart of the capital city.

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Obsessed with the Lotus flowers!

Tip – Go during the day if you wish to climb up to the White Dagoba – nothing worse than climbing all the way to the top to find out it is shut!! 

Great Wall Of China 

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Organised by the Study China trip, we visited the Great Wall of China early one morning. A place I’m sure many of you have heard of!

It was boiling hot and we were at Juyongguan, a section with the reputation of being the steepest!

I took it easy, given the heat and steepness, and progressed up the wall at my own pace, stopping along the way to take photographs and soak in the history of the place.

The surrounding views were magnificent and the idea that this was all built without modern technology simply blows your mind, especially when you realise the scale for yourself in person.

My friend Izzy nearly fainted off the wall at one point, which wasn’t very funny at the time, due to the heat and smog. We must have looked a sight to the Chinese people who were casually strolling up the steps without so much as a sweat!

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Of course I would climb it in Dr. Martens and a dress!

Nethertheless, I loved my time at the wall, despite its challenging nature, and would happily go back and climb it (although maybe a less steeper section) again.

Tip – Take plenty of water and perhaps a towel to soak up the sweat! It is a physical exercise, rather than a gentle stroll – also don’t wear makeup as it’ll just sweat off!!! 

798 Art District 

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What a place!

China’s answer to Camden, 798 Art District is where all the cool artsy people go and hang out.

Every street corner has something drawn on it and shops and galleries are everywhere, exhibiting a range of weird and wacky artwork that really makes you think!

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Unfortunately, as we went later in the day, things were starting to shut, which was a shame as I could’ve easily spent an entire day wondering around the different sections (A, B, C, D, E).

Tip – Go early and explore as much as possible! There are lots of galleries so have a google and see which you think are worth paying entry for! 

Forbidden City 

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Wandering around like I own the place

I was amazed by how impressive the Forbidden City looked.

A Chinese imperial palace dating from the Ming Dynasty, it is the largest ancient palatial structure in the world and the culmination of traditional Chinese architectural accomplishment.

It is in the center of Beijing and is a sight to behold, with a maze of bright red buildings with gold elaborate rooftops as far as the eye can see.

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However, I found the Forbidden City experience overall a bit disappointing!

It was incredibly busy, as was to be expected, but it ruined the atmosphere of such a huge spectacular site.

Tourists were in every nook and cranny, making it hard to move around and the Chinese people were very ignorant – when they swarmed us for photographs, which we declined (it was way too hot to stand around!), they reacted in disgust and annoyance, rather than understanding why we didn’t want to stand out in the sun and burn.

It just felt overpriced and touristy rather than authentic. Nethertheless, I am glad I went but I wouldn’t hurry back for a while.

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Tip – Try and go during off-peak times to avoid the crowds and explore as much as possible! 

Summer Palace 

A vast ensemble of lakes, palaces and gardens, we visited the Summer Palace, the Imperial family’s summer retreat, to relax one Sunday afternoon.

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The place was full of pretty promenades, ever changing scenery and lakes filled with Lotus flowers, making it very idyllic to stroll around. We even hopped on a boat ride around Kunming lake to soak in the views!

Personally, I enjoyed the Garden of Virtuous Harmony best. Inside it houses a large theatre building where the Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi watched performances from the Peking Opera. The place was built in honour of her 60th birthday – how romantic!

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However, the Summer Palace was also slightly disappointing for a similar reason to the Forbidden City – it was swarming with people.

For instance, trying to walk down the Long Corridor was like queuing to pay in Primark – simply chaotic!

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The food was also expensive and overpriced and we fell into the trap of purchasing some simply because we didn’t fetch any snacks with us!

Tip – Buy the ticket that allows you to access all the different gardens as once you are inside you cannot upgrade your ticket anywhere! It is worth doing as every garden contains something slightly different and the ticket covers all the main gardens. 

Temple of Heaven 

Perhaps my favourite temple in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing.

The grounds are HUGE and there is plenty to see, from the Circular Mound Altar of Heaven – where emperors mediated before proceeding to pray to the gods for good harvest, to the Imperial Vault of Heaven where ceremonial tablets were stored.

Interestingly, the Vault is nicknamed “The Echo Wall” as its shape allows sound to travel much further than normal. How funky!

Moreover, the complex has a dual purpose – it is not only a place for tourists to come and wonder at the religious significance but functions as a playground for residents.

I lost count of the amount of people playing cards or practising Tai Chi as I wonder around the vast gardens and soaked in the smell of freshly cut grass.

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It just felt very calm and relaxed here – compared to the hectic Lama Temple – which is why I probably preferred it.

That and I didn’t get asked once for a photograph (hurray!)

Tip – I visited mid-afternoon on a Monday and it was dead. Also take a bottle of water with you as I didn’t come across any places to grab snacks or drinks! 

***

So that is just a snippet of what I got up to during my time in Beijing.

 I had the most incredible time and cannot wait until I can afford to go back again – it is simply the most bizarre, beautiful and brilliant place I have visited and I urge everyone to add it to their bucket list!!

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Hope you enjoyed reading it (sorry for the length!) – as always, let me know below!

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10 things you’ll know if you grew up on a farm

Being at home for summer has made me feel nostalgic.

Here are 10 things you will know if you grew up on a farm!

Nothing is ever a five minute job 

If they say it is then they are lying!

You’ve learned from experience that lending a ‘quick hand’ turns into a twenty minute operation followed by a list of jobs that takes you all morning to complete, making you question why you volunteered in the first place.

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Moving sheep takes longer than 5 minutes

Bale twine fixes everything 

Waterproof trousers too big? Bale twine belt.

Setting up a temporary race? Bale twine.

Lost your dog lead? Bale twine.

You’ve probably lost count of the amount of times someone has asked you for some whilst working. It has happened so often that you dream about charging. After all, it’s an essential pocket requisite that fixes almost every problem.

You can’t out run a sheep

But you can certainly try! You counted this as your daily workout as it left you out of breathe and threatening to sell the troublesome (to put it politely) ewe at auction the first chance you get.

There is no such thing as being snowed in 

Snow is no longer exciting when there is a 4×4 always on hand. But you do look pretty cool rocking up to school on your dad’s tractor.

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Dad to the rescue

Who let the ewes out? 

Field gates left open becomes a Spanish Inquisition around the kitchen table. No matter how many times you proclaimed your innocence, the blame was assigned to you and dad muttering ‘next time I’ll do the job myself’.

Days off always coincide with bad weather

Booking planned events and actually going is something of a novelty to you. Especially in summer when you are constantly on call for seasonal jobs.

Friends know from experience that you will be missing in action once the weather forecast improves as you’ll be either in the shearing shed or driving a tractor, whether you want to or not. After all, farming comes first in your household.

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Even on days off you can’t escape farming

What’s a lie in? 

Certainly something that doesn’t happen in your household with your parents considering any time after 8.30am a lie in.

And the horror (and slight envy) when university friends text you at 4pm saying ‘sorry I’ve only just woken up’ whilst you have been working hard all day.

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Love/Hate relationship with the weather man 

You developed a changeable relationship with the weather forecasts from an early age as it was the most discussed subject on the farm.

TVs were often tutted at and switched off if they stated unsuitable weather for proposed plans and there was an element of speculation surrounding upcoming forecasts. You constantly played a game of who dares win and it was typical for it to rain once you have grass down.

But no matter how many times you trolled the internet in search of a more favourable weather report it always stayed the same – or sometimes got worse! You just learned to get on with it.

Smartphone but no signal 

You have spent years searching for a certain spot in the shed where there is enough signal to send a text. In fact you have perfected the lion king scene, holding the phone up high and hoping it sends.

Yet dodgy signal still plagued your rural life and internet was a rarity. People who sent Snapchats/Instagram posts from the lambing shed simply amazed you!

Fine dining equals a trip to the local auction 

You were more than happy to accompany your dad to the auction and stand around a cold ring looking at livestock just for those auction lunches.  You developed a favouritism towards a certain auction mart cafe and believed they were second best to your mum’s roast dinner.

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Mmmmm

Those are my top ten things – if you have any please let me know below!

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