Amanda Owen is a mum of 7 and just incase she didn’t have enough to do she is also a full time farmer, serves cream teas and only takes 1 day off after the birth of her children!
Recently she has written an intriguing book about her experiences. We HAD to talk to her and discover her secret to making it all work! Here’s the interview.
Q)You sound like the busiest person on the planet! How do you fit it all in? Children/ job/ husband? Do you follow a strict routine in order to organise everything and everyone?
I have a routine that I try to stick to, of course, like anything there’s always something that will crop up and throw a spanner in the works and then it comes down to prioritising and deciding what really IS important. As long as the children go to bed clean, fed and happy then the rest can wait. Although there are things that need doing every day, feeding the sheep, bedding up the cows etc there is not necessarily a strict timetable for this, as long as it gets done at some point in the day then it really doesn’t matter. We work together, my husband and I and both have separate responsibilities on the farm, most jobs I can do with the smaller children in tow but others that I can’t, I will do whilst Clive is working in the farmyard and he will keep an eye on them. I certainly don’t want to look like a smug mum, yes I work and am I am lucky to be able to enjoy family life too but I’m afraid being an outdoorsy sort of a person means that my house isn’t always the tidiest you’ve ever seen. I figure that the children won’t look back in years to come and reminisce about how tidy the house was, I reckon they’ll remember nursing lambs in front of the fire and riding the Shetland pony through the house.
Q) What was the hardest thing to cope with when you made your (quite dramatic!) lifestyle change from ‘townie’ to Shepherdess?The quietness I suppose, I had always lived in a place where there was a busy road and thus constant traffic and sirens and the sounds of people going about their business. To live where there was only the sound of sheep, cows and birds was quite unsettling for a start, the darkness too. At Ravenseat you also get a complete darkness that you do not get in the town, your eyes soon adjust to this too. I was never a massive fan of town life, from where I lived in Huddersfield you could be in the middle of town in twenty minutes or out into the countryside in exactly the same time. That’s the way I always went, I would get on my bicycle and head for the hills.
Q) You seem to be a very resilient, ‘go for it’ type of person. Has anyone in your life inspired you to be this way?
I don’t feel at all resilient, I have the same vulnerabilities as anyone else, I have had times when I was starting out when I had no money and was living in a pretty dire caravan with no running water and only a gas bottle heater that I was scared of using. At these times I frequently questioned where my life was heading but never really lost the all consuming desire to be a shepherd. It was a nerve wracking time to leave home, with no real direction and just the vaguest of plans, but I learnt a lot about survival, common sense and independence. Resilience is something that you do need living where we do, you really do have to be able to turn your hand to anything and be able to think on your feet. I guess I’m a Jill-of-all-trades.
Q) Considering you are so busy already what made you decide to write your inspirational book?
Many of our visitors to the farm would comment upon its remoteness and its beauty and ask whether it had been in the family for generations. They would always be surprised when I told them that both me and my husband were first generation farmers, him being from Doncaster and me from Huddersfield. They would ask how that came to be and I would say that it was a VERY long story. In addition, our children have freedoms that are not so commonplace anymore, they are able to roam just a little bit freer, run a little wild and get dirty. People always commented that they remembered their childhoods as being similar, so looked on with a sense of nostalgia. It was this lifestyle that I wanted to convey to people and writing a book seemed like the way to do it.
Q) How do you fit ‘family time’in to your lifestyle? Are you able to holiday/ go on days out etc together?
Family holidays just don’t happen, not particularly because of having a large family, more because of the nature of our work. It is very difficult to leave the farm animals for any length of time and they of course need tending 24/7. We will sometimes take a day out but we seem to always end up subconsciously looking for somewhere just like home. Quite often we have our very best day-long holidays at home….camping in one of the fields, swimming in the river or going exploring the moor on the horses.
Q) What do feel are the benefits to your children of living the lifestyle you have? Is there anything that you would change? Or anything they would?!
I think that they learn independence; they all have responsibilities whether it be the youngest helping to collect eggs from the hen house or making kindling for the fire to the older ones actually being in charge of the day to day care of some of the animals. They also work well together as a team, the bigger ones looking out for the little ones and of course learning about common sense, seeing life…..and death, they learn plenty from life on a farm. They get the chance to play outdoors, lots of exercise and fresh air which I think is so important, because they rarely get sick and go to bed tired every night. They do go to school so get plenty of integration with other children and also throughout the Summer there is a constant stream of visitors to the farm so they are in no way isolated from the ‘real world’ We also had an internet satellite dish installed as it became clear that it was vital to be able to keep in touch and proved very useful when during the wintertime we were snowed in as it meant that the children could do their homework online. I don’t think that the children were that impressed though. They have the whole world to discover and I hope that I have given them a good start, learning to actually ‘do’ things, make things and be busy.
Q) How have you coped with the emotional ups and downs and sleep deprivation of having a new baby and returning to work so quickly? Particularly to such a demanding job?
I always joked that I kept the new baby awake for the first few months as I was midway through writing my book and the only real time that I would get to write down my thoughts was when everyone had gone to bed. I have always worked right up until giving birth and carry on straight afterwards, it is just what suits me, I am quite fit and strong and have always prided myself on being able to get back in shape relatively quickly. I get tired, just like everybody else but I know that these are my ‘best times’ when the children are all at home and we are amongst the farm animals. I am determined to not miss a minute, it’s not about ‘having it all’ it’s about enjoying your life and deciding what is important, after all I am just an ordinary person living in an extraordinary place.
Amanda is appearing at the Overground Underground Festival in Yorkshire on Monday 26thMay to talk about life as a shepherdess on a hill farm. 2.30pm Monday 26th May 2014 @ Ingleborough Community Centre. Tickets £5 (profits from ticket sales donated to Ingleton Swimming Pool).
Amanda’s book ‘Amanda Owen the Yorkshire Shepherdess’ is available now. I have just finished the book and have to say it was intriguing and strangely addictive. I don’t often read non fiction, but I really enjoyed this biography of her journey and marvelled at her ability to handle all sorts of unusual situations!
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