When I first moved to High House, I had rose-tinted expectations of being a farmer’s wife.

I imagined myself wafting around in long floral dresses with well-groomed hair, followed by a bevy of adorable rosy-cheeked children. We would be sitting on a woolen rug, at the edge of a picturesque hay field, eating a delicious and nutritious home-made picnic whilst my cheerful husband brought home a bounteous harvest, only pausing for a happy family walk among the cut hay. Maybe with a cute white pony in the background or an obedient collie dog sitting by my feet.

Or in shorthand, like one of the irritatingly smug adverts from a J Crew catalogue.

The reality is a little different.

I’m usually wearing leggings and a huge unattractive jumper with a sheep poo mark down the front, and I’ve forgotten to brush my hair. My kids are bickering about being dragged outside when all they want to do is play on the Xbox and the picnic is a few elderly sausage rolls and wizened satsumas, which has been thrown together in a massive hurry. Steve can be guaranteed to be in a filthy mood about the weather or the non-appearance of the combine harvester and instead of a rug, we’re perching on a few slimy sheep feed bags and being pestered by wasps, whilst I’m bellowing at Mavis the collie dog to stop chasing our grumpy pony in the field next door.

It can be idyllic. When it’s not blowing a “hoolie” (howling gale), and the sun is shining, and nothing important has died and the tractor hasn’t sprung a leak, then life is pretty wonderful. But good scenery and plenty of outdoor space doesn’t always mitigate the fact that it’s a lot of hard work for very little material reward. We are often living hand to mouth and we are reliant on so many things out of our control, (such as decent weather, and good lamb prices), that we walk around in a constant fog of low-grade anxiety about the future of the farm.

I meet a lot of people at High House. We have a tearoom, wedding venue and brewery operating in the main part of our farm buildings and the paddock is now rented out to a marvellous glamping company. Many visitors enjoy watching us work, and chatting to our various animals, and I can guarantee that once a day, someone will gaze expansively across our rolling fields, sigh deeply, and say, “it must be an amazing life living here. All this space. I’d love it to be able to work outside all day.”

Then I point out that we work ridiculous hours for little or no money and we’re outside in the freezing wind, snow and rain, sometimes with very little sleep and with no chance of a rest or the option of a holiday. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate our gorgeous scenery and slower pace of life. I am SO ENORMOUSLY GRATEFUL that I can bring up my children in this area, and not in some dank and desperate inner-city neighbourhood. I realise that I am hugely lucky to be away from the nine to five corporate grind.  But living in the country is not the twinkly rural idyll, (inhabited by happy apple-cheeked farmers) that you might expect.

What the Flock!

Sally Urwin

Published: 07 July 2022

Sally Urwin