musings, meanderings and STOCK... in the life of a mindful smallholder
I lived a long time feeling displaced in an urban environment...
From being a child in fact. There was no history of farming within my family, no relatives Iiving in a perceived rural paradise. Just a deep feeling of dis-ease and a yearning for land, for the fullness of a country breath in my lungs, the smell of earth and the sounds of livestock. Was it just the idyllic imaginings of childhood or was it something more?
I believe there is an inevitable pull towards nature within us all; the soul’s yearning for the company of itself and the interaction with creation in all of its splendour. And that’s not to say that there is no splendour in urbanity. But there is less environmental space. And when we find space, the senses expand to fill it. And a feeling of being at one with the world can happen... At least it does for me.
So when I had an opportunity to relocate to the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors I took it. And I made a mini farm!
I started with grazing land for horses, and then retired sheep were the ideal grazing companions, then geese became essential “guard dogs” and chickens, well, every child needs some of those... including the inner child. The Highland cattle came later, when the spirit of adventure (or madness) (or both) persuaded me to do something really outside of my comfort zone.
To turn the keeping of farm animals as pets, into something approaching a sustainable smallholding endeavour, requires a good deal of pragmatism. I’m not a vegan, or even a vegetarian these days, but I decided at the outset that I did not want to be producing food for a consumer market, and I cannot bring myself to personally eat anything that I have had a hand in bringing into the world... Consequently, I knew that I would have to be creative if I wanted to fund the pleasure of keeping livestock, resist overstocking by keeping offspring, yet avoid producing free range dinners.
Spending time in nature, being connected with the flow of life (and death), the unfoldment of creation, is an intrinsic part of achieving balance and harmony within ourselves. Indeed, the Ayurvedic texts see this as an essential ingredient to living healthfully. There are many ways to do this, and we will not all be drawn in the same direction. For me, I achieve this through smallholding. Mindfully. I enjoy gardening and horse riding too but it’s not quite the same. There are few things so satisfying as the feel of wool between my fingers and the first teetering steps of a newborn lamb. Sustainability does not just refer to feeding or supporting oneself physically from the land. It is the feeding of the soul and the supporting of the heart that is truly magical. You will need to read on to discover if and how I have managed to create a truly sustainable venture on all levels. But suffice to say that two decades on, I am still living the life of a mindful smallholder. The reality has matched my particular dream and long may it continue...
Special thanks to artist Steve Mackins for the wonderful "taking stock" art design of my gorgeous Yorkshire Moors Rosie, daughter of my best girl Middlesmoor Doris Day. It was wonderful to have somebody who loves and appreciates the breed to do this design for me and he has managed to capture her indomitable spirit. Sheep have a lot more about them than most people credit; Rosie is resolutely uncooperative, and I love her all the more for it!