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It’s question time with Yorkshire shepherdess Amanda Owen

April 21, 2014
Amanda Owen 1
Her pictures make us smile and her tweets give us the urge to pull on a pair of wellies and make a run for the nearest field. We are talking about one of our favourite tweeters, The Yorkshire Shepherdess, aka Amanda Owen.
We love this remarkable woman, who shot to fame in ITV’s The Dales, and who shares snippets of her life at Ravenseat, a remote 2,000-acre hill farm in deepest Swaledale.
Amanda Owen
So it’s no surprise that our favourite book of the year looks set to be her autobiography The Yorkshire Shepherdess – How I Left the City to Raise a Flock and a Family. The picture-packed hardback has just been published by Sidgwick & Jackson (£16.99).
Amanda at work with Baby strapped on            Having a baby is no barrier to sheep farming for Amanda

It tells how Amanda, 39, a former goth from Huddersfield, was inspired by James Herriot books to follow her dream of becoming a farmer.

From getting her nose piercings caught in the wool of a wriggling sheep to turning down a starring role in a film of Wuthering Heights because it clashed with a sheep auction, Amanda’s book is full of humour and warmth.
A hard day's work!             A hard day’s work for a farmer in trainingHer life is dominated by the seasons ‒ feeding, clipping, dipping, herding, rescuing and lambing her flock. She also has seven children, aged from 13-year-old Raven to eight months old Annas, and shuns maternity leave. She simply straps her newborn on to her front in a waterproof onesie and heads back out to the hills.

Josie the gentle giant being groomed by Toddler Sidney         Josie, the gentle giant, being groomed by toddler Sydney 

As well as looking after her animals and children, Amanda sells cream teas to walkers and hires out a converted shepherd’s hut to those who enjoy glamping. She also found time to provide answers to our questions:

Q: What time do you rise and shine and what does your average day consist of?
A: It depends on the time of year. Lambing time obviously necessitates a very early morning as we have to watch them round the clock when some of the yows are housed. We usually reckon to be up and about at 6am as Raven has to be on the school taxi just after 7am every morning. During the winter time there is a lot of bullocking up to do (feeding the housed animals) horses, calves, cows, sheep… then we do the outside rounds, feeding the animals that our outside. The sheep are split into heafs so there can be as many as half a dozen different flocks to travel to with sheep cake and hay. In the summertime nearly everything will be outside so there is less of the routine feeding, other than the baby calves that we rear on milk all year round. During the summer though we will be also clipping and hay timing, so will sometimes gather the sheep in early and work until dark. In and amongst I will do the usual chores, cooking and baking, but probably not as much tidying of the house as I should. I prefer working outside.
Q: When did your interest in photography start and why did you decide to use it to document life on the farm via Twitter?
A: I bought an iPad nearly three years ago. I already had a digital camera but I discovered how easy it was to upload photographs from an SD card onto the iPad. I liked the idea of recording life on the farm and I didn’t want the typical chintzy photographs. I wanted to show real life on the farm. I’m not a photographer and buy a cheaper digital camera as I am not fit to look after a good one. I ran over my last one on the quad bike on the morning of the tup sales. Either me or the children just snap away all day.
Amanda Shepherding on her horse             Photographs help capture the ever-changing skiesQ: How many animals do you have and, dare we ask, do you have any favourites?

A: About 1,000 sheep, 120 cows, seven horses (hubby says I’m only allowed two!) six dogs, two pigs and a flock of chickens ‒ plus two peacocks. The numbers fluctuate throughout the year, although the number of sheep usually stays pretty constant. You get favourites, ones that are especially friendly or beautiful. You also get naughty ones, a sheep that possibly is always misbehaving, straying off her heaf or defying the dog. When you hand rear the calves or the pet lambs, you do get to know their personalities rather more. I tend to become fond of ones that have had a bit of a struggle to survive, the tinier pet lambs etc.
Q: What do you enjoy most about living in such a remote part of Yorkshire?
A: Everything but particularly the feeling of having a connection with the past. Things have not changed so much over time at Ravenseat. It gives you head space and doesn’t feel lonely. It makes you feel quite alive I suppose.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of living at Ravenseat?
A: The weather, we battle against it. We have snow at lambing time, storms at hay time, rain and wind, and nothing to shield us from it. We are extremely exposed, the sheep despise wind and rain and, consequently, mud. Our lives revolve around the seasons so the weather dictates how we work. Ravenseat is absolutely idyllic and on a glorious fine day there is nowhere more beautiful but unfortunately she is also prone to being windswept, desolate and downright horrid.
Sheepdog            Working in all weathersQ: Is there anything from your previous urban existence that you miss?

A: Not so much really. A takeaway that isn’t cold I suppose.
Q: What do your family and friends think of your career and lifestyle choice?
A: I’ve always done my own thing and haven’t worried about what others thought.
Q: Juggling children and work is a tall order for anyone. How do you do it?
A: It all revolves around routine and everyone mucking in. The older ones help the younger ones and they all have certain jobs and responsibilities. I am not wonder woman, the house isn’t the tidiest you’ve ever seen, but it’s warm, cosy and lived in. I work on the theory that as long as the important things get done the rest can wait.
Kids on the quad            Kids on the quadQ: When you get the chance, how do you like to relax?

A: I like to read, tweet and get warm in front of the fire.
Q: You fulfilled your ambition to farm. Is there anything else on your agenda?
A: There is NO plan, that is the plan. Just deal with whatever comes my way.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess_Book Jacket

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