From carrying a small being to becoming a smallholder!
I have been publishing a blog weekly but have struggled with this during the school holidays. Rather than school runs or early starts my time has been spent outdoors with the children and the dog, walks with friends and our many animals. Unlike in term time the opportunity to just sit and write (or do admin) has eluded me. This morning though, my daughters had a friend over to play and whilst they ran around the garden and cycled past the window back and forth I managed to throw some words on the page. So rather than an ‘Inspirational Women in Babywearing’ interview I thought you might like to hear about how I’ve made the leap from being a baby carrier manufacturer to a smallholder!
It’s not a usual career path, sling maker and retailer to miniature farmer in just over three years, but there are parallels. Like many of us who work in baby focussed industries, I only became interested once I had become a Mum. Now my daughters are a teen and a tween, it seems the keen interest I had in all things baby related has turned to animals and country living. Not that everyone who moves out of town immediately starts gathering animals with a view to self sufficiency. With us it started with the acquisition of pets, a hamster joined our two cats (not literally) promptly followed by two guinea pigs. Then a year later chickens arrived and we loved watching their funny ways and how their individual personalities shone through. When a dog caught Vanessa the hen we felt two chooks wasn’t enough. Where else would a wannabee farmer buy some hatching eggs? Ebay of course. Duly six eggs arrived and our two remaining chickens kindly sat on them until excitingly three of them hatched. I felt pretty busy at this point. Two cats, two guinea pigs, a hamster and five chickens seemed like quite a workload. I was running Sleepy Nico, driving my children to school an hour away and training for a marathon. This country living malarky was certainly full on.
My husband had been talking about sheep since we moved out to the sticks and much like my neighbours – who nodded a lot with a look of disbelief when it was discussed, I didn’t really think it would happen. After all, what did we need sheep for? Two more guinea pigs had already joined us after our dear little hamster went off to the big wheel in the sky, we were full or so I thought! Then it was lockdown and hubby began working from home indefinitely and that was when the real shift occurred. Two rather delightful rare breed pigs arrived. Ali could often be found in the pig pen scratching their backs or listening to their gentle and insistent grunting. I confess to finding it hilarious that during the first lockdown the only time I left our home was to transport livestock, it seemed a world away from my usual school run and grab some time to post on social media lifestyle. Not long after the pigs a chance message to a dog breeder I knew meant our lovely Lab Haru soon entered our life. At this point we had already made a decision to sell Sleepy Nico, I couldn’t give it the time it deserved and life seemed to be taking us in another direction.
Never mind the guinea pigs, days spent managing a puppy (who ate everything and still does!), feeding the pigs, homeschool and Ali spending every spare moment he wasn’t working putting up stock fencing for the alleged sheep – we didn’t have a minute. Then our flock arrived at the end of last November and they really were enchanting, with their wooly faces and happy bleats (mainly when the feed bucket was shaken). We were the hapless owners of 9 rare breed Boreray Sheep and although we didn’t know a thing I had read a couple of books by the Yorkshire Shepherdess, it was enough to begin with. We tupped them a week after and are expecting lambs any day now. Sleepy Nico sold in December and all of a sudden I was no longer in the world of babywearing but solidly a country smallholder.
The days are busier than I could have ever imagined, the school run is back on and inbetween I’m walking the dog, feeding the animals, cleaning the animals, dealing with the vet and now, working as a writer. Is it fun? Sometimes is the honest answer. Just as with children or in fact a business, it’s a mix. It’s wonderful to see the animals thriving, living as free range as we can manage (not the guinea pigs you’ll be relieved to hear) and making our home a productive and moderately self sufficient one. But really it’s about enjoying the way of life and that’s where the leap from babywearing comes in, Sleepy Nico was my business and there were good days and bad but the most important thing was that I loved doing it and it excited me. It gave me the opportunity to help parents nurture their babies as well as the relationships I made through it. The same now for our smallholding, it’s at the heart of our family and our home and I can’t wait to see it grow and develop.
PS Since I wrote this on Friday we have adopted a little lamb and she is currently living in our laundry room. She is totally adorable.