“Sex, tragedy, all them folks comin’ and goin’: twas all ‘appening back then just t’same as it is now… some things nivver change.”
This is the sentence that ends the chapter on February in the latest book by Amanda Owen, A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Amanda has become a media celebrity with her appearances of several television shows and her two published books on her life on a remote farm in the Yorkshire dales. With a husband, 9 children and 1,000 sheep to take care of as well as her writing, her TV work and running a hospitability business she is an amazing woman who appears to take everything in her stride.
But technology has brought improvements in the techniques used by farmers to manage their stock. In February, the scanning man comes to the farm, Ravenseat, to check the number of sheep “in lamb” and causes much speculation amongst the children as to how much work there is going to be in the Spring. Each child has their own responsibilities and in the case of the older ones, their own sheep. The stockbreeding heritage lives on especially through son, Miles, who cannot wait to finish school and become a farmer himself.
Amanda’s other children, Raven, Reuben, Edith, Violet, Sidney, Annas, Clemmie and Nancy are all children of the land and have been reared to respect it and the environment. Life must often be hard for the family especially in the harsh winters and wild terrain that is the setting for their remarkable lives. Old fashioned values, hard graft and plenty of love sustain them all and nowhere is this more evident than in talking to Amanda herself and hearing the pride in her voice as she talks to me about her life.
Growing up in Huddersfield, Amanda is a Yorkshire woman, but was inspired to head to the countryside by the James Herriot books. Leaving the town behind and taking work as a freelance shepherdess she met and married a farmer, Clive Owen, and together with plenty of good humour and good Yorkshire gumption they have created a world that we can share through the pages of her books. I enjoyed my brief foray into the cosy kitchen of Ravenseat and I know many others will delight in sharing the joys of the Owen’s traditional agricultural lifestyle.
Amanda’s latest book is published by Macmillan on 9th February in paperback RRP £7.99