High Heels to Welly Boots!
City Girl / Accidental Farmer
Looking back I had a pretty normal childhood in lots of ways.
Living in a loving home with Mum, Dad and two sisters, where we lived in a beautiful semi-detached house in the west end of Aberdeen, Scotland. Three of us girls and my dad as the only male. I am sure he was relieved when the male/female balance was restored when we all flew the nest. I was the first to go & ever restless and with itchy feet I moved out at 22 to a city centre flat. At this this time I should point out, I knew absolutely nothing about country living, let alone farm life
I was a city girl at heart and loved shopping, going to pubs and clubs & generally enjoying everything city life had on offer (sometimes a little too much).
I went, and enjoyed university, passing with a BSc in Nutrition, then a IT diploma, that eventually led to me working at a University for 12 years, keeping close to my besties and living as a young woman would.
There was always a desire to spread my wings, even from an early age. To learn new things, discover new experiences, but for some mad unconscionable reason, I never took a gap year to see what was out there!
So, after donning my mad hatter’s hat and without much planning, I ended up in Libya!
Talk about a culture change, but I loved it and learned so much about people, lifestyles and about myself too. I lived in the centre of Tripoli, the capital city of Libya and I really enjoyed the experience. The sights, smells, customs and probably most of all the people. Sounds ace…. which it was, but like most adventures there are twists and turns and eventually all good things must come to an end. Unlike an Indiana Jones movie, the tracer bullets overhead were real, when the meltdown happened. Not plucked by helicopter from a dangling ladder, but certainly a dramatic RAF Hercules evacuation out, it soon crystallises the fragility of life and stability on this planet!
I safely returned to Scotland thanks to the RAF, and then the reality hit me that I was home and needed a new plan.
Fate as it happens conjures up many things in life, some good, some bad and some ugly, so just as you are creating a master plan, fate lands something else in your lap. Very shortly after arriving back in Scotland a good friend of mine started me in a new role in her hotel and my first time in hospitality! but also another step in my own journey too. At the hotel I met so many different people and made real friends for life, and it provided memories I will never forget. After spending a fantastic time at the hotel and since I was in the Oil capital of Europe, I moved into the Oil and Gas sector, and this is where I met Gavin for the first time.
Gavin was consulting for an oil service company, where I began my new role, but about a year later I left and joined Gavin’s own company as a business manager. I was now settled and on my grown-up career, leaving each night and heading to the City, but 5 years ago everything changed …
Having worked together for years, our worlds collided in probably the most unplanned way possible, and Gavin & I began a new journey together as business and life partners.
Gavin’s farm was the outskirts of Aberdeen, would soon become my new home and I knew immediately this was the place for me. From the very first visit I was overwhelmed by the sheer quietness & peace that existed there. As soon as I drove down the somewhat bumpy drive (something I would have to get used to) a different world appeared to me, and I soon realised that no matter what had happened during the stressful day, it was forgotten about by the time you got the bottom of the long drive.
Passing deer grazing, ponds and streams to eventually be met by a bounding German shepherd (Rebel) coming from the house. This was the start of my very different life …..
Accidental Farmer – Part 1
When I started living full time at Harestone, the first gift Gavin bought me was a pair of Muck boots!
Some might frown and I also say not very romantic, but to me it meant baby steps into my new farm life, and (as Gavin informed me) the fact that I had wrecked quite a few pairs of Adidas by this time conveniently convinced me that he was right!… Mmmm
I had tentatively started the country life! I was an alien in a new world. Swapping shopping and wine for feeding chickens, collecting eggs, painting fences & cutting grass… I should also mention that we still had wine though. Life’s consistent companion.
Weeding, strimming, stone clearing, animal feeding and about a million new experiences all at once and I regretted none of it! Although cleaning out the chicken coop could easily have been bypassed in my opinion. I loved the: Fresh air, the freedom, no noise, no neighbours, head clearing, jogging with Rebel round the land, watching Gavin create new wildlife sanctuaries and invent or make something, from what I saw as junk. Watching Jamie on his quad, snow sledding across the parks, and us on walks with wine stops, hot tubs & fire pits, BBQ’s, picnics & family life.
We created a luxury home that you really don’t have to leave! With an outdoor living room & wood burner, walking paths with benches so stop and take in the views, wood fired hot tub, wild swimming ponds, Life was good.
Accidental Farmer – Part 2
I am now settled into country living, and even find it quite strange that when I visit family and friends, that you can hear and see the people next door! At the beginning our busy work schedules meant we couldn’t give our full attention to the farm, but we worked most evening and weekends doing what we could, always in the back of our minds the desire to do much more…
The turning point was lockdown 2020. Even though our business remained open throughout, it gave us much more time at home where we could reflect. I know that I had an easy time in lockdown compared to others, living here and having space, and in some ways it seemed like we were observers in a crazy movie.
We realised early on that we craved simpler times in the madness of what has become modern life. I think quite a few people realised this as well in lockdown and we acutely felt it too. Not in a “bury your ipads” kind of way, but in a way that we created less impact in the world. We wanted to grow and raise our own food, bring animals back to the farm, rewild for nature, tourism & a farm shop, and I yearned to be here full time creating this wonderful place. Gavin’s enthusiasm and drive is infectious, and together we hatched our plans of making the land work for us and nature too.
The real farmering begins…
Accidental Farmer – Part 3
There were many different prongs to our plan – so it began- research, research, research!
As I read and learned, I soon realised that helping nature was essential to the regenerative plans. The next most important element for me was being self reliant, and hopefully be able to provide food for the local community in the future. Up until leaving the city to live on the farm, I had never grown one single thing in my life and killed just about every house plant that was condemned to my care.
I was a magnet to terminal plants. Looking back now it was not that it was intentional, but more that I did not understand their needs! Learning has brought me great joy in growing things. Never a time or place where Percy Thrower needs to watch his slot, but at least now I am the bringer of life, and not of untimely death.
I started with small raised beds, planting carrots, courgettes, potatoes, herbs, lettuce, onions, I loved watching the seedlings germinate and grow. I never realised how good it would feel & taste to eat something that you have grown, dug from the ground, straight to my plate. I was hooked, and relieved that never again that I would be concerned that the plant welfare officers would come calling!
The polytunnel was ordered in spring, and I know now that spring is actually the season after it should have been ordered! Putting it up and fitting out a polytunnel in the warm days in spring was like cleaning the oven when the pizza was in. Another diary note applied! Grow your own food books grew on me & I enjoyed hearing what others had done and absorbed all I could. I ordered seeds, and one acre of fertile ground beside the polytunnel became my canvas. I was a grower! I actually could grow things! the carrots were crooked, and the potatoes were small compared to the supermarkets, but these were special, these were ours.
The next part came as a bit of a surprise. We had always planned to add more animals to the croft. We had our Shetland, bees and chickens, but I returned from work one day to find a full compliment of animals. Due to work commitments I had been unable to join Gavin at a livestock auction at the local mart, but there is still a niggling thought that this was Gavin’s plan anyway! I was expecting to come home to three pigs and possibly a goat, but I was met with more, much much more!
The news was broken gently I suppose. Gavin has a knack of cushioning any blow, so I suppose I should have immediately read the signs when he called and said that he managed to wrangle those “special goats” and pigs I always wanted. It was a ruse. A subtle, but now obvious move to make me the owner of the bulk animal purchase plan. Two full grown highland cow heifers, 9, yes nine goats, 6 Valais sheep, 6 Turoc pigs! Immediately we had a collective hoof/trotter count of 23 new animals! Shocked and steeped in all kinds of worrying thoughts were lost as soon as I saw them. They were ace though and they were calm and ultimately, they were now part of the family.
Yes, it was a bit of a shock, but secretly from the first moment, it felt right and it brought instant burst life to the farm.
There was a lot of work over the next few months, getting fences in place, underground pipework for watering. Filling buckets from the stream is idyllic, but only in photos! With the prospect of hypothermia in winter and some lesser form of frostbite we immediately put everything on tap.
So growing seeds mastered, I found myself back in the learning game again! What and how much to feed each animal, bedding, shelter and welfare. Unwilling to repeat any of may early day plant care theatrics, I learned as much as I could about them, and to date my fallen stock count is a magical zero, phew!
Feeding and caring for the animals is our daily routine, our jumping off point, our date night and country walks, all in one. We look forward to, and cherish this at the end of a long day. Many summer nights were spend just watching them go about their lives, and my goodness, do they have characters and spirit.
Further additions of chickens and a companion horse (more about this amazing creature in another installment) for our Shetland pony were added, and we made plans to breed & sell livestock to like-minded rewilding adventurers. My next farming lesson will be animal babies being born, given that most of them have already been on a date night of their own by now and who knows what wonders this spring will bring us. As the livestock on the farm will also be an integral part of our rewilding and soil regeneration where there dung and breaking up of the ground become part of our natural grazing plan, they are also our very own land partners too, so life is precious at Harestone Moss and so is the contributions of everything living on it.
With the polytunnel now in place, the horticulture area marked out we have completed a test phase to our grow your own plan. We grew tomatoes and chillies in the polytunnel, as it was being put together and sorted out, and harvested a mountain of potatoes, carrots and turnips that will keep us, our extended families and the animals happy over the winter months. I have now had time to create a planting calendar, and from February 2023, I will begin our self sufficiency in ernest, with what I hope will be a bumper crop !
I am so excited to be at the beginning of our rewilding journey, and who knows where this will take us. What I do know is that it will be fun, rewarding, challenging and I am ready for the ride, nature is ready too…
Find out more about our rewilding plans