She started work as a freelance shepherdess, but went full-time and permanent when she married Clive Owen, who owns the farm. Amanda gave birth to her eighth child, Clem, alone, in front of the fire. She’s also a best-selling author, and her funny, raw and emotionally deep new book, A Year in the Life of a Yorkshire Shepherdess is out now >
“I’m fortunate that my lifestyle means I can open my back door and let my kids run wild, and I can also take them with me when I’m doing what I do. This morning we’ve been putting out lines of turnips and hay bales. We had Violet, Alice, Clem and Nancy. Nancy was in a backpack on my back, wearing a balaclava and a bobble hat which we’ve lost somewhere between here and three miles away. It was cold but it was bright.
As a general rule, that is our life. Every day is the same, but every day is different. The responsibilities change depending on the season; maintenance, scanning, lambing. It’s good for the children. I draw a lot of similarities between children and animals. They both like to know where they stand, to have a routine, to know what’s happening. We’ll sit down at teatime and talk about what’s gone on through the day on the farm, and that involvement is important. I’ve never got down on my hands and knees and and done a jigsaw with them, but they will come with me to help mend a fence that’s been broken by a sheep, or a wall, which are kind of like jigsaws!
“I draw a lot of similarities between children and animals. They both like to know where they stand, to have a routine, to know what's happening”
Raven wants to be a doctor with Medicins Sans Frontiers, another of the kids an engineer, and one wants to farm. It’s not about trying to breed new farmers or mini workers for the farm. It’s about putting in a really good foundation so they can succeed in whatever they want to do. There’s no better training on earth than living here. You’ve got life, death, and the bit in-between. I never have to give the birds and the bees talk – they get to see it, to live it. They know where food comes from, about the dangers of water. The big children help look after the little ones. We have a waste not want not thing. I don’t do different meals; if you don’t like mushrooms and I’ve put mushrooms in something, you’ll have to pick them out.
I think living here, you don’t realise that a place moulds you, but it does. It happens so slowly over time - you develop an independence, you feel like you can conquer nearly everything. You become less reliant on other people and picking up the phone to sort things.
So when I was expecting Clem, my eighth, and I woke in the night knowing what was going to happen, it was a question of do I ring an ambulance and get towed off to hospital, or do I get on with it on my own? For me, it was about testing out my convictions. I wasn’t going to do it on my own come hell or high water, and if there had been anything untoward, I wouldn’t have attempted it. After the birth, I got the most amazing feeling of absolute elation and peace. This moment when I felt that this is how it’s meant to be, and this is how it always has been, and it felt good. Indescribable really, I struggled when I was writing it to get those feelings across!
I lay in bed like every other person and parent thinking ‘Am I doing it right?” And then wake up and carry on. My mantra is that the best-laid plans never come to fruition! So I stop over-stressing it; as long as the important stuff is there, that’ll do. If the kids are happy and everything is going along nicely and the animals are well-fed, don’t sweat the small stuff! It’s easily said, and there are times when I think the living room looks like a tip and the terrier stinks, but the fact of the matter is, people come here and people keep coming here because they like the atmosphere and they like how we are! It’s warm and welcoming, and a good place to bring up the kids, so it’s fine, and we’ll take on anything that comes our way! We’re a united force to be reckoned with.
Amanda’s book A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess is out now. Published by Macmillan Paperback £7.99