Lyn Alderson

Copywriter, Journalist, Blogger


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My hairy little friends

Do you hate spiders? I used to dislike them a lot more before I moved into our big, rambling farmhouse.

Years ago I would go on to red alert when a spider appeared. I wasn’t a full-blown arachnophobe, but I felt uneasy. If they were really big, hairy, black specimens then I couldn’t deal with them myself and would petition a braver soul to evict them from my vicinity.

picture by Brian Fagan

picture by Brian Fagan

Now I hardly bat an eyelid at even the biggest granddaddy spider. Okay, I wouldn’t like it to crawl all over my naked body, and I’m not volunteering for I’m a Celebrity, but I feel a lot braver than before.

It’s what psychologists call exposure therapy. Most people have to pay for this, or access it through the NHS, but I get it free on the farm. There are so many spiders here, I’m actually a bit bored with them. Bring on the tarantula- that might get me screaming!

Harmless inhabitants

Frankly, there are probably hundreds of spiders living in our house- they certainly seem intent on building Web City 24-7- but I see them as part of the furniture now.

Farmhouse living room, spider free

No signs of spiders in our living room today…but they’re in here somewhere!

And actually, they are quiet little creatures which bother nobody. Not like the raucous murder of crows which descended on the farm a week ago. There were literally hundreds of crows flying overhead all day long, making enough noise to wake the dead, and drowning out the sweet sound of our other native birds.

Scarey Man on the job

So we set up a Scarey Man. No, not my husband!!! He couldn’t scare a fly, he’s far too nice. For all the townies reading this, a Scarey Man is an inflatable scarecrow, which leaps up in the air every 20 minutes or so. It’s hilarious, but the crows think it’s the Devil Incarnate.

And just to see them off properly, so they don’t eat the corn we are feeding to our cattle, we also have another pest control device, a rope banger which has helped to disperse them with its loud explosions.

I’ve also been reading that crows dislike loud music. Mmm, I have an uncontrollable urge to play Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell.

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Lord Sugar takes a break

There was cause for minor celebration on the farm this week; we have almost finished calving. And this year my husband has not encountered any  hormonally crazed cows (no clever comments please!).

Thankfully this calving season has been relatively peaceful; only one animal has been excessively moody. Two more births are expected, and then we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

A pleasant escape from the farm

We even managed to take a few days off to visit Snowdonia last week. Townie Wife enjoyed the change of scenery and took lots of photographs, while Lord Sugar (Pete takes three teaspoons of sugar in his tea) left the board room (cow sheds) behind and relaxed.

The poor overworked man dropped down from top gear to bottom gear, and spent hours asleep on the beach at beautiful Aberdyfi, waking up at intervals to consume ice creams and at least one shamelessly indulgent Knickerbocker Glory.

It was a pleasant and short-lived escape from the daily pressures of farm life. I came back to reality this morning when I went to my slimming class in Ludlow and found I’d gained an extra pound. Quick, back to the Frylight and low fat yoghurts- couch potato farmers’ wives are not allowed!

Lovely Aberdyfi- a great place for a break

Lovely Dovey- a great place for a relaxing break away from the farm

ice cream shop Aberdyfi

The path to the ice cream shop from the beach was a well travelled route

 

 

 

 


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The Shropshire way of life

Have you got a nickname? I’ve noticed a lot of people in Shropshire seem to have them.

I know a Mr Marsh who’s fondly known as Swampo, and a young lady who is very slim, but known as Heifer because she loves beef. And then there’s a lad who was deemed to be clever by his mates and nicknamed Knowledge. When I lived in the town nicknames were used much less, but the language is much more descriptive in colourful Shropshire. When my husband wants a drink he complains he is as thirsty as a fish, and when he’s poorly he’s “as weak as a robin”.

Townie driver

Cultural differences abound when you move from a town into the wilds of the countryside. For example, everyone watches everyone else driving by. In urban areas you don’t bother to clock who’s driving past- the chances are that everyone you pass is a complete stranger. But here in the wilds of Shropshire, you’ve got a 50 per cent chance of knowing the person passing you by, so you have to look. And if you’re on a single track road, you are almost obliged to pull over and have a chat. This must seem blatantly obvious to rural dwellers, but I really didn’t grasp it when I first became adopted as a Shropshire lass.

Banana spotted

To start with, I didn’t pay attention to who was shooting past, but people started complaining that I hadn’t acknowledged them. And they also started telling me “I saw you with a banana in your mouth, waiting to pull out on to the A49”. Oops, I thought I could get up to monkey tricks but apparently I can’t. My every move is on the rural radar screen. And while that can be a bit disconcerting, community spirit is very strong here. And in my humble opinion, that makes for a better quality of life.

Townies like myself do get converted to the country lifestyle though. Our neighbour Cherry is a great example. She comes from London but loves living in the country, and she helps to feed our young calves. We realised Cherry had become a genuine farmer when she looked at a young bull one day and exclaimed: “Look at the backside on that!”. We laughed until we cried.

Londoner Cherry is every inch the farmer

Londoner Cherry is every inch a farmer – she even wears the sexy trousers!


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My husband’s secret sins….

After admitting in my last post that I am nervous of cows, today I throw my hands up in the air and confess…. I do not bake cakes.

Picture by Carwyn Lloyd Jones

Picture by Carwyn Lloyd Jones

Now if I could eat them and stay slim I would embrace the emblem of farming life, the Victoria sponge, wholeheartedly. But alas, over winter the pounds piled on, and it has just taken me three months of Slimming World classes to get rid of my ill-gotten gains.

Luckily I have managed to get back into the posh fuchsia pink taffeta dress I bought last year for my daughter’s wedding with six weeks to spare before the Big Day, when I will have to strut my stuff in Mother of the Bride finery. But this mammoth struggle has only been accomplished by something approaching complete cake abstinence.

Secret seduction

I have had to stop baking because if I make cakes, I eat them- the possibility of producing them without eating them is a concept my brain cannot comprehend. So I don’t plan to bake any more of those fat, seductive, mouth-wateringly wicked sponges. Other ladies have stepped in to give my husband a taste of lemon drizzle or bakewell tart, and I have turned a blind eye to his ‘bit on the side’, as long as he does it discreetly. He can sin to his heart’s content in the shed, or keep his tasty treats hidden in the dairy.

So if you happen to drop by, don’t expect a typical farmhouse welcome with a plateful of scones and a jar of jam. You might be lucky and get a Jaffa cake…unless Pete shares his secret stash.

 

 


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A plea for smaller cows

There comes a time in the life of every woman pretending to be a farmer’s wife when she must man up and act like the real thing.

So this morning, I had to get up early to feed a shed full of young calves, and then help Pete to load two bulls on to a trailer. Actually, Pete did all the dangerous bits and I stood around and waved a stick while trying to look scary and failing to convince. Well I didn’t convince myself, although for some inexplicable reason the bulls did keep their distance, so maybe I did look fiercer than I thought.

Daunting

I don’t mind helping with cattle as much as I used to, but our huge Limousin-Charolais cross breeds are still daunting to Townie Wife.

I’ve asked my wonderfully kind husband to buy smaller cows- you can get them, they’re called Dexters (the smallest breed of British cattle) – but so far his devotion hasn’t extend to changing his livestock priorities. I wonder if I can find a way to convince him?

Oh how I'd love a farm full of these lovely little Dexter cattle..

Oh how I’d love a farm full of these lovely little Dexter cattle..

 

 


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Introducing my farmhouse blog…

I knew I was in trouble back in 2007 when I found myself getting up close and personal with the new man in my life, while up to my knees in thick mud (I’d been invited to visit his farm).

I clearly like this man a lot, I thought, to negotiate a quagmire in the middle of an unseasonably wet winter.

That moment was the beginning of a steep learning curve and a transition period of several years as I morphed from a sheltered townie journalist to a somewhat atypical farmer’s wife.

Three months after meeting Pete, I was having my first lessons in lambing- but unlike Lambing Live presenter Kate Humble, I managed to slip a disc in my back.

Not an ideal start for a relationship – but I did make a comeback, and I even learned how to deliver a lamb the following year! I followed that by helping with lambing for the next five years, often on the late shift, and sometimes after a hard day in a news room when I was working as a reporter.

You would probably be quite impressed if I told you I am now a red-hot stockwoman, but the truth is, huge black Limousin cows still scare me, though I do stand my ground, armed with a big stick, when Pete needs help moving them around.

It makes more sense for me to do what I’m good at- copywriting, journalism and blogging-while Pete runs his farm. I could no more change into a farmer than he would want to sit in my cosy farmhouse office and work indoors for a large chunk of the day.

But life has certainly changed. I am based at home, and it works fine, as I’ve never yet missed a deadline. The flexibility is a bonus as I am occasionally needed to help round up rebellious heifers when they make a break for freedom!

And while I’m blogging like mad for my clients, I can keep a lookout for visitors to the farm, and take messages.

It’s a different kind of life, with its own challenges and plenty of perks-  an office with a lovely view is just one of them.

Cute little lambs by Lyn Alderson

It’s not all baaad working from home…

In my farmhouse blogs, I will share a few snippets about life in Shropshire- and I guarantee some of it will make you smile.