Lyn Alderson

Copywriter, Journalist, Blogger

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Call the shrink- it’s farming-related OCD!

How many times can one man watch the weather forecast, Townie Wife mumbled under her breath, as Shropshire Farmer’s glazed eyes focused once again on the flat screen, mesmerised by talk of high and low pressure, the jet stream and ex-hurricane Cristobal.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband was as happy as a lark, enthroned on his combine harvester. He returned home in the evenings itching all over from barley awns, but was content to soak in a nice bath glowing with the virtue of a day well spent bringing in the harvest.

Field of barley

Beautiful barley, just waiting to be harvested

Then the weather broke and with it Shropshire Farmer’s sunny disposition.

Psychological disorder

The amiable man I know and love was replaced with an edgy, morbid, grumpy old chap. He became a victim of that peculiar farming-related Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which now keeps him glued to weather forecasts during the day and tossing and turning in bed at night. The symptoms of OCD are quite plain.

The weather forecast has improved over the past couple of days. Townie Wife is hopeful of a spontaneous cure for this psychological disorder which besets farmers during the harvest. However, the anxiety hasn’t lifted yet. Not until Pete sees that heavenly ball radiating in a cloudless sky will the smile return to his normally jovial face. The only hat I saw today was not on the sun, but on Pete’s head as the weather remained fairly dull. Not great conditions for drying the corn and so no combining-yet again. Maybe I should play ‘I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester’ to cheer Pete up? If it works I could patent Wurzel Therapy and make a fortune.

Staying positive

Although the sky has been grey, the air has turned blue several times over the past week. But I have high hopes for a return to normality next week. And besides, I refuse to let the weather get me down. I am delighted with my own achievements during the past few weeks. I’ve written an e-book, formatted it myself, and uploaded it to the Amazon Kindle Store. It’s the first of several- or that’s the plan. And I hope for my own little ‘harvest’ in due course, humble though it may be.

(Look out for my next blog which explains all about my e-book, coming shortly).



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Mrs Superman? More of an English Rose really…..

Welsh mountainsheepRESIZEDTownie Wife went to the Royal Welsh Show last week and remembered an interesting fact.

People with poor hygiene always stand next to a massive fan so that their personal odours can waft around a stifling marquee as the temperature soars towards 30 degrees.

So when I had beat a hasty exit from one of the hospitality tents I went to stand in front of a cooling spray which I think was intended for the show animals but which was proving to be the most popular feature of the whole show. People were queuing up sheepishly to stand in the wonderful air-conditioned mist.I went in front of a large but very smiley lady in a St John’s Ambulance uniform, who looked at the gadget producing the magical cooling spray, and quipped: “My bottom would just fit in there nicely”.

Fantastic floral feats

It was time to visit the flower show after getting my body temperature down by a degree, and I managed to spend a few minutes admiring the beautiful blooms, and taking pictures. I love to draw and paint flowers- or at least I used to, in the days when I had spare time and knew nothing about farmers.

lily pic RESIZED.jpegWhat I didn’t realise as I emerged from the flower tent and felt the merciless sun beating down on my exposed shoulders, was that Shropshire’s answer to Superman(who doesn’t feel the heat like normal human beings) was planning to make a big day of it. As hubby dropped the bombshell we would be staying until 9pm (having arrived at 10am) and bombed off to critically evaluate the pedigree stock, I felt my feet swell uncomfortably in the heat and my strength drain away like Mrs Superman under the influence of kryptonite.

I should have known better really. Shropshire Farmer has about ten times the sticking power of Townie Wife when the elements come into play. Generations of farming genes have given him resilience and stamina out of all proportion to his frame. Our neighbour Cherry was with us, and although she has Townie roots, she seems to have plenty of resilience to the sizzling weather too.

Cream tea eases the pain

I managed to negotiate with Pete and Cherry for a cream tea with real clotted cream and a table in the shade outside the National Trust café, and for an interval felt almost human again. I did make it into the sheds to see the cattle, but was disappointed that there were no cute little Dexter cattle to take home in my pocket. Oh well, maybe I’ll have better luck next time.

I wish I was as brave as this young pedigree cattle farmer (but then I wouldn't have time to write, would I?)

I wish I was as brave as this young pedigree cattle farmer (but then I wouldn’t have time to write, would I?)

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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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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.