Sheep on the hillside Pin Image

Girl About The Farm

Author: Lauren Coleman

I love to read experiences from professional women who switch from the 9-5 to follow their dreams but reader Laura Gilmour from A Girl About The Farm takes it up a notch. I am in absolute awe of the lifestyle she and her husband have carved out for themselves on the South Downs. I hope you find Laura’s account as interesting and inspirational as I have.

To say that the last twelve months have been surreal is an understatement. Sometimes, when I’m up on the top of the hill moving the sheep with our dogs I think – If my sixteen year old self could see me now!

A career in farming had never crossed my mind. London was where my life was set to be, and I had my heart set on that, that was, until I met Andy.

Andy and I met at a mutual friends birthday after we had both finished university. We went to school together, but Andy was in the year above and we didn’t really know each other back then. I was working and living in London at the time, and after a whirlwind summer of dating, Andy moved to Yorkshire for work and we went long distance. Fast forward a few years and a lot of back and forth on trains, we decided it was time to move in together. Andy took the opportunity to move back to his family farm and to become a farmer. I too, moved in to the farm, and moved my job in marketing to Brighton where I commuted from our little cottage. For a few years I led a double life of sorts, days spent in the familiar comfort of the city, and evenings spent by the log burner after chopping wood for kindling. It was the best of both worlds. I got to live the ‘good life’ with our three dogs, and two pet pigs…but then I also got to go for after work drinks, and wear the latest season’s trends (I once actually had to chase Poppy our pig back into her pen whilst wearing a Whistles leather mini skirt after an evening of espresso martinis!).

I remember when Andy first floated the idea of taking on our own farm. He was so enthusiastic and excitable about the whole thing that it was infectious. We went to have a look round and I fell in love. Cocking Hill Farm sits prominently up on the South Downs and you can see half of Sussex from the top. The farmhouse sits at the foot of the hill and, like much of the village, has bright yellow windows. As Andy and I had been together for nine years, I had seen what lambing was like, and had gained basic experience of day to day farming, but I was very much still a part time country dweller, who quite enjoyed getting back to what I perceived as everyday life on a Monday morning.

The thinking was, that if we were successful in getting the farm, I would hand my notice in at work and would be full time on the new farm from the start. The odds were stacked against us in the process, so we didn’t really talk about the logistics at the point of application. So when we found out that we had got the farm, I was faced with a slight panic and uncertainty about the idea of leaving everything that I knew and a career that I had effectively spent my whole life building up! I eventually came to the conclusion that, I had to try it, and the worst thing that could happen, is that I would find out it wasn’t for me and we would hire an extra pair of hands and I would go back to marketing.

As I went into farming during the winter months, it wasn’t easy. We spent days out in the cold putting fences up, moving sheep and tending to our cows. It was just the two of us, and a whole load of animals to look after! My hands were freezing and everything basically just hurt! I was frustrated, as I had come from a job where I knew what to do on a daily basis, to a job where I was second guessing everything and waiting for approval the whole time from Andy. I’d go through waves of feeling empowered by the whole experience, to teary days where I just yearned to be back in a cosy meeting room picking over Pret sandwiches!

A Typical Day

There is no such thing as an average day since I have been working full time on the farm. There are so many contributing factors depending on the season, the weather and the animals and their needs. But generally (when its not during lambing time!);

6am

I get up and throw on some clothes (a far cry from my old life where I’d meticulously plan out outfits the night before!), make a tea and take our three dogs for a walk, Joe the Kelpie, Zac the Collie and little Juno the whippet.

7am

I wander over to the farmyard to check on and feed the cows. Quite soon into when I first started out farming, I casually sauntered over to the cow barn, to find it completely empty! The cows had managed to lick the latch on the gate open and were found all around the village. Trying to get 150 cattle back to the farm was possibly the single most stressful experience of my life!

8:30am

We usually go back into the farmhouse for breakfast (this is my favourite time of the day). Andy and I will chat about our plans for the day and the logistics of getting everything done whilst munching on some toast.

9:30am

We’ll head out and check around all of the sheep on the quad bike or the defender, depending on how rainy it is or how treacherous the route. We have around 2,000 sheep spanning the farm, and all predominantly up on the top of steep hill, so it can be pretty bracing first thing in the morning, especially on the quad bike. I live in a thermal hat and waterproof trousers most days!

The afternoon

We have lunch on the go. Our afternoons are usually spent gathering sheep or moving them to fresh grass with our dogs. This is something I love about my job, moving the sheep across the hill and seeing the dogs work is incredible, and a sight I never get bored of. As all of our sheep are 100% grass fed and don’t get supplemented concentrates, we have to move them all to fresh grass regularly to ensure they have enough to eat. Other afternoon activities usually consist of repairing broken gateways or putting up new fences, or doing some tractor work. I’ve gone from, never having driven a tractor, to ploughing up and reseeding whole fields. Driving the tractor is one of my favourite things to do on the farm; I always end up manically grinning and waving at everyone I pass on the road and spying into people gardens from up high!

6pm (or when the sun goes down)

Like most people who work for themselves know, when you work from home, it’s hard to draw the line between work and home life. So for me, now, once I go into the farmhouse and my wellies come off and slippers go on, I try to end the day on the farm there. This of course changes at lambing time, or if we have a sick animal to tend to!

A year in, I wouldn’t change it. I’m so lucky to have had to opportunity to go into the farming world. It’s been amazing to learn something that people hundreds of years before me have been doing. That’s the thing about farming, it’s so traditional and practical. I’m outside all day everyday, which is so good for your health – mentally and physically! Don’t get me wrong, I still find it strange to say I’m a full time shepherdess and I do really miss having the excuse to pop on a dress and a full face of make up on (the sheep and cows don’t really appreciate it enough you see…!), but I really do count myself lucky to call my office a farm!

{Contributors}

Photography by Kerry Jordan and Alice Radford

Author
Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman

39 thoughts on “Girl About The Farm

  1. This is bringing back alll the memories of being 6, reading the Dick King Smith ‘Sophie’ books and desperately wanting to be a lady farmer when I grew up!

    Would love to see more of this type of post, it’s so nice to read what other people do! X

  2. Fab post! I had a somewhat less drastic change of career to become a teacher but, as a result, no longer do the tube commute (and miss Pret sandwiches too)! The best thing about the tube commute was the weekly free Stylist magazine on a Weds when they profiled a day in the life of different women at work. I loved it – I’m fundamentally nosy and it’s awesome to hear about the range of roles out there.

      1. Great tip! Thanks Lisa. And that made me laugh, Laura. My husband still works in Canary Wharf and it’s the ultimate treat when he brings it home. It’s maybe happened twice in four years…!

  3. Thank you for mixing up the content RMS. Laura lives literally just up the road from me and I love seeing what she’s shared on her Instagram.

    It sounds (and looks) Laura, like you’re so happy and contented with your life and it’s so good you have your husband for support. Can’t wait to see what the next twelve months brings for you.

    1. Awww thanks Lucy! I AM happy and yes, Andy is really supportive – he always tells me how proud he is of me, which is needed when I’m covered in mud freezing on the top of the hill moving sheep 🙂 xxxxx

  4. This was a really interesting read. I’ve never had a job. I had to leave university when I had my first child and have been a stay at home parent ever since. I LOVE reading and hearing about other people’s jobs. We’re about to try switching roles, so I will be applying for my first ever job and my husband will be not working for the first time since he left school! It’s terrifying but probably less terrifying than suddenly becoming a farmer.

  5. This was so interesting to read. I grew up on a farm, though I’m not the typical farmer’s daughter. Apparently I took a huge amount of interest when I was very, very little; then not sure what happened in between but working on the farm has never been for me and luckily my family have always respected that. (I do move home during lambing time because although I’m no practical help outside, I cook up a mean dinner at night to make sure the troupes are well fed). It’s so great to see someone who isn’t from a farming background going into it though! I take my hat off to you Laura, farming life can be really tough but I know it can also be really rewarding. I will be following a long on Insta now!! xx

    1. Thanks Emma! I bet everyone is so thankful for your cooking durning lambing. Last year I cried tears of actual joy when my mum batch cooked Andy and I ready meals! I was just so happy to not have to think about what to cook each day! xxxx

  6. This was such an interesting read! Sounds like a complete culture shock and completely different what you did before. I’m sure it is such hard work but I am sitting here now in my office dreaming of a life on a farm…x

  7. Brilliant read! I’ve always secretly harboured the dream of having a farm – unfortunately, my husband is about as un-country as can be 🙁 It’s no doubt hard work but all that time spent outside and the animals beats a day in the office any time (in my opinion).

    And your Instagram feed is amazing <3

  8. Love this! My boyfriend works in the farming industry and I’ve really enjoyed all the farming programmes that have been on tv recently, like ‘A year on the farm’.

    Yes please to more of these. Do you remember Eve magazine? I read that when I was a teenager (even though it was aimed at 25-40 I reckon). My favourite feature was called ‘women doing their own thing’ and was about women who had gone into business. I loved the girl who took on the Tunnels Beaches in Ilfracombe (which is now a lush wedding venue too, she’s done an amazing job of diversification), and a catering company who supplied luxury yachts on the Solent.

    I read all the Rock My blogs everyday, and I admit I miss the breadth of articles on here and would welcome a return. I really like the travel, cookery, budgeting articles and a career series would be great too please. I’d love to tell you more about what I do but it’s in International Relations for government and I don’t know if I’d be allowed!

  9. Love this article, I always wanted to be a farmer as a child. My friend and I had a folder with all the breeds we’d have – it was going to be Welly splash Farm. I ended up in HR and now a stay at home mum, so great to hear the reality of farm life! Would love. Aregualr careers feature, I find it fascinating particularly where women have switched careers.

  10. It’s been such a pleasure to have you on the blog today Laura.
    So great to hear that everyone is a fan of the career posts and I’m really pleased the tide is turning. Reader feedback in the past (and very strong I have to add!) has been to steer away from career, travel and culinary which is why we only really focus on one of these topics once a month. We’ll definitely look to see how we can integrate more of this content moving forward.

    1. I’m so happy to be part of the blog today. RMS is usually my little slice of ‘life outside farming’ and its been so lovely to share ‘my world’ with everyone 🙂 xxx

  11. Really loved this post, I love hearing about different people’s lives. I had been missing the posts with a bit more substance to them.

    1. This. I’ve been drifting away from RMS recently because the posts have become a bit brief and samey so it’s great to read such an interesting article!

  12. I really enjoyed this article, thank you Laura and RMS. It sounds like you’ve settled into farm life well which must’ve been hard given how different your previous job was. My husband would absolutely love his own farm although neither of us have much farming experience (I had 5 goats, 2 lambs and a horse when I was a child!) but we both have a real love for animals and farm life. Maybe one day!

  13. Loved this! Ran away from academia and travel industry to sahmmery in the countryside and I would never go back. Farming is such hard work- our neighbours work their arses off- but there’s a deep satisfaction in it I think.

    Really surprised at the lack of support in the past for all the travel/careers/nitty gritty posts- there’s only so much fashion and interiors although I do love them in proportion! Feel totally revitalised by this post. And heading over to IG for a good old stalk n follow 😍

  14. I loved reading this. I am a farmers daughter living in London having worked in travel. Farming to me is a lifestyle, not a job. Dad might be setting his alarm for 1am to bring a calf into the world or getting escaped cows in. All my farmer friends get so excited even if they pass a tractor on a drive and know every model of machinery going. A farmers passion is incredible even if they get a little grumpy from time to time. Young farmers gave me life skills that helped me in work. I loved commuting back from London to the country, it gave me time to read that magazine before getting to open space. As a new Instagram follower I love your feed and am here to follow your journey.

  15. Loved this! Loved Stylist! Love the moving to London for country life as I did too but not this extreme. Has motivated me to try to get outside more often though! I’m just at that late pram stage with two kids (2.5 and nearly 4) where they’re not in it as much as they used to be which means less walks. Or ones with scooters which I can’t do on my own- too stresssy! So I do need to find my way outdoors into the fields again. Thank you for the reminder xxx

  16. Just sent this to my husband with the serious question of if he’d consider this life?
    We often dream about getting out from behind a desk. We love the outdoors, physical work and animals. I’d probably still rock most of my lipstick collection though. Also, i do have a ‘thing’ for farmers….not sure i should have admitted that!

    Thanks for sharing such an interesting insight. More of these please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *