Living the Dream: Life on the farm is a breath of fresh air

Shaun McKenna and wife Wendy
Shaun McKenna and wife Wendy
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Almost a year ago my wife Wendy and myself upped sticks and moved our city dwelling family with three daughters - aged 15, 20 and 22 - out into the country to follow our dream of running our own smallholding. Behind us we left a successful business as we leapt into the unknown.

We had decided to become more self sufficient, to get back to basics, to appreciate hard physical work, learn how to deal with livestock and once again appreciate the value of money. We certainly expected an adventure and we thought we’d experience many lessons along the way with countless challenges, and almost 12 months on we have survived at Long Meadow Farm and have learned so much.

We have experienced the exciting highs of welcoming new animals onto the farm, successfully growing our own produce for the first time and spotting a beautiful kingfisher outside our door, to the lows of sending our first pigs to the abattoir, trying unsuccessfully to get a rejected lamb back with her mother and moving from four bathrooms to one with a house full of women...

Since our move we have been welcomed by so many. People have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, anyone from the local ‘postie’ to the staff in the farm shops and doctors surgery, to those ladies riding their horses up the lane.

Much advice and support has been offered by neighbouring smallholders and farmers, whether we’ve been injecting the pigs or worming the sheep. Our neighbours have helped us out with a number of challenges. When worming the sheep for the first time, I didn’t know that a drench gun worked by gravity but after hours of trying to get the thing to work, my neighbour, who had worked with sheep for over 30 years, showed me in seconds how to overcome this little problem. The sheep, bored after staring at us for hours as we struggled, were, I’m sure, just relieved to get to bed that night.

We are learning every day but one of the most significant lessons so far involves hay. Whilst growing up, I spent many days during school holidays on a friend’s farm with much of that time spent den building in hay stacks. Never in all that time did I stop to consider the work that’d gone into making that hay.

After filling our barn with hay in the summer we now have a far greater appreciation for the hay making process. We received great support from another local farmer who not only guided us through this process but put up with my constant impatient moanings and cut, turned and baled all of our hay. That was when we saw, probably for the first time, a significant positive change in our children - both those at home and those who’d flown the nest. That was the day when office work clothes were switched for their scruffs and sleeves were rolled up in order to move the hay bales before any rain could come along and destroy all that hard work.

Turns out, there’s nothing like getting a good sweat on to bring the family together.

Over the coming weeks our aim is to take you with us on our adventure.

We will introduce you to our animals, tell you of our mishaps (which are plentiful) and hopefully our successes, as well as our plans for the future, as we endeavour to live our dream in the East Yorkshire countryside.