Living the Dream: From flooding to lambing, the challenges of a year in the sticks

Shaun and Wendy McKenna.  Pic: Lucy Oates.
Shaun and Wendy McKenna. Pic: Lucy Oates.
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Well it has to be said that 2016 has been quite some year for the McKenna family but it does seem to have flown by. We have crammed so much into the past 12 months and have achieved such a lot as we continue to build our life in the country.

The year seemed to start before it had even begun when we were flooded out for the first time, last Boxing Day. I still cannot believe that we had so many good samaritans turn up out of the blue to help us out in our hour of need - that’s the power of social media in action for you.

It wasn’t long into the year either when we experienced the highs and lows of lambing for the second time and this year, there was a low.

Hypothermia and lambs is not a good mix at all and since losing Jeremy’s twin sister to the cold, we have been through it a hundred times: how could we have changed things? Or, what could we have done differently so as to not lose her?

We can only learn from these experiences and endeavour to make sure that we are prepared for the next time.

As spring was unfolding, we were furiously trying to get our vegetable patch up to last year’s standards and at the same time get everything completed ahead of the opening of our new teashop.

Seeding, fencing, paving, plumbing, turfing, painting, ditch digging, pruning, marketing, planting, bramble clearing, nettle spraying, shepherd’s hut siting, gravel levelling, drain laying, tree felling, log chopping and hedge cutting have been just a few of the tasks we have been working through, alongside our day to day jobs and not to mention getting a wedding arranged in between all of that lot.

Our leap into the teashop world could have been a struggle, with a lack of experience on our part, but as usual our Wendy has pulled it out of the bag and she has since won an award for her team’s efforts too.

The signs were good, with us being contacted almost every day in the weeks leading up to opening with people requesting an opening date, and on day one we had cars queueing up outside the gate.

Once again, the support we have seen from people, from all over Yorkshire has been wonderful.

We see ourselves as extremely blessed to be living where we live and so it has always been in our thinking to share this adventure with others, which is why we opened up to the public and had our beautiful shepherd’s hut built for people to stay.

We took long enough just deciding on the right place to site our hut so that visitors could get the very best views from their window and have the most memorable experience from their stay on Long Meadow Farm.

As we roll into 2017, putting the past year’s struggles behind us, we are excited at to what is in store for us this coming year.

For sure our antiquated heating and plumbing system, in our home is definitely on it’s way out, and hopefully buckets of coal are going to be a thing of the past.

We are looking forward to lots of youngsters being born on the farm in 2017 and we could have a Highland calf or two, lambs, a couple of pygmy goat babies, a baby llama, some ducklings and at this stage we are undecided but potentially we may have some piglets too.

With these plans in mind, we are expecting to have a very busy year in store in 2017, and in closing can I take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous 2017 from all of us at the Ginger Cow Company.