Our son had not long been born before my husband, Paul, was asking how soon it would be before he was capable of opening gates for him. In fact, his future on the farm was being mapped out in Paul’s head whilst the cord was being cut.
Fast forward five years and our son John-William is more than capable of opening gates. His passion for the animals we rear on our farm, his vast knowledge of machinery, makes, models and colours leaves us all shaking our heads in disbelief. He has needed little encouragement when it comes to following in his father’s footsteps. As they say, it’s in his blood.
This winter, and in particular harsh spring, has really pushed us all to the bhyrink. The extra feed and bedding needed for our sheep and cattle has stretched us financially, adding stress and worry to our exhausted minds.
Tempers become frayed as we head into our first week of lambing and as much as I try and shield John-William from raised voices and angry exchanges, it is inevitable that he will pick up on the tension.
The first lambs hit the ground as yet another blast of Siberian air hits our lambing fields depositing several inches of snow in a matter of hours. Waves of despair wash over us as frozen little bodies succumb to the sub zero temperatures.
The mud and relentless rain continues its cruel onslaught, but in the midst of our despair our son remains calm and upbeat.
He places his little warm hand in mine and reassures me that sunshine is on its way and in a voice that breaks my heart insists, ‘everything will be just fine mummy’.
I wonder where this wise head on such young shoulders comes from. As he sits proudly perched on the tractor next to his daddy or on the quad bike reeling in miles of electric fencing, I ponder how much he takes on board.
When does the excitement of animals being born and big shiny tractors fade into the background to be replaced with endless mind boggling paperwork and financial worries. But then I remind myself that it’s easy to become despondent at this time of the year.
As my son reminds me, the sun will soon be shining, the grass will grow and that heavenly scent that fills the air at silage time will soon be upon us. We will leave our lonely island of rumbling trucks and frantic commuters to head out to shows, proudly displaying our livestock whilst catching up with friends.
Farming moves with the seasons and it’s easy to see how it can become ingrained in your soul, a part of who you are. John-William is descended from a long line of farmers, both on Paul’s side and my own. Despite the hardship, disappointment and uncertainty of British agriculture in the current climate it’s hard to imagine a life without animals. Whatever path our son chooses, he will have our support.
Jill Thorp and her husband Paul run the iconic Yorkshire farm in the middle of the M62.