Those of you who follow me on Twitter or know me personally have known for a while now that I am now running the farm solo. I originally wanted to shy away from getting too personal on this blog but having since spoken to other farmers about all kinds of different issues that people in the industry (in fact all of us) find tricky to talk about – from mental health to athlete’s foot – is it not better to read something real? I personally find comfort in knowing that someone else is going through the same, or similar, to what I am experiencing. So here it goes, I’m getting real.
I wrote several draft blog posts over the past few months and have never published them. Until now.
For those of you who don’t know the background, which is probably most of you. I got the farm in January, opened it in April, then split with my partner of 7 years in August. These drafted blog entries detail how I was finding coping emotionally and physically having to run the farm by myself after initially having the help of my previous partner.
I work 30-35 hours a week, I have two dogs, I rent 30 acres of land, I run my own business, I have 22 sheep, 3 goats, 15 chickens, 5 turkeys,2 ducks and 8 pigs, I live 40 minutes away from my nearest family member and I’m a single 26 year old.
When I took on these responsibilities I had help, I had support but now I have to do all of this alone. No, wait, that’s not right, I made a choice to try and make this work on my own. And I’m scared. I am sh*t scared. I could lose it all, I could mess it all up and everything I have worked so, so hard for could fall down around me.
I want to be clear, I am not heart broken, I do not feel cheated or deceived. I feel empty and if I am honest, most of the time I feel nothing. I do have a heart, I have been heart broken once before and I would much rather feel how I feel now to the feeling of having your heart ripped out of your chest and smashed into tiny pieces. Nonetheless, there seems to be this expectation of me now. Everyone around me is waiting for the ‘break down’ and now that is leaving me wondering if I should be breaking down, should I be feeling like I need to share my emotions more? Should I be feeling these emotions more in the first place?
The other thing I have realised is when you don’t cry and scream and shout about your loss from the rooftops then people presume you are coping. I am coping emotionally, I suppose, but physically I am destroyed. Simple things that you take for granted like taking out the bins, walking the dogs, lifting the feed bags, changing the light bulbs etc. they soon seep into your to-do list bringing you closer and closer to exhaustion until you just want to give up. It’s not even the physical exertion of the task, it’s the never ending list of chores that never seem complete and having no one to ask to help.
Everyone keeps asking if I feel lonely.
But that will never be as bad as the loneliness you can feel when you are in the same room as the person who is supposed to make you feel the least amount of loneliness in the whole world.
It is far better to be lonely and alone. Than lonely with someone else.
It is a weird feeling to suddenly own everything in a house. To know that everything under that roof is yours and you have complete freedom to do what you like with it. I have had a complete detox and thrown away a lot of things. I am starting to decorate the kitchen in the colours I had always wanted it to be decorated in. A small victory but it is having a big impact on my feelings towards the place.
The word is spreading about my new situation now. A lot of questions to answer and equal numbers of questions to ignore (nosy strangers). It is all very real. The strangest thing for me is, I do not feel like anything has changed. Emotionally that is. I am starting to realise that I have been living alone for months, maybe years, there has just been a body here sharing my space. Isn’t that sad..? Why am I only just realising this…?
My very first farm bred babies were born (hatched) today! I now have 12 little chicks to look after. Part of me is extremely excited that I have created life – sort of, Elvis the cockerel is the real star – part of me is slightly apprehensive about adding a twice daily water and feed change to my already hectic schedule. It seems at the moment that every piece of good news has a tiny sting in its tail.
In other news, I am starting to internet date. I wonder what sting that will have in its tail.
The farm is beginning to become a chore for me. Every time I fix one thing, something else breaks. I can only call on the neighbouring farmer’s help so many times before I start to ‘take the Mickey’. The pigs are destroying the fences and the automatic drinkers. In the past week they have broken out five times and I can tell everyone around me is getting annoyed but I feel useless and unable to think logically to establish a solution.
The truth is they should have gone to slaughter last month but I can’t herd 6 pigs, trailer them 30 miles away, carry, pack and label all that pork, then try and sell it. Physically, I can’t. Mentally, I can’t. They are now so large that they are destroying the weaner pen we had built for them but sadly they’re doing much more than that. They are destroying my confidence in my abilities to farm solo. Slowly these 6 pigs are highlighting my weaknesses and proving that maybe I wasn’t as self-reliant as I had hoped. Maybe I had relied on other people’s help and now that help is gone perhaps I should realise that this is too much for me to take on. Downsize? Give up? Move on? What are my options…?
When you’re alone on the farm all day, then alone all night you really just want to socialise. But with all this responsibility, how can I? I’m 26 years old but I have to be back home by 10pm or the dogs will get lonely, plus I have to be up at 7am to feed all the animals. I’m in a vicious circle of being depressed because I am lonely but being unable to do anything about it due to the farm. The farm is making me lonely, which is making me depressed, which is making me hate the farm, which is make me depressed. There must be other single women farmers out there, I need to find someone to tell me that I will survive, that it is possible, that there are ways to be a normal human being and have a farm.
I am starting to realise that when I feel down, I write. I think this is replacing when I used to talk to my partner. I suppose it is better than trying to keep it all inside. It is helpful to let it out.
It is quite isolating not having that close relationship any more. The only person I have ever trusted. Ever. It doesn’t help that my two closest friends have both recently taken on new commitments and I do not have a close relationship with any of my immediate family or any siblings to share these thoughts with. I always thought that partnership would be around until I was old and grey. Never say never I supppose.
I have realised I tend to have a bad day, write it down on here, then have a good day. I doubt I will ever publish these entries but I think it could be quite insightful to read over them one day. I know I will be in a better place one day, read back on these and realise that however crap my situation may be, everything will work out in the end. You have to have that faith.
Farming can be an isolated career, you don’t often get to communicate with other people, to bounce ideas off of someone or even just have someone to have a cup of tea with. This is what made attending the British Farming Awards great for me. A real chance to talk to people already pushing forward with their agricultural business and a few people doing it alone. I was able to talk with Kit, a shepherdess I met through Twitter, who is also a solo farmer and the farming, dating and life stories we shared with each other weren’t just hilarious, they were also extremely therapeutic.
This week I felt my old self coming back and a bit of resilience return. I am excited for the future. I am also scared. But scared is not necessarily a bad thing, it means I care. It also means I am starting to feel emotion again, something I realise I had distanced myself from, as an ineffective defense mechanism. I feel ready to be me again, I feel ready to feel.
I have a busy week ahead of me, lots of half term sessions are booked in at the farm and I have plans to move the chicks in with the main flock. I have a feeling I won’t be writing much in this format any more. Something’s changed in me. I still feel overwhelmed with the huge amount of work expected of me but I think the two months of coping alone has taught me that I am stronger than I think and braver than I believe.
It has helped meeting other people going it alone. And they are surviving, heck thriving!
It has helped having no choice but to do it all by myself.
It has helped writing down how I felt.
It has helped that I have lived through worse and lived to tell the tale.
And more than anything it has helped that despite thinking it on several occassions… I have never, ever given up on what makes me, me.