Moat Goats, 28.12.17-2.1.18

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

My final chapter of 2017 was spent in New Moat, Wales. 200 goats, 2 dogs, and a wonderful crazy goat family with a new arrival.

You can read my detailed daily blogs of kidding here.

I returned for a week in July before seeing local large animal practice then flying to Finland.

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A dream


Seeing the new year in with Fred was a dream!

Rather than intensely research the handful of ailments I saw to, like my other Moat Goat blogs, I wanted to share a few of my happiest moments during my stay and an insight into staying away for work experience.

The first time I stayed away from home was in February. I was seeing practice in the Lake District and certainly did not anticipate the challenge of breaking out of the hotel reception at 4.30am. Backpack strategically placed, I frantically jumped up using the tip of my fingers to budge the top bolt of the grand entrance door.

Due to the long hours of lambing, I stayed just over an hour away so I could be out on the quad at 6am. I vividly remember being outside in the pet lamb pen until 11pm due to the viscous colostrum and lamb-sized diameter stomach tube.

That brings me to kidding time at Moat Goats, I instantly felt at home. Hot chocolates and murder documentaries in the midst of 2am kiddings and bottle baby care. I was eager to return before heading off to Finland!

6 weeks in Finland… life changing.

Feeling oh-so-professional taking trains down to Somerset to have a good nights sleep in my luxury king sized bed, I enjoyed my first goat conference.

I believe that brings me to my most recent trip. The quote “always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan” is appropriate.

Coffee coffee coffee

After the final stretch of my journey being majorly postponed due to a cancelled train, I sipped my Starbucks latte and bitterly wondered why I had been up since 3.30am. A switch flicked and I appreciated the warmth, my coffee, the fact that I would get there in the end and that no transport system is perfect. Everything and everyone has flaws.

It was that moment that I heard the announcement for a postponed train direct to my final destination. If I ran to the platform I would make it. I would then arrive at the farm earlier than scheduled with my original plan.

Nothing in life is free, and I forked out £65.00 on this 4 hour train. It was my third and final train, it was the best option because time with the goats is priceless.

Shout out to Costa and Starbucks.

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There is no smell like foot rot


Following my recent vet practice posts, I will start with the health aspect of working on a goat farm.

Boer goats are renowned in the goaty world for their poorly adapted hooves for the weather in the UK. We caught some of the does to trim their hooves. If only goats saw trimming as a pain-relieving manicure to solve all of their hoof troubles! One goat head-butted my head torch into my nose, sadly I cannot speak goat to explain that I am trying to assist her. Cuddles and food help.

Successfully nursing and treating two goats with Listeriosis was hugely rewarding. Listeria monocytogenes cross the blood-brain barrier and often cause encephalitis. Therefore one of the major symptoms was head pressing, which is disturbing to see along with the body spasms and foaming of the mouth. Every animal deserves a chance, and this is why I keep coming back to work on the farm. One goat’s severe neurological symptoms subsided with the antibiotic treatment. Over the course of a few days I saw her partly paralysed to trotting around like a healthy happy doe. 10pm ventures to the shed to inject a bucking goat will be memorable.

On my first day, I noticed a doeling with a clouded eye. I assumed that she had peculiarly developed partial blindness, perhaps due to a fight or accident as goats can always find trouble.

This was an unknown eye problem so we rushed her to the vets. The vet used a fluorescent diagnostic dye to identify areas of trauma to the cornea. Ulcerative keratitis is the veterinary term for a corneal ulcer. He then used an eye drop that contained a local anaesthetic before gently rubbing the eyeball to encourage neovascularisation. I held the doeling still whilst the vet skilfully injected antibiotics into the eyelid.

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All of these goats are recovering well and their care was part of the daily schedule. Injection times ranged from 7am to 10pm, catching and restraining a grown doe to inject sub-cutaneously was a proud moment.

 

Happy days


Some of the best moments were running around a field in wellies with the two hyperactive dogs. Gyppy the Border Collie slept next to me, and every morning started with a long walk. We were in Fitbit competition, that definitely helped.

 

The phrase “cling like a limpet” was new to me, I had never heard the word limpet before. One day we drove to the coast to go on a limpet hunt on the beach. The dogs enjoyed swimming and catching sticks. I took my first limpet shell home with me.

Once the evening jobs were done, I would snuggle up on the sofa with Gyppy and Mossy!

Goats are characters, doing the morning and evening jobs doesn’t feel like work. One of the doelings screams like a banshee for her breakfast the moment she hears a slight gate creak. William, Rug, Roger, and Bertie were eager to give me bruises to take home by jumping on my back in pure excitement. It was amazing to see how the individual kids had developed, Fred was always my favourite. The little dot has grown into a solid meat goat, who needs a gym membership in the new year when you can be lifting a chunky goat?

It won’t be long until 200 kids are due. Kidding for an extended weekend in March will be my next placement, introducing new life into the world will help with Fred’s fate. It is typical to fall in love with the wethers!

Until then, if you would like to read about my experience kidding in 2017 then I have linked the individual blog posts below.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Steph and I got our kid fix at Church Hillbilly. The 2 month old kids had the confidence to jump on our backs! Flashback to May.

The week old kids sweetly skipped around their pen or curled underneath the hay rack. I squealed a few times. It was lovely to visit Debbi and Dave’s Boer goat farm and to cuddle the tiny goats. I am ready for 2018 kidding!

“I always believe that the sky is the beginning of the limit”

So my advice would be to push yourself out of your comfort zone, get on a train or even a plane. This is coming from someone too anxious to leave my house for several months in 2015. There are no restraints or boundaries to opportunities when there is a whole world to explore. I have not only gained invaluable hands-on experience and taken on a lot of responsibilities, I have made friends for life. I will always go back to Moat Goats for placements, they are my goaty family! I learn things from the very high standard of animal welfare and wealth of knowledge that I cannot learn from a textbook. All whilst making great memories and enjoying myself.

I hope you have enjoyed a less clinical blog post and seen the memories that can be made whilst on work experience. If this inspires just one person to take an extra bus to volunteer at an unusual sanctuary, or to take a break from studying and book a week’s placement abroad!

Work experience or life experience

“CHOOSE CONNECTION OVER PERFECTION.”

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The typical prospective doctor/vet/dentist student has a strong academic background. High achieving and perfectionism often come hand in hand. Flexibility is lost, spontaneity is an alien concept, taking each day as it comes can equate to being unprepared and ultimately a failure. 

“IN THE MIDDLE OF EVERY DIFFICULTY LIES OPPORTUNITY.”

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Add work experience into the mix.  Organisation and discipline can reach extreme levels, and life swiftly becomes one big “to do” list.

2 major problems I have experienced. 

  1. Work experience hours/days/weeks become another number to become fixated on. I hold both hands up high and admit that I will never feel satisfied with my work experience because someone on a certain student site will claim to have done surgery blindfolded aged 7 as being a vet runs in their blood.
  2. Post-application, I heard about all of the placements that people were suddenly dropping out of. They did not need the number anymore, they had ticked the box. Work experience should not have to be a case of “grin and bear it” but an opportunity to nourish your interest and knowledge, and acquire new skills.

    “PEOPLE NEVER LEARN ANYTHING BY BEING TOLD, THEY HAVE TO FIND OUT FOR THEMSELVES.”

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    Work experience can be life experience. Life experience can be work experience. The reason? Transferable skills.

    MY EXPERIENCE 

 

I am currently a full time sales assistant. One day I will be a vet student.

In the process of overcoming challenges I can share what I am learning:
Interpersonal skills. Working under pressure. Ability to prioritise. CONFIDENCE.
The list goes on.

Not the anatomy lessons and veterinary profession eye-opener of OVS shadowing in an abattoir, or the hands-on husbandry skills of a Finnish husky farm. However, embracing every experience as a learning opportunity I can see this stage of my life as a major stepping stone towards my ultimate goal.

“I am stupid.”
“I am a failure.”
“Everyone is at university.”
“I am wasting time.”

Can become…

“I have time to learn to drive.”
“I can keep goats for 2 more years.”
“I will be able to confidently deal with any clients in a veterinary surgery.”
“I am actively challenging the idea that my worth is related to my academic success, I am building a life and identity without a number attached.” 

DON’T TRY TO RUSH THINGS THAT NEED TIME TO GROW 

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Heidi x

Lessons from goats

Welcome to the wonderful world of goat keeping. 

Members of “goaty friends” have shared their main lessons from their caprine companions.

Step 1 to goat keeping? Before searching for the ideal goat?

1. THINK FORT KNOX

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“How to build secure fencing.”
“Fencing is never high enough or strong enough.”
“Fence well before the goats arrive so when they check out the fence they feel trapped right from the start.”
“Can’t go over it, go under, can’t go under, go through… teleport.”
“I’m pretty sure we somehow managed to buy flying goats.”
“If the boundary is safe you can relax.”
“No gate is low enough to the ground.”
“My goats have taught me how to slide through a gate without barely opening it at all.”
“No fence is high enough.”

What about the “goats eat everything” statement?

2. GOATS LOVE FOOD

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“Everything is edible.”
“Food is temporary.”
“A goat can spot a food bucket at about half a mile.”
“That they can love each other so very much, or hate each other with a passion, especially around food.”

They certainly keep you occupied

3. ATTENTION

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“What you think is sufficient pats/cuddles is never enough & that it’s fun for them to jump on your back”

4. BRAINY GOATS

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“That they are very intelligent especially for their own ends.”
“They watch humans and mimic them to learn how to use stiles.”

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

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“Learn to think 5 steps ahead of them!”
“Don’t plan anything!”
“To have eyes in the back of my head.”

BUT it isn’t all fun and games…

6. GOATS KNOW HOW TO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS

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“Patience!”
“Never underestimate their ability to come up with a new way to cause you agro all with an innocent look on their faces.”
“Never trust them when they look innocent, the amount of tops I have with holes in as the goats had a nibble before I realised!”
“Trust your instincts!”
“They’ve taught me Swear words!! I didn’t know I knew so many till i started milking goats.”
“How extremely intelligent and utterly stupid they can be at the same time.”

7. PREPARE FOR MESS… they are kids after all

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“Always have a spare set of overalls. And wellies. And socks.”

…Especially when it comes to kidding time

8. YOU HAVE GOAT TO BE KIDDING

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“Kidding will occur at the least appropriate or convenient moment. You’re screwed.”
“Queens of the herd are forever (or at least until kidding season).”
“You can wait and watch a goat kidding for hours and nothing but the two seconds you nip for a wee it’s all over!”
“The “Go and make us a coffee, she will be ages yet!”” 
“Deep snow on the ground? No water? Power out? Congratulations! You have a 100% guarantee at least one goat will have quads today.”

They teach us some serious stuff too.

9. LIVE IN THE NOW

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“They have taught me you are never prepared for the worst.”
“…whenever I get caught up in the past I go to the goat shed and remind myself to live in the now and take care of what I can take care of now and let the rest go.”

The finale…

10. MAN’S BEST FRIEND? GOATS.

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“That life was incomplete without them.”
“That you can never have too many goats.” 
“They are very understanding and patient with people who have disabilities.”
“I have had mine since May and am totally in love.I didn’t know they play as much as they do.So beautiful.I am in love with them both.”
“My love for them & what they give back! can’t imagine my life without them! I have a 6 year old gg I’m her fifth owner what I was told about her I thought what have I done purchasing her but they tell you the truth! I wouldn’t be without her!”
“No two goats are same, all have their own quirks and traits. Can be testing at times but 100% worth it.”
“How loving and funny and clever goats are.”
“They have taught me how much an animal can love both each other and the humans around them”
“They’ve taught me how to be a crazy goat lady.”

Switzerland part 3: Life lessons

Summer 2017

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Last year, I shared my top 9 lessons from a summer working with 200 working dogs in Lapland.
I had only envisioned gaining great husky handling and farm fixing skills. I was oblivious to the general necessary life lessons that I would be boarding my return flight with.
You can read the truly life-changing lessons
here

Summer 2018

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Fast forward to spending my Summer of 2018 in Switzerland.

2 weeks in England has given me time to reflect, continue to explore spirituality, apply the teachings.

Enough time to collect my thoughts.

1. “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.” – Albert Einstein 

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Meet my incredible host:

Vera

Living in a farmhouse with goats is my dream, for Vera it is reality.

Of course, living with 2 goats is not the social norm but Vera taught me that if you do not fit in then you are doing the right thing as you have a high level of determination and mental strength to proceed despite facing conflicting views.

From laughing until our sides hurt from our inside jokes, to having enlightening conversations, I have learned so much from such a wonderful woman. 


“Go with the flo”

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Embracing spontaneity adds colour to an otherwise black and white monotonous life.

Aspiring to live a life in which fulfilment is not achieved by a rigorous daily schedule. The only thing that can go to plan is the here and now, the moment we do have control over. 

The ultimate paragliding experience cannot be planned weeks in advance, NOW is the only time I knew we were going to run off the mountainside and glide through the air, the single moment of appropriate wind to take-off.

Kiko body, kiko mind

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You may even make your own language during a work placement abroad!
Whether I was going on a kiko hike, that Bruno is a kiko goat, that Vera makes a kiko bike tour. Kiko means strong.

Be kiko. 

In Interlaken, I truly appreciated the strength of mind required to be content with life during moments of peacefulness and nothingness. The backdrop of the Alps constantly offered a sense of tranquility despite moments of hustle and bustle on Höheweg.

What I mean by that is having the constant drive and need to be productive, be active, learn, alone does not constitute the strength of an individual. Being alone with your own thoughts requires great strength that should not be undermined.

Whilst house-sitting, I could spend time sat in the sun with the goats. I pushed aside the compelling need to be reaching 30k, 40k, even 50k steps a day, and simply embraced the only thing in my control – the present. 

Home is where the mountains are

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As a goat-keeper named Heidi, Switzerland was calling me. I did not know what to expect, but I was adamant that Switzerland would be my next adventure destination.

From the challenges set by the steep mountainside ascents, to forming the perfect background for appreciating the serenity of the “now”, I learned that being located in a mountainous region made me feel genuine happiness.  

Just add a traditional Swiss dress, and I am the real life Heidi doing cartwheels in the mountains.

You never travel alone

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“Hey, please could you take a photo for me?”.

“Sure, please could you take my photo too?”.

There.
When travelling, that is how a friendship can start.  


Get lost on a hike? Kind people will lead the way, join the group and have a laugh.

I lost any apprehension to start conversations with “strangers”, I said hello to every passing hiker, I talked to dog owners about their dogs. Realistically, with the extreme reactions being statistical outliers, being ignored was the worst thing that could happen. A chance I took, I conversed with interesting people with interesting stories.

Even when I reached Basel airport to travel home, whilst waiting for the plane, I heard about a man’s life in India and his grandchildren in Switzerland, a lengthy talk meant that neither of us were alone waiting for our flight. 

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

 

Fleur’s story: Always go for your dreams

FLEUR

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ALWAYS GO FOR YOUR DREAMS

IT STARTED WITH GOATS

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My story began in 2014 when my primary school got 2 goats named Sooty and Sweep. I had always loved animals. When all of the other girls played with dolls or did their hair and makeup, I would be playing with worms and snails. I didn’t really have many friends, a couple of close ones, but none of them truly shared the same passion for animals. I’m going to be honest –  mucking out the goats and feeding in the middle of winter on my own at the age of 11 was hard. Then, it hit me, I wanted to work with farm animals!

A NEW JOURNEY 

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Choosing a secondary school to start a new journey was a hard decision. I finally chose Bebington High School because they had their own farm and offered a BTEC course in animal care. 

Year 7 was hard. I kept the same friends and worked very hard at the farm. The farm had a range of animals, from sheep and pigs, to goats and chickens. I had the responsibility of mucking them out and feeding, in the mornings and after school. I made a couple of friends at the farm, but most of the kids left after year 8 – I stayed! Year 9 came and it was time to start my choices. I chose animal care (obviously), and so far it has been amazing! I also met one of my closest friends, Jack Price, who is like a brother to me. We do everything together, and we both have the same amazing passion for animals, which is awesome.

CHALLENGES MAKE YOU DISCOVER THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF 

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The farm is great, but we wanted to get more experience with different farm animals, so we helped on a dairy farm. We herded the cows for milking, tagged the calves, gave hay to the cows and horses, and helped with milking. It was very hard work, but worthwhile. 

I decided that dairy cows weren’t for me. Sheep are my passion. 

Meanwhile, at the school farm there was a decrease in animals due to land limitations and animal welfare comes first. We currently have chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, and a menagerie of small animals and reptiles. In October, we are hoping to get 2 in-lamb Castlemilk Moorit ewes. It would be an exciting change as we had Zwartbles and Hampshire Downs before. 

THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN UNEXPECTEDLY 

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Jack and I wanted to gain experience with other animal species so we plucked up the courage to visit Park Lodge Animal Experiences after seeing the ponies, alpacas, chickens, and a huge German Shepherd dog. To our surprise, the seemingly normal building opened a door to doves, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mice – any small animal that you could think of! I was ecstatic to be offered a volunteer opportunity.

It didn’t stop there. We entered a dim room – a Halloween decorated reptile room! All sorts of snakes (one was even named Fleur!), tarantulas, scorpions, bearded dragons, and geckos too! A dream, I was in my element surrounded by these beautiful animals. 

The first job was to sweep leaves. Perhaps not your typical first job, but there is so much more to working with animals as we had to ensure that the environment they were in was clean. When we went around the back, I saw an alpaca for the first time and I was in love. We swept up the poop, let the hens out, and then met the outdoor animals. Angus the skunk had 3 kids, and I was sprayed on. Don’t laugh! There were also 2 very needy ferrets with very sharp claws, 2 rabbits, and ex-battery chickens. 

BY DOING WHAT YOU LOVE  YOU INSPIRE AND AWAKEN THE HEARTS OF OTHERS

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Then, it was our first animal encounter with 7 children and their parents. The children were amazed and fascinated by the snakes, geckos, and tarantula. Telling everyone about the animals made me so happy.

I had a light bulb moment – that this is what I want to do. I would love to be an animal educator, and teach people all about the beauty of the animal kingdom.

Jack and I visited more frequently and gained more responsibility as we took kids out for pony rides independently. Opportunities to help at shows around the UK came up, similar to doing animal encounters but with the general public.

YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT 

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The animal encounters are run by a lovely woman named Alice, who also owns a rescue. Recently, we discussed being more involved, and eventually taking over the rescue when Jack and I are old enough. We are so excited. That brings me to the now – school holidays are nearly finished and it’s back to school for year 10, and I really can’t wait to see what the future brings.

My motto is “always go for your dreams no matter how big or small you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it” and I will follow that motto for the rest of my life 😁🙌💪

FLEUR

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Farmerfleur365

Megan’s story: Put your best foot first and keep on mooving

MEGAN

PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FIRST AND KEEP ON MOOVING

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

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My passion for animals has always been deep-rooted, with spending most of my ‘grown up’ time working at a rescue centre for horses and spending my childhood growing up on a smallholding. I have volunteered at animal sanctuaries – I have scooped poo, cleaned cages, walked dogs and dealt with the death of (unfortunately) many animals. I have been lucky enough to have worked with animals from hissing cockroaches to emus to now cows. Animals have quite literally saved my life. If I think back to every point where I wanted to give up, or where I was lost or where I had to make a big life decision it was animals that pulled me from the depths of coldness that surrounded me.
I have cried into horses manes, I have whispered secrets into their ears, I have shared my deepest secrets with a wet nose, four paws and a wagging tail. I have shared kisses, hugs, and most of all happiness with all types of animals. I was never judged, I was never turned away and I was never told they didn’t want to listen or that I should just do better. 

IF YOU FIND A PATH WITH NO OBSTACLES, IT PROBABLY DOESN’T LEAD ANYWHERE.”

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The path to where I am now has been a long one. At 23 years of age with a 2:1 equine science degree, a house, a car and good money – I am still finding out who I want to be and what I want to do.

So if you’re reading this, if you’re starting/finishing college or university with no idea where to go next, do not panic – life has its way of carving out a path you don’t even know you’re on… just enjoy the journey, take opportunities, step out of that comfort zone, embrace life. 

Which is exactly what I am doing now…

I embarked on my journey into the dairy industry full time in March 2018, where I became a calf rearer on a large dairy farm with over 700 acres, milking 550 cows twice a day. Couple that with a house move away from my family, a short two weeks before Christmas and literally very little knowledge of cows and farming – I was really quite literally thrown in at the deep end. 

CREATE THE LIFE YOU CAN’T WAIT TO WAKE UP TO 

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It has been full of laughs, tears, frustration, sweat, hard work and determination. It has unequivocally been the best leap of faith I have ever taken. When I started, I knew a little, just about enough to be able to feed a calf, and that is where my knowledge stopped. HOWEVER now I can ; feed, treat, inject, spot illnesses, calve cows, care for a head of over 50 calves at a time, milk, and most importantly – look forward to waking up every single day.
There is no denying that where there is live stock, there is dead stock and each death is a massive blow to my heart. I work hard, I love, I care and I give my everything to each and every animal but sometimes that is not enough. As farmers, we are so good at looking after our animals that we forget to look after ourselves. 

I AM A FARMER, I AM A WOMAN, I AM A PERSON AND I AM *NOT* ALONE

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I could write pages and pages of stories of the early morning and late nights with complicated calvings and premature calves. I could write about the time a calf I was moving fell onto the acceleration pedal of the gator and took itself for a joy ride. I could tell you about the hours I have spent cuddling sick and injured calves and nursed them back to health but what I really want to tell you is this:
Mental health awareness is on the rise and its increasingly important that we continue to raise awareness and continue to talk to each other. It has been shown that more than one farmer a week dies from suicide. The levels of depression within the agricultural industry are thought to be increasing and suicide rates in farmers are among the highest in any occupational group (ONS). Those who are working in a specific agricultural role such as harvesting crops and rearing animals has a higher risk of suicide (this is almost twice the national average) (ONS)
Farming is tough, it can be lonely, stressful and heart breaking. Issues such as TB and the lack of forage has a HUGE effect on farmers all over the world – except that’s not what people want to talk about. I am called a murderer and I am called a monster and I am not alone. Dairy farmers have such a bad reputation which is snowballed by false online propaganda.
When farming is already tough – it can become unbearable. 
I am a farmer, I am strong, I am tough and I am so full of love. 
I am a farmer, I am weak, I am scared and I am so full of darkness
I am a farmer, I am a woman, I am a PERSON and I am NOT alone.

MEGAN

Instagram: www.instagram.com/megrosemary_

 

Switzerland part 2 : Happy hiking Heidi

Situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, my first week in Interlaken consisted of many breathtaking hikes. From peaceful strolls along the Aare River to the painful steep incline of reaching Harder Kulm – a summer to improve my navigational skills!

Iseltwald: Find the goats

After a short walk to the Interlaken Ost station with my visitors card in hand, I simply hopped onto a free bus to Mühle, Iseltwald. Gazing out of the window across Lake Brienz made the 20 minute bus journey fly by. Winding around narrow roads on the mountain-side, I was amused by the bus horn that ensured no head-on collisions with oncoming traffic. 

“Don’t walk onto the highway!!!” – words of warning from Vera, my host in Interlaken.
The journey up the mountain required walking on a busy roadside before a steep hike to the animal sanctuary . Imagine my sense of relief when I heard a goat bell!
It became a running joke to survive traffic on my ventures out of Interlaken.

A dream- the animal sanctuary overlooked the lake of tranquil emerald water.

My legs certainly appreciated the smooth descent into the picturesque village of Iseltwalt. I find goats wherever I go and I had a great selfie opportunity with the ibex (wild goat) statue. I plan to return to Iseltwalt to visit the Giessbach Falls along the Riverside path.

However, I did not anticipate the blazing heat exceeding 30 ºC, I returned with unforgettable memories along with a lovely sunburn. 

Interlaken walking tour

Joining The Interlaken Free Walking Tour one evening was a no brainer! 2 hours with a local expert guide to learn about the history and culture of Interlaken with travellers from around the world. Thunderstorms could not stop us having an educational entertaining exploration of the town.

I was introduced to the ibex, the wild goat with majestic horns to outcompete any Golden Guernsey goat.

Lake Thun: multiple days

Having explored Lake Brienz, Lake Thun was next to tick off the ‘to hike to’ list.

A top tip: walk alongside the meandering Aare River so even incompetent place-finders like myself can never get lost en route to the lakes. Again, I enjoyed spotting some of the local livestock and feeling like Doctor Dolittle. I returned on a few occasions to visit the cattle and sheep.

Maybe I did get a little lost… but you never know what is around the corner.

I stumbled upon Weissenau Castle in Unterseen. Following the gloomy staircase up the ruins was a brilliant decision, I was surprised to find a hidden platform to capture the most incredible view of Lake Thun surrounded by mountains.

Another unexpected moment was when I reached the edge of Lake Thun a tourist was perched taking photographs of the impressive landscape, a photo opportunity for a solo hiker.

Spot the Pyramid of Niesen in the distance. 

Harder Kulm

“Hard” for sure.  The 8 minute funicular ride is often opted by tourists to reach the 1,322m high viewing platform over the 2 hour steep ascent.

Competitive and determined, the 2 things an amateur hiker needs to be to reach the top during a heatwave. A lesson from working on a husky farm in Finland – never underestimate mental strength in comparison to physical strength. I knew that my face would be the colour of my T-shirt by the time I had reached the top.

No surprise that I misunderstood the signs along the trail and hiked too far up the mountain than the viewing point. Always creating additional challenges for myself!

Everything happens for a reason.

After asking hikers for directions we ended up talking about England, our travels, goats, university… we reached the viewing point together. A group photo, drink in the sun, and taking the funicular down the mountain was the ultimate reward. 

 

Lake Thun hike in storm

Thunderstorm! Another hike to Lake Thun. 
Note to self: avoid all trees during lightning.

 After a few days of intense heat, the rapid release of rain was a relief – typical Northern England weather anyway. Walking during the storm was relaxing even with the funny looks from tourists for wearing shorts.

St. Beatus Caves

Another hike to appreciate the wonders of Lake Thun.

I took a more scenic route on the 8km hike to St. Beatus Caves, avoiding the busy traffic and sharp bends of the roads. After following the river to Neuhaus I hiked a section of the picturesque Pilgrims’ Path (Pilgerweg) which was clearly signposted.

An impressive guided tour, a not so impressive 5 CHF coke zero. I will never forget to take my water bottle with me around Switzerland again.

Mürren

Interlaken Ost – Wilderswil – Lauterbrunnen – Grütschalp – Mürren – Gimmelwald – Stechelberg – Interlaken

Whilst the cable car to Grütschalp was not the idyllic mode of transport I envisioned, the hike to Mürren was an incredible day of walking. An alternative to the expensive ticket for Jungfrau is viewing Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau from Mürren.

Shout out to Sarah from New Zealand… after asking Sarah to take a photo of me in Grütschalp,  we hiked to Mürren together and had the best time!

“Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.” – LAWRENCE K. FISH

I advise other solo travellers to speak to strangers to make new friends even if you are a fellow introvert.

LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!

 

 

 

 

Switzerland part 1: Becoming the real life “Heidi”

“Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.”

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With a summer of working as a husky guide at Hetta Huskies in Finland behind me, I decided to spend 6 weeks in summer 2018 visiting another European country for the first time.

Switzerland… the home of Heidi … and many goats.
I began my workaway search “switzerland goats” and I found Vera, Bruno and Florian in the beautiful Interlaken.

A lovely farmhouse described by Vera:

  • listening to the wind whispering in the trees, in the roof beams and to the goats ruminating dreamily in their stable

  • the view out of the bed to the starry or cloudy sky, the snowy mountains, the forests, the trees, …

  • the fresh air from the glaciers coming into your room with a ray of sunlight, which wakes you up in your bed

  • listening to the patter of raindrops on the roof and the trickle of water into the rain barrel

  • listening to songbirds whistle in the morning and the hedgehog rustling around during night

An opportunity to have a break, care for 2 *very special* goats, hike in the mountains, meet new people and experience a different way of life… an opportunity I could not turn down. I had a crazy-goat-lady connection with Vera so I could not wait to finally meet the trio.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

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Before I headed to Manchester Airport on 28th June I had to give my dogs one last hug so the journey could begin.

After a short flight to Basel and a swift bus transfer to Basel station, I had a 2 hour scenic train journey to Interlaken Ost. Straightforward! 

“and so the adventure begins!”

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For the past 4 months I followed #interlaken on instagram, no filters needed. I was astounded by the picturesque views, the emerald Aare river, the breathtaking mountains.

Spotting the ibex (wild goat) coat of arms on my short walk to Vera’s farmhouse, I was confident I would feel at home. Some people like to sunbathe with a cocktail in their hand on a beach in Barbados, I knew that having the responsibility of Florian and Bruno the goats whilst having time to embrace the wonders of nature here in Interlaken was the ultimate way to relax. 

Florian and Bruno would like to share a day in the life of a goat… watch this space for Switzerland updates 🙂

 

Morten’s story: Animal Furrapy

Morten

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ANIMAL FURRAPY

ANIMALS REDUCE ANXIETY

Anxiety is an absolute abomination, a haunting twisted apparition! A vindictive sneering wight, which loomed over us no matter what, never letting go and which has an unparalleled appetite for our discomfort and displeasure. Something has to be done… talking about it helps and in turn the eradication of that twisted apparition begins. anxiety can reappear and wreak havoc, but each time we talk about it, anxiety that resides within us receives a devastating mighty kick in the spectral backside.  Talking to people can be fantastic, however talking to animals can be even better.

A SEA OF BLISSFUL TRANQUILITY 

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Animal Furrapy is a truly fantastic thing and something that I would be absolutely lost without. I am not from a farming or agricultural background however growing up in the countryside meant that one could enjoy roaming the marvellous wild and rugged landscapes. Being in outside is all very well and good for anxiety however, being with animals in the great outdoors… now that is even better. I started working at a riding stable as a freelance groom many years ago and although the stress of being a freelance didn’t help placate my anxiety, the interaction with the horses did.

However I moved county and soon work started to dwindle, this slowly started to get to me and my Animal Furrapy fix started to fade away, something had to be done and fast. There is nothing as relaxing as giving a horse a good groom, it is calming and helps keep negative thoughts at bay. Tacking up a horse to be ridden out where it’s just you, the horse and the open countryside helps lose you in a sea of blissful tranquility. The sounds and smells of the horse walking along an empty country lane with nothing for miles around is additive, intoxicating and tremendously healthy.

LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE

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After much deliberation and after weeks of perseverance I managed to get a taste of what it is like to work on a dairy farm. I swapped jodhpurs and riding gear for rubber boots, DeLaval overalls and (occasionally heavy duty waterproofs) and set off into the unknown for an adventure. I turned up for my first morning on the farm, feeling a bundle of nerves. Trying something new in a strange environment where skills I had yet to master was hard and yes, anxiety emerged and played havoc with me. However, just by sitting in a barn while giving a baby calf a hug and a scratch I started to relax a little bit. It’s wonderful to be outside in all weather and stopping to give the odd friendly moo cow a cuddle or a tickle behind her ear and have a bit of a chat to them as I walk through the herd.

HUG COWS!

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During the milking it is also nice to show some affection to the moos waiting to be milked and have a bit of a chat with them as well. It has been about a month to two months since I started to get into dairy farming and trying my hand at milking… and hugging cows! It is so inconceivably different from the world of equitation which I am from and it is without doubt a bit of a learning curve. However, every minute of it and it is having nothing but positive effects on my anxiety.

THREE CHEERS FOR ANIMALS

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Never let your anxiety become your compass and steer you down a path you do not wish to walk. It is always hard trying new things and learning new skills and anxiety will get in the way, but if you keep at it, stay positive and things really will get better, even if it doesn’t seem so straight away. Working with animals big and small will always put a smile on your face. Three cheers for animals and the amazing powers of happiness in which they can bestow upon us all.

MORTEN

Blog: https://arctictundrafox.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArcticTundraFox

Courtney’s story: The road to my heart is paved with paw prints

COURTNEY

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THE ROAD TO MY HEART IS PAVED WITH PAW PRINTS

PETS – A GREAT WAY TO REDUCE STRESS + ANXIETY

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.  Mental health illnesses are becoming more common within people both older and younger.

I myself am a 17 year old who has suffered with mental health issues for a number of years (recently diagnosed with depression & anxiety) and have found this particularly hard. I am on medication for this and currently in talking therapy, however, sometimes even the professional help does not actually help and not all people find that therapy or medication works for them.

One of the things that I have benefited from massively is having a pet and it is proven that pets can have a positive impact on a person’s physical health, as well as mental health. A pet can offer an individual companionship, and this is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. I have a dog and have found him a massive help whilst experiencing mental health issues.

ROUTINE. WALKS. FRESH AIR.

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Since suffering with depression and anxiety I have found that there are so many benefits having a dog has had. My dog has made a huge difference, there are days I don’t want to even get out of bed, never mind leave the house. However, dogs get into a routine, they know when it’s time for their food, they know when they want to go out and they know when it’s time for them to go for a walk. Having a dog means that they want to go on walks on a regular basis, this is not only good for them, but it is good for the owner too. At times, when I have had a low day, I find it hard to get out of bed and motivate myself to do every day things, but my dog likes routine as he likes to be walked regularly. When taking the dog for a walk, it means I’m getting out in the fresh air and walking sometimes helps you to ‘clear’ your head.

A SELF-HELP COMPANION

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Having a dog means that you have a companion and I certainly see my dog as my companion. Taking care of my dog gives me a sense of purpose, it means I have to get out of bed to make sure he gets what he needs and that a routine is kept. My dog is a huge help to me and has been all the way throughout my mental health problems, he gives me a reason to get out of bed each day. My dog is what I describe as a ‘needy’ dog, he constantly wants cuddles and to be stroked, which at times can be very annoying but sometimes after a bad day having a cuddle off the dog is all I need.

My dog provides me with unconditional love and brings so much happiness into my life.

I am not saying pets can make your mental illness vanish because they can’t, however, they can really help – Self-help is an essential part of trying to overcome difficulties in your mental health. 

COURTNEY

Blog: http://allthingsmental-health.blogspot.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtmcdonaldxx/
Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Court_MH

Amy’s story: Four Legged Lifeline

AMY

FOUR LEGGED LIFELINE

“SHE SAVES MY LIFE EVERY SINGLE DAY”

I have a rescue dog named Tally. As many of you will have seen she frequently makes appearances on all forms of my social media accounts. She is there so much that many of you may say I am obsessed.

That’s because I am. I am obsessively thankful to this four legged fur ball. Thankful for how she saves my life every single day.

Tally’s story started off a sad one. She was rescued from the streets of rural Athens, Ohio, terrified of people, sickeningly thin and suffering badly from mange. It soon became apparent that, at only one years old (still a puppy herself), Tally had recently given birth. Not one puppy was found, despite kindly volunteers searching the area for days after her rescue. I can’t remember how long Tally had been at the shelter, the only thing I remember is that she was days from death. She was going to be euthanised to make space for other strays. This, unfortunately, was not a No-Kill shelter. There was only one thing to do.

TALLY LOVES WITHOUT HESITATION

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The day I took Tally home, she was so weak I had to carry her up the stairs to my apartment. She could not even make it up 5 stairs without stopping and crying. It became clear that Tally must have been abused as she was terrified of any hand held object and petrified of men.

This start in life could not have been fun. And yet every single day Tally greets those she meets, with what I can only describe as a dog smile. She gently rubs against your legs and snuggles into your hugs. She loves without hesitation and especially enjoys the company of children. She is the most gentle dog you will ever meet. She never makes a sound, only to cry occasionally when her loved ones leave. She has now learned that I will always come back for her.

Tally’s compassion for people, after all they put her through inspires me everyday to forgive. And the quote by Thorn Jones “dogs have a way of finding the people who need them most, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had” has never been truer in the case of Tally and I. She is well and truly a member of my family.

WHEN YOU FALL DOWN, GET BACK UP AND SHAKE IT OFF

Tally has taught me everything I need to know to help me get better. It’s ok to have a day of just sleeping and eating. Be brave, no matter how big you are. Entertain yourself and make your own fun. Learn new tricks despite your age. Make new friends and sniff out new opportunities. When a loved one comes home always run to greet them. When you fall down, get back up and shake it off.

Most importantly Tally helps me to embrace everyday as a new day to just be happy and go from there.