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.”

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_

 

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.

 

Katie’s story: The 2 sides of farming with mental illness

Katie

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THE 2 SIDES OF FARMING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU 

I have a historic battle with anxiety and depression, my depression started when I was in my mid-teens and my anxiety started in my early twenties. I do not allow either of my mental illnesses to define me however, and I prefer to see them as an inconvenient illness, than part of my identity. I know I am one of the lucky ones because I do not continually experience either, I just have episodes, usually triggered by stress. Unfortunately, stress is part of life and whatever you try to do to limit it, it will always be present therefore I know I am never really going to be completely free of either. 

ANIMALS LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY

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 In January 2017 I started my own business, running an educational smallholding in Essex with goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. The new project gave me something to focus on, away from my mental health, it did however also bring with it a whole heap of stress and uncertainty, the two biggest triggers for my issues. My enthusiasm for the business to work, combined with my very hectic schedule getting the farm set up, meant I did not have time to worry about the uncertainty of its future and I thrived on the pressure of getting everything ready for my first open day. It was also fantastic for my mental health to be working outdoors, especially as I find my depression is heavily influenced by the amount of time I spend in the sunshine. Working with the animals, who love unconditionally and give you a reason to get up and out of bed every morning was superb therapy for me.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

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 It wasn’t until my first year had ended that I had time to sit back and reflect on what had been such a busy, rewarding and chaotic time. I felt so proud of how far I had come and was impressed at all the targets I had managed to complete in just my first 12 months. Suddenly however, I was constantly being asked ‘what’s next?’, ‘where now?’ and it brought on my anxiety. I had spent so long setting the business up, running the sessions and keeping the animals healthy and happy, that I hadn’t thought of my next steps. Before I knew it, Winter was upon me and with it returned the depression. Add on the huge amount of personal change I was experiencing at the time and my sudden hike in financial outlay (winter feeding for my livestock), I felt awash with responsibilities. I couldn’t see a way out of the constant demands of the animals and hated the hold they had over me to be at home. Isolating myself is not good for my mental health, and with it already being quite fragile, having to be at home to care for the animals just worsened the situation. Although the animals had once brought me such joy and focus suddenly it felt like they were dragging me down and wearing me out. I hid away from the problems and decided to bury my head rather than face reality, that I really needed to downsize and focus on the quality of my smallholding rather than the quantity of animals that I owner.

 

“AN EXTENDED PART OF MY FAMILY”

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It wasn’t until the land owners mentioned that they felt I could not cope with the farm anymore that I realised how much I wanted to keep my business running and keep it as my own. I used that conversation to spur myself into action, I cut down the number of animals that I had on the farm – selling some of my sheep and pigs to fellow smallholders. Although that didn’t change the fate of the land that my farm is based on, it has given me the confidence to rebuild my business elsewhere but this time in a way that I can completely control and focusing on quality rather than quantity. My positive attitude towards the farm has returned, the panic attacks I would experience daily before going to feed the animals have gone and I feel I can clearly see my future plan and what I can do to work towards it. Being around my animals once again brings me joy and I do not see them as a financial and physical burden but instead as an extended part of my family. I live alone and my boyfriend often works away so to have their company and the responsibility of their care is great for me and my mental health. I find my sheep in particular so relaxing to be around and their placid natures and undemanding characters are perfect for bringing me out of a panic during anxiety or for cheering me up during a depressive episode.

Although I have had my ups and downs during the past 18 months of having my animals, I know that as long as i do not let the farm get too big for me again that they will provide me with something to focus on and raise my spirits during my down times. I have an uncertain and stressful few months ahead of me as I move the farm and set up the business once again but this time I have a short-term and long-term plan to base my actions on and I know exactly what situations to avoid in the future. I just have to keep reminding myself of ‘quality over quantity’ and to also be honest when I have reached my limit, not to bury my head in the sand because that will only ever make things worse.

KATIE

Blog: https://femalefarmeruk.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FemaleFarmerUK

Nicole’s Story: Lambs at the end of the tunnel

Nicole

Lambs

LAMBS AT THE THE END OF THE TUNNEL

THERAPY LAMBS

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When you think of an animal bettering your mental health you often think of a therapy dog or perhaps a pet cat, but you do not often think of a lamb, right? Well, at least I didn’t until I realised how much joy they gave me.

I have very fond memories of visiting my great grandfather’s farm as a child, from seeing pumpkins grow in October to lambs born in March, each season gave me a chance to see something I would not normally see, a chance to learn new things, be outdoors and explore the farm with my sister and brother.

“IT’S TIME TO SEE THE LAMBS”

Visiting the new born lambs, in particular, always gave me such a lovely feeling, being able to bottle feed the lambs, seeing how they were looked after and brought to health, if for some reason something was wrong with their mother, taught me so much. I learnt how to show compassion and love to another.

Over time, with growing up, we visited the farm less and less but we continued to make sure we visited around Spring time, a kind of “it’s time to see the lambs“-like family tradition. Of course growing up and learning more about animal welfare came into place but even if for a short amount of time, seeing the love and care the lambs received from my family and their mothers, continued to comfort me.

COMFORT

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When ill with Anorexia, these visits became harder and I remember one year being far too ill to leave my home, I did not make it to the farm with the rest of my family, I did not get to see the lambs.

The following Spring came and I was in a much better place, both physically and mentally. I was out walking with my mother when I found myself seeing the first of the Spring lambs. I stopped and just looked at them, groups jumping through grass, some snuggled up to their mothers and others quite happily eating their way through the fields.

I looked back and remembered the time I could not see this, the time I was too ill and although it was difficult for me to look back on, I found comfort in where I was, right there.

“THERE IS LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS”

Over the last few years, with my recovery going well, seeing the lambs has continued to bring me comfort. I know to some, it sounds silly but it is like seeing the lambs makes me believe better days are still to come, that there is light after darkness and I guess in a way they continue to show me hope.

A few weeks ago, my mother, aunty and I, were driving through the country, views all around the car filled with fields of sheep and lambs, just seeing and watching these beautiful animals made us all feel present and calm.

Thank you for reading,

NICOLE

Blog: https://nicolesjourneysite.wordpress.com
Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/nicolesjourney/
Twitter:https://twitter.com/_nicolesjourney

Animals are my therapy

Heidi

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Animals are my therapy

Sharing our personal journeys to start conversations about mental health helps to break down the stigma and eradicate any misconceptions.

The complexity of mental health problems can be difficult to understand without experience. I reiterate that this is based on my own experience, we all see the world through a different pair of eyes.

I have endured the ups and downs of different services over the past few years, but animals are my therapy. My four-legged friends provide more comfort and happiness than any therapy or groups ever could. I ultimately found a goat herd that turned my life around. I became the girl I dressed up as in primary school for world book day- Heidi.

So here I am one year later, with my own Golden Guernsey herd, writing this blog post to show that there are alternative therapeutic paths of recovery.

”Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis” Brené Brown.

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My English teacher once told me that my perfectionism is a double-sided sword. Numbers became my only focus in life, I needed 100% in exams and for the number on the scale to drop to feel like I had a purpose because I could not let myself fail. This instilled the anxiety of being unable to do anything but revise, surely sleep was an unnecessary waste of time? I could not even step foot in a classroom, so a rational mind can see that this drive for so called success was illogical.

Maisie, my terrier, would be disregarded by breeders as one of her ears sticks out. I would argue that it is a unique characteristic that makes her adorable. She will never be triumphant at Crufts, but her imperfections give her character- I do not condone the practice of gluing a puppy’s ears.

”Escape and breathe the air of new places”

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The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever. My mind focused on the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I know how impossible it feels to get out of bed in the depth of depression, your mind warps the world outside of your bedroom into something threatening and sinister. An escape. I could have the freedom of being outside without the daunting aspects of social areas.

”I reached out my hand and found a paw”

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Animals show you what unconditional love is. If you are kind, then they will not hurt you. Their inability to speak means they can’t say the wrong thing, as in a fragile frame of mind, people can walk on egg shells. They are company when you cannot spend time with people and they diminish the overwhelming feeling of loneliness.  My four terriers never left my bed, I have spent days, weeks, months unable to leave the house with a reminder that I mattered when I was woken up by a dog scratching to open my door to sit with me. Animals give people a reason to live because they reconstruct your decaying self worth. When maintaining human relationships is a rocky road, the bond with our pets remains unscathed. For me, my dogs were a constant in a very turbulent world.

”Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create”

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Caring for animals gives you a sense of achievement that is not a graded % or measured in kilograms, but wagging tails and kisses. The healing is mutual. For some eating disorder sufferers, the fixation on declining numbers is a desperate grasp onto a form of validation. Therefore, in order to begin to let go, having another constructive release for the  drive to succeed, is paramount. Simultaneously with my childhood favourite story, my aspirations of becoming a vet re-emerged. The prospect of being responsible for difficult cases with challenging complexities and succeeding makes for an extremely fulfilling life. You cannot be a successful vet with your head buried in a textbook 24/7 and controlling large animals requires strength, it helped me to restore a healthy balance again.I would never shut my dogs in a dark room without food and water for days, and take their company away from them. So animals teach us to be kinder to ourselves as well as establishing a daily routine.

Animals are my therapy