"If you don’t like getting up early, having mud on every item of clothing you own, lying awake at night worrying whether or not the ram you’ve borrowed fancies your ewes then smallholding - and this book - isn’t for you." Kate Humble.
A recent survey revealed that most people’s dream home is a detached house in half an acre of land*. With popular TV programmes such as Channel 4’s River Cottage painting an idyllic picture of smallholding it is no surprise that many people are trading their terraced city homes for a run-down farm house. Fortunately, the Haynes Smallholding Manual is now available to guide would-be landowners through the entire process and hopefully guard against expensive mistakes.
Liz Shankland, author of the Smallholding Manual, says buyers often rush into a purchase without thinking through the consequences. Liz says: "It’s very easy to get swept away with the romanticism of the idea when you are viewing a cottage on a sunny day in July, but life can be very different on a cold, dark, wet November morning when you have to feed the pigs before going to work. Smallholding can be a hugely enjoyable lifestyle, but you have to ask yourself - and your partner, your children, or anyone else who might be affected by the move - if it’s really the right one for you."
As a townie-turned-countrygirl who bought a smallholding on impulse and then learned how to run it from scratch, Liz is well-placed to offer advice to those in search of a rural idyll. One common mistake prospective smallholders make is focussing too closely on the property without properly considering whether the land is suitable for the kind of smallholding they want to run. The Smallholding Manual helps potential buyers ask crucial questions - such as, is the land too stony to grow crops, too steep to graze livestock, or too remote to attract passing visitors to buy farm produce.
Unlike previous books in this genre the Smallholding Manual does not assume that everyone is intent on living completely off the land in the way advocated by that champion of self-sufficiency, the late John Seymour. Today’s smallholders come in all shapes and sizes. They may want to escape the rat-race and run a business from their new home, or they may be intent on keeping their city jobs and running the smallholding as more of a hobby.
"If you ask half a dozen different people what they want to do with their smallholding, you will get a whole host of different answers," says Liz. "There is no blueprint for smallholding, but there are some basic things that you need to get right when choosing one and embarking on your new lifestyle."
The Smallholding Manual takes the reader through the entire process from selecting the property and financing the move to buying livestock and equipment and selling produce. It explores numerous potential uses for land and provides clear, step-by-step guides to getting to grips with a new lifestyle.
As well as outlining the rules and regulations surrounding buying, raising, and moving livestock, the Smallholding Manual covers the dos and don’ts of animal husbandry, with advice on keeping a whole range of animals, from the most popular - including chickens, bees, sheep and pigs, to the more exotic, such as water buffalo and wild boar.
Whilst an essential guide for those dreaming of the good life or actively looking for a suitable property, the Smallholding Manual is also a useful reference volume for those who have already found their perfect place in the country, with advice on caring for the land, maintaining boundaries, selling and marketing produce, farming in a wildlife-friendly way, and showing livestock.
Liz Shankland runs a successful smallholding which has been home to everything from poultry and pigs to sheep and goats. She breeds pedigree pigs and has twice won the prestigious Tamworth Champion of Champions competition. A journalist and broadcaster by profession, Liz is the author of the Haynes Pig Manual and The Practical Guide to Buying and Running a Smallholding in Wales. She writes for numerous publications about farming and countryside matters, including Country Smallholding magazine. She has recently started working with TV presenter Kate Humble, running courses for smallholders at Kate’s farm in Monmouthshire.
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