But why opt for such a radical lifestyle change? What was wrong with having a successful business and rewarding marketing career? What was missing? A sense of purpose beyond myself and material achievements would probably be the honest answer. And a connection to a place and piece of land that seemed to be waiting for someone to nurture it, and bring it back to life. In that restoration process with house and land, I’ve rescued a vital bit of myself that was in danger of being lost for good. And hopefully created a living legacy that will stand, like our house, for many more years to come.
Di Slaney lives with her husband in a Grade II Listed, 400 year old farmhouse in Nottinghamshire with more animals than is sensible. She runs an Egg Club to raise funds for British Hen Welfare Trust and sells speciality yarn from her small flock of rare breed and rescued sheep under the name Hooligan Yarns.
Di has a degree in English and European Literature from the University of Warwick, an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University and co-owned Candlestick Press since 2010, becoming sole owner of the business in 2016. She has been a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing for over 15 years, and founded Nottingham marketing agency Diversity which employs 70 people.
Her poems have been anthologised and published in various magazines as well as being shortlisted for the Plough Prize and the Bridport Prize, and commended in the McLellan Prize. Two of her poems won joint first prize in the 2014 Brittle Star Poetry Competition and she won first prize in the 2015 Four Corners Poetry Competition. Her debut pamphlet collection Dad’s Slideshow is available from Stonewood Press, and her first full collection Reward for Winter is available from Valley Press.
I'M 50. I WRITE POETRY. I SHARE MY LIFE WITH 150 ANIMALS, AND ONE VERY PATIENT HUSBAND.
‘Middle-aged marketing consultant with no experience of or link to farming buys old farmhouse and land, takes on over 150 rescued and rehomed animals, and writes a (poetry) book about it.’
On paper, it sounds just as mad as my family believes me to be: someone who was once more like Margot now gradually transformed into Barbara, learning a range of new skills along the way. Really important skills, such as:
How to inject the goat rather than yourself with antibiotics
How to keep your mouth shut when bending down to kiss your sheep goodnight, so when he backfires cud out of his nose in a snort, you don’t swallow it
How to milk a goat with a torn udder, and keep the flies off the wound all summer
How to put a duck’s prolapse back in place (push it in gently with your thumb until the duck’s internal muscles kick in)
How to deal with a more seriously prolapsed hen (with gentle warm baths, and cornflour)
How to tackle a bad case of pizzle rot (yes, such a thing does exist!)
All of these lessons and more have been part of my ‘teach yourself to smallhold’ experience, aided by lots of great books (praise be to the Haynes Chicken and Pig Manuals, essential bedtime reading), loads of advice generously given by other smallholding folk in online forums, and plenty of learning by doing. There’s nothing like being tipped in at the deep end with a randy goat to teach you essential survival skills!