But why opt for such a radical lifestyle change? What was wrong with having a business and 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, and in working with our amazing animals, I’ve rescued a vital bit of myself that was in danger of being lost for good. And hopefully created a legacy that will stand, like our house, for more years to come.
Di Slaney lives with her husband in a Grade II Listed, 400 year old farmhouse in Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire with more animals than is sensible. She runs Manor Farm Charitable Trust which offers a home for life for livestock, particularly elderly animals or those with special needs. She operates an Egg Club to raise funds for the poultry and sells speciality yarn from the 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 owns Candlestick Press. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Research Methods and has been a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing for over 20 years, founding Nottingham marketing agency Diversity in 1999.
Her poems have been published in Poetry Wales, Popshot, Magma, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House and Brittle Star, twice shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and Plough Prize, and highly commended in the Forward Prizes. Di's pamphlet Dad's Slideshow was published by Stonewood Press in 2015 and first collection Reward for Winter by Valley Press in 2016. Her second collection Herd Queen is due from Valley Press September 2020. She is poet in residence at Nottinghamshire Local History Association.
I RUN AN ANIMAL SANCTUARY AND AN INDEPENDENT PRESS, AND I WRITE POETRY.
‘Middle-aged marketing consultant with no experience of farming buys old farmhouse and land, takes on over 170 rescued and rehomed animals, and writes a (poetry) book or two 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 /no fear’ 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 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!