Rachael Richards, 40, grew up on a Welsh hill farm and has spent every spring since the age of 18 travelling home to help over the lambing season. Here she discusses how in the grip of Covid 19, after being furloughed from her PR job in Manchester, she is now ‘volunteering’ back on the family homestead, alongside her four siblings, and finds very little changes in the country.
I have swapped the pressurised world of public relations - publicising social housing and law, rather than fashion and beauty - for the essential and necessary role of shepherding. I’m busy birthing, feeding, drenching, moving and injecting over 700 mule lambs.
While we read on our phones about the rising death toll, during the odious grip of Covid 19 and the relentless work undertaken by our world renown NHS, life here on the farm has barely altered from previous lambing seasons.
Despite the pervasive influence of technology across every industry, aiding jobs but often making them more stressful, the way we lamb mostly remains the same as when my parents bought the farm in the 1970s. This is a hands-on business, it’s gutsy, gritty, bloody and at times bloody difficult, especially being thrown together working with your family, all with big personalities and metropolitan careers.
As key workers and custodians of the countryside, a farmer’s life continues, the unspoilt circle of rearing spring lambs and feeding them with sheep cake at the same time every day.
I do not take being quarantined in the country for granted. I’m lucky my parents run a 350-acre farm in wild wales that I can escape to and make a difference at.
During my teenage years and throughout my 20s and 30s, lambing has always been a marker on the calendar filled with dread. The late nights, early mornings, rows and getting covered in afterbirth and stained by iodine.
Now after being furloughed it’s proved to be a saviour, a port in the storm during a pandemic which is quashing civil liberties and rightly so.
After days of 12-hour shifts spent lambing, I go out for a walk and take pictures for Instagram of primroses and puffballs eager to capture my country quarantine for my city-bound friends.
Farming is about working in harmony with the land and embracing the unpredictable weather, being patient with livestock and adapting and inventing methods and machines to solve daily problems. My parents have been inventors, veterinarians, biologists and businesspeople over the years.
As I breath in the smell of spray-cans and oral antibiotics, I hope once this pandemic is over, as a society we will reset and have a new appreciation for not only the NHS but farmers and European agricultural workers who have been forced to move because of Brexit.
As we await this new dawn, it’s time to revaluate everything, from the small-mindedness of Brexit, to the support our fragile healthcare system needs, to the importance of farming and feeding a nation.