Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

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DSC06429I’m a mother of 28. I’m a shepherd. This is what my internship at Church Farm Ardeley has taught me.

I’m an intern (24) from Germany, where I study English and chemistry for teaching. To improve my English and experience the culture, I decided to spend a few months in England on a farm—taking a break from university. I was not sure what to expect. So when I arrived in March, I was welcomed by a wonderful sight. I went beyond the residential area and the car park and stood on the hill looking out over the vast fields with sheep, cattle, pigs and agriculture and realised that this would be my home for the next six months.

To get an insight into the different routines and tasks, I started to work with Rural Care, who are responsible for the sheep and many small animals. March is the beginning of lambing season, which means sheep, sheep, sheep and sleepless nights.

Within only a few days, I found myself assigned to bottle feeding the hand-reared lambs, and this was the start of something big for me. In the same week it was decided I would take over the public lamb feeding. I dove head first into lambing. Week by week, the orphan lambs became more my personal responsibility until my whole day evolved around them. With five feeding sessions a day, and up to 24 lambs at a time, it was very time consuming. When you start dreaming about lamb feeding you know it has taken over your life. I fed them, cleaned their stable, cleaned their pooy bums, kept them walking for hours when they got bloat, fed them every hour when they became really poorly and fought with them for their lives when they got sick—and I love each and every one of these woolly gluttons. It is true you cannot save everyone, but I’m proud to say there are many happy and healthy hand-reared lambs in the big herd, and four more up in Homefield which are still bottle fed. In my free time I love to have a long walk around the field and try to find the orphans. For all the hard work we put into raising them they give you a lot of affection in return. All enjoy a good cuddle, if you are lucky to find them.

DSC06398Now that lambing season is over, and it is calming down again, I have time to experience other jobs. At the moment I’m working in the office a lot, but I cannot go a day without saying hello to the remaining orphans. I will be here for another three months, but time is passing so fast it feels like tomorrow. Church Farm Ardeley has taught me a lot about sheep and the commitment everyone here puts into their work and the farm. About a great team who supports you but also offer you space to find your place on the farm. If I can manage it, I would love to come back next spring for another lambing season.