Farmer by Day, Author by Night

Farmer by Day, Author by Night

My family farms 735 acres of arable land in North Essex. This isn’t the TOWIE incarnation of Essex that you see on the telly. It must be an hour’s journey to the nearest chic nightclub (farther if you measure in cultural miles). The pub is a goodly hike and you couldn’t throw a stone to strike the nearest retail outlet, not even if you had olympian capabilities and hurled in the direction the crow flies. This is rural Essex, agricultural Essex. It’s picturesque, and it’s home. In my part of the county, there are country lanes and ancient hamlets, Tudor farmhouses, feather-edged barns and land which unfurls with a lack of drama that is soft on the eye.North EssexI’m romanticising, of course, because that’s what I do when I’m not on a tractor or up to my elbows in nutrient-rich soil (read mud). I write rustic romance. I’m a rural authoress.

I’d like to call it a farm diversification but that wouldn’t be honest. A diversion from farming would be closer to the truth and I fear the husband and son might often have cause to wish I was less, er, diverted. But the writing has grown out of the land that raised me and a childhood which taught me to love the outdoors through the turning seasons and petulant weather. It’s inspired by friendships forged in drafty sheds; by harvest, family dogs, autumn bonfires and cider-fuelled, amorous escapades.bonfireI’m no longer youthful, but when my cheeks are wind-stung and the feet are numb, I’ve still got a romantic world to escape to. It might be winter in Draymere too, there may be mud or even snow, but the characters warm the story (and me) with a wealth of diverting antics. My mind can romp alongside them for hours. Be it out in the fields, on a dog walk or while I’m cooking the dinner, you’ll probably find me at Draymere. I’m seldom present in everyday life.

That’s escapism for you.

I blame Jilly Cooper. She introduced me to the possibilities of jodhpur-clad heroines’ who kicked off their wellies instead of slipping out of stilettoes. And that, my friends, was something of a hallelujah moment, back in the day when I lived in jodhpurs and rarely stepped out in anything other than waterproof boots.WelliesBe it town, village or farm, we all fall in love, and we’ve all experienced passion, heartbreak and unwise attraction. The emotions play out no matter where in the world you live.  But I write it rural, earthy and rustic.

The books are raunchy; I should warn you of that. But, hey, it’s nothing that nature isn’t doing outside my window as I type and, trust me, the countryside is as sexy as hell.

Not convinced? Just spend a weekend at Draymere…

draymerehall (1)  A Bed of Barley Straw Cover RADIANT MEDIUM WEB  A Bed of Brambles Cover MEDIUM WEB

A Tale of Two Dogs (Episode 4) Don’t read while eating your supper…

A Tale of Two Dogs (Episode 4) Don’t read while eating your supper…

Oh, the gore!

The terriers followed the farmer into the grain barn. It was always one of their favourite places. There’s a tunnel which runs through the middle of the barn, and at the end of that tunnel, a massive, industrial fan. The job of the fan is to blow air up through slats in the wooden floor, to dry the tonnes of grain which (we hope) are heaped upon it after harvest.

So, quite a meaty fan then. This fan means business. It also comes into use when we’re cleaning the barns pre-harvest – blowing mice out of the channels which run beneath the floorboards. It blasts those poor little mites up and into the air! Great sport, I’m sure you can imagine, for two little pest-control terriers. The sound of that fan firing up was a siren call to work for them. Heads up, and they were off.

Now, I quite like mice. I can’t say the same about rats, but mice are pretty with their cute little faces and twitchy whiskers. I console myself with the thought that the mice who live beneath our barn have a pretty jammy life; making their nests and rearing their pups in the warm and dry, with more prime feed-wheat than they could ever eat dropping through the ceiling.

The ones the terriers catch get a swift and efficient end to their lives too. Not for them the slow decline of poisoning or the panic of being trapped. You’ll know this if you’ve ever watched a terrier working. One shake is all it takes. A toss of dead mouse over the shoulder, and on to the next (although Nutty Meg was inclined to hover behind Russ and eat the dead ones that he threw back).

The dogs would return home knackered and proud. But, on one occasion, Russ didn’t come back at all. The Farmer went to find him, and I knew something was wrong from the tone of the Farmer’s voice when he carried Russ into the farmhouse. The poor little man was in a terrible state (the dog, not the Farmer, although he wasn’t doing so well either). The blood and froth spraying from Russ’s face propelled us all into the truck for an emergency trip to the vets.

He’d followed the Farmer into that tunnel, and when the door was shut behind him he’d tried to find another way out. When an industrial fan spins at several thousand rpm it gives the illusion of disappearing into thin air, and Russ tried to jump through it. The thought still makes me wince.

We thought he was a goner, but no. He lost about 4 mm off the end of his nose, and I spent three weeks delicately inserting a cotton bud into each of his nostrils (several times a day) and rotating it to stop them closing up.

The things we do for love, eh. He was right as rain in a few short weeks, but forever stumpy faced.