You know what it’s like when you haven’t cleaned up for a few days. Papers strewn across the living room floor, cushions askew, and the odd coffee cup looking like it’s taking root on your table.
In short, it looks a mess. We’ve all been there.
But spare a thought for Amanda Owen, 41. She ditched her city life for the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, became a shepherdess, then mum to nine children with her husband Clive, 66, and now she has to contend with a ‘house pony’ called Tony.
The chaotic and remote life she and her family live on a remote 2,000-acre hill farm, Ravenseat, in Upper Swaledale definitely wouldn’t be most peoples’ cup of tea.
Yet the nation has taken Amanda and her brood to their hearts and their simple but hectic lifestyle has struck a chord with audiences in the UK at a time when there is so much uncertainty.
Amanda came into the public eye five years ago when she published her first book, The Yorkshire Shepherdess, about living and working in one of the most remote farms in England. It spawned a hit TV series, Our Yorkshire Farm; more books followed and another is on its way.
Her inspiration for changing from city chick to shepherdess was reading James Herriot’s books about his life and adventures as a country vet. Initially, she began working as a freelance dairy milker and general farmhand before working up to her chosen role and learning on the job.
After meeting her husband Clive, they moved to Ravenseat in 2000.
Attractive and engaging, Amanda is quick to point out that while it might look and sound like they are living an idyllic existence, it can be anything but.
“The reality is that winter is tough, there are storms, incessant floods, we struggle to keep animals alive and sometimes have to watch them die. It’s what it’s like for a lot of people. Life is a struggle at times and you don’t always win,’ she says.
The couple has a flock of 1,000 sheep on their tenant farm, an assortment of other animals to look after and all while simultaneously raising their children, the eldest of whom, Raven, is now at university. Reuben, 15, Miles, 13, Edith, ten, Violet, nine, Sidney, 6, Annas, 5, Clemmie, 4, and the youngest, Nancy, a Toddler, make up the rest of the family.
As well as the farm they run a Bed & Breakfast, do afternoon teas which are hugely popular with passers-by tackling the famous Coast-to-Coast walk and even a bit of modelling for Boden’s catalogue when required.
Clearly, the pandemic has altered things but as Amanda, who is also a photographer, admits: “We’ve got a lot of fingers in a lot of pies so it hasn’t hit us as critically as it has some businesses.”
And with their nearest neighbour living one and a half miles away, social distancing hasn’t been a problem.
“We’re lucky. For a lot of people childcare and working from home can be difficult but because of all the space we have it doesn’t create the same issues.”
Ironically, lockdown has also given them a bit of breathing space.
“We’ve always had ground-nesting birds and hay meadows with the flowers but I’ve seen and learned so much this year because normally I don’t have time to stop and look at these things.
“The compensation for not being able to talk to people is that I’ve been out with the camera more and I’ve spent more time with the children, swimming, riding, and in a way, we’ve connected more deeply with where we live’.
There has also been the continuing success of their Channel 5 TV show.
‘So much in the world today is about putting people on a pedestal and reality TV where everything’s perfect and it’s an unachievable dream. But with us it’s a case of what you see is what you get.
“We don’t think we’re anything special. We just do what we do and we’re good at what we do, but that’s it. The minute you start thinking you’re somebody that’s it, it’s over. We’re just very average, very normal people getting on with things.”
Nevertheless, with unpredictable weather, animals and children, it’s rare that anything ever goes to plan.
That was certainly the case when Amanda was doing a TV interview from their home and four-year-old daughter Clemmy decided to introduce live-in pony, Tony, to the somewhat surprised audience.
But the chaos is part and parcel of life for Amanda who admits that when she had her eighth child, Clemmy, she delivered herself at home, drawing on her experience of lambing over the years.
“My eighth was perfect because it was right here by the fire. It wasn’t because I’m some kind of earth mother. It was more out of laziness. I thought if I could do it myself, I will. It’s DIY everything now!”
You can buy Amanda Owen’s book here.