Life as a Modern Shepherd
March 24, 2015 10:19 AM   Subscribe

James Rebanks has written a memoir , The Shepherd's Life, about running his family farm in England's Lake District, "[T]hat teacher’s idea of the Lake District was created by an urbanised and increasingly industrialised society, over the past 200 years. It was a dream of a place for a wider society that was full of people disconnected from the land. That dream was never for us, the people who work this land. We were already here doing what we do. I wanted to tell her that she had it all wrong – she didn’t really know this place or its people at all. These thoughts took years to become clear, but in a rough childish form I think they were there from the start. But in that assembly in 1987 I was dumb and 13, so I just made a farting noise on my hand, and everyone laughed.

Rebanks is a very modern shepherd, tweeting, instagramming, and vining about his farm and his flock - including live-tweeting the birth of his border collie, Floss', puppies.
posted by gladly (7 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Reading this reminded me of the James Herriot books, which I read avidly years ago. They of course are super-famous but often dismissed as cutsey stories about animals when, in fact, they are stories about people. Sometimes a bit on the schmaltzy side but just as often moving or funny or angry or sad. People who had a similar relationship to the land as Rebanks.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:13 AM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

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posted by leotrotsky at 11:31 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fascinating and beautiful article, both the sociological and pastoral details. My favourite bits:
Sitting in that assembly, I realised with some shock that the landscape I loved, we loved, where we had belonged for centuries, the place known as ‘the Lake District’, had a claim to ownership submitted by other people, based on principles I barely understood. Later, I would read books and observe the ‘other’ Lake District, and begin to understand it better.
The skin of the dead lamb forms a tight-fitting waistcoat, with the orphan’s legs poking through the leg holes and its head through the neck. With legs and head in, the skin cannot come off. I put the lamb in a small pen with the grieving ewe and hold my breath in the hope that she will mother it. The ewe sees the lamb and glares at it suspiciously. Then she sniffs at it, and is confused. It smells just like the lamb she had a short while ago.
posted by clawsoon at 11:51 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

So many puppies
posted by sgrass at 12:54 PM on March 24, 2015


The Lake District is, like much of the beloved British upland landscape, a barren moonscape that you get after our forebears cut down all the trees. It's what the Amazon and African rainforests will look like in a century.

Meanwhile, we keep farming it, pouring taxpayer subsidy into environmentally-damaging vested interests, and reducing the ability of the landscape to cope with climate change (flooding, for example).

Good article from George Monbiot at The Guardian.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up in the country, I get the resentment of tourists and outsiders. But the "outsiders" who "don't understand"? They're not the problem, they're propping up the whole rotten edifice.
posted by alasdair at 2:37 PM on March 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Alasdair, that article was an eye-opener.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:06 PM on March 24, 2015

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