I have been very privileged to not only get a sneak peak of Lorna’s 4th book, Till The Cows Come Home, but also feel honoured to be asked to write a book review as part of Lorna’s blog tour.
The book is described as ‘Memories of an Irish farming childhood’ but the book is so much more than that. It transports you from modern day farming right the way back through the decades, even centuries. Lorna’s storytelling enables the reader to experience a multi-faceted world, like you are watching an episode of “Who do you think you are?”, discovering secrets from Lorna’s family history, and the history of the local area. Then you’re taken back to the present day, as if you’re immersed in an episode of ‘BBC Countryfile’ learning about real dairy farming and all the ups and downs that come with it.
Aside from technological advancement, the farming traditions haven’t changed much over the years and that is heart-warming to know. Lorna and her family have honoured certain customs and passed down priceless knowledge through the Sixsmith generations. The people whom she describes with fondness and nostalgia are all real people, but they could be characters in ‘The Hardy Boys’ and ‘The Famous Five’, books of Lorna’s childhood. You can picture them clearly and get a firm understanding of the way of life back then.
The camaraderie that is demonstrated from family members, fellow farmers, neighbours and the local community is reassuring and certainly reflected in what I have experienced since moving to the rural countryside. Everyone really does muck in and although Lorna had the same reservations that I did when I moved out to the sticks about being so isolated, I actually seem to interact with people and the local community more than I ever did in the city. There is a real sense of pulling together and learning from each others mistakes. Despite being accustomed to farming life, Lorna and Brian still made mistakes. Although you might think you know about animals, they will continue to surprise you and defy all the odds. Sometimes it’s not always a happy ending but you always learn something from the experience and it is a testament to Lorna and Brian that they continue to do so with such positive attitudes.
My favourite parts of the book are when the animal’s personalities come into play. As a smallholder myself, I understand the need not to ‘name all the cows’. Although my livestock numbers are much smaller than Lorna’s, I haven’t named all of my 23 chickens. I also never name the pigs for the freezer. The ones with personalities tend to stand out and I enjoyed where Lorna describes grumpy goats, stubborn heifers, fighting bulls and the very familiar ‘escape artists’ (there’s always one!). But my all time favourite character has to be Sam. Dogs really do become such a huge parts of our lives, whether they’re pets or working animals, but Sam in particular sounds like an absolute beaut of a dog.
One of the reasons that I loved ‘Till The Cows Come Home’ so much is because I could draw a lot of parallels with my own life. Up until a year ago I lived in Southampton for 15 years, I would also enjoy long walks in the New Forest. I too miss the structured 9-5 days sometimes and the predictability of weekends off and holidays away, but I would not change a thing about my journey. Lorna returned to her roots, she grew up as a farmers daughter. I did not, although I grew up in Devon in a small village and now I’ve returned to Devon and it does feel like coming home. I think what Lorna and Brian have done is amazing and the legacy they have left for their children and the memories they have given them will be treasured forever. I love the feeling of contentment that you get as Lorna tells her story and the fact that it is now a book that she can share with the world is extra special.
This book has a bit of everything for everyone. Whether you are a well established farmer, keen historian, a budding smallholder or just someone who enjoys people who take a bit of a risk to live their dreams, then this is the book for you.
Lastly I am so pleased that Lorna included the recipe for Biscuit Cake in the book, I am certainly going to try my hand at creating such a widely revered treat!