Anorexia recovery – Eating, comparison and being brave

Mental Health

For the past few years, I’ve fallen very much, unwillingly, into comparative habits. This can be detrimental in Anorexia Recovery.

If my friends aren’t eating, why should I?

I MUST be greedy.

Why am I eating if the people around me aren’t? So…much…guilt.

It’s a constant turmoil.

I very recently stumbled across a highly informative blog post by Tabitha Farrar, which highlights mutual recovery worries and concerns. Even an incredible podcast, which can be reached here

I’ve found that Eating Disorders have a tendency to possess a competitive nature in an assortment of ways. The constant fixation on what others are doing and saying can be exhausting.

My friends are dieting, does this mean I should?

My Mum hasn’t eaten Lunch, I guess I shouldn’t either.

I understand that I can become preoccupied with what others around me are eating, and I remain positive that I’m not alone in this, but I’m learning to reverse that focus onto myself to assist me in my journey.

My Therapist issued me with advice, in which I’d like to share. Individuals in recovery from Eating Disorders have significantly different needs in comparison to those around us. We need more food to assist the repairing of the bodies we’ve destroyed for prolonged periods. We have distinctively different needs in comparison to others. We’re in a calorie deficit, our bodies struggle to function with minimal nutrition. Our periods end, our organs begin shutting down and we encounter abnormal blood test results. (Note, symptoms vary within individuals!)

Rewind back 4 years ago, my Therapist challenged me to eating in College. To this day, I still struggle immensely with eating away from home, it typically feels disorganised and unnecessary. But I’m working on it. I was tasked with eating a cereal bar. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. My friend informed me that she hadn’t eaten and I simply couldn’t comprehend eating if she hadn’t, because it obviously “wasn’t” important. I had to constantly remind myself that she’d go home and eat, she wouldn’t restrict calories like I would or engage in unhealthy coping techniques.

The food stands as the building blocks essential for regaining our concentration, protecting our organs and obtaining energy. We must focus our energies on recovery and allowing our bodies (And minds) to habituate to increased food quantities.

It’s important to remember that food is our medicine, the key to our mental and physical healing. No two people eat the same. Skipping meals and snacks simply to match up to our peers only encourages the disordered voices whilst ensuring that we remain compacted within our unhealthy coping mechanisms and ways of thinking. Eating doesn’t equate to greed, increasing calories doesn’t highlight excessiveness.

Other people’s eating habits are NOT an invitation for us to alter our own, it’s vital that we work hard and cooperate with our negative and competitive feelings in order to more forward. We all have different eating habits, we eat at different times and enjoy different foods. This isn’t a matter to be ashamed about, diversity is one of life’s many wonderful factors, it keeps us different and unique.

There’s bravery in reaching for a snack or preparing a meal when those around you state how far from hungry they feel or how little they’ve eaten throughout the day. That takes strength and a considerate amount of determination.

I personally struggle to eat if those around me aren’t. I feel extremely reluctant to eat and then become more anxious if it’s gone past a “safe time”. But our bodies aren’t clocks, they appreciate food all-round. It heightens the guilt I feel surrounding eating and the anorexic voice in my head persuades me to give in. I easily feel greedy and insignificant, especially given my lack of hunger cues. But an essential component of my healing journey consists of prioritising my needs and my thoughts, aswell as acknowledging why I may struggle while working to alter that.

People without Eating Disorders don’t typically have set eating/meal times, and even if a meal or snack is skipped, no disordered thoughts will lure their nastiness. And if they skip a meal (usually due to time constraints/preoccupation or other commitments, not on purpose), this generally DOESNT have implications on the other meals of the day, compensative behaviours will not be used and a recommended amount of calories (ENERGY!!) will still be reached.

Ideally, others will make up for the food they’ve missed throughout the day and may prefer larger meals as opposed to “little and often”. But I imagine no two days of eating are the same for anybody, people may eat more on some days than on others. And vice versa. It all balances out. I would find this unmanageable and daunting, and eating irregularly quickly leads to lightheadedness and fainting episodes. One day I’ll be free from a structured meal plan, but today is not that day.

We must remember to focus on ourselves and our needs, whilst acknowledging that this isn’t selfish, but a necessary component in becoming a step closer to health and happiness. Food is fuel, and although eating may feel like a constant job, it is our medicine.

University – life lessons, goats and second year!

University

A year ago, I set off on a new and exhilarating adventure. University life.

My first year as a University Student… Exciting!

I’m now just a week away from beginning my second university year. Following my studies in Zoology with Animal Behaviour as I aim to become a voice for those in need of one. My animal companions in need of a friend.

First year issued me with valuable lessons which I aim to apply to myself, and my studies, throughout the upcoming academic year.

A study carried out recently at Buttercups Goat Sanctuary (UK, Kent) found that Goats LOVE a happy face. A happy Laur equals a happy goat. Goativation? Therefore, for my caprine companions, it’s my upmost mission to be as happy as humanely possible as I embark on life’s next academic challenge.

BE THE GOAT FOR THE GOATS

As a student, and a young person in general, it’s very easy to become caught up in what those around me are doing. But I’ve concluded that I must make myself, my health and my happiness my biggest priority if I wish to succeed in my journey.

With just five basic lessons, I am confident second year will be increasingly more enjoyable than the first.

STOP BEING SO HARD ON MYSELF

During my first year, I became awfully distressed whenever I received a lower grade than I anticipated. Though, I wish to focus more on my efforts and areas for improvement as opposed to my so-called “failures”. Focusing on the positives leaves less room to dwell on the negatives, I believe. And trying my hardest can never result in failing.

My grades do NOT define me, or my worth.

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.”

CONFIDE IN OTHERS DURING TIMES OF STRUGGLE

I’ve learned the importance of reaching out for support during my times of need, coming to the realisation that seeking help is perfectly acceptable, there is always an ear to listen and I don’t deserve to suffer alone, or in silence. University is a wonderful place filled with the most supportive people (tutors and friends) and nobody will think of me any less for needing a helping hand.

Speaking up releases masses of tension and encourages others to seek help, too. A win win situation!

PRIORITISE HAPPINESS AND SELF CARE

Finding a comfortable, maintainable balance within my studies and “other things” is still a work in progress, but one I am keen to apply to myself. Ensuring I create time for the things I love outside of my studies – spending time with friends, volunteering and engaging in the clubs and societies I am involved with and have a passion for. The understanding that spending countless hours in the library, buried in text books or behind laptop screens isn’t healthy or necessary amongst the pathway to graduating. Nor does it make me a “better student.

FINDING MY STRENGTH

Moving away to Uni was a strength in itself, but my mission now is to maintain it. Finding the strength to carry on when things don’t necessarily go to plan, or when the day has been tough. A bad grade? Read the Tutor feedback and prioritise it next time. Speaking to my Tutor about it, a problem shared is a problem halved. A fall out with a friend? That’s okay. They happen, Uni is stressful and friendships are bound to begin showing some cracks; take a break, resolve it afterwards. A heightened struggle battling mental illness’ that day? Again, it happens. Prioritise self care, learning helpful distraction techniques and keeping myself safe.

SEARCHING FOR THE HAPPINESS IN EVERY DAY THINGS

I’m embarrassingly talented at dwelling on my nasty, more intrusive thoughts (Sigh!) So I’m ensuring I work tirelessly to focus more on the positives in my life, and less on the negatives. A balance of alone time, but ensuring I am not too withdrawn. Searching for the happiness in every day things, regardless of how small they may appear so that during my darker times, I can reflect upon the better times. Never underestimate the healing powers of a cuddle with an animal, a cup of tea or a simple stroll along a scenic route via a Beach or a Forest.

Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from the negative

Here’s to second year, another year in which I aim to succeed, exceed my own expectations and make some unforgettable memories with the incredible friends I am blessed with.

A splendid Summer at Little Owl Farm

Little Owl Farm

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Well, Summer at Little Owl Farm has officially drawn to a close. My second Summer spent at the farm and I am extremely delighted about that! It’s been an incredible, fun packed few months spent volunteering with my upmost enthusiasm and the best of people who continuously bring me joy and happiness.

It’s been thrilling witnessing Cindy and John swimming in success with the emphasis that all of their hard work, and planning, has paid off as they’ve welcomed many visitors and carried out the best themed days throughout. Creating an enjoyable day for people of all ages. They truly do deserve The World.

Throughout the duration of Summer at the farm, I’ve had the pleasure of making new friends (both animal and human, yay!) aswell as catching up with familiar faces, including the wonderful Lizzie – a kind hearted friend of mine and an extremely talented face painter who often visits the farm to amaze myself and visitors with her dazzling, colourful creations.

https://www.facebook.com/lizziefacepaints/

I simply wouldn’t have opted to spend my time anywhere other than the farm. A place I view as a second home. (Well, I do live with the goats now…) where I am continuously welcomed with a warm embrace, aswell as my trusty wheelbarrow, surrounded with my gorgeous animal friends and the loveliest of people.

It’s been a pleasure resting from my hardworking first year of University down at the farm, expanding my knowledge and working hard to ensure the animals are content and spoiled rotten with abundance’s of love and cuddles. Oh, and the odd banana or two…

Could anybody resist that face?

I did have trouble choosing from my increasing collection of goat photos. Though, you can never have too many. Right? Poppy eternally brightens my day and widens my smile with her cheeky personality and charismatic face.

Countless hours spent travelling to the farm via buses and the treasurable number 407 which remains the most scenic, eminent route where I am dazzled with the most stunning views in Oldham upon my venture to the farm. Every visit is worth the 7:30am set offs where I am guaranteed the most happiness enhancing time where no two days ever replicate each other. The rapture of working with animals!

It’s been an incredible Summer, filled with smiles and hugs and I can only say how eager I am for Summer, 2019, and every day in advance.

Be sure to check out my fabulous friends’ social media for regular updates and the most adorable photos of our furry and feathered friends!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LittleOwlFarm/

Instagram: @littleowlfarm

Autism and me – an acceptance journey

Autism

That’s the thing. I never anticipated being a 19-year-old sitting face to face with my Therapist discussing the possibilities of an Autism diagnosis.

It seems, my wonderful Therapist had picked up on possible Autistic traits in me during our sessions together (for my Anorexia Nervosa) which had mutually been a struggle for a while. My inability to express my feelings, thoughts and emotions without great difficulty and high intensities of distress and agitation. I could willingly speak endlessly about animals, but every other subject seemed to be a chore. I also struggled to maintain eye contact and would often stare at the floor or at the wall during our chats together, when I could actually form a sentence instead of nervously giggling. Alongside an inability to cope with changes in appointments (I adored sticking rigidly to Thursdays at 12!) and my inability to understand sarcasm.

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with Autism. (ASD). My condition unknowingly present from birth, but not picked up on until later in my teenage years after a lengthy assessment process where I became increasingly distressed and impatient. I always remained aware that something about me was different, but I could never quite pinpoint what that was. The wait was gruelling and torturous and each day I would hurry home excitedly hoping to be met with an appointment letter, with my disappointment only growing as I waited longer and longer.

An Autism diagnosis is life-changing, but not defining.

With increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with the condition, mostly due to the ability to mask and imitate those around us as a means of fitting in and seeming less “odd”. Though, the thing is, I never purposely intended to be the same as those around me. So, personally, Autism has been a real journey of self discovery, finding out who I really am beyond the copying and uncomfortable habits I forced myself into.

And no. Autism isn’t solely a “Children’s condition” and it most certainly doesn’t disappear magically whilst growing up. Autistic children become Autistic adults – it’s a lifelong, developmental condition.

Unfortunately, I was prone to the stigma attached to Autism and (alongside my lack of knowledge) due to minimal awareness I thought I knew what Autism “looked like” in an individual, a huge part in the reason I like to raise awareness of my condition. So people understand, and accept, people for their uniqueness and their quirks. And so people stop putting a “face” to Autism, the condition affecting one in a hundred of us.

Autism isn’t a label that fits all.

To begin with, I viewed my diagnosis as a bad thing and became upset for a short period of time, until I grew to learn more about my new diagnosis and what it meant for myself and others.

Over two years along the line and I have finally found, not only comfort, but also acceptance in myself which may not have met without my diagnosis. Something I never imagined myself to need until it became present in my life. Fitting in the “missing puzzle” that had previously been vacant from my life and filling it with knowledge, happiness and self-worth. The acceptance of learning to love myself for the crazy goat lady I am. Animals being my interest, whilst others on the spectrum may have other areas of passion and happiness!

I grew determined to ensure my Autism didn’t restrict, or define, me in any way possible. Meaning I have overcome anxiety-ridden fears and have tackled many obstacles over the years. Including, my ability to use public transport alone (giving Ive planned the journey strictly!) my transition to university life in Wales, a completely new setting, being introduced to people I hadn’t previously met. And my recently new found ability to vocalise when I am finding a situation stressful – particularly busy places or loud noises.

Whilst challenging myself is exhilarating, it is also exhausting and I usually require days to rest after fighting my anxiety.

Autism doesn’t have a cure, though I wouldn’t choose to cure mine for The World. It remains as a lifelong condition with each day being a learning curve and a milestone in each individuals journey!

Veganism and recovery – cruelty free healing

Animals

In April 2016, I made the incredible decision of transitioning to Veganism. Something other than an Instagram fad, but a lifestyle always rising in popularity, involving love, peace and contentment. And, of course, joy for all beings.

Standing out from my family, I had never been a keen meat eater. I would never opt for meat during meal times and would always feel more comfortable choosing alternative options. I believe that consciously, I always knew it was wrong for me to consume animals who simply wanted to fulfil the entirety of their lives. Thankfully, my family have always remained supportive of my choices and have never forced any kind of lifestyle upon me.

As I also struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, Veganism may be viewed as another way of restricting certain food groups or making excuses for not eating things containing animal products. Though this may be the case for other sufferers, it isn’t for me. Not every choice make is Anorexia driven. And I wish to flourish into the happy Vegan I’m destined to be, for myself and my beautiful animal companions, with the message that Veganism can be helpful for those suffering from all kinds of Eating Disorders. But as Veganism grows, so does the demand for products suitable for myself and others.

Choosing Veganism has enabled me to feel as though I have a purpose. My purpose that remained unawakened for a lengthy duration of my life. Being a voice for the voiceless and caring for animals in the same way they care for me and turn the darkest days into brighter ones. I made the decision to switch on my own, which gave me independence and a sense of free will. Veganism for me hasn’t just been about transforming my dietary choices, but about strengthening my love of animals and kindness overall and about making a positive impact in our world.

Widening my eyes and increasing my knowledge into the harsh realities of the dairy industry (Prior to becoming Vegan, I was Veggie so I was already aware of the meat industry…) had implications in my decision. Witnessing animals being forced into a torturous and heartbreakingly cruel industry, where they are constantly used and abused like machines and torn away from their traumatised mothers was something I simply couldn’t contribute to anymore. Educating myself, and realising I don’t need animal products in order to survive, changed my life and my outlook into just how unfairly animals are treated in our world.

Additionally, as I am on a pathway to a career within the animal care industry I felt it was only natural of me to become Vegan. Because caring for animals is my life and something I am highly dedicated to. If anything, it’s given me even more of a reason to fight. Animals aren’t able to speak up for themselves in an understandable way, which is why people like myself do it on their behalf.

My Anorexia has deprived me of countless things. Memories and friends have been lost, but my admiration for animals has always remained strong as a reminder of why I must fight. Being a life-long animal lover, I felt Veganism heightened the compassion I’ve always held in my heart for animals of all kinds. Transitioning to a cruelty-free lifestyle has enabled me to not only choose compassion, but to also feel increasingly compassionate (and happier!) too as I do all I can to minimise animals’ suffering with my food and lifestyle choices. Knowing my lifestyle reduces cruelty and suffering fills me with copious amounts of joy and fulfilment.

With the compassion I hold in my heart for animals, viewing them as my lifelong friends, I’ve been aiming to find the same level for myself as I work hard in my recovery pathway. Veganism isn’t a magical cure for mental illnesses and it’s vital to acknowledge that, though, it can give people a brighter outlook on life. Recently, my lovely teacher reminded me that I must care for myself in the same way I care for animals. Meaning, I mustn’t rush to give myself a hard time when I am faced with mental and physical battles day in and day out.

The life lessons we learn from animals are phenomenal and irreplaceable. From them, we can gain an increased understanding regarding love, happiness, care and compassion – all of which we struggle to apply to ourselves at times. Especially whilst going through a dark patch.

Spending my time volunteering with animals continuously insights me into the loving beings we’re blessed to have with us. And for me, Veganism will only continue to aid me in my recovery pathway from Anorexia and other mental illnesses.

Goat girl, eighteen months on!

Little Owl Farm

I began volunteering at Little Owl Farm back in February 2017. Wholeheartedly, the best decision I’ve ever made! (Yes, I’ll say this until I’m red in the face…)

Its been 18 months consisting of joyful memories, hard (but always super fun!) work, an abundance of bus trips and the most compassionate hugs. And, most importantly, the growth of myself as an individual.

I’ve known my magnificent friends (animal and human!) for 18 WHOLE MONTHS! My friendship with Poppy and Mary-Jane, the best of goat friends, is the most valued and treasurable thing that regularly gets described as “beautiful”. It makes my heart all warm inside, as does the pleasure I have of knowing Cindy, John and Izaak. I love everybody at the farm so much that it feels indescribable.

My diagnosis of Autism means I struggle with certain life aspects which others may find to be less of a challenge. But, challenges are made to be overcome like mountains are designed to be climbed. Communication has always proven to be difficult for me, as I’ve spent my life being dubbed “the shy one” and sticking to my usual habits, such as avoiding change. I haven’t always been able to step on a bus alone and I never imagined myself to be stepping out of my restrictive comfort zone, meeting new people voluntarily (now my favourite people!) and making the most beautiful animal friends.

Taking the first daunting leap of venturing to Little Owl Farm to begin with was hard. Firstly I was worried about getting lost as I anxiously navigated my way through Oldham with Google Maps. Eventually, very much to my delight, stumbling across the farm – a place you could say has become my own sanctuary, a place I’ve found happiness, comfort and safety.

I held so many worries and ran through high intensities of self-doubt, wondering whether I would fit in, whether I would be liked, whether I would be able to form a sentence or even do things in the “right way”. I threw myself in at the deep end and tackled my anxieties head on. No longer wishing to be restricted by my Autism, but wanting to flourish into the brighter Laur I had always been instead.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”.

Stepping out of my comfort zone, my compact area of safety, turned out to be a wonderful step for me. I believe I’m leaving my small shell and finding comfort in my surroundings (More than likely, the Goat pen…) I managed to find a place where I fit in, where I’m not judged and where I’m more than happy to shine gleamingly as my little crazy goat lady self.

Choosing to surround myself with incredibly kind, caring and dedicated people has really worked wonders for me. I’ve never felt the need to be anybody but myself at the farm, and it’s amazing how accepted I continuously feel there. Even in the simplest ways that my confidence has grown, I’ll willingly speak to people now and I believe in myself and my abilities progressively more. And for that, I’m thankful.

My role at the farm makes me truly happy, fills me with gratitude and appreciation and I’m excited for the future as Little Owl Farm continues to grow, welcoming new visitors and homing new animal friends. Pleasantly watching Cindy, John and Izaak embrace the success and happiness they well and truly deserve!

Summer volunteering at the farm!

Little Owl Farm

28/07/2018

Arriving into Oldham at roughly 10:30am, I was eager to get stuck in to what was bound to be another wonderful, smile broadening day. I habitually inform Cindy of my “best day EVER!” whenever I have spent the day volunteering at the farm due to the enjoyment I gain from being there, surrounded with my animal friends and the loveliest of people.

This week was “Story Book Week” at the farm, a week dedicated to stories ranging from The Gruffalo and Alice in Wonderland, with a series of fun activities planned for children of all ages!

I highly praise Cindy and John for the hard work and dedication continuously going into making the farm as great as it is today. Knowing them feels like the greatest honour and I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for my friends.

I was met with John, then Cindy who’re always the biggest pleasure to see and I was then ecstatic to catch up with Lizzie, the BEST face-painter and a wonderful friend of mine. We hugged, chatted and then I went on to get my hands dirty. Not that I minded. I love farm life!

Starting off with cleaning the Duck enclosures. A simple, yet fulfilling, task of emptying the old substrate and replacing it for new – following an array of wheelbarrow trips. Also cleaning out the water bowls and providing fresh water, which was soon to be muddy again in precisely two seconds with the Ducks and their dirty beaks.

I then went on to preparing some treats for the animals. A very important factor in enriching an animals’ life, saving them from boredom, providing fulfilment and ensuring all daily essential dietary needs are met. All treats must be given in moderation, though. Bananas are clearly a favourite…

Upon my wonderful (much needed) catch-up with Lizzie, I got tattooed and covered in glitter, like the big kid I am. Chatting about University, animals and goats. I was filled with laughter and happiness. Feeling content and like a sparkly princess. I went on to fill up the hay nets, carried out a quick spot-clean of the pigs’ enclosures and then cleaned out the rabbit’s hutches as they frantically hopped around my feet.

You can check out Lizzie’s excellent work at:

https://www.facebook.com/lizziefacepaints/

Time to walk Jay! After refilling the animals’ water buckets. Firstly introducing him to the other residents at the farm, starting off with Mary-Jane and Poppy (Of course!) And then going into the picnic area, carefully ensuring he didn’t cheekily nibble on any of John’s plants! Heading over to Mr McGregors’ Garden and around the entrance area as Jay strolled around curiously.

Who’s walking who there?

I could only giggle away as I was being pulled around the stunning countryside by a small looking Goat. Apparently, the wheelbarrow trips aren’t working wonders for my non-existent muscles after all…

Attaching the collar and clipping on the lead, it was then time to walk Bobby. Another Goat friend of mine, a beautiful resident at Little Owl Farm. Large horns to match his big, bright personality.

After a series of cuddles with my special, kind-hearted Goat friends, I went onto saying my good-byes after more hugs before catching the bus ready for my venture home after what had been another awesome day.

With each time I volunteer at the farm, my confidence grows and my happiness radiates too.

I love being a volunteer at Little Owl Farm!

Saturday farm day

Little Owl Farm

14-07-2018

Waking up at 6am, I was stoked for what was set to be another fun filled day at the farm. Though, I wasn’t due to set off for a couple of hours afterwards! I never have been one for lying in…

It wasn’t long until I was up, washed and dressed for the day. Appropriately choosing my very well suited “crazy goat lady” t-shirt in preparation of being surrounded with my very best Goat friends. A second home.

Firstly reaching Manchester, after a short wait at the bus stop, and then Oldham, I was soon to be setting foot on my last bus ready to approach the farm. A very pleasant journey filled with picturesque countryside views and clear blue skies as the sun beamed down, strongly. I also petted a very friendly, brown eyed, Jack Russell upon choosing a seat.

Greeting John and Izaak, I then went on to cleaning out the Rabbit’s hutches. Simply removing the old substrate and replacing it for new – it’s always a pleasure seeing it fresh whilst my furry friends are hopping around my feet. Replacing their waters and ensuring to keep a regular check on them, especially in staggering 24°c heat.

  • It’s vital that animals always have access to fresh drinking water. A simple, basic requirement.
  • Rabbits (and other animals) are extremely sensitive to warmer weather conditions. Taking steps to keep them cool and comfortable is vital.
  • Providing Rabbits with frozen water bottles, vegetables and fruits helps to keep them cool, alongside cool mats and shaded areas.

We fed the Pigs whilst adding new bedding. The full clean was undertaken, looking immaculate, by the time I arrived at the farm so it was just a case of changing the bedding and filling the troughs with water with the help of the extended hosepipe. I was very particular in ensuring the straw was fluffed up to their hearts content, wanting them to be in for a very comfortable sleep!

The ducks were next. Entering the enclosure armed with my trusty wheelbarrow and brushes as they happily quacked away simultaneously whilst I worked. Many filled wheelbarrows and walks up the hill later, I was well on my way to a fresh enclosure for the curious ducks. Ready to change their waters after adding fresh substrate.

I then went onto cleaning out the Goat enclosure. My favourite part of the day! (Alongside all the hugs I receive) Armed with brushes and shovels, it was a job that may have been quicker without the (many) additional Goat cuddles. Something I deem impossible! We even sunbathed together at some point. Admittedly, hay makes a very comfortable bed. Accompanied with three curious Goats and covered in…all sorts but with much joy in my heart. I refilled the enclosure with fresh straw, after it was clear, which made for very happy Goats and a very happy Laur!

During this time, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Cindy at the farm. With it also being the quickest I’ve ever jumped out of the Goat enclosure out of excitement. My day was made!

Following my animal packed day, I went on to spending some quality time with my animal friends (yay!) with my much needed hugs from Poppy and Mary-Jane, and chatting to some lovely visitors about my volunteering at the farm and giving a demonstration of how to hand feed the Donkeys – the friendly giants. And chatting about Goats (of course) Going onto giving Jay his favoured chin rub as he tilted his head, delicately placing his head on my hand.

I also helped the companionable Sarah with bathing her gorgeous Shetland pony, Dolly. Filling the bucket and carrying it together, it wasn’t long before Dolly was coated in shampoo and rinsed ready for a whole new, cleaner look.

I then headed off home. Backpack at the ready and a hug from John, until my next return. It was another excellent day!

Finding Little Owl Farm, and happiness!

Little Owl Farm

In January 2017 I apprehensively (yet also excitedly) got in touch with Little Owl Farm regarding volunteering after a Google search lead me to their wonderful Facebook page where I proceeded to spend lengths of time scrolling through animal photos and thrilling visitor reviews. I saw only happy, satisfied visitors reflecting upon their enjoyable and pleasant experiences at the farm, so I figured I should try to get involved too.

I recall receiving a speedy reply. I was ecstatic to learn that carrying out work experience at the farm was an opportunity available to me. Cindy got back in touch and informed me that she was “delighted that I wanted to gain experience at Little Owl Farm” – but I doubt anybody could be as delighted as I was!

Even from the email, Cindy seemed incredibly kind and welcoming as she offered to show me around, additionally adding that it would be great to meet me. And I couldn’t wait to meet her either! I felt a sense of hospitality. Meeting Cindy has been the most pleasurable experience that I’m beyond grateful for. I love my friend and her big heart! I was joyful about getting involved, delighted at the concept of making new animal friends too. Though understandably anxious about the new people and surroundings…

Fast forward a month later, during February half term, I leaped out of bed following the ring of my alarm. I ensured to wrap myself up in multiple layers following Mum’s request and according to the weather forecast, I was bound to be in for a chilly (yet thrilling!) adventure.

Putting on my thickest coat and fastening my shoes tightly, I headed on to the bus stop at approximately 7:30am ready for my first bus ride to Manchester. A blanket of snow sitting comfortably on the floor crunching beneath my walking shoes as I eagerly made my way to the stop. Since it was my first time at Little Owl Farm (and in Oldham) I used my phone as a navigator and felt near to Dora The Explorer with the wonderful assistance of Google Maps.

I then hopped onto two more buses and I was well on my way to approaching the farm. I lost my way partially but Cindy quickly came to my rescue when I plucked up the courage to phone as I stood speaking to Winston the Horse.

You came from where?! You travelled how far to find us…?

My first impressions of Little Owl Farm were only positive, as they still remain, as I was shown around and introduced to friendly John and intelligent Izaak and the lovely Naomi, alongside many gorgeous animals. After a cup of tea and a chat in Cindy’s Café! I thought Cindy’s accent was the sweetest thing and I was stoked to tell Mum all about my new Canadian friend. This is the day where I met Poppy and Mary-Jane! A major highlight of my experience at the farm has been becoming friends with my two girls. I was also given information about the activities held at the farm, such as themed days and crafts.

My only disappointment was that I hadn’t found this gem sooner!

My first time at Little Owl Farm involved the heartwarming opportunity of assisting in saving the most beautiful Duckling. She was incredibly tiny and fluffy with a sky high cute factor. Bright yellow and beautiful like a ray of sunshine. We had her wrapped up in a towel by a heater in the Cafe, encouraging her to have a bite to eat. She regained her strength and fought to health. The text from Cindy later on in the evening confirming that warmed my heart massively, especially as I was also asked to name her.

Meet Mabel. The name I chose with the Latin definition: “beautiful, loving and loveable.” Clearly a name that was well suited to my fluffy friend.

Since it was my first time at the farm, I stayed for a few hours before heading back home after the completion of some daily farm jobs, uncountable photos and animal cuddles later. Since I hadn’t taken the bus route home before, I wanted to ensure I travelled home safely and I knew that once I had taken the route once, I would be fine the next time and all the times following.

And this is how my time at Little Owl Farm began. An email and a bus journey lead me to making the most incredible friends. Almost 18-months-later and I can confidently say that my love for the farm increases every time I go, as does my happiness! I’m incredibly grateful to have my happy place, a place where I’m accepted for my goat obsession and smiley face, also filled with the best people and animals and volunteering there fills me with so much joy.

Farm fun with my farmyard friends

Little Owl Farm

A little insight into a day of Volunteering at Little Owl Farm. Though, no two days are ever the same which makes it all the more enjoyable!

Today, the sun was shining and my day was filled with Goat cuddles and wheelbarrow pushing as I enjoyed another day at the farm – my happy place. Soon, Cindy and John will have to build me my own pen because I love it there that much. Or I could just live with the Goats…

I certainly feel like I’m coming out of my shell more (hey, look! I’m a tortoise now) in terms of a boost in confidence and the ability to speak to people and my animal friends aid me in doing so. I’ll say this a thousand times and more: finding Little Owl Farm was the BEST thing to ever happen to me. Whenever I go, I feel on top of the world and whenever I leave, my heart is filled with so much love.

Today started off as a freezing day (typical British weather) so I wrapped up accordingly. But then to my surprise it warmed up in the upcoming hours. Again, typical British weather – unpredictable. I tied up my shoes and went on along to the bus stop, ready for my journey to the farm.

Buses. Unpredictable. A theme’s going on here, right? Arriving later than expected, impacting my entire bus route and valuable goat time – not cool.

Fast forward a couple of hours, 3 bus drives later (I’m not crazy, I swear) and YAY! I hopped off the bus, which is always filled with older people, equaling a peaceful ride with stunning views and most importantly, no screaming kids. Heaven! I soon found myself walking down the path, ready to be greeted with John and Cindy hugs (the best kind). Another highlight in my day, having such wonderful, caring people in my life who always seem delighted to see me. I love that!

Being at the farm in the company of such wonderful, jolly people and the most beautiful animals warms my heart massively and fills me with joy and contentment. Spending time outdoors and with my friends makes the journey worth it every time. It’s there that I feel free and uplifted as I gain an escape from everything bad in the world, and in my own mind.

Cuddles with Poppy and Mary-Jane are always my favourite part of the day. (just look at how adorable they are!) It’s difficult not to be absorbed into their cheeky, loving personalities and kind, gentle souls. It’s seemingly impossible to be sad when in the presence of animals who create a shield between myself and negativity.

I also gave them a brush too. Well, to begin with Poppy kept standing on me whilst attempting to brush Mary-Jane, so it turned into a cuddle session which I can’t complain about. But I was soon successful.

Most of the farmyard friends enjoyed some banana today. I must remember to take more supplies next time! I was thrilled seeing them nibbling away happily so I had to record it, of course. The Rabbits were so graceful compared to the Goats who would’ve ate my hand if I let them. (Ha ha!)

The cleaning of the Duck houses, something I weirdly enjoy due to the fulfillment of seeing a spotless space afterwards. If only it stayed that way! I always feel accomplished afterwards. It kept me very busy and made the Ducks content too. Who knew removing substrate and replacing it for new could be so fun?

Ella the Lamb arrived! Coming from a local area and a lady named Hannah. Ella had been hand-reared and therefore developed a strong attachment to Humans, not so much a part of the herd. She follows people around everywhere because she’s the most comfortable with them, she’s gotten used to their behaviours. A requirement for extra love and attention meant she definitely suited a new home at Little Owl Farm with her new Sheep friends where she’ll continue to be spoiled rotten. She had a wander around her new home, eagerly, and was then placed with the others, I’m sure they’ll soon take her under their wing as Ella thrives and grows comfortable being with the others in the next chapter of her life.

With the addition of chatting to visitors, playing with the goat kids and filling up the water bowls/buckets, that was my day complete. It’s crazy how quickly time goes when I’m at the farm. Though the saying goes “time goes by when you’re having fun” and every day at the farm is certainly that.

And off I went on my journey, heading home after another beautiful, memorable day! Saying my good bye’s to my animal friends, Cindy and John is always the hardest part which leaves me counting down until I’m back again. But, all the hugs makes it that much easier.

I’m very thankful to be able to volunteer at Little Owl Farm, and for always being welcomed back with a warm embrace and big smile!