WITH nine kids to raise and 1,000 sheep to look after, you would imagine Amanda Owen doesn’t get a second to herself.
But the former model, 46, loves wearing skimpy dresses and stilettos, and painting her nails for a long day on the farm.
Just don’t ask her how she finds the time, as she will most likely give you an earful.
The shepherdess made famous by Our Yorkshire Farm — the most watched Channel 5 factual show ever, with almost 4million viewers each week — says: “People ask me, ‘Oh my God, you paint your nails? How do you have time?’
“Nail polish can dry in about five minutes. I paint them as I get in the car and then stick the blowers on and drive to wherever I’m going.
“All I do is multi-task, which means I’m insanely busy. But who isn’t? Everyone’s got stuff going on.
“So yes, my life’s chaotic, there’s not so much in the way of planning. Obviously certain things have to happen — the kids go to school, packed lunches, baths, showers, hair washing all the rest of it.
“In and among and in between that, it doesn’t matter — as long as the kids are happy, fed, clean and all right. For us, that’s what keeps it interesting.”
Herding cows in her bikini
Amanda and husband Clive, 66, who run Ravenseat Farm in the north Yorkshire Dales, are parents to Raven, 20, who is at university; Reuben, 17, who has just started his apprenticeship as a mechanic; Miles, 15; Edith, 12; Violet, ten; Sidney, nine; Annas, seven; Clemmie, five; and Nancy, four.
The shepherdess lives 69 miles from the nearest hospital, which is in Middlesbrough, so has had many home births. Nancy was born in a car on the way to the hospital.
But Amanda — who has written four bestselling books about her life on the farm — refuses to rule out adding to her brood, no matter what anyone says.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.
She says: “I think I’m too old to have a tenth child. I don’t know, wait and see. There was never any family planning, so who knows? Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. People are quick to say to a mum of nine, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that’.
“But I want to be an example to my kids, to say, ‘You can be whatever you want to be — don’t let other people define you’. For some people, motherhood is always the way — they’ve got that broody feeling in them.
“For me, that wasn’t the case at all. Obviously it was something I wanted, to have a family. But I didn’t really know what to expect.
“I hadn’t had many dealings with babies, so it was really a question of problem solving, as with most things in life. I wasn’t going to be able to do farming with a Bugaboo, was I? So it was a question of ‘get the papoose (child carrier) and then off we go’. I found it was a really healthy, uplifting way to do things.”
Amanda — who recently took to herding cows in her bikini due to the hot weather — rejects being stereotyped because of her life on the 2,000-acre farm and says she loves escaping to her local town.
She says: “I love city life but I also enjoy quiet time in the countryside. You don’t have to be one or the other. I love going to town, I love fashion, but I also love this. If someone doesn’t like the fact I wear earrings or nail varnish to wrestle or shear sheep, that is their problem.
“I can run around after a sheep in a skirt if that’s what I want to do. I am who I am and if somebody says to me, ‘Can you come into a TV studio and talk about being a shepherd?’ you can be damn sure I’ll be wearing stilettos and something skimpy, if that’s what I want to wear.
“I’m not going to turn up with my sheepdog and a shepherd’s crook. If you were a doctor, you wouldn’t turn up in scrubs with your stethoscope would you?”
Last month, Amanda was forced to defend “breeding her own workforce”, as she faced a backlash from fans after revealing that all of her kids work on the farm.
'Responsibility holds the family together'
She says: “Like any parent, you’re always worrying and wondering if you’re doing it right. I try not to build comparisons with what everybody else is doing. I’m quite fortunate that I don’t have to do competitive parenting because I’m isolated, so I can do my own thing.
“But being part of a big family, being on the farm and having various tasks and responsibilities, I think those are really good life lessons. To teach them washing and cooking — I don’t mean for one minute my kids are skivvies — but I want them to feel like an important part of what we do and that they’re valued.
“I think that responsibility holds the family together, especially with the older ones — it gives them independence.
I want them to feel like an important part of what we do and that they’re valued.
"You have to give them a certain amount of freedom to teach them anything. I don’t think you can hover over them at all times. You have to give them a certain amount of freedom to teach them anything. I don’t think you can hover over them at all times.”
The TV regular also came under fire this month when followers on Instagram complained she was “selling out” after endorsing dog food company Crave in a sponsored post.
Acknowledging that the farm had taken a cash hit during the pandemic, she responded: “Education, and indeed life, doesn’t come cheap and therefore if a paid advertising opportunity arises and the product is genuinely good, then why should you not?”
Amanda is no stranger to a spat, recently telling how she was scolded by her kids’ school for sending them in with “brown pond water” after allowing her brood to drink from the fresh spring.
Asked whether there have been any other rows, she says: “We have a good relationship with their school but we do have these little altercations. When I was a kid, I had my school shoes and I’d have a pair of plimsolls to do PE in.
“But that was it. Now you have to have school shoes, pumps, indoor shoes, outdoor shoes. I’m like, ‘What? Do they really need football boots?’ Because by the time you have multiplied that by four and times it by six, that is 24 pairs of shoes — and that is just not happening.”
Now Amanda is encouraging fans to watch footage of the farm — which houses 40 cows, six dogs and four ponies as well as their flock of sheep — to help them sleep as part of a Ewe Tube campaign with Premier Inn. But she has no problem nodding off after a hard day’s work.
Apparently counting sheep helps people get to sleep.
She says: “I must admit, I don’t have too much trouble sleeping. I put in long days on the farm but after the year we’ve had, everyone’s frayed physically and mentally. Apparently counting sheep helps people get to sleep.”
She might sleep like a baby but there is one thing that does bother Amanda. She has never taken the kids on holiday abroad.
She says: “I feel so guilty, we don’t ever go on holiday. We’re on duty all the time, obviously being part of a big family, logistically it would cause problems anyway.
“But do we have a big desire to go on holiday? Not particularly, because our life is on the farm. We’ve got everything we need — horses, rivers, waterfalls.
“People say that if your job is your pleasure and your hobby, then you’ll never do a day’s work in your life. That’s not necessarily true because I have some bad days where I’m like, ‘Ahh, I want an office job, I don’t want to go out there’.
“But going out there on those days makes you appreciate the good ones.”
- Amanda has teamed up with Premier Inn to help the nation rest, by creating the brand’s first video-streaming platform, Ewe Tube, dedicated to encouraging sleep by digitally counting sheep.
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