about pet portraits artists melanie and nicholas
Both Nicholas and I grew up in the countryside, Nicholas in Cornwall and myself in Wales and so we both have a love of nature and wildlife. My family ran a smallholding for most of their working life and so I grew up surrounded by animals, which I of course befriended and persuaded my dad to keep as pets...not ideal for a working farm! My parents still live there to this day, although they are now retired.
We try to go home as much as work will allow and its a great place for Lily run around the fields. The view from the yard is stunning and every day its completely different. The changing seasons, the light, the colours - everything to create a new and amazing view every day. This photo was taken a number of years ago although nothing really changes with this view. It is looking up towards North Wales. On a good clear day you can spot Snowdon if you are lucky.
It was wonderful to grow up on a smallholding, from a very young age you could always find me outside either playing in streams, making dams and ponds for the ducks, building tree houses. Everything is run differently on farms these days with big machinery and everything very intensive. We were fortunate to experience the old ways as well as the new. The photo below is of my dad haying on his Fordson Major tractor, which he still has! I remember helping out at haying time, lifting each small bale onto the trailer one by one, the best part was riding on the top of the bales down the lane on a warm summers evening. Couldn't be done these days because of health and safety!
These were a few of our ducks, just outside our old front door (the old farmhouse has since been renovated so looks very different now). We always had ducks waddling around and eventually dad had a pond built for them in one of the fields.
It was my job to bottle feed the orphan lambs as a child, although as a teenager when the animals needed their 6am feeds it wasn't so much fun. I also refused to feed the boys as I knew that they would have to go to the market. I made my parents bottle fed them and I would only bottle feed the girls - so I could keep them. Buffy below was one of my all time favourite lambs and I often took her out and about with me. Here you can see her in the middle of the snow in the garden. I’m sure she was wondering where he warm bed had gone! She grew up to be a big sheep and one that was always at the front of the queue for food!
We had quite a few pigs on the farm at one time and I helped out cleaning them and feeding...in exchange for pocket money of course! The pigs were gorgeous, but the cleaning jobs weren’t so much fun! The photo below left was our mad dog called Ben, he always had a stick or holly leaf in his mouth, was the funniest dog ever.
We had quite a few pigs on the farm at one time and I helped out cleaning them and feeding...in exchange for pocket money of course! The pigs were gorgeous, but the cleaning jobs weren’t so much fun!
We always had geese too - they live a very long time and although sadly no longer with us now, they laid every year and huge eggs to boot. You knew if you were having a Goose omelet!
This is Winnie and she was my favourite of all of the Cochin's I had. I have been keeping chickens since I can remember and have many many, many over the years. They all had names and the favourites would wander in our house if the door was left open. Winnie spent her retirement in the winter in our utility room in the warm. She was a very pampered hen.
The sheep and the chickens were always my favourite and our neighbours use to call me Miss Doolittle when I was young, as I was able to befriend most animals on our farm. Even if neighbours grazed their cows on our fields, normally one of them would go back after the summer much tamer than it arrived! At one time we had a flock of over 100 sheep and I would know at least 30 of them by name and another 20 to 30 distinguishable by sight and they would recognize me by my voice and the colour of my coat. As soon as they saw me they would follow me around the field. I would keep a few treats in my pocket for them. The sheep pictured above were among my all time favourites and they all lived to a good age.
Finally a couple of photos of the many cows that were bread on our farm by my father. Lots of lovely memories!
I also helped my parents rear the animals, I had my own responsibilities and did chores around the smallholding which gave me a great insight into animals and their behaviour. You may think herding some sheep out of a field, through a gateway and into another field is easy, however if there's only you and perhaps one other person and no sheepdog, you have to be aware and watch the animals at all times to pre-empt what they are going to do next. There are things you pick up with experience, sometimes you can foresee what they are going to do a few seconds before they do it. A slight movement of their body, the direction of their head can all be clues as to their next move. With each animal its different too. Guiding chickens where you want them to go is different from herding sheep or pigs! I hope you have enjoyed viewing our photos and have a better idea of our farm life!