4 April 1997

Happy Devon days before Zimbabwe

JUDY Vowles and her husband John are currently working in Zimbabwe with a Rural Outreach team. Their job is to help villagers in a Christian community develop small livestock enterprises. It is a challenge that they enjoy and readers will no doubt recall the accounts of their life there which have appeared in Farmlife from time to time.

John had grown up in Zimbabwe. Judy spent her childhood and teens in the New Forest, she explains in a book recently published by Farming Press which tells of their life in Devon sometime before their African adventure.

In those days John was running an Arabian stud on a large estate. Judy helped as required, lent a hand with other livestock units when called upon, and delighted in a bit of self-sufficiency stock-keeping, raising rabbits, goats, hens and a pig in their cottage garden, growing vegetables there too and taking full advantage of the hedgerow bounty.

"If it moves, we eat it, if it grows, we pickle it," is how daughter Joanna summed up the familys lifestyle in one of her many school essays on the subject.

Judys book reflects a happy life with dramas of the sort familiar to most farm families, those associated with herding stock along the road, for example, or transporting animals in unfamiliar vehicles, preparing a stallion for the show ring or cattle for a decorative role at an eastern costume party given by his Lordship, their boss.

We meet some intriguing characters as the Vowles accumulate their own livestock and discover the source of first class cider. Theres the arrival of Mutt the stray Doberman and the upset when it seemed that a mite could destroy his life.

Plans to keep bees and Jacob sheep are being made as the book ends having given those who know of their later life a clearer idea of how they live it to the full. AR

*Peers, peasants and pheasants by Judy Vowles, published by Farming Press Books is available from FARMERS WEEKLY Offers, PO Box 261, Slough, Berks SL2 3RU (£6.45 inc p&p).