I’m from Hertfordshire in England. Growing up, other children wanted to go to the sweet shop or the toy shop. I was just like, “Can we go to the book shop?”
My dad is a bibliophile like me. My mum is a crossword queen, so I got her love of language too.
Most people would bolt if their daughter said she wanted to be a writer, “Oh no, you’re never going to make any money.” But my parents were very supportive.
I’ve got a degree in journalism and I worked as a newspaper reporter in Yorkshire.
I was a press officer for a few years and then I got a job in a veterinary magazine as a reporter. That’s how I met Paul.
I interviewed him at a conference. He’d won an award for being a fantastic vet. I thought, oh he’s lovely and a nice guy. He apparently thought, oh she’s cute and she’s got small hands that would be good for lambing. Joking!
He’s from Northern Ireland
We were meant to get married in May 2020, but obviously COVID said no. So as soon as Boris Johnson said small weddings could go ahead, we got married that July.
We just had a really small wedding ceremony in my hometown, which was absolutely beautiful. We cut the cake in the boot of Paul’s car and we had our first dance in a carpark. You couldn’t have proper celebrations, but we had a lovely time anyway.
Finding my flock
Then I came over here to live in Islandmagee, Co Antrim.
I always say I married Paul and 200 sheep. Paul’s a sheep farmer and he’s also a veterinarian.
I used to chase deadlines and now I chase sheep, but it’s great. I love being with the animals. I love being outside. I don’t need to go to the gym any more, because it keeps you fit.
Lambing is absolutely amazing, I had never done it before. Paul taught me how to do it.
When I moved over here, I thought, what am I going to do work wise? Because shorthand note taking doesn’t really come in that handy when you’re in the middle of a field of sheep. So I thought, what is the main source of income locally, and it was cows. So I went and learnt to milk cows.
I milk for a friend. Paul’s been relief milking for a while because he just enjoys it. I did a few shifts when we were dating, which were really unique dates.
They kindly offered me an ad hoc contract, which is really handy when you’re trying to milk, write and do everything else.
They’re very patient cows, who very kindly let me learn how to milk them. The alarm goes off at 5:30, which is a shock.
It’s hard work – I wouldn’t say I was a proper farmer, but I try and help out where I can – and the work that goes into being a farmer is just jaw-dropping.
I milk three mornings a week and three evenings a week. The guy who runs the farm, he does that twice a day, every day of the year. And he’s still smiling. I’m absolutely exhausted by the end of the week.
I just think anyone who says milk is too expensive or farmers don’t look after their cows should go and do a shift in a milking parlour. I know there are exceptions, but you couldn’t do that job if you didn’t love the animals.
Alongside farming, I’m also still a freelance journalist, I’m doing a master’s in creative writing and I’ve just released my first book with Conrad press. It’s called Stuck in the Middle with Ewe, or how I Lost My Heart and Found My Flock in Northern Ireland.
It’s the story of me meeting Paul and moving over here. A traditional love story, only with added sheep!
It started off with me just writing bits and bobs to keep my family at home updated as to what I was doing, sort of a diary. Then a friend said, “Oh this is really cheering me up during lockdown, making me laugh out loud, you should maybe make it into a book.”
I know they say every journalist has a book in them and that’s where it should stay, but I decided I’d write it anyway!
I wrote it in about six months, in between lambing. It’s a long-held ambition of mine to write a book. I don’t think I’m going to be the next JK Rowling, but it’s nice to say I’ve put our story on the page for people to enjoy.
When I complete the master’s I’d like to go into fiction writing as well.
The book, it’s self-deprecating. It’s just what I do. I like making people laugh. As a journalist it’s about the importance of giving people a voice and bringing important issues to the fore.
That’s what I started out by doing and I continue that in my freelance writing, but the humour writing is a release from that, because it was the complete opposite from the heavy stuff.
I feel very lucky that I can manage my time to have the privilege of doing all those things and looking after the sheep.
Pictured above Holly Crawford and her husband Paul.