This week, I asked the wonderful Glyn Evans and Bex Sheridan to choose their favourite animals from their new book, Irish Farm Animals. It’s a difficult question to ask animal lovers like Glyn and Bex!
I was asked to do a short blog post on my favourite animal from our book, Irish Farm Animals. I honestly find it a very hard task. I have a passion for animals and love each to an equal extent really. They all have different characteristics from each other, making each group unique and loveable in their own way. For instance, I can see when one of my alpacas is sad and needs a hug and they then rest their head on my shoulder. I can see when my pigs are interested in having a conversation, so I sit and chat to them for a while. Or when my wild boar is feeling playful so we play football. I love the displays that the rhea give towards the females and then the zoomies they get when they are playing or excited.
It’s very hard to put one ahead of another. Having said that, I feel the animal that should get the most praise from me in my book are the alpacas.
These wonderful animals were where I started my farming and teaching journey. I expanded my farm into other wonderful animals purely because I saw how children (and adults) reacted to them. I used to conduct special needs tours on my farm solely with the alpacas. The reactions people had to the animals were incredible. The reactions were so strong that I knew that there was something special about alpacas. I wanted to expand our farm into other animals that families could get a connection with in the hope to reduce animal cruelty and enhance people’s lives by encountering the energy that the animals give off. We expanded quickly from 5 alpacas to 290 animals at our peak (in fairness the majority of these animals were chickens and quail). It was a lot of work but truly wonderful to be around.
This expansion of our farm and having been connected to so many different animals led to the creation of Irish Farm Animals. The book was designed to bring children closer to the animals they may encounter on a farm while learning vital key facts about these animals. Irish Farm Animals was lots of fun to make as it involved lots of animal hugging and photo shoots.
Luckily, I am friends with an equally mad, hippy, animal lover, who also has an amazing talent of bringing the animals’ personalities to life through art and photography. Without the amazing Bex Sheridan, this book would be still an idea. We do hope everyone enjoys the book as much as we enjoyed creating it.
It’s so hard to choose a favourite farm animal. Every animal is really something special. I got to go on an adventure with every one and learn how each animal has a personality of its very own, which meant putting it into written words was always wonderful! Along the way, I studied them, followed them (well the ones that allowed it) and spent bundles of time with them whenever I could! I lay in the grass with baby alpacas, which I later learnt are called cria, I cuddled adorable newborn goats, and I even got chased by some rhea. There were no dull days whilst writing and illustrating Irish Farm Animals and no dull animals either!
However, saying that, my favourite of all the animals in the book is actually the quail! This might be because they’re the ones I have the most experience with.
I have my own funny little flock of feathered friends, which I’m so very fond of. I really enjoyed writing about them because I feel that they don’t get enough exposure. Chickens get all the glory, but quail eggs are so much more nutritious! One of my favourite things about quail is their fearlessness. I have a big friendly German shepherd dog and they will wander around with her, without a care in the world. We have one elderly house quail who even lies in front of the fire beside her! Being so fearless means that they also stand up tall and shout at danger, such as at big birds overhead or even aeroplanes (they also do this shout when searching for their friends). They really are funny little birds that offer so much joy.
My favourite animal to illustrate though was probably the pigs. Most of the animals live on grassland but not the pigs! I got to make some mud and that was really fun. I loved how I could play with contrast between pink pigs and brown mud.
I also loved every interaction I had with all the different kinds of pigs, even the wild boar, who didn’t seem too fond of me! All the days out in the mud made for some fantastic adventures. I got to learn first-hand about all their different shapes and sizes, as well as their funny friendly personalities, which always helps when trying to capture their character. Something amazing even happened, Glyn’s Iron Age sow had a litter of little piglets at just the right time to take pictures! I got to meet them only hours after they were born. Then, if I hadn’t had enough fun with the rare breed pigs, I got to visit a kunekune farm! I learnt a lot about pet pigs while there and there’s a chance I’ll even add one to my own mini menagerie in the future!
Glyn Evans and Bex Sheridan, April 2020