Dogs of Windcutter Down: One Shepherd's Struggle for Survival

Overview

"There is no good flock without a good shepherd, and no good shepherd without good dogs."

These age-old words of wisdom have always guided Devon sheep farmer David Kennard. But as he battles to save his farm from extinction, they take on a greater weight than ever.

The storm clouds are already gathering when Borough Farm suffers a series of disastrous setbacks that threaten the Kennard family's traditional way of life. Though the farm has ...

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Overview

"There is no good flock without a good shepherd, and no good shepherd without good dogs."

These age-old words of wisdom have always guided Devon sheep farmer David Kennard. But as he battles to save his farm from extinction, they take on a greater weight than ever.

The storm clouds are already gathering when Borough Farm suffers a series of disastrous setbacks that threaten the Kennard family's traditional way of life. Though the farm has survived foot and mouth disease, an invasion of stray sheep, and the threat of disease, a malfunctioning tractor and a sickly sheepdog all add to the farm's daily pressures. How much longer can they stay afloat financially? And will David be the last shepherd to tend his flock in this rugged corner of England? Is there a way to achieve the seemingly impossible—-making a living through farming sheep in the twenty-first century?

A shepherd since the age of seventeen, David offers an honest and affectionate, often comic picture of life on his sheep farm. But throughout this gentle meditation on his family's rural way of life, David is in a fight for that life, and for the survival of his family and farm. He must rely—-as always—-on his faithful sheepdogs Greg, Swift, Gail, Fern, and Ernie. But even he is surprised when the dogs—-and the new dog on the farm—-exceed his expectations and prove to be Borough Farm's secret weapon.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Dogs of Windcutter Down

"A loving tribute to an endangered way of life."—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for A Shepherd's Watch

"The appeal of Kennard's story is the enduring cycle of man, sheep, dog, and a wild, depopulated countryside. A beautiful book."—The Bark magazine

"An honest and affectionate book about rural life, a Herriot-style homage to the countryside."—Mail on Sunday

"A runaway literary success . . . one of those surprise publishing sensations."—The Guardian

"Marvelously atmospheric, it is also a magnificent tribute to a laborious yet uncomplicated mode of life that has all but vanished."—The Good Book Guide

"A gentle meditation on the relationship between a sheep farmer and his environment."—The Western Mail

"A beautiful book that should grace the shelves of many lovers of the countryside."—Newmarket Journal

Publishers Weekly
For the past three years, Kennard, with his wife, Debbie, and their three children, has owned and managed a 150-acre sheep farm in England's rural North Devon. This account focuses both on the difficulties of maintaining a vanishing way of life and on five border collies Kennard (A Shepherd's Watch) has expertly trained to assist him in tending his flock. From late fall through the summer, the author deals with the specter of foot-and-mouth disease, a broken tractor, lice misdiagnosed as sheep scab and the ups and downs of birthing new lambs. When it becomes clear that Greg, the lead dog, is getting too old for his job, Kennard acquires an unusual-looking puppy that his children name Jake, a collie who will prove his worth. Pressed by mounting expenses, the Kennards decide to hold sheepdog demonstrations on their farm, which garner increasingly bigger and more responsive audiences. Kennard's commitment to sheep farming, despite the hardships, comes through clearly, but his low-key style lacks detail, and while anecdotes bring Kennard's children to life, his wife remains a cardboard figure. 24 b&w photos. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Modern-day shepherd Kennard (A Shepherd's Watch) describes nine months of his life on Borough Farm in Devon, England. Complicating the unremitting hard work under difficult weather conditions are outbreaks of epidemics such as foot-and-mouth disease and Pasteurella, the decline in the population willing to endure the profession's hardships, obsolete technology, governmental bureaucracy, and the falling prices for sheep and wool that threaten his ability to make a living for himself and his family. Kennard, as any good shepherd does, relies heavily on his Border collies—Greg, Swift, Gail, Fern, and Ernie—as well as on his new puppy, Jake. He describes their work in herding the sheep, their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, and their performances in competition. In the end, it is the dogs who hold the promise to the success of his sheep-farming enterprise. This well-written, engaging account reminiscent of James Herriot's All Things Great and Smallis recommended for public libraries and for academic libraries serving populations studying animal behavior.
—Florence Scarinci, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, NY

Kirkus Reviews
Kennard, a shepherd, struggles to save his North Devon farm after a U.K.-wide outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The nine-month-long epidemic-the first in the U.K. in more than 30 years-decimated livestock throughout the region and left farmers wondering about the future of agribusiness. Against this backdrop, Kennard (A Shepherd's Watch, 2005) recounts the months following the epidemic, when the market value of lamb slumped to 1960s levels. As if that weren't enough, one of Kennard's flocks is diagnosed with pasteurella, the biggest single killer of sheep in the country. Kennard soldiers on, however, with the help of his wife, three children and several working dogs. The self-effacing author makes his canine crew the highlight here, and their stories are as absorbing as any soap opera. Alpha dog Greg is getting on in years; will volatile Ernie make a suitable replacement? Matriarch Swift has a tumor on her foot; is Fern, who frequently refuses commands, too high-strung to accept more responsibility? And there's newcomer Jake: Only 11 months old, and he seems to have the wisdom of a much older dog. Perhaps he'll become the pack's leader? With the farm's finances in free-fall, Kennard looks for ways to make extra money. Sheep-shearing, while backbreaking work, brings in a few hundred pounds. But it's an offhand notion, a weekly sheepdog demonstration for tourists, that provides the family with a tidy sum. A loving tribute to an endangered way of life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312362003
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/20/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

David Kennard's name has become a familiar one in the United Kingdom because of his bestselling video The Year of the Working Sheepdog. His first book, A Shepherd's Watch, was a Sunday Times (UK) bestseller. David lives in North Devon, England, with his wife, Debbie; three children, Clare, Laura, and Nick; and, of course, his dogs, Greg, Swift, Gail, Fern, Ernie, Jake, and Mist. Visit his Website at www.shepherdanddogs.co.uk.

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Table of Contents


It Never Rains     1
Unwelcome Visitors     15
'That Dog'     33
Mixed Fortunes     45
The End of the Road     59
The Changing of the Guard     65
Facing the Future     81
A Nasty Itch     97
Beer and Skittles     115
An Early Start     129
In the Blood     143
A Condemned Man     151
Basic Instincts     157
'The Best Days of Our Lives'     169
One Can't Start, One Can't Stop     177
The End of the Gang     195
Elusive Customers     215
An Off Day     229
A Killer on the Loose     241
The Dogs of Windcutter Down     261
List of Illustrations     277
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