More and more of us are dreaming of escaping the rat-race, moving to Wales and embracing 'the good life'. But could you really do it, and what might lie ahead? Liz Shankland's practical guide book is a no-nonsense guide to buying and running a smallholding in Wales, aimed at would-be downshifters, wherever they may live.
Unlike lots of my current friends, I wasn't born a farmer - far from it. I was brought up in a terraced house in the South Wales valleys and spent 30 years as a journalist and broadcaster before discovering there was more to life.
Back in 2000, I accidentally - yes, accidentally - bought a smallholding, and started keeping livestock. Since then, I've never looked back.
In my previous life, I used to interview celebrities and politicians, go to fancy media events, and swan around in designer clothes. When I bought my hilltop smallholding, all my smart outfits went on eBay to help buy a tractor; nowadays, you're unlikely to recognise any of the labels I wear unless you're a fan of heavy-duty wellies or waterproof overalls.
I have a prize-winning herd of pedigree Tamworth pigs - one of our native rare breeds - and I exhibit extensively at agricultural shows across the UK. My sows have won the prestigious Tamworth Champion of Champions competition, which is a pretty good endorsement of the quality of the herd. I also breed Herdwick sheep, rear bronze turkeys for Christmas, keep hens for eggs, grow fruit and veg, and recently planted a small orchard for cider and perry. Some of the produce is sold at local farmers' markets, but even more goes direct to regular customers who like to buy half a pig or lamb, butchered to their requirements.
One of my passions is getting new people involved in smallholding, so I was thrilled when I was asked to write the Haynes Pig Manual, followed by the Haynes Smallholding Manual; look out for the Haynes Sheep Manual next, due to be published in 2015. For the past three years, I've also been teaching courses for smallholders at Humble by Nature, the rural skills school set up by TV presenter Kate Humble at her farm in Monmouthshire. See www.humblebynature.com for details.
What comes next? Who knows what's around the corner? Whatever it is, it's a lot better than spending several hours each day sitting in commuter traffic and even longer stuck inside an anonymous office block.
If you'd like to find out more about me and my animals, you can visit my websites, www.biggingerpigs.com and www.lizshankland.com. I write for a variety of publications, including Country Smallholding magazine, for which I'm the resident pig expert, columnist, and book reviewer.
If you're visiting any of the major agricultural shows in the UK, do check out the pig section and see if I'm there with any of my show team. I never tire of talking about livestock, so please come and have a chat.