The Pet Blogger Challenge 2019

Every year I take part in the Pet Blogger Challenge, an opportunity to look back over the year that has passed and find out what worked and what didn't. Without further ado, here are my answers to this year's questions:

For those who may be visiting your blog for the first time, how long have you been blogging and what is your main topic?

For almost nine years now, I have been taking pictures around the farm and then writing about them. I try to share some of the joy I feel when I'm spending time with my animals. I'm very lucky to live where I do. I really love to share cute moments of friendship between my animals - dogs, sheep, ponies, they're all friends here.

What was your proudest blogging moment of 2018?

I think finishing a long post always makes me proud - sometimes I spend days, adding photos and then my comments. My favourite post, linked below, is one of my best, I think. And not just because the subjects of the post are so cute! Another thing I'm proud of is reaching 1,000 posts.

For my 1,001st post I did a little look back at how far I've come. It's quite far, and it's especially noticeable with my photography. Oh! And I got a custom domain that I really love and plan to keep forever!

What was the biggest blogging challenge you faced in 2018, and how did/will you tackle it?

The biggest thing I did with the blog in 2018 was the redesign. I can't use professional themes - I bought one but it wouldn't work on my blog because my photos are hosted externally. So I drew the background pattern and followed several HTML tutorials to get my theme looking more personal. I would like to have another redesign sometime this year, although I'm baulking at going through all that HTML again! Ugh.

Which of your 2018 blog posts was your favourite and why? (Please include a link.)

I actually have a top three this year. In third place is this Blue Belle's Big Adventure. I have dreamed of taking Blue Belle for a walk off the farm for almost as long as I've had her and in May I achieved that. The locked gate that had stopped us was unlocked at last! I packed a lunch, collected Blue Belle and set off. We walked as far as we could alongside the lough, through a farm and then turned and came back. The weather couldn't have been better. A truly wonderful day.

In second place are the photos of my trip to Connemara in Ireland with my camera club, It's a Long Way to Connemara. I had an absolutely incredible time - the views were spectacular, the weather was (mostly) kind and there were Mayo Blackface sheep everywhere! I was dropped off at a farm for an afternoon and loved every minute, even if it rained most of the time.

But I think my overall favourite post of 2018 was It's You, Sue, the story of how little Sue came into our lives. Personally the last few years have been very difficult - I lost both of my grandmothers within ten months, along with other family losses, both four-legged and human. Sue was a fresh start, a huge positive to end the year on. She makes me laugh every day and I love her to pieces.

Which of your 2018 posts was most popular with your audience? Why do you think it does so well?

My most popular post was The Balmoral Show 2018 with a whopping 2,415 views. (My second most popular post of all time is 2018's Big Lambs and Little Ducklings with 1,181 views.) I don't know what brought so much traffic to this post in particular. I did share a link to the Show's Facebook page but I don't think it was seen by many. It's a mystery, really!

Did you implement a new series, feature, or practice on your blog in 2018 that you’re enjoying?

Last year, along with the redesign, I changed the layout of each new post. Where before text was centred and photos were 640 pixels wide on their longest side, now text is on the left and photos are 1024 pixels on their longest side. This blog is all about photos and I think the bigger image size allows you to see more detail. I really like how the bigger photos look.

As the social media landscape changes, how are you promoting your blog posts and connecting with new readers?

In 2018 I joined Instagram and it's going really well for me. I started in April and I've now got 428 followers which is really amazing! My Instagram has a few things that my blog doesn't, which I think makes it more worthwhile to do - I share little videos, photos I have taken on my phone, and I go through the blog's archives every month and post some of my favourite older photos. I try to post something once or twice a day. I've also just had my first post exceed the 100 likes milestone!

2018 also saw my blog make it onto Feedspot's Top 20 Farming Blogs list.

I have noticed an increase in traffic since both of these things happened - where before posts were getting around 50 views each, they now usually get over 100, and scrolling down, the numbers keep getting bigger. Quite a lot of posts this year have over 1,000 views which is really brilliant and pretty much unheard of for my little blog.

Looking forward to 2019, if you accomplish only one thing through your blog, what do you hope it is?

I don't really make many plans for this blog as it's based on what's happening on the farm and life can be unpredictable. If I manage to keep the readers I currently have then I will consider that a win. (A huge thank you to Hailey and Zaphod and their Lady, Sylvi C, thecrazysheeplady, Beth, The Daily Pip and a handful of loyal others who leave comments on my posts. It's very much appreciated. Please stay!)

What steps are you planning to take to ensure you reach your goal?

I try to keep the tone of my blog pretty light and humorous, not focusing for long on the negatives. I want this blog to be somewhere people can visit for a few minutes and enjoy the pretty pictures without any agenda.

Now it’s your turn! How can we help? Is there an area where you could use some advice, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? Share it here, and we’ll answer you in comments!

As I'm still learning how Instagram works, I would love some tips. Are there certain hashtags I should be using? And a little theme question - did you design your own blog theme? I would love some feedback on the theme as it as now so when I redesign I can retain the parts that work. I think for the new theme the post text could be a bit bigger and darker but I would love some advice. Thank you!

The Pet Blogger Challenge 2018 Blog Hop hosted by:
Take Paws at Go Pet Friendly

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Get the Good Side

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Sue is a very clumsy puppy - she certainly lives life to the fullest, throwing herself around with wild abandon. Just yesterday she was running full pelt to catch up with Cousin Holly, tripped over herself, and slid off the grass and onto the concrete lane. I was worried she had hurt her chin because I'm sure rubbing your chin along the ground at speed would not be good. But Sue just got up and carried on as if nothing had happened! She's a tough little cookie, I'll give her that.

She must have had a scrape on one of our walks because there's a little line under her right eye where she has lost a little hair. She's always bumping into things and scaring her poor mummy (that's me) so I don't know where she managed to hurt herself this time. The line does no harm, it's just not very photogenic. Thankfully Sue is learning about posing for the camera!

And here are a couple of outtakes that made me chuckle:

Sue's sly fox look!

Those ears! (And you can clearly see her little boo-boo under her right eye.)

Good Morning, Sheep!

The pet sheep run to greet me anytime they see me out and about and Sue likes to go over and say hello in the morning.

There's a partially collapsed stone wall, grown over with ivy, that is lots of fun to climb on.

How cute is this!? Olive is posing perfectly in the background. Thank you, Olive!

Those ears are simply incredible...

Sue loves climbing.


Liz, nibbling.

They're at it again...

Sue and Bruce Go To School: Week 2


Last week it was about the basics for the puppies - sit, down, touch and responding to their names. I practiced twice daily with Sue and she has mastered the touch (she gives your hand a good nudge with her nose), sit and down are going really well. Responding to her name is sometimes a bit of a challenge but she's only three months old so I'm not panicking just yet.

Last night was about play and how to use toys as rewards. Sue was hyper from the moment we arrived and didn't settle the whole time, while Bruce was sitting on Emma's lap, taking it all in. Sue had also been rising quite a... well, smell on the car journey there and yet I couldn't get her to do anything outside. I took her outside midway through the class and still, nothing. It wasn't until I had just returned to the hall and was talking with one of the other owner's that the dam broke. And, well, golly, there was a lot of poop from one tiny puppy. It was a veritable explosion of poo and the smell... Thankfully I had some help getting the floor cleaned up and I scooped up what I could.

Bruce, kindly, did his business outside.

As you can probably tell, that little event eclipsed the evening slightly, but I did manage to get some more pictures of our classmates. This is Cal (whose owner, it turns out, is very good to have around while you're dealing with a poo crisis), the American Cocker Spaniel. He's the first of his breed I have seen in the flesh and he's a very good boy.

Then there's the GSD (German Shouting Dog, as I called him) who deserves the Most Improved Award. Last week he was so nervous he was stood at one end of the hall, barking at the puppies at the other end. This week he was able to join the group and meet the puppies and even got in a little playtime with Sue. He's called Cooper.

While I was taking these photos I had my glamorous assistant Emma to hold onto Sue. She had her hands full!

Speaking of Sue, her ears have sunk! Where before they were sticking upright, they're now folded in half and sit like Bruce's.

Bruce handled the busy environment better than he did last week. He's improving too.

The class trainer is a lovely lady called Sue, so of course I had to get a picture of the two Sues together.

How to Make Friends and Influence Puppies

The pet lambs have been getting a few handfuls of nuts every morning all winter. They're always in a rush to the gate when they see me, no matter the time of day or if I have already fed them.

A month ago, Sue joined me to feed them for the first time. She stuck right in, next to the big lambs, and ate the nuts too. Liz was baffled.

Liz was baffled enough to go and stand next to the gate, being as photogenic as possible.

Bob, as wide as he is tall, is a gentle boy.

Sue even licked his nose and got a pleasured tail wiggle from him in return!

He was interested in the tiny dog who wasn't a bit afraid of him.

In fact all of the sheep were a bit taken aback - even the adult dogs keep a respectful distance.

Speaking of adult dogs, Fly was helping me to babysit on this day. She took a few days to warm to Sue, but she's very good with her now.

Hunger satisfied, most of the confused sheep wandered off, but Flora and Bob lingered.

Bob even came over to say hello to Sue again, only for her to playfully paw him on the nose! He didn't like that quite as much, and in case Bob got cross about it, I carried Sue a safe distance away.

I carried her to the gate and set her down in time for Fly to give her a life lesson.

Paws can go in the trough!

Sue really likes Fly. They are an adorable pair.