Someone once told me if I had something to say, Blog it. I suppose it’s more pithy than telling me to drop it down into an abyss of forgotten electrons where it’ll sink without trace until it comes to rest far from sight or memory.
But you know this winter we’ve been having? I mean the one we’re having now, not the one we had last month. Well just north of us there are people in deep trouble, or rather deep snow.
The gales meant it drifted and sheep, huddled behind hedges for shelter, were buried. Whilst it’s happening there isn’t much you can do, go out into the blizzard to try and help and you’ll probably die as well.
So as soon as the wind drops, you go out to try and rescue them. But of course the ground is covered in snow, it’s colder than charity and you don’t actually know where they are (because they’re buried), you just know from past experience (your own or handed down) where they might be.
There’s only so long they can survive. Not only that but last summer was rubbish, and so was the fodder a lot of people were able to make. And because it was wet shepherds and their sheep have been fighting a fierce battle against liver-fluke. So this ‘spring’ sheep are not is as good a condition as you’d hope
So by now, those sheep that were trapped are dead. But that isn’t the end of it. Firstly they’ll be finding dead sheep through to June as the snow melts. (Big drifts take a lot of shifting up on the fell.) Then there’s the financial implications, no sheep, no income. To replace the sheep costs money, loose a hundred sheep; it will cost you over £10,000 to replace them. Not only that but thanks to EU regulation, you cannot just bury them when you find them, you’ve got to pay a knacker £50 to take each one away.
Given that Oxfam in a survey last year found that a lot of hill farmers are living below the poverty line on less than £8,000 a year, that money will take a lot of finding.
But I went for a walk today, looking for grass, because whilst we haven’t got snow, we’ve got ewes with lambs who need feeding. Because it’s Good Friday and one local church has got a series of displays telling the Easter Story, I dropped in. What really struck me was a painting, done yesterday, by a lady who had been showing a school class round and when they left, she felt she had to do something, and for her, this meant paint.
So there is this new painting, of a piece of rough hill country. To someone round here, it’s obviously fell country she’s drawn, the sort of land you get up on Corney and across to Birker. And on this fell are three stark crosses. And the sky behind the crosses is stormy, but the lower sky is white as if there’s a great tranche of snow about to burst forward over you as you look at the picture.
And to me that picture sums up the sort of pain, stress, and suffering that the people up the coast from us are suffering.
But it’s Easter, and I suppose the other thing is that there’s also one who said ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ and I think he’ll understand what these folk are going through at the moment.