Of maggots, sheep, and summer wellies

You know what it’s like. I had a busy day ahead of me. Work to do, people to contact, the internet to spam unmercifully in the hope that I’d sweet talk somebody into buying my chuffing book.

So it’s off to a good start. Straight after breakfast I go to check the sheep and see that everything’s OK and where it should be.

Anyway I was walking through the gimmer lambs and one caught my eye. It was somehow looking a bit grubby and dejected. I tried to get closer but it wasn’t having that, it accelerated away, so obviously wasn’t too ill. But I wasn’t happy with it.

At this time of the year we can have problems with blowfly attacking sheep. If the wool is dirty or matted they lay their eggs in it and then the maggots quite literally eat the sheep alive. I was going to include a photo of this but good taste and a fear that you might have just eaten stopped me.

It’s one of the reasons we dip sheep. The problem with dipping sheep is that we have to use organophosphate because nothing else has been developed that works and isn’t even more dangerous. So you try to get away without dipping, or at least keep on top of problems so you only have to dip them only once.

This is because the chemical stays in their fleece and gives them protection from blowflies and similar for some weeks. Obviously you cannot kill them for human consumption during this period.

But anyway I decided that after checking all the other batches I’d come back and fetch this batch home and pull out the one I was worried about and treat it. When I got home I got all the gates ready, got on the quad and set off to get them. To be fair, they cooperated reasonably. The first problem was one gimmer who just sat down and laid there. I checked her feet. She’d got maggots eating into them. So I picked her up, put her on the back of the quad and set off to keep the others moving. At this point I noticed that a growing number of them were building up on the bank of the beck. The beck was dug out fifty years ago. It looks more like an anti-tank ditch with a small canal at the bottom than some rippling mountain stream. The gimmers were obviously planning to surge across in a bunch. I left the one on the back of the quad behind and shot off to discourage them. They saw me coming and scattered back into the field and eventually noticed the bridge and started crossing it.

I went back for the lame lamb and followed. As I trailed along behind the last one across the bridge I could hear bleating below me. One of the idiots had gone into the beck rather than over the bridge. Immediately I ran through the triage. It had got itself stuck on a mass of weed; it wasn’t going anywhere and would struggle to drown in ten minutes. So I left it, drove most of the rest before me, (some had cut off to the right to graze) and got home. Here I put the lame lamb in a pen to treat later, grabbed my crook and set off back to the beck.

Now the crook was designed with this beck in mind. Far too often a sheep will fall in the beck. You go down the bank to help her out, and she just goes to the far side of the beck. You walk 200 yards to the bridge, cross the beck and walk 200 yards back. You go down the bank to help her out and she crosses to the far side again. My crook is over twelve feet long and was made from round steel bar. I can stand on either bank and catch them and pull them out.

But anyway it’s not the handiest thing to carry on a quad bike, but there’s a job to be done and I’m the only one about to do it. So I arrive at the beck. First I use the crook to tear away some of the weed to create a channel, then using the crook I pull the lamb down the channel towards me. I catch it and drag it out onto the bank.

At this point note that the lamb will weigh 30kg or thereabouts. It’ll have another 10kg of water in its fleece, perhaps 20kg. Discussing pulling it out is easier than actually doing it. But still it was out and I got it back to the others.

Anyway I collected the bunch that had been grazing and took them back. I specifically noted that the grubby looking one that I’d been concerned about was with them. I rounded them up, they split to go both sides of a clump of trees and I followed one bunch and went back for the others. Gathered together again I brought them home but realised that somewhere the grubby one had disappeared.

So I went back, hunted and couldn’t find it.

I went back again, this time with Sal, on the grounds that her nose is better than mine and she covers the ground faster.

Well it’s a good theory, but in reality there was me walking through the clumps of rushes, whilst Sal, who is not a tall dog as Border Collies go, was bouncing about trying to see over the rushes.

But anyway we came to a gutter. It’s got a hedge growing on both sides and I’d walked the length of it before, looking, but this time Sal found the lamb. It hadn’t merely fallen in the water and got stuck in the never-ending glutinous mud that makes up the bottom. It had managed to work its way out of sight to do this. But obviously not out of Border Collie sight or scent.

Now I knew where it was.

So if I grabbed this branch with my left hand and swung out and put my right foot just there where the bank might just hold me, I should be able to grab the lamb.

So I did. And it worked. Great.

Unfortunately as I pulled on the lamb, I was bracing myself with my right foot and the bank slowly crumbled and my foot slid gracefully into the water. And the more I pulled; the deep my foot went.

At this point I feel I ought to introduce you to the concept of ‘Summer Wellies.’ In winter it’s raining, it’s wet, there is water everywhere and you wear wellies all the time to keep your feet dry.

But wellies wear out. In my case they almost always split at the level of my Achilles tendon, where I press my foot to grip the other welly when I’m taking it off.

In the case of my right welly, due to unexpected weaknesses in the material, the split, normally a vertical affair, had turned ninety degrees and now runs parallel to the sole. The split is probably over four inches long.

Now this isn’t really a problem. Admittedly if I walk in water more than two inches deep, water comes in. But that’s true of pretty well any footwear. Because in summer we don’t often get water more than two inches deep, this pair are now summer wellies. As the weather breaks in autumn I’ll get a new pair which will be winter wellies, and at some point, hopefully not before late spring, they in their turn will split and become summer wellies.

But by now, my right welly was pretty well full of stinking water and mud. But on the positive side, I’d got the lamb out.

All that was left to do was to carry it home and treat it, because it had now decided that walking is for wimps. Even with Sal’s bared teeth inches from its nose it remained obdurate and had to be carried.

Did I say I’d got a busy day planned?

Yeah well, forget that. Let’s revert to plan B.

You’ve wasted so much time reading this that you’ve no chance at all of doing the things you intended.

So you might as well just give up, download ‘Flotsam or Jetsam’, and at least enjoy what’s left of your day


Flotsam or Jetsam

I just got a review! Or rather the book did

By Ignite

This review is from: Flotsam or Jetsam (Kindle Edition)

Benor is a cartographer and he’s come to Port Naain to produce a handbook. He makes a home with Tallis, a professional poet and his wife Shena. She’s a mud-jobber or as we might say, a beachcomber. Some of her combings include bodies. Everything has a price and families will pay for the privilege of burying their dead and, if possible, finding who caused it. Benor is a natural. He’s a nosy person and, with the aid of the wonderful Mutt, a ten year-old wise beyond his years, he sorts out the villains from the corpses. This first short story from The Port Naain Intelligencer bodes well for the rest of the series. A really great Whodunit.

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17 thoughts on “Of maggots, sheep, and summer wellies

  1. The Opening Sentence August 7, 2015 at 3:36 pm Reply

    Owning sheep sounds like having hundreds of five year old children!

    • jwebster2 August 7, 2015 at 10:26 pm Reply

      Just faster moving and harder to potty train 🙂

  2. The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 10:52 am Reply

    You also got a tiny review from me Jim, on Goodreads, Amazon UK, USA, Canada & Australia 😀

    • jwebster2 August 8, 2015 at 12:54 pm Reply

      quality is never measured by volume Chris 🙂 I’ve flaunted it on facebook and therefore automatically tweeted it as well 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 12:55 pm

        Great 😀

      • jwebster2 August 8, 2015 at 1:03 pm

        I have no shame 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 1:13 pm

        An excellent attribute in an author Jim 😀 😀 😀

      • jwebster2 August 8, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        I remember saying to someone older and wiser than me that with a lifetime in agriculture behind me I was cynical. I suspected it might be an industrial disease you picked up in the industry. He just replied, ‘It’s not an industrial disease, it’s an entry qualification’ 🙂

      • The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 3:14 pm

        He’s right 👍

      • jwebster2 August 8, 2015 at 5:37 pm

        Having spent my life relying on my boyish charm and air of baby-faced innocence, it did come as a bit of a blow 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 5:39 pm

        Ah well, everyone has to grow older and less innocent as time passes Jim 🙊

      • jwebster2 August 8, 2015 at 6:07 pm

        Which is true, but how many other people try to sell a story on the strength of sheep and maggots 🙂

      • The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 6:19 pm

        Not many I’ll warrant Jim – but you did an impressive job with everything 👍

      • jwebster2 August 8, 2015 at 6:21 pm

        Whether it’s impressive or merely the sign of a desperate writer I’ll leave for history to decide 🙂

      • The Story Reading Ape August 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm


  3. jbwye August 10, 2015 at 8:55 am Reply

    A sheep? And a gimmer – never heard that term before. I just had to stop what I was doing and read the whole thing. A wonderful piece, lovely writing. I’m going to enjoy your blogging. Thank you!

    • jwebster2 August 10, 2015 at 9:41 am Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it. I always feel guilty if I’m just trying to flog my books, so I thought I ought at least to make the blog interesting 🙂

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