It’s a sheep day


You can tell it’s on the warm side. Sal has dug herself a shallow depression in the ground to sit in! She’s pleased as punch with it now because it’s probably a bit damp and cool, but this is Cumbria, in another week it’ll be flooded.

So today is a sheep day. Ewes and lambs are gathered in. They were sitting in the shade of hedges, sprawling behind thistles, or alternatively, grazing in the middle of the field with expressions of bland unconcern.
Anyway we fetch them home. The ewes haven’t been clipped yet. This is mainly because firstly it was too wet to shear them, then it was too cold to shear them, then all the shearers were too busy silageing and doing other jobs. But it’s entirely possible that the ewes might get sheared this week.

All the time the thermometer is creeping up. When I walk them in, we have one ewe who is panting like an old dog. She’s obviously feeling the heat. She quietly stands in the shade when we get to the yard and watches us with casual indifference.

So we weigh the heaviest lambs, there are some ready to go. Then we worm the rest of the lambs, check their feet, put some fly spray on them to deter blowfly and stop them getting infested with maggots. Their mothers will be treated later, after they’ve been sheared. In a perfect world, once a sheep is sheared there’s nowhere for the flies to lay their eggs. Then as the wool starts to grow, you can dip them in something that’ll kill all the skin parasites they’ve got and provide them with some protection for the next few weeks.

It’s now distinctly hot, noon arrives and with it both mad dogs and Englishmen retire to the shade with the sheep that we’ve dealt with, leaving us out there to get on with it.

And in the middle of all this lot we get two walkers. Ladies with map and compass who are some distance from their chosen path. No, strangely enough it doesn’t pass over our silage pit. But still, we direct them the best way to pick up the path they’re trying to find and they disappear into the shimmering heat haze. If it gets any hotter, the next party to come this way will be riding camels!

Finally the last ones are done, we put the sheep back out onto grass and they disperse to eat or hide in the shade depending on whim and I’m in to get my dinner.

And somebody tries to interest me in going down to London. They must be mad.

And more wisdom from Sheep?

As a reviewer commented, “Dipping in and out of this book, as ever with Jim Webster’s farming anecdotes, is a great way to relax – although thought provoking at times, despairing at others, the humour is ever present, and how welcome is that in these times?”

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13 thoughts on “It’s a sheep day

  1. Annette Rochelle Aben June 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm Reply

    It’s wonderful to hear of life in Cumbria. I had a dear friend, Harry Ingle, who was from Ulverston and as the only time I was ever around him, it was on my own soil, all I knew of the land of his birth, was him. Jolly fellow! His nickname was Happy Harry!!

    • jwebster2 June 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm Reply

      They’re all like that in Ulverston (except of course for the miserable ones 🙂 )

  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm Reply

    What the heck do sheep do in the wild? How do they not end their days a mass of years of grown out wool full of burrs and parasites? Or are domestic sheep bred for wool, which then creates the other problems? So much I don’t know.

    I don’t think I’ll join the crew that tackles the bighorn sheep on the mountaintops.

    • jwebster2 June 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm Reply

      Sheep in the wild shed their wool, some breeds still do. Indeed some breeds are just sheared and the wool burned because their fleece is worthless

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 21, 2017 at 4:22 pm

        I remember reading in Science News about something given to sheep which makes their wool fragile for a short period of time – and which then results in a pelt that comes off like a coat. I presume this is specialized, and probably costs, but it sounded labor-saving.

        I’ve listened to many of the songs of the Australian sheepherders which mention the shearing by hand.

      • jwebster2 June 21, 2017 at 9:33 pm

        I’ve seen shearing with hand clippers, but never really done any. My father used to do sixty by hand clippers

      • jwebster2 June 21, 2017 at 9:37 pm

        here it is being done by somebody who knows how 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 21, 2017 at 10:32 pm

        Will watch. I have a mental image. Sheep in awkward positions, then naked.

      • jwebster2 June 22, 2017 at 6:08 am

        Strangely enough I blogged about it 🙂

  3. rootsandroutes2012 June 28, 2017 at 4:36 am Reply

    “…somebody tries to interest me in going down to London. They must be mad.” Of course that applies just as much in February as in June. And while we’re on London, how can anyone doubt that we’ve got the pay scales for skilled work messed up after watching that clip? Who has the real skill – the occupant, for the time being, of 10 Downing Street, or the man who puts on an Arsenal shirt and kicks a football… or the one, some distance away, who shears the sheep?

    • jwebster2 June 28, 2017 at 6:40 am Reply

      Anywhere where they pay somebody three or four times the average wage so that they’ll go and represent the poor has ostentatiously got its priorities screwed 😦

  4. Mary Fisher June 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm Reply

    London? You’re not really going there? It’s in the S * * T H

    • jwebster2 June 28, 2017 at 9:28 pm Reply

      I try to avoid it, but occasionally work calls me, but far less often than it did 🙂

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