One day I will write a blog about how hot and dry everything is, how the dust hangs in the air, and the sun beats mercilessly down on us. But today is not the day. It’s still wet. In fact it’s beyond that, if you’ll pardon my French, it’s sodding wet.

You know when a day is out to get you. I backed the quad onto the quad trailer and went to hook the trailer on. The lock that fastens over the ball hitch wasn’t working. Whether it’s jammed with mud or what I don’t know, I made an executive decision that this wasn’t a problem I was going to deal with in the pouring rain. So I put the old trailer on.

This is twice the weight and probably about twice the width. It’s not a bad trailer but does have its issues.

So I put the feed in the trailer and Sal and I set off to feed the first lot of sheep. Of course I met a neighbour in the lane, and of course he was driving in the opposite direction is a reasonably wide vehicle. I pulled off the road into a gateway but of course with the old trailer on, it was still hanging out into the road. But with a bit of jiggling we managed to get past each other. So now I’m mildly wet.

In to see the first lot of ewes. This involves walking through wet sheep who’re surging round you. They’re coming up behind you at just the right height to hit you behind the knee. If they walk across the front of you or overtake you to the side, well they rub a sodden wet fleece all over your legs.

But everybody has their food, everybody is happy. (Except Sal, who isn’t entirely happy because sheep who see food being poured out for them will run over the dog to get to it before their mates do. Sal finds this lack of respect distinctly hurtful to be honest.)
But anyway, I’m now merely wet.

Off to see the second lot. They’re furthest from lambing, get a lot less feed, but perhaps because of this seem even keener to get to me before their mates do. Sal has abandoned any thought of maintaining order and is merely rolling in the coarse grass, perhaps as a way of having a bath. Both lots of ewes are out on some land that never got mown last year because the idea was to make hay. The weather conspired to ensure that hay was never made. So the sheep are ‘chewing it off.’

There is a school of thought within agriculture which says that actually you shouldn’t waste time and money making hay or silage for winter, but should just leave the grass growing in the field and eat it off in situ. It’s not something I’ve dared to do, and I’ve got my doubts about whether it’s the sort of feed which can support new calved dairy cows. But on dryish ground with growing cattle I can see it might have a place. But still, at the moment, we’re briefly and accidentally at the cutting edge of grazing management. Mind you, I suspect that like many farmers over the last five or six thousand years, we’re just making the best of a bad job and putting a good face on it.

Next to look at some store lambs for a neighbour. Turn uphill and thanks to the heavy trailer frantically have to drop a gear. Sal looks on as if to ask what I’m playing at. I’m now travelling more slowly that she likes. Shrugging off the unspoken disapproval of a Border Collie we make it to the store lambs and miracles of miracles, none of them seem to have got themselves entangled in hedges, so I don’t have to get wet pulling one out. Instead I just get wet driving round the perimeter to check. But still, I’ve been sodding wet before and I’ll doubtless be sodding wet again.

Finally off to see the wintering hoggs. The age of miracles is still with us because they’re all at the bottom end where I can see them all from the road. This saves me having to take the quad into the field, through a gateway which is largely underwater. It does mean I’ve got to turn quad and trailer round in the lane, which isn’t too bad with the smaller of the two trailers, but of course, I’ve got the heavier trailer to manoeuvre in the pouring rain.
Anyway, job done, everybody fed, checked and otherwise monitored. Home again, drop the trailer off, put the quad away, fasten Sal up and in for coffee. But before the coffee, everything I’m wearing is dripping wet so goes into the washing machine.

Except, strangely enough, for my socks. Normally the water runs down your jacket and trousers and pools at the bottom of your Wellingtons. I think that because I was sitting on the quad, my socks somehow stayed dry. Ah well, let’s be thankful for small mercies.

Also let’s be thankful for the fact actually the day wasn’t too bad. On a bad day, you have to put a second lot of soaking clothes into the washing machine, and retrieve the first lot from the tumble-drier.


If you want to complain about it, I recommend you go direct to senior management

As a reviewer commented, “

Jim Webster’s stories make me nostalgic for a world I’ve never known – and probably am not sturdy enough to survive. His affection for his charges, the ewes and the lambs, is evident when he points out they are smarter than horses (horses have better PR). His warm tales about his sheep dogs make me want to own a dog (I’m not a dog person, and these are intelligent farm worker dogs, not pets). It’s the straightforward and down home way he writes about the daily life of someone who’s been a farmer since a child, through all the wavering government support and lack thereof, through the plagues of the farm life, in a way that shows the depth of his love for his home and profession. Think ‘James Herriot, Farmer.’

I’m stopping to write this review at the end of the 8th entry, labeled, ‘Occasionally you get it right,’ because he does – and I want to savor the rest of them slowly.

Jim Webster is a writer – I can give no higher praise. Read him, and you may be a little closer to what it really means to be a sheep farmer, as close as you can get. You get all the good stuff. It’ll warm your cockles.”

Tagged: , , , , ,

41 thoughts on “Drought?

  1. The Story Reading Ape January 28, 2018 at 1:26 pm Reply

    Farmers deserve every penny they get, Jim – including those they don’t because of bureaucracy or miserly supermarkets 😃

    • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 1:35 pm Reply

      If we grew bananas I’d send you a bunch 🙂

      • The Story Reading Ape January 28, 2018 at 1:37 pm

        👍 If you could grow bananas, you wouldn’t be getting cold or sodden wet, Jim 😄😄😄

      • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 1:41 pm

        I wonder if Border Collies are partial to banana, it just struck me that I genuinely don’t know 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape January 28, 2018 at 3:03 pm

        He might become addicted to them, Jim 😄

      • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 3:24 pm

        We had one dog, Lassie, who did like fruit, she’d eat strawberries off the plant and would eat blackberries with enthusiasm if you picked them for her

      • The Story Reading Ape January 28, 2018 at 3:34 pm

        I once had a dog who ate (stole) jelly from an unattended dessert, then went around the room on his tummy to warm it up 😄😄😄

      • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 4:32 pm

        dogs are notorious for it. I know of a drugs bust in this town which failed because a dog ate a considerable quantity of marijuana the dealer fed him to get rid of it. The dog slept for a while and then got on with life. When asked by his dog has so much of the drug in its blood stream the dealer merely muttered “Bluidy kids, they’re always dumping stuff in the back street.”

      • The Story Reading Ape January 28, 2018 at 4:36 pm


  2. xantilor January 28, 2018 at 1:28 pm Reply

    It’s been raining a lot in London and I get wet biking to work and back, but no sheep are involved. Having read your posts, I realize I prefer it this way.

    • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 1:35 pm Reply

      Give the choice of sheep or London traffic I think I prefer the sheep 🙂

  3. oldhenwife January 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm Reply

    Only soddin’ wet up your end? Here it’s worse than that and has been for weeks, I think I’m going to swap the hens for ducks. Let us know when it’s dry and sunny and I’ll come up for my summer holidays.

    • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 1:36 pm Reply

      The rain is optimistically expected to stop at some point. Problem has been that we’ve had a pretty wet summer compounded by a wet autumn and a wet winter

  4. oldhenwife January 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm Reply

    Same here. All water tubs have been in overflow mode for months (except when frozen) and I’m thinking of growing rice.

    • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm Reply

      that I can well believe. Yesterday afternoon I had to be in Penrith and everything everywhere is just wet

  5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 28, 2018 at 3:01 pm Reply

    I’m exhausted (okay, that’s easy for me) just from reading about your day, and I haven’t left my computer.

    I think you need a lot of sustained sun for growing rice. Not just water. And it doesn’t like cold.

    How does Sal get dry after these excursions you two share?

    • jwebster2 January 28, 2018 at 3:23 pm Reply

      Because she rarely plunges into water (she’s not at all a water dog, watching her pick her way through puddles she cannot go round can be quite amusing) she’s just ‘rain wet.’ Given the fact she’s never washed with soap etc, her coat still has all the natural oils. So yes, she gets wet, but soon dries out from body heat along when she’s in shelter. 🙂
      Smells strongly of wet dog as she does this mind you 😉

  6. jenanita01 January 29, 2018 at 10:43 am Reply

    Most of tend to forget how hard it must be to be a farmer when the weather is bad…

    • jwebster2 January 29, 2018 at 11:44 am Reply

      it has to be said that everybody fancies the job on the nice days 🙂

  7. rugby843 January 29, 2018 at 5:10 pm Reply

    I very much enjoy your telling of everyday occurrences. Makes me homesick for my youth!😉

    • jwebster2 January 29, 2018 at 5:25 pm Reply

      the past may be another country, but from my experience it’s an awfully damp one 😉

  8. kirizar January 29, 2018 at 8:27 pm Reply

    I read this article and it was auto-linked to one saying “This is what best-selling authors get up to” and began to read it. It, being two years ago, began with a dream of lazing on a sunny beach and transitioned to the wet and the feeding of sheep. I laughed. I think I sense a theme here!

    It was a lovely jaunt through Cumbria…and I am now Googling to find out where that is. Where I live, there is an alarming dearth of sheep, though we do have plenty of rain, currently the precipitation is fluffy and white and needs to be plowed.

    • jwebster2 January 29, 2018 at 8:50 pm Reply

      I have never understood the auto-links. The link to ‘Building Communities’ makes no sense whatsoever (other than it was actually a dry day 🙂

      • kirizar January 29, 2018 at 9:23 pm

        Thank you for sharing that link. I loved that piece even more than the sheep-related reminiscences, perhaps because I have more affinity for people than sheep. My allergy to wool keeps me at a distance from one. Though, come to think of it, my allergy to people can have a similar consequence if there is less itching involved. I look forward to more moments in the fleeting Cumbrian sun. If I were to share with you probably the closest in my writing to your revelations, might I recommend this: https://kirisalazar.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/traipsing-the-grand-ledge-hideout-for-slithering-beasts-and-carolina-reapers
        I am a tad wordier than you, but it was one of my happiest days and the writing and photographs captured it well, I think.

      • jwebster2 January 29, 2018 at 9:42 pm

        sounds like a great day out, the chips looked good and I too would have avoided the chili 🙂

      • kirizar January 30, 2018 at 1:42 pm

        I had to stop and think a moment. Chips? What chips? Oh, right. In England, French fries are called chips! Makes me wonder who invented them and had naming rights! What do you call potato chips then? Crisps?

      • jwebster2 January 30, 2018 at 3:27 pm

        yes, the thin stuff in a plastic bag are crisps. Because they’re crisp. Whereas chips are chips of potato 🙂
        Slices of potato, fried, (like the original french fries,) are called scallops round here.

      • kirizar February 1, 2018 at 3:35 pm

        I don’t think I’d be able to correctly order potatoes in England. I’d suffer a crisp/chip/scallop identity crisis.

      • jwebster2 February 1, 2018 at 7:38 pm

        Don’t worry, you’ll be so blown away with this discovery that ‘u’ is a letter with so many interesting uses that everything else will just drop into place 🙂

      • kirizar February 5, 2018 at 7:30 pm

        I’m more likely to be immobilized by the fear of misspelling grey/gray that adding a ‘U’ to colour will not even come up.

      • jwebster2 February 7, 2018 at 4:46 pm


  9. patriciaruthsusan February 24, 2018 at 1:23 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    A day in the life of Jim Webster.

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2018 at 1:26 pm Reply

      ironically now it hasn’t rained for a week and is actually dry and cold 🙂

  10. patriciaruthsusan February 24, 2018 at 1:58 pm Reply

    It’s soon going to be hot as heck here. That’ll last for several months until we’re sick of it then comes the monsoon. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2018 at 3:34 pm Reply

      We’re technically heading into spring but the forecast is for cold, perhaps snow, perhaps a few ‘frost days’ where it never gets about freezing.

  11. patriciaruthsusan February 24, 2018 at 4:27 pm Reply

    The seasons don’t seem to mean much anymore. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • jwebster2 February 24, 2018 at 4:31 pm Reply

      There’s an old saying about March, ‘In like a lion and out like a lamb’
      March has always been iffy, the early part of the month is sometimes the worst bit of winter, and the end of March can be almost summery 🙂

  12. patriciaruthsusan February 25, 2018 at 12:17 pm Reply

    That’s the way it’s been in the past. It was in northeastern Ohio (U.S.). I just wonder if it’s going to stay that way. — Suzanne

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 12:33 pm Reply

      I think it will
      Our weather will still change bearing in mind how far we are from the sun. So Spring will always get warmer and autumn will always get colder

  13. patriciaruthsusan February 25, 2018 at 3:10 pm Reply

    That makes sense. 🙂 — Suzanne

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: