Mixed signals



I know, I know. If I start putting pictures of flowers on the blog people will be expecting Latin names and all sorts.

Me, I’ve a stockman, or even more precisely a cowman. So looking at these flowers from a bovine perspective, they should perhaps be called, ‘piquant, with a slight peppery aftertaste’ or something similar.

But yes, all along the hedges the snowdrops are well out and the daffodils are heavy in bud and spring’s about to burst upon us.

And the Met Office is making dire predictions along the lines that ‘Winter is coming’ and by this time next week travel in the UK will be impossible for anybody who cannot hitch their huskies to a dog sled. As an aside I cannot somehow envisage Border Collies taking well to the role of a sledge dog. But if you ever have your sled pulled by sheep I know no better dog to ensure things keep moving briskly and in the right direction.

Well it’s still February and I’ve known March be grim before.

And of course, in theory, on the First of March the ewes should start lambing. As it is, everything is ready for them. All the pens are washed out, disinfected and bedded, straw is in place ready for further bedding round, and in theory everything is ready.

So every morning when I feed our expectant mothers I try to see if there’s anybody looking particularly close to lambing. To be honest this is all a bit hit and miss. I’m the one putting feed out for them; so my view of the ewes is the front end moving towards me at speed as part of a solid phalanx of other equally peckish sheep.

Now it may be possible, if you reach a certain level of shepherding, to be able to tell how far off giving birth a ewe is by the hang of her lugs or the bags under her eyes, but between ourselves I suspect it isn’t. So instead when they’re eating, I circle the group once on the quad just to see if I notice anything, and then go and tour the rest of the fields they’re in to make sure nobody has slunk off on her own to lamb in a snug corner somewhere.

But anyway, early next week we’ll fetch the ewes in and go through them. Those who look like they’ll be lambing first will stay inside then until they’ve lambed. (Especially if the weather does get bad.) Those who’re obviously furthest from lambing will go back outside. They’ve got shelter, silage and feed and they’ll be OK there unless we have the sort of snow this area hasn’t seen since 1947.

Personally I think snow looks wonderful in photographs. But between ourselves I prefer water in a liquid state.


Ask yourself, does she look like a potential sledge dog to you?


As one of the reviewers commented, “Another great collection of bite-sized tales from the author’s farming life. (The first one being ‘Sometimes I dit’s and thinks’)
A gentle sharing of observations from a sheep farmer (and his collie)
More wry observations of animals and humans!”


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30 thoughts on “Mixed signals

  1. Cynthia Reyes February 24, 2018 at 10:22 pm Reply

    Sounds like a time full of expectation and promise! I yearn for the sight of the first crocus.

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 7:14 am Reply

      yes, the arrival of spring is something I’m always ready for

  2. Sue Vincent February 24, 2018 at 11:11 pm Reply

    Good luck…especially with the weather.

  3. Auntysocial February 24, 2018 at 11:12 pm Reply

    I couldn’t be a farmer or if I was I’d be a heavy drinker in lambing season. Illness, injury, birth, death and all that does not bother me in the slightest – when it’s a human.

    Someone could have a pitch fork rammed right through their face and I’d give it a glance, maybe move their hair to see how far the prongs look to have gone and then “Ahhh it’ll be reight… I’ll finish this brew and then drive you minor injuries. Few stitches, TCP, few drops of brandy – brand new”

    When I see a sheep limping about in a field – “Ohh…oh no sheep!!!!

    I love this time of year though it’s been cheering me up to no end seeing snowdrops / crocuses and now daffodil shoots and when I spot little white fluffy clouds in the field behind our house “Ooooooooooohh sheepie lambs!!!!” 😀

    Then they’ll get a day maybe two days before biblical downpour, gales and hail lashing the poor sods for weeks I feel really bad for them. Can hear them way over in the distance “Maa… Maaaaaaa… MAAAAAA!”

    Soon change my tone when they’ve grown a bit and I find them standing at the back patio doors tormenting the dogs and eating all my daffodils.

    I hope all the little ‘uns arrive safe and well

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 7:15 am Reply

      Thanks. I tend to treat livestock and people much the same to be honest. This might be a good thing. 🙂

  4. M T McGuire February 25, 2018 at 12:51 am Reply

    I’m hoping it doesn’t snow too much. I have things to do! If it does snore though, I hope it does it properly. Wr in bury st edmunds seem to be great at a freezing cold days with a few dandruffy flakes of snitter bobbing about in the wind. If it would just either snow properly or sod off that would be grand.



    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 7:17 am Reply

      Freezing is bad enough, lugging water about. There’s times when you end up muttering to the weather, “Some of us have work to do you know.” 🙂

      • M T McGuire February 25, 2018 at 8:11 am

        I can imagine. Maybe you need electric drinking troughs. Pack them with snow and the trough warms slightly and melts it. You couldn’t power it with solar though I expect they’d have to be wind powered.

      • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 8:25 am

        yesterday the wind turbines round here barely turned 😉
        Snow is rarely a problem round here to be honest, with the sea on three sides of us. It’s frost, and water pipes just going solid. And pipes never really stay lagged in the presence of livestock

      • M T McGuire February 25, 2018 at 8:28 am

        I cam imagine – especially sheep who pull at the lagging or eat it voraciously, I presume.

      • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 9:04 am

        strangely enough cattle are as bad. Left to their own devices they’ll happily browse trees and bushes. They love sycamore
        So lagging is just something interesting to try

      • M T McGuire February 25, 2018 at 9:09 am

        Bless em. Less blue tongue and more blue foam!

      • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 10:42 am


  5. jenanita01 February 25, 2018 at 10:05 am Reply

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 10:42 am Reply

      glad you liked it 🙂

  6. jenanita01 February 25, 2018 at 10:08 am Reply

    They keep warning us that next week will be worse than anything most of have ever known, but a small voice at the back of my head reminds me that our weather people always get it wrong! I seriously hope so, for you and the lambs!

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 10:48 am Reply

      I remember the bad winters in the 1960s. We’re too late in the season and the days are getting longer and there’s more warmth in the sun. We aren’t going to be worse than anything we’ve ever known 🙂

      • jenanita01 February 25, 2018 at 10:59 am

        From your mouth to God’s ears… I am really fed up being so cold!

      • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 11:04 am

        It’s a long time since I’ve heard that phrase 🙂

      • jenanita01 February 26, 2018 at 9:25 am

        Well, I am as old as Methusalah, you know!

      • jwebster2 February 26, 2018 at 11:26 am

        there’s times I merely feel that old 🙂

      • jenanita01 February 27, 2018 at 10:08 am

        Probably more so in the cold weather, I suspect!

      • jwebster2 February 27, 2018 at 10:15 am

        The wind does seem to just cut through you rather than having the courtesy to go round…

      • jenanita01 February 28, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Downright mean!

      • jwebster2 February 28, 2018 at 10:45 am

        uncharitable even 🙂

      • oldhenwife February 25, 2018 at 11:51 am

        I remember the worse winter of ’47 – ’48. We built igloos in the street (no traffic then except the milkman’s horse and cart) and they were still there on my birthday (20 March). Lambing has started in Ambridge 🙂 Don’t you look for sheep stargazing any more?

      • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 12:41 pm

        47 was before my time. Here they got to the main road with a horse and cart, going across the fields because all the lanes had filled with snow, or so I’m informed by those who were there

  7. franklparker February 25, 2018 at 11:42 am Reply

    Lots of crocus and daffs in my garden. Some of the daffs have been in bloom since mid January. Not looking forward to the blast from the east forecast for the middle of next week though thankful that it is unlikely to be as vicious by the time it reaches us as threatened for the UK. -5 here this morning but its sunny outside now and +4. But the wind is biting. Went outside earlier to check up on the rat poison box – nothing taken which means the last lot did for the fellow and I can put seeds out for the birds again.

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 12:45 pm Reply

      Our rats were driven onto the steading as the wet weather flooded them out of their holes earlier in winter so I had to put a lot of poison out back then. Not seen any sign of them since.
      But yes, the daffodils are almost in bloom here

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