It’s been an interesting few days. Ewes have slowly started lambing, but they’re hard work at the moment and even when they lamb out of the wind, it’s awfully cold for a small wet lamb. Luckily today’s a lot more reasonable. Mind you it’s OK for some, once lambs get a bit of size; they can cope with the weather. These two are the ones who were born on the 7th January and are perfectly happy outside when the temperature hits four below and you’ve more wind chill than a reasonable person ever needed.
I was chatting to a mate about the old railway men. Back in the day pretty well every village or community had its produce show and there’d be prizes for pretty well every sort of vegetable. There was even one for potatoes. You had to present three (or perhaps five) perfect potatoes all the same size etc. As a lad my Dad worked for a farmer who had four or five acres of potatoes. The railway men used to drop in, dig half a row of potatoes for him, and then take away ten or a dozen perfect matching potatoes and these they’d use to make up their entries at various produce shows along the line. Apparently the farmer was at one produce show, looked at the potatoes and who had entered what and commented that this was the first time for years that his potatoes hadn’t won.
It was the same when they filled the engine up with water. One would watch the water and the other would wander off picking blackberries or mushrooms.
But they were part of the rural community, as a lad my father would be send down to the track to pick up something the driver and his mate had dropped off for the farmer.
However it’s my mate’s tale that tickled me most. Apparently his father had worked on the old Steam trains. Carnforth was about the last depot in England to run them, so I can remember them being normal. We went up to Ravenglass on one as part of our Sunday School trip up to the Lil Ratty. We caught a full sized steam train to take us to where we could travel on a 15 inch gauge steam train.
Anyway my mate’s dad was part of a crew fetching an engine and tender back to Barrow from the north. The snow got worse until finally just outside Barrow they found a drift they couldn’t get through. So they dropped out the firebox to make the engine safe and walked back. Next morning when they went with a team to clear the drift and get the engine back, they discovered there wasn’t a scrap of coal left on the train.
But around the train and heading off to the nearby estate there was a web of paths in the snow.
But back to sheep, we had rain today, and we’ve been promised more. For reasons I’ve never understood, there’s nothing like a bit of rain to get ewes lambing. There’s doubtless logic to it, but it’s a logic only a sheep would be happy with.
The lady and her lambs even made a book cover, ‘Fancy meeting you here.’
As a reviewer commented “I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one. There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book.”