Tag Archives: Border Collies

Dry grass and cats running in flip flops.


People struggle to understand why I can get so interested in grass. After all it’s green and normally wet. But really, my life has been spent creating optimum conditions for grass. That way I had enough to feed to cattle or sheep, and somehow we made a living.

In a perfect world, when making silage, you’d move the grass at exactly the right stage at exactly the right time. (So ideally you mow the grass in the evening. This is because the grass produces sugars during the day, but during the night moves them down to the roots. So if you mow the same field in the morning, the leaves, the bit you harvest, will contain less sugar than if you mow it twelve hours later (or earlier.) As an aside that probably means to keep your lawn strong and healthy you should mow it first thing in the morning as soon as the dew is off it.

But back to silage. You must remember that the ‘D’ value of grass is also important. D value is the percentage of digestible organic matter in the dry matter. Obviously you measure it in the dry matter, because that which isn’t dry matter is water, and whilst necessary, there’s damn all feed value in it and it can fluctuate wildly anyway.

Older grass will be below 60%, young leafy grasses can be over 70%. So picking a time to silage is a case of balancing quality and quantity. Go too early and you’ll have excellent silage but not enough. Go too late you’ll have plenty of belly filler but they’ll not milk off it.

At the moment things have got even more complicated in that we had a long dry spell. Normally, the advantage of second cut silage is that as the grass was all mown on the same day in May, it starts again and is a very even crop for second cut. But because of the dry spell, in the same field you have patches where the soil contains more sand. The grass there suffered from the drought and some even went to seed (which from the D value point of view means it is low.) But with the rain those areas are greening up and putting out new shoots. Similarly other parts of the field with soils that held more water were hit less. So an appropriate date for mowing one part of the field is too late for some of the field and too early for other bits. But in agriculture, we’re used to trying to find the least worst option.


On an entirely different front, Sal and Billy are still working on their relationship. We had a cow calve and Sal discovered the afterbirth. Border Collies have simple tastes. Afterbirth is a welcome breakfast snack. So she was quietly helping herself to it. Billy appeared on the scene. He remains fascinated by Sal, and will regularly jog across to see what she’s up to. He watched her eat with interest but showed no sign of wanting to join it. Anyway he then walked under her, rubbing his back on her tummy. I get the feeling that this wasn’t something Sal had been expecting with her breakfast and she leapt to one side, but kept a good hold of breakfast.

It’s interesting watching the two animals run. If I shout Sal, when she runs it is the run of an animal that is determined to cover the ground. She’s got a fair turn of speed and when going flat out, she’s this sleek streamlined missile, hurtling along. If Billy runs after her the effect is entirely different. Somehow he runs as if he’s wearing flip flops and is trying not to lose them.

And talking about waiting for the right moment, it looks as if there might be a change in the guidelines over social distancing.

My suspicion is that we will be advised to go to the World Health Organisation recommendation of one meter rather than our current one of two meters. When you think about it, people will actually work happily at one meter, it’s about what we think of as our personal space.

Now towards the start of the outbreak, YouGov started a ‘chat’ which they email to people every couple of days. I suppose it’s a way of getting a feel for how people are feeling.


Yesterday two of the questions were:-


Do you think levels of frustration and anger in the population are higher or lower than usual?

Results so far…

Much higher – 50%

A little higher – 44%

None of these – 4%

A little lower – 2%

Much lower – 1%


Do you think over the next month feelings of frustration will…?

Latest results…

Increase – 70%

Decrease – 18%

Neither – 13%


I must admit I wouldn’t disagree with those findings. A lot of people are going quietly out of their minds, stuck at home with only the BBC and Social Media.

But then there were these questions as well.



For the time being, do you think we continue to need rules on social distancing?

Latest results…

Yes – 81%

No – 13%

Not sure – 7%


And should those rules require us to stay 1m apart or 2m?

Latest results…


2m apart – 63%

1m apart – 29%

No need at all – 6%

More – 2%


I’m now the one who does the shopping, and I’ve noticed that in our local Tesco people vary a lot. You’ll get those who will not go within six feet of somebody else under pretty much any circumstances. Some of them are even wearing masks (but still less than 5%).

Then you get those wave you past if they’re looking for something in particular and aren’t going to move. I fall firmly into that category.

But it’s the staff that I’ve watched most. Like me, they’ve been working throughout the entire pandemic. To be fair to Tesco, they’ve got the arrows on the floor, screens up for the check-out staff and everything is done properly. But when I go in about 8am, there are a lot of staff out restacking shelves and moving stuff about. Their behaviour has reverted to normal, they don’t get in each other’s ‘personal space’ but otherwise if you talk to them, they’ll stand about three or four feet away, just like normal people always did.

My suspicion is that we’re very much in two worlds. Those who’re out there and who have been working through it have long adapted and are no longer worried about things. There are bigger risks. Then we have those who’re stuck at home. I still know people who haven’t been past the garden gate and don’t particularly want to. But then if you’re somebody on a guaranteed income (government paid salary and you’re at home shielding a vulnerable relative) why on earth would you push for change?

As it is, looking at the epidemic, https://unherd.com/2020/06/karl-friston-up-to-80-not-even-susceptible-to-covid-19/ is interesting and does hang together nicely.


He comments that the Ferguson/Imperial College model may be correct, it’s just he didn’t allow for a large proportion of the population being naturally resistant to the virus.
Indeed the current outbreak in China fits in with his model. It isn’t a ‘second peak’, it’s just that China is so large that the lockdown managed to prevent spread to distant areas. But eventually the virus gets there and you have another peak in what is effectively a new naïve population.


There again, what do I know?

More tales from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England, with sheep, Border Collies, cattle, and many other interesting individuals. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is just one of those things.


As a reviewer commented, “Like the other two books in this series, Jim Webster gives us a perspective of farm life we may not have appreciated. Some of the facts given will come as a shock to non-farming readers, but they do need to be read. Having said that, there are plenty of humorous anecdotes to make the book an enjoyable read.”

Even more cat pictures


Here we are, pandering to the whims of the masses, people want cute cat pictures and so we provide cute cat pictures.

The reason for this is we have acquired a cat. Sometimes cats acquire us, but this one arrived as a result of a policy decision taken at a high level. It was decided that we ought to welcome a farm cat into our team. Sal was not actually involved in these discussions. Being a Border Collie it was felt that we already knew her opinion.
It’s just that some organisation that rescues cats had a kitten to place. So higher authorities discussed the matter, and a neutered tom, fully vaccinated, suddenly appeared.

Just to let him know this was home we fed him in his cage for a day or two, then when he twigged where lunch came from, the door of the cage was opened and he got the run of the place. But of course, we still put a little something out for him every evening.

It’s been interesting to watch him grow into the place. Within a week or two he was happy to watch us at work, and even though I’m never the one who feeds him, he’ll come up to me to get his ears stroked. He and Sal have an understanding. They have agreed not to like each other. If the cat sees Sal and he’s out in the open he’ll sit and stare at her before quietly slipping away to somewhere she cannot get. Sal will steal his food if he leaves it unattended.

Obviously he’s here to do a job. The idea is that the food we give him is just to keep him topped up, his job is to deal with rats, mice and other vermin. Certainly when I’ve had to go out into the milking parlour or the calving pens at night, I’ll see him quietly going about his business, watching rat runs. He sits like a statue ready to pounce.
He’s obviously found himself somewhere suitable to sleep. In spite of the weather he looks sleek, dry and happy. Also as we feed him we keep an eye on him. But so far he’s managed to look suitably fully fed and smug.
Whilst on about cats I thought I’d mention a book I just read. “Detective Daintypaws: A Squirrel In Bohemia.”




“Justice has a new… collar. All is not well on the mean streets of Barnes. A double homicide in trendy deli Bohemia is followed by a spate of mysterious thefts across Castelnau’s parade of shops. And there are rumours. Whispers of supernatural beings stirring, of dark forces from the dawn of time. Only one PI can solve this baffling mystery. Only one hero can crack the case. The terror of sparrows. The prodigal snoozer. The esteemed and revered Detective Buscemi Daintypaws Twinklefur.The crime-solving cat. With the reluctant help of a sassy streamwise mallard duck, a Lancastrian heron, and ‘Ard Ren the fox, Buscemi must reclaim her streets from the forces of darkness. Even at the cost of her soul.


I got to read this story as a beta-reader and frankly I loved it. At one point it had me looking at street view on google maps as I followed the action. There’s some great humour as the author observes London life and it is great fun.

It’s a story I’d recommend.


Mind you this is one lady I’d never introduce a cat to.

Available in paperback or ebook
As a reviewer commented, “Once in a while a book really gets to you. Jim Webster’s book Sometimes I just Sits and Thinks has done just that to me. Jim is a farmer in the English county of Cumbria. His sense of humour shines throughout each episode. If you come from farming stock as I do, this is the book for you. In my mind’s eye I was out there with Jim and his faithful Border Collies Jess and Sal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book…”

The secret of perfect hair!


As you can imagine, I’m regularly asked for beauty tips, but I have made a point of not endorsing any commercially available products. Admittedly nobody has ever asked me to, but I feel that is rather beside the point.

Still, I was going to mention Sal at this point. Again, to the best of my knowledge she isn’t sponsored by any of the major agencies, and indeed she’s far too busy for a career in that field. As it is she’s kept fully busy just doing the things that a respectable Border Collie Bitch has to do here.

Now we no longer have sheep, Sal has transferred her attentions to the maintenance of good order among the dairy herd. This looks like being a long drawn out process and it is undoubtedly going to be a cause of stress for everybody.

In simplistic terms you could regard a dairy herd as a collection of fifteen hundredweight toddlers. They have the same level of discipline, the same unthinking obedience, and the same curiosity. They also have a very similar level of bladder and bowel control. Into this world ventures Sal. With sheep she had it easy. She was their sort of size, and sheep are big on pattern recognition. As far as they’re concerned Sal is on page one of the beginner’s manual, where her silhouette is labelled, ‘Wolf, Dog, General high level threat.’

With dairy cows, even the smallest 500kg heifer looks down on the 15kg dog and says, ‘Oh how sweet.’ A cow is more likely to amble across to see what Sal is doing, rather than to move away in the direction we want them to go.
So the whole thing is a learning process. Sal is having to learn how to move cattle, and cattle are learning that they have to take notice of Sal. There are times when it is glaringly obvious that a lot of the cows have no more experience of dogs than Sal has of cows, but I’m sure with good will and a lot of imaginative swearing, we’ll all pull together in perfect harmony.

But anyway Sal wasn’t moving cows at the time. I suspect she was just generally sniffing her way around the yard checking that everything was going well. Whatever she was doing, she managed to end up in the slurry pit. I reached down and pulled her out and immediately dropped her in a tub of cold water and rinsed her off.

But next day everybody was commenting how amazingly soft and silky her hair was, and not a hair out of place.

Not only that but frankly she didn’t smell, or at least didn’t smell any worse than any other working Border Collie.

So there you have it. We’ve discovered the perfect hair care product, now all we have to do is to monetarise it. Frankly I think there’s too much packaging in the beauty industry anyway, so we really ought to go down the ‘spa route.’ So far we’re pondering the plunge bath model where the client drops into the ‘bath’ of slurry, and then when they’ve climbed out the client then stands in a cold shower and just rinses their hair clean. Obviously no cleaning products will be used as they obviously hinder the natural finish.


In case you want to get to know Sal better

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.”

Copping up not copping out


Every so often we have to widen a gateway. Actually it’s a ‘rolling process’ that has been underway on this farm for nearly a century. I can remember my father telling me that before I was born, he’d had to go round and widen all the gateways. Basically they were all only about five feet wide. This was just about enough for a horse to pull a cart through. With tractors they had to widen them again because a tractor turns differently to a horse and you need more room, even if the tractor is pulling the same implement. So they widened all the gates so they were all at least seven feet wide.

But tractors got bigger. Now if you were turning into a field from a main road, a gateway seven feet wide was perhaps still possible. But here we have to work in narrow lanes, so the gateways had to be made wider again. This time we took them up to ten feet. Job done, we’ll never have machinery wider than that.

And of course time marches on, tractors have to do more work and need more power. But also, to ensure they do less damage to the soil, they need wider tyres. Also with four wheel drive, they need a lot bigger wheels on the front. Ten feet wide was barely adequate. Not only that but by this time I was largely working on my own. So when moving cattle I wanted a situation where I could move them along the lanes with just me and a dog.

So a lot of the gates were widened again. But this time they were made so that they were wide enough so that when the gate was opened, it came out across the lane and blocked it off. This mean that I didn’t need anybody standing there to turn cows. To be honest, the system worked really well. I would open the gate, shout to attract the cow’s attention, and Jess would run into the field, get behind them and would fetch them out. I’d walk down the lane ahead of the herd so I was in place to turn them into the yard at home and Jess could calmly walk them down the lane. If I could have trained her to shut the gate after us, the job would have been as near perfect as possible.

But anyway, this spring we had to widen a gate that had somehow missed being done. We hadn’t needed to do it before but now, with the bigger machines contactors use, something had to be done. So we did it. We had two big steel gate stoups recycled from a previous job, so when somebody was passing with a digger, he widened the gateway and dug in the two new gate stoups

The problem is that it left a gap between the hedge and the gate stoup. Now what you have to remember is around here, a hedge sits on top of a bank. Now the bank isn’t just a simple bank of soil. They’d be eroded away in no time. The bank, or dike cop, is armoured, or cladded, with stone. So I decided I’d fill the gap properly by copping it up.

First get your stone. Because in years to come the stone will be invisible, any rough old stuff will do. Then dig out a bit of a trench at the bottom of the dike cop. Put some nice big stones in to act as a foundation.


Fill up behind them and around them with loose soil and then level the whole thing up with a layer of turf to bind it. Then put your next layer of stone on.


Fill up behind that with lose soil, top off with turf and you’re ready for your next layer of stone. When it’s high enough, just cap it off with a layer of turf.

Finally lay the nearest hedgerow trees across it, leave for five years and it’ll look as if it’s been there for ever.


And if you want to meet the lady who I could never train to shut gates behind us,

As a reviewer commented “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”

At least Herdwicks have the sense to get in out of the rain



Well they say travel broadens the mind. But don’t worry; I didn’t go far, just across into Scotland. We had a brisk look round Edinburgh and then down to Newton Stewart because we’ve always liked Galloway.

But we finished off in the Lake District and there I met these, huddling under a tree out of the rain.
I was talking to people the other day. Apparently they felt that we should give up keeping hill sheep, because it wasn’t economically viable. Hill sheep farming only exists because of the support through various environmental schemes.

Yet I’d seen some figures some days before. Defra produced a nice chart; it shows the various sectors and their ability to survive without subsidy.



Specialist pig and poultry farms can survive, they have to, they don’t get subsidies. Admittedly they’re also the most intensive, efficient and productive sectors of agriculture. But do people want the rest of livestock agriculture to follow down that route? Actually it’s up to you, you’ll get what you pay for. No more, no less.
Horticulture is also able to survive without subsidy, but whilst we might think of market gardens, a lot of horticultural businesses are large, intensive, efficient, and produce really large amounts of food. Which is lucky, because we need large amounts of food, we’ve got a steadily increasing population to feed.

Dairy farmers also can survive without subsidy. Not easily, but it can be done.

But the real surprise for me was that cereal production isn’t economic in this country. Bread, the staff of life, cannot be produced in the UK without subsidies.

Why? Simple, our farms are too small, too cluttered with hedgerows, woods, roads, houses, and what-have-you. This picture shows how arable agriculture really works on proper farms. In the UK we’re just crofters.



The cynic might ask why the UK population is so keen on titivating the countryside around where it lives, but eats by raping the land in distant continents.

But anyway I’m back, so I took Sal this morning and went to look sheep. Now Sal and I have to walk through the ewes on our way to take a handful of feed to some dairy heifers. Sal bounced into the field and of course the ewes moved away. Sal was happy with this; sheep were doing what sheep should. They then stopped at a respectable distance and watched.

Now I’m carrying a bucket with the feed in. I’m making a point of carrying the bucket in my right hand with the ewes being on my left land side. The ewes are watching Sal, but they started watching me. Suddenly one of them let out a bleat and ran towards me. I can only assume she said ‘cake’ because the rest poured after her like a flood. Sal tried to move them away but they just ignored her and I made my way across the field rather more than knee deep in sheep. Not only that but the heifers spotted this and cantered across the gate to provide me with moral support. After all it was their feed I was carrying.

Farming makes far more sense than agricultural politics.

Sheep make more sense than politicians.

But between ourselves, if we just left it all to Border Collies at least we’d have a system that worked.



Perhaps I should leave this sort of stuff to Sal?




A big breakfast


The ewes seem to have admitted to themselves that it’s lambing and they ought to get on with it. We had three lamb last night. They’re together inside the one building and sheep seem to be happy with that.

Cattle are different, they wander off on their own to give birth, but sheep seem perfectly happy to lamb in the middle of a huddle of other ewes. Of course this leads to the nightmare of miss-mothering where you find one ewe has pinched another ewe’s lambs, whilst abandoning her own to somebody else.

I go through them last thing at night, just to check nobody is having trouble. If somebody has lambed I’ll put her and her lambs in the side pens so they aren’t hassled. It’s interesting walking through the ewes. Some will just stand there and watch you. Some will step to one side and let you past. Some will actually push through the rest of their mates to keep away from you. Then you’ll get one who wanders up to you, sniffs you and then wanders off again to find something more interesting to look at. Finally there’s always one or two who you have to step over because they’re sitting comfortably and see no reason to move.
We’ve also started to turn ewes and their young lambs out. Some of them have been born well over a week, but the weather hasn’t been fit for them. But now we’ll have turned out over a dozen ewes and their offspring and the lambs are rapidly finding their feet and are trying to keep up with mum. At this stage you will get sheep who struggle with big numbers, as long as they’ve got one lamb with them, they cannot cope with the concept that there might be a second. So you’ve just got to keep an eye on them to make sure there isn’t a lamb wandering about on its own, bleating pathetically.

First thing in the morning, I’ll once more go through the lambing shed, and if anybody has lambed, I’ll whisk them and their lambs into the pens at the side of the shed where nobody is going to steal their lambs and the lambs have a chance to feed. Then later I’ll put feed in the troughs outside and let the ewes out of the shed so they can spend the day in the yard where they’ve more room to wander about. As the ewes pour out of the shed, Sal is desperately trying to squeeze past them, intent of seeing if the honest Border Collie’s treat is there for her. Who needs dog treats when you can get fresh afterbirth? Or if you’re a Border Collie, almost fresh afterbirth.

And that job done it’s off on the quad to check that various other sheep are OK and haven’t got themselves entangled in anything. Also there’s a group of tups who need a little feed to help build them up again. So I set off, and at one point glance over my shoulder, to discover Sal isn’t following. I get to the top of the hill and feed the tups; Sal still hasn’t appeared. So I open the gate to go in and look at the store lambs, and then I blow the horn on the quad.

Now when we’re moving sheep, blowing the horn on the quad tells them that we are actually moving them, not just driving about checking them. Now Sal knows this. So if somebody else blows the horn on their quad, she immediately sets off at speed to help out! So having blown the horn on the quad I assumed I’d see Sal moving at speed towards me.

Five minutes later Sal appears. Just in time for me to drive home again! But still she enjoys racing the quad. Not this morning she didn’t, she trotted behind it wearing the expression of somebody who has eaten a far too large ‘all day breakfast’ only to discover that they’re supposed to go for a run, when really all they want to do is sit and belch quietly somewhere.

Running in high heels


Not something I’ve ever tried to be honest. I’m tall enough as it is and my legs, decently clad in working trousers, are too utilitarian to warrant being exhibited to a dumbfounded world.

And at the moment it’s not the weather for high heels. As I sit on the quad in the rain, watching the sheep fish about for the nuts I’ve put down for them, I can hear Sal splashing towards me. When a small Border Collie bitch splashes when walking across what is supposed to be dry ground, you know it’s wet enough.

This morning the rain was coming across in great curtains. I had to slow down when driving into it because it was painful on my face if I went at any speed. Not only that but I think even Sal is losing it. She came up to jump a netting fence, totally mistimed everything jumping into the rain (or she may have slipped as she jumped) and ended up piling into the fence rather than sailing over it. She glanced at me in an embarrassed fashion to check that I hadn’t seen it and then quietly jumped over it properly.

But I was on about high heels wasn’t I. It’ll be about forty years ago now. It would be winter and after midnight when we were awakened by a hammering on the front door. We never use the front door to be honest, but sometimes people knock on it. Just rarely at midnight.

So my parents (whose room was above it) shouted out of the window to ask what was the problem, and I got dressed and went down to open the door. There was a barefoot young lady standing there. When my mother arrived we got her full story. Just down the lane from us was a lay-by where courting couples used to park up. She had been at a dance in Ulverston and had accepted a lift back to Barrow from somebody who had been ‘more affectionate than she had intended.’

So when he stopped at the lay-by she’d seen the lights of our cubicle house. In winter when cows are housed we leave some lights on. It’s easier for cows to get up for a drink or something to eat; and if they can see, they’re less easily startled by anything. So they’re happier.
This lass had seen the lights, opened the passenger door and had run for it. In the course of which she’d abandoned her high heels. By the time she’d worked out the lights came from outbuildings, she could see where the front door was so had hammered on that.

She was seriously nervous, so I went out to both make sure there was nobody still parked in the lay-by and to find her shoes. Whoever she’d had the lift with was gone, and I even found both her shoes. When I wandered back in she was on the phone for a taxi.

Strangely enough she’d decided that she’d get a taxi home rather than phoning for her Dad to collect her. I think she felt the taxi driver would need fewer embarrassing explanations.


You might want to read about a lady who didn’t have this sort of problem?
Her memoirs are now in paperback and ebook


As a reviewer commented, “Maljie is indeed a Lady Par Excellence. From mountain climber to pirate, currency inventor to financial genius, balloonist to Temple Warden, and more – much, much, more…

The female reader will want her as a best friend, the male reader would be wise to exercise extreme caution if he knows another lady like her.”

Fear and Greed


Feeding sheep this morning and I took some tub to a dozen gimmers (ewe lambs kept for breeding; these are nearly a year old). They had been chewing some grass off elsewhere but are now closer to home. I walked in with the bucket, shouted to them and rattled the bucket.

They looked up, saw the bucket and came towards me. Then they saw Sal and stopped abruptly. Sal watched them, they watched Sal. Nobody moved. The gimmers drifted forward a little. Sal continued to watch so the gimmers stopped and watched her. Then Sal shrugged and drifted off to follow a scent trail that interested her. With this the gimmers made their way towards the feed which I’d now put into their troughs.

But there were only eight of them, where had the other four got to? I could hear bleating from over the crest of the hill, and suddenly the other four appeared, saw their friends eating and hurtled towards us. Then they noticed Sal. Separated from their ‘flock’ they just accelerated. Sal who has had to deal with this situation before made damned sure she wasn’t between the sheep and their feed.

It did strike me that with her experience of the balance between greed and fear Sal ought to be producing expensive training courses for investment managers and similar. As it is I suspect that she’s too wise to get caught up in the rat race. Growing ridiculously rich isn’t something that seems to appeal to the Border Collie.

Anyway we went to look at the wintering hoggs. We got there and one had got its head caught in the netting. They’re Swaledales so are horned sheep. Sal shot through the gate to deal with the hogg. I parked the quad and followed her. The problem is that in the presence of Sal the hogg can just keep charging forwards which achieves nothing. (Except perhaps to break the fence posts!)

Just as I was shouting, “Sit down Sal“,  to ensure this didn’t happen, she got in front of the hogg which went backwards, unentangled itself and ran off. Sal gave me a look of dog who has absolute confidence in her abilities. She has no interest at all in selling out and training investment managers. She passed the test, she will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Sal.


Oh and more of Sal’s antics appear in


Now available in paperback
As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”


But we left him alone with his glory.


There are days when whatever you intended, other stuff just sort of gets added to the agenda.

I had to go down to London. Virgin did their best, the train was swift and arrived on time and I drifted into London. It was expensive; my Kindle had just failed so I was forced to buy books!

But still, it had to be done and books were bought to ensure I had something to read, at least on the train back.

Anyway I checked in, dumped my gear and pondered the evening which was cold and windy. First stop was St Paul’s Cathedral which is just nearby. I try and catch evensong if I can and it was there I saw it. For Christmas and Epiphany the Cathedral as a virtually life sized crib scene. It has kings, mother and child, shepherds, lambs and a border collie. All I can say is that the sculptor who created it had grasped the essential nature of the Border Collie.

There are kings, the Madonna, the Son of God, and doubtless outside in the yard there are camels, donkeys and all sorts of cattle. Our Border Collie (and it can be nothing else) ignores them all and concentrates entirely on the really important issue. The sheep.


During the service, it was announced that the Rifles were going to lay a tribute at the Memorial of Sir John Moore, Moore of Corunna. After evensong those who wanted to gathered in a side chapel and there the dean said a few words, the wreaths were laid, somebody read the poem, and six buglers played. Given that was in a side chapel, and there were, as I mentioned, six of them, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he heard it.

He was a decent man, a fine officer, a humanitarian and deserves to be remembered. He died at the Battle of Corunna, where his victory won time for the British army to be evacuated by sea.



The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna


Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,

    As his corse to the rampart we hurried;

Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot

    O’er the grave where our hero was buried.


We buried him darkly at dead of night,

    The sods with our bayonets turning,

By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light

    And the lantern dimly burning.


No useless coffin enclosed his breast,

    Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;

But he lay like a warrior taking his rest

    With his martial cloak around him.


Few and short were the prayers we said,

    And we spoke not a word of sorrow;

But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,

    And we bitterly thought of the morrow.


We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed

    And smoothed down his lonely pillow,

That the foe and the stranger would tread o’er his head,

    And we far away on the billow!


Lightly they’ll talk of the spirit that’s gone,

    And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him –

But little he’ll reck, if they let him sleep on

    In the grave where a Briton has laid him.


But half of our heavy task was done

    When the clock struck the hour for retiring;

And we heard the distant and random gun

    That the foe was sullenly firing.


Slowly and sadly we laid him down,

    From the field of his fame fresh and gory;

We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,

    But we left him alone with his glory!


Charles Wolfe

And with one bound she was free! (or ‘Have you got a dog who can raise the dead?’)


Another day older and deeper in debt, but at least it’s not raining. Indeed it’s a good frost. The ground is hard, but the taps around the yard are still running. I can cope with this.

So the dog and I go to feed sheep. There’s some grass that needs cleaning off from a couple of fields somebody intended to make hay on last year. They got everything they needed to make hay but the weather, so hopefully the ewes will chew it off for them and tidy it up a bit. Also at least the fields are relatively dry and sheep aren’t paddling.

But anyway, after feeding two batches of ewes, I go and take a quick look at another batch. They’re not mine but we’ve somebody who’s got health issues and various neighbours are just looking after various bits of their enterprise until they’re back on their feet.

I was still on the quad, so drove into the field, and noticed one had got herself stuck in some briars. I decided to check the others, make sure they were OK, before coming back to get this one untangled. Everybody was OK, and as I drove back it occurred to me that I had a camera with me, it might not be a bad idea to get a photo of our entangled victim, just so people could see what happens.

Except Sal was on top of her game, dived over the hedge into where the sheep was, and suddenly the sheep erupted out of the tangle, running for its mates. Yep, with one bound, she was free!

Mind you that’s nothing. Yesterday, I’d just got changed for church and we got a phone-call. There’s a sheep stuck and probably dead in the hedge, apparently there was a crow landing on her. So I got unchanged, unleashed both quad and Sal and set off at speed. She might be alive but if she was trapped the crow would still take her eyes. Isn’t Nature wonderful!

Into the field, a quick look round and spot the likely suspect. She was lying prone by the hedge. With a quad bike and a Border Collie converging on her at 30mph she leapt to her feet and was off, trailing bits of wool and briar behind her. Well if she had been dead, she wasn’t now. Sal can notch up another success. She’s pretty good at wandering round hedges finding trapped sheep; she seems to regard it as her particular job.


Oh yes, in case you’ve forgotten you can see Sal here




Indeed for a mere 99p not only do you get a picture of her on your computer or phone, you can download the free kindle app and read a selection of stories as well. She even features in some of them.