Tag Archives: feeding sheep

 Avoiding entanglements


Obviously it’s tough being a best selling author. After all there are only so many free lunches a chap can attend. Then with the endless free drinks, the groupies, and of course the expense account….

Sorry I was looking at the wrong list, that’s what you get for being an MP. Easy mistake to make obviously.

But anyway, I have occasionally had fame tap me on the shoulder. On one occasion I was asked whether I’d like to do my own radio show on music radio. I confess I was tempted, but only briefly. I’m not somebody who can babble inanely for long periods, (Although if tempted by suitably appropriate financial recompense I could doubtless improvise.) But really, what deterred me from ever setting my foot on that road was the fact that, frankly, I just didn’t like the music. I did listen to some of the output and I tried really hard to like it, but to be fair it was music designed by a cruel fate to be babbled over.

It’s surprising how subjective all this stuff is. After all there was one group I used to rather sneer at as the teeny bopper boy band my little sister liked. Now I have to confess I do think Dire Straits have produced some good stuff. Doubtless there’s stuff being played now which in thirty years time might be remembered. But still, that being said, playing endless Bon Jovi to elderly people in nursing homes does strike me as coming awfully close to being a cruel and unnatural punishment.

There again, given my ability to get myself caught up in declining industries, perhaps the music industry is glad I’ve given them a miss. After all, they’d hardly be keen on following down the same road as Agriculture and Freelance Journalism when it comes to paying folk a living.

Still, it has to be said that there’s nothing like a good dose of reality to help ground a chap and stop him getting ideas above his station. The last few days have been fine and the ground was almost starting to dry out a bit. Except that last night it rained. No, it didn’t just rain, it sodding well chucked it down. When I went out to feed sheep this morning the rain had slowed to a drizzle, but water was still streaming down both sides of the lanes. As for the fields, it had started getting silly again.

But Sal and I pressed boldly on, undeterred by the fact that when the quad stopped, I could here the splashing of Sal’s feet. Still at least the ewes were glad to see us. When you’re feeding ewes the best plan is to get far enough ahead of them on the quad so that you can stop, get the feed and start putting out in little heaps on the ground before the ewes catch up with you. If you manage this then you’ll probably not be trampled underfoot.
If you don’t think this can happen, there’s a video here that might surprise you.



But anyway, as we check sheep, Sal always combs the hedges looking for those who’ve somehow got themselves entangled. With Sal bearing down on them it’s amazing how they can suddenly break free. On the other hand, we do get those who’re so entangled they cannot manage it. I included a photo of one. Left to her own devices she’ll starve.
You know the bible stories about the shepherd who lost one sheep and left the ninety-nine to find it. In all probability, this is what happened to it.

When you do find a sheep this tangled up, I’ve found the best way to untangle it is to get hold of both back legs and just pull the sheep backwards, away from the hedge. When you think about it the sheep has been hurling itself forwards for some time and that hasn’t worked.

If you pull the sheep backwards it’s as if the briars have less grip. Also you can find that the briar roots have a weaker hold on the ground than the thorns have on the sheep’s fleece.

Then when you’ve pulled the sheep free, still holding the back legs, walk it round so that it is no longer facing the hedge. Then let it go. If you let it go still facing the hedge there’s every chance that the daft beggar will accelerate straight back into the briars.

There again, a mate of mine had similar problems with women. Get him untangled from one and he’d just hurl himself straight into the next.



Now for anybody who’s interested, there is a collection of tales, some of them featuring Sal, for your delectation and delight. Available for a mere 99p

So this is what best selling authors get up to

(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


I know many people have asked whether the easy wealth and international jet-setting lifestyle will spoil me so I thought that I’d better give you some idea of how my morning is spent. Obviously palm-fringed beaches, the pool, the beach-bar, the beach babes all come into it at some point, but remember this is Cumbria, not the Caribbean.

So first I clean the ashes out of the fire bottom and get the fire going. I take the ashes outside and it’s raining. Such is life. On Sunday the ground was drying up nicely, on Monday when I fed sheep the ground was so dry it was a pleasure. Then it rained. And it rained, and, in case you missed it, it rained.

So breakfast, coffee, and out. Except that it isn’t raining, it’s snowing; huge sodden flakes of it which don’t so much flutter down as splat on impact. Never mind, waterproofs were designed for days like this. Get the quad out, put it on the trailer, and up to the barn where some of last years lambs are being housed in the vague hope that inside they might put on weight. Feed them and put silage in the trailer for a bunch of ewe lambs who are still outside and hopefully will run with the tup next back-end. Chop a bit of fodder beet over the silage to boost the energy and off we go. The minute I leave the road we indulge in the ‘bambi on ice’ experience. It isn’t merely that the snow has melted (and it’s now raining again) but the ground is sodden. We’re on top of a hill here, the soil is well draining, and there is water standing because it’s nowhere to go. So I find a relatively dry bit and scatter the silage about for the ewe lambs who at least greet it enthusiastically.

Then it’s back to get some fodder beet for the lambing ewes. Their silage is already in a ring feeder and that’s still got plenty in.

So eventually, I’ve seen everybody, made sure everybody’s fed, and of course by now it’s stopped raining. So peel off the soaking over-trousers and hang them up so they’ll be dry next time I need them. Peel off the soaking jacket and put it to dry. Take off shirt and jumper and put them on the cooker rail so their wet patches dry. Make coffee and drink the same.

You know what, this international fame and stardom, plus of course the compulsory adulation of the masses, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Hence if you get a chance, then do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy of ‘Tomb-yard Follies.’




Then you achieve two important results. The first is that you have something fun to do rather than watching telly because the weather is miserable. The second is that you help give me a chance to prove to the world that I am so well grounded that unimaginable wealth (or at least my share of your 98p) will not spoil me.

Treat yourself, you know it makes sense.

Tis the season (to be offended)

full of people

You can tell it’s winter, there’s a chill in the air. It’s so cold that two brass monkeys knocked on our workshop door and asked if I did any brazing. In fact it was so cold that several ‘newspapers’ stopped printing pictures of topless models because it couldn’t find any girls willing to take their clothes off. OK so perhaps not quite but you get the idea.

Today I was out looking sheep and it was a bit on the cool side. There’s still grass for them, and when Sal and I went into a field, each bunch would glance at Sal and pattern recognition would immediately take over.

Teeth?   Snap

Teeth mounted in long muzzle?   Snap

Ears, two, cocked up?     Snap

Is it watching us?     Watching us, it’s never taken its damned eyes off us!

With this the sheep begin to move away, forming a defensive huddle and then turn and stare accusingly at their potential tormentor.

But today was different. You see, because it’s cold, we’ve got the fire lit. (Just don’t even think of trying to get central heating into our house). So of course I’m recycling wood as heat. And whilst looking sheep I’ll take a bag with me and any suitable bits of wood will be dropped in it for burning. And as I walked across the field, I moved the bag from one shoulder to the other. This produced the distinctive sound of a cake bag being moved. Within seconds the sheep that had formed the huddle fifty yards away were running towards us. Sal, her teeth, ears and whatever was totally ignored, it was winter and here was man with a feed bag. It had to be lunch time.

They were sadly disappointed but still, winter is drawing on and sooner or later we’ll have to start giving them supplementary feed.

But I quite like this season. It’s November so obviously it must be Christmas. According to some enthusiasts Christmas now starts on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday! But along with Christmas we get those who demand that we don’t wish them merry Christmas, and those who remand that we only wish them merry Christmas, and a score of shades of opinion in between.

Indeed, tis the season to be offended. And this year, we’ve got a real gem here in little old England.

The Church of England produced a short advert, people saying the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve heard it but never seen it, and it lasts a full sixty seconds. This was to be shown in cinemas. Except that Digital Cinema Media (DCM), which handles adverts in all the big cinema chains, has refused to allow it to be screened.

DCM has told the Church that this advert risked “upsetting or offending audiences.” Further more (and doubtless with much pious finger wagging on DCM’s part,) it has pointed to its policy document. This bars commercials that advertised “any religion, faith or equivalent systems of belief” or “any part” of any such religion or faith.

So that’s perfectly clear then.

Except email correspondence between the Church and DCM which has been released to the media shows that in July a member of the company’s sales team offered the Church a 55% discount if they signed a deal for the ad campaign. What the blue blazes did they think the Church of England was going to advertise? Car sales? Sofas? Time share holidays? You really would have thought that the clue was in the name, ‘Church of England.’ Call me old fashioned but I’d have suspected they were a religious organisation with a name like that.

So at the moment matters might well rest in the hands of lawyers. The problem is, DCM is going to be awfully short of adverts this December. After all they cannot mention Christmas (or any part of any such religion or faith), or the solstice, or have Christmas carols in an advert sound track, or pictures of yule logs, holly and ivy (because paganism is a religion too you know and they might also be offended.)

As far as I can work out, those advertising with DCM are restricted to wishing viewers, “A festive mid-winter commercial festival”.

Anyway I’m quite enjoying this one. I do rather like it when the ‘oh so correct’ brigade end up wiggling on the skewer they’ve managed to hurl themselves onto.

But it struck me that I am failing in my duties. Christmas is coming. I notice that there are not many who are mean enough to use lack of belief as an excuse for not giving presents. In my more cynical moments I suspect there is an even smaller group who use their lack of belief as a reason for not receiving them.

But still, when you’re buying presents, I have paperbacks available. These are the perfect present to give if you wish to offend anybody with no sense of humour, no imagination, and a far too precious regard for the sanctity of great literature.

Go on, you know you want to. Available from all good on-line book shops and you can order them from real bookshops as well. Or you could just buy them for yourself and ensure you do have a good Christmas. (Or insert any other festival/non-festival of choice here)

four books