Tag Archives: quad bikes

A bad day?

Sal is less than happy. Normally when I go out on the quad she runs behind me (because the lanes are narrow) or even tries to outrun me when we’re in a field.

But at the moment we’ve got a lot of ewes outside with youngish lambs. The lambs have got to the adventurous stage. When I feed their mothers this means the ewes gather together, running in from all over the field. The lambs obviously run with them. But they meet up with a lot of other running lambs and of course, they just keep on running together. I suspect the technical term is gambolling. It does have a certain charm.

From my point of view it isn’t actually a problem. Yes I’ve got to make sure none are gambolling around the quad or trailer, because they tend to change course pretty much at random. The other thing that can happen is that they decide to race the quad. I’ve known people who’ve driven out of the gate into the lane, suddenly to discover that they’re surrounded by a sea of lambs who proceed to split up and run in different directions. So you have to make sure that by the time you need to leave the field the lambs are interested in something else. To be fair this isn’t too difficult, a lamb doesn’t have all that long an attention span. Give them a couple of minutes then they’ll head back to mum. Provided they can see her!

But from Sal’s point of view, she wanders into the field and swings wide to keep out of everybody’s way. Unfortunately on this occasion her wise actions brought her too close to an elderly ewe who wasn’t going to stand for any canine nonsense. Sal managed to dodge her, but still she wasn’t happy about it.

The other thing we had was lambs in the ‘wrong bit’. When you’re the size of a lamb, fences are something larger people worry about. So we have two lots of ewes and their lambs in two paddocks, separated by a wire netting fence. Two lambs got through the fence somehow. They seem to use a form of Brownian motion, just moving about and suddenly being on the wrong side. The fact that they were on the wrong side of the fence was brought to my attention by their pathetic bleating. Mum was bleating back, but she couldn’t get to them because of the fence, and of course now they needed to get back, the lambs found the fence to be an impassable obstacle.

By now it was 10pm, black as the ace of spades and a cold rain was starting to fall. Something had to be done now, because lambs of this age can suffer badly if they go hungry, cold and wet, overnight.

So we opened the gate between the two paddocks. The problem is this is being done by torch light. Mum cleared off when the torches started shining in her direction. The lambs were confused because some places were light and some weren’t. Obviously they didn’t stick together. There are probably excellent evolutionary reasons for running off in different directions, but under the circumstances I do wish there was an override code we could input.

Anyway, by accident, the lambs went through the gate and I shut it after them. We switched the torches off and mum, reassured by the absence of ostentatious witchcraft, came back to join her little darlings.

But anyway that was the day before yesterday. Today was so warm I was walking out in shirt sleeves. Is spring about to happen? It’s not been a bad day.


Ask the expert

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.”

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.

Facing the wrong way

P00547 P24_01

It’s been a day of small surprises so far. I was on the quad taking feed to sheep. Because sheep will follow the quad and trailer, I led them over the hill into part of the field out of sight of sheep in other fields. This is because sheep in one field will occasionally crash through the hedge to get to the food that you are giving to another lot. Hence there is an art to working out just which group to feed first and where.

Anyway on the way back to the road, with an empty trailer I just opened the quad up a bit and discovered that Sal can run at 28mph for a couple of hundred yards and keep up with the quad. It’s a better turn of speed than I could manage.

Anyway the last bunch of sheep I had to feed this morning was the ewes who’ve been turned out with their lambs. I tend not to take Sal with me when I do these. When the lambs are very young, the ewes can be very protective and spend time glaring at the dog and stamping a front foot aggressively at her rather than coming to get the feed.

So with just me and two buckets of feed I went into the field. Immediately those ewes who saw me headed in my direction. I put the feed down in small heaps along the hedge line as I walked and the ewes dived in and started eating.

Now there is a minor problem here. Because there was no dog and hence no threat, the ladies weren’t too worried for their lambs. They just abandoned them and ran for the feed, on the grounds that the first there is best fed. The lambs, who haven’t been outside very long, stood aghast as mum disappeared. Then they pulled themselves together and ran after her, bleating.

I made it to the gate and there met a chap who was walking his dog. He asked why there was so much noise coming from the field. I explained that the lambs recognise their mother by her face and voice as well as by her scent. So when faced by a row of backsides they were a bit lost and wasn’t sure which one was theirs.

He thought briefly and commented, “I doubt I could recognise my wife’s in a line up either.”



What do I know? Speak to an expert on these matters

The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

The problem of the badly herded taxi.


I’m not somebody with a down on taxi drivers. Frankly given the standard of driving you see on the roads, I’m just surprised that professional drivers who spend a lot of time coping with the rest of us haven’t resorted to drive-by shootings to cull the worst offenders.

But anyway, there was this taxi. I was going downhill on the quad, towing a trailer. The driver was coming uphill towards me. Now the lane is narrow, there is nowhere on that lane where I could squeeze past a car.

So the taxi keeps coming at me. I stopped. The taxi driver shrugged. I jerked a thumb over my shoulder in the relatively universal gesture which means, “Do you really expect me to back a trailer uphill when you’ve just got a car to back?” To put it in perspective, we’re talking about backing forty yards down a gentle slope, with a slight bend. It’s probably an easier task than the reverse they make you do when you take your driving test. Certainly we’re not talking about anything as tight as is shown in the photograph.

To be honest I’d have been faster backing the trailer. I mean I’ve seen ‘interesting’ driving in these lanes in my time.

For example there was the person in the little Fiat 126 who backed back for us and somehow ‘bottomed out’ and sat there with their wheels spinning uselessly. We got past them and then gave them a push until they’d got traction and were on their way again.

Or there was the lady in a large white delivery van. In her case I could see her point, you might be able to back the vehicle, but if you’re just using your mirrors, then you cannot see what is on the road behind you. So I acted as her banksman, we got her back ten feet and then stopped her. I opened a field gate and took quad and trailer into the field to let her past. So we’re willing to work with what we’ve got.

But now I’ve got this taxi driver. At first I thought they were trying to back close to the hedge so that I could squeeze past. Admittedly it wouldn’t have worked but still, it was a gallant effort. I stopped thinking this when they backed so far up the dike cop that they were in danger of rolling their car.
At this point they pulled forward and had another go and did the same on the other side. So they pulled forward again.

Sal our dog looked at me and I’d swear she had a worried expression. It was the look of a dog who feels that somehow she ought to be sorting this out and wasn’t entirely sure how to start. Guilt was written all over her face.

I tried to smile in a reassuring manner and she turned her attention back to the taxi. This had now slewed across the lane and for one moment I wondered it they were trying to turn round. Well that was another gallant plan that wasn’t going to work. Sal sank down closer to the road. Whether this was because she was coiling up ready to spring into action and sort things out, or whether she just hoped if she clung close enough to the ground nobody could see her and it wouldn’t be her fault.

Eventually, after almost rolling the taxi twice, our intrepid driver made it back into the wide level bit. We went past them and Sal watched with evident relief as the taxi disappeared up hill and out of our lives.


Oh, and for the truly discerning ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks.’ Now available in paperback or as an ebook

A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.


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.”

The way is shut


They’ve shut the main road to resurface it. Signs were put up a week or so back to ensure that people knew and could take the diversion. Did this fine example of Highway’s forward planning work? Well sort of.

Our lane (single track, and would have grass growing down the middle were it not winter so we have mud down the middle) has been blessed by an assortment of visitors.

There have been grim faced white van drivers who know this is a swift short cut to avoid the road works. We have serious ladies driving four by fours with stickers on the side proclaiming the firm that has hired the vehicle. We have the illiterate and the just plain lost.

So far it’s not too bad. They’re attempting to come through in dribs and drabs, so perhaps the warnings have been heeded.

But already we have seen a fair range of individuals. Like the chap who, rather than wait for me to shut the gate and fasten it, before I got on the quad and drove off, decided to drive past.

Now obviously the paint work on the quad trailer isn’t something I worry about too much, but had he bent anything I would have been a little miffed. But still, by running one wheel half way up the dike cop he managed to squeeze through and saved himself a full twenty seconds.

Then there have been those bemused individuals who stop you and their opening words are “Excuse me but….”

Yep, they’ve ventured down the lanes and they’re lost already. Then there are the others who just sit in their car and glare at you because you’ve got the audacity to be travelling on the same lane as them. Finally you get the helpless or hapless who just follow the first vehicle they see on the assumption it must surely know the way out. This is not necessarily true when the vehicle in question is a quad bike pulling a trailer full of silage.

But still, we’ve got several days of this, who knows what we will be blessed with.


Welcome to my world

Available in paperback or ebook

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read”