Shearing, and an announcement

We finally got our sheep clipped last week. After a few weeks of bad weather, it stayed dry enough for a week to get them done. The original plan last year was that I would do them myself, but as I am currently 8 months pregnant it was out of the question! We got a local contractor and his friend to come and clip them for us, and as we only had 40 that needed clipping it was all done in under 2 hours, and they did a good job.

Here is one of the guys in action. I think that particular ewe actually gave him quite a bit of grief, she decided to fight back!!

I think they were relieved to be rid of all that wool, it had been so hot that week, and they look much happier now (though it has rained for days since!) It was one of those jobs that’s weather dependent and we were waiting on someone else to have the free time to do it for us, hopefully next year we can do it ourselves when we want, which will take the pressure off a little.

With it being the middle of summer, the grass is growing like crazy and we now have too much, we’ve had to borrow a mower and ‘top’ a couple of the fields (basically mow it so there’s only a couple of inches of grass left on the field, instead of knee-high stalks!) just to try and keep it under control. What with the lambs and some more sheep that we’ve bought in, we have about 170 sheep in total, and we still can’t keep up with the grass growth. Come winter though, we’ll be paddling in mud and talking about buying in extra feed…. you can’t win!

Next month is just routine work really, basic health checks to make sure everything’s healthy and not having issues with lameness, as we’ve finally finished all the rounds of vaccinations. We’re also weighing the lambs every few weeks to keep track of their growth rate, and to see when they’ll be ready for market. The next big job is going to be weaning all the lambs at the beginning of August, to give the ewes a rest before it all starts again, with tupping in November and lambing again next April.

In other news, we finally have our website up and live. D&J Hay Mutton and Lamb We’re still tweaking it a bit but after months working on it, it’s great to finally have it running. Big thanks to my Dad for sorting it all out for us!!

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It All Kicks Off

We are due to start lambing tomorrow. However, we have had a few little early surprises.

On Wednesday morning this little lady had already made her entrance into the world by the time we got the the field.

This might look like a pretty tiny, cute thing but it is a huge thing for us. She is our first ever lamb. The past 10 months of spending what feels like shedloads of money, spending time working with the ewes and on 2 occasions watching them die and being unable to do anything all boils down to this. We finally have something to show for it all. Mr Scatterbrain has announced that we are keeping her. Luckily, being a she, she has a long future ahead of her but I think she will always have a special place for us.

The next morning we came out to this –

Even more of a surprise, triplets! They are 2 days old now and doing really well, their mum is looking after them perfectly and thankfully has enough milk for them all. Triplets generally aren’t good news for shepherds as sheep are really only designed to rear 2 lambs, but on this occasion I think we’ll be able to leave them all with their mother. We are keeping a pretty close eye on them to make sure they stay strong and well-fed and if it becomes necessary we will hand-rear one, but mum’s always best.

This is always my favourite time of year, the weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, the sky is blue and the grass green, and everywhere you look there is new life. After many months of seeing dry, brown, skeletal hedges along every roadside, it is a welcome sight to see them filling out with fresh green buds. The birds sing as they nest, the lambs play in the fields and the first few cows are being turned out to graze. After surviving a cold, wet, muddy winter, this feels like the reward for hanging on. It makes me glad to be a country girl.

Trailer Trouble

So sorry I haven’t posted for ages, but life has been crazy recently. To give you a bit of background info, DH & I both work as relief milkers, between us we work on 4 different farms. We juggle this with childcare, at the moment DH works mornings and weekends while I’m at home with T, and I work afternoons while DH has T. It’s a pretty good arrangement, as we both get time with T and we both get to go out and meet other humans. This in itself keeps us busy, what with a tearaway 10 month old. To add to our workload, we have decided to become farmers in our own right, and have spent the past few months buying in sheep and equipment and getting our heads around the horrendous paperwork that goes with it. We now have 60 ewes which we plan to lamb in April/May next year.

As if this wasn’t enough work, DH managed to break his foot playing football a couple of weeks ago, and has been unable to work, drive, or wash up. Ok, he can wash up, but complains bitterly about it. As we are both self-employed, there is nothing to fall back on if we can’t work, so he’s now a full-time stay-at-home-dad while I am doing as much of the milking work as I can. Let’s just say things are a bit hectic.

So that’s where we’re up to right now, and I will probably blog about sheep in the future. Today’s adventure revolves around sheep. Our lives revolve around sheep, so yours can too for the next few minutes.

We were going to North Wales to collect our final batch of sheep, taking us up to the 60 mark. 2 hours each way, not too bad of a journey, the plan was to be unloading at home by 1pm, with plenty of time for something to eat and maybe chill for a little bit before having to go to work for an afternoon shift. We got there in good time, loaded the sheep, had a chat, a brew, and did all the paperwork, and set off on the return journey. T had been really good, he’d slept all the way, and it was a hot day so we were glad he was staying happy. He wasn’t really too impressed at being bundled back in the car, and throwing crisps in his direction only kept him quiet for a short while. We decided to stop at the next services, let him have a crawl about and stretch his legs. We stopped, I took T up onto a nice grassy bank to sit and play in the grass while DH hopped around the pickup and trailer. T patted the grass, wriggled his toes in it, and then sat and picked pieces which he then gave to me. Eventually I fed him and we headed back to the car, got loaded up and off we went.

Except we didn’t. I turned the key and it made a heart-droppingly clicking noise, then nothing. There was a couple with a caravan nearby, so I trotted over and asked if they could very kindly jump-start us. They were lovely, drove around and got us started up, we had a bit of a chat and thanked them profusely, and set off.

Except we didn’t. As I pulled away I noticed one of the trailer wheels wobbling about at rather alarming angles. I stopped, keeping the engine running, and got out to have a look. The wheel had pulled free of all the wheel nuts except one, and wasn’t far off falling off. After a lot of tyre kicking, discussions and a pointless call to RAC (they don’t fix trailers, and want nothing to do with livestock), Mr Muscle aka my husband just pulled it off. We then had further discussions about how to get home, and with more profuse thanks to the lovely couple, set off again, this time with a 3-wheeled trailer.

Except… just joking. We drove at 50mph all the way back home (apart from the mile where we were behind someone doing 40), knuckles almost white on the steering wheel, and seriously overusing the wing mirrors. About 10 minutes after leaving the services, whilst having a careful look at the trailer in the mirror, I said to DH, ‘Ummm, the fuel flap’s hanging off. I’m sure it wasn’t like that before, we’d have noticed it.’ DH replied with these comforting words; ‘That’s the third thing now, we should be fine from now on!’.

And we were. We slowly and carefully made our way back home, and up the field. Upon arriving at the new home of our sheep, we pulled up and I climbed into the trailer to worm them. DH stood outside passing me the drugs, and T played in the grass. As we let the final one go, we stood back to look at them, feeling very relieved that they were back safely. I bent to pick T up and remarked that he was a bit muddy. On closer inspection, it wasn’t mud at all. His legs, feet and hands were smeared in sheep poop. He’d been playing where the muck was coming out of the trailer. A quick dunk in the water bucket to clean the worst of it off, we went back home where I stripped him and threw him in the shower. Not sure we’d win any awards for responsible parenting, but he should have a strong immune system!

Thankfully the day is over and we are all safe. Tomorrow we have a lot of fixing to do, but for now T is peacefully sleeping, exhausted after all the playing in the grass he’s been doing, DH is in bed nursing a migraine, as the day and the heat got to him, and I am enjoying a well-deserved whisky and coke. Time for bed for me now I think, as tomorrow is another day of never-ending activity.