Farmers and shepherds alike get days off but they usually have to do some work before the rest of the day is theirs. Stock to feed or look before getting changed into better clothes and heading away for the day, often to return and change back into the work wear to check or feed stock again before darkening.
Some can be more fortunate and have someone to cover for them. Shepherds employed on a farm may find another member of staff or the farmer himself will cover for them and vice versa. Less staff on farms means many aren't so lucky and a complete day off from rising to going back to bed is unheard of, even if there are just the dogs to see to there will always be something needs tending on the day off.
Shep is more fortunate due to the nature of my work. Self employed Contract Shepherd. I get my days off when no one requires my assistance or such as this Sunday when I had a christening to attend.
My second Sunday off on the trot saw me feeding some sheep in the morning (I treat this as a day off, a quieter pace of life to a 'normal' day)to find all was not well . A great start to the day! There were two or three sheep in the field that were acting peculiarly and I had a christening to attend......
The clock was ticking, bath and clean clothes were required so the sheep were left for now and off to the christening we went. The better half sick to the back teeth of me wittering away in the car discussing the possible problems these sheep may be suffering from.
Hexham Abbey was the venue, if any one has never been inside the Abbey it is well worth a visit, a magnificent building which always brings back memories of my childhood and being taken down the crypt by a friend of my Grandfathers,an elderly, bent gentleman whom at the time I believed lived down there - made it all the more spooky!!
The christening was in all fairness a stressful affair, not how they are meant to be really but family politics and grief lying below the surface caused it to be, which brought to the fore Shep's aptitude for saying and doing silly things (a failing I have, but an endearing one at that - I think!), which brings me on to the christening lunch......
Shep headed straight for the bar at the venue, to be greeted like a long lost friend by a man " well hello there, how ya keepin'?"
"Grand thanks, and yourself?"
Totally clueless as to who this fella was I enquired whether he'd been at the service "No. I can't sit down"
"I beg your pardon?"
" Can't sit down. No good going over there and those hard pews, can't sit down"
Now the guy seemed perfectly healthy to me, his legs appeared to bend and I couldn't see any obvious reason as to why he couldn't sit down. I've heard many excuses over the years for not attending church but this was a fresh one on me. My inquisitive nature along with a relief that someone had greeted me as a long lost friend and broken the ice on this difficult occasion made me enquire as to why he was unable to sit down.
"Cement burn" was the reply
"A what?" I enquired
"Cement burn on me arse"
Now as is oft the case, Shep does not always engage the brain before the mouth and this was one such case "Can I have a look? I've never seen a cement burn before"
"Are you sure"
"What? that I've never seen a cement burn or that I want to look at your arse?"
Jeans and boxers were dropped and Shep saw her first cement burn - I never want one of those, poor soul, I fully understand why he couldn't sit down. The better half by this time was shaking his head and waiting for a hole to open and swallow me up.
My new found friend then enquired if I'd like to rub some cream on, when deep heat rub was offered he duly pulled his kegs (trousers) back up.
A roofer by trade, he had been sitting on a ridge which had been cemented the previous day and seemingly not set properly, the discomfort in his backside and upper thigh he put down to the position he was in for hours, until that was, the following morning when the pain was intense and it was realised he'd suffered a major burn to his posterior. The things you learn in life!
Anyhow, an excuse to leave the christening do was that we needed to get back and see to poorly sheep, plus my mother needed her mothers day card which we had only just managed to buy en route to the christening. I gave her a bunch of flowers too, an imaginary bunch, which I made her smell and guess what colour they were - I'm sure she was flattered!!
On the way home the better half enquired as to who my friend was in the bar,
"Y'know the one who dropped his trousers".
"No idea, never met the guy before"
It was then it dawned on me just how ludicrous the whole scenario had been.... but interesting all the same!!
Back home, changed into the smelly everyday clothes and off to look at sheep. My first conclusion which I drew on first seeing them in the morning was still my favourite prognosis and not one which I liked. Twin lamb disease. On a positive note it had to be mild twin lamb disease so there was hope and still is.
The sheep which were acting peculiarly this morning were no worse, a good sign, they were also no better (which would have been highly unlikely). It is disapointing as these sheep have been fed like fighting cocks, albeit with access to high energy licks and hay. I conclude that as they are now just a fortnight off lambing this is not sufficient for them and so they will be going onto 18% sheep cake with added glucose immeadiately, thanks to the kindness of a neighbour who has lent some bags until a delivery is made.
The ewes are in good physical fettle and really ought not to be going down with twin lamb disease, however the prolonged hard weather has meant sheep have been fed for a longer duration than usual and so are now maybe finding that when the drag of bearing lambs is really hitting them that boost in feeding is not there, as they have been fed since being very light in lamb, whereas feed would normally have only been introduced to them more recently and would have given them a lift as the lambs began to be a drain on their mothers bodies.
All being well these sheep may well be lucky. If my prognosis is correct then the outcome could well be poor, except (and I am thinking positively here) this problem has been noticed very early with what I suspect to be a mild form of the 'disease', as the better half said - he wouldn't have picked up on it yet ( he is a tractor driver with a strong dislike of sheep). It boils down to knowing the sheep and catching 'odd' behaviour quickly - hopefully luck will be on their side.
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