Monday 23 May 2011

Down from the hills

On my first day back home I found myself at the local agricultural merchants and was greeted by one of the lads in the warehouse with "Hello, see you're back down from the hills then!" Indeed I am.

It seems to have taken a while to acclimatise, the noise, hustle and bustle seemed almost overwhelming to begin with. I always thought I lived in a fairly quiet area but I was wrong. Having spent six weeks in relative solitude in an extremely peaceful area of the countryside I found myself faced with traffic, people, school children and life in general, it's probably as well I returned when I did or I may well have turned into a hermit!!

The lambing appeared to be hectic throughout, even in the last few days when there is usually an opportunity to catch your breath the momentum kept going. I returned at the six weeks, although it had been intended I would stop on an extra couple of days to ensure everything was well sorted before I left.

Unfortunately my assistance was required elsewhere and for all the wrong reasons. A local shepherd needed to leave his lambing ewes and visit his dying father who lived many miles away. I had to get back and offer cover in such circumstances.

Maybe that didn't help the transition back to 'normal' life. I don't know. I do know it seems to have been a challenge to settle back in to the hubbub of life in Tarset.

It was unfortunate that on leaving the lambing I was unable to leave a clean slate. The last round I did around the sheep saw a number of minor problems had arisen, my de briefing to the shepherd had me listing this and that which needed checking in the morning. It is nice to be able to leave and say that to the best of your knowledge all is well, that wasn't the case this year and I was leaving feeling dissatisfied with how things were. That's livestock for you!

Many a farmer or shepherd will say "it's alright for you (the lambing man), you know when your lambing will finish and you just pick up your pay, walk away and leave everything behind" There is a great deal of truth in that, but it can also be hard to turn your back on them and walk away. A flock you have cared for for six weeks, dealt with all the problems of and you find yourself having to switch off and forget about them - not always so easy to do!

Upon my return to Tarset I found myself straight back into the thick of it. Whether due to tiredness or what I don't know but the sheep I began herding for a few days made no sense to me what so ever. It is a difficult time of year to walk 'blind' into someones fields. With sheep still left to lamb and problems lying about it can take a day or two to get your head around what is what. Twin fields with single lambs running in them can have you wondering where the other lamb is when she probably only has one and hasn't been moved out of the field to join the singles. I felt confused (not an unusual state)and somewhat out of my depth at times. However, all was well in the end, you can only do the best you can do.

Life is slowly returning back to normal, Shep is beginning to feel more sociable.

The weather is hugely disappointing, with strong winds, which I have become accustomed to in the cheviots but don't expect to such an extent at home. We are also experiencing rain and showers. It is almost as though the good weather came too soon, which some of us did wonder at the time. There is however still grass around and sheep and lambs are doing relatively well albeit hattered with the weather.

We succeeded in getting through the lamb marking of those sheep which I had lambed, with only the youngest of lambs being left to be dealt with once I had left. There were only 4 left to lamb when I departed which aint bad at all. These have now lambed out, a 'phone call from the shepherd the other night filled me in and brought me up to date with the flock. My final lamb count saw one more lamb than last year. Just one more? I hadn't had the problem of the dysentry and was hopeful of a bumper lamb count, however, the geld ewes were up considerably. I had had 7 geld the year previous with 26 geld this year. That being the potential of at least 19 less lambs. The winter weather had definitely had an affect on these ewes at tup time.

To sum the lambing up I am grateful the weather was as co-operative as it was, although the cold easterly winds did bring with them their own problems. Rain as well would probably have seen a great deal of death. Not everyone has been so fortunate. I spoke to one farmer with and easterly facing farm who had had to call the vet in when a fair number of big lambs were found blown up and dead, apparently a form of pneumonia caused by the variation in temperature and cold winds. We were having a great deal of sunshine which was hot in shelter, also hard frosts in the mornings and of course the cold wind.

I don't think I have ever seen such an early spring, so much grass and such relatively kind weather. In many respects I experienced as many and a greater variety of problems than normally expected but thankfully due to the dryness of the lambing period these never seemed a huge chore, never left you feeling despondent. However they have left me and many others feeling weary and the weather we're experiencing at the present is not helping the job.

Young Kale came on leaps and bounds throughout the duration of the lambing. Moss as usual was in his element, now five years old he is in his prime and never failed to amaze me with his capabilities, he has settled down well and could often think quicker than I could. Glen was happy to see us return albeit slightly jealous. It wasn't just the dog happy to see our return, many people have kindly mentioned how good it is to see us back which does help one to settle back in.

There were many laughs whilst I was away, much tomfoolery went on between myself, neighbours and staff. Suppers were offered and gratefully received, friends visited and were a pleasure to see. All in all it was a fairly good lambing, hands on and tiring but once again a pleasure to lamb them there cheviots in the cheviots. All I need now is to stop lambing in my sleep, catch my second wind and knuckle down to the lamb marking and forthcoming shearing seasons (if the weather will permit!)

P.S I am hopeful that I have sorted the problem of gremlins on the blog and that the missing photos from a couple of the postings in April may now have returned.