Monday 5 September 2011

An update - August

The last update was in July I have had to re read it to remember what had gone on. Here we are in the beginning of September and I'm wondering where August went, in fact I'm actually wondering where the hell the summer went.

It has been a disappointing summer weather wise and the vein continued through August and into the beginning of September. It has to be said though that at the moment the weather is mild if not damp at times. There is still a lot of grass around although the hills are dying back, the greens are beginning to fade and the first signs of autumn are peeking through.

The heather has given us a tremendous show this year, with the pollen rising like dust when you travelled through it and the scent strong enough to cause you to sneeze. I recall one day when Moss, Kale and I had been gathering in the Rede for 5 hours, the dogs had been bounding around in the heather for most of that duration, you could see 'clouds' of pollen dust being left in their wake. Once home I let them out of the car and into the garden, I was surprised when Kale shook himself and a cloud of dust rose from his coat! It is unfortunate that there has not been enough decent days to truly enjoy the purple blanket in all it's glory but there have been windows, the odd decent day when the depth of purple has been accentuated by sunlight.

Lamb sales have commenced and the trade seems to be strong, breeding sheep are required and making good money at the moment, the fat trade has dropped slightly as more lambs come on the market but compared to a few years back it is definitely nothing to grumble about. Farmers might be smiling! Shep has yet to find the time to attend a mart (sheep sale) but I will one day.

As for Shep, well, busy as usual. I see in the last posting I had finished my clipping........ and then started again! The few days I gave to the other shearer weren't always plain sailing, much of it was outdoor shearing or for farmers who didn't have much room to house sheep, which made organisation difficult due to the fact the showers insisted on falling.

They were 'relaxed' days, after all, they weren't my jobs, I had no organising to do I just had to turn up on the farms on the allocated days. The final days clipping was on Sunday 28th August. That is late. The season up here runs through June and July and sometimes into the beginning of August. The end of August is definitely getting late. However, there is the train of thought that wool growth is determined by the length of day and temperature and those who clip late claim their sheep are wooled up the same as everyone elses once the winter gets here.

I have to say as August drew on I really didn't feel like clipping, the days were getting cooler and shorter and somehow it didn't feel right, it was the wrong season. I was dipping, spaening (weaning) then heading off for a days clipping - very peculiar!

The final tally? 3,993 was the total on the 28th August. Since then I have clipped 7 with hand shears that have come in at the spaening which were missed at the clipping gather and I know of at least one more sheep to clip when I head off shortly to dip. So the tally to date is a straight 4,000. Should I track down the elusive one on the dipping day I'll be able to say I clipped over 4,000!

It may seem like a huge number of sheep but believe you me it isn't, not by professional shearers standards anyhow and when I was younger and fitter I used to clip more than that. When you consider the duration I seem to have been on clipping it seems even less!! T'will do for me tho', may well be the last time I shear quite so many - who knows?

The final days clipping was a challenge. I usually rise to a challenge but have to say I felt I could have walked away from this one. Out door clipping, showers threatening all day and the wind was blowing a hoolly. The clipping trailer never needed loose wool brushing off it, in fact the person wrapping had to be quick to grab the fleece before it too blew off the trailer. I don't think I have ever clipped with a hat on before, the T shirt never saw daylight although I did get my coat off eventually,I still had a further three layers on though. Cheviots were the order of the day. Yes I know, I like cheviots, but they are south country cheviots, these were cheviot crosses and north country cheviots. The north country cheviot being the bigger bruisier cousin of the southy. The clipping trailer was set up outside the sheep pens, once off the trailer the sheep had a 100 acres to disappear on, there was little room for mistakes!

There were a couple of dodgy moments. A north country cheviot tup caused some consternation. A big white, fat, woolly, heavy beast he was, whom I struggled with and eventually got tipped out of the race, just as his backside hit the deck he sprung to his feet with me hanging on for grim death. My technique was anything but professional but I have to say not a swear word passed my lips, due to the fact all breath needed conserving to hang on to the beast! I was still dancing around on the spot doing a poor attempt at being in control and hoping to god neither of us fell off the trailer, or if we did hopefully it was him and not me when the other shearer came to the rescue. Having finished his sheep, which he was clipping alongside of me, he came across and said "Here, I'll clip that for you" my dogged determination left me in a flash and I never once considered disagreeing, a huge feeling of relief overcame me as I passed my unruly charge over to a man 20 years my senior and without even a tinge of guilt! Out of the five tups to clip that day I only managed one! One was plenty!

I rang home at lunch time. Knowing the other half was away out working I left a message on the answerphone, hoping he would return home before myself and asking for the fire to be lit and stoked up with coal, damper on and water getting heated. All I could think of was a long hot soak in the bath, clipping in the cold isn't good for you, clipping with a hat on and top coat isn't good for you. There were times the windchill hit my hands and I wondered if I was holding on to the handpiece or not! It's times like this when you wish you had an immersion heater, when you know you could walk in the house and find the water was hot. Fortunately he did return before I did and the water was boiling in the hot tank enabling me to enjoy my soak and unstiffen my chilled body.

There is nothing worse than finishing the clipping on a low. I was so pleased to be finished and could easily have chucked the clipping machine away, however, it is relatively new and worth a fair bit of money so that would be unwise! Not only that but I do really enjoy clipping, t'was just one of those days and the memory will be in the past when I hang the machine up again next June and set off on another clipping season.

August saw the clipping over for another year, Falstone and Bellingham shows over for another year, sheep spaened (weaned) once again for another year and finally August itself over again for another year. Where does the time go? The nights are really beginning to cut in, dark by 8.30pm now, although still light at 6am which ain't too bad. The beauty of autumn will soon be upon us with winter following -short days and time to recuperate - with the added bonus of spring hot on its heels!


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