Saturday 26 November 2011

Springing into Winter

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'Tis just a few days since this picture was posted, red sky in the morning, shepherds warning as they say. How true that has been. Taken last Sunday morning whilst gathering, within a week the weather has deteriorated. We've had a great spell of weather but it now feels that the spell has been broken.
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For the time being I'm going to look back, back to last Sunday. Sheep were finally gathered up and were heading for home, it had been a cracking morning, mist did roll in and headed back out again and for once we were fairly confident we had all sheep off this cut forward and cornered.
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Looking back (as you do when gathering) I couldn't help but take this photo into the sun. Looking towards the east the sight was almost spring like, sun burning through the early hours of the morning promising a good day to follow, even though we had had the red sky just an hour previous.

We weren't to be disappointed that day, on any counts. Two cuts of sheep had been gathered succesfully. All accounted for which is nothing short of a miracle, especially the cut which often sneak into a planting and hide from the gatherers. Moral was high.

The sheep were sorted and moved to respective pastures in readiness for the tups been loused (let loose), even whilst driving the quad bike the temperature was quite balmy, I was thinking I really didn't need my fleece jacket on as I could feel the heat of the sun through my clothing. The whole day went smoothly, no hiccups or problems, the sun shone, the air was warm and you couldn't have asked for anything better.

I mentioned to the shepherd that this ought to be our last day out here, a day to hold strong in our memories, a perfect day. There are changes afoot on this particular farm, a parting of the ways. Neither of us knows if we'll ever be out here again to gather, let alone be in each others company doing so. This was the first day of many to gather sheep forward for tup time, wouldn't it have been perfect if it had been the last day of many. Regardless, it will be a day which I wont forget in a hurry. 20th November, more like a day in springtime, a gather which generally sees one of us heading back out to collect waifes and strays saw all present and correct, fit and healthy. Was I dreaming?

By the 25th November I could have been forgiven for imagining it had all been a dream. The weather became seasonal at long last. The final days gathering saw us taking shelter, getting wet and worse - getting cold! I'd forgotten what it felt like to get cold!
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The last cut of sheep to be gathered in for tup time. As seen they have to cross a burn, unfortunately the photo barely does justice to the depth of the ford. The sheep did cross but a fair bit of persuasion was needed, they weren't too keen on receiving a belly wash! Whilst gathering my face had been dropped, chin tucked in, an attempt to relieve the pain of the hailstones which were ferociously lashing down, driving into them just helped the driving force of the stinging little blighters, the wind giving them extra strength. A wind which saw hats blown off and dogs missing commands.

On cornering a planting where the path of the two of us would cross I found the shepherd tucked into the edge of the trees, the hail had given way to sleet, again driving sleet and shelter had been sought. He was probably also waiting to see if I ever turned up or whether I had done my usual and got bogged somewhere, regardless, shelter was appreciated for a short spell, unfortunately the weather didn't look like blowing out straight away and so the gathering resumed, chin tucked in and collar pulled high up my neck off we went again.

The above photo doesn't show the 'orrible conditions we'd travelled through, the weather did finally blow over and sheep were cornered and penned. The wind felt cold. A strong one at that and from a fairly mild art but cold, maybe being wet didn't help, allowing the wind chill to bite deeper. I had forgotten what it felt like to get cold. The usual two layers, a fleecy and a top coat, gloves and hat. Definitely time to hunt those winter jumpers out, the mild conditions of late had led me into a sense of false security, I was not wearing as many clothes as I ought for the time of year.
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This photo doesn't really portray what I would like it to, it looks like mist coming in but in reality it is a shower and a snow shower at that. Driving white stuff came out of the sky. I watched it land on the sleeve of my top coat and its lumpieness melt off as more fell, the ground remained green as I looked skywards again and saw without doubt it was indeed snow, if not it had to be very thick sleet. Brrr.

The shower passed and there was nothing to show for it's unsocialness (is that a word or have I just made it up?) Anti social behaviour! (Where's Megan when I need her??) The day was coming to an end and homeward bound was becoming a high priority. I was nithered (very cold),I had forgotten what that felt like but quickly remembered! On getting home the wet coats were chucked off and a jumper was put on, whilst the fire was set into motion to try and heat the house and myself, I'm pleased to say the jumper was finally removed as the evening wore on.

So, there you have it, life in Tarset has returned to normal, the seasons are upon us, let's hope not with a vengeance, I wouldn't like to think winter has some catching up to do. I spoke to a shepherd just over the border in the direction of my lambing and learnt we had got off lightly, the ground whitened where they are and right into the house at that. Brrrr. Fortunately it also shifted and is now nothing more than a memory. The 25th November rings a bell from last year..............