Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Himalayas come to Tarset

We had an invite out one night this past week to view holiday snaps. I know, the thought usually makes you want to yawn, but not on this occasion, this was a trip I really wanted to view. Two folks had gone off for a walking holiday in Nepal and believe you me the pics were well worth seeing.

Amazing countryside, photogenic people and many bright colours, but boy was it steep.... I felt breathless taking in the views and the altitudes which had been walked, photos of porters carrying 50kg loads by way of straps slung around their foreheads. That is the equivalent of two bags of sheep cake, and they carried them up steep hillsides for the duration of the day, not just for a yard or two. Pack mules appeared to carry heavier goods, such as drums full of fuel or gas bottles. Almost everywhere people were dependant on walking and carrying to get from A to B, we were even told that the school day didn't commence until 10am due to some children having to walk for anything up to 4 hours to get to school. Photographs of wedding guests on their 6 hour hike to a wedding were also shown, my goodness- not a sign of a quad bike anywhere. The Nepalese could really put me to shame, I truly did feel breathless just viewing the scenery and having the logistics explained to me. We are spoilt in this country.

The day following the evening out I was putting rock salt out for some sheep and just had to laugh when I noticed the writing on the bag......
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The Himalayas really had come to Tarset! My god! What is the world coming to when rock salt from Pakistan is being put out for stock in Tarset? I only hope this wasn't carried up and down hills by pack mule or men. Does seem strange that the EU is pushing environmental schemes to farmers and then products from 1,000's of miles away are being imported into our country, wont be long 'til the whole of our country is planted with trees in an effort of neutralizing the carbon footprint that we keep hearing about.
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Rock Salt. Exactly that, hewn from the ground and left in lumps, big lumps and little lumps, fat lumps and thin lumps.
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This particular rock salt has a pinkish hue to it, may be due to iron but I don't rightly know. As well as being full of sodium rock salt also has various other trace elements in it. Put out for stock to access ad lib.

There seems to have been a resurgence of interest in Tarset for Rock Salt. Again, something I have always been accustomed to using throughout my shepherding life. It was noted that any sheep on unfenced roads would often be seen at the salt heaps laid out by the council ready for winter, or should a road have been gritted by the council the sheep could be seen licking at the tarmac.

We used to have little wooden boxes made or used old earthenware troughs to put the salt in, saves it being pushed around the ground, keeps it clean and also stops it from burning the grass off, many now a days just seem to lie it out on the open ground. Both sheep and cattle do like it and it definitely doesn't do them any harm. There is often something to be said for the old fashioned ideas, it is interesting how they seem to get overlooked then come back into favour.

Salt was often used at hay time as well, in the days when folks were dependant on making small bales of hay, should it be moist when brought in salt was sprinkled over the layers of bales in the hay shed to prevent it from sweating too much.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Moss the sheepdog has a birthday

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Yup - Happy Birthday Moss. 20th January 2006 was the day when Grip (his mother) gave birth to her litter of three pups, one of these pups being Moss, one of the others became Kales mother a few years later.
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Moss' father was Tyne, my dog, the only responsibility Tyne took in the fatherhood thing was when he shared an hour or two with Grip in the back of a Landrover, he came out smiling and that was it. Not like the human race, where the male is supposed to be supportive, Tyne had an easy life, until that is a little fluffy bundle turned up at Shep's house!
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Was due to the kindness of the out bye shepherd that Moss came about, a desire to keep my bloodlines going saw me being given the opportunity to line a bitch with Tyne. Tyne was clocking on at this stage, it was an opportunity I was extremely grateful of and a succesful one at that.
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So here he is, 6 years on, middle aged, at his prime and about to go past it. Hard to believe it is six years - time doesn't half seem to fly.
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Moss is very similar to his father in appearance, his leg markings are a mirror image of what Tynes were, if one ear didn't stick up he would look almost identical facially to how his father looked. As for character wise........ well, he possesses the same strong will, but is no where near the dog his Dad was. Don't get me wrong, he is a fine fella, but he isn't quite as hard as Tyne was, he is capable of turning off sheep if he feels threatened where as Tyne would never back down. Moss did unfortunately get bashed by a Swaledale ewe in his youth and I do believe this has caused his 'yellow' streak. Having said all that though Moss is still a more than capable hill dog and just like his father he is just a bit strong in fields, he needs a good outrun to knock the wind out of his sails!
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Unlike Glen, Moss is beginning to show his age, grey is beginning to show on his face. A kind face it would seem, however this is not always the case.

Moss is a very fortunate dog. As a pup of 5 months of age he bit someone, not a play bite - a real bite, with needle sharp puppy teeth. Unfortunately last year, five years on since his last misdemeanor he once again bit someone, in fact the same person. It was malicious and uncalled for. He is indeed a very lucky dog.

It is of little consolation to me that Moss only seems to like to sink his teeth into one particular person. I own a dog which cannot be trusted. A dog which had it not been that he is a good working dog and provides me with my livelihood would have been put down, or at best sold on to a farm away out in the back of beyond. I am fortunate the recipient of the bites showed compassion, the dog ought to be even more grateful.

Moss adores me, which isn't probably the best should he decide to be over protective. We don't exactly live on a knife edge, he does seem to like almost everyone he meets, however this can never be taken at face value. He is a dog who cannot be trusted. Will never be able to be trusted. So, on his 6th birthday he ought to be thanking his lucky stars that he is still around to appreciate life, I know I do!

Monday, 16 January 2012

coppering and frost

A trip over into Cumbria once again, I hadn't enquired what necessities required doing to the flock but I had presumed a fluke dose would be what was required. I had completely forgotten about the necessity to copper the sheep. It's strange the way the seasons vary so slightly from in-bye and out-bye.

Having recently being assisting to get tups off and setting ewes back to the hill it almost seemed too early to be coppering sheep. A job done half way through pregnancy, or ten weeks from lambing, I had overlooked the fact that some of the flocks I assist throughout the year have earlier seasons than others. There must have been a look of shock when the copper was brought out alongside the fluke dose for this particular flock.

I wont bore you with the reasons for and against the need to copper sheep, it ought to be catalogued on this page http://blog.tarset.co.uk/2010/02/coppering-ewes.html
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I was introduced to a new copper product, as you will see from the above link there are a variety of types, this to me is a new product but one which is undoubtedly designed for the job. The density of the liquid and the strong colour of it had me thinking back. Back many years to the original copper I used to administer to sheep in my early shepherding years. A product produced by "Youngs" which was called Swaycop. It came in individual syringes and was a thick paste which was injected under the skin of the sheep.
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The above product was also injected under the skin of the sheep (subcutaneous to the intellects out there), by means of an automatic syringe which would draw out the required dose from the attached bottle.

Life wasn't so simple way back in the Swaycop days. Each syringe had to have a needle attached to it, once used the syringe was discarded and another used on the next sheep, boy how we've moved on!

The memory that held strongest in my mind though was the viscosity of the copper used back then, 'twas thick stuff, so thick in fact that it was necessary to keep the syringes in your jeans pockets to keep them warm or the paste wouldn't run through the needle. On really cold frosty days a bucket of hot water sat in the sheep pens and the syringes found themselves chucked in it before being used to give the thick stuff a sporting chance of thinning down and running through the needle - must have been uncomfortable for the sheep having sludge administered under their skin.

Now we have one bottle capable of treating 50 sheep, an automatic syringe, no hot water necessary and not loads of disused syringes lying around at the end of the day - life really has moved on!

On the subject of cold, frosty days......
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that is exactly what the weather is gracing us with at the moment
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It is much appreciated by both man and beast
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Dry underfoot and good, healthy weather
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Hard to believe tho' that these photos were all taken in the afternoon, the sun had not managed to burn off the hoare frost or soften the ground. Much to my surprise later that afternoon I found myself in the company of two peewits. A beautiful sight and sound so early in the year. T'was so cold our bedroom fire found itself lit in an endeavour to get some heat into the house at night and hopefully prevent us from both coughing frantically (due to colds) when we hit the cold air in the bedroom, the competitiveness of the other half can get somewhat tiresome as he tries his hardest to cough the longest! I try equally as hard not to let the side down!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Close encounter

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The day the old tups went through the pens the youngsters also found themselves having a trip around the pens. Tup hoggs, last years lambs, hopefully going to grow out and become breeding tups themselves. These fellas are spoilt somewhat, living indoors in comfort. A shed, with straw to lie on, hay to eat and sheep feed in troughs, giving them an opportunity to grow into strong adult sheep, or so it is hoped.

Once again young Kale found himself the dog of the moment, learning the ropes in the pens, teaching the hoggs how to respect a dog at the same time. He was in his element! All other dogs barred up he was having a one to one with me and close encounters with sheep. A happy young dog.
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He truly did have a close encounter, this one tup hogg seemed to be intrigued by this big black hairy creature which was hanging around, the others weren't too impressed with the idea but this young guy was bolder, going where no tup has gone before!
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I watched almost spell bound as I really wasn't sure what young Kales reaction would be, he has never had a tup (albeit a tup hogg) come up to him to make friends before, I have to admit I half expected him to have a mouthful of tup but no, he just stood and took it like a man.
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My imagination started to wander and the more I look at this picture the more I wonder what the young sheep was saying to the young dog. Whatever it was it did the young dog the power of good, he didn't back off with fear, neither did he lurch forward to give fear, he just took the encounter in his stride. I was impressed.
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Kales reward was to be asked to move the tup hoggs further up the pens, to show his authority, act like a sheepdog, go around the back of them and push them further up to the working pen. A reward which he seemed to appreciate.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday 13th........ Lucky for some!

T'is just as the day draws to an end that it dawns on me it is Friday 13th. Thankfully I'm not unduly superstitious or I may not have ventured forth today but t'was far too good a day to miss. A rosy morning once again with a crisp frost followed by sunshine - what more could anyone ask for?

Was luck on my side? Very much so, of that there is no doubt.

A venture out away out bye, heading onto neighbouring ground to hunt down sheep was the task in hand. Bike and I got stuck in a gateway, now that was fun! Huh! But hey, we got unstuck before the cavalry decided they needed to come and assist - yipee! Then the shepherd and I split, he one way, I the other. Within seconds Shep was stuck again. Aargh!.......

Out of sight of the cavalry and literally just yards from our point of parting I had to cut through a mini burn/slack/drain, what ever you fancy calling it. Basically bike and I had to drop down cross a couple of feet of running water and rise back out. I managed the drop down bit, bike wasn't to keen on the rising back out the other side, maybe due to that over cautiousness I am so capable of. Reverse was hit, the arse end of the bike rose back out of the water, forward gear engaged, more revs and off we would go. Or at least that was the idea.

Sure enough with plenty of revs we managed to cross the water and the front end of the bike rose up onto the banking.......... then we ground to a halt. Front wheels in mid air, rear wheels splashing in water and making no purchase - yipee! (That isn't what I uttered - honest!) Much pushing, grunting and cursing later I had somehow managed to dislodge the bike and ended up at a most peculiar angle in the water, the angle became increasingly peculiar as I attempted to reverse out of the situation which found me dismounted and trying desperately to keep all four wheels and two feet on terra firma, which involved even further cursing. Luck was with us, knees knocking, bike and I got extricated and we headed on our way. Albeit a totally different route than the one I was intended to take.

The different route had me stumble upon some sheep, which may well have been overlooked on the intended route - how lucky was that?

I didn't make the intended rendezvous on time - what a surprise! But not to worry, sheep were in sight and followed on, whilst the shepherd headed further out onto neighbouring ground.
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I couldn't help but stop and photograph this cairn, t'was the pointy top stone that caught my eye, it appealed to me and so a quick shot before I continued on my journey. Could it have been at this point that I had lost sight of five sheep?

I headed out in the quest of catching up with those I had chased on when I was making my detour earlier in the proceedings but found I had to stop out on the top to take these shots
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The view to my left (east)took in the Cheviots.
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Behind me I had the Scottish hills
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On my right was Kielder reservoir
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and finally, in front of me the view down the valley towards home.

The photos don't seem to show just how clear the day was but then they were taken in a hurry before I resumed my quest to find sheep.

I headed in the direction of where the sheep ought to have gone, could not see them and turned back to be sure they hadn't stood still or slunk back to whence they'd come. Upon returning in the direction of where I'd expected them to be I noticed the other bike and some signalling. Sure enough the sheep had been cornered. Now I could have been sulky when the greeting I received was "You need to go to spec savers, these were just ten yards in front of you when you turned back and you went past five further back there" Instead I just grinned and thought how lucky it was that the other bike was coming from a different angle and had caught sight of the wayward sheep - nowt to do with my eyesight at all!

And so it was then that Friday the 13th proved to be anything but unlucky, the unluckiest part of the day would be the fact I had to travel on that particular neighbouring ground, a task I really don't relish but one which I survived. The day commenced with a beautiful sunrise and closed with an equally pleasant sunset - what more could you ask for?