Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Premature celebrations

Thursday 16th August was the day, one Shep had been looking forward to for quite some while- the last days clipping! Outdoor clipping no less, the night previous had been a wet one, now there's a surprise! but the morning blew out and by 11a.m sheep were dry and clipping commenced. There was a canny air (wind) and sunshine, all seemed well on the home front, we even stopped for lunch, opening our bait (sandwich) boxes to see what goodies were hiding there, quite a relaxed last days clipping it seemed.

Then it rained.

Now Shep ain't gonna give in that easily, although I did raise my head and noted that the skies were black and foreboding away across the valley, they were definitely having something of a downpour. Time to try and clip faster I thought as I felt spots of wet stuff landing om my back.

A few more woolly bodies were clipped, the spots of rain continued to land cool and wet on my back but sheep weren't getting too wet. Once again I looked up and away across the valley to see the downpour was moving, it seemed to be travelling in an arc around us. I couldn't help but grin to myself - the last days clipping and the weather was still being it's usual un co-operative self, but not to worry, the numbers of sheep to clip were getting down and nothing was gonna stop Shep in her quest to hang up the machine for the year.

I did consider stopping and donning waterproofs as the spots started to land heavier upon my back, but then I would just end up hot and sweaty so really I would be no better off than being wet with rain, anyhow, it would also waste time and after all there weren't many left to clip now. Fortunately clipping off a battery machine rigged up to my car battery meant I wasn't going to fear being electrocuted so all was well really.

We were fortunate, the rain, which I believe was indeed heavy, did continue to arc around us, we were just getting the few stray drops on the outside edge, by the time the sheep were all bared off and clipped out the rain had ceased, sun had come out and you couldn't help wonder what all the hassle had been about. So bloody typical though of this years clipping season, but hey! it was over for another year - time to celebrate!

Courtesy of a local artist who had pitched up for the duration to do arty things farmer and myself found ourselves being invited for a quick pint down the pub. Now farmer was acting slightly more conscientious than I was as I was quick to take up the offer, however, it took little to encourage him to come and join us.

So, down the pub we went, mid afternoon on a Thursday we found ourselves sitting outside enjoying a pint and watching the world go by whilst soaking up the sunshine, a slight give away to the fact we weren't tourists would have been our dress code, smell and unkempt appearance as there had been no time to wash and change. My logic is there are plenty who go out for a drink after work donned in their suits, don't see why we should be any different covered in sheep shit.

Glasses were raised to the succesful conclusion of the shearing season and not before time. Fraught doesn't seem to have had a look in this year, it is fair to say it has been the most difficult season to organise in my living memory, but hey! we got through it, finished far later than ought to have done but finished was the important issue this day.

It was something of a bummer when I received a 'phone call the following day to see how things were going from a farmer I work for and who's son clips their sheep. Of course I couldn't help but relay the good news that at long last, after what could only be described as a marathon I had eventually got the clipping over for another year................

"That's good, we've still got 700 to do, could you give us a hand?" was the reply.

It is fair to say my heart sank, but always trying to be as accommodating as possible I agreed to head over once Falstone Show had been and gone. Thank the lord we have an excuse for an annual day off - Falstone Show was a life saver!

Wednesday is dawning, it is 22nd August, an early start to gather hill ewes and then commence clipping for another day. The farmers son and I have already had a day or two at the job, much gathering, shedding off lambs, housing sheep, clipping, neither of us seem to be in the right frame of mind for the job but we are getting through, later this morning we anticipate we will be gathering 3 - 400 sheep - the final gather, which will hopefully see us finished clipping by Friday at the latest if the weather will allow, after that should the 'phone ring the answer will be a definite NO. Spaening (weaning), dipping, gathering are all on the books, clipping will definitely be over for another year. Will I raise a glass again? Now that may just be tempting providence, maybe I'll just celebrate in a non committal fashion just to be on the safe side!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Where there's life there's death.

'Tis a fact y'know, 'tis indeed very true. Where there's life there's death. It's the only fact we are sure of from the moment we are born - someday we will die. None of us know when, or how, but it will indeed come upon us. All the more reason to live life to the full I would say, we just never know when that double decker bus might be bearing down on us, to squash us flat...........

The summer has been a difficult one for stock, I have heard of many farmers who believe their losses may have been greater than usual, some with a virulent form of mastitis amongst their sheep, others losing sheep cowped/kessing (lying on their backs)due to heavy fleeces and wet weather, then there are those unexplained deaths, "she was just lying their like she was asleep". It can be frustrating, exasperating, heart wrenching even and that is without consideration of the financial loss. But it is generally accepted, as already said "where there's live ones there'll be dead ones". Livestock and dead stock go hand in hand.

A morbid subject mebbes, those working with stock are probably more hardened to the fact than city dwellers may be, but no matter how hardened you are there are times when even the hardiest can shed a tear.

There may be some out there wondering why this blog has been drying up somewhat, unlike the weather which pours out generously on an almost daily basis Shep has found inspiration and words resistant to flow of late. There have been personal issues to deal with, none less than the present one of my Mother.

Shep is finally spaened (weaned), let loose into the big wild world so to speak. As this posting is published I will be at the same crematorium I was at less than three months ago, in pretty much the same company as well. Yes, there will be tears, there will also be much laughter, catching up with folks, reminiscing and rejoicing.

It has been a long fortnight. My mother, whom asked so little of life (and gave so much), got her main wish, a wish to leave this world with her independence and dignity in tact. I was often told to "unplug the machines" or "shoot me" should she find herself in a debilitating state. I had no worries on that front as she went to bed one night and didn't awaken the next morning. A lady who had ailed little in her lifetime (a chest condition in recent years being little short of a growing inconvenience to her), had fulfilled her last wish; to leave this world peacefully, with dignity and still totally independent. What more could any of us ask for? How selfish for those of us left behind to wish it could have been any different.

So there you have it, my Mam is dead - snuffed it, curled her toes up, put it how you wish. Often upon finding a sheep just lying dead for no reason the wry humour kicks in and cause of death is pronounced as "lack of breath"! Guess Mam ran out of breath an' all. The coroner came up with a fancy name (they always do, but then they have degrees and some of us don't!) to us commoners, a massive brain bleed/stroke was the cause of lack of breath and boy! how fortunate is that, I could follow it up with "typical, Mam never did do things in half measures"! It is fair to say that myself, my brother, sister in law and Mams two grandchildren and many, many others do wish she'd given us a little bit of a warning, but then she always knew we liked surprises!

There are many happy memories to look back on, some very recent which is a blessing. Shep was a Daddy's girl it has to be said, Mam and I were probably too closely matched, both sharing strong personalities which it is fair to say did indeed clash in my youth.

With age comes wisdom and understanding (or so I've been told!), I have been able to look back to my youth and understand my mothers motives, her aspirations for her youngest and appreciate the fact that she helped forge me into the person I am today. As age crept upon both of us it drew us closer, the last conversation I had with my mother I felt as though I had been talking with a good friend, a true confidant - there is much to be said for that.

She had her hands full it is fair to say, but handled with firmness and kindness she saw her kids blossom and her grandchildren too. We all know how proud she was of us, even though her daughter didn't follow the path that had been hoped of her it was accepted graciously, "so long as your happy, that's all that matters".

A lady who didn't suffer fools gladly, abhorred any form of dishonesty and spoke it as it was - never minced her words. Never one to be in the limelight, always beavering in the background, door open to anyone "so long as they take me as I am". A lady who gave much and asked little in return, a friend to many and more than a friend to many more will be sadly missed by all of us. We all gain strength from having known her and knowing that her final wish was fulfilled.

Or was it? She was pretty much convinced that my brother and I would make a mess of her funeral arrangements (we were sternly told we couldn't organise her 80th last year "I know what you two are like" she said, as we stood before her with a wicked glint in our eyes), so much so she thought she ought to write down her wishes - well! Wishes have yet to be found............ Did she really get her final wish? Lets hope so, following the tearful bit at the crematorium with our family there is to be a memorial service to celebrate her life at her local chapel for all to enjoy, much jolly singing is the order of the day, gifts of wild daffodil bulbs for anyone who might attend ("flowers are for the living, they're no good to the dead"), hopefully we've done her proud, no doubt she'll somehow let us know if we haven't!

As the saying goes "To have loved and lost is better than not to have loved at all"

"Thank you for having been my Mam".

Saturday, 4 August 2012

read into it as you like!

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This sign has often had me in stitches, a relic from the days when a road was un fenced and sheep roamed freely upon the highway but also a reminder to us all........!