Monday, 10 December 2012

The wanderer returns

It's tup time, so the wanderer would of course be a sheep - well? wouldn't it? After all, sheep are wandering with a mission at the moment, either ewes looking for a fella or the tup looking for a floosie. We are just getting into second time over on the hill tupping front and I would imagine all shepherds have their fingers crossed that there won't be too many ewes a wandering; looking for a fella to fulfill their desires. Now the boys ought to be wandering, desperate to find that elusive ewe who slipped the net first time over and desires the company of an amorous male. Time will tell just how the boys faired first time around.

You may have noticed Shep has been missing for a spell, I did make the return trip from Dalmally away back when (so long ago I can barely recollect) and since then there has been much to do and coupled with the fact there was no broadband connection for a fair duration this blog has found itself put on the back burner so to speak. Hopefully some normality may return, I once again have contact with the outside world which is a godsend as the weather has been somewhat arctic of late, making travelling and visiting a no go for those of us who are wusses on the roads, unless they are perfectly dry and the sun is shining!

Shep hasn't had time to partake in any winter sports, it's fair to say that a fear of 'getting hurt' would probably ensure I wouldn't wish to partake in any winter sports other than making a snowman, but regardless, there hasn't been time for such frivolities to date. I did manage a little bit of sledging however..........

Tup harnesses - awful things! A contraption worn by the tup (sire), strapped around his belly and shoulders to keep a coloured crayon in place on his brisket. Why? Well, when he jumps up onto a ewe he very kindly leaves a crayon mark behind to confirm he served her ( it is hoped that is what it confirms, in reality it only tells you he jumped up onto her back).

It is fair to say that over the years Shep has had little to do with tup harnesses, hill tups rarely get strapped up, it seems to be some form of in - bye bondage, the hill lads aren't into that fancy stuff!

It was necessary this tup time for Shep to strap a suffolk tup into his breeding attire, now that in itself was a challenge, working out where all the straps went around his huge bulk. He wasn't even a friendly beast, and had me dancing around the pen as some form of shepherd baiting took place, his head was definitely harder than my legs. It was a relief to get him backed into a corner and tied around the neck to a rail in the pens, my legs might get to see another day and not find themselves snapped like matchsticks.

Unfortunately, squashed up to the railings in the sheep pens meant only one side of him was free to work on at a time, so the battle ensued to get tup harness contraption untangled and re tangled around this heavyweight chap. There was much chuntering and head scratching went on I can assure you and after a fair duration I concluded that all lose ends were tied up and the crayon was in the correct place, right between his front legs sitting on his brisket - success!

It was a huge relief to release the chap to a field full of ewes and let him get on with the job in hand.

Two days later I noticed something was amiss, a ewe that had been 'served' seemed to have a crayon mark on her hip rather than on her rump and sure enough good old friendly suffolk tup was tracked down and it was noticed he was now wearing his crayon under his nearside lisk (okay, simple terms - left hand arm pit!). More head scratching ensued, from Shep, not the tup. How on earth did that happen? Pretty obvious really, my incompetence at dressing the beast had caught me out - humph!

I was going to have to get a hold of the fella and redress the situation. Memories of shepherd baiting flashed back in an instance, this fella really didn't appreciate the feminine touch the first time, he probably wasn't gonna walk up to me in the field and ask for assistance was he? The sheep pens were a fair old distance away, the roads were solid ice with a  covering of snow and any vehicles brave enough to face the treacherous conditions wouldn't be happy to find a shepherd and flock of sheep on the road would they?

Not to worry, I'm sure greed would get the better of the fella, a bag of cake would surely take his attention long enough for me to be able to get a hold and so I duly returned with a bag of cake (sheep feed). The ewes soon came forward and started guzzling the pile I laid on the snowy frosty ground, the tup? well of course, he held back, suspicious, memories of being tied up in the sheep pens fresh in his mind. - Humph!

More piles of sheep feed laid out, in a tight circle, more ewes guzzling............... eventually he couldn't help himself and did indeed come forward and joined in with the feeding frenzy, unfortunately every time I felt I was slowly closing in with bag in hand as a decoy he backed off, neither of us really wishing to get to close to one another.

I concluded I was going to have to spring into action, attempt my infamous rugby (sheep) tackle and hold on for grim death until he succumbed under my enormous weight - easy!

More little piles of cake were laid out in an increasingly smaller circle, yet more ewes guzzled and finally he dropped his head in amongst the melee, I pounced, fingers locked around the harness which was strapped around his chest and off we went. I tried desperately to throw all my weight upon him and wished instantly that I'd had enough common sense to have started this daring ambush on the level, not the steep as he careered down hill, his 100kg bulk gaining speed with every stride with me skidding along beside him on my belly, side, back,...... bouncing off every frozen bumpy bit hidden under the covering of snow that the field seemed to possess (why is it fields look flat and smooth?), it seemed every angular bit of my body was managing to clatter against something frozen and hard as I trailed along at increasing speed and totally out of control of the situation.

I dare say teeth were clenched, I know there were no swear words uttered, it took me all my time to get my breath, steely determination set in as we neared the roadside, fortunately the roads were very poor for driving upon so hopefully no one would be trundling by, but I could still feel my pride hurting. Time to take control, I managed to swing my legs past his and he cowped (fell) over, there was a huge feeling of relief, elation and success which quickly evaporated and was replaced with a deep feeling of despair as I found myself lying there and with the tup up on his feet and his heels kicking up dust (snow) as he disappeared into the distance, harness flapping around his lugs (ears). The strap had snapped, pulled out of my hands and left me quite literally downtrodden - so much for sledging!

Moral of the story? The lazy mans way isn't always the easiest........... he found himself gathered up, out onto the roads and down to the sheep pens, tied to the rails and sorted. He's never come forward for the cake bag since!