Friday, 23 June 2017

Too Sheepish?

This week's breed of sheep is the 'Texel'. My first ever ram, named
Reginald is that tank of a sheep on the left in this shot.
This blog is in danger of becoming a bit sheep-orientated but bear with me. All these shearing stories are very seasonal; nobody does much shearing after June so normal, sheep-less service will be resumed shortly. The previous post had me just finished with the East Ender's woolly faced Southdowns and looking forward to getting stuck into Alayne and Colin's EIGHTEEN ewes and a ram. Count them. This is more sheep in one job that I had sheared up to that point in my life. It would also include my first ever ram so I was a little nervous.

French student Anne holds Reginald at mid-way point. 
I needn't have worried. With Liz still away at her 'AGM' in the UK, I spotted a free Tuesday morning when it was certain to be dry and suggested we make a start and make a dent in the number left to be sheared this weekend. My own private target was 6 sheep, which would be a third in half a day, which would make 12 in the whole of Saturday manage-able. Yes, I KNOW the pro's would laugh at these work rates as they bash through ewes in 5 minutes ( I think the current world champ takes 40 seconds!) but I'm a 20-30 minute guy myself.

A sheared ewe looking very skinny next to her full-fleece sisters
As I suspected (hoped!) the sheep turned out to be the Texel breed I had remembered, conveniently clean of face and lower limb, so there was to be none of the clippering round eyes and ears. We were also well staffed - Colin and Alayne use the Help-X "agency" to secure student volunteers who will come out and work hard for bed and board just so they can experience life on a smallholding or farm for a week or two in summer.

Looking like a 'pro' but what's he going to do with the toothbrush?
This summer they have French horse-riding instructor and student 'intern', Anne S on site and she was keen to get involved in this unfamiliar sheepishness. She was to be 'holder/steadier' but went on to be much more involved - catcher, shepherder, sprayer of nicks and cuts and even trainee shearer.

Anne tries her hand at the shearing under "expert" (hah!)
instruction from me.
We ended up having a good deal of fun and banter working away there and flew through the animals, starting with big, chunky Reginald who turned out to be the gentlest, calmest, sweetest victim you could ever have hoped for. The nick and cut spray became a particular in-joke and source of banter and heckling. Called 'Terramycin' and meant to stop any infection at the broken-skin wound sites, it is a bright, lurid blue so all your little nicks and cuts show up really obviously.

The Blue Spray of Shame
We named it the Blue Spray of Shame (and even translated that into French; Jet bleu de l'honte?) and Anne was trying to lash great blobs onto every tiny graze, even where the skin was not broken and I was pleading mercy "Ahhh come ON! Not THAT tiny one!" She had dalmation-ambitions for sure. Colin and I got our own back when she wanted a turn at the clippers and (oops) made a bit of a nick in a brisket. All good clean fun.

50% done, the group are run back down to the field.
We cracked on, swept past my 6-sheep target and managed 8 with a short stop for a refreshment smoothie. First time I'd ever had one of them. Thanks Alayne. We were half packed up and ready to run the sheep back to their field when we took pity on a ewe panting hotly even in the shade of the shed, so we buzzed her off too, total 9 - 50% of the flock complete!

Un-fazed by the shearing this sheared
girl lambed twins today. A nice
unexpected surprise
That was Tuesday and with Liz coming back and having to work, we decided to catch up the rest of the job on Saturday. With rain forecast Thursday night we knew we might need to do some judicious shepherding of the full-fleece ones in and out of doors out of the rain. As a nice happy "ending" to this part of the story, one of the ewes we sheared Tuesday dropped two unexpected happy, healthy lambs today.

Nice pick of broad beans from the tunnel
Had we known she was pregnant we should not have sheared her. I take from this encouragement that the "not while pregnant" rule only applies if you are up-ending the sheep to shear them - all that upside down stuff and stretchy manipulation could easily bring on miss-carriage or spontaneous abortion. Shear them standing on their feet and the stress is so little that even a full-term pregnant one could survive it. Obviously you'd not touch her if you knew. Colin is also delighted that by shearing the mum we have cleaned all round her udder and the lambs had no bother finding the teats and were suckling away in minutes.

Not so much a gift from England as Liz
repatriating this lovely whiskey which had
tried to escape the Island. This from Bristol
Airport's Duty-Free shop. Thank you Mrs C.
That was the first half of that then. More Texel-shearing tomorrow before I hang up the clippers for this season..... as far as I know.  Back home in Roscommon, the house has welcomed Liz home from her travels. She has had a whale of a time re-acquainting with a lot of the UK-based and Internet friends. Among the gifts she came home with, my first play with a sour-dough starter for bread making. More on this in a future post.

Our first 2017 broody, Connie the Sussex, nails it hatching
3 of the 5 eggs she was cooking. 
The first in our little collection of broody hens has hatched her chicks. She was sitting on 5 and now has 3 tiny chicks to Marshall around and rear.

She has made life very easy for herself by doing it all in a wicker basket in the Tígín (feed store) where we can close the door an anyone else interfering with her  and she can teach the babies to feed and find water in safety before she feels the need to take them out into the yard proper and meet all the aunties (and Dads). All three broodies so far this year are the young hens from Sue's replacement group which we got to re-stock after our fox. None of our mature old-stagers have shown any inclination.

Trad Irish Stew but made with goat chops.
That's surely enough for now. One more post about sheep, then I promise to leave them alone for a while as long as no-one comes a-knocking pleading with me to "just do" their 3 because their bloke has let them down.

A personal best post, read by almost 400 readers.
Oh, just one more thing - remember how impressed I was that one of my posts had attracted 300 views? The post, entitled "Welcome Strangers" featured Senator Frank Feighan and our visiting artist, Brian John Spencer. I just looked back at it and see that it has now been read by almost 400 folk. Thank you very much whom ever you are.

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