Monday 19 June 2017

It's Awful warm...Me Feet are Broke!

Love these lemon drop yellow snap-dragons.
"It's awful warm...Me feet are broke!" This from friend and neighbour, old boy down the road. He says it "warrr-um". He's spotted me walking the dogs early, avoiding the worst of today's heat, as he returns on a tractor from the other side of the village, loaded with empty pallets. He invites me in for a cup of tea and it's only when we're in the living room (turf fire glowing red in the grate) that he takes off his woolly jumper and his wellies (we're dry as dust here now, no mud for miles). It was good and welcome tea, though.

A spare suet pud from the freezer. Hard to beat!
We are having another mini heatwave here with temperatures down in the SE up towards 26-28ÂșC (UK is even hotter - I am hearing 31 and 33) so inevitably all those sheep owners who have not managed to get their animals sheared yet are starting to get anxious about 'fly-strike'. This is a horrible smelly affliction where the flies lay eggs down among the damp, warm fleece and the maggots eat their way down to and the into the sheep's skin. Not nice.

Supervising baby chicks with menaces?
The answer is to shear them in a timely manner, like in May, so that there is no fleece left for the flies to 'nest' in. However, smallholders have a problem, in that the 'proper' professional shearers get too busy working the large flocks and farms, hundreds or thousands of sheep and cannot be bothered to drive out to your isolated little spot and shear your 3, 4 or 5 sheep. Even if you have booked your man, he is still likely to let you down at the last moment leaving your sheep wilting in the heat.

Broad beans coming ready in the tunnel.
This is one of the reasons I decided to do my own. I am delighted that I love and enjoy this job and it now seems to be spreading, my own ewes first, then Sue and Rob's gang but now more recently a request from a Facebook friend and more to come. The FB chum was asking me to do a few for a friend of hers who was not on FB and who I'd never met, so I agreed to step in if she was stuck. I was passed a mobile phone number and the lady then also provided me with her Eir-code (post code).

New release pen for those Hubbards for
when they get moved to the big outdoors
Eir-codes are now the way we all find each other here - they have been added to the Google-Maps programme so you can ask for directions from Lisacul to, for example, F45E600 and up will come the map you need. Add in the 'Street-view' technology and you can "drive" there looking for landmarks before you make the real journey. No more need for 'directions'.

Southdowns. Oh those fully-woolly faces. Scary for the shearer.
So, there I was, then, headed for the tiny hamlet of Carrowbeg near to the village of Kilkelly over by Knock Airport early on Sunday morning. I was nervous, of course, hoping I'd do a good job for this new "customer" and that she'd be pleased.

One down, two to go.
I needn't have worried (I hope!), the lady turned out to be a real, genuine, salt of the earth East Ender here 10 years now but via Canvey in Essex and a big sheep farm in Cornwall. No nonsense though, so I knew she'd not want me being flippant or over friendly - I was nudged into full cool, professional, competent mode.

The ladies are a lot cooler.
I was desperate not to make any nicks or cuts in her animals so I was being really careful, especially as she told me a 'happy' anecdote about one shearer who had come to her and sliced the ear clean off a sheep. She can still remember the "plop" of it hitting the ground. She didn't get mad, she told me but I gather he didn't get paid or invited back. To add to my worries, these were not 'beginner's' type sheep, so it was not easy.

No damage to ears or eyes
They are Southdown breed, one of the two breeds familiar to we Sussex folk, the other being the Romney (Marsh). They have completely woolly faces with only their lips and nostrils and ear-tips showing. They also have shaggy wool all down their legs to their feet. I had only up to then, sheared sheep with the side-burns and top-knot of Hampshires, or the 'clean' faces and lower legs of Suffolks and Jacobs.  No need to put your clippers anywhere too near ears, eyes or those Achilles tendons.

Rambling Rector against the blue skies
Ah well. It went OK and we got through the 3 of them in about 2 hours with my new friend, whom we will call East Ender (EE) for these purposes), holding onto the dog-lead tied round a gate and trying to steady the rather nervous first-time girls (shearlings) from hopping about too much. Almost inevitably, I did have one faux-pas, maybe as a result of the dancing or just my beginner-ish incompetence, and nicked a small bloody hole in an armpit.

I was quite upset and apologetic and because I do not know EE at all, I *think* she was OK with it and will cope. It is frustrating to know that I will not find out till next year when I either get asked back or not! What ever the case she did not march me off the premises - she gave me a nice cup of tea and I met the rescue lurcher dogs, one of whom has a front leg amputated having been rescued in an appalling state. The nick will soon dry and heal over with or without EE's reaching for the herbal ointments or Vaseline. Ooops.

Daft 'selfie' with smoker.
So, that was EE and her three Southdowns. Next up came a request from my fox-shooting rifle man calling from Co. Sligo. Now they, I knew, have a lot more sheep (18 and a ram, it turns out) and I was seriously worried I'd not be able for it, with my 2 hours per three sheep work-rate. However, my man is in the lurch after having been let down by their 'proper' guy and is happy to work away at my 'method' over several sessions if need be. I can't remember exactly, but I think his sheep are bare-faced and bare legged ones, so we might get on faster than on the Southdowns.

Loving the hot weather and the sunny flowers.
I will let you know in the next post. Meanwhile, it seems to be all go here despite the absence of Mrs C who has now moved from the Cardiff 'AGM' base down to spend a few nights with our good friends Mazy Lou and Airy Fox in Bridport. She's back Wednesday. I will be the one lying there asleep in a pool of sweat and lanolin. It's awful warrr-um... me back is broke!

No comments: