Monday, 24 May 2010

Nudey girls and boy

The looks on their faces says it all. "What have you done to us!?"
"Well, had your hot winter coats removed, that all. Aren't you happy?"
"Because we are all in the nude now. And where are our babies. We have lost them."
"No, you haven't. They are still in the Back Lane. When all you mums have been de-coated, then they come out." But somehow or other this was lost in translation with them, and they have had big-time attitude with us ever since.

And all that had happened was that Hubs had made a phone call to the Shearer Man to ask if he could have a look at the flock, and give suggestions as to how we were going to pen them ready for the shearing. 

For many a night our thoughts had pondered this question: How were we going to catch individual members of the flock. The solution we came up with was to section off the end piece of the Sheep House, (above) newly finished, and to fence off the end part of the Paddock as well so they could all be held in a small area. It was going to be another largish project, and being novices we needed the advice of an expert. So Shearer Man was phoned up. Was expecting a call back from him an hour or so later.

Meanwhile our neighbour popped over and somehow or other we got ourselves organised into a car ride of over an hour to go get some Soay sheep lambs to replace her poultry all of which had been horrendously attacked and eaten by another creature, leaving her with three ducks and another small black sheep who had now gone dreadfully skittish because of the trauma she had suffered when all her chicken and duck mates ended up dead.

Plans were discussed, phone calls made, lunch to be had and off on the road we were going to go. I am not sure why we volunteered for the collection of the lambs, but I think it was another translation problem, our neighbour not speaking a word of English and our French still being minimal. 

Phone call came in. Shearer Man. Going to come now to 'have a look'. Well that is what we thought he said, only when he arrived he suddenly began divesting himself of some of his clothing, and assembling what looked like a metal gibet (you know, those things one used to be hung from in olden days). Hubs was all of a flurry. "Got to get the sheep in" he said. 
"I don't know".
"Is he going to do them now? How is he going to do that? We haven't got anything ready.."
"I don't know". And off he went in the car to get some money, just in case Shearer Man was indeed going to shear them.
Which left me. 
"kfdnie lfa'sil , lloem.madkl" said Shearer Man. Well it sounded all gobble-de-gook to me. I ran through the routine of apologising in French for my minimal grasp of his language, he rattled off some more words. Blimey but I was starting to feel stressed. So were the sheep. They had been having their afternoon snooze in the shade of the one and only tree in their field, and were obviously not pleased at being robbed of their sleep and possibly their afternoon's eating session. 

Our neighbour ambled over with map in hand, and spilled out some more words in French, espying Shearer Man upon which her face lit up. He was tall. And dark. And very gypsy-ish. And she had her little sheep which needed her coat taken off as well. 

More words came my way from Shearer Man. Finally I understood that he wanted a rope.  And pallets. "Je comprend" I managed to utter as I shooed Bools and Guss off into the house, and left them to bark themselves silly because they were being left out of the goings-on, and grabbing my camera as I went.
The sheep were getting edgy. Shearer Man grasped my arm, and led me to the back of the Sheep House.

With the rope he tied a pallet to the fence, grasped my arm and made in clear that I was to stay put no matter what happened. "Je comprend" I again muttered. 

Shearer Man, with shepherd's crook in hand, went towards the sheep. And most firmly got them to go down the Paddock. Crikey but he was firm. And then, oh what joy! He got them into the Back Lane behind the Sheep House, and closed them in, having made another gate at the other end. Oh easy-peasy. And didn't cost a penny. 

Taking a moment to thrust my camera at my neighbour, asking her to take some photos, into the shearing we went. Only I don't know what button she was pressing but it most definitely was not the one which actually took photos. So: no photos. Not to worry. Hubs/ Trainee Shearer Man joined Shearer Man as his apprentice, and I remained as the Gate Lady, letting the sheep through as necessary. It was hot and dusty work. 

 All done. On our minds now was the necessity of honouring our promise to travel to Auch to get the lambs. Without a pause, except to grab some water, off we set still reeking of sweat and sheep, still in working gear and still with our boots on. Well, we are, after all, trainee smallholders. 

And the two lambs were got. 

This is how they were given to us, with legs all tied with plastic tape. We scooped them up, and were glad that they were being re-homed. Three hours later, even sweatier and dustier and near nightfall back home we found ourselves. The two babies were untied and scampered off into their new home. We parcelled up the fleece and put it as neat as we could on the bales of straw in the Sheep House. The sheep themselves were really mad at us as could be seen by the way in which they huddled down at the far end of the Paddock,  with the ram being in an extremely bad temper and ramming all his ladies  to show his displeasure about being tampered with. 

Day over. 

Things I have learnt: that it is best to put fleece from newly shorn sheep in another place rather than leave it in their vicinity. This will stop the effort of having to pick up bits and pieces of fleece from all over the place. It will also stop the fleece from getting a goodly quantity of straw muddled up with the wool itself which is going to be a nightmare of a job to get out. 
That it is nice to re-home two little sheep who were obviously not being properly looked after, and that hopefully the other little sheep will feel better now she has the makings of a new flock.
That it is going to be task indeed to get the fleeces all cleaned up. That the previous owner of the sheep, and Shearer Man, both suggested that I wash the fleece in the river Adour. Am not sure how I am going to do that. Only the fleece is mostly in bits now after the night-time gambols of the sheep. And if put in the river, most of it will swiftly flow away. However, pillow cases come to mind. And wellies. 
That the Internet seems not to be overly helpful about how I am supposed to clean the fleeces up. And not to get frustrated when I couldn't find a suggestion which said: 'Put your fleece into your washing machine, then take it out an hour or so later all nicely done'.
That it is necesary to be patient when one's flock looks upon you as the evilest of people, and will not want to come in from the field because you do the most horrendous things to them. And not to feel upset because they don't want to be friends any more. It will pass.

Meanwhile: I continue to go out into the field to cut off the seed heads of the dock weeds, which are growing rampantly now. The Mower Man came by the other day to say that in a week of two the field will be ready for cutting. This will oblige the dock weeds in their desire to make offspring since the tractor will gleefully scatter all the seeds from the ripe docks absolutely everywhere. So I go cut two black plastic sacks of docks each day. And have trained myself not to look at how many I have not cut. I just focus on how many I have stopped from reproducing. 

So off to start the Wool Project. Or rather, to think about the Wool Project. Bye for now!


Roz said...

Phew - out of breath just reading your post - what a busy lady you are. Makes me feel very lazy for having spent a portion of the afternoon in the pool. I'm very impressed with the sheep quarters though - I hope they are too!x

the fly in the web said...

It depends how long you want to keep it before setting off on a project for it.
I used to keep mine in its' original state and then clean only what I was going to use.

Vera said...

Hi Roz, and glad to know that you managed to finally get your pool filled up enough to have a dunk. I think the sheep like their house, we do. We had a momentary lapse and thought that we would move into the Sheep House and the sheep could have the caravan to sleep in!

Hi Fly. Thankyou for that! I was getting into quite a lather about the thought of having to get it all cleaned up now. Will sort it out, and bag it up until ready to use it.

French Fancy said...

Oh what a fabulous post, Vera. It would make a first classs sit-com - although as funny as you make it sound I can just imagine the aggravation that you were feeling from time to time. My diet buddy has a flock and the other week her hands were as red as beetroot. She said that she had been putting some stuff or other all over the sheeps' feet - it's like another world being a small holder.

I'm so glad those two adorable little lambs are going to good and kind people such as yourselves. These hard-hearted farmers out here - eh?

Tommo said...

Crikey! All go, innit.

Vera said...

Thanks Jean, and it was nice to rescue those lambs. And my hands will never be the same again - they are forever stained by something or other, and the nails always seem to have half a ton of soil in them. They are 'working hands' I suppose and are opposite to the pristine condition they were once in, back in those days of 'soft living' in the UK.

Vera said...

Tommo, indeed it is! We don't stop! But it keeps us active and we sleep well.

DUTA said...

I suppose you read stuff that helps you understand things about your animals and fields. From post to post You seem more professional.
Anyway,you're doing a great job and you have my respect and admiration for that.

Previously (Very) Lost in France said...

Well done Vera. You're doing so well for novices. It's a joy to read your exploits!

Vera said...

Duta, I am just muddling through really, and yes, I often put up searches on the Internet when I am stuck. I don't know what to do if I didn't have this most important resource tool.

Vera said...

Thanks Previously (Lost). I am glad that you enjoy reading about what we get up to, and feel positively encouraged when people take the time to leave a comment.