The fun of farming

Hello, Woollydaze here…

We’re looking at lambing from the ‘phew, we’ve made it’ end. We’ve processed nearly five hundred ewes through the lambing pen in the past three weeks. There are about twenty-five of them left, milling around, enjoying the space, silage and regular sheep nuts. They might be under the impression that this is a fine, five-star little holiday, but eventually nature will intervene, the lambs will pop out and then they’ll be back in the field with their flock-mates, enjoying the sunshine.

 

The weather over the past few weeks has been remarkably kind and, according to the ol’ farmer’s wives tales, probably encouraged the speedy arrival of all the lambs. We were anticipating that the busy time would be less frantic but last for longer, but since that first Monday when things really kicked off they never really slowed down again. And so although I had every intention of wandering around the lambing pens and taking photos and talking you through how our lambing system is organised, all I’ve had time to do is my ‘real’ job (the one I get paid to do), cook, clean, care for Little Woolly and sleep. Mr Woollydaze does the lambing night shift, working a sixteen hour day from lunchtime to just before breakfast, and is no good for anything other than talking about sheep. And just to make things extra-special fun this year, the three of us in the Woollydaze household came down with stonking coughing snotty colds of the type that mean you can’t breath and sound like a sixty-a-day cigarette smoker; there was no time for illness or sympathy so we just had to get on with it.

Any weekend over lambing will see us inundated with visitors, and we’re happy to see them because lambing is a lovely, happy time to show people around the farm. Two weekends ago I had faraway friends visiting; at the same time there was a Buddhist monk wandering around the farmyard. One friend queried why and I admitted I had no idea and promised to find out. The past weekend was busy with different visitors. I invited a few of Little Woolly’s friends from nursery, and as a result I know that showing a group of two-year-olds around a farm is a guaranteed way to make anyone appreciate the basic charm of where we live. So many children’s books have farming as a theme that it’s something the average city-living young child can understand. Show a group of them some real sheep and some lambs, various tractors, the chickens (and allow them to pick up the eggs), and then run them around the garden and you’ve got a group of happy, exhausted children. Fortunately it was a beautifully sunny afternoon, and the farm appeared almost picture book idyllic. It felt like good, old-fashioned, clean-living, distilled Enid Blyton.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to the last of our lambing visitors; my parents who have kindly been travelling down once a week to look after Little Woolly on the day of the week that technically Mr Woollydaze and in reality my mother-in-law usually looks after him. Our lambing students (from Canada, the US, London and just up the road) have been waved off with the usual grateful thanks. One of our willing friend-of-the-family volunteers had the grace to wait until now to break her leg. We’re working our way through the last of the cakes that a very kind local friend made and delivered when things started to get too much. I’m a bit of a cake snob and refuse to buy it, but cake and lots of it is a necessity to get everyone through lambing. Life can get repetitive as the days pass with the same routines and yet more lambs appearing. Different cakes mark the changing days. To be fair, several family members and friends brought cake and pudding-based gifts and I thank them all for their contributions, but this one friend gets this year’s morale-boosting-baking award for providing five cakes in one week including the most stickily gooey chocolate cake it would ever be your misfortune to meet.

 

So what now? For me, as much sleep as I can possibly get away with for at least the next week. I’d planned to start the regime already but this morning was woken before my alarm clock chirped by Mr Woollydaze getting a phone call about next door’s burglar alarm going off, and then shortly afterwards Little Woolly yelling in an upset voice ‘Mummy, I’ve done a poo’. I don’t think the rest of the Woollydaze household are quite on board with my plan.

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