Monday, 4 January 2010

Missing Sheep

I never, ever, thought I’d say this.
But for the last few years around this time I always seem a little restless in the evenings, kicking my heels and not knowing what is wrong with me. Last year I worked it out and it turns out that I miss the one job that I used to moan most about!
Even though (with my “semi-employed” status) I’m back on the farm on week days, it doesn’t feel the same without the sheep going crazy, thinking their going to get fed every time you walk near the shed.
We had, at one point, about 300 sheep on the farm. For as long as I can remember I’ve always helped with the sheep but lambing was the bit that took the most time and caused the most stress. Everyday was the start of a massive list of chores that had to be completed only to be redone the next day. When I was at school we used to feed twice a day and I used to help both times, sometimes getting changed out of my overalls in the school car park. Luckily in a rural community smelling of sheep isn’t the worst thing you can smell of!When I started working we switched to feeding at night only, just chucking the sheep some hay in the morning to give them something to chew. I used to get home on a cold winter night after spending far too long on a cold (and probably wet) building site, warm myself up for half and hour then go and feed the sheep with Dad. This would take upwards of an hour but sometimes a lot more if we had a ewe on lambing, a lamb that wouldn’t suck or a ewe that wouldn’t “take”.
When I was doing this I didn’t realise how much Dad was doing it for me as much as the farm, because when I left home and moved 50 miles away he gradually got rid of all the sheep over a couple of years.
Now two years later I still think this is a little sad, with no sheep of our own left but he seems so much happier for it and mum no longer has to suffer the January and February depression that used to accompany lambing.
He’s much happier sticking to growing crops and selling machinery, now his business is expanding fast with two full time employees and my brother part time, he’s much happier talking to people than sheep. And less likely to find one of them has drowned in a water bucket over night (hope I’m not tempting fate here!).
Me on the other hand, I forever long to live in the past, where keeping sheep would earn you a decent living and to start your own farm you didn’t have to be a retired judge with ambitions of having a pony!
I really do love the upbringing I had, bottle feeding pet lambs, watching lambs race round the pen, the quiet that falls in the barn after the sheep have been fed. I hope that when I have children I can give them some of the same type of memories that I have and hopefully they can learn the work and effort that’s needed to raise animals for meat ad learn to enjoy the process.
Anyway enough of my ponderings. Tomorrow I’m back on the farm looking at putting an upper floor in the wood shed, I’m going to stay over as in the evening I’m going to an extremely uncool meeting at my mums gardening club about Victorian walled gardens (of which I am a little obsessed). Then I might go for a little spot of rabbit shooting with my brother so I can do a rabbit stew for Claire and I in our new slow cooker.

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