As I ran out the hill in the sunshine yesterday I met the happy farmer and his dog on the quad bike gathering in the sheep. Even the lazy dog gets to sit in luxury, in a fish box, on the back of the quad, as the happy farmer makes his way over the boggy ground and around, up the back of the steep hill.
He didn’t need a hand with gathering them yesterday at all, the girls were perfect, and followed each other in a big herd meandering down the hill. I think they must have known that it is clipping time. The girls are going for a hair cut, their fleeces will be shorn today by our team of New Zealand clippers that come over to the island every June and July to sheer the sheep. The happy farmer used to clip all of the sheep himself, but it is a back breaking, thankless task. They use electric sheers now, in years gone by the sheep were clipped by hand, I remember old Hughie and Baldie sitting for hours in the sunshine, a sheep at their lap, a pair of clippers in their hand, chatting away as they skilfully removed the sheep’s’ fleece. The sheep positively skip out of the fank after their hot, heavy fleeces have been removed. The fleeces are then packed into sacks and sent away to woollen mills on the mainland.
The happy farmer was up bright and early this morning, ‘as always,’ he says leaning over my shoulder. He was slightly caught out though when our son answered the phone to Mike, the clipper, and told him dad was still in bed, but could make it to the phone. He will be in for a bit of a ribbing later on!
Farmer T came racing into the kitchen; he had been out the hill checking his cows
‘Quick grab your wellies, I forgot to shut the gate, the sheep are all out over the hill again’
The happy farmer fled from his chair, grabbing those wellies, cursing Farmer T as he went, only for Farmer T to fall about laughing
So coffee was poured instead.
The sheep were out in the far away field for the night. The happy farmer took the children and dog with him this morning to bring the sheep across the farm to the fank in preparation for the clippers arrival. Youngest daughter has just arrived in, her fingers are frozen,
‘Why does daddy always need us to be a sheepdog?’ she asked as she placed her cold hands in mine for warmth. Of course the hot sunshine of yesterday has given way to torrential rain and gusty wind, a problem if it continues as the sheep need to be dry before they can be clipped; with electric sheers it would be dangerous to clip wet fleeces. The weather forecast last night promised it would clear after lunch. The happy farmer is busy making a huge pan of tablet with the children, as a thank you for their help. I am away to make a huge pan of curry to feed the clippers and their helpers as we have our ‘after clipping’ feast this evening. Fingers crossed that rain stops.
Until next time….
The photos are from last year's clipping.