Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Gathering the Sheep

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
‘Only joking!!’
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.


Crystal Jigsaw said...

Loved your blog! We've had the clippers here this week too although they weren't from NZ. Typical! My hubby used to do the clipping himself also but as you say it's backbreaking work. I've put a short telecon on my recent blog which took place between me and one of the clippers on Tuesday night if you're interested. I don't like clipping time. It's been known for sheep to get so worked up they suffer from heart failure. Fortunately, this year they all went away satisfied with their new styles but a little cold when the heavens opened again!

Crystal xx

laurie said...

i look forward to before and after pics of the wooly and then naked sheep.

Woozle1967 said...

They always look so bright and clean and when they've been sheared don't they?

Curry sounds wonderful.......x

Faith said...

Tablet? Is that fudge? Mmm lucky children!

Withy Brook said...

The sight of newly clipped sheep always makes me shiver - unless we happen to be having a heat-wave.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

You are lucky...ours are still standing dripping water...and the shearers have gone down with the flu...s'pose we might be shorn by Christmas!

bodran... said...

Once they are naked they become gazelles and invade my garden!.. my children where sheepdogs to bless em...xx

toady said...

Just catching up with your blogs. Mist looks lovely. I love collies and collie x's Toady

Cait O'Connor said...

Just caught up with your blogs, lovely. Lots of shearing going on in these parts too, including at my daughter and son-in-law's farm.


A huge pan of what please? I t osunds wonderful there, if you ahve any spare kiwi clippers please send chez Loufoque!!!

Frances said...

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to read your blogs. You take me so far away from my everyday stuff. And along the way, I get to learn all sorts of things, in a way that is so different from a book or some television documentary!
When the sheep are shorn, do they get any sort of "after haircut treatment" or are they just released to grow some more lovely wool? Please forgive my city ignorance. (I am a lifelong knitter and lover of wool, so I cannot believe that I never asked this before.)
What you write about always just seems so genuine, and immediate. When I write, it always seems to describe an artificial environment, so now you can perhaps know even more how I love your blogs!

The Country Craft Angel said...

Catching up on your blogs. Missed you and hope everything ok (sorry to hear that you have had a tough week)

I love the collies-marvel at the three who work the fields in front of our house-could watch them for hours.

I do love to hear your tales.

Take care Posie and warmest wishes

Suffolkmum said...

Sorry to hear you've had a rough time Posie, thinking of you. I adore collies. Like the sound of the curry!

lampworkbeader said...

I love your blog. It reminds me of watching the sheep being clipped on my Grandmother's croft in Caithness when I was a child.