The day began again, with torrential rain:
& with my inevitable pre-dawn cuppa, check of the emails & dog-walking & feeding, huddled against the unforgiving sting of ‘liquid sunshine’ every time I ventured outside, it wasn’t a promising start. Strong winds continued to lash the little Ffarm, moaning down the chimneys & sighing & creaking through the trees like an army of gloomy ghosts. I carried out most of the morning chores whilst Tony had a lie-in, eventually surfacing as I grabbed the brief luxury of a bath to thaw my chilled bones at around midday.
After lunch we had to gather up the lambs & put them in the barn, which was cutting things a bit fine as our neighbour Quae was soon scheduled to arrive to see whether she wanted any of them to add to her own, small mixed flock. We moved the equine contingent of Parc Carreg Gwen into the neighbouring field; as the ponies do so love to herd the little flock of lambs – but would inevitably send them charging in the opposite direction, to that which we wanted.
Once the horses were safely out of the way behind our nice, high hedgerow I encouraged the lambs, vigorously rattling a tempting bucket of feed & hoping they would be persuaded that their nice, warm barn was a far better place to be than out on a freezing hillside in torrential rain. Thankfully they started to follow, led by BeeOrchid, the first lamb to be born on our farm (to us, anyway!); which brought back memories of her birth on a day of unforgiving, cold February rain just when we had a BBC film crew shooting some footage for an episode of ‘Escape to the Country’! Unfortunately BeeOrchid’s dramatic entrance to the world ended up on the cutting room floor; I’m sure it was felt she would upstage the presenter, as in the final show a rather tame piece on his visit to the National Botanical Gardens was used rather than the exciting farm footage. But perhaps they didn’t want to show it in case it reinforced the stereotypical impression that it always rains in Wales…?!
Anyway, today there was no denying it, the sky was definitely falling on our heads – but we were successfully shepherding our little flock; so life was good. Until, that is, a sudden squall of wind lifted the roof clean off Nanuk’s kennel with a loud BANG; & the already-excited hound now realised she had a rare opportunity to make a bid for freedom. As I was at the front of our motley parade I ran forward & grabbed the wriggling, struggling dog, whilst Tony (who must’ve been on autopilot) carried on driving the sheep down the hill towards us. I yelled for assistance & he thankfully abandoned his herding to help retrieve the kennel roof whilst I tried to push Nanuk, who was howling & growling at the top of her lungs, back inside.
By the time it was ‘mission accomplished’ the lambs had abandoned the idea of ‘indoors’ & had headed back up the hill to the field; fortunately Tony had earlier shut the gate as they’d exited but the two smallest had already somehow managed to bypass the barriers & had wriggled back underneath. Thus confusion reigned; & Tony’s temper was degenerating rapidly. The lambs, sensing his anger, had themselves completely lost the will to cooperate; & we eventually had to literally drive them down to farmyard, following them in the truck & tooting the horn to keep them moving.
Once safely penned in the yard, however, the fun & games weren’t over: the lambs simply would not go into the barn (with which they were familiar & usually associated with food & comfort). Tony’s mood descended into positive ire as he chased the sheep across the yard, rugby-tackling them with his shepherd’s crook & then carrying them, individually, into the barn.
We eventually got them all in; but then of course had to go back up the field to catch the two escapees, who were certainly by now having none of it. We added to the day’s impromptu fitness programme by puffing our way around several circuits of the field until we managed to corner the lambs in the hedge; then, with the spiteful blackthorns tearing at our flesh we dragged them out & carried them back to the Ffarm. Unfortunately little Blackberry had caught her ear tag in the hedge, & torn it; the sooner some kinder way is found of identifying animals, the better as ear tags cause far too many wounds & far too much distress to livestock.
Once all the lambs were safely penned we checked them over & removed any stray brambles caught up in their thick fleeces, after which Quae & her partner arrived. She decided to have all six of our pretty little ewe lambs along with three of this year’s colourful shorn fleeces, so I gave the flock their ‘Lambivac’ booster injections (which basically protect against tetanus, dysentry & pulpy kidney – all nasties where small ruminants are concerned) & treated poor little Blackberry’s ear; after which we loaded the girls onto the trailer: a surprisingly stress-free exercise after all the earlier excitement. After completing the inevitable raft of paperwork we bid fond farewell to the lambs we’d raised as the trailer trundled out of the yard to take them to their new & happy home; where their lustrous fleeces will be used for Quae’s wonderful spinning & felting projects.
We put the remaining lambs in the paddock behind the house before transferring the horses in there as well; they’d made such a mess of the other field that we couldn’t possibly leave them on it any longer, particularly with Roly’s great, warhorse hooves churning up the turf. The big boys quickly settled but the ponies thoroughly enjoyed themselves, galloping round & round the paddock like a pair of plump little racehorses. With the wind still relentlessly strong but at least having chased away the clouds, we returned to the house as the sun began to set over the mountains, just as Boo arrived for a session of Welsh revision.
She’d missed the previous week’s lesson, & was concerned that at this early stage she could easily fall behind so naturally, I’d agreed to help; besides, it would do me a power of good, too. We worked for several hours, fortified with delicious, hot milky coffee; & managed to navigate our way through the language using all sorts of techniques as triggers for words until we were doubled up with laughter at some of the more ridiculous examples (not to mention at our oft-erratic pronunciation!). But we felt far more confident, at the session’s conclusion; tomorrow should therefore prove an easier lesson, I hope.
Tony put the Ffarm to bed whilst I cooked the supper; then we enjoyed a mercifully quiet evening in which thankfully good humour reigned once more, discussing the Dairy Complex’s Process Room plans, on which he has been worked so hard. Thus, the lights were extinguished after another long & busy, but productive day…..