The heavy iron gate slipped from my husband’s careless grasp & scraped harshly down the inside of my forearm, where I’d been struggling to maintain my hold on the metal monstrosity as Tony hauled it over the muckheap barrier during our repairs of its’ sagging defences. Beads of blood bubbled a necklace of red from the wound as I gasped & attempted to maintain my hold on the gate, concerned that if I didn’t, the next misfortune would be severe bruising of my toes as the sharp metal edge bounced off my boot…..
Tears of exhausted frustration sprang into my eyes with the effort of maintaining my grip on the gate whilst Tony stomped over to help me, uttering a grumpy apology; he’d been in an ill humour all day in spite of the heavy sunshine, & his carelessness was almost calculated. That said I too was feeling a bit ratty; with flies, humidity & gathering stormclouds surreptitiously adding to our mutual moodiness. But time was short – & there was a lot to get through before the weather finally broke.
The continuing sunshine over the Ffarm benignly betrayed the dark fury of the storm to come, black clouds gathering ominously across the northern horizon. Anxiously we hurried up the hill to move the sheep across to Parc Cam, so the ponies could be transferred down to Parc Carreg Gwen – grazed almost bare by the sheep so staving off the threat of laminitis in the ponies; & belatedly allowing our hayfield to catch up on its’ growing at last. We could brook no further delay but really didn’t fancy struggling with excited equines & soggy sheep whilst braving bad weather.
So the first challenge was sheep-shifting. As our flock matriarch would happily follow a full feed bucket over the hills & far away, the transition of the flock from one field to another was seamless – with the exception, as ever, of our wretched wethers who unfortunately have irritatingly vacant minds of their own. We persuaded all but one to join the rest of the flock; then the remaining animal skipped merrily around the field before bursting through the hedge & running down the adjacent fenceline before becoming inextricably wedged therein. We spent a merry half hour, cursing & pulling as the hapless creature literally decided it might as well give up & die on the spot. But we worked hard; & with a lot of scrapes, scratches & snags from blackthorn & brambles we eventually managed to release said obnoxious ovine. However he then ran back in the opposite direction, to the furthest corner of Carreg Gwen.
By now Tony was rapidly losing his temper with the increasing humidity not helping one jot. He stomped angrily into the field & the wether – taking the hint that the game was over – skittered into Parc Cam. I slammed the gate shut before he could change his mind & we headed up the hill to fetch the horses. The hedgerows were bright with bluebells, campion & celandine; a riot of colour enhanced by the frothy bounce of blossom nodding white scented clouds amidst the fresh unfurling zest of leaf buds. It made our journey up the steep hill of the hayfield more pleasurable if no less arduous.
On arriving at Parc Banc we decided to take the horses down first – being so much bigger & more powerful we were concerned that moving the Shetlands would excite them to the point that they might try to jump the hedges, or knock us over in their haste to make their way to new grazing. And if they got loose in the hayfield….well, that could be a disaster. Apart from potentially ruining the crop they could give themselves colic or laminitis by gorging on the rich grass; we couldn’t afford the risk.
Having put headcollars on all the equines – just in case one of the Shetlands managed to sneak through the gate (which Sabe did, although I managed to intercept him) I walked through the gate with Darwin in tow. Tony was leading the more powerful of the two horses – Rolypoly, a huge black Welsh Cob – & was threequarters of the way through the gate when the Shetlands attempted to make a break for it. Roly plunged through the gate as I attempted to close it, but this unfortunately pushed the excited horse hard into the hedge, knocking Tony roughly into the gatepost & unforgiving hedgerow. For a sickening moment I thought Tony had been seriously injured, judging by his agonized yell as he was thrown sideways. He grimly held onto Roly’s leadope & managed to haul himself upright. Thankfully, apart from suffering bruised ribs & a nasty cut to his upper arm, he was otherwise unhurt; but he certainly made it clear what he thought of my attempt to prematurely shut the gate. Ding ding, round two….
We carefully walked the horses down the hill, as they bounced & snorted alongside us, egged on by the anxious squeals & galloping hooves of the Shetlands in the adjacent field. On releasing the horses onto their fresh pasture they thundered around in excitement, occasionally careering back towards us before veering off at speed again.
With the ponies still racing around the other field & the storm clouds increasingly threatening rain we hastened back up the hill where Sabe & Toto needed no persuasion to join us. Snorting & squealing in excitement they tugged at the leadropes, desperate to join their chums. As soon as they arrived the four galloped in glee around the field before settling down to the serious business of eating. And we returned to get the goats into their accommodation – just in time, as it turned out; with the heavens opening as we hustled the last group under shelter.
As the storms shook the horizon we returned to the house to nurse our wounds – chuckling over the irony that somehow, we always hurt the ones we love; although thankfully, not generally in such a literal sense as occurred today!