Posts Tagged ‘sheep’

The Bute Sheep

September 5, 2016

Now how could anyone resist this gorgeous beast we saw when walking on the west coast of the Isle of Bute in Scotland? We were to the north of Ettrick Bay.

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Actually, how could anyone resist the whole scene? Yes, the ram is a singularly handsome brute and he was one of several. But the green and the trees were a delight as well. But it had to be worth a bit of patience to get a closer view of one of the rams.

After a few not so good attempts I finally snapped this one.

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The horns are spectacular although they may make things hard for the ram. Where are his eyes? They are hidden behind his horns. I love the nonchalant way he has one stalk of ‘grass’ in his mouth. It’s a bit like a traditional cartoon of a straw sucking country bumpkin. I think he’s a Scottish blackface. I thought it was worth going to Bute just to see him.

North Yorkshire Moors railway

February 26, 2016

Yes, this is the NYMR, but not recently and this photo was actually taken by my brother in law.

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This was back in 1974 and back then, if I remember correctly, the line ran steam trains from Grosmont to Goathland and a diesel train down to Pickering. This is taken through the front window (or it could be the back) of a diesel train. Now personally, I’m a steam lover, but the front of a ‘heritage’ diesel train is a great way of seeing what goes on

Here, we nerds can see the train is running on the old bull head rail but passengers behind a steamer would never know the reason the train slowed down was because of sheep ion the line. One seems to be sitting very comfortably on the sleepers, resting against the rail. Fences have to be really good to keep those moorland sheep in order.

These days the NYMR is a big concern and runs a variety of locos and services between Pickering and Whitby and sometimes on the Esk Valley line. 2016 will see Flying Scotsman on the line between the 12th and 20th March.

Whatever the loco/train, the scenery will always be stunning.

 

Faroese Sheep

January 29, 2016

Father in Law spent time in the Faroe Islands towards the end of World War 2. He was a radio operator in the RAF and was able to help have knowledge of what was going on in the North Atlantic – a vital zone for preventing supplies reaching Germany.

He took quite a lot of photos – a sort of snapshot of Faroese life just over 70 years ago.

It is now more than ten years since we were there at times tracing his footsteps.

Doug (Father in Law) took a photo of Faroese sheep.

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He captioned his photos and here we have two captions for this one.

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We were not there in spring so I can’t match his cute lamb. But sheep still scratch a living on the hillsides of the islands and here’s my photo.

image008What a gorgeous beast. The owner has had to trim the horns. Sometimes a curly horn can point straight into the face of the animal and keep growing. Trimming the horn is not a problem. These sheep aren’t particularly tame. Getting close can be a problem.

Our visit to the Faroe Islands was interesting. Much had changed since Doug’s time, but much still remained the same.

My first sheep

July 9, 2015

Back in 1979 I had a new neighbour. He married the girl next door and it was the parents who moved out and let the new couple have the home. The new neighbour was known to me. He was a young man into farming with knowledge and expertise. I was a bit older and had a field. Together we went in for sheep. He decided we should buy old ewes with a lamb at heel as a starter. That way we’d have some lambs to sell later and could make decisions about keeping some as future breeding stock.

Our fences weren’t sheep proof so I put up a temporary pen to hold the new arrivals. And here are my very first sheep. Of course, technically I should say ‘our’ because it was a joint venture.

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So there we have the first sheep – and yet another photo taken on my little Canon Demi camera.

We can see it is still wintry for there’s a smidgen of snow on the ground within the pen and the tops of the downs look well covered.

I was a sheep keeper for about twenty years from then on and learnt to manage them ‘all by myself’. Those last three words were once a favourite expression of my grandson.

My former neighbour still keeps sheep on my field when it has grass for them to nibble but these days they are all his.

Mostly, sheep keeping was enjoyable and strangely one of the best experiences was always getting up in the middle of the night to check them during lambing time. In prospect it was awful, but once out there, alone with the sheep and nature, it was wonderful. Well actually, it can’t have been that wonderful because I don’t get up at three in the morning now!

Bad Memory

October 24, 2014

Readers may be aware that since my sister died I have been looking through old photos – and finding many happy and well-remembered occasions. How about a game of croquet back in 2003?

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Here we have a mix of my family and my wife’s. With his back to us on the left it’s Uncle Gordon – brother of my mother in law. In the turquoise trousers we have my wife. Aunty Jean is next to her – the sister of my father in law and then we have my sister, Paula and brother in law, Bill.

Before going any further I’d like to scotch any idea that croquet is posh in my household. We are lucky enough to have a big lawn but it is rough and uneven – not at all what you might expect of a posh croquet lawn. At that stage we were using a small kit which I had picked up very cheaply in a bashed box. We’ve moved downwards now for we now use a larger kit bought at a second hand sale. I say ‘we’ play but only one of those in that photo plays (my wife). Of the others two are deceased and two are in care homes.

But the background is interesting – the sheep in the field. There appear to be some pale brown sheep there and I don’t remember them. I found some other, better photos of them.

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These sheep are of the breed Manx Loaghtan. They are really quite a hardy mountain breed from the Isle of Man. Some have two horns and some have four but I should say these are all ewes. Some people tend to think that a sheep with horns is a ram.

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They have clearly just arrived at this time and these arrivals are grouping together and keeping apart from other sheep in the background. I had been a sheep keeper back in the twentieth century but gave my small flock to a friend as that century ended. However, I think I recognise some of those in the background as having once been mine. My little flock included one Manx loaghtan so I know the breed but I have no memory of this lot at all.

They are lovely creatures, though and I daresay they were passing through the hands of my pal who I gave my sheep to.

Keeping sheep

June 14, 2014

Very early in 1979 I became a sheep keeper. Almost by chance we had bought a house with a field and something needed to be done with it. A neighbour, who worked in farming, suggested we could keep sheep together. He provided the knowhow. I provided land and we shared the costs.

His recommended cheap route in was to go to market and by an elderly ewe with a lamb at foot. And he did just that. So on a cold day, with snow still on the ground, we became sheep keepers. And here is that very first ewe and lamb.

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Over the next few weeks the flock grew and we became a bit more skilled in the things that had to be done. We learned how to trim hooves, how to get drench medicine down the throats of animals, how to inject them and then how to shear them.

It really was quite a steep learning curve which stayed useful for the twenty plus years I was a sheep keeper.

In those days dipping sheep was a requirement and that was hard without proper facilities. Sometimes we manually hoiked the animals in and out of a big old water tank filled with chemicals. At other times we took them to a neighbouring real farm which had a dip – so much easier.

We soon came across the horror which was ‘strike’. The green bottle fly lays eggs in the wool of a sheep and when maggots hatch they start sucking and eating the sheep. We learned to watch out for any signs and to rapidly treat the animal. We never lost any to strike.

We acquired a ram so the following spring we faced lambing but had no particular problems. We learned to love getting up to check the sheep at three in the morning. The prospect was awful but the reality of being alone, out in the world at that time was really wonderful.

Over the years we faced the problems that sheep farmers face – difficult lambings and animals not surviving.  But doing the paper work was probably the worst problem. Movements books and medicine books all needed keeping and they were checked.

But I am glad to have been a sheep keeper. It provides happy memories.

 

March 2003

March 7, 2014

March 2003

Gosh how eleven years have flitted by but I am looking back, today, to March 2003 and to a time and scene which has gone.

During the 1980s and 90s I had been a keeper of sheep. I started in conjunction with a friend but he had left the scheme although he remained friend and adviser and when the time came, I gave my little flock to him because I had an absence of people at home to deal with problems like lambing.

So, by 2003, I had the pleasure of seeing the sheep but without the problems associated with owning them.

Actually, I missed out on some enforced pleasures. The prospect of getting up in the middle of the night during the lambing season was awful. The reality of being out in the wee small hours was quite the reverse. It was a wonderful time. Of course, I could still get up in those early hours – but I don’t.

Anyway, back to the delights of 2003.

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There’s mum with her twins – a charming, lovely sight. And the twins knew what they had to do.

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Yes, their job was to drink.

And with bellies full, they could relax and take in the world.

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Shepherd (2)

December 16, 2013

Once upon a time I kept sheep. Actually, for twenty years or so I had a small flock. At first I shared them with a neighbour who was reasonably knowledgeable about what needed doing. Later I became sole owner, but still had access to the neighbour if I needed help.

Sheep first appeared in 1977 – and here they are.

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Yes, that’s a picture taken on the old Canon Demi camera and shows the first five in-lamb ewes that we bought. They were quite elderly ladies and we hoped to get a good crop of lambs to start our flock – and we did.

Of course we were not good farmers for we tended to name our sheep. One was called Brush and her descendants became ‘Brush types’ which true nerds will recognise was a reference to diesel locos which ran on the railway at that time. Brush was a bit of a loud mouth and one neighbour referred to her as ‘Mouth Almighty’ with a bit of complaint about it. It always seemed to me that if you choose to live in a rural area you might have to expect rural noises from time to time.

We had odd forays into rare breeds. We tried Wiltshire Horn sheep at one time but they proved to be in the Houdini class at escapology. We hand a Manx Loghtan ewe which we called Ellan Vannin which is the Manx name for their island.

We had to do all the tasks – sheering, dipping (compulsory back then) worming and foot paring and the worst of all – dealing with blowfly strike.

And then there was lambing. What a joyous time that was, although there were the inevitable sadnesses as well. We took it in turns to get up in the middle of the night to check the sheep. The prospect was awful, but once out in the field at two or three in the morning, it was a wonderful experience. Never mind the lambs; just being out at that time was magical and delightful. But do I go out at that time now, when I have no sheep? No, of course I don’t.

The end came for us when our daughter left home for university. My wife and I were both teachers and could not take time off work for sheep problems. We realised we could no longer keep sheep so we gifted the flock to the same neighbour. They survived the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak but that really was the end for our flock. They suffered from lack of grass and the inability to bring food in.

But sheep do still grace our field, still belonging to the same person. I have the pleasure of seeing them without any effort. Here’s a little group in the snow of January 2013.

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Shepherds

November 27, 2013

Every summer for fifteen years during my childhood and youth, some time was spent at camp. Camp indicated not just living under canvas, but also a location. Camp was on a ledge on the South Downs between Beddingham, Firle and Glynde. So much time was spent there, that it felt like a real home but also like a place to raise the spirits and spread happiness and joy.

The life style was simple. These days people might call it mere existence. For my mum, coping with restricted cooking facilities must have been a bit of a problem. For all of us, there were daily tasks like fetching water. Obviously we had no luxury like a fridge so food needed purchasing regularly – items like bread and milk. We had no car so we either cycled or walked to Glynde or Firle for these items. On a regular basis we cycled down to Newhaven to enjoy the delights of the seaside. It was about seven miles each way and at other times we played games, using our imaginations a great deal.

But we also helped on the farm. Dick, the farmer/shepherd worked to a time honoured system. Each day, the sheep were out at large in the huge field in which we camped. Every evening, he went off to find the sheep and bring them down to a pen. This was on a potential arable field and something would tempt the sheep to want to be there – no doubt a bit of lush summer growth. The sheep already had full bellies from a day grazing on the downs and during the night they emptied the contents of their gut onto this section of arable land, fertilising it and ensuring a good crop the next year. Once the sheep were out on the downs again, Dick would move the pen, ready for the next night. These days, the pen would be electric fencing – light and manageable. Back then it was sheep hurdles – heavy and cumbersome by comparison.

Two young lads reckoned they could help out a bit, by finding and fetching the sheep. These lads were, of course, my brother and I. Now I reckon the perimeter of our field measured some three and a half miles and it went from more or less sea level up to a height of close on 650 feet. Dick, to our eyes, was ancient. We took it on ourselves to get the sheep in and save him the bother of it.

And here we are.

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I’m on the left and my brother is on the right. We both have sticks. Dick always carried one, so it seemed right. Some of the sheep seem to be looking at us as though they don’t quite believe that two little lads will take them to better things. I have to say we look a right pair of scruffy little urchins.

I have no idea who took this photo. It is not one of my dad’s but I thank whoever it was.