I am thrilled to be hosting Sally today as she tells us another of her great life stories, this one is particularly loved by me as I grew up on a farm and have helped in rounding up sheep, cows and goats, yes goats. Please enjoy and pop over to Sally’s blog for more wonderful stories.
Thank you so much, Adele, for hosting one of my stories from this series and I hope your readers enjoy.
Odd Jobs and Characters – The Sheep Farm – Indignant Rams and Black Sheep by Sally Cronin.
When my husband and I were first married, we had to stay in Wales for another six months, whilst he completed a research project in the mountains. We needed somewhere to live and being November and out of season, he managed to find us a flat to move into on the hillside above Dolgellau. The flat was part of an old farmhouse owned by a couple who I knew as regular dinner guests to the hotel, and it was a great arrangement.
After a few weeks of idleness and enjoying being a new wife, I decided that perhaps there might be a way to pay our rent and get some exercise. The rent we saved would be put towards a deposit of our own home; very high on our priority list. I approached my friend and landlady, asking if I might help out on their hill farm, where they kept a flock of several hundred sheep. She was more accustomed to seeing me in long dresses and heels, showing guests to their tables in the hotel, than walking up Cader Idris, but after she stopped laughing, she agreed to give me a trial run.
I went out and bought suitable clothing, which bearing in mind the time of year, involved waterproof boots and fleeced wet weather gear. It was early December and snow was not unexpected, and you did not want to be caught up at altitude inadequately dressed. I will admit that the first two or three days left me breathless, resulting in me giving up cigarettes (no bad thing). It also served to remind me how unfit I was. However, by the second week, I was hitting my stride.
We could take the Land Rover almost as far as the sheep who had moved down from the top grazing to avoid the worst of the weather. By this time, and with some snow on the ground, they needed some additional feed, and we would carry the bales of hay from the vehicle up to them, spreading it out on the frozen ground. It was time nearly time to bring the flock down for a very important event.
The rams in the flock were fitted with a special device that marked the backs of the female sheep as they impregnated them, each with its own specific colour. This told you which sheep had been covered and was likely to be pregnant, and also if a ram was disinclined to breed and therefore needed replacing (mutton). But now it was time to separate the rams from the flock as their job was done. To do this the entire herd was brought down the mountain with the help of one sheepdog, to a large barn which was separated into two areas. A large one and then a smaller part that was fenced off where the rams would be penned away from the rest of the flock. They having done sterling service they would be taken to another part of the farm, to a field where they would have to amuse themselves for the next six months.
My boss said she would head back to the main farm to collect the two other sheepdogs so they could help separating the rams from the flock, which numbered a couple of hundred sheep. I was left to twiddle my thumbs, but being keen to help and save time, I spotted the rams as they jostled amongst the ewes, and decided that I might as well get started. I did have the benefit of watching some Australian sheep shearing documentaries and using a technique I had observed, I managed to manhandle the rams out of the flock using their horns and a helping hand up their backsides (I was wearing gloves). In about an hour, rather sweaty and not a little exhausted, I had the rams safely barricaded in their own bachelor quarters.
A little while later my boss arrived with two very eager sheepdogs that stood with their owner, completely bemused by the fact that they were now redundant. Apparently, this was not the traditional way to split the rams from the flock, but by the look on the faces of the watching ewes, they found the spectacle more than satisfying.
I discovered a great deal more about sheep during the winter months and their tough lives on the Welsh mountainsides. With the snow down even on the lower slopes where the sheep remained, it was difficult to find them against the white ground covering. This is where the black sheep of the flock comes in handy. Not only is she an older and wiser matriarch who knows where the best grazing is to be found, she is also a beacon to locate her flock who always stayed close to her.
In the spring came the life-affirming task of lambing, and it certainly is a miracle of nature. To protect the newborn lambs from crows and foxes, we would mark their foreheads with a smear of tar; hoping its offensive smell would deter predators. This odd job of mine created some lovely memories and I used my experience in one of my short stories in my first collection.
My thanks again Adele for your generosity in sharing this post.
All the previous posts in the series can be found in this directory with links to my host’s blog https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-odd-jobs-and-characters/
About Sally Cronin
My name is Sally Cronin and after working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years, I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition.
I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.
My latest book – What’s in a Name? – Volume Two.
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.
My other books
All books are available Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
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