Spring is here - hurrah! To celebrate, I've been thinking about some of the best aspects of the season here, but also remembering some of the bad. There are so many highs and lows of life on a farm that it is impossible to pick a 'top' or 'bottom' three, so here is a selection, picked from the top and bottom shelves of farm life.
Three from the top
After the palette of brownish, yellowish, grey that the farm enjoys from November until - well, now-ish actually, it is so lovely to see a sheen of green appearing on what will soon be in use as the lambing paddock. It's a welcome reminder that the end of winter is here and, although April might throw some horrible curved weather balls at us (hmm, not sure if that mixed metaphor works or not - sounds a bit like a new form of precipitation), we are nearly there. Which means that primroses are already here and apple blossom, bluebells and all the other 'songs of Spring' are not far away.
All’s well that ends well
Possibly my all time top scorer in any season - walking back down the farm track when all has been well on the evening round. There is a particular loveliness about this in spring; birds singing with huge enthusiasm, lots of new lives everywhere and an easy to feel but difficult to define cocktail of - contentment? softness? expectation? in the air. There must be a better description for this feeling - those of you who also live this kind of life may know what I mean and perhaps you can offer words that more effectively capture the sensation.
All the good things about lambing are just wonderful, but as I am just picking one, it has to be Lamb Derby. From our sitting room, we look across to the hill field that the ewes and lambs are turned out to. Throughout the evenings, our field of vision is intermittently filled with a stream of lambs racing down towards us and then charging back up the hill as fast as their stocky little legs will carry them. On some of their circuits the lambs are suddenly joined by ungainly, matronly ewes in hot pursuit. Sometimes the ewes throw their cares aside for a moment and execute lopsided leaps as they gambol past our view. It's life-enhancing and also very funny.
Three from the bottom
Cleaning out the sheep barn before the lambing period
The sheep have access to the barn over the winter, until a few weeks before lambing, at which point there is a field reshuffle and a major cleaning project, Admittedly, there is something horribly pleasing about the consistency of the special 'sheep cardboard' that appears in the barn after a very short time. There is plenty of time to contemplate this material during the extraction process. It looks as if it might be possible to dry it and then maybe sell it as ...... Fuel? A mulch? A biodegradable building material? But these thoughts don't make shovelling it into the barrow any easier.
No, not a horror movie, but a 'respect-tending-toward-fear' of needles awakened as Heptavac season draws near. Is it really just me? Yes, I've done it loads of times. Yes, I was shown how to do it / read / watched etc. No - I have not inflicted anything dreadful on my sheep during the process. Yes, my health and safety awareness is up to speed - you can't teach Biology without knowing more than you ever wanted to about this.
Years ago, I received a shot of something inadvertently administered by a vet. During the subsequent exchange of an 'it did / it didn't' variety, we both watched as my hand swelled a bit, which kind of settled the argument. It wasn't the vet's fault at all, as the animal had leapt at precisely the wrong moment and all was well, but I guess it sowed a seed of apprehension.
Arguably worse than deadstock, at which point there are few decisions to make. Not just a spring thing, but perhaps even more opportunities for problems at this time of year. How unwell is that animal? How secure is my diagnosis? Will housing it help, or make it worse? What impact, other than financial, will a trailer journey to the vet have on it? Is calling the vet out, the only responsible thing to do?
I have a great sheep vet now, but when we had our first sheep, I called a local farm vet out. Her opening gambit was 'I don't know much about sheep, but I've brought a book with me'.........
I'm sure you can extrapolate correctly from this to deduce the overall success of her visit but almost the worse part (the very worst part being the bill) was that I already had that book!
So that's my pick of just three, from the top and bottom, from a very long list of possible contenders - how do yours compare?