I treat myself to a late start on Sundays. I don't start work until 9 (I normally start at 8.30) there is no one around so I get on with the usual pens stuff first thing. The farmer and wife come back from moving kale fencing and I have lots of Suffolks to turn out. After Fridays successful turn out today is more difficult. The first few are easy-ish, then I make the mistake of walking out of the lambing shed with two lambs and a ewe in hot pursuit just as the farmer is feeding the not-yet-lambed ewes. Feeding time is bedlam with ewes bleating madly and fighting for a place at the trough, and usually abandoning lambs if they are more than a day old, which then leaves lambs bleating madly once the ewes have their heads in the troughs. My ewe, who has only been out of the lambing pens a few days, runs of towards the feeding ewes and completely forgets about her lambs. I put one lamb down and herd her back to it with some difficulty. I then try and herd her and the lamb up the drive, away from the still bleating/feeding ewes. She doesn't want to go that way and hurtles past me and off again in the wrong direction. I put the other lamb down and go after her. She dives down into a sheep race the other side of the pens. The farmer is now on the case with me, we get her back with her lambs who are by now just tottering about bleating at anything that moves and might be a mother. She goes a short way down the track and then dives back past both of us at top speed and down the race again. Things are not going well. We herd her back along the track and eventually the farmer grabs her and we bodily drag her along the track, put the lambs with her and shut a gate. She is almost half way to the field gate which is only about 200 yards from the shed and I am exhausted and it's only 10 o'clock. I think I've learnt another lesson about turning out ewes. Don't do it at feeding time! I have one more to turn out. She's very well behaved, and once I've walked past the difficult one (shutting the gate first) the difficult one finally heads towards the field with the moral support of another sheep.
Back to doing pens. Earlier this morning I'd noticed a ewe with a bloody bottom looking unhappy. I'm told she's been smelling really bad and they think she has dead lambs inside her. The farmers wife is now groping around inside her and fixing ropes to the lambs head and front feet. When a ewe is about to lamb and is having problems it's possible to put an arm right inside and have a feel about for heads, feet etc. If a lamb is alive it will twitch and move. It's obvious that this one is dead from the appalling smell. The farmers wife then spends the next half an hour or more hauling with all her might in these ropes, with a foot on the ewes rump to get the dead lamb out. It's not going well, farmers wife is looking tires and stressed and there is a bit of swearing going on. Eventually she does get the lamb out, I have to move on to another shed so I didn't find out if there were two lambs in there.
This of course is the not-so-nice side of farming. At the moment I've only noticed one dead ewe lying in the farmyard, by the end of this batch of lambing there will probably be a few more, to be bundled into the bucket on the tractor and taken to the crematorium. Farmers are no longer allowed to bury dead animals, they have to pay to have them disposed of, so dead animals are a double loss. Dead lambs are bagged up and charged by the bagful.
Meanwhile, back bedding, haying and watering pens there are a couple of lambs skipping and hopping around their pen, which cheers me up. When I get to my favourite pens the sun comes out and life feels good again. I am then summoned to help herd up two lots of ewes and lambs who are being loaded up into a trailer and takes to other farms several miles away to grow some more. Sometimes I've finished pens by coffee time on a Sunday, but it's busy today, so we all go in for coffee and discuss what needs doing next. I have pens to finish still and the 'still to lamb' pens need bedding. While I'm doing this I notice that the ewe who's had the dead lamb(s) pulled out has now prolapsed, things are definitely not looking good for her.
Just as I think I might be time to go I get to move some electric fencing in a nearby kale fields with the son, so off we go across a couple of fields in the landrover, disconnect the batteries, move the fence, straighten it all up, and I pull up a couple of turnips for our supper!. Just a couple of bags of pellets in the creep feeders for the lambs and back to the farmyard. The farmer passes me on the quad and jokes about me stealing turnips (well I'm pretty sure he's joking, he's not big on jokes normally) tells me the round ones are tastier than the oblong ones and cheerily says 'see you tomorrow'.
When I've had a rest I set to chopping veg. Local potatoes, turnips from the farm (the purple oblong one is all woody inside!) and parsnips from a friend. All snuggled in amongst the nicely browned venison with water, herbs, salt and pepper, and now I can potter and play with whatever takes my fancy.