Our sheep shearer Matt and his family have come and sheared most of my flock.
The set up team!
Wet weather and dull blades stopped progress, six sheep short. The rams, Pumpkin and 3 ewes due to lamb in September will have to wait til next week to have their fleeces off. The rest of the sheep are feeling relieved to be rid of their heavy sweaters.
I'm relieved because the ewes are looking in great condition this year, even so soon after lambing.
I took this picture of Grumpy being shorn - it's probably the only time you will ever see her deign to be handled by a human.
Even then Matt still has to sit on her.
I had my own shearing job to do -
Podge needed her summer haircut, as she will start working while the weather is warm and I don't want her to overheat. I use the horse clippers and she stands on the tailgate of the truck very patiently. Thankfully, she's not fussy about her haircut.
Yeah, I know. My shearing skills are nil. Mike won't let me trim the poof of hair on top of her head because he thinks it gives Podge character. I hope it draws the eye away from the terrible haircut.
When the sheep are all shorn, I will have two wool sacks, each the size of a double mattress, to take to the wool sellers. I hope I'm not too late to sell to the Irish buyers this year. Their prices are better than the British Wool Board. Wool payments are very small and all my wool will only earn me about £50 annually.
Shearing is most importantly a welfare issue: to keep the sheep cool in summer and prevent fly-strike (maggots burrowing into the flesh of a sheep). My ewes graze better when sheared. In full fleece, the ewes spend their days laying the the shade instead of eating.
I sent a few hoggets to ice camp this week. One ram for Ian, his payment for helping me with sheep jobs throughout the year, one ewe for us, and the best ewe sold to a local gastropub. The one sold cascase covers all the butchery costs and my shearer's fee. A couple culls went to market, in time for Ramadan, and made good prices too.
The rain last week meant I was able to finish my own wool project -
My annual shoot season jumper. Of course, this was supposed to be finished for last season. It's only 9 months late - or is it 3 months early for this season? It fits great and it's super warm, but it has one flaw on the back of the right sleeve -
Either I was distracted by something on TV or I had an extra glass of wine, I'm not sure, but the result is a couple inches of purl stitch when it should have been knit stitch. It's like a small scar but I don't mind imperfections.
Alongside my wool week, I've been doing my daily squirrel trap checking round. On one of my checks I found a tawny owl caught in some plastic deer netting. It was hanging upside down, wings outspread, and looking poorly -
It must have flapped to try and free itself, but only managed to wind the plastic net tighter around its leg. I cut it down, keeping an eye on the trapped leg. I should have been watching its good leg. The owl sank one of its curled talons into my middle finger, so far that it went in one spot and came out another, like it was sewing a running stitch with a needle. I had to free my finger before I could resume freeing the owl's leg.
I brought the owl home and gave it an injection of pain killer ( a stab for a stab!) and put some antibiotic spray on the leg wound. I put in my Rehab Hutch, a guinea pig hutch I use for any hurt or abandoned young that the boys find.
The owl survived the stress overnight, so I was at the vets when they opened, to get it checked out and sent to a special owl rescue centre. The owl got the care it needed, and I got a week long course of antibiotics for my infected finger.
The Hutch is already re-occupied - this time it's a Greater-spotted Woodpecker fledgling-
Normally we leave fledglings for their parents to find, as long as they're safe from immediate danger. Ian found this one in the road. The fledgling is feisty and is almost big enough to go it alone. A few days of hand feeding, water and protection and I can let it go, I hope. And its talons aren't nearly as dangerous as the last occupant's, which is a bonus.