The sheep and I have had a bit of a testing time of it recently. As you may have noticed if you live in the UK, there has been a lot of rain, wind and cold weather recently although it’s ‘the summer’. In the same way that some people pack up bucket, spade and windbreaks and head for the coast even though it’s pouring with rain and howling a gale because it’s June, so my sheep grow an enormous thick layer of wool which then needs to come off because it’s June. In the intervals when the sun comes out, it is very warm and the flies rise up in clouds. And as many people will know, one thing you don’t want to land on a hot, woolly sheep is a blowfly. So the sheep and me have been watching the weather, watching the flies, and trying to get the Gribbles interested in racing down to shear the sheep in the dry/warm bits of a very cold and wet summer.
The Gribbles, though, don’t do racing. They do thinking about things slowly and doing them in their own good time. This is very good for sheep they are shearing, they don’t get nicks and cuts from too hasty passes with the clippers, but it is awful when you are trying to attract them down here to do the sheep when they are (miracle!) dry, but there are mighty clouds building up on the horizon.
Anyway, yesterday it worked. I rang Gribble Senior and after thought, consultation with the rest of his tribe, and several cups of tea he arrived here with his clippers and did the deed with my girls. I was happier about this than they were. He loves an audience, does Mr Gribble, but he absolutely can’t talk and shear at the same time. So he was telling me a long and complicated anecdote about his owd bull, like, he’s such a character, while poor Lupin was slumped uncomfortably against his knees rolling an eye at me and wondering why she’d ever signed up to be a sheep in the first place.
The final trauma of what is an undeniably undignified and embarrassing business for a sheep is that when the ewes are shorn and returned to their adoring family, their lambs don’t recognise them. There is a lot of “WHO ARE YOU? I DON’T LIKE YOU! GO AWAY AND WHERE’S MY MUM???” in shrill treble bleats before the lambs’ sense of smell tells them that despite all signs to the contrary the elegant lady in front of them really is the comfy old sofa that they used to love so much.
So that’s OK. And I can hear buzzing of many flies and know that my girls are safe. But thank heavens shearing comes just once a year!