Monday 3 July 2023

Shaun the Sheep

Shaun Shorn the Sheep! You'd have much more fun to watch an episode of, like, Shaun the Sheep [see R,R]. But I'm playing the Web-Log card here and now to record when things happen on the farrrrrm, so we don't need to remember over my two week event horizon TWEH. We are blessed to have Paddy-the-Clip 3.7km NNE of here; he's prepared to come up our bucketty lane in his scut-truck, unload his board and clipper-hanger, change his boots and trews . . . to shear a dozen or 15 sheep. In a just world, like a plumber, he'd have a call-out / set-up charge and then an hourly rate. Perhaps he does in his head. We pay what he asks and consider it a bargain. His core business at this time of year is shearing scores or hundreds of sheep in one place with his tea and dinner thrown in and someone to catch the sheep and deliver them arse-down on his station. It's a work out, for sure, even then.

Paddy has his day-job as a farmer, his family-time, his strong-farmers-too-busy-to-shear to juggle; it's okay if we're low down on his list with our piffling small flock. And then there is the weather: it's wrong to shear wet sheep: the shearer gets soaked and it is impossible to dry wet fleece. Wet fleece ferments and has been known to spontaneously combust. It amazes me how efficient sheep are at drying fleece when it is still attached; shorn wool not so much. And everyone appreciates that shearing is an animal welfare issue. Sheep are really uncomfortable wearing woolly jumpers in high summer and fly-strike [and then maggots] is a real problem.

On the last Sunday evening in June we took a call from Paddy to say that it seemed dry enough; he could fit us in; and would be round in half an hour. Whoa, no! we replied as we looked out at a drubbing thunderstorm and down-pour. We had to "take a rain check" with the promise that he'd try again later in the week. Tuesday tea-time he put us on 30 minutes notice again, so we dropped everything and assembled our part of the necessary kit [fleece-bag, very old clothes, electric-cable, hat]. Then we druv the sheep from their paddock up to the sheep-handling unit to wait. Ideally ya should starve sheep for a few hours before shearing as they have been know to stress out and die under the clippers if they're brim-full of grass. 

It actually took an hour or more before we heard the jeep rattling up the lane. But, at 4 minutes / ewe it took only one hour to relieve all the sheep of their burden. Plus a bit of time to set-up and an equivalent interval to de-construct the caravanserai, pack it up and say goodbye. Ten minutes later a light drizzle started to fall, so this year we made it in a nick of time. It is absurd how diminished [R] sheep are without their fleece. The following fore-noon we took the bag of wool into the Agri-store and were quoted a price of 10c/kg. Our cropping weighed in at 45kg and our neighbour who works in the agri store said it wasn't worth cutting a check for €4.50 but that when they had shifted the parish's wool off the the wholesaler, they'd call us in and we could be paid in Mars bars or a [small] box of wood-screws. It's just not worth their while in this economic climate for them to trade in fleece and they only do it as a good-will gesture for their customers.

Last year the price of wool was 20c/kg. In 2016 is was €1.00/kg and 2015 'twas €1.45! We didn't get sheep-shorn until 17 July 2022, nearly 3 weeks later in the year and at least two of the sheep were (mildly) maggotty. Paddy is of the opinion that the higher the farm, the lower the cases of fly-strike. That is credible. Upland plots in Wicklow are used to grow certified seed potatoes which are much less riven with Potato-virus X PVX and Potato-virus Y PVY which are spread by aphids. The idea is that uplands are so windy that the poor bloody aphids cannot settle. In Netherlands, [because no mountains] they grow their seed potatoes in the windswept polders actually below sea-level.

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