A sense of place

I've been walking on fire a bit lately.  Deciding I should get a third job to help the economy around here. Signing up for the hours. Then realising with a sickening thud that it just can't be done. Today I had to stand down off that and face up to the fact that I'm going to have to make the best of what I can do around here.
The days go by in such a flurry though. Today after two weeks Easter Break for the girls, I really needed to attack the paper mountain and that took - on and off - all day.
I did however, manage to reduce mountainous piles of paper from all over the house to these four varying stages of  'to do':

Then down to the field to move the ewes and lambs, and a few chickens, clean out the layers ... and get time to think.
There's a magic that takes place when I'm there. It is its own world. I fight against the need to be there, and yet when I get there, everything is right. Chatting away to the ewes and lambs out at grass. Chastising blooming Mr Drake, the duck who thinks he is a bouncer.  Nattering to the layers as I substitute woodchip for straw in their roost and wonder if it will stay more hygienic.
Then before going to fetch the girls from their first day back at school - H's last full term ever! - I took a break in the shade. There's a chair in the barn, lambing time - in case you need to be there a while, you know. It's an old plastic chair and it currently sits atop the foot high bed the Oxfords built up while they were in. That needs clearing.
Meanwhile however, the chair, with the lambing supplies to hand, the crook against a nearby hurdle, and the pens for ewes who have just lambed hard by, is a quiet place to dwell on what a truly fabulous life it actually is.
Milk had been drunk, and nap time was approaching as I settled in for a few minutes to meditate on what it is about that place ....

For such very complex reasons

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and probably contrary to what those who know me would guess, if I do have a once and for always favourite song, it is probably this one.

Battle Lost

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We lost a ewe today.

We'd been prom dress shopping and were in high spirits. We set out to do evening chores and spotted a ewe who looked to be just going down to lamb. We made her a pen and carried on feeding haying and watering all the others, to give her time to get the job done.

Then, in a very short space of time,  a frighteningly, vanishingly small space of time, things went wrong. We called the vet. Things went horribly wrong. There was nothing we could do ( Boo and I are basic level at intervention, Neil's a pro, but he wasn't there - as it turns out, even he couldn't have helped.)

We battled with that ewe. We did all we could do, and it wasn't enough.

By the time the vet arrived, the poor little girl had died - and the vet sprinted up the field to try to save the lambs. That's not a process you want to hear described. It failed, and we lost all three. Thank you, Gethyn, though for doing everything possible, including a short cross country sprint.

Sometimes, keeping sheep is the hardest thing in the world. The chores needed completing, the fence needed moving, the water troughs needed filling.  We dragged on like robots,  in the cold and the rain, with darkness falling. We all love them. They are our family.

To some, it might be strange. A tough, fifteen year old girl, who hours previously had been modelling prom gowns and limping from trawling round Salisbury in high heels, fighting the tears, the elements, and everything else life has to throw at her,  cool as a cucumber as the vet tries to cut free lambs from their tragic mother, wiping an oil creased  Barbour sleeve across her well mascaraed eyes as he fails. Shouting into the wind at the injustice of it all. Turning around, pulling up her collar, calling her dog, and getting on with tending to the rest.

Sometimes it will break your heart. George Henderson, I think it was, said farming is a business, shepherding is a vocation, or words to that effect.  I understand why some people think we shouldn't keep animals for meat, or for profit, but if there was no return in sheep, they would become extinct, I think. The endless toil and terrible heartbreak. No one would keep these paradoxical,  ancient creatures. They would be lost.  It's hard to explain to someone who has never stood and gazed at their own flock of sheep.

It's made them, these daughters of mine. Refined them in fire. Made them remarkable. They shine like molten copper.

There is no joy like a newly lambed ewe, proudly nursing her lambs, and watching them racing the fence lines on a spring evening.  There is no sorrow like losing one of our tiny flock

our little flock, in their big world.

This has been a long, long day. Tomorrow, I'm off to work. If my plans to work a third job come to fruition, this time in a fortnight, I'll still be working. I'm now wondering if it will honestly happen, with all the trials that can come along with livestock.

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