Well here we are in the middle of April, and what a mixed month it’s been. We’ve had gales, hard frosts, snow flurries, sunshine and a mini heatwave, all in the space of a few weeks.
Luckily, here at Stralochy we have avoided the heavy snowfalls experienced by farmers elsewhere, which is a blessing because – yes – it’s lambing time!
Lambing has dominated the month and I’ve been “on call” around the clock. I like to think of myself as a kind of George Clooney figure, dashing through the hospital corridors and coping efficiently with emergencies whilst looking suave and sophisticated.
The reality is I’m more like a Doc Martin figure, cantankerous, grumpy and always rude to the patients. The main difference is they don‘t seem to mind, and none of them have reported me to NHS Tayside for my bedside manner.
What they do mind, however, is being herded into the lambing shed and segregated into pens.
We have a system in the shed where we separate them into different sections, depending on whether they’re due to have singles, twins or triplets. It’s always fraught, gathering them in from the hill park and trying to steer them in the right direction, and I’m always grateful for help from family and friends.
My job is to man the shedding gate, and turn the ewes into the appropriate pen by swinging the gate left or right as they approach. Which would be easy if they would simply approach in single file, nice and calmly. But of course they seldom do. There’s always a rush to get there first, bump each other out of the way and try to come up two (or even three) abreast. Like a crowd of shopaholics released after lockdown on their first visit to the Overgate, they’d be elbowing each other out of the way – if they had elbows.
And inevitably, one or two end up in the wrong pen and then I have to get in there, catch them and get them out. And if a ten stone pregnant ewe doesn’t want to go in a certain direction, a thirteen stone farmer has a struggle on his hands. Those of you old enough to remember Saturday afternoon wrestling on the telly in the 1970s will have an image of Mick McManus being thrown around the ring by Giant Haystacks.
Just call me Mick and you get the picture.
And they’re so inconsiderate.
Line of Duty
All I ask them for is an hour’s amnesty on a Sunday evening so I can watch Line of Duty. Not asking much, is it? But no, there’s always at least one that decides to go into labour at 8.45pm. And if that wasn’t bad enough, but it’s always the one who’s lamb is coming backwards, or with a leg bent back, which takes until exactly 10.05pm to safely deliver. They time it so precisely. I’m convinced one of them must have a wristwatch and another has a copy of the TV guide.
Away from the lambing shed, and another enterprise has been launched.
Morag and Alice have branched out into the egg business. Our half dozen hens are producing half a dozen eggs almost daily, so we’ve set up an honesty box at the road end with a sign saying “fresh farm eggs” to tempt passers -by.
A public right of way running through the farm, and now that rambling season is here we regularly see groups of walkers, so we thought they’d find it impossible to resist a fresh egg for breakfast.
But so far sales are poor.
In fact they’re been non-existent, so a new marketing strategy is needed.
One idea I’ve had is to place a sign at one of the gates leading away from the farm towards the village , stating“NO ENTRY WITHOUT EGGS”. If that doesn’t work I’ll set myself up in a sentry box and accost them as they approach – “Egg inspector Madam, let me examine your eggs please”. On second thoughts that might be misconstrued and I could get arrested.
At least I’d get a break from the lambing shed.