Thursday, 1 October 2015
The farmer spent yesterday clearing all the briars which have grown over the Summer from the hedge backs because the Winter sheep were coming. The Swaledale sheep, which are hefted on the Buttertubs pass (above) have come down for the Winter to our (relatively) lowland farm. Should a really severe Winter set in then the Buttertubs pass between Wensleydale and Swaledale becomes impassable and the sheep can be buried under feet of snow. So they come down every year.
These are gimmers - that is this year's female lambs - who will go back up to The Buttertubs in the Spring, spend the Summer learning their boundaries and getting fat and healthy - then in the Autumn they will be tupped (put to the ram) and in the following Spring they will produce lambs themselves. And so the farming cycle continues.
All the briars have been burnt on a bonfire, which means that no sheep will get caught in the hedge - believe me if there are briars there there will always be at least one sheep who will decide to die in that way. A day without being found and the outlook is pretty desperate - and it is so easy to miss one because the more they get entangled the more they struggle.
So there we are. Another farming job over for another year.
The field opposite was combined yesterday morning (wheat), the straw was baled up in the afternoon; this morning the field is being 'mucked' - they don't waste any time these days on the farm.
***Just adding a note about the word 'hefted' (the word gimmers is explained in the post.) These sheep up on 'the tops' spend their summers up there for the whole of their lives and they learn exactly where they can go, so that this information is passed on generation after generation and only rarely do sheep stray off the territory.