Wednesday was my last day on the farm. I had to get the 15:59 train home to London, which would get me home by about 11pm. I got up early and went and fed the sheep, strawing up the lambs in the main barn, who had got a bit messy, and providing hay for all. Then there was work to be done after breakfast!
Sir and I lamb-napped the four sheep from the lambing pen into their allocated pens in the tractor shed, and then we had to tail and mark them, together with two other mothers and their offspring. The lamb-napping was a curious affair, as the mother who was rejecting her lamb refused to follow it. We put it on the ground and it chased her around, eventually chasing her into the tractor shed. Then it was time for tailing - this took a while, as three of the lambs had mucky tails – with impacted fæces that needed to be trimmed off, and washed – a wet and smelly affair. Furthermore, the sheep who had previously prolapsed had a particularly smelly behind, with a little bloodstained wool, so she was given a bit of a trim too.
Once this was done, we then moved the gimmers into a field, well away from the amorous concerns of Scrumpy, the remaining ram. This needs some preparation – the closing of gates and erecting of barriers in case they made a run for it. Happily, though, they followed Sir and his bucket of feed. Once they had gone, we could straw up the top pen, and lamb-nap two sheep from the tractor shed there.
All this done, it was time for lunch, and I then had a last soak in the bath – I had got quite dirty that morning, before packing and getting ready to leave. As usual, Mrs Farmer furnished me with goodies and it was a sad farewell at the station, as I boarded a high speed train for a six hour journey.
The farewell was sadder than usual, as this was the last lambing. The remaining sheep will be sold off this year. The lamb I proudly delivered on Sunday was named Zechariah, as the last lamb. I will visit my friends again – they are very hospitable, and will be glad of help with the bees at a time of the year with rather nicer weather.
I pause and think of 208 days spent on the farm on 20 different years over 23 years. I probably seen a couple of hundred lambs being born, yet am still excited by the new life, by the way they stand and suckle so quickly, by their beauty, and by the tenderness of their mothers. I have bottle-fed lambs in the middle of the night. I have witnessed the sadness of still-birth, the horror of a putrid still-birth, and the sorrow of a mother who has lost its lamb. Yet most births ended happily, and the descendants of the first lambs I saw being born live on.
I am profoundly grateful to Mrs Farmer and Sir for their hospitality over the years – their laden table and generosity far outweighing the meagre assistance I provide. The times on the farm are a time of tales and anecdotes, laughter, and board-games, and of wonder at the cycles of nature, and the ways of sheep. I have had a rare chance to participate in this. And I am grateful.