Lambing Live … well, almost.

Lamb and mother 2014

“Are you sure we’re allowed to walk in the road, Mum?”

‘T’is the season of newbirth and rebirth.  From the wet and dismal days of the earlier months we have moved inexorably toward Spring.  So ready was I that I almost remembered the change to BST;  sometimes it can be several days before I notice the change in the time, this year I altered my clocks by midday on Sunday !  The fields around are already the playgrounds of dozens of lambs.  Indeed my workplace has been a hive of tired activity for several weeks already.  The arrival of this year’s stock of lambs is well underway throughout the land, it is even a ‘hit’ show every evening on TV.  I was surprised to find the lady of the house on which I am currently employed is a fan !  She spends every day just now pulling slimey babies from their mothers rear ends, why would you want to sit down and watch ‘Lambing Live’ !?

Lambing Shed

Suitably attired and suitably tired in the nursery… and no doubt horrified to now be world famous !

The annual lambing season is a time of extreme effort and no little stress for those farmers and their wives, their children and their parents whose livelihood is dependent upon the survival and health of the little creatures.

I am always on the edge of the activity; for over twenty years now I have been an annual onlooker at whatever farm I happen to be working on.  I can, if I have to, pull a lamb and have done so on several occasions in the past.  Many years ago I had a small flock of Jacob sheep and had my own mini lambing season but it was nothing like the real thing.

Lambing Dead

Not all of the little dears make it, lambing live can quickly become lambing dead.

Now the average town dweller, indeed many country dwellers too, will have not the slightest idea just how hectic nor how exhausting the lambing shed can be.  Just like all other animals, the time of arrival of a newborn is a total lottery and hence it is necessary for someone to ‘watch the flock by night’.  Few of the male members of the farming family get to sleep in a real bed for the weeks of lambing.  I am always in awe of the dedication the whole family displays to the business of farming at this time of year.  True there’s not a great deal of sentimentality about the birth of hundreds of lambs, but there is care and often tenderness.  True many lambs don’t make it, dead on arrival or soon thereafter;  I was touched at the lament of my host’s father at the avoidable loss of a lamb had he only been there to clear the birth-bag from the airways.  True the loss is one of financial return foregone, but I see too the pleasure derived from the safe delivery of a young life and the joy of taking the baby and its mother to the meadow to begin the process of growth.

My world, whilst purely from the observatory of comfort, is surrounded by such scenes and will be for the next six months.  This year, for the first time since I moved to my little farmstead, I have a new flock in the fields outside my yard.  My old neighbour has retired and a new younger farmer, albeit the son of a long standing estate tenant, has taken over.  His breeds are true hill breeds and generally smaller than the previous tenant, it is strange to see new lambs arriving from mothers I have not seen before.  I knew many of the old flock and each year a number of ewes would produce lambs with characteristic coloured patches on their backs or feet.

It is a mark of the longevity and closeness of the farming community in the area that my new neighbour is a cousin of the farmer for whom I am wall building.  Their fathers are brothers and only today I moved my materials to effect some repairs on an old cow-house at the estate farm here where the father of my new neighbour lives.  Understand ?  The intertwined network that is as ageless as the lambing season and is the very backbone of the countryside.  It makes me proud to be a small contributory part;  I mend the walls that keep the newborn lambs and their mums safe and enclosed.  My efforts pale into insignificance when judged against that of every farmer, every farmer’s wife and extended family at this time of year.

A new lamb with its mum

The hills, the woods, the ewes and the lambs; Wales in the spring.

The wall repairs have progressed to the point of an intermission.  I have completed as much as I can for now.  I have to wait until the end of the lambing marathon as for now every waking and sleeping moment is directed there.  Hence the stone I require to complete the sections in hand will be a while arriving.  That is not a particular problem for me, it allows me to tackle a couple of smaller jobs which have been outstanding for a while.  Soon the attack will take place on the huge enclosure wall which will occupy my time, probably until year’s end.

The stone on the Rhogo is an interesting mix, indeed it is famous for the number of fossils which occur in the sedimentary rock of the area.  Whilst it is a good stone to build with, being nicely laminated and reasonably sized, it can be quite heavy and care has to be taken especially when dismantling sections which can suddenly collapse.

Wall down

Wall down


Wall up !

Wall up !

I am always intrigued at the patterns that can appear in stones, the temptation to let the imagination run wild is sometimes overwhelming.  I have seen cave drawings in the south of  France which represent animals around at the time, some of the patterns on the Rhogo stones are similar …

Primitive man-made ?  Nope, just natural, but still amazing don't you think ?

Primitive man-made ? Nope, just natural, but still amazing don’t you think ?


And another - Stone Circles ?

And another – Stone Circles ?  They are actually called Liesegang rings and are basically made of cement which runs through the sediments as they are setting.


You may have read in my last post of the history that surrounds me on this site, it continues to throw up new discoveries and new complexities.  The landscape features are far more extensive than I had realised and far more unfathomable to me.  The farm too has some historic artefacts lying around, one is a rather fine quern stone which was retrieved from a nearby site of an old farmstead.  It is the top of a two stone grinding set with what appears to sockets into which turning handles were fixed.  As with all old farms the scrap that often lies in old walls and hedgerows reveal past activities in the form of old implements or remnants of machinery or carts.  There are several lying around which I will bring you in a later post.

The top stone of a medieval quern.

The top stone of a medieval quern.

During the ‘down-time’ of earlier months I  got into some light restoration of some small tools I had been given.  One of them is a total mystery to me (and those I have asked) and another is a rather rare little wooden item that I am thrilled to have acquired.

Strange farm tool

This item is a real mystery, it is well made and has a model number stamped on it; as you can see by my size 12 wellington boot, it is a long shafted tool with a chain at one end and a hook at the other. Any ideas anyone !?

The small wooden ‘coffin’ is worked out of a piece of boxwood and was affixed to the belt by the metal hook.  It was to hold a whetstone whilst working in the field.  I don’t know if it should have had a top – as I assume it held some water as well as the stone but am not totally sure – and it clearly has some antiquity.

The stone which came with it is not a carborundum one as those did not become readily and cheaply available until the early twentieth century.  It appears to be of millstone grit and is interesting for a number of reasons.  Most early sharpening of scythes and sickles was done using a rip stick or strickle, a wooden four sided block onto which was smeared goose grease and then sand.  The size of my whetstone coffin suggests a sickle sharpener which sets it as very early, the scythe took over from the sickle by the mid 1700s in most places.

Wooden holder for whetstone

The box-wood coffin holds an old sharpening stone and would have been fixed to the belt.


The evenings will gradually get longer and lighter now, if I can reserve a little of my diminishing energy pot I will be able to invest some time in one of the many restorations which lay guilt on me each time I go around the back !  The week ahead holds a number of technical challenges in terms of what I need to ‘build’ and in terms of assessments I have to do on one or two major construction projects that await me.

Clearly I have finally solved my ‘connection’ issue with good old BT.  And yes, two days after fixing my three month old fault which deprived you of me, they did indeed cut me off for non-payment of a bill which covered that period …  Eventually a rather unusually sympathetic employee based on the Indian sub-continent sorted matters for me, he did a deal whereby I only had to pay half of what BT wanted me to give them for the privilege of having a very quiet 3 months…

Should a waller in the Welsh hills really be bothered about information technology ?  After all, there are still more sheep in Wales than computers and there are definitely more stones than sheep …







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