Gorffannef/Awst 2005 July/August

Wellies And Wheelbarrows

Shearing is a hard, back breaking job, which I tend to postpone for as long as possible in the vain hope that the later I leave it the better the sheep will shear.

With most of my neighbours sheep sporting crew cuts, I decided I’d better make an effort and start, so Gareth Blondie and myself spent a reasonably stress free afternoon shearing a small bunch in Cae Pwll. To tell the truth - what actually happened was Blondie had gathered the field and pretty much finished before I’d arrived on the scene, but as I helped him pack up I thought I deserved a mention.

Most years I have to shear outside in my pens in Erw Seion and manage to get myself sunburnt, so this year with more room available, I decided to shear indoors. I spent a bit of time setting up a pen in the shed, made a spring loaded door to get the ewes out through. I got the base of an old garden shed to shear on and even put wood shavings (courtesy of Brian Tawelfa) down on the floor to keep the ewes clean. All in all it looked quite a professional set up and I was quietly confident that things would go well.

Having parted 50 ewes from their lambs I brought them from their pens to the gadlas with extreme difficulty as they were not too pleased at leaving their babies behind and kept trying to break back to them. By the time I actually got them into the shed and was ready to start, both my dogs and myself had suffered from an acute case of sense of humour failure.

Once I’d got my second wind, I put on my best moccasins and shearing vest (you’ve got to look the part) tightened my belt a couple of notches, dived in the pen and grabbed a ewe. I sat her down, picked up the shearing hand piece, pulled the cord to start the machine and nothing happened - I’d forgotten to switch the electric on! I find that once I get into the doing of things, shearing isn’t too bad, it’s just a matter of routine.

Grab a sheep, shear it, pitch it, let it go, wrap the wool and repeat the exercise until (a) the whole pen has been sheared or (b) you’ve collapsed out of sheer exhaustion.

The only real problem occurs after you’ve cleared a few from the pen, then the routine alters slightly. Hobble around the pen as fast as your aching back will allow and try to catch a sheep, dragging it from the farthest corner of the pen where you eventually managed to catch it. Shear it, pitch it, let it go, wrap the wool, say a quick prayer and start all over again (crying is optional). I’m glad to say the shearing is now over and barring a couple of cut fingers and a new ventilation hole in my trousers, everything went quite well.

I took my first bunch of lambs to Corwen last week and was reasonably satisfied with the price they made - that is until I was told that if I had taken them the previous week they would have made £6 a head more!

When I look around at what my neighbours are up to, it does seem that I am always last to do everything, a fact that has been pointed out to me by my so called friends. When I am tailing, everyone else is shearing, when I’m shearing everyone else is dipping and when I’m dipping everyone else is in the harvest. There is a simple explanation for this. Whereas everyone else works on British Summertime I work on Llan Farm time. It may be a bit slower than British Summer Time but we always get there in the end!

Gareth Llan
(Copyright Robert Gareth Bryan)

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