Swaledales, a ditch and preparing for lambing...

Emma Heseltine - 17 February 2013

We are moving some of the ewes about at Stone Raise and have discovered some interlopers. There are two Swaledales lurking in the flock. I think they have joined for the good eats and the treacle. The trouble is someone will be missing them. We ring a few people who have rent-a-sheep in the area to find the owner. These are hill sheep that are brought down to the lowlands in the winter and graze on dairy farmer’s land who have their cattle in all winter. They are cheeky, wily and go wherever they fancy. And we have to catch them. After a bit of trickery (come to the trough sheep, look at the lovely barley we have for you here!) we manage to pin them down and I hold onto one whilst John walks the other to the Landrover and puts her in the back. After a while a little gator comes scooting down the road and the owner of the Swales has been located. Seems they have walked a couple of mile away from home. They are wild these hill sheep.

There is an incredibly overgrown hedge and ditch which we have been attacking. Unfortunately for me it’s been attacking back. John has used the chainsaw on the big bits and I’ve have volunteered to get in the ditch and pull out the branches, otherwise the ditch will get clogged and water will escape, we have enough water round here. It’s something of a battle as it’s pretty steep, slippery and of course there is a lot of blackthorn. Soon we have a section cleared and a nice pile ready for a bonfire. And guess what? I look like I’ve lost a fight with a sack of angry cats again.

We are building pens at Houghton in preparation for lambing. We have some pretty snazzy recycled ones made from the black plastic that silage is wrapped in. they are fairly easy to assemble, just slot the panels together and there you go. Except there appears to be two types of pen panels and they don’t swap and change. We soon have it figures out and eight pens are set up in the extension shed. It looks empty; I remember filling it with hay one busy, long tiring night in the summer. Soon it will be full of little baa’s. We next get onto cataloguing all the equipment we have and all the things we need to get. It’s a list of tubes, syringes, bottles, lamps, iodine, gloves, halters and a million other essential items. I’m starting to get excited now, when will the lambs start coming? Last year I was quite nervous, this year I have an idea what to expect and know I can handle (most) of it, hence more excitement.

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.

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