Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Back where we started…

It’s now over a year since we packed up our desks and flat and moved out of Bristol ready to start our WWOOFing adventures. Funnily enough we are back at the first farm we WWOOFed at, almost a year ago, Smiling Tree Farm. This time there is no WWOOFing involved however, just a well deserved 2 weeks of relaxed farm-sitting, recuperating after our 3 ½ hard working weeks of lambing.

So, as predicted at the end of the last proper blog, a lot more lambs were to come! They soon came thick and fast, perhaps encouraged by the beautiful weather that we were blessed with. A little too early in fact as over 30 lambed in the fields before we had time to move them to the barns.

Luckily Ollie came to help out for a long weekend and helped us move the sheep and prepare the barns amongst many other jobs. Katy and Dan also paid us a visit that weekend and were really helpful preparing pens ready for all the new arrivals.

It was our busiest time on the farm so unfortunately we didn’t see them all that much, Matt in particular who did his epic 08.30 until 23.30 shift with only a few short breaks!

We soon slipped into a routine:
1. Feed/hay/water ewes in all 3 yards plus those in pens and nursery pens
2. Second breakfast
3. Moving ewes and 2/3 day old lambs from the nursery pen to the field
4. Taking the ewes with lambs that looked healthy and robust from their individual pen and preparing the ewe to be “turned out” into the nursery pen which involves: clipping the wool around her bottom to deter flystrike (dagging), clipping hooves so they don’t over-grow or encourage foot rot,

giving ewe a delicious drink of wormer, spraying lambs with an “S” for single or 2 of the same number/letter/symbol/smiley face if we got bored etc if twins

Matt was king of these jobs and thoroughly enjoyed wrestling with the hefty ewes, getting them onto their backs to clip their hooves, I didn’t hear a swearword once.
5. Preparing pen for next family
6. Ringing lambs (tail docking and castrating – my speciality!)
7. Feed again
8. Check ewes

Meanwhile you had an eye on each of the yards looking out for any ewes that might just be trying to pop out a lambo, checking to see if they were coming out the right way (front feet first with nose right behind) and in the event of seeing just a head, catching the ewe and sticking a hand up (another of my specialities!) to see if we could sort it out without calling on Martin. Then there was the checking on each of the pens as we went past to make sure all lambs looked healthy.

And moving each new family when ready to a personal pen with all luxuries included. And that was just the daytime! We were checking the sheep every few hours in the evenings too up until midnight. I do remember the absurdity of running round at 1am trying to locate a spare triplet by torchlight that could be a candidate for fostering onto a ewe who had just lost one of her twins. Or trying to sort out some hilarious mis-mothering incident where 1 ewe appears to have 4 lambs and another none – not at all frustrating when all you want to do is collapse into bed.

One of our farm mobiles before ‘someone’ left the handbreak off and it drove itself down a hill and into a stone wall...it looked pretty much the same before the crash I might add!

It was an intense 3 ½ weeks, we learnt so much working with Martin and Chris, we got little sleep, we had bad days but some incredibly good days and now I miss the ewes and think I am getting withdrawal symptoms from staring at sheep’s backsides!

Luckily we have come back up to Shropshire to farm-sit, as I said, as well as be on call in the event that one of our 4 ewes decide to give birth, any moment now! They appear incredibly small and manageable after working with Martin’s ewes, in fact Matt’s thoroughly looking forward to clipping their hooves! We’re enjoying our new routine too:
1. Cup of tea
2. Feed Flapjack and Squeak (cats), Little Bear (boar), Dotty (sow) and her piglets, Dilys and her other teenage piggy friends,

Yolander the Shetland sheep and her friends,

say hello to Marmalade and Lollipop (jersey cows)

3. Breakfast
4. Chill, relax, eat, walk, read, phone for news on our ewes, go out for day, do a small job
5. Feed Dotty and piglets

6. Collect eggs, check on chicklets

7. Eat, go to bed before half past midnight, ooh the luxury!

Stay tuned for more lambing news, hopefully very soon.


  1. Glad to hear that even in the midst of all the madness you still found time for 2nd breakfast!

    Looking forward to seeing/hearing more of your lambs, and you of course!


  2. Wow full ON! Sounds like you're been getting your hands dirty but really enjoying it - glad to hear it! Great to see you recently, see you back in Bris before you know it! :-) for us and prob :-( for you!!
    lots love x x (Kelly - you must be used to this mysterious 'John' character signing msgs to on your blog by now!)

  3. Hi! I'm doing some research into WWOOFing and came across your blog. The stories and pictures are amazing! Would you recommend it? Myself and my partner are sick to death of the 9 - 5:30 daily grind, sitting in front of a computer all day. We live in the UK and thought WWOOFing around the UK might be a good way to start travelling. The thought of packing it all in and relying on a stranger to provide you with shelter and food is a bit scary!
    Anyway thank you for the blog!