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It's all go

It’s been a bit action-packed, this last week. Firstly, the fabulous opportunity to be interviewed on Woman’s Hour last Thursday, as per the recording clip elsewhere on this site. Such a privilege to be able to do this, and such an adrenaline rush on the day, particularly when the lovely Jenni Murray had a coughing fit part way through and I had no idea whether the audience could hear the coughs or not! Carrying on regardless seemed to be the best option, so that’s what I did and thankfully it seemed to work out OK. It had been my own personal terror that a tickly throat would strike part way through, so the relief was immense to get out alive with vowels and consonants intact.

No rest for the wicked poet-smallholder though. No sooner back up to Notts than I heard from our shearer that it was game on for shearing our unruly gang of sheep on Saturday morning. Usually we like a few days' warning to move the sheep into the ready position in their designated shearing paddocks, and to get them used to being fed inside the stables so we can then sneak up behind them, shove the door closed and lock them in overnight so the fleeces stay nice and dry. No such time window this time though – just the one shot on the Friday night to lure them indoors with full food buckets, then a mad jostle as I raced for the door to slam it shut and PHEW! The hardest bit (for me) done.

Saturday was then a marathon shearing effort by our expert shearer, Mike Hewson. Not only do we have very large unruly boys who take quite a bit of handling, all feet are also trimmed before shearing, and this time we had a lot of very sticky fleeces where the lanolin was still caked and crusty near to the skin, making a speedy trim out of the question. We started at 9am and the last sheep (of 22) finished at 6.30pm. Poor Mike got kicked in the nose by Heather, one of the smallest Shetlands but with a back foot strike like a black belt in Taekwondo. Like a true pro, he carried on with blood running down his face and many, many cuts and bruises into the bargain. Worth every penny, that man. Not only were feet trimmed, but willies were also gently attended to, to prevent the return of the dreaded Pizzle Rot which had afflicted many of our boys in the warm, wet autumn where fleece got a bit claggy round their privates.

The things you learn that you never expected to, eh?

Then on Sunday, while still a little punch-drunk from the shearathon, we had a distress call from one of our neighbours who had had a clutch of ducklings hatch in her garden moments before 20 people were descending for a party. We decided that the best bet was to get Mrs Duck and her brood out of there, so after diving into a patch of bamboo to retrieve 13 little wrigglers, we installed them out of harm’s way in one of our stables. Every year we’ve watched lots of valiant Mrs Ducks hatch lots of babies, then try to take them to water across our field, but sadly we’re in just about the worst spot for her to get them there safely and every year, more and more ducklings have been lost to the crows who sit patiently waiting for their opportunity for a quick snack. Not this year! This year we’re giving them a week to get bigger, learn to swim and generally gear up for the life outdoors with a short stay in The Quackery Hotel. This coming Sunday, we’ll take mum and babes out to a secluded lake nearby and release them – hopefully this little bit of assistance might mean more will survive those hazardous early weeks of life.

Lots more happening on the writing and book front, but I'll keep it short and stick with the ducks for now! You can catch up with my writing news in more regular soundbite posts on Twitter and Facebook. Back on the blog next week with some tales of the folklore behind our farmhouse... Bye for now.

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