A pungent pong blew in across the farmyard last Friday evening reminding me of my childhood spent on a broiler chicken farm. The whiff was coming from the sheep being driven in for their annual hair cut and four days of shearing for 3000 ewes and 30 rams lay ahead of Mr Farmer, the Kiwi and Joe the sheepdog.
A team of four Shearers and their Rousers arrived early on Saturday morning and began the mammoth, back breaking task. The Shearers methodically sheared their way through over 600 ewes on the first day, supporting themselves on slings hanging from a hook above them to help to protect and ease their backs. The Rousers worked flat out collecting the shorn fleeces, picking off the dags (pooey bits) and then pressed the fleeces with a mechanical wool press into big white wool sacks. Here’s a short video…
Mr Farmer and the Kiwi were in the sheep yards (pens) adjoining the wool shed drafting off the lambs from their mums. Mr Farmer showed me what was a good fleece and a not so good one, which ewes were worth keeping and those past their sell by dates had a purple dot sprayed on their noses. Heaven forbid if I ever find a purple dot on my nose!
A significant member of the flock is a huge weather (castrated male) named appropriately “Houdini”. It’s pretty obvious why he is so named because Mr Farmer has been trying to catch him for a couple of years now. Houdini should have gone to meet a jar of mint sauce sometime ago but he has escaped from every confine that Mr Farmer has presented him with. Just a few weeks ago during lamb marking Mr Farmer managed to draft off this huge fat sheep into a small pen to do the unmentionable, but no, Houdini wasn’t having any of this and escaped again to go back to his girlfriends. When the sheep came in for shearing Houdini strangely turned up with a different mob of sheep, he must have seen some prettier girls over the fence and gone to investigate. Clearly fences mean nothing to him and as I write, indeed he’s escaped again…
Talking of escaping sheep Sprocket and Tripod have been up to no good as well. The Kiwi and I had planned a trip back to Victoria to view a couple of farms and we moved our two pet lambs to graze with the chickens in a much larger paddock. As we drove away they had already escaped and we found them both trotting off merrily down the drive. In our best clothes with time tight to catch our plane we managed to get them back into their new home. I think they are both related to Houdini because during our week away we received a daily texts from Mrs Farmer informing us of our lambs escapology antics.
Although we still haven’t found the Promised Land, our few days in Victoria were a worthwhile exercise giving us the opportunity to meet some more land agents and it was good to catch up with a few friends. We’re quite happy on the farm in WA and life is treating us well here, we’re in no particular hurry and we’ll wait for the right place to present itself to us. We arrived back in Perth, picked up the girls from kennels and drove home to find Sprocket and Tripod had made their final escape and were nowhere to be found. We didn’t mind too much as it kind of made the decision for us about their future. They were either happily roaming through the bush or had found their way back to the flock.
Back to shearing… Today is the last day of shearing and the alarm went off at 5am as it was the Rams turn at the barbers. Due to “Elf and Safety” the rams have to be sedated for their own safety and that of the shearers before they can be shorn, bear in mind the rams are enormous and weigh far more than the average shearer. These are normally feisty, randy boys so it was interesting to see them spaced out and placid, I imagined they were baaing “Far out, psychedelic man!” In fact one or two of them weren’t quite on a high enough trip and had to be jabbed once more. I asked what was in the potion and Mr Farmer said “well there’s plenty more in the Ute if you want a try!” I politely declined.
Last week Mr Farmer spent a couple of evenings trying to make his wonderful old Ford truck go. It’s a real beaut, full of Aussie character, she’s a bit rusty but must have a yarn or two to tell. Under her faded red bonnett she’s got a stonking V8 petrol engine which apparently is the same as in the Ford Cobra muscle car. Spending her retirement in the wool shed she was needed during shearing to cart the wool bales to the storage shed but do you think she’d fire up? She was having none of it and wasn’t really feeling very muscly. But this morning she changed her mind and I watched her do what she was made to do and she was quite the picture of Australian farming.
Tripod has returned! Mr Farmer found her in a flock of sheep, looking a bit thin, still limping from her broken leg but otherwise just as pretty and none the worse for her adventures out in the wild. She’s now back in her pen behind the caravan and is absolutely exhausted! We’re going to make a bigger pen for her and it’s lovely to have her home. In case you’re wondering wouldn’t she be better off with her mates, well, sadly no, because she’s not up to being a mother and in most other cases by now she’d be coated in gravy. Goodness knows where Sprocket is but knowing him, he’s happy doing whatever he’s up to.
Having been through nearly a year of winter there’s a very welcome change in the weather. The sun has got his hat on and it’s quite a bit warmer but with it the reptiles are beginning to stir… There’s a squished blue tongue lizard on the drive and the other day I saw another scuttle off into the undergrowth. Being completely phobic of long wriggly things (LWT – I can’t even bring myself to type the word) I have ordered a large collection of solar powered LWT repellers – the recommended number for the area around our caravan is four and I’ve got ten coming. Hopefully they’ll keep the ghastly things away!
Meanwhile Margot has been rolling in the copious amounts of sheep poo now to be found around the farmyard.
And the Farmer Boys have been partaking of a similar activity amusing themselves (but not their mother) making mud pies!