Sue Woodcock: Sun finally comes out but the big heat is off my relieved sheep

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IT has been a rather woolly week. My first port of call was up the dale to clip a few sheep belonging to a friend who took on four of my lambs a couple of years ago and has since acquired another pet lamb. To say that she has looked after them is an understatement. We managed to catch three, a couple of wethers, a mule and a jacob called Noah and a jacob ewe called Princess.

Their fleeces are luxuriant and dense and of very high quality. My friend has started spinning and is looking forward to turning the wool into garments.

The next day mine were done by a good local clipper who had recently made an excellent job of fencing and wooling for me. I think I am getting a bit too old and stiff to clip more than a few. His dog Lucy made a good job of rounding the sheep up with the exception of a stroppy Katmaget Shetland but we got her in the end. She is old and wily and if it wasn’t for the fact that she had a very rare – and to me – valuable fleece I would move her on. But she is a good mother and I am fond of her. I have five Shetlands at the moment, all of whom are far too old but seem to be doing fine.

The sheep clipped, they were released shaking themselves and getting used to their haircuts and luxuriating in not having such a weight and volume surrounding them. I have a wether mule called Charlie whose fleece is superb and I shall enjoy spinning it. Seeing them in their true shape has brought home to me that they do not need any extra food as they are all very fit and rather fat. I managed to sort out a lamb with a sore foot who now no longer limps. He just needed a good pedicure. Unfortunately Boo has discovered the horny clippings and insists on bringing in the bits of hoof horn to chew noisily at night. The sheep now congregate in the shade when the sun is hot, usually waiting to ambush me from the side of the house when I emerge.

I took the dogs round Grimwith Reservoir, the first decent walk Froyle has had since her operation.

The bird life there is different from that at my place and I watched some dippers and other water birds for some time.

Everything is in bloom and I lost count of the different flowers I saw. Making my way across the dam I noticed that almost all of the grass was crusted with dogs tail, and the dogs looked as though they were swimming through it and emerged covered in grass seed. I have many grasses on my sward but not that kind.

The recent spell of hot weather has been a delight. On a trip down to the village I heard many people complain about the heat. I loved it.

The cats spent some time basking in the sun and the dogs would join them for a while before retreating into the shade of the house to cool down.

I walked them in the evening after the heat had dissipated slightly. The bright blue skies and the white wispy clouds were a welcome sight.

The chickens love to sunbathe, preferably in a dustbath, with wings outstretched and legs relaxed until I appear with a bag or bowl that might contain food. Then they become animated once more and rush over to sample what have I put down for them and then squabble over titbits. Some of my chickens are real characters. One of them resents my taking eggs from her and attacks me when I try. Another one likes to peck at my shoe laces. If I put out spaghetti for them she is in heaven.

A small black one likes to sit on my lap in the odd moments when I get to sit down outside.

My house is finally on the market and I await any developments with eager anticipation. When and if I get a reasonable offer I shall have to decide where to go. I have a number of options. I do know that I shall need to remain close to nature and would wither and die in a city. The natural world is so much part of me now that it is essential to my whole life. I get such joy from simply wondering at the diversity of nature and the beauty of it and hope that I understand just a little about it. I will never stop learning and being amazed at it.

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