The expectations combined with the constant worry can sometimes leave you exhausted before you even start.
Will the weather be kind, will the grass grow, will we manage without extra help... It’s a constant whirlwind, that until that first lamb arrives, invades your everyday thoughts. The main thing for us, of course, is our health. We have to be firing on all cylinders to be able to get through the next couple of months of lambing and calving.
Unfortunately, a week prior to the due date of my beloved Blue Faced Leicesters, disaster struck. It seems so unbelievably cruel that after avoiding the dreaded Covid for almost a year, it should come knocking on our door at lambing time.
Following positive tests from family members, Paul booked a test, hoping that his outdoor workspace would have prevented close contact.
The results came back the following day, positive. As the news sunk in, the enormity of the situation began to dawn on us. A recent change in Covid regulations meant that we couldn’t leave the farm, not even to attend to our livestock.
With hundreds of sheep due to come home from winter keep and the early lambers at Farnley to deal with, we were left reeling at the news. Paul’s family were in the same boat, all our friends busy with their own stock.
I went out for a walk with the dogs down to the reservoir, desperately trying to ignore the headache that had just started. On return I found Paul slumped in his chair, looking bereft.
He was due to attend the funeral of the son of some close friends. An incredibly brave lad, he had tragically lost his battle with leukaemia and Paul had felt honoured when asked to be a pallbearer.
I was in no doubt about how difficult the day was going to be for Paul, who had lost his own brother to the same disease many years before. To not be able to support them on such a terrible day left us devastated.
The virus hit me several days after Paul. Crippling headaches, vomiting and dizziness left me curled in a tight ball on the bathroom floor. John-William soldiered on, filling haynets and water buckets.
He kept the muck trailer empty and sat with me as I lay gasping for breath whilst attempting to muck out. The blinding headaches left me incapacitated, hours would pass without me realising.
On one particularly grim day, I made my way to the shed, it was quite some time since I’d checked the ewes.
I heard the deep guttural bleating before I opened the door and knew the first lamb had arrived. The shearling stood there, frantically pawing at the lifeless body.
A beautifully marked single gimmer lamb, the bag still across her face. There was no warmth left in her body, I was way too late.
I sat in the straw with tears rolling down my cheeks. What a way to start lambing in 2021.