Oh Spring, Where Art Thou?


Some time ago, we took my son’s Xbox away. He’s eight years old so you can imagine the drama that this caused. He got cross and upset. There were tears and tantrums. We did not relent.

We had multiple reasons for doing this. Behaviour that we deemed not-okay, insolence, disobedience and of course, all of the problems that come with having a kiddo who will not turn the damn console off. We threatened to take the Xbox away many times, but it was my husband who eventually reached breaking point and hid it.

Yes, you did read that correctly. My adult husband hid the XBox. In a cupboard in the utility room. Such was his fury.

This evening, when I was bringing Luke from the farm, his Dad asked me how Luke had performed over his two-week school break. To be honest, Luke did an alright job, but he hates helping out on the farm and has a tendency to scarper into his Nanny’s house, where he is lorded over and gets to drink tea and watch TV all day.

There are a seemingly infinite amount of jobs that he could help out with if he was willing, but often, being tired and in the midst of the worst and longest lambing season ever, its easier to concede and allow him to go indoors. He does have a few little jobs that he does, and I’m happy enough if he’ll just those, but over the past two weeks, he has done them about 3 times, so hence my hesitation when asked.

We loudly discussed whether Luke should get the console back and eventually decided that he could play it for one hour this evening on his return from the last feeding task of the day. Poor Luke, he got so excited he was nearly bursting out of his skin. Reversing out of the farm yard, I was grinning at Stephen and he was grinning at me. Off they went to give out the meal to the sheep in the tractor.

But as I drove up the road to our house (just a stone’s throw I assure you) my big smiles turned to tears. It took me by surprise.

I had finished doing the main farm jobs and had Luke home nice and early. I had figured that Stephen would be home by about 6pm and that we would be able to have some family time, dinner, maybe watch a movie. Shephen picked up some dinner on the way home and he arrived with juicy steaks and gratin potatoes ready for the oven.

However as is often the case with farming, plans go out the window and the sheep take priority.

This autumn/winter season has been difficult for any farmers I have had contact with. The weather has been at her most challenging and the prolonged winter has stunted growth. Usually at this time of year, the majority of livestock are out to pasture, the fields are ploughed and crops, grass included, are enjoying healthy growth. This year we are dealing with unseasonably low ground temperatures, rain, wind, fodder shortage… the list goes on.

By the end of the second week of lambing, we are generally over the worst of it and the normality of family life is resuming. We are currently approaching our seventh week of long hours, and the workload really hasn’t diminished because we are still having to feed all of our stock even though most of them are out in the fields.

This was why the tears came. I am working on the farm full time, but my husband has a full time job as an electrician. He goes to work early in the morning at 4.30am, returns home anywhere between 6pm and 8pm and then does some hours work on the farm at the tasks that I am not able to manage. I’m doing the night time checks for the last few that have yet to lamb. He is exhausted. I am exhausted. There really doesn’t seem like an end to this in sight. Something as simple as having a meal together is made impossible by the lifestyle we have chosen.

We are trying to keep our animals as happy as possible. We are feeding them with silage, hay, meal and fodder beet (a type of turnip). This does not prevent them from dying and we have had so many fatalities already this year. And that is just the mother sheep I am talking about. We are due to dose the lambs tomorrow and count the ones who have been out in the field and quite frankly, I’m dreading it. My fear that there will be tens of lambs missing that have died or been taken by foxes. The emotional strain is enormous.

I have written this quickly and without the care I like to take, but I hope that I goes a little ways to show what we farmers are dealing with. My husband and I are farming as a team. I hope others who are less lucky to have such emotional support can reach out and find it elsewhere.

I dread that this year may get worse before it gets better.

And I pray for the sun and the arrival of spring.

Note to the Reader

As I write this, it is after 9pm.

The sheep have moved themselves into a neighbour’s field and Stephen has gone, in the dark, to try and move them back and, presumably, mend the hole in the fence. He has taken one of the dogs with him.

I have gotten Luke dressed. I have gotten out of my nice warm pyjamas in anticipation of being called into service to assist with the sheep. Luke will have to come with me as he cannot stay in the cosy warm house on his own. Nor can he go to bed before Stephen comes home as I do not know if I will need to drag him out to shepherd the sheep.

Our steaks await us in the fridge, uncooked and the barbeque has been preheating for at least 40 minutes. The potatoes are ready in the oven but on a low heat.

Lads, I’m starving.

Luke is happy enough.

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