Amateur Pastoralists

My Gamekeeper sat his last GCSE this morning, after which he was a free man. He celebrated this –– we were in Aberdeen doing the sort of stuff we get paid for –– by taking it into his little head to Help With The Garden in the afternoon. Unfortunately, his education has not included much in the way of botany. ‘You see that flourishing thing there, right in the middle? That, boy, is a dandelion. That stuff, on the other hand, the green thing that’s going for world domination, is ground elder. By contrast, the thing you have dug up is an acanthus I have been nurturing for four years, and that was my perovskia …’ Not that one actually says it, but by the time we had returned, around seven, some enthusiastic mayhem had taken place leaving me privately resolving that either he is going to have to acquire an accellerated education, or be told not to do it again. But his little sister arrived, full of bounce, as I was absorbing the state of my borders and trying to frame suitably tactful remarks, and the subject of the borders somehow faded away to be replaced by yet another scheme: Shearing the Sheep.
It is true that Spiro and Agnew are now literally outweighed by their wool and, as the weather finally improves, in danger of expiring from heat exhaustion. Whether that was quite the moment was something else again, but the whole project seemed to be unstoppable. The Gamekeeper sharpened the sheep-shears which were ones I had bought some fourteen years ago from Burgon & Ball in Sheffield, and which had never been used for anything but topiary, and we all tried to catch the sheep. Half an hour of healthy exercise later, one of the silly beasts (Spiro) got her horns caught in the fence trying to dodge, and that was it: the Gamekeeper more or less sat on her, trapping her neck between his knees. The shears, not to my surprise, proved completely useless: I had said as much before the circus started but adolescent optimism had carried the day. Meanwhile, we had a trapped sheep, it seemed a shame to waste it, so to say … Fast forward …
… Suffice it to say that of all the bloody silly things I have been talked into in my entire life, trying to shear a sheep with a pair of dressmaking scissors backed up by a pair of Ikea kitchen scissors takes the flaming biscuit. Not the least of the problems was that it was almost impossible to work out what was wool and what was sheep. None of us had the faintest idea of what we were doing. I accidentally wounded the Northern Professor at one point, the Gamekeeper pinked Spiro at another, causing the most amazing gyrations, and between us, we ended up chopping about four inches of wool off of her – approximately half of the total – and you have never seen such a funny looking beast in all your born days. The wool was so long it had started to dreadlock underneath, but at least offered a fairly consistent rounded profile: if I were trying to think of a way of describing Spiro’s general appearance now, after forty minutes of clump-by-clump hacking, the words ‘cauliflower on legs’ might come to mind – white, but lumpy. Still nothing like half sheared in the normal sense of the word, but hopefully relieved of enough coat (half a bin-bag full) to do some good. Agnew remains in full coat, and will continue to do so until we have managed to lay hands on better equipment. Anyone know a shearer …?

3 Responses to “Amateur Pastoralists”

  1. The Man From Maryport Says:

    I fear that shearing’s one of the dying arts - Cumbrians (whom you would imagine would know a thing or two about it) have been known to import Australians for the purpose . . .

  2. FJS Says:

    Oops, I believe a competent shearer takes about 60 seconds per sheep. Sending the AG round the pubs in search of a sheep man might be a good idea?

  3. The Canadian Professor Says:

    A visit to Levens for restocked imagery? pcb

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