The Farming Way Of Life

This year is the first in a decade that I will not be lambing my flock. I am just getting too old and lambing is a physically very demanding process. When I was 50, injuries healed fast and I recovered swiftly from a month of little or disrupted sleep. At over 60, not so much.

Everyone who knows me say I will miss it terribly and will no doubt reverse the decision next year. Listening to this, I almost convinced myself that they might be right. Until this afternoon.

Ahead of Storm Christoph, I brought the ewes into the barn and settled them around two racks overflowing with our own homemade lovely sweet hay. But the inevitable happened. Of course, the ewes clamour to get to the racks and start feeding, paying scant attention to the fact that I am still filling the racks from a heaped wheel barrow. This means I have to nudge them out of the way to load the feeders. The majority move away politely and wait until I have finished. But there are always a few who, instead of moving away from me, turn around in a panic and slam straight into my knees with their bony heads. The pain is excruciating. If I get kneed capped once, ok, I limp away but heal fairly quickly. This is what happened this afternoon.

But when the ewes are in the barn for a full month’s worth of lambing, those hay racks need refilling 3 to 4 times a day and so the likelihood of getting knee-capped repeatedly rises exponentially. Normally by the time last ewe has pushed out her lambs, my knees are in a terrible state and every lambing year, they have taken longer and longer to heal. I have always just accepted this as occupational hazard but as I hobbled away from the barn this afternoon, I knew why I have said enough is enough.

I wonder if, like tennis elbow, there is a special term of shepherds’ pulverised patella bones? Heaven knows I have been told often enough by the medical professionals that the knee joint is highly complex and takes huge strain with every step and stride we take. So subjecting mine to this annual ovine onslaught has been doing me no long term favours.

Jessica Cross