Birth of new lambs. 

Those little fluffy clouds with legs you see jumping around and skipping in the spring fields of England. They are a herald for the new season and hopefully the better weather days ahead. 
Until I moved back home I hadn’t really spent any time thinking about how much work goes into this time of year for the sheep farmers. I simply enjoyed watching them and gushed over their little waggy tails as they fed. 

The Browns my friends Farm whom I have written about before, this time of year is one of the busiest, hardest but also most rewarding. A LOT of work goes into getting the spring lambs to the happy points in the fields you see this time of year. I was again privileged to spend some time with them with my husband at the weekend. 

I lambed my first lamb under Ian’s careful guiding hand. It was so amazing!!

It was a big weekend for boxing and we had this weekend arranged for a while. I joked;

“Ahhh don’t worry I will lamb, you can watch the boxing!” 

All joking aside I was certain I wanted to help and although ANY one that knows me will be absolutely shocked to know. I did it. I put my hand into a ewe and helped her birth a perfect little lamb. 

Having a farm is pretty much 24/7 anyway but this time of year that’s never more true. Every couple of hours out  around the ewes to check that no one is in difficulty or needing help. So like new parents feeding a new born. These farmers are up all through the night no matter what. 

For Ian last night that meant while trying to enjoy an evening with friends, he had to work at the same time. I’m pleased we could be on hand to help but we enjoyed a moment of respite from our own office type jobs so you would think the novelty would wear off for the farmers. That’s not true with the Browns. The excitement and joy at every healthy birth is just as exciting, if slightly exhausted. 

My husband has of late been helping on the farm, it’s so far from anywork he has done that he is loving learning how the farm ticks. The opportunity for both of us to help out and learn something new was so awesome! 

I didn’t even hesitate when he asked, flinging my legs over the fencing into the pen and hands in the ewe following Ian’s clear instructions, five minutes later I am watching a little ball of wool taking its first breath and watching mummy clean and stimulate her baby. A while later he fed and was up and about. 

Out again an hour later to top up any lambs not getting enough milk which means hand feeding the little ones until their bellies are full. 

Next check at about 2am it was my husbands turn! A man who does not like to get his hands dirty with mud, delivered twins and a rather more challenging experience as twin number two was being difficult. They stayed calm and within ten mins out came number two. Initially a little lifeless but with some help from Ian and mummy ewe he took his first breath. Phew!! 

My husband was so overwhelmed by the experience I was a little worried he was going to climb in and sleep in the pen with the babies all night. Haha. 

We got to bed me around 3am, my hubby around 4am. We the part timers slept through till 10. Mean while Ian and his dad had been out another two or three times to deliver three sets of triples. One of which was delivered by the Brown’s four year old daughter Florie. She has literally no fear and knows exactly what she is doing!! Arm straight in, lambs out!! 

While we had slept Ian had an hours sleep! When we got up he still had the rest of the farm dutys to see to, feeding and moving around the livestock. 

If he didn’t do this, if he was wasn’t so conscious and caring for the animals. The amount being lost would be so much higher. The twins my husband delivered and also one of the sets this morning, they needed help. No help and certainly the lambs if not mother too would have died. 

I am tired from reduced sleep and excitement. I have no idea how they do this for months solid. It can only be the love and dedication I witness every time we are there. The care that goes into each animal on the farm is so amazing. 

So the next time you are driving the countryside admiring those little hoppy lambs frolicking in those fields. Spare a thought for the farmer and his family and the tremendous amount of hard work that goes into the process. Think about what you buy. 

ITS SO IMPORTANT TO BE SUPPORTING YOUR BRITISH FARMERS!!! 

The Lambs, and the birth of a calf part two……

At last we spoke, I had just arrived at my friends farm. I know very little about the workings of a farm I just know that I love animals so any excuse to spend time with them I will  and of cause my friend and her family, especially her farm-house cooking!

Over the last couple of weeks I have witnessed the birth of 5 lambs and 1 calf, I don’t think I can express the sheer excitement I feel when waiting for that new life to enter the world.

My first visit to the farm was a few weeks ago at the time I wrote my first blog, the barn was filled to the brim with little dancing lambs, Ewes, cows, calf’s and even a puppy!  My second visit was last weekend, we went for weekend boxing celebrations and more lamb cuddle’s the barn was a little less busy!!IMG_3075My friend Marie and her family live on this amazing farm, in the middle of no where…… I do mean no where…….

IMG_3029IMG_3043No main roads, No other buildings, in the middle of no where!

No main roads, No other buildings, in the middle of no where!

Marie was a townie like myself but has merged into farming life beautifully,  it’s always a pleasure to be around this family. Marie and I have been friends since we were babies, in fact along with my best friend Amanda I can’t remember a time we didn’t know each other, we all lived on the same street growing up. Marie’s Nana and my Nana were even best friends so it feels like being with family when we all get together.

The farm is so peaceful, there is a bitterly cold wind the type that gets down to your bones but even that couldn’t dampen my excitement!!

After a brief catching up we went into the barn and I was in animal heaven! I have mentioned before that snuggling one of those wooly jumpers with legs has been a to do list thing for a while, when I actually got my hands on one it was near perfection. With its little warm fuzzy body pressed to mine, at first I was worried I was stressing it out as its little heart pitter pattered against my hand, but the lovely snuggles and nibbles told me otherwise.

Within this cavernous barn there were lambs, sheep, cows and their calfs, pregnant cows and a baby sheep dog Billy hidden in the comfy corner, he is just a bundle of bouncy fur with eyes! Sorry Marie I had to steal your picture of him!!

Even Lewis the cat gets in on the action!

IMG_2954IMG_3005The Brown family all work to keep this farm running including the kids,  the freedom for the children out in the countryside is amazing. They are so independent and are able to be off out enjoying the fresh air, they are very aware of the dangers of farming life and seem to be more sensible for this!

There is something wonderful about watching the kids tend to the animals. Marie and Ian’s (Her Husband) children Ellie, Rose and little Florrie (who needs her own blog she is so hilarious, a little old woman trapped in a toddler)  get stuck in with the farming chores and have no problems getting dirty, watching Florrie toddling around with a lamb under each arm is unbelievably cute!

This last weekend was a family gathering and these little lovelies looked after their cousins who were up here also.

Florie and a lamb!RoseTeigan, one of Marie's neices.IMG_3082

Some of the pics here – Top left Florrie , top right Rose, bottom left Teagan (Marie’s niece) and bottom right Florrie and the lamb =D

Ian, Mary (Ian’s mother) and David (Ian’s dad) all work hard, so hard. I enjoy being around them very much, don’t get me wrong I would love to trade the stress of deadlines and sales targets for a slice of this wonderful life but it’s so tough I am not sure I am cut out for it. I don’t think there is much call for beautiful handbags on the farm!

By the time of our first visit the Brown’s were already a month or so into Lambing season, which is a 24hr job. Sleep is a luxury but you can clearly see the love and passion for the job in everything they do. By the second visit a couple of weeks later, they were looking a little zombieish =D

Although it was already quite late on that first evening, surrounded by the sounds of the different animals, they still found the passion when talking to us about their job. Showing us the various breeds of sheep and their lineages. Some descended from show winners! The examples of good ones and bad ones for resale and showing. David often joking about the leaping £ signs and their fate, he knows I would keep them all as pets given the choice. However I know they are all soft-hearted, and Davids teasing is just that. There were examples of their compassion all around me.

For example the below pic is of a little fella that was lame, he wasnt even standing, now a cold-hearted business person may have seen this as a waste of feed and time, not the Browns! Ellie, the eldest daughter, was determined to get him to walk! When I left after our first visit she promised me that he would be up and around no matter what! And guess what? On my second visit for the boxing party  – he was up and about!! I even got kisses off him!! see below!!

IMG_3067Watching David, Ian, Mary and Marie wandering round hand feeding orphaned lambs, the work involved in fostering the orphaned to a new mother, the time checking their little bellies are full, that they are warm and comfortable you can really see the dedication to their “job” and I word job loosely as I think it’s more of a lifestyle!

Ian told me of the terrible snow fall in April a couple of years ago that killed so many of those vulnerable little lambs out in the fields across the UK, they rounded their flock up into shelter and then spent all of the next day digging them out of drifts – they only lost one lamb! There is so much love, care and passion for the job and its evident from everything they do.

Now I am not getting into the vegetarian argument whats right or wrong that not the point of this post, but I will say this, for those of you concerned with where your meat is coming from, which I am, seeing the effort the Brown’s put into this stage of the process is a proud statement for British farming.

I am a complete hypocrite I will hold my hands up to it, I like my meat shrink wrapped and not resembling anything like the animal it came from, but I enjpy being a meat eater and I couldn’t do without it. But I also love the animals and don’t want them to suffer so to know there are farmers out there like the Brown’s, making sure their stock are well looked after, healthy and happy for the time they are with them makes it a little easier for me and I am proud to buy british products!

I had never, up until this first visit, witnessed any sort of birth first hand. As we were making plans to leave Ian already had noticed a Ewe starting to get ready. I find it interesting that they constantly have their eyes on the pregnant Ewes and know when they are close, of cause they can labour alone but its much safer for the farmer to be on hand as I witnessed.

The barn is a very organised system, so Ian knows who is about to birth and when they are in labour, there are signs the farmer recognises. The farmers also have the sheep scanned so they know how many lambs are being born and keep track of this by colour coding their backs or sides. The Ewe about to give birth had triplets inside her and she needed some help, sadly the first lamb out didn’t make it. It was a sad moment and again another example of the love and care given. I could see David, the very same lovely man who had been joking was a little quite, he doesn’t like to lose any of them. The other two were perfect and out safely, one boy one girl – named after me Sharron and my husband Ben. I am pleased to report they are both still doing well! The second Ewe went into giving birth soon after this and she gave birth to two perfect lambs. I was amazed by it! I could have stayed all evening, listen to those little ones barring playing.

Ian confided in me afterwards that the best moment for him is watching them hop skip and jump about in the fields, he feels like job well done, I have to agree job really is well done. Go on admit, when you see those little babies jumping and playing together with their little tails wagging – who can resist a smile?!

The second visit to the farm was to be a weekend of fun and I would like to say the animals were the main attraction but sadly the lads in our little party were raring to watch the boxing match that was being shown over night early hours of the morning. I am not a boxing fan but it was a fun night! We didnt get home until 7.30am and we were planning to go back to the farm to continue the fun later that day – I should point out that I don’t drink so was safe to do this!

I love this time of day and with the fresh air I was wide awake by the time we got home, made worse by the suicidal bunny’s intent on going under the van as I drove, sleep was a struggle – don’t worry I missed them all!!

The lads enjoying the boxing from left Shaun Mckie (Maries brother), Ian brown, Ben (my husband), Steven Mckie (Maries other brother) and Luke Mckie (Stevens son)

The next day, no sorry later that day……. we freshened up and headed back to continue the fun, Ian is again an example of a total legend, proving farmers don’t need much sleep! He had no sleep from saturday morning until 2am monday morning!!!

I had expected us all to be a sleep in our food on the Sunday evening, long gone are the days where I could party all night and survive on very little sleep to do it again the next night! We had so much fun, we laughed a lot, we ate some wonderful food cooked by Marie and at about midnight we decided we should make a move and start the 40 min drive home!

I wanted one last look in on the animals ………and a cow was in labour!! I couldn’t go home now, no sir! Ian predicted about another hour or so…..my husband was so pleased as he was able to have a couple more beers – beer monster!!

While we waited I spent some time with Caesar a calf that wouldn’t take to his mother so had to be hand feed, he would suckle on hands but not on his mother. Farmers often have to teach the little ones how to latch on but sadly Caesar just would not. Ian tried so hard with this little one, he even ended up with a broken toe from the mother standing on him!

He looked so little and lonely in his pen at the back, timid standing staring at me. He peeped out behind his feeding tray to say hello, then would bob quickly behind it again. All of the animals know the Browns smells, Ian was able to stoke and interact with them easily I had to work a little harder for it. I stayed with Caesar for about twenty minutes before we made friends but then after that it was amazing, he was letting me cuddle him, he loved the side of his neck stroking and most of all suckling on my hands! I am not going to lie it took a lot for me to leave him in that barn, I was wondering if he would fit in my back garden!!! Caesar and I are firm friends now….I might even be trying to smuggle him home with me! =D

Another calf on the other side of the room was one they had bought as sadly the originalcalf died during the birth, he was just too big for his mother to get him out and its testiment to the skill and quick thinking of the Browns that the mother survived, but she needed a baby. So they bought this little guy and to make sure the mother did take to him they had to use the hide from the original calf like a cloak so she would accept it, they are both very happy now and the calf is a little friendly one.

IMG_3141IMG_2935IMG_3060

The birth of the calf we were waiting for then begun, whom I think we had a mix of names for but Shauna (Stevens daughter) and myself liked Betty and as this was my nana’s name I am going with it. I can not describe the beauty of this moment, I loved it. The cow is held in place by fence type thing that traps her head, sounds a lot more medieval that it is, shes as happy as she can be with a big calf popping out!!

Ian and his father help her to deliver feet and nose first, up to his armpit Ian helps this little one into the world. With a litter picker looking contraption, times a hundred in size, they snugly fit the arms of this rig around the cows bottom. then it’s tightened and then propped under her bottom, they don’t want this cow to sit or lay down! Finally the little one drops to the floor and its done, Ian clears its airways and administers some medicine to help it along.

Other than Ian, I was the first one to touch this little one, so hot she was steaming, smooth and wet feeling a little like a dog covered in shampoo, I was totally smitten!!

IMG_3204Ian and David then cleared the pen, because of cause I was right in there along with the kids!! Then they let the mother free, she headed straight for her baby and got to cleaning her off. Ian tells me there is nothing better than the mothers touch to get the little one going and that was so true within a few minutes she was trying to stand. The mother, who has a stunning white love heart on her forehead, was so attentive to her little one. A mothers love translates whatever the creature, there is nothing better than that!

IMG_3221IMG_3241IMG_3220IMG_3242

 So a very weary crowd of party goers finally gave in after 2am on that Monday morning after an epic weekend we all went our separate ways. I was so excited that I didn’t sleep for hours after I got home!! I want to do that again!!!!

Until next time xoxox

Spring has sprung, the lambs have landed! Part one!

I just adore this time of year, when the first rays of sun start to creep thorough those clouds, and there are usually a lot of clouds here, everyone just seems to be in such a better mood.

It’s like watching people waking from hibernation, from those long, cold, dark winter nights, the first few days of sunshine are so welcome. The air seems to smell nicer, everywhere looks beautiful and best of all those little lambs start hop, skip and jumping across the fields. You can not help but smile.

We now live in a town called Middleton-inTeesdale, we are so lucky to be surrounded by luscious green fields and stunning hills. It’s an ideal holiday location to just relax! We often can be found frequenting a small cafe in our town which offers outside dining in those rare moments of sunshine and to us there is nothing better than sitting outside here watching the world pass us by – it’s hard to believe we live here!

The teaser for me this time of year are those baby lambs, looking like very small Woolley jumpers with legs, skipping around the fields and giving me a tremendous urge to hop those walls and catch me a lamb to cuddle and love. For the fearless amongst us I wouldn’t recommend this as the farmers and the mother sheep are very protective of those little balls of wool and I recently discovered you can actually scare a sheep to death – not good……. Now my visions of skipping happily amongst the lambs don’t seem like such good plan….. I needed a plan B.

My very good friend Marie had the good fortune of marrying into a lovely family. Ian her husband is a farmer, his family have been farmers for years. The Brown family seemed like a perfect solution for “project lamb cuddle”. So off we went up to their farm near Reeth, feeling like we were traveling to mars in my imagination but in reality a 30 min car ride!

Now when my husband first moved with me up here he would often say,

“Yeah we live out in the sticks now!”

to our family and friends in Derby, but he had no clue what the sticks actually meant until we went to visit Marie and her family.

With nothing for miles near to their farm, not even actual real roads just dirt/stoney tracks – NOW WE ARE IN THE STICKS! – Amazing and beautiful but at the same time the perfect location in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse which we often plan for. Imagine if you will, Ace Ventura bouncing wildly around in that Jeep, singing chitty chitty bang bang ….. Only change Jim Carey to us and a Vauxhall combi van filled with ladders and tools sounding like it might fall to bits!! It’s the perfect image – We are really on an adventure!! All I could think was PLEASE NO ONE BE DRIVING THE OTHER WAY BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE WE WOULD GO!!!

The first wonderful sign of life we encounter was a tractor pulling a “muck spreader” for those of you who don’t know what that is …. Erm …. It spreads fertiliser over the fields so …..it’s filled with poop 🙂 …. Driving close behind with your windows down, not a good idea – que pinching our noses and feeling a little green!!! Bumpy road plus country smells = queasy Sharron and Ben!!

There is always a sense of “doing wrong” when approaching the farm as you have to cross cattle grids and drive down stone track roads, it feels like at any time someone could stop you with a shot-gun slung over his/her arm asking “what the bloody hell you are doing!!” Thankfully there were no angry farmers just very assertive sheep. Sheep that stand on the road side slowly chewing the grass, looking at you like “This is my road townie, I ain’t moving!”

Finally we arrived at our destination – with no help from a sat nav because let’s face it …. really what would be the point!?

It’s so peaceful on the farm, only animal noises breaking the silence – I love it here! Now as much as I have grown up in a farming community I have lived in the town so have zero experience with them, my husband is born and bred city boy so the most contact with wildlife would be a brave fox after some food from the bins, it’s as total new experience for us both.

We are greeted by David, Marie’s father in law who emerges from the barn, behind him I can hear the high pitch baaaa baaaa of the babies hidden within there! I am so excited!!

To be continued …….