Sunday, 5 July 2015

Shear hard work

"It's not as easy as it looks." Massive understatement. Huge.

One of David's many admirable qualities (tongue firmly in cheek) is his 'can do' attitude. If something isn't working as it should or at all, David won't rest until he's fixed it, or on the rare occasion that he can't fix it (tongue still firmly in cheek), until he's found someone who can, or if he can't find someone who can, until he's figured out a way around the problem, more often than not in what he calls his 'Heath Robinson style' (i.e. complicated machinery achieving a simple objective) but which I believe could more accurately be described as a 'reverse Heath Robinson style' (simple solution to a complex problem). Unfortunately there are times when the 'can do' attitude encounters a 'can't do' situation. Like sheep shearing, for example.

It's the 'can do' attitude that buys the shearing clippers.

I didn't prompt David to make this purchase. The decision to take on the shearing of our sheep himself was entirely his own. I questioned the decision. I was accused of (and confess to having) a lack of confidence. I suggested perhaps he ask one of the local shearing lads to help with the first attempt on a live animal. If he really could take this on then when fly strike season comes round each June there'd be one less thing to worry about, one less thing to be dependent upon others to do. The memory of dealing with fly strike in Rhos and Lulu last summer is certainly a motivating factor here.

Obviously the first thing to do before putting clippers to fleece is to go to the pub for a briefing. There's nothing worth learning that you can't learn how to do at the Rhos Yr Hafod. The down side of this is that everyone now knew that David intended to try his hand at shearing. Many asked for the video to be posted on YouTube. Most usefully, however, we also had a back up plan in the form of an offer to help, and from no less a local dignitary than John, dairy farmer, shearer extraordinaire and the owner of the pub to boot. But then when has our local community ever not offered to help. Have I ever told you how lovely everyone here is?

Anyway, back to shearing. I was at work on the day of the first attempt. In my absence, David and John spooked my flock and only managed to pen Babette (the greediest and therefore up for anything if food might be involved). John sheared. David watched. The clippers never went anywhere near David's hands. However, inspired by the ease with which John sheared Babette, the next morning we penned all four ewes and the six lambs and with 'can do' attitude intact David announced that he'd shear the lot without help. Go David!

Twenty long, hot, sweaty, exhausting minutes later, Bella had the world's most embarrassing back end hair cut and an equally exhausted panting Babs trailed partially shorn fleece from a sort of shorn hind quarter. What took place was not sheep shearing. It was sheep wrestling.

In David's defence, much of his confidence drained away after an early nick to Babs' back leg bled onto the shearing board. Despite my repeated reassurances that she was not in need of the crash cart, he swore he could feel the blood "pulsing" out of her. Nor did it help that it was the hottest day of the year so far - what I thought was blood dripping onto my hand turned out to be sweat dripping from David's nose. I was no mere bystander either. At one point, with Babs wedged awkwardly between his legs, David couldn't get his right hand in position to shear, meaning control of the clippers was passed to me. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Yet even a ratio of two shearers to one sheep couldn't rescue us from what rapidly became the dreaded 'can't do' situation. Clippers were downed pending arrival of the shearing cavalry. John only had a spare 5 minutes between 'proper' shearing jobs, but that was all the time he needed to tidy up Bella's bum, do five more lamb bums, finish off Babs, and shear Myfanway and Margo. And then he was gone, leaving us standing in a pen of bleating naked sheep surrounded by bits of fleece, dazed at the speed at which it all happened, and David dejected and disappointed at being defeated.

On the plus side, at least we gave everyone something to laugh about back at the pub. And don't worry about David, he soon bounced back. The 'can do' attitude is currently researching shearing courses for summer 2016.