More thistles, shearing and calves... : Latest blogs from @SoilAssociation

More thistles, shearing and calves...

Emma Heseltine - 20 June 2012

The thistle cutter is fixed so it’s down to Tarraby with me to get the thistles under control. The cattle are a little bemused at what I’m doing and follow me about a bit mooing and testing out the mown and non-mown sides. Hayley in particular is not impressed, she keeps yelling at me.

Its time for shearing, we are going to start with the tups, Jimmy and James. They are a lot stronger than our ewes and are a bit of a challenge, especially James who doesn’t seem keen on the whole idea. It’s plenty warm so I don’t know why he wouldn’t want a hair cut. I’m standing this one out, just helping herd and administering oil on the shears where needed. I’m going to get my chance later in the week when we get to do the ladies.

There are 26 ewes at Wallacefield and 18 at Aglionby all queued up for a short back and sides. The ewes are a little easier to do, or at least neighbour John makes it look that way. There is a definite technique and I study carefully between herding and rolling fleeces as I will get a go myself soon. Back leg and bum, front leg, other back leg, then the neck, rolling her on her side doing long sweeps down the sides, a half roll, head bent over and the other side shorn. The fleece comes off in virtually one piece, at least that’s the theory. I strategically pick one of the older girls for my first go, no shearling for me thanks! I’m not bad at turning our ewes now so soon have her in position, it’s a different matter doing it yourself than watching and I need some guidance, thankfully my teacher is pretty patient. I’m no speedy shearer but the job gets done and is fairly neat when I’m finished, even if I do leave a tiny tail Mohican. There are no complaints from the ewe, who is happy to be rid of her home grown woolly jumper. Right whose next?

I’m back at Tarraby finishing the thistle cutting when Jordan who is helping out with one of the school groups comes over. How come I’m not answering my phone? I’ve got earmuffs on to muffle the din the thistle cutter makes and everything is vibrating so I didn’t notice it ringing. Hazel has just had her calf, in front of an awestruck gang of school kids. It’s a heifer calf and looks just fine. I’ve been here almost a year and have never seen one of our cattle calve. Here I am in the next field but one and the Heifer I’ve been keeping a eye on for nearly a month has her calf for the school kids and I miss it yet again! Right Helena, no messing about now I want you to tell me when its time.

Later we get a phone call; Beechnut has had her calf at Wallacefield. It’s not ideal, she should be here, but the calf is fine apparently. So calves are like buses, you wait months for one then two turn up at once. I’m glad they have finally turned up though!

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.


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