So what happens on a day to day basis at Castle Creavie? The answer to that question depends entirely on the season and on the weather. Working in the city or suburbs, the time of year and the weather effect us in such a minimal way. We think we are greatly affected. “Oh, time to bring the summer clothes out and put the winter ones away!” and “For two whole weeks every winter I can’t drive my Miata. It can’t get around in the snow. Have to use the other car.” “I was going to go hiking today but it was so darned hot, I decided to blow it off and go see a movie.”But in truth, the weather hardly affects us at all. It doesn’t affect our ability to work, to earn a living. It certainly doesn’t dictate whether we can get the necessaries of life done. And it has no affect at all on what we earn, spend and save.
But for farmers, the time of year and the weather are the the big bosses. Everything has cycles of needing Charlie and Elaine’s attention and efforts. If all goes well, the parts of the farm that need them don’t coincide with others that have an equal need. For instance, the lambing, which starts in the early spring, requires a great deal of work. But once the lambs are safely born and everyone has moved back out to pasture from the barn, there’s a bit of breathing time. Fences can be fixed, the vegetable garden started, perhaps a round of cooking and freezing meals gets underway. Then the sheep are ready for shearing. Their fleeces have to be ready in correlation with some good, dry weather and the availability of the shearers and a few extra hands around the place. If the weather is good but the fleeces aren’t ready, it makes the process slow and difficult and the shearers will refuse to work. If the fleeces are ready and the shearers are available but you have rainy weather, you can’t get anything done because the wool can’t be wet for shearing and packing. If you have all the sheep ready and the weather is good, you might be stopped in your tracks because the shearers have a prior commitment at another farm.
Whether shearing is a go or not also affects the prior day’s work. Sheep have to be walked in from far pastures and held in a nearby pen. You don’t want them to have any food the day before shearing. Makes for messy and slippery work areas if the sheep are pooping all over the place. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience.
So if it’s clipping time on the farm, everyone is waiting to find out if all those pieces are going to come together so they can plan their day. And the day after. Or is it the day before? Hmmmm.
And if you can shear, then it’s going to be work-like-crazy effort on everyone’s part for a long couple of days. But if you can’t shear, you’ve got to get everything else on the farm done so that when you can shear at the next possible harmonic convergence, you’ll be ready to go. Oh, and make sure there’s food cooked and ready for all the hardworking folks. And have stuff for them to do in case they are there to work but you don’t get to shear. Anyway, you get the idea.
I think you have to have nerves of steel to be a farmer.
And get ready, cause as soon as clipping sheep is completed on 600 sheep, there’s haying to be done. That task is weather dependent as well. Its successful completion has an affect on the cost of keeping the sheep fed through the winter. Somewhere in there, the lambs will need to be sold off. That involves getting a stock buyer to the property. Some lambs will have grown well and others won’t have. And the tasks you might have done in between clipping, like giving medicine and keeping the flock safe from fly strike and making sure they are on good pasture — those things all affect the income derived from sales. And in the fall, the fall things need to be done. And then in the winter, the winter things need to be done. And then it starts all over again in the spring.
For someone new to farming, it looks like a lot to juggle. But I also see there’s a certain rhythm to it. And I think Charlie and Millie take the uncertainties in their stride. It all made me nervous. They just laughed and had another cup of tea while waiting to see if the rain would stop by lunchtime. That’s what you do when you have a farm.
So, since I was at Castle Creavie during clipping or “shearing” time, that was the work we were planning, watching the weather over and discussing. Everything fell into place both of the first weeks I was there. What followed was a real learning experience for me! And a really good time. So hang on to your hats, cause here comes sheep shearing at Castle Creavie…
(Yes, with pictures. I know this was a boring post cause there weren’t any.)