As we are told we can start coming out of lock down, I look back on the past 3 months and realise how much I enjoyed it! Yes, I am lucky on the farm with my own space and surrounded by all my animals, who even under normal conditions, represent most of my companionship.
I have felt safe in isolation and have just got on with what I usually do. And so have my animals. Since lock down, the ewes were scanned, have lambed and have been sheared. In a month’s time, I will wean the lambs just as I have for the past decade. Life continued on the farm and my animals didn’t give a fig about social distancing!
The big difference is this has been my last year of lambing and I have taken the conscious decision to stop breeding sheep. Lambing is a hugely physical process demanding strength, stamina, patience and fortitude. As I approach my 61st birthday, I am finding I am just not as physically able to clamber over sheep hurdles, wrestle a ewe down and then keep her in position while we both strain, she pushes and I pull. All great fun at 50 but at 60, not so much.
And inevitably, things never quite go to plan and even the calmest of ewes who knows me and the fact that I am there to help her, can kick and struggle. My resultant bruises and even the occasional (but rare) black eye just don’t seem to heal as quickly as they did 10 years ago. So enough is enough.
So I will be gradually winding down my flock by simply not adding to their numbers on an annual basis. But this is not to say I am giving up on my duvet business. Quite on the contrary! Given that my little flock of Southdowns can only supply about 1% of the wool I need annually to make our lovely bedding, my main focus is to buy the wool from my fellow Southdown producers and I plan to continue doing this. In fact, gradually freeing myself up from the farming side of the business will give me more time to forge closer and increased alliances with the Southdown breeding community throughout the UK – something I will greatly enjoy doing.