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Eartha R.I.P.

7.06.10 | Obit-ewe-ary

Eartha (far right)

Eartha was one of my first six Shetlands, so it was really sad to lose her this weekend. She'd seen me from my initial, slightly whimsical, urge to find out how to produce wool through to this years' bumper crop of lambs and probably taught me much of what I know,

When I started out I would go out into the back field and look at my new acquisitions. They would look at me. Neither party was quite sure what it was doing.

Eartha emerged as the ringleader - alerting the others if I was in the vicinity and demanding ewe mix in a very deep voice.  All very well in the day time, but occasionally she'd notice me stumbling home from the pub in the dark - and announce it to the whole valley.

When she had her first lamb, she proved to be a great mum. But I learnt the hard way that even a great mum can't defend her lamb completely from the fox. She'd managed to stop him making off with her lamb but even though we paid the vet a visit for stitches, I didn't manage to prevent a fatal infection setting in. A hard lesson - I have managed to save lambs from fox bites once or twice but it's not easy.

There was so much to learn - how abundant summer grass becomes sparse in winter (and how to plan for this so that you don't end up eaten out of house and home) - how to save a sheep (Eartha) from yew poisoning (hot, sweet tea), how to shear, trim hooves, worm... Eartha and that first flock were my training ground.

I hope I didn't do too badly by her. She was ten this year and only had one tooth. The winter was so hard - and despite all my feeding (the plans worked and I had enough hay to feed all through the snow) she lost condition. And even in the spring, with new grass and extra feed it was impossible to put condition back onto her.

Recently she had become a bit unsteady and found it harder to get up (particularly when it was damp - we wondered about arthritis) - until she couldn't any more. We did everything we could (Ruth, who lives on our lane and is at home during the day, went up and fed and watered her every three hours). But after a few days we had to accept that she wasn't going to get up again. So, very sadly, we had to get the man out to put her down. 

It's hard this sheep farming. I hope my reputation for having stuck at it for eight years meant that I was allowed a few tears that morning.