Friday, 15 February 2019

Scanning Sheep

On a absolutely beautiful February afternoon I went with Chris to help with the scanning.
These are some of our sheep that are 'wintered away'. As you can see from the tree covered hills, hedges and flat fields we are along way from home.

Once all the scanning equipment is set up each sheep goes into the crate to be scanned.

Scanning helps us prepare for lambing time
as we know exactly how many lambs each sheep is carrying.

Waiting their turn!

Looking to see if she is carrying a single, twins or triplets.
The sheep are marked if they are having twins or triplets or none at all (it happens).
This information makes life a lot easier for us during the lambing season. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Books, films & other media interest

The Yorkshire Dales, particularly Swaledale, is attracting a lot of media interest at the moment.   Only last night our very own local lass, Helen Guy, was on the BBC's Inside Out programme talking about lead mining in Swaledale.  She is incredibly knowledgeable about mining practices in the upper dale and leads guided walks on the subject.  To find out more visit

Books and magazine articles about Swaledale are nothing new.  Ella Pontfract & Marie Hartley's book 'Swaledale' first published in 1934 has become something of a reference manual as far as how people in Swaledale lived, worked and played before the outbreak of WW2.

At that time, locals from Keld were also in demand for radio broadcasts. Joan Moody (nee Mee) mentions in her memoir, an occasion in April 1939, when her mother Mrs Jeannie Mee, Mr James Rukin, Mr Waggett, a Gunnerside gamekeeper (and possibly others) travelled to Leeds to make a BBC radio programme about life in Swaledale. 

 Often people who live in the dale or have a strong association with it are inspired to write about their experiences or to weave works of fiction around familiar places and events. 

Neil Hanson's Inn at the Top and its sequel Pigs Might Fly are hilarious, heart warming, sometimes toe curling accounts of his time as manager (1978-79) and then his return as owner in March 1984 of the highest pub in Great Britain.  I will refrain from naming this very famous establishment short of saying, as the crow flies, it is our local.

The Hefted Farmer by Susan Haywood is about the four farming families at the head of Swaledale; Hoggarth, Pry House Farm, Stonehouse and Ravenseat Farm and how they survived the 2001 Foot & Mouth epidemic.

    The dales and their residents have also attracted the attention of several television companies.  The cameras followed Ravenseat farmers, Clive and Amanda Owen (The Yorkshire Shepherdess) and their family throughout the seasons and Our Yorkshire Farm on Channel 5 was very well received.  As previously mentioned  Helen Guy has been filmed by the BBC and we saw a short clip last night on Inside Out. The main programme, Paul Rose in the Dales, will show more of Helen talking about Swaledale's lead mining heritage and Chris talking about our traditional hay meadows and hay making in the dale (to be aired late spring 2019).

And finally there has been two excellent magazine articles recently;  Muker farmer, William Raw is featured in December's issue of Landscape magazine describing how he is one of the last farmers to use his cow houses as they were originally intended namely to house cows during winter and to store hay, made in summer, from the meadow fields in which the cowus stands.  James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life, is in March's edition of Country Living magazine talking about the bond he has with his young sheep dog, Bess.  Before you shoot me down in flames, yes I know James farms in the Lake District and is not a Yorkshire farmer however his book The Shepherd's Life is a gutsy, honest, genuine account of what its like to live and work on a hill farm and almost mirrors exactly our life here at Pry House Farm.  Read it.     

Sunday, 3 February 2019

When its grey & gloomy outdoors do something colourful indoors

Having slipped and slid my way down to feed the herdys and puffed and panted my way back ......

          ...... on not the nicest of afternoons.

It feels good to

 pull off the wellies,

shut the door,

light the fire,

get the kettle on and get crafting.

I don't paint, I can't knit or sew but I can prod!

I have made all sorts of things over the last few year mainly small decorative items but my aim at the moment is to complete a proddy rug that I have had on the go for ages.  It is three quarters finished and I have already cut up 3 wool coats, 2 wool jumpers and a single blanket!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Blue skies, a white blanket and a lot of woolly jumpers

Upper Swaledale is looking spectacular today wearing her winter-white coat
under a bright blue sky.

 It may look spectacular but these weather conditions create hundreds of hungry mouths.

Self service!

Whilst it stays like this our sheep will get hay twice a day.

This old lass is pleased to see us.  
Searching for food with your nose is a cold business.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Even a flock of only two need looking after

Its the first very wintry day of the year and Heidi and Hetty are hungry.

Its been snowing quite hard, its windy and squally but still my herdwick sheep are not sure
about going inside the cowus even though their hay is in there.

 So I tempt them in by laying a sugar beet trail

 In all relationships there's leaders and followers with some braver than others ...

and in this case its generally Heidi.

 Looking back and I can see no sign of either of them.  
People think sheep are stupid but that is far from the truth.  They can seek out shelter in the worst weather.  They will wait till there is no sign of danger (and that includes me even though I feed them) before going into the building and risk being trapped.  But they want that hay.  
When I go back tomorrow every scrap will be gone! 

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Happy Herdys in the snow.

Heidi and Hetty - Happy on Home Field

 The Herdy girls have settled well in their new home.  
Herdwicks have a reputation for jumping and climbing and roaming off ........

..... but Heidi and Hetty seem to like it here at Pry House Farm. 

We've had some frosty nights and a covering of snow this morning 
so the bite of hay I take for them is welcome.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Heidi and Hetty - a perfect Christmas Present

Say hello to Heidi and Hetty; two Herdwick ewes that Chris surprised me with on Christmas morning.

In the middle of Christmas Day lunch preparations .... aarrhh.... Chris tricked me into going out on to the yard to (supposedly) give him a hand to turn some tups.  'Just go in the building and send them out', he said.

And there they were, festooned with silver tinsel, my very own Herdwick ewes.  And in lamb too!

I was speechless.  I love them to bits.

So what to call them?  I had loads of suggestions from lots of my Facebook friends and finally decided on Heidi and Hetty.
They stayed indoors for a couple more days and now they are running with some of our Pry House sheep in the pasture opposite the house where I can see them from our upstairs windows.

This morning I went with Chris to fodder the sheep.  
They love sugar beet cubes and a bit of good hay and join our Swaledale sheep to get their share.

Spot the odd ones out! 
They are very different to our Swaledales.  Bigger with heavy boned, short legs, large feet and deep, dense fleece.  They are grand sheep.  No horns, of course, which means I'll NEVER be able to catch them.  Hard enough to catch with horns so I don't stand a chance!

I am quite infatuated by them.  Watch this space for progress reports of how they are settling in, scanning results and lambing etc.

P.s.  Happy New Year!