Unearthed Abundance – We Repeat Our Tasks Of Preparing

Tonight’s poetics challenge from DVersePoets is to create our own major and minor seasons using the traditional format of Chinese and Japanese micro-seasons. Growing up in a farming family means that your sense of the year is always tied to the land, and I thought this might be a nice opportunity to share what January/February means on a farm in North Shropshire.

Sekki: Unearthed Abundance

Store lambs are bought in the Autumn, and sold on in the Spring. During the months in-between they need a source of food, and a good way to provide this is by grazing them on stubble turnips. The sheep will graze the leafy green tops off the crop first, leaving the field looking fairly barren, but the pink turnips that actually contain most of the nutrition remain below the surface. Without the easy to reach leaves to snack on, the sheep turn their attention to these. To represent this I chose ‘unearthed abundance’ as the name of my major season.

I was a little stumped as to what to name my minor season for this challenge. I decided to go with ‘where we repeat our tasks of preparing’ as my family are still in that point of the farming calendar where they are preparing. Lambing is a few weeks away since we don’t lamb as early in the season as some, and the day-to-day tasks revolve around fencing off new patches of grazing for the store lambs, getting reading for lambing, and keeping an eye on the cows close to calving. While the crops have been sown, in places the fields still look empty, and it is easy to be fooled into thinking this is a quiet time in the farming calendar. There are no quiet times.

Green leafing forage
shifts in sections of fleeces
one patch to the next

With new calves being born, thousands of store lambs grazing in the fields, and new pedigree lambs on their way, my parents’ farm is currently busy with livestock. Winter may not be quite over yet, but new life is there just beneath the surface. In my own garden, removed from the farm I grew up on, I can see this in our koi fish. Sunk to the bottom of the pond, they are waiting out the cold weather and look almost dead in their stillness. This is the way of this season, the barren hiding the plentiful.

Pencil sketches of the top of a fodder beat plant, a lamb, a cow, and a koi fish
Evening doodles – 01/02/2020

18 Comments

  1. This was fascinating — reminds me of my friend who was a sheep farmer for a few decades in Aberdeenshire…wonderful fellow, with not much to say, but very dry humour. I do feel envious, though he always used to profess his dislike of sheep, ever since being headbutted by one while he was tying his shoelace, if I remember. Your page reminds me of the beautiful countryside dotted with lambs, though the work…! Thank you so muc, lovely read.

    Reply

    1. All sheep fathers both hates and love sheep, it just depends on which minute of the day you happen to ask on. There was meme on Facebook once that showed the love/hate cycle of a sheep farmer. It was so hilariously apt we sent it to my mother.

      Reply

      1. Oh that is so interesting…..I remember he was not exactly at ease in Inverness or Edinburgh, I would not exactly say uncomfortable, but somewhat out of his environment, but what was truly amazing was that there was not a weed or plant he did not know, not to show off, not the type, but just fascinating..I thought what you said about the love-hate relationship very interesting.

        Reply

  2. Wow, you’re an artist too, Carol? How beautifully rendered in both word and sketch!

    thousands of store lambs grazing in the fields, and new pedigree lambs on their way

    Could you please explain the difference between these two kinds of lamb to me? I’m totally ignorant of this.


    David

    Reply

    1. My parents have a flock of 70/80 pedigree texels, which are the sheep we keep on farm all year round and breed from. We keep the females and sell the males on to other texel flocks for breeding. The store lambs are purchased in the autumn and sold on in the fat trades in the spring. The difference is mostly purpose. We did have a tup get in with some stores the one year and that resulted in a surprise lambing season much later in the year.

      Reply

  3. Carol, you helped me understand how a farmers’ work is never done. So very amazing how it works out with the beet tops and then the beets. Your post paints a richly textured seasonal landscape.

    Reply

  4. Love the title, drawing, haiku and information about farming and lambing. New life is always underfoot, waiting to spring and green again.

    Reply

  5. Carol, this was wonderful. A longtime friend of my wife raised all kinds of sheep in Oregon — some truly exotic. My wife and this wonderful woman Lynn are long time weavers, and Lynn raised the sheep primarily for the wool, which she cleaned carded and spun — selling quite a bit each year. My wife spun for a couple years, but the weaving is her passion, though like me, age is slowing her down. But 16 years my junior, she has more vim in her vigor than I.

    Reply

    1. That’s amazing Rob. I have often thought I should try and learn some of the traditional skills around carding, and spinning. Wool is sold to the wool board in the uk for pittance so we shear mostly for the benefit of the sheep, not the end product. You’ve inspired me to take another look at what I could do with this year’s wool maybe.

      Reply

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