It’s amazing how life can change in the blink of an eye. Yes, we were late feeding the sheep, but it was Sunday and we’d had a fairly hectic week, but this wasn’t the problem. Jess, our young sheepdog, on hearing me tell the ewes to get out of the way at the trough, thought I needed assistance and leapt out of the truck window straight towards the sheep. They in turn considered me an obstacle and one bunted me up the backside and threw me way over the troughs.
The impact on landing, with ground like concrete, bearing in mind this was early September and we’d not seen rain for months, was immense. I was winded, but after years of practice falling from horses lay still while this pain lessened and my mind and body regained some of their equilibrium. At this point I tried to get up, something made more difficult by Jess now deciding I needed the kiss of life and trying to resuscitate me! I lay still again. All was not well. A sharp pain was tearing through my left arm and shoulder. Eventually having told the dog she’d done enough, I managed to get to my feet and stagger back to the truck, thankfully leaving Jess outside.
My husband Aubrey appeared on the JCB with two bales of hay needed for the ewes in the bottom fields. It had been so dry and grass growth completely ceased so additional supplements had been essential for their wellbeing. My duties should have been opening the gates so he could drive straight through, but taking in the fact I was injured he said to stay put while he went on and fed the others. On his return I managed to drive the truck one handed (it is automatic) back to the yard, where we decided he’d better take me to the hospital.
A & E at Stroud hospital couldn’t have been kinder or more efficient. I have found in the past that the mention of sheep causing the accident does seem to offer priority, but I think on this occasion I looked pretty rough as well. The Xray showed a straight fracture at the top of the humerus, just below the shoulder. There was no way anything could be plastered or dealt with other than a soft sling and strong painkillers. Even dosed to the eyeballs with pain relief, sleeping in bed at nights was almost impossible. On advice I kept my arm as straight as possible raised on a pillow; that was until I dosed off and tried to move.
It seemed ridiculous how an injury to my left arm stopped me doing anything that put pressure on my right arm, the pain simply shooting through my shoulders. Peeling potatoes, and attempting to clean a sticky pan in the washing up was just beyond me. My arm and shoulder were by now black and blue. Not a pretty sight, but gradually I began to feel more human again, although frustrated. If I couldn’t work outside, I could do the accounts, or I could write. But no, my left arm would not raise high enough to reach the keyboard, so any small email or message I needed to send was done with one hand, capitals needing to be locked making it an arduous task.
While I was at home feeling sorry for myself my poor husband, along with peeling potatoes etc. was trying to sort out which ewes we would retain this year, which would go to sales and which would be bred to each ram, something we always did together as two heads were better than one for jobs like this. One batch of young ewes needed walking up through the nearby village to the main farm yard, a difficult task for two of us but totally impossible for just one. This when you realise how good your friends are, however busy, when they turn up to help in these situations.
Now at least all the females were within reach of a handling unit, and with help from neighbours and friends Aub did manage to organise sheep for sale and breeding, although some outcomes will be looked forward to with interest!
I’m still conscientiously doing the exercises the physio has devised as a torture routine. They do work, but they are painful, but I know if I want full use of my left arm again I must persevere. At least I can sweep the yard now.
Read more articles from our intrepid sheep farmer Sue here
If Clouds Were Sheep tells the story of a young couple’s desire to farm, with little funds and no inherited assets. The exploits of their black Welsh Mountain ram who disrupts the village, trauma with lambing and the eventual birth of a pedigree flock. A book that brings hope to all who dream. Followed by Jumping Over Clouds which includes the horses, and Sheep for all Seasons following the family farm through lockdown.
Wonderful presents for all countryside lovers.