If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen me refer to the ‘The Boss’ during the summer holidays and lambing. Well, I thought it was time I revealed a bit more about the man responsible for most of my farming experiences.
The Boss, more commonly known as Wilfred, is a Northern Irish farmer who moved to the UK with his father and brother and all their families. He is one of the hardest working men I know. He currently runs around 600 sheep, including Pedigree Texels and Beltex, a suckler herd of 40 cows, a sizeable boar unit and processes and delivers logs in the winter.
I met Wilfred through my mum in 2013. I rang him up to arrange a time to view some ewe lambs to buy. My first lot of sheep. As I’ve explained previously, I had been paid for some non-farming work experience and sheep were first on my wish list. I remember feeling his eyes on me as I picked a runty, long legged ewe lamb, telling mum that I’d give her a chance, I liked her. I enjoy reminding them both that although she didn’t lamb her first year, she gave me two strong lambs this year. A month or two later I was meeting Wilfred again, as he offered me the use of a Charolais ram to put to my eight ewe lambs. He told my mum that although I lacked confidence in myself, I was a hard worker, and he’d be happy to have me work for him over the summer.
Wilfred has taught me almost everything I know about farming (My mum taught me almost everything I know about lambing sheep). He took a chance that no other farmers around us at that time were willing to take. They saw me as a hobby farmer, never believing I’d push through and buy my sheep, never seeing me as much other than a teenage girl without the knowledge or physical strength to make it on a farm. Well, Wilfred and I showed them. I can catch and lamb a ewe, I can dose and weigh lambs, I can drive a tractor and change a shear bolt, and a hell of a lot more. Wilfred gave me the chance to confirm my suspicions, farming was what I wanted to do. And I can never thank him enough for that.
His patience (seemed) endless. I must have rung him five times on the afternoon that he first left me to rake up hay on my own with a single rotor rake. My brain just couldn’t get the system of which direction I was supposed to be going round the field organised! He’s watched from the next door field while I spent 20 minutes trying to change my first shear bolt before ringing him and asking for a hand. And he’s definitely been patient waiting for me to get the hang of reversing trailers! Maybe he’s patient or maybe he’s just chilled out, but I thank him for it.
Farming with Wilfred has taught me so much about myself. It’s taught me confidence in my actions; you’re often on your own doing jobs and it’s important to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. It’s taught me patience; animals do not always understand a sense of urgency, in fact, rushing them will probably only slow you down even more! It’s taught me inner strength and determination. I might not be a muscly man, but I can certainly pull my weight around the farm. If I can’t do it by sheer force, I’ll figure out a different way. Working on a farm tests you mentally and physically and lambing is a prime example of one of those times when you have to dig deep to get jobs done.
Not only has Wilfred supported me whilst working for him, he’s supported me with trying to build up my own small flock. If it wasn’t for Wilfred and his knowledge, his help, his dog and his trailer licence, there’s no way I would be where I am now. We often discuss how my flock is going, and where I’m heading. There’s no greater compliment for me than when Wilfred says my lambs are looking good. (I think he was even a little bit disappointed that I castrated my Texel ram lamb, he seemed to like him!).
I respect Wilfred and everything he does to an exceptional degree. He’s one of the best farmers/business men/mechanics/men I’ve ever met. He took a big chance on me a few years back and I hope I’ve proved to him that it was worth it. We’ve moved house now, but I’ll return to Wilfred’s farm for lambing this Spring. I’m not sure how it will feel to walk off that farm for possibly the last time, I think it will always feel like the place where I transitioned from an unconfident, but determined girl to a confident and willing young shepherdess with even more determination to get where I aim to be in this industry.
So, thank you Wilfred, here’s to more farming craic this Spring!