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Over the Boundary Fence
5 June, 2014 | Page 17
It’s been an interesting month. It started
with a trip to the UK for a family reunion
with my Dad Maurice and two brothers,
Stevie and Tim. It has been four and-a-half
years since we all last sat down together so
it was great to be back in the same room
after so long.
We had a week in the UK, surprisingly the
weather was pretty good, which is more
than I can say for here in Czech at the
moment. While we were in London we went
to the London Eye. It was a bank holiday
weekend and the weather was fine so it was
a recipe for people to get out and about.
At the London Eye there was a queue of
people waiting to get on the ride, I would
say they were waiting at least an hour if not
more. They continuously pile the people on
and on and on and on. In the cabins were
about 20 people and there is plenty of room
for moving around. Luckily we didn’t have
to wait too long as we paid extra for fast
tracking. It was an interesting view as we
were slowly going around, and it gave you
a different perspective of things. That was
enough of London for me though, far too
When we drove into London we went past
Twickenham stadium, there was an Air
Force versus Army rugby match in the
afternoon, the streets were packed, people
drinking and hanging outside the pubs;
a crazy place. One day we went to the
beach and I forgot my woolly hat. It was a
cold wind and my poor head almost froze.
Speaking of freezing, on getting back to
Czech we found the walnut tree had been
frozen again – three out of four years now
it has been hit by a late frost. The wine had
been hit also and half the blossoms frozen.
Late frosts are a bugger.
The week we got back was pretty unsettled
and it was making shearing quite difficult.
I was due to go to Moravia for the Romney
shearing and that got postponed as they
had flooding rains a few days before and
more rain forecast. I should have been
there from yesterday but it’s been raining
all week and has been moved again. The
weather in between was okay but Lukas
and Karel, the number 1 and 2 shearers
in the country who I shear together with
in Moravia, were in Ireland for the world
shearing champs. They said they had a
great time, Lukas commented that there
must have been almost a whole plane of
Kiwi shearers there.
The weather this week is wet and the
ground is saturated. I have managed
nine days of shearing from the three
weeks I had this month, and only shore
about half the number as the previous two
months. My waiting list is at 31 farms and
Last Saturday, the 24th, I collected my
Dad Maurice and my Aunty Gertrude (who
lives in Winton) from the airport. After their
two-week stay in the UK they continued on
a two-week trip through Denmark, Norway
and Sweden and had a really interesting
and enjoyable time. In Norway they went to
the highest point and along the way passed
snow higher than the coach. Not many
animals were seen, mostly horses, which in
Czech I see also more and more of.
While Dad and Gertrude were here we
also sat down for dinner on the 26th and
remembered my Mum, Celia, who had
passed away 17 years earlier. It was nice to
be together for that occasion.
The day we arrived back from the UK Zofie
broke her arm, the first thing she said was,
“but I have school camp on Monday” she
was most upset that she couldn’t go to her
first camp, luckily she went with Olina for an
afternoon to get a taste. She had the cast
shortened today and in two weeks will have
On the Sunday afternoon I had two places
to shear so Dad came along. Now Dad had
seen a few strange things last year while
he was here – the farmer mustering with
his stock whip for example. But he wasn’t
prepared for this! We arrived at the place,
a large horse farm with an old deteriorated
castle. In the castle grounds were nine
young sheep. The idea the caretaker-farm
worker had was that his wife would offer
them a green branch and he would just
catch them as they were eating the leaves.
So they tried, he was saying “come closer I
can’t catch them that far away. Now, sheep
being sheep, they weren’t silly and knew
something was up. Somehow he managed
to catch one this way but the rest were gone
and, being used to jumping the fallen down
walls, they disappeared quickly.
I shore this one and in the meantime he
had managed to run them into one of the
big old barns – and they were big barns!
Here we managed to catch five of them
between the machines and wood and
stones. The last three just jumped clean
over the rails and back out to freedom.
These three were then run into another big
old barn. We put the shorn ones with them
to make it easier to catch. They were pretty
determined not to be caught and it took a
bit to get them, but in the end we finally got
the job done.
Two hours from the time we arrived we had
nine sheep shorn, in comparison to the 36
I shore in two hours a few days before in 30
degree-plus heat – the sheep were actually
Anyway the next place had two mini sheep
and the nine-year-old girl had them both
on a leash and led them straight to me. I
informed the nine-sheep caretaker that next
year it would be good to have a small pen
built that they are used to running into but
make sure it is a high fence.
I was at a friend’s place, she had four mini
sheep which she also thought she would
took a bit of planning to catch them. No one
has any idea what “handling yards” are over
I shore two Suffolks the other day and boy
were they big, you could have used their
backs as a dining table. The lady asked if it
was possible to thin them. I suggested wait
till winter and feed them a bit less.
Another new place had five sheep in 1ha
fenced off, he also thought he could entice
them to come over and sit nicely beside us.
No way. We chased them a bit to try and
catch them in a corner. In the end four ran
into the shelter so we closed them there
and the last we caught behind the shelter.
His daughter is studying agriculture in
Prague so I let her shear the last side of
the last sheep. She was happy. They had
managed to trim the hooves themselves
and had done a pretty good job.
So as another text arrives asking for sheep
to be shorn, the day is as dark out as mid
winter. The fire is going inside. The weather
indeed is creating havoc. Next time I will let
you know when we finally managed to shear
the Romneys! Keep warm.
Weather creates havoc
A mob of Jabob sheep photographed at the Czech garden centre zoo.
PHOTO: John Barker
John Barker is a former Southlander who previously farmed at The Key with his father
Maurice. He moved to the Czech Republic in 2000 where he is now based with his
Czech wife Olina and their seven-year-old bilingual daughter Zofie. John teaches English
and sells souvenir photo playing cards and is now in his fourth season shearing part-
time. This is part 19 in his series on living – and shearing – in the Czech Republic.
J M Barrie Contracting
Over twenty years experience
Phone 027 435 9519 or (03) 236 4082 (A/H)
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