TWO heavy hail storms today were a rude shock to someone like me who had started to root out their summer wardrobe.

All day it has threatened snow or hail, been sleety and cold, but it was still a surprise as I took the dogs for their afternoon walk.

The promise of balmier weather had prompted John to seek out his sheep clippers ready to relieve our ewes of their heavy winter fleeces.

He has slung a set of ladders across a corner of the barn to hang the clipping machine from and to dagg and crutch the lambs we have overwintered at home. The clippers were also utilised when he shore two of my pet lambs prior to their trip to the butchers.

Words and phrases linked to clipping are both varied and arcane. Sheep with heavy fleeces on their heads such as merinos are wigged to prevent them becoming wool blind, and to keep grass seeds from irritating their eyes.

To clip the wool around a rams important bits, or his pizzle as John occasionally calls it, is referred to as singing. Hints perhaps of why Italian castrati could sing as high as they could? Words and phrases spoken in this household, however, over the demise of my lambs are unprintable, as I was hoping, forlornly and unrealistically as it turned out, that they might get a reprieve. Especially as they too had been castrated. No wonder their baas were so tuneful.

This talent for shearing sheep often lends itself to another role for farmers wives. For many years I used to cut John’s hair. He never seemed to have time in between land and stock work to go to a barbers. But one or two of my drastic re-styling attempts and the introduction of a mobile hairdresser into our area, changed all that.

He quite took to Tracy and she actually used to listen to his styling requests, and not just freestyle as I did. Now Tracy has relocated to a salon he even takes himself off to her realms every six weeks and comes back with an earful of gossip from the other clients.

But other farming friends still eschew trips to the barbers or hairdresser. My friend Rosie being especially overworked, as she is expected to cut both her sons and her husband’s hair.

Her son Richard favours a very close cut with the clippers and forgetting (she says) to change the blades, she moved onto her next client. Husband Dave. A rapid shear up the back of his head resulted in a fetching punk style and shrieks of disapproval. The salon is now closed.