A pressing job and listening to a Homage to Catalonia

by Kit Munro

After the sheep have been shorn and the wool sorted in to its various grades and stacked in these bins it needs to be pressed in to bales. It cannot be transported by each individual fleece. Instead we compact 100 fleeces or so in to a single bale.

While shearing, the pressing is not a presssing (sorry) job. The shed can hold enough wool without it having to be compacted too regularly. So the job is put off. And put off. And put off. Occasionally we cannot put the pressing off until tomorrow anymore and it needs to be done.

Today was one of those days.

Most woolsheds have hydraulic presses for compacting the wool. Some have mechanical ones that require the force to be provided with levers. The press here is one of those. Of all the woolsheds I have worked in this press is the oldest. It is also the funnest. It is like a weights machine, but with a point.

First the wool is tramped into the press, using the legs.

Then the two sides of the press are joined together.

Then the wool is compacted from one side of the press to the other. Using nothing more advanced than two levers.

Leaving the wool from two boxes in one…

There is a lot of force on those levers, despite the fact that the only thing being squeezed out of the wool is air. The woolpress might be over 100 years old but it does the job.

Yesterday and today the book I listened to was Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. This is a journalistic type novel and details Orwell’s experience fighting in the Spanish Civil War. It is a bit confusing with all the different factions, but then I suppose that is the nature of civil wars.

There was one part of the book that felt particularly relevant to what I was doing. Here Orwell describes a nature of the Spanish psyche that he found both infuriating and endearing:

Every foreigner who served in the militia spent his first few weeks in learning to love the Spaniards and in being exasperated by certain of their characteristics…… The one Spanish word that no foreigner can avoid learning is Manana – ‘tomorrow’ (literally, ‘the morning’). Whenever it is conceivably possible, the business of today is put off until manana. This is so notorious that even the Spaniards themselves joke about it. In Spain nothing, from a meal to a battle, ever happens at the appointed time As a general rule things happen late, but just occasionally – just so that you shan’t even be able to depend on their happening late – they happen too early. A train which is due to leave at eight will normally leave between nine and ten, but perhaps once a week, thanks to some whim of the engine-driver it leaves at half past seven.

I think I should like to go to Spain one day.