The Winds of Change.

It’s been a long time since I chanced this way and much has happened on the journey.

 I got “the Girls” in to help with the garden. They came in the form of two Gloucester Old Spot weaners. They moved onto the veg patch and dug and weeded out all the nettle roots, whilst they ate all the old veg and kitchen peelings and no small amount of pig food. Their cosy house was of small straw bales all put together with a tin roof , they snuggled down every night after their supper and slept late every morning. They sunbathed and wallowed and chomped and scratched and greeted anyone walking down the path with a grunt and a big pink nose snuffling over the fence. They were a joy to watch and talk with. Then when the work was finished and they found relief from their growing discontent by digging up the fence and pulling down their house and digging their strawy wall into the soil, they were big enough to make the 4 mile journey to the local butcher. A freezer of wonderfully tasty pork was their parting gift.

Chloe has grown to be a strapping girl however it seems her unborn twin was not as thought, a sister but a brother whose foetal blood infused enough male hormones into Chloe that her reproductive organs did not join up fully, so they are all there but incomplete. The result is that there will be no calves to stimulate a milk supply or to encourage her to become protective. She is the largest of the bovines yet she gets bullied by both the dexters, one of whom is not yet fully grown.

Another lambing season has come and gone and the next has begun just a few short weeks ago, along with the first flush of goat kids.

 The goatherd moved away from the family home to a village a couple of miles away. She comes back daily as work allows to do her goats, with me filling in the empty job slots. The shepherd moved from the local town to the next village and now walks over daily, appearing unannounced often with arms full of firewood and checking on sheep as she comes to start her daily tasks.

 Last summer was dominated by illness and hospital visits to a loved one who, despite our best endevours, died, leaving us shocked and numb. We held a celebration of his life, in the garden with family and friends. We blew bubbles at his eulogy which was read by one of his best friends.  We took him in his woollen coffin in a borrowed astra van, to be buried  in a corner of a small local graveyard surrounded by trees. There were nearly 50 of us in all, some staying all day and others calling in or leaving, as busy times allowed. Everyone bought food and drink to share and we ended the day, after sunset, with fireworks and chinese lanterns at a place where he loved to sit and watch the view. We toasted him with sparkling wine and champagne and made it a day he would have loved.

I hope he did.

I have spent the autumn and winter, such as it has been so far, drying apple rings, brewing wine, making jams, baking bread and collecting brushwood to feed the stoves in mine and the shepherds homes. My fleeces all got left out to perish in the sun and rain so no spinning or felting. We have had a bit of snow but winter has been really mild and so far, spring has begun early.

 Before our lives were turned upside down, I went to visit my Mother. Whilst I was there, I spent time with my Sister who I have been in scant contact with for many years. We enjoyed walks on the beach, drives on the moor and evenings by the fireside. When I left to come home, she sent me with a top bar beehive. I was so pleased as I have wanted one for ages and believe them to be more bee friendly and the intended husbandry to complete the concept has to be better for the bees. Little did I know that far from seeking a swarm or nucleus from a local beekeeper, a swarm of bees would come to us. I love having them here and hope they will expand to more hives as time passes. They come out in force on warm days, of which there are increasing numbers and carry pollen of various colours back home.

Published in: on Thursday March 15th, 2012 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dreams can come true.

The day emerges colourless and gradually colours begin to appear, as do noises. First the Dawn Chorus and as I walk close to a thicket spiked with gorse bushes the yellow jumps out as the first of colours. On the edge of the wood a woodpecker drums out his greeting which echos around the hill. Pheasants call like a creaky gate as they take to the wing to flee the wastelands which green up slowly as daylight creeps around.

 Lambing is over now and just one goat to kid, we hope. Our dexter heifer due in a few weeks has been looking very round and a few days ago the Goatherd insisted that we go to check her first thing as she had dreamed that she found a golden coloured girl calf in the field. I had been looking at Tulips udder just the previous day and it was forming well with plenty of rounding off to do in the next month. So we went and found the two dexters and the donkey looking shocked at this intrusion so early in the day. As Tulip is black and so is the bull she went to, a golden calf would be possible but not that likely though the bull carries red. I prefer dun and could still kick myself for selling the only dun heifer I bred several years ago. The Goatherd favours red which I find a bit too flashy. All was normal in the field so we left them all to slumber.

 A couple of days later I was driving along the lane to do the morning patrol at around 5am and noticed a pile of earth on the side of the road, too big for a rabbit hole so maybe a fox or badger has been excavating here. As I got closer Ithought it was a dead cat, its body twisted awkwardly and not the right shape for a cat. As I drew up alongside the mass in the lane I was confronted with a newborn calf, all clean and dried and as I  picked up the bundle it had a full belly. Tulip began to bellow on hearing me and there was evidence of where the new baby had slipped down the steep bank, probably having fallen asleep against the fence at a point that the fencing was lifted slightly and slipped underneath. The bank at this point is at least 12 ft down to the lane and thank goodness it was me that found her, oh yes its a girl. Tulip was delighted to be reunited with the tiny scrap who though small, was full of life. I watched as mum checked baby over and cleaned her up to make her smell just right. As I left them to carry on my rounds I looked back at the pair, the calf standing out from mum with her golden red coat and pink nose and tiny pale feet.

 And flashy?   No, she is just perfect, I know and her mum says so.

Published in: Uncategorized on Friday May 7th, 2010 at 7:03 am  Leave a Comment  

So who is the smartest?

 4am and it is dark and cold, though we haven’t had a frost for a few days now. I spend this time wandering around partly as we are in the midst of lambing and the ewes need to be checked often, and partly to outwit a bunch of errant sheep and keep them “in common” when what they want to do is go awol into the next village where they have found some tender morsels to break their fast on.

 Mostly I manage through cunning and determination, having broken my slumber and crawled out of my warm and cosy bed. Sometimes they win, BUT this morning they have begun new tactics and will play the long game.

 Serves me right really. Last Sunday I thought I would begin a campaign and took a dog with me to park up and head them back as they came trip trap up the lane. TOO LATE,  driving up past the green, not a sheep to be had but as I drove on there were tell tale signs of  the group having passed and there they were, waiting just lounging around behind the bus shelter in the next village.

I got the dog from the car and before he saw them, they were gone, back up the road and into the lane on their way home. On the way back, having fed the sheep, I realised that one was missing and on checking, found a ewe and newborn lamb. So I left the dog in the car and took the pair home and as we were filled to bursting with ewes and lambs in bonding pens. The only place to put them was just inside the garden gate on the path to the back door and between the lean-to and the coal bunker. When they were settled I returned to the car and drove it back home, whereupon I had to get the dog past the ewe. Not an easy task. I picked the dog up and began to carry him but Ewenice felt this intrusion just too much and as she began her protest, the dog leapt from my arms, he was slipping down anyway, and Ewenice caught him several hefty thumps against the hurdle before I could drag him over the top and hurry him into the kitchen.

 The next morning I tried a different dog and headed off on the same route. There on the green was the bunch of sheep, all present and correct. Well I fed them but I am not so easily fooled, I will be back up later. Now for the tricky bit, I drove home but there by the gate in the same place as yesterday was Ewenice. Dog was okay whilst I fed the sheep so I could leave him in the car. I opened the windows a couple of inches as this one is inclined to dribble and dribble =misty windows and I might have to move fast. I made then drank a pot of tea and checked my e-mail.

 A while later, I headed out again to check that the sheep had not decided to head off.  As I got in the car Dog was very pleased to see me but at first glance I could not understand why he had chewed his collar up nor taken it off, but as more black nylon webbing became evident, I realised that this was not a dog collar but the seatbelt. Then I realised the window rubber was shredded around the car then as the day wore on and I collected The Shepherd, I found the other seatbelt was gone too. Worse was that it was the partners car, the cambelt on my van went a few nights ago when The Goatherd took a tour of the area doing a 2am lambing check.

 Back to this morning, I got in the car and started it. On turning the headlights on, I could see that 3 sheep were in the wrong place and as each tends to lamb in the place they were born or a place they have experienced as a place of safety, I had to go and investigate. Nelly had aborted yesterday a perfectly formed lamb but in minature and she was there along with a couple of others and Nesta, remember Nesta? who has been fit to burst for days now and a friend of theirs. I put out some feed for them and hurried up to find the others. On finding an empty green, I drove on up the road to the next village and wandered the tracks but no signs of sheep, so I doubled back to another direction they head off on as an early morning ramble a bit later in the year, again before there is a fresh bite up on this hill. Not there either, so I tried any other haunts I thought were feasible. Eventually I found two who had turned up and I checked them.  An hour later I spotted a few extras and headed to the green from another direction where the whole flock had gathered. I fed them all but I still do not know where they were or how they evaded me on their way back. I suspect it will be a while before I find out their grand plan and I am quite sure I will be all the worse when I do know.

Published in: on Friday March 19th, 2010 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

New Baby arrives

Her name is Chloe and she is just perfect.

She is Friesian of New Zealand strain, and I hope she will be the family housecow, in a few years. Her family took her in when she was found wandering in a field, very tiny and not due for another two months. Her mum had aborted her because her twin had died. As twins were not expected, no-one realised until her mum began to be very ill, the dead calf was delivered but too late for her mum who succumbed to infection. The farm hand took Chloe home and gave her every chance which Chloe grabbed with both hands. Now at two months, at the time she was due to make her entry into the world, Chloe has outgrown her garden and was in need of someone to carry on the care so lovingly lavished upon her. Now we are her family and feel honoured to have the opportunity to continue the task.

 Now when I bought the Dexters I was quite desperate to have cattle again, they are very sweet and appealing, but I really was looking for a dairy calf to bring up and have an exceptionally well handled beast who I can do anything with, just like the last cows.

 Now I have the best of both worlds, a dairy calf , who will live out, needing a modest amount of hard feed give enough milk for a calf and all we can use, and more, and a hardy robust breed which will rear fantastic beef  from grass and forage, with enough milk for me to steal for the kitchen, or to rear a second calf.

 Good things come to those who wait and life right now is mostly good.

 

Published in: on Friday December 18th, 2009 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just the way that it should be?

Or should that be, is my life just SLIGHTLY ODD?

A near neighbour has raised a hatch of chicks and now,  at the end of summer they bought the males round for me to turn into dinner. They arrived in a plastic feed sack in the boot of a car so they quickly needed to be dealt with. The quickest thing to do was to put them in an empty rabbit hutch with some food and water, then decide when I have enough time to kill and pluck them, a job which always takes me ages.

 A couple of days later they were still waiting and eating and one morning, I asked one of the resident “outlaws” to let them out. Having a senior moment, or should I say, rather a lot of them, is rather common for me and what I meant to say was to give them food and water. So out they came, now what? Well “what”, came at bedtime when they were nowhere to be seen. Damn, I bet they have got out or been caught by a fox. The next morning they were wandering around, eating veg from the garden and generably being where they shouldn’t. Bedtime again, none present or correct, but the next day there they were as bold as brass, this time one was baiting one of the breeding cockralls who was defending his pen of hens.

 This went on for a few days until one evening I thought to ask if anyone knew where they went to bed. The answer was a delight to my ears, they roost in the hawthorn tree. I have always loved the idea of hens which roost in trees. It seems so natural and easy, but I always clip wings to keep tabs on all poultry, then I decide where they will sleep, what time they get let out and all the other controlling things we do to “look after” our pets. Now the boys have introduced a small flock of home bred pullets to their version of night life. Lively it is too, they often crow at intervals from about 11.38pm until around 4am when there is a distinctive wing clap and soon after the crowing moves around. With no housing there is no build up of lice or mites, they seem safe from foxes, whilst roosting anyway and they must get a primeval satisfaction from being on branches which are constantly on the move. The downsides are that they can get over the wall into next doors garden, they are vulnerable when they are at ground level from before dawn and I do need to eat them before they spend the winter getting tough and eating their way through precious feed.

 The hawthorn tree is a great love of mine, I can see it in the mirror from my bed. I watch the blackbird eating the berries whilst I sit in bed in the morning and the outside world is monochrome. I love the shape of it and I love the way it looks like a picture which changes according to the light, the weather and the activity of the time. A stratigically placed mirror can open up a whole new world.

I took one of the animals to my vet in a local market town. I take anything which will fit in my car rather than pay the call out fees and in the past have had animals at all stages of life from birth to death, carried in the back of my car or van, but the things which don’t fit are cows, ponies and donkeys. So after my consultation I returned to the waiting room for some injections to be dispensed. The Vets surgery is an old shop and the reception and waiting room is the shop itself, the window opaqued to provide some privacy but one can see out quite clearly and waiting outside with a middle aged lady was a  small horse. As the Vet finished writing the directions on my syringes the receptionist told him that George had come for his booster for Tetnus and Equine flu. I asked the receptionist if this is an unusual occurance and fortunately it is rather commonplace. Why does this soothe my equalibrium so?

Now there is no reason why this should be an odd phenomenon but how often do you see a horse waiting in the high street for his appointment at the vet?

Published in: on Wednesday November 11th, 2009 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Of predators and the unexpected.

 A few weeks ago,  the Boy was out doing, what boys of their early twenties do of a Saturday evening and had taken his car to a local watering hole so the view to the Northwest was uninterrupted for a short distance. Whilst he was gone, the sheep went rushing up the road from the wood and on hearing the sound of hurrying hooves, one of the girls looked out into the dusk in case there was an errant dog on the loose. She certainly did not expect to see a wild boar, giving chase. She called to me and we went to see if the boar was still around. Alas no, so the next morning we went to wander in the woods to see if there were any traces of it’s meanderings. Still nothing. Only by chance had she seen it. Normally a car would be parked blocking the view.

 Now, I have long since been aware of sightings of these creatures and many have got very close to them, even families of them. I have witnessed the turfs on roadside verges , turned over, but as yet I have not witnessed a boar at large. However the fact that they are obviously here in the hamlet means, come lambing, a greater level of vigilance will be required.

 Lots of areas have a “beast” at large, mostly being members of the big cat family. Hereabouts we have two or more.

Many years ago I was driving to get some homebrew supplies and there, in the bracken at the side of the road was a big black cat, heading into the undergrowth. A few yards on, were a group of sheep grazing as if there was nothing untoward at all. I was so shocked that I had to stop the car to decide if I was seeing things.

 I realised that the animal I had seen was exactly what I had thought. It was around the height of the sheep and the tail was long and carried down, following the line of the rear legs with the last few inches carried parallel to the ground.

 There have been many sightings of both this cat and a brown “tabby” coloured one over the years and a handful of photographs taken, one being a close up image taken as someone walked along a forest track, camera poised to shoot another image. Unbeknown to both, the two beings were so close that they shocked each other the person regaining enough composure to snap the camera shutter closed as the feline snarled. 

 Obviously there are birds of prey, mainly buzzards and owls, though other hawks and falcons nest here too. Herons and Egrets, haunt the streams and ponds.  

 Then there was the White Stag. It was spotted from time to time and occasionally photographed before it “came to hart”, when it was at its’ prime with a full set of antlers. It haunted the woods to the north of the land, quite close to here and was seen quite regularly even becoming caught in a tennis net at one time. Before it matured there were sightings of a white doe to the south.

 Then a year after it was at its most magnificent it was killed on the road. I drove out one morning and saw the top of its head and antlers emerging from one of the deep drainage ditches. There was no mistaking which deer it was or that it was dead.  Gradually word got around and the whole story was recorded.

He was hit and killed about 3 miles away from here at a juntion. The body then disappeared for a while during which time I saw it, before turning up near the center of the woods several miles away, minus the head which had been hacked off for a trophy to grace someones wall no doubt.

 A great numbness was felt by lots of folk as the animal had been a sign of light energy coming back to this area of  heavy dark energy. Other sightings were told of white deer around the land but within a year all reports seemed to have ceased.

 I cannot say if these animals are indeed still around but I hope there will again be a white stag born to give hope for the area in the not too distant future.

Published in: on Monday October 26th, 2009 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

The mini moos

 Life is very exciting at the moment.

I managed to track down a friend from long ago, who used to breed dexters and had a few jerseys there who belonged to a friend of his.

 I was hoping he would know a jersey breeder who might sell me a calf.  He did know someone who had some in calf heifers but before I got around to ringing the man my friend phoned to say they had all been sold, however he had a nice heifer that might suit me and he could put her to a bull and keep her to check that she did not “return” at her next season. We agreed a price and he would sort me a steer to keep her company until after she calves next May. It then became a waiting game, counting down the days until she was ready to come to live here. A few days before my imposed 60 day closure was due to come to an end, I had a letter from Deathra to say that the cow number UK****** *******had grown positive samples for TB. This confirmed that she was a reactor.

 Here we go again, just the one cow?  I rang to speak to the person named on the letter to ask about the results of the other cow, only to be told that the results were not due to be read until later that day FOR THE FIRST COW and the  samples from the other cow would not be read until a few days later. He could not answer how I had received the results by post before the results were read. Predictibly the second set of samples were positive too. Now why was that not a surprise?

 Anyway moving on, Holly arrived with her friend the steer and a short time spent catching up on the many years of life since we last met whilst we watched the two being overwhelmed by the amount of grass for them to tackle. So much in fact that they did not attempt the tour of the boundries which is usual for cattle when they find themselves somewhere new to them. We admired the views and the cows and I have to say that the previous night I began to panic a bit as I realised that I had in fact bought my new cow unseen and what if she was really ugly or nasty in some way. Did I really want a heifer so old and of a different breed when I had actually decided that what I needed was a Jersy calf.

I need not have worried though, they are both really pretty, a bit timid but a winter of regular visits and feeding will sort that out. She has to have a different name as we have a dog named Holly so she is Tulip and he is Sid, which suits him, I think anyway. By next winter he will be in my freezer and we will be playing in the dairy again. Heifer calf please Tulip. Did I say that he has horns that are useful for a variety of things?

 So now the TB nosode is whisked into the water regularly to hopefully give an immunity to my new cattle and protect them and us from the horrors of the last few months. My grazing is slowly coming back under control and life includes the trips to and from the field on the edge of the village,  sitting watching the cattle and looking  down into the valley and beyond the river into another land.

Published in: on Tuesday October 6th, 2009 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Interesting thymes

 

I won two Oxford Allen Scythes on Ebay, and went to the coast to collect them on Tuesday. The Shepherd and I borrowed a van and planned a day out to include collecting my prize.

 We set off at 8.30am and picked up the van whilst dropping the oldest Child at work, then on down the High Road heading south. The weather was foul and we were driving among a haze of spray thrown up from the wheels of lorries and the going was grim. We eventually got off the main drag and onto some smaller roads, passing a large town then back out to sea roads and purple moorland which swept down to small coves and beaches the upper beaches and sand dunes forested with salt grasses and plants. It was very wild and steep. Eventually The shepherd asked what the directions meant, proceed forward to Ferry.

Wow! How exciting, and so unexpected. We went down a steep hill and passed a hand propelled bicycle on which the rider sat in a very precarious looking position and we both agreed that we would not like to be riding this on such a road. Far too vulnerable. Then soon after we passed the apparition, we came to a line of stationary vehicles and had to stop and wait for what appeared to be a railway barrier. Eventually we all began to move forward onto the Ferry. we were near the front and had a great view so out came the camera to record our adventure. All too soon we alighted to the other side and had to return to the road. More beaches, shingle this time with what appeared to be a causeway but on the right was in fact a freshwater lake, the road and a beach separating the two waterways. Very bleak but a charming village at the end, with pretty cottages and a small park where The Shepherd spied a pair of swans with their signets, so out came the camera again. They were very tame as were the geese all waiting for free tidbits. We paused for a comfort break then on to collect the Scythes. I thought the van I had borrowed was far too big but the Scythes only just fit, with room to spare at the back but not enough to fit them tandem style.

 We then went to visit my Mother for lunch. She was very pleased to see us, we don’t get out much and so contact is usually by telephone, lots of times a week, but she likes to send me packing with as many treats as I can carry when we visit. So we loaded all the spare space with plants and cuttings, hydrangas, two fushias, a potted apple tree and strawberry plants, “thinned” out of her patch.

 Some sedums and bulbs and saved seeds of calendulas, poppies and hollyhocks, then I asked for a couple of sprigs of sage and rosemary for drying. Well, one bin sack later and I have enough to last all year as dried herbs, smudgesticks and some to strike as cuttings, and a marjoram plant thrown in too. From the house I aquired candles, teaspoons, a couple of hessian shopping bags some home made jam, marmalade and elderflower champagne, all from her garden. Then home again, before falling into bed ready to be up early to unload and clean the van in time for work tomorrow.

 My Oxford Allen Scythes will be a useful addition to our workforce for cutting hay and greens, and maybe we will start to use bracken as bedding for the poultry.

Published in: on Thursday August 6th, 2009 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jam Tomorrow

Well yesterday I collected loads of comfrey to make a salve for a ewes ears. Cobweb has a beautiful face of course, all pink and flesh covered, as are her ears. Unfortunately her head and face area is not covered in any hair and she has been out in the rain and sun, so her ears are cracking, just where they swivel around for her to flick off flies, or listen to sounds from behind her. So they need soothing.

 Today I melted some hard vegetable fat in a pan and added glycerine and whilst it was turning to liquid, I finely chopped some comfrey leaves and added them until half of them were heating in the liquid, the juices turning the mixture a golden greenish colour. When the greens had cooked fully, I strained the liquid off and squeezed the greens through a sieve, getting all the liquid out whilst it was congealing into hard fat amongst the chopped greens. I then added the fresh half of the greens to the liquid. More of the same but this time, after squeezing the last of the liquid, I added dried lavender flowers and reheated and cooked. Then I pushed all the “mush” through a mouli and heated and strained again. Then a reheat of the final liquid before I decanted the salve into two containers, one an earthenware crock in minature, the other to half fill a glass ramekin, adding a large spoonful of honey to this part. I stirred and put the ramekin onto the crock  to warm the honey through. This is to use as a lip balm for us. The crock took longer to set and set firmer than the honeyed batch, it is good for hands. But the honey balm is great for lips, and around eyes, and the face and throat. A little sticky at first, just a very little but then sooo soft. As it has been pouring with rain this evening, Cobweb is sheltering somewhere,  so when she is around in the morning she can try some too.

 Oh, and going through the bag of greens and bruised fruit from the veg shop on which I feed the rabbits, I have salvaged some plums, peaches, a pear and some apricots. None alone in sufficient quantities  to be useful but together they will make a great jam. So they are sweating in the pan as I scribe.

Published in: on Tuesday July 28th, 2009 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Last Lamb?

 Well on Sunday we lost a sheep. Not just any old sheep, I don’t have those sort. We lost Nesta, our first home bred badger faced ewe who has a fleece to die for, but not this year.

This year The Shepherd saw her honeymooning with our coloured ram lamb from last year. Does that make him a Ramling?

He is Bryonys son, the twin to Sage. Last year we found the three of them walking down through the village and Sage was limping quite badly. As we were going through a lot of rain and the dreaded Scald had infected the grazing in this area. It lives between the clews in the hooves and sits there all sweaty and nasty smelling until eventually  it becomes footrot.  So, we bought them all indoors and sprayed everyones feet with a purple coloured spray made for such situations. This will often take out the problem within a couple of days, along with an antibiotic injection, short acting and given daily for 5 days. By day 3,  Sage was unable to stand and therefore could not feed. So several bottles a day were administered and she stayed with Mum and brother for a while but the lameness spread. Now she could not move any of her legs. The Vet did not know what was wrong but he tried several drugs and homeopathic remedies. After a couple of weeks Sage came to live in the kitchen as she needed to be turned every hour or so and Bryony  and son needed to be turned out.

 So the summer went on and Sage grew slowly. She could by now move her back end but not her front end. This perplexed the Vet even more as, if it was a condition of nerves he would have expected the front end to be affected as the nerves travel down the spine. Eventually he told us that if she was not substantially better within a couple of weeks he felt her case was hopeless with little chance of recovery for Sage to live a natural life. So curtains for her. Well I don’t know if he expected me to take note of what he was saying but we had had the conversation about if she was in pain-NO. And the bit about her “Spark”, definately present.

 So to use the Vet for her any more was pushing it a bit. We had done the herbal and homeopathic route with no change. So we decided to see how things went. A month later I was beginning to think we should give up too.

BUT, the Shepherdess. She say NO!

Her arguments to keep Sage were all sound but there was a nervousness about her being kept as she was, in a dogbed in the kitchen. We had tried to adapt a baby bouncer, on the Vets advice, so she could get the chance to move her legs and feet, without sucess. We turned her regularly and she could push her front legs against the side of the bed and get a bit of pressure behind them. Her back end could stand but just shoved her forwards, but if she was put on the floor she could shuffle around. Then she would do “push ups” against the cupboards and steps. By the time she had been in the kitchen for nearly 3 months she could nearly sit up like a dog, but if we put her in a standing position, her legs would just bend and take no weight at all as she slumped to the floor.

 Most of the time she seemed happy enough with lots of attention and the best pickings of any greens and roots available. She had a blanket of dogs to sleep with and would boss them all around. She did need to be put in the bath from time to time which she did not enjoy, but though her life was unnatural, it was not causing her distress. I supose it was as unnatural as we make life for a lot of our pets, yet we love them all the same.

 During August, one rainy afternoon, I was starting the process of dyeing some wool in fact rather a lot of wool. It needed boiling to remove the dirt and the lanolin. So with the Rayburn roaring away and a huge pan of boiling wool on top, the kitchen windows were streaming water from the inside and the room smelled like a wet sheep, it was a very pungent place to be. Sage was shuffling on the floor and the last place I noticed her, she was in her sitting position at the steps into the dining room. The dining room door opened and in walked DSs girlfriend. As I looked over and caught her eye, there was Sage, standing at the bottom of the steps. Knees and hocks bent and very shakily but she really was standing.

 Over the next few days she advanced to walking albeit rather oddly, then after a couple of weeks she was ready to move outside into a goathouse. Finally she was able to go out, acompanied by one of us at first. By November she was refusing to come in at night, so warily we let her out, checking on her at bedtime and first thing in the morning.

 This year she was shorn and now she no longer has a brownish dry, even dead coat, she is difficult to pinpoint from a distance.

 Back to Nestas suitor. He remained as wild as the other lambs until Sage started being out on her own. Then gradually he became more bold, until one day I was sitting in my car at the entrance to  my top field, when a dark brown sheep wandered up and stood next to my open window and I was idly stroking it. When I looked to see who had come to visit, I realised it was Sages’ brother. He has been one of the tamer sheep ever since.

 We all think Sage told him of how she lived with us and we looked after her until she got better.

So Nesta has a long luxurious fleece but had not lambed yet so we could not shear her Her wool has begun to separate and felt but as she had grown bigger and more sedentary, there was nothing we could do.

 On Sunday, she was missing. The rain of late has grown the bracken to enormous heights and most is now above my head if I walk the tracks and the sheep stay nearer the dwellings around the Hamlet as the grass is shorter and the wolves and other beasties can be spotted and an eye kept on them. The one short stretch of pavement bears testimony to where most sheep doze during the short hours of darkness. So that needed cleaning and lots of searches through the bracken to hedges where the sheep lamb, proved fruitless. Most of the sheep lamb, if not where they were born, in the same place every year. By afternoon we were very worried. Over the years we have had attacks on sheep, occasionally by dogs but most regularly by local people. On a few occasions we have had sheep taken off the common and dumped, usually miles away and often on very busy roads. So we checked with the Chairman of the commons, and other people who might hear of sheep being dumped.

 Nothing reported, but I needed to go out for a while, leaving The Shepherd to keep an eye out for Nesta and walk some tracks again. She went along the stretch of hedge often used as shelter but now overgrown, though this had been walked lots of times during the day.

I went to collect some much needed hay, lovely green stuff.Useless for horses which would become ill by gorging on it, but for the goats it is well appreciated and keeps the milk yield up. I can fit 4 bales in the back of my car and we use a bale a day at this time of year.

 On my return I went to put the kettle on and make some tea. The Shepherd came in and we talked for a while. After way too long I asked about Nesta thinking that there would be no sighting as she would have said.

Wrong. It seems Nesta had been found along the stretch, checked often that day, with her newborn baby boy just beginning to stand up next to her. He is black with white stripes on his face and a grey haze on his sides and brown on his legs. He was still very wet and she still had afterbirth dangling down, so he was very new. He is quite big. The pair were safely penned up to bond and recover before going back out in a few days. Just a little gem of information.

 Teenagers!

 Now the one ewe who has not lambed this year is Florence, and we are still waiting to shear her too.

Published in: on Tuesday July 21st, 2009 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment