We had lunch today out in the field with our flock of Rare Breed sheep. There, said it: I bet not many people can truthfully say the same about their Xmas lunch.
Actually we were first out there much earlier in the morning, just checking that they were all present and correct. Then we went and walked by the sea, to Aldeburgh’s Martello tower and back, partook of coffee in a hotel (a trick we learnt when living in Islington to solve the caffeine problem on Xmas Day when nothing else is open), and returned for serious shepherding duties with our lunch. I say ‘serious’ because we do have two serious issues at the moment. One of the younger lambs has been limping since she arrived and last week the limp turned to immobility and therefore an inability to eat and drink. I called Andrew, the real shepherd, in and he came and treated what had turned from the usual ‘foot rot’ to which sheep are prone into an infection. Today, that lamb was up and grazing again, much to our relief. The incident has, nevertheless, made us look very carefully every day at the several other sheep which are, to a much lesser extent, limping.
The simple task of counting the sheep each day has also come to be more significant. Last Wednesday, I met 6 of the flock trotting along the road away from their field: thank goodness I arrived by chance at that moment otherwise they could have gone anywhere and/or got themselves into trouble. They looked as if they were on their way to have coffee at Snape Maltings. As I stopped my car and got out, they also stopped and – sorry to say this but needs must – looked rather sheepish. So I took the sheep nuts box from the car, rattled it, and started walking determinedly along the farm track towards the gate to their field half-a-mile away. The six miscreants fell into line in my wake. As we processed thus, Andrew arrived behind us in his jeep and was, I trust, duly impressed by the demonstration of ovine control without a dog and how important it is to have volunteers on the spot. Fair does, NT sheep are in six different places in East Suffolk at the moment, so he is using a small army of volunteers keeping an eye on them.
Anyway, our runaways rejoined the flock with a certain amount of baa-ing and we soon found, and mended, the hole in the fence through which they had escaped. But again the incident has sharpened up our counting: it is not just an empty or routine daily task. We really have to be certain that 44 sheep are present and correct each time we count.
The whole flock comes at the rattle of my food box, in a line which makes accurate counting easier
We came back and I started cleaning up one of my new paintings ready for display here, and perhaps elsewhere.