And now it’s Easter weekend, which means nearly a month has passed since my last post. Not that I’ve been idle; indeed some painting, some writing, some gardening as the blessed plot begins to wake up, a lot of admin and academic work and, above all, the daily care of 44 rare breed sheep have all taken time-bites from days increasingly short because of my tendency to drop off to sleep after only a little exertion. Am I dying, I wonder? Whatever, here’s some pix to illustrate one aspect of my not unhappy lot during the second half of March, 2018:
The sous-shepherdess goes about my duties in the bitter chill of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ after breaking the 5 cms thick ice on their water trough
In the photograph the small light brown sheep with two horns in the foreground is a Loaghtan called Mike; the big white sheep are Whitefaced Woodlands, as is the smaller white sheep two sheep to the right of the shepherdess’s left hand, a late-born lamb called ‘Jesus’; behind her is a Jacob; among the rest are several varieties of Hebrideans.
Wendy, a Whitefaced Woodland, and Ugly, a Loaghtan, are both ladies over ten years old who have borne many in the flock. Wendy, on the left below, is the matriarch, always leading where the rest will follow. Ugly, a very ageist name for she can’t help being old and not very pretty, nearly died on us, indeed was behaving as animals do when they want to die. We suffered a nerve-stretching episode looking for her with a torch in the late dusk one evening. We found her and made her comfortable for the night, expecting to find a dead sheep next morning; but no, in the photo below, which I have entitled ‘The Raising of Ugly’, the sous-shepherdess is feeding her stock nuts after finding her prostrate and then getting her standing up again and eager to eat.
Anyway, both were among the first half of the flock to leave Snape Warren for Orford Ness on 16 March. On the following Friday (23rd), the rest of the flock departed likewise:
Andrew, the National Trust actual shepherd, goes about his duties, taking his flock back to Orford Ness for Easter (where several lambed more or less immediately). Two White-faced Woodlands are clearly sorry to be leaving the devoted tlc, and lovely stock nuts, to which they have become accustomed
Unexpectedly, however, we were not left in a state of total ovine emptiness: two Loaghtans arrived to be looked after over Easter. Patrick is a super-charged, bully-boy, bought-in ram from Derby with a magnificent set of horns and, at a guess, a delinquent background; his companion, Lesley, is of the same breed but castrated and ‘technically Patrick’s son’, to quote Andrew the shepherd. Don’t ask.
Lesley has a lovely nature trying to express itself but is completely neurotic about any move by Patrick which he knows is likely to lead to a but, thump or shove. Patrick even charged the sous-shepherdess yesterday when she scolded him for bullying Lesley at supper time, but she stood her ground and, like most bullies, he backed off. Actually, we now have them racing towards us across the field as soon as they hear the rattle of their food boxes; and both eat out of our hands provided we feed them apart. Even then, Patrick will break off just to chase Lesley away for the sake of asserting his dominance. I fear we need more than a fortnight, even over Easter, to bring him round to the Paths of Righteousness.
‘Patrick is a super-charged, bully-boy,
bought-in ram from Derby with a magnificent
set of horns and, at a guess, a delinquent background’
At the sound of stock nuts rattling in their food boxes, Patrick and Lesley sprint across the field to be hand-fed
Ah well, let’s move on from sheep to higher things; but, you may well ask with the writer, what are they?