Thought it might be nice to write a blog post about sheep – the underrated heroes of the British countryside.
They graze and fertilize pastures to allow for improved grass growth in the future; they cross-graze land with other livestock such as horses – consuming plants that horses cannot; and, let’s face it, there’s no lovelier sight on a glorious spring day than newborn lambs pinging and springing around our fields.
I confess, I am not fortunate enough to have my own farm. I pay to keep my gorgeous horses at a beautiful (arguably the most beautiful) place around a 30 minute drive away from home. In the spirit of helpfulness, my family and I try our best to assist with the care of the 100-or-so sheep who live at the farm. All baaa (see what I did there?) one are female, with just one castrated male – we helped hand-rear him a few years ago – who blends in perfectly with the girls.
We’ve had countless adventures whilst helping look after the sheep over the last decade; far too many to fit into one blog post! So to summarize, most winters are spent trudging through thigh-high (well, almost – maybe mid-calf to knee level on average) mud in all weathers to feed and check over the girls. Most of them are polite, standing back until their feed is in the trough and we’ve stepped away. There are a few Welsh-breed ewes who were born with attitude, however. They’re the ones we have to watch, because in their falsified state of starvation, their enthusiasm and affection are exaggerated; they’ve been known to knock us over accidentally – we’ve all face-planted the mud at some point. Then there’s lambing – wondrous and stressful in equal measure. Since a serious hand injury 5 years ago, unfortunately I haven’t assisted with any births. Before that, I am proud to say that when called upon I was able to save the lives of quite a few ewes and their lambs. One lamb was named Dannika by the lovely lady who owns the farm, after I saved both the lamb and her mother from what would’ve been an impossible birth. I am pleased to report that Dannika has grown up beautifully, and has since gone on to have twin lambs of her own 🙂
We’ve also helped hand-rear a number of lambs over the years. Again, just as with lambing, there are sad times accompanying that delightful sense of achievement when the lambs you’ve helped raise are able to join the flock. There’s no feeling quite like watching the lambs bounce around with joy in the spring sunshine, after you’ve worked tirelessly to keep them happy and healthy.
They don’t only provide entertainment as lambs though. We’ve encountered an array of colourful characters, the most infamous being Dot. She was the biggest character of all. A seemingly straight-forward, normal, run-of-the-mill sheep with a black dot on her knee, to the average observer Dot was no different to the thousands of other sheep gracing our Welsh mountains. To us, however, Dot was a legend.
Confidence permeated her fluffy white fleece. No obstacle was too much for her to take on. Even dangerous dogs with sharp teeth posed no threat to Dot.
Sometimes we wondered whether Dot actually realised she was a sheep, and not an adrenaline junkie horse-dog.
If Dot had a CV, the opening lines would read something like this: “I have the ability to escape any field. Doesn’t matter how reinforced the fencing is, I will defeat it. I teach my offspring to attack on command; they establish the weakness of their enemy and exploit it (with humans it’s the back of their knees, with dogs it’s their face). If you need a tack shed or barn broken into, I’m your girl. I boast excellent lock-picking skills; I’ve been known to terrify the living daylights out of liveries, by appearing in their tack sheds unannounced. There isn’t a creature on the planet I’m scared of. Dogs, horses, cattle, cars, tractors, cyclists etc. flee at the mere sight of me. I can walk up to any horse on the farm and demand they share their dinner with me – they never refuse. All-in-all I’d say I’m pretty well-rounded, as I work well as leader of a team (sheep seem to follow me everywhere), but even better as an individual. I’m a champion lawn-mower too, having escaped into many a garden to save homeowners expensive gardening fees.”
Sadly Dot disappeared two years ago, never to be seen since.
One of the newest characters in the flock is Janet. Once a shy, retiring type, the day-before-yesterday she waltzed up to me for the first time ever, demanding I feed her.
I will undoubtedly keep you updated on various sheep shenanigans – I’m sure you’ll be introduced to many more characters over this series of blog posts – but for now, I’ll sign off. Leaving you with this photograph of Janet and I from the other day…