After a while what was once a vague suspicion becomes an outright certainty. Our lambing ewes are far too comfortable. So comfortable that they have no intention of doing anything so socially disadvantageous as giving birth!
At the moment those ewes furthest from lambing are still outside. Yes their diet is supplemented with some concentrate and hay, but basically they’re out there doing what umpteen generations of vaguely selective breeding has designed them to do. They’re eating wet grass in the rain.
As they get nearer the happy event they’re whisked inside and sleep on deep straw under a roof. In an environment where it’s warm, snug and out of the wind. Once they’ve lambed they’ll get a couple of days with the lambs in a small pen so everybody gets to know each other and then, first fine day they’re back out to grass again wondering just where they went wrong.
And so they sit with their legs crossed, putting off the awful moment when parturition means they move out of the relative luxury. We don’t have as many lambing this year but they seem determined to make the whole thing drag out as long as possible.
Given the weather we’ve had so far I confess to feeling the occasional twinge of sympathy.
Other than sheep, what else has been going on? Well thanks to the various gales etc we’ve had some trees which haven’t so much fallen as leaned gratefully on the shoulders of a tree downwind.
Over the years you’ll see some of them adapt to their new inclination, whilst others just die. And I’ve been out with the chainsaw chopping up dead trees and stacking the wood away for next winter. You realise you’ve reached the age of discretion when you’re logging trees that you planted somewhat earlier in life. People forget that trees are just a crop. You plant them, they grow, age, and if you don’t fell them, they fall down anyway. At which point you just plant more.
Another source of wood this winter has been a hedge I had intended to lay. Except that when I examined it more closely I realised that a lot of the timber in it was far too mature. In reality I’ve been ‘quarrying’ it for fire wood. Then when the younger stuff spreads to fill the gaps and new stuff comes up, I can lay it.
But unfortunately, and here we’re back where we began, the ground around the hedge I’m trying to quarry is so wet, I cannot haul away the wood I’ve chopped out. So that’s on hold until things get drier. And of course, at that point the rest of the ewes will start lambing because outside starts looking a better bet than inside again.
Oh, and for the truly discerning ‘Sometimes I sits and thinks.’
A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.
If you haven’t got a kindle, don’t worry, download the free kindle app from Amazon and you can read it on your phone or any computer.