There was once a shepherd who dropped his Bible while he was mending a gap in a hedge. A couple of days later, a sheep walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth. The cowboy couldn’t believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the sheep’s mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”
“Not really,” said the sheep. “Your name is written inside the cover.”
It has to be confessed that my experience of sheep is that their level of literacy is so low they struggle to read the writing on the wall.
On the other hand, it’s interesting watching sheep as they go through the year. If you see them in September, they don’t really want anything to do you with you. There’s plenty of grass, you’re a damned nuisance and the dog is a menace.
As November creeps in, the ewes start pricking up their ears as the quad approaches, and if they see you with a bag or a bucket they will follow, cautiously and speculatively.
Oh yes and the dog is still a menace.
By the time we get to Christmas, the minute you fire up the quad, every sheep within earshot starts bleating and they run after you to be first to the feed you’re putting down.
The dog is no longer a menace, merely a speed bump if she gets between the ewes and the feed.
Then we have lambing. Appear in a field with a bag, bucket or quad and you will be mobbed. Sheep are at their most domesticated, you might even think that they regarded humanity as a good and useful thing.
But the dog is a menace, only now “she’s a menace that will have to be dealt with firmly if she comes any closer to my lambs.” Sal tends to watch from a distance when I’m feeding ewes and lambs, on the grounds that it’s easier on her nerves.
Then as spring drifts into summer and feed is slowly cut back, the sheep revert to apathy and by September, you’re back to being a damned nuisance again.
Lambs on the other hand don’t have the memories to dwell on; they’re more creatures of the immediate present. But even they slowly acquire experience. The two lambs born in early January, (photo here https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/and-so-it-begins/ )
were kept inside with their mum far longer than usual, mainly because the weather was so miserable and wet. Finally there was some reasonable weather and they and mum were put outside.
Then we had the beast from the east nonsense. We had Siberian winds for a week and it was colder than charity. The two young lambs, with a good mum, full tummies and wearing beautiful lamb’s wool onesies were happy as Larry. We had no real snow to worry about and they were just fine with sub-zero temperatures and biting winds.
Anyway now that other ewes are lambing, these two lambs and their mum have been brought back to join the others. (You can see the two bigger lambs with their backs to the camera next to ewe with a 5 on her.)
The young lambs were put out on Sunday, because it was a nice afternoon. Monday on the other hand was miserable. In the field were the ewes and lambs are living at the moment there is a calf creep feeder. Think of it as a ‘shed’ with a low roof so a calf can go inside and eat cake, but mum cannot follow. One of the ewes and her lambs were sitting under the roof watching the rain. Finally the ewe decides the rain had slackened and she was hungry so she sets off across the field to graze. One lamb followed her. The other waited, realised it was being abandoned, dashed out into the rain, shuddered, dashed back inside again, and stood there in an agony of indecision until it finally plucked up the courage to run out and join mum.
At the same time, I saw one of our two January born lambs sprawled out on the grass, basking in the warmth of the rain; when you’ve seen the beast from the east, a bit of drizzle isn’t worth bothering about.
Ask Sal about it, she knows the job from the inside!
As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”