Shepherd: Birds is the key to the whole problem. It’s my belief that these sheep are laborin’ under the misapprehension that they’re birds. Observe their behavior. Take for a start the sheeps’ tendency to ‘op about the field on their back legs. Now witness their attmpts to fly from tree to tree. Notice that they do not so much fly as… plummet. (Baaa baaa… flap flap… thud.) Observe for example that ewe in that oak tree. She is clearly trying to teach her lamb to fly. (baaaaa… thud) Talk about the blind leading the blind.
Tourist: Yes, but why do they think they’re birds?
Shepherd: Another fair question. One thing is for sure, the sheep is not a creature of the air. They have enormous difficulty in the comparatively simple act of perchin’. (Baaa baaa… flap flap… thud.) As you see. As for flight its body is totally unadapted to the problems of aviation. Trouble is, sheep are very dim. Once they get an idea in their ‘eads, there’s no shiftin’ it.
Tourist: But where did they get the idea from?
Shepherd: From Harold. He’s that sheep over there under the elm. He’s that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep. He’s the ring leader. He has realized that a sheep’s life consists of standin’ around for a few months and then bein’ eaten. And that’s a depressing prospect for an ambitious sheep. He’s patently hit on the idea of escape.
Tourist: Well why don’t you just get rid of Harold?
Shepherd: Because of the enormous commercial possibilities should he succeed.
(Courtesy of Monty Python)
It’s a funny old world, you cannot rely on anything being as it used to be. Sheep flock together, it’s part of what sheep do; except we had one that didn’t. I first noticed it a couple of months ago. Went into the field with Sal to round up some lambs and they all run together and stand in a clump. The theory is that you then move that clump in the direction you want them to go.
If I’d been rounding them up using a quad bike that would have been how it went. Except that Sal, being a border collie; spotted one almost fat lamb that wasn’t doing this. This lamb drifted quietly off to the side then ducked down under the bridge and there she hid; troll like, in the gloom.
Of course Sal followed her down, but we had an impasse. Lamb couldn’t go further forward and Sal was inadvertently stopping her coming back.
So some muppet (me) had to go down the other side of the bridge to chase the daft beggar out, at which point Sal could take over and drive it back to the flock.
Except that the stupid little beggar decided to swim for it. Wearing a heavy woollen jacket!
So guess who had to haul it out?
Anyway I dragged it out, pulled it to the group and this time it went home with them.
Scroll on a couple of months. On Wednesday I went with Sal to bring in the fat lambs, we were going to sort out some who were ready for selling. And this lamb dived quietly into another hollow and hid. Again Sal spotted it and eventually we dragged it out, pointed it at the rest of the group, and it dived off to one side, headed for the beck in an attempt to drown itself again. This time I grabbed its back leg before it could get into the water, tied it to a fence post and went to find the others, who of course had all gone home anyway.
So leaving them and Sal (who had got to the stage of hysterical frustration with this lamb) at home, I went back for the last ewe lamb. Of course she wouldn’t walk, indeed refused to even stand up. And if I didn’t have her on a lead, she’d dive into the beck.
So eventually I picked her up and slung her over my shoulders and we walked home that way. She was put in a separate pen, was judged to be over 40kg and so went to mart with the others for whom mint sauce is a distinct possibility.
And Sal herself
As a reviewer commented, “Excellent follow up to his first collection of bloggage – Sometimes I Sits and Thinks – this is another collection of gentle reflections on life on a small sheep farm in Cumbria. This could so easily be a rant about inconsiderate drivers on country lanes and an incessant moaning about the financial uncertainties of life on a farm. Instead, despite the rain, this is full of wise asides on modern living that will leave you feeling better about the world. Think Zen and the Art of Sheep Management (except he’s clearly CofE…) Highly recommended, and worth several times the asking price!”