Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Lamb whispering

There is nothing sweeter than waking to the sound of the sheep talking. Until you realise that one is a lot closer than it ought to be. With a number of paddocks surrounding the farmhouse, you get good at gauging where the sheep are. They tend to stay close together and the volume of noise is melodically consistent. So, to hear one dissenter in the crowd makes you sit up and take note. Translate that as leapt out of bed and go to investigate. So, it was no surprise to see one lamb wandering the home paddock (that is, where the sheds are located, vehicles and equipment are stored) mournfully crying out for Mum. I closed the gate to confine him to that area, then pondered my next move. Luckily for me he headed in the right direction, moving towards the gate securing the main paddock where the rest of the flock were. I like to think it was my lamb whispering ability, then again, it could have been the site of me in gumboots and t-shirt so early in the morning. Either way, he headed exactly where I needed him. Thankfully there was a happy ending.....as with visions of opening a gate to return one lamb and 200 others heading out of the gate in the opposite direction was inconceivable. The lamb wiggled and pushed and somehow managed to squeeze back through where the gate joins the fence, to run straight to Mum for some comforting. No squeezing through for me though, so I opened the gate and went through to see how everyone was. When I was visiting the farm last it was just in time for the lambing. Now this batch of tiny wee things have had a couple of months of feeding with Mum, lots of summer grass and sunshine and they are thriving. Most lambs are now almost half the size of their Mums which makes for some fun antics when they feed, which they still do. Have you ever seen a sheep do star jumps? I witnessed just this thing when rather large twins decided to hit Mum up for a feed. One each side, head butting to stimulate the flow of milk was enough to raise her back legs off the ground. To see her tolerate this for a few minutes was the most entertaining thing I have seen in some time. Finally having had enough, she moved off with twins following after her. The bond between the sheep and their young is strong, with family units very much sticking together. Lily has again proven herself to be a great Mum, and her lamb Roger is now a hefty young lad. Lily was one of the hand reared lambs from a few years back, and she is by far the friendliest, coming when you call her. She will let me touch her, although Roger remains at a safe distance on the other side of Mum. Jessie, one of the Black Faced Suffolk sheep will also come and say hi....she just takes a little longer to come forward but will do so when she is ready. Another of the Black Faced Suffolk's Sweet Pea has also decided to make friends this trip. Seeing a couple of hundred sheep flooding up the hill to the top of the paddock where you are standing is quite awe inspiring. Turns out they thought I had food, so they happily came up to say hi, swarming around me bleating. Getting up close and personal is a great way to start the day, so happy ending for all.

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