animal psychology, Babies, Humour, Lambing, Sheep, Welsh culture

When is a sheep not a sheep?

Years ago, long before we knew anything about sheep, fate presented us with an orphan lamb.

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Here she is, still nameless and rather thin, at the foot of her ailing mother.  Our subsequent experience “bringing up Aby” (that is her name) forms the basis for some of my recent book, Iolo’s Revenge.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you but can tell you that it was a very steep learning curve and taught us a great deal that we had not previously realized about bonding, despite having five children!

And it’s not just humans that are suckers for baby things!  Here is Pedro our tough and, then, sometimes wilful, dog (who would kill an adult rat or rabbit in a trice) cleaning up Aby with puppy love.

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Here she is a few weeks later and a lot more confident.

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Queen of her domain.

She has had ten lambs of her own now, always helped into the world by yours truly, (though they never really needed it).  She would always lie as close as she could to the kitchen door and call for her private midwife.  She would make a terrible fuss if I went in for a cup of coffee or a call of nature and when the lamb was almost out I would gently help and present it to Aby.  It reminded me of a cat we used to have who would not have her kittens unless my dad was standing by with sterilized nail scissors.

I’ll save you the slippery, slimy pictures.  All cleaned up next day –note the number one –that’s Mum’s number — she was, after all, our first.

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Last October we sold our breeding flock and Aby has retired.  She runs with the new flock that graze our land.

Last week they were to be moved to the farthest field, beyond the woodland.  Now when sheep are faced with a scary predator their instinct is to flock together.  Aby took one look at the enthusiastic sheep dog, a Huntaway bitch, that had come to do the job and she peeled off from the flock and hurtled (she doesn’t hurtle often) towards the sound of Alan’s voice.  She hid with him in the orchard until the job was done and when shepherd and dog came back to the house Aby was standing with Alan in the garden still absolutely confident that when people say “sheep”, they don’t mean her.

She stayed in the garden all night, eating forsythia to which she is rather partial and which had only just recovered from its last assault, and I walked her up to join the other sheep in the morning which she did quite happily but in her own time.

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Doggy, Hill Farming, Humour, Literature, Wales, Wendy Wigley

Iolo’s Revenge

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‘They’ll do!  They are the ones I want’, said the old farmhouse, probably in Welsh, and the couple (the ones the old place wanted) were drawn into the life of the place — inspired by its beauty, its creatures, its moods and its stories.

My book, Iolo’s Revenge, Sheep Farming by Happy Accident in Mid-Wales, is published later this week by Logaston Press.  It tells of the abduction of an orderly, retired couple from Northampton to the heart of Wales.

They accidentally buy a derelict farmhouse and almost immediately are adopted by Pedro, a wayward hound.  They had been winding down for a quiet life when suddenly they are climbing on the roof in the midst of a terrible storm, grappling with a homicidal, mechanical digger and wrestling with a huge pregnant ewe in a freezing stream in the middle of the night.

They had never had any inclination to move to Wales or practice extreme farming, nor try to learn Welsh –yet life just takes over and before they know it they have discovered a sense of belonging and community lost since childhood.

 

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Iolo’s Revenge is illustrated by Wendy Wigley, a local artist who shares our love of the Trannon Valley and it’s often incongruous images!

SONY DSC Iolo’s Revenge ISBN 978-1-910839-24-9 £7.99 Available from Fircone Books, The Holme, Church Rd, Eardisley,  HR3 6NJ, United Kingdom.   Tel:+44(0)1544 327182

Buy today on-line from:Logaston Press

 

 

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animal psychology, Humour, Neurophysiology, Sheep

Why don’t sheep laugh?

When I fell over in the snow the sheep didn’t fall about laughing, they were just perplexed — couldn’t work it out.  They know, you see, that humans are vertical creatures (everyone knows that!)  Horizontal humans just don’t make sense — it’s unthinkable.

When we humans have our preconceived notions challenged, when a paragon of respectability is caught with his trousers down or a judge is spotted slumped in a corner with a glass in his hand and his wig skew-wiff, we giggle and move on.  A sense of humour helps us think the unthinkable, it is great, it helps us accept the apparently unacceptable and we enjoy it.  I think that’s part of what it’s all about — broadening our minds!

Poor sheep: no sense of humour and they still can’t get their heads around it.

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Doggy, Hill Farming, Humour

Pedro’s Summer (do)Glog!

 

The sheep are sheared and drenched, the lambs are all injected and sprayed for blow fly and lice, and Maa’s been done for horse fly and midgy (she tastes most peculiar) and she’s finished the paperwork (boring), so we’re off out — it must be Summer.

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Keeping Cool!SONY DSC

Posing in the sunshine!

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Walks now limited by bovine population explosion.

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So we’re going to dig another pond with Alan’s new little helper…

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Who is quieter and less temperamental than the old one who had to be taken away.  Driven onto the lorry with much slipping, sliding, huffing and puffing of blue smoke — Alan was sad.

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But the topper has broken so, while Alan mends it, Maa and I have got to cut all the thistles by hand — that’s why I’ve got to do the blog — Maa’s too stiff!.

Cheers all!

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Hill Farming, Humour, Lambing, Rugby, Welsh culture

Catch a flying sheep!

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Have you ever wondered why the Welsh and the New Zealanders are so good at rugby football – its because they both keep lots of sheep. Sheep-keeping and Rugby have a great deal in common. To do either successfully you must be fearless and have absolutely no hesitation. You must be strong, agile and fast. Also you must enjoy physical contact (have I said too much?).

Sheep keeping is athletic and heroic – no more so than at lambing time which is why lady shepherds attend their daughters’ weddings with black eyes and are frequently seen rolling down hillsides in the tight embrace of a frightened ewe while extracting a lamb with a pop (like little Jack Horner, pulling the plum out of the pie) – oh, what a good boy am I!

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Thanks to Phil_Heck for the picture CC/BY/2.0

Last week I rugby tackled a lamb. I did more than that – I proceeded to score a dramatic try with it! I resisted the temptation to throw it triumphantly into the air (sheep don’t right themselves like cats). I didn’t even bounce it on the field and I certainly didn’t try to convert it! I did what I always do and held on tight! I felt heroic and athletic as I sprayed its cord and wrote its number on its side – you can be number 10 like your mum – you can be fly-half!

Then in the glow of pride at my own agility (you know I have a bad back), I noticed it – the finger – the one that types the “P”s, the dashes and the punctuation, the one that wears the ring on my right hand – it was strangely deformed.

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Mallet Finger!  If you are American: Baseball Finger (how silly). I have an athlete’s injury (the orthopaedic website says so – so there!) – I have ruptured a little but very important typing tendon and Alan has splinted it (are there no limits to his talent?)  Slight blueness is due to sheep marker — not insipient gangrene! I have Rugby Finger!

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animal psychology, Communication, Doggy, Hill Farming, Humour

Working dog? Superdog

Here he is!

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Not working!

Is he a Welsh Sheepdog?

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Well, sort of.

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He certainly understands sheep.

He knows when they are ill.

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A caring-dog for any of our lambs that are poorly.

He’s much more than that.

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Intrepid mountain-dog and finder-of-the-way-home-dog.

‘Responsible-adult’-dog.  Always alert, sensor-of-danger-dog.

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Night-hound, watcher-of-your-back-dog.

Ratter, humane catter, licker-up-of-mess-dog.

He’s a parson’s nose disposer.

He’s not a ‘blind-dog’ but he’s a seeing-in-the-dark-dog, a hearing-for-the-relatively-deaf-dog and a sniffer-dog for the finding-something-dead-job.

But most important — he is a remembering-dog.  Working with the terminally forgetful.

If the chickens have not been turned out or the cratches not filled with hay he will fix the farmer with his beady eye (see above) and throw glances at the chicken house or the cratch until the farmer says,”Oh yes, we’d better see to the chickens,” or the hay or the 101 other forgettable chores on our little farm.

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Pedro

 

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Hill Farming, Humour

Nature’s scam

Don’t be taken in – it’s a scam – Mother Nature’s attempt at PR!

Daffodils have absolutely nothing to do with the Spring –

they are harbingers of disappointment – raisers of false hope!

At least, that’s what they are in Wales.

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They have been out for two weeks and our hill is overflowing –

not with the sound of lambs and birdsong –

but with gurgling springs – excess ground-water spewing out of rabbit holes –

and the baas of disgruntled sheep, pained by the muscular effort of holding back the inevitable.

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They watch the weather forecast on the wide screen telly, through the picture window,

but anyway they know about these things and no one wants to drop a new born babe –

plop, into a puddle – so they are holding on until there’s a break in the cloud.

And meanwhile they blame me, and by the way, this hay is damp.

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Our single antediluvian lamb is chasing chickens now.

Ducks, Splish and Splosh (named Flip and Flop in dryer times) look on and say,

‘Well what do you expect – laying lamb-shaped, wooly eggs that are not waterproof!  This mud is delicious,’ and off they dibble-dabble.

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