I duly arrived at the farm at 2pm on Saturday, and was gratified to learn that the sheep, although looking large and consuming enormous quantities of hay, had waited for me. We hastened in to take lunch, and catch up with all the news. Sir has been experimenting and fitting cameras (cameræ?) in the main barn, with the aim of being able to check the sheep without going out. I am a little less convinced about this, seeing that a few minutes’ careful inspection is normally required, and sheep can be very good at hiding what they are doing.
After lunch, we nonchalantly ambled out to say hello to the sheep, and inform them of my arrival, so that they can get on with lambs now the big man with the beard is here. Most naughtily, one of the sheep had produced a lamb in the main barn – a Very Naughty thing to do. We hastily moved her over into a pen in the lambing shed, where, eventually, we decided no further lamb was forthcoming. She is a very sensible mother, and is quite happy getting on with it, thank you very much.
I shall explain something of the barn system, for those who have not read my blogs from previous years. The main barn has three pens, all of which can hold about ten sheep or so. It is on a bit of a slope, so we have the top, middle, and bottom pens. The expectant mothers usually spend the winter in there eating hay and getting fat. It can be a bit windy, often wet, and occasionally cold, so it is nice to get them in once they start destroying the grass on the fields and needing more hay. This used to be after Christmas, but recent winters have been rather wet, and so the sheep often come in before Christmas. This year, there fifteen pregnant ewes, split between the top and middle pens. The sheep remain in there until they are transferred to the labour ward. It is not good for a lamb to be born in the barn – it is not so clean for the lamb to come out, and it is difficult to get to the mother and assist if necessary. Otherwise, the barn is a fine place to spend the winter, full of nice clean straw, and fresh supplies of hay. Generally, contentment reigns.
This year, the young ewelings, the ladies left over from last year (the boys have long been eaten) are in the bottom pen, as it has been such a wet year. These look very small indeed compared to the other sheep. They could have lambs, but are not fully grown, and it is much better for them to wait another year.
Outside is Scrumpy, a large and rather grumpy ram, who must be watched carefully, as he likes to butt hard and knock people over - which could be very dangerous indeed – people do get killed by rams. Scrumpy is much more texel, but Phoenix, his companion and rival is much smaller, and more Portland, with a fine set of horns – which cause him difficulty when feeding from a narrow trough. They dislike each other intensely, but sheep never like to be alone, so manage to get along more or less.