It’s hard to watch your kids grow up so fast knowing that one day soon you’ll be eating them with mint sauce. I know there’s no room for sentimentality on a smallholding run by carnivores, and I know naming your food is not a wise move for anyone, never mind a softie who even now wells up at the memory of a traumatic tear-fest of a journey over a year ago when I witnessed a squirrel getting his back leg squished by the car in front. Knowing all this and more, I still can’t help myself. A lamb by any other name would taste as sweet.
When last I blogged my boys were newly born and yet as I write the end is now nigh for Alan and Ceredig. That’s the harsh reality of life on a smallholding. Even so, I was kind of hoping that by now they would have grown into anonymous, characterless sheep, indistinguishable from any other Tom, Dick or Flossie roaming the fields in these parts, sheep whose absence will not be missed. Growing they are – Alan is about to overtake his mother in height and width; characterless they are not. Ceredig is the shy silent type, a handsome ram lamb with long blond lashes who rarely strays far from his mother’s side, and who is usually the loser in the head barging battle of the feeding trough.
Alan is a big, boisterous bruiser of a ram lamb, given to bounding around with Babette, mounting his mother (despite lacking the wherewithal) and generally getting into all sorts of trouble, including the kind of trouble that would end with a lamb joining the great flock in the sky before his time were it not for the quick thinking of Teri “just call me Lassie” Pickworth.
Now there is nothing unusual in Teri disappearing to pass the time of day with the pigs (goodness only knows what they find to talk about but as far as I can tell it usually ends in an argument). What is unusual is Teri re-appearing in a state of high agitation, barking, whining, refusing to be calmed down or distracted by a proffered ball or stick. This was a full on “boy trapped down a well” Lassie impersonation worthy of an audition on “Britain Thinks It’s Got Talent (But Not Really)”. Feeling just a little foolish for falling for this performance, Dave headed up to the field only to discover that just about everyone up there was stressed out – pigs screaming, ewes bleating, lambs wailing. And the cause of this commotion? Why Alan, of course! There he was, eyes bulging, haring hither and thither, dragging behind him the electric fence battery box, the strap of which was tightly wound around his neck. The more he ran, the tighter it got. Who knows what naughtiness with his partner in crime Babette got him into that situation, but there wasn’t a moment to lose if he was to be saved. Whispered words of calm from Dave brought poor Alan to a stand still just long enough for Dave to grasp the strap and free a relieved, gasping Alan, who ran straight to mum for a reassuring nuzzle and guzzle. But this is a lamb who doesn’t learn from his mistakes. Just days later he appeared for breakfast with a missing horn and a bleeding hole in his head that was already providing breakfast for feasting flies and ticks – yuk yuk yukkity yuk! This time it was my turn to mount a solo rescue operation involving cotton wool, surgical spirit, tweezers, anti-biotic spray and insecticide. Bribing the flock with treats to get them all into the pen was easy. Catching, holding and treating Alan was a tad trickier. Nothing is easy to do when you have an upturned, wriggling brute of a lamb wedged between your knees and you’re being buffeted and barged from all sides by his flock mates, each of whom is torn between greed (for the tasty nuts) and fear (of being next in line for a tipping). Alan survived yet another scrape, though not quite unscathed as he now has one stubby horn and one pointy horn!
What Alan and Ceredig don’t know, but we do, is that their play mate Babette will not be joining them on their final journey. A feisty character, a knack for flirting and the virtue of being a ewe lamb not a ram lamb (and no small amount of pleading on my part) have saved her from the chop. She gets to grow up and be a mummy too. If I’m not careful though, my spoilt little lamb will grow up to be a high maintenance ewe. Eating sheep nuts from my hand is being endearing, nudging and nibbling my hand while I’m preparing tea for the pigs is being a pest, bashing the side of the feed bin with your hooves is being just a little bit too demanding!