It started with the chiff chaff. It always starts with the chiff chaff. Followed by the cawing of the jackdaws carrying down the chimney and echoing through the fire place into the front room as they once again set about stuffing twigs, moss and general detritus down the chimney pot for their nest. Last week David heard the reeling song of the grasshopper warbler. A few days ago, as the sun shone strong and warm, I saw my first orange tip and red admiral butterflies. The white and buff tailed bumblebees are so abundant and busy that you have to be alert to the buzzing for fear of a head on collision. A pair of mistle thrush regularly have a noisy chest off with the magpies residing a few trees away, while another pair have set up home hidden in the tangled depths of ivy enveloping one of the ash trees in the corner of the sheep field. Their new neighbours appear to be the wheatears, but a more reliable identification with binoculars is required, instead of an "is it, isn't it" identification through two pairs of squinting, ageing eyes. I know the swallows have returned down the road at Pennant, but so far no sign of them here at Banceithin. I'm watching. I'm waiting. For swallows. For housemartins. For the cuckoo. For a lamb.
Lambing has been the usual waiting game, although this year the twin technologies of scanning and crayon have at least narrowed our watch and wait window to a workable two weeks as opposed to the long drawn out six weeks of lambings past. There is a pronounced path across the field in a diagonal line from the gate by the house to the stile in the corner. To and fro. Checking. Feeding. Watering. Last Friday, Babette did her usual trick of slipping out twins early, unseen and unaided, presenting us with two licked clean lambs at the morning feed. A ram lamb - Bobby. A ewe lamb - Betty. Babette, Bobby & Betty. A lovely family trio.
The ram had clearly been having a good day because within the hour, in the time it took me to go back to the house for a quick breakfast and return to check Babette, Babs popped out a single and immediately set to work cleaning her up. Usually when the umbilical cord breaks as the lamb leaves the ewe, the "tail" left at the lamb's navel is short, about 2 inches or so, or if it's longer the ewe might nibble it shorter. Babs, however, left her new born with a two foot long, dark red, slippery monster of a "tail", as thick as a finger at the navel. Standing for the first time within minutes of birth is miracle enough, so to expect this lamb to do that with an umbilical snake tripping her up at each attempt was too much. Tap, tap, tappity tap on the internet forums ...... carefully tear it away at the correct length was the advice. Yikes! A smallholder is never too experienced to face another new experience! Pinching the cord tightly closed with one hand, David pulled away the rest of the snake. Yuk. That felt instinctively wrong. But a quick spray of iodine, back to mum, and she's up and suckling straight away. A bonnie wee ewe lamb with floppy ears. Bonnie. The miracle of life.