I went up to see Margaret the other day. (In case you don’t know, Margaret farms the land on three sides of the Priory estate). I hadn’t seen her for a while and, as well as having a natter and cadging a cup of tea, I had some bulbs to collect. We do joint orders for autumn and spring bulbs and it is generally easier to have deliveries made up to the farm rather than down to the Priory. So, with the prospect of dahlia tubers, snowdrops-in-the-green, lily bulbs and some other stuff I couldn’t quite remember, I bundled Solo (my terrier) into the car and pootled up the drive, through the Priory gate and along the road to Margaret’s farm.
I like going up to the farm anyway but it’s particularly nice at this time of year, as the ewes are lambing. I always go over and have a look (wouldn’t you?). Next to the cow-shed and beneath a wide roof, the ewes are corralled behind metal hurdles amongst bales of straw. However many times I see new-born lambs, it’s always a delight.
Lambing, this year, has been fraught for Margaret. The Schmallenberg virus, a new livestock disease, has arrived in England, carried in by midges from across the channel. In sheep, it causes miscarriage and very nasty birth defects; no wonder Margaret was worried. Thankfully it hasn’t affected her small flock, at least not this year. Normally she really enjoys lambing season despite all the disrupted nights when (having checked her CCTV), she sees a ewe in labour and rushes outside in case a helping hand is required. Sometimes she has to tug a bent-back leg into its correct position or use the small lambing rope to pull out a stuck newcomer.
But despite her best efforts, and for various reasons, she has lost seven lambs this year (she didn’t lose any last year), and she told me that this has left a pall over what is usually a happy and exciting time.
Still, at least the lambs that have been born are very healthy. And certainly very pretty.
Sussex sheep learn to smile at a young age.
I have just ordered one of their one year old siblings for my freezer. But I didn’t tell them that.
Last year I did a quick post of M’s spring lambs (see ‘ Gratuitous Lamb Photos’), only it was earlier in the year. This was because a visiting workman noticed that one of M’s sheep had got separated from a nearby small group. Obligingly he opened a gate to re-unite them. The lone sheep though was, of course, a ram and purposefully kept apart (much to his displeasure and frustration) from the eye-lash batting, coquettish ewes. The result? Some lambs born a month earlier than Margaret had planned. And a very self-satisfied, smug ram.
But this year there are no happy accidents, and the new arrivals will soon be scampering around the pasture between the farm and the Priory; making me smile.
Margaret could never be described as the shy, retiring, blushing type (unlike me) – so why she’s wearing this rather attractive and charming lamb veil is bemusing. But it is fetching (and fashion-wise) very, very of the moment. Might get one myself.