Did I say dogs? I meant swamp beasts.
And to look at the wild Exmoor ponies -
The dogs know when to keep their distance
What more could I need?
When we turned into Mr Baker's yard I knew what it was.
Another sheep. A ewe lamb. Mr. Baker sent his young sheep dog into an orchard with an 'away' command and a few minutes later, a flock of Dorset lambs appeared. "There's two nice ewes I've marked with a blue spot. Pick which one you like." The dog held the flock there, like a saleslady waiting patiently for a dithering customer to make a choice. I picked the fattest, wooliest lamb. I'll probably regret this come shearing time.
The dog continued to keep the sheep together while Mr. Baker crooked the hind leg of my newest ewe -
Mike had done an exchange: a good price for the lamb if he would stay and look over Mr Baker's pheasant shoot. So we passed a pleasant hour looking at pens, drives, and poults, all of which Mike deemed in excellent condition. There was more talk about the price of wheat, and partridge season before I was handed my DEFRA paperwork and we all shook hands on the deal.
I drove home slowly with my lone ewe trying to keep her balance on the slippery load liner. I negotiated windey country lanes as carefully as I could for her benefit. "I wonder if sheep get car sick, like puppies do?" I said to Mike. "Can sheep throw up? Mike, I don't even know if sheep can throw up!?" All of a sudden, all the things I didn't know about sheep seemed to hit me and I started to worry about the impending births, and how ignorant I was, and about all the things that could go wrong.
Mike said "How many people know if a sheep can throw up or not?" Then we started going over all the animals we could think of and dividing them into "throws up" or "doesn't throw up". Horses - no. Cats - yes. Dogs - certainly. And birds - of course. Birds and dogs warranted their own special throwing up category: regurgitates food for young. Sheep chew their cud, but we decided that wasn't quite the same, though we both agreed it was kind of gross anyway. It made me laugh enough to stop panicking.
We added the new ewe lamb to the existing flock of five, who seemed happy enough to make room for one more. We had to lift the sheep out of the truck, though she seemed keen on making a break for it and taking her chances with the gap between the tailgate and the ground.
I had to read her ear tag to fill out the paperwork, but before I could mention to Mike to hold onto her, he'd let go. I managed to hang on, but only by rolling over on my back, sheep on top with her legs in the air. Mike said "I suppose if you're going to spoon with a sheep, at least you're the big spoon." I got the number, but lost what was left of my dignity in the process.
New sheep in front, getting a thorough checking out from the others
We made some of the birthday lobster for lunch. It felt decadant to be eating Lobster Newburg and drinking the champagne that Lord and Lady gave me on a Sunday afternoon. We managed to lower the tone by eating it sat on the couch, still in our wellies and smelling of sheep, with a cocker spaniel between us waiting for a chance to lick the plate.
I turned 41 yesterday. By my 43rd birthday I hope that my flock is big enough to warrant one of these -
Ever wondered what you would get if you crossed a cocker spaniel with a troll doll?