Rosamund Young, a Cotsworld farmer and author of ‘The Secret Life of Cows’ , continues her blog series, reflecting on the animals and abundance of wildlife that call her farm home.
Well, ok no, I don’t (quite) believe it but Theophilius, a lamb I am rearing on the bottle after his mother refused to do so (though she happily reared his twin sister) appears to understand that I want him to be himself. He is kind, patient, self-sufficient (as long as I supply the milk), sensible (understanding that motor vehicles are dangerous and avoiding them), happy, playful and clever. He stays in the field when that seems the right thing to do or comes home to sleep in the walled garden when he wants to. He also appears to understand that some people want him to be a bit mischievous and engage in play-fighting, (fairly) gently butting them with his head.
I introduce him to people: the very young – 3 year-olds maybe – and the very old, 95 plus, and his behaviour is exemplary; but when I am not there, I can’t be certain.
A few days ago, Theophilius and I and my companion, went for a walk to see some of the other sheep and he skipped and jumped, ran and stopped, trotting beside us, ran to me and followed to heel (smiling) and then veered across and repeatedly ‘charged’ the other person’s knees, ran back to me, angelically, then again ‘attacked’ my companion. The best plan, he seemed to have decided, was to keep us both happy.
When he was a mere 15 days old – he is now 68 days – a visiting veterinary student offered him the chance to accompany her when she walked the 100 yards to feed my hens, something he has done with me since day seven. He jumped at the chance, but after 20 yards he stopped, thought hard, turned round, and ran back to the house. I imagine he thought there might be a risk that I would concoct a milk drink when he wasn’t there.
It is May and every creature is busy: birds, bats, bees, fox cubs, not to mention lambs who get together in packs to ‘Derby’ it round the field just before dusk. They would prefer to ‘Grand National’ it, if we would construct a series of obstacles they could race up and jump off. We have a spontaneity of lambs in many shapes, sizes and colours: colour combinations to leave Yves Saint Laurent speechless.
At dusk, the kites float along the wooded field edge back to the tallest tree; the ravens hurry home considerably earlier, while the buzzards still mew overhead, their thoughts of nesting still some way off. Goldfinches, great tits and robins mesmerise us with their speed-eating and the early purple orchids hide behind and between the bluebells which are themselves crowded by wild garlic and dotted with campion.
I am reading a book about insects and consequently enjoying the farm even more. Filling water canisters from the spring-fed pipe is no longer just a chunk of time, but an educational trip to a whirling insect world, on, in and under the shallow water of the trough, with its ever-depositing silt, stones to hide beneath, cracks, crannies and niches. Insects are everywhere: floating, drifting, swimming, diving, flying, crawling, wriggling, buzzing, humming, surveying and dreaming, all round me.
I pull myself back to the present to see I am almost nose-to-nose with twin Hebridean lambs intently fascinated by my inaction. They are two of a few, who ‘escape’ on a regular basis, either under the gate or through the bars of the post and rail fence, to sample the grass on ‘the other side’. When you are tiny, anything is possible!
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