Mar 04 2004

March

sheep
Jacobs and Whiteface
Some hope things would warm up as we enter March and move towards spring! Freezing rain hammers on the windows as I write. Dogs curl up round my feet turning their noses from the door and donkeys stand dejectedly in their stable dreaming (well maybe they dream!) of sugary grass and warm breezes.

The sheep are coming in at night now as lambing time approaches. Every evening they’re queuing at the gate eager for tea. The ewes become so quiet and gentle before they lamb. It always puzzles me to hear people refer to sheep as stupid. Compared to whom or what, I wonder? They are such caring careful mothers, each ewe recognizing her own lambs’ call and each lamb recognizing its’ mother. They know their job as we know ours.

We still have six wethers left to go from last years lambs. The White Face Dartmoors and Jacobs mature later than commercial breeds. They’re smaller too. We sell them as hogget rather than lamb. Deliciously tender but a little more robust than early lamb, without that strong flavour of mutton we’ve all turned away from. New EEC regulations requiring butchers to have an EU Cutting License mean I have had to sadly leave my old butcher and search for a new one with the required papers if I am to continue to supply my loyal little band of customers with meat.

Since the foot and mouth epidemic we have reduced our numbers drastically, so now , in semi retirement we only supply a very few people. Never again do we want to have ewes about to lamb trapped on barren fields away from home, unable to be moved without a licence. Helicopters flying over head to make sure we all comply with the panic regulations. Never again do we want to go through the daily terror of maybe losing our healthy sheep to the contiguous cull. And we were some of the lucky ones. Other shepherds suffered unbearably losing all their beloved stock and generations of skilled breeding . So sheep are our hobby and our love now. How fortunate we are.

And soon it will really be spring and the cycle will start all over again.

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