Sunday, 29 April 2012

The silence of the lambs

Yesterday I sold my little flock of sheep.
There are still three of the ram lambs here in the village, on a friend's land, but the rest of them have all gone. Including the ewe with her baby that was just born a few days ago.

They had to go. For the last couple of years I hadn't managed them very well. There were too many sheep on my small field, and the grass wasn't being rested. I missed the opportunity to send last year's lambs off to the abattoir before Christmas, which meant that they hung around all winter, eating me out of house and home. My hay bill this year was phenomenal.

So when lambing time came around this year I didn't have enough grass. And when Robert and I decided to have our wedding reception here, it didn't really sink in until the last minute that I would have to take the sheep off what grass there was so that it could clean up for the marquee. Apparently the hirers of such equipment don't take terribly kindly to erecting their pristine white tents in a field full of sheep poo!

As a result, the last month or so has been very stressful, calling in favours from friends to help me move the sheep and asking for access to any bit of grazing in the area going spare. And then I lost a lamb for the first time ever. It probably wouldn't have made it whatever we did, but seeing the little soul just fading away before my eyes after initially seeming to rally was just heartbreaking.

I had come to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be able to keep the sheep when we move into town, but after a week or more of sleepless nights, trying to work out what to do with them, I finally came to the conclusion that they would have to be sold. Sooner rather than later, but I wasn't keen on sending them to market as the whole flock would probably simply be bought for slaughter which somehow seems wrong for lambs that are so young. I know that most of mine have ended up in the freezer, but at least they normally had the best part of a year in which to run around with the sun on their backs. Not an entirely consistent moral position, I know, but it's not all about logic, is it?

A few days ago, a chance conversation with the man doing some groundworks at a friend's house found me a buyer, and the deal was done quickly. For once in their awkward little lives, the sheep all loaded quickly and easily into his trailer, some cash changed hands and that was it. Off they went to look cute and cut the grass and clear some woodland around his caravan site. They will enjoy that, I'm sure.

It is a relief that they have gone, but it is quiet here now. Very quiet. There are no more farm animals on my little patch of land. I'm looking forward to not having to get up and feed them, or worry about worm burdens or shearing.
But it is very quiet.