Our house is in the corner of a field really. The rest of the field, which is part of a network of four fields, is occupied by sheep. My Uncle J, the farmer/shepherd herds twice a day, morning and evening, bringing meal for the sheep and checking up on the yeaning. When the sheep see his jeep coming they know he’s got food and they all converge in a rowdy mob upon him, baaing like the world was about to end. If he wants to move them from field to field, he just has to drive over there and they’ll follow him.
In the evening, or what D, my four year old calls “the pink time” he swings by the fence and the 3 boys shriek with excitement and are gone. The older boys are let stand on the outboard of the jeep and D sits in the passenger seat. Off they go down the field, and the older lads might as well be on a rollercoaster. (He doesn’t go very fast).
Some evenings a sheep will be lambing and they get to assist. The older one wincing, six feet back in horror at what he’s being forced to witness. The second guy down there on the ground grabbing a foot to pull the lamb out. The little fella unsure whether to be excited or aghast. They come back breathless and full of news. It’s so nice and I am so grateful to my uncle for indulging them and creating these memories. It makes up for not living in a housing estate – just a little bit. The boys DREAM of a housing estate, where they can play with their friends outside every day. Instead they are FORCED to live down the lane, cut off from everyone (except for the internet, which I didn’t have when I was little and lived down the lane cut off from everyone).
So the lambs and the Uncle and the jeep and the 10 minutes in the pink time is some compensation.
But one evening twin lambs were born and one had no eyes. My father suspected the scal-crows had got in quick and picked them out, but my Uncle said no, they were all there at the birth and it was a defect. Perhaps in crueller regimes the lamb would be left to die, but here we believe all God’s creatures deserve nurturing so the ewe and her twins were carted off to the hayshed/nursery and minded for a few weeks. Now they have been made a little nest in a corner of the field near the yard and they seem very contented. The lamb with no eyes is doing fine.
My uncle says the boys can take responsibility for the little family on the condition they take full charge and he’s not bothered with alarming phone calls. They have agreed. Of course, they don’t know what’s coming. I paused for a second (after I’d already encouraged the project) and then I thought, no, didn’t I have to learn that you rear lambs for slaughter? Of course, I made myself forget that.
Perhaps they’ll forget that part too, and just remember the jeep and the lambs, and the one with no eyes and how they were put in charge of it. And that not living in an estate wasn’t always bad.