It’s no secret that I like sheep. I have done for years, but I forgot it for a while when I lived in London.
Now I enjoy living around sheep again. I like the noise of the lambs in the spring, and that can get seriously irritating – rather like a dentist’s drill – once it’s gone on for hours and hours and hours.
I like the fact that I’ve just watched – from the office window – a determined ewe square up to a sheepdog trying to do its job, and face the increasingly exasperated collie down. The sheep eventually sauntered off in the direction of the rest of the flock, but at enough of a leisurely pace to make it obvious that she was only going that way because she wanted to, right?
I like the fact that some of the cattle grids round here need gates as well because the sheep have learned how to roll over the grids, and I’m happy that the gate up the hill needs a fence post slung below it because otherwise the lambs squeeze underneath anyway and come and say hello.
I even like the fact that a few days ago I was happily washing up – and I live in the middle of a village, not halfway up a mountain – when I was interrupted by a loud ‘baaaaa’ and found a sheep looking in the side window, the one on the lane. I’m used to children banging on the glass and waving, I’m even used to Duke of Edinburgh’s Award walkers collapsing in exhaustion and staring, but on balance I probably prefer sheep. (This was Bramble, by the way, an elderly ewe and very clever. I won’t have it that sheep are stupid; she certainly isn’t. She gets bored up on the hill and it’s much more interesting wandering down into the village, so she’s shown several generations of lambs the way to go.)
So I do like the fact that sheep can be surprising. People who don’t know sheep – like some of my friends, for example – often fall into the trap of thinking lambs are soft and pretty and cutesy and fluffy-wuffy, It’s something of a shock when they encounter the real thing. This pet lamb, for instance, was a strong as a small ox. Late with the bottle? She’d seek you out and knock you over, given half a chance. I was about 12 and could hold my own, but she’d drag my little brother around in circles pulling on the teat. Feeding her went on far too long (she wasn’t a pet, oh noooooo, of course not), resulting in a somewhat confused animal who thought she was a collie. Used to drive the dogs demented.
But now we come to it.
Above all, there’s the fact that, as a spinner and knitter, there’s another reason why I like sheep. A reason that has taken over the spare room and is rapidly filling the old outside loo, the one that passes as a garden shed. Fleece. And more fleece. Black Welsh Mountain fleece, to be exact…