I have enough trouble recognising humans I’ve known for a long while – there’s a medical name for extremes of this, but Sarah puts it down to my increasingly childlike personality and basic stupidity. Sometimes I don’t recognise her on purpose, as a form of counter measure. Recognising sheep however is on a whole different scale, especially when they have names.
I can just about recognise them by type, when they have wool on – the small multi-coloured ones are the Shetlands and they jump a lot; the small square ones are the Shetland/South Down crosses; the blocky ones with wool like a bath mat are South Downs; the big fat ones are Romneys; and I think there’s one with a black face who’s a Suffolk. Not sure about the others. Trouble is they all have names. Sarah knows them all – by name and face. I don’t. And when they were sheared – as a couple of weeks ago – they all look even more alike. So when one was clearly in distress – kneeling down, wouldn’t eat – I knew I was in for trouble. ‘Who is it?’ demanded Sarah. ‘I’m not sure’ I said feebly. ‘Milly? Andy? They’re all hard to tell apart with no wool on.’ ‘We haven’t got a sheep called Andy. Oh hell, I suppose I’ll have to go and look myself.’ Well, she had to anyway because Sarah’s the family vet, with a huge box full of instruments, drugs, needles and heaven knows what else. All she needs is a stethoscope and a white coat and she’d fool anyone in a hospital.
It turned out that even Sarah wasn’t sure which one it was – although it was either Milly or Molly (but not Mandy and not Peter because he’s a boy and that’s obvious, even with no balls). So ha bloody ha! And Milly/Molly had definite foot trouble. So Sarah – who is smaller than a sheep – upended the fat 10 stone animal and deftly got to work on the injured foot while I had to sit on her (the sheep, not Sarah. I never get to do that). I winced and groaned in pain as she dug away at overgrown nail and cleaned out the infection, and she shouted at me for being a wimp. A quick spray of something blue and a massive jab of antibiotics and that was it. But I’m thinking of calling the real vet anyway because I’m worried the sheep (who turned out to be Molly) might need counselling after all the trauma.
Almost immediately, one of the new chickens escaped. It was dusk. We were looking forward to an early night (we always look forward to an early night – 9pm is late for us). The chicks are now about 8 weeks old so they look just like very small chickens and they squeak. Having let them out of their nursery coop, they mingled happily with the grown-ups during the day but one of them was unsure exactly where to go now that night was falling (in the caravan you idiot, with the others). So while the rest of the flock all put themselves to bed we tried to guide the lost chick into the caravan. She was having none of this – preferring to have hysterics and shoot right out of the pen into the pig run.
Now, it’s hard enough catching a full sized chicken when it’s penned in. Catching a pint sized chick, in the dusk, in the brambles and bracken along the hedge, is positively Sisyphean. Twice we almost gave her up to the night and the foxes, and then we’d hear a squeak somewhere further along. Sarah did catch her while I hung about being useless with a net. She was lodged in the middle of our largest log pile over which we had both clambered several times, so it was a miracle we didn’t find scrambled chicken. Back into the caravan she went, and off to bed we went. And she doesn’t even have a name! She’d better be a brilliant layer.
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