Sunday, March 25, 2012

A leap year was never a good sheep year

newborn Ouessant lamb
Sae much fur auld wisdom.  Luckily fur us an' uir woolly flock, thes auld Scottish sayin' is clearly a load ay balloney.  Had they instead said, “th' heed gaskit is gonnae blaw oan yer motor” they’d have been nearer to the mark.  En bref, this is a short tale of healthy lambs and a poorly Peugeot.

Gabrielle had left our Brittany smallholding for a trip to England to see her mother and daughter.  It’s a comfortably familiar trail now, four hours on uncluttered French roads followed by a pleasant four hours on the ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven.  After a few days with her mother, Gabrielle was making her way along the south coast, so that she could catch a train up to Christina in London.   She never got to Brighton.  She phoned me from a lay-by just outside Bexhill, “Houston, we’ve had a problem”.

Trying to keep a long story short, friend Phil came to see us last year, with his VW packed to the gunnels with wife, three kids and enough stuff for a weeks camping.  The turbo blew near Avranches one Friday evening.  I was able to rescue them in a borrowed minibus.  Phil was the nearest friend to Gabrielle’s breakdown and was soon on his way to help – car karma!

Gabrielle continued her now extended travels by train, while her car was undergoing surgery under the care of David, a mechanical friend of Phil’s.  Meanwhile, I was left alone in France with lambs popping out all over the place.

Why did you marry the billionaire Bernie Ecclestone?
Our four regular mums give us a lamb each, which is normal for the rustic Ouessants.  They were joined this year by a Suffolk cross ewe who we bought last summer.  The smaller Ouessant ram has clearly managed to rise to the challenge (Think Bernie Eccleston with now ex-wife Slavica) and our white lady with her black suitor has given us … (pause for effect) … one white lamb and one black.

Suffolk cross, crossed with Ouessant ram
The way we’d grouped our flock last summer meant that the ram had been in with the Suffolk ewe long before we introduced him to the Ouessants, so it was no surprise when she produced first, on 20th February, fortunately just after our really cold spell.  We had to wait until 10th March and then back-to-back on 20th and 21st.  All boys so far, with one ewe still to lamb.

Last night, just before turning in, I had a feeling in my water and went out to have one last look at the flock.  From a distance, the torch just picks out pairs of eyes and mum’s tend to shield their lambs, so it was a confusing few minutes, especially as I was counting one more lamb than I was looking for.  We moved mum and our one and only girl to the sheep shelter for the night.

So much for that auld Scottish sayin' as this leap year has turned out to be a very good lamb year.  However, David, a Scot, did tell Gabrielle that “th' heed gaskit has bloon oan yer motor,” and then proceeded to dismantle the engine and repair it.  The Peugeot is dead … long live the Peugeot: thank you David and Phil! 


Ouessant ewe with young lamb

3 comments :

Val Grainger said...

Congrts on all your lambs....are you sure your big ewe has some suffolk in it....? Suffolks have black faces and limbs with huge ears! even those with one suffolk parent mostly look like that!!!

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

In a word, no. The couple who sold her (with lamb) and another ewe said that she was Suffolk cross something. Her sister did have a black face. The only thing that matters to us is that she is a large 'normal-sized' sheep and that our diminutive ram has successfully inseminated her.
Colour-wise, this white ewe and black ram have given us two brothers, one white and one black, so it might be difficult to tell both parents seeing just one of the lambs. Renée seems to be becoming a bit of an expert on colour genetics, so perhaps she has a view.
If not a Suffolk cross, have you any idea what she could be, Val?

Val Grainger said...

Sheep colour genetics are complicated in the extreeme!The primitive ones that is...ordinary sheep tend to come out white! However with suffolks they tend to stamp their lambs with suffolk traits and one is black faces and another is big ears! She may have a bit in her but I'd be inclined to say shes a nice heinz 57! Ouessants don't seem to have problems reaching large ewes...a chap I sold some meat lambs to had one escape into his neighbours huge flock of very big north country mules...with some interesting consequences apparently! At least you will have some large joints of meat, I have a very big ouessant x cameroon being killed next week.
We are now a permaculture LAND learning centre....have you thought about becoming one? Also one of my volunteers may contact you re volunteering, his name is Ollie