Friday, 6 September 2013

I wonder what they thought?

Easter was late that year.

It was about 25 years ago, I suppose, and we - that is, me, my wife, my two sons and my daughter - had once again driven to Somerset to spend the long weekend on the farm with my cousin, her husband, their two sons and their daughter and my cousin's husband's aunt (who lived with them and had farmed the land until it became too much for her).  Also with them were two French teenagers, here in England for two or three weeks to attend a language school.  The house was a little crowded, especially given that it had just the one bathroom, but the upstairs corridor was 22 yards long (yes, yards, not feet) with two short passages leading off and a total of seven bedrooms and a dressing room which doubled as a bedroom that weekend.

I know Easter was late because there were already a few weeny black lambs in the orchard.  Julian had been building up a small flock of Soay sheep, a Hebridean breed of smaller than average animals.  Their fur is mainly a dark brown and is not sheared but plucked.  The lambs are usually jet black, sometimes mousey, and tiny.  Just a snack for a hungry fox.

[The field was called the orchard although it was completely devoid of trees.  Years ago it really had been an orchard and the name had stuck.  Other fields were the paddock, the pond field, the 14 acres, the far field, the patch and the two park fields, left and right.]

On the Friday evening - Good Friday - Julian decided to take steps to reduce the likelihood of foxes snatching any of the lambs.  Accordingly, all the male members of the household were required to report for duty in the orchard just after sunset, the distaff side being excused.  Julian placed each of us at a particular spot beside the hedge through which the foxes gained access to the field.  At a given signal, we each unzipped and sprayed the ground, the smell of human urine supposedly being sufficient to keep foxes away.  Whether or not it worked, I couldn't say, but I think there were the same number of lambs in the field the next morning.

We told the French students that this was an old English custom, peeing on the hedges on Good Friday.  They were townies so they probably believed us.  Many a time we have chuckled over what they might have told their parents.

Not very seasonal, perhaps, but here is a Soay ewe with her lamb.

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