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Definitely Not Llamas

1 Jul

The lady I buy eggs from told me, as she grabbed a boxful from her kitchen cupboard and handed them over, that she had two new tups in the field next to the pigs.

“They’re quite tame,” she said. “They used to belong to some children up the road. You should go and say hello to them. You can go right up and stroke them.”

When I reached the gate, I was confused by what I saw. Tups are rams, but these animals are twice the size of the other sheep around here, with distinctly goat-looking patterning.

I spoke to them gently as I approached. The smaller one hung back, but the larger one sat placidly until I reached him, and leaned into my hand when I stroked his head and neck. I knelt in the grass beside him, enjoying his friendliness. I recalled something the Pig Man had said back in April.

“We’re getting some llamas next.”

“Are you serious?” I had goggled.

“No,” he’d  chuckled. “We might get a couple of goats, though, to eat all these weeds.”

Whether these tups be goats or sheep, the pigs are fascinated by them, and followed them up and down the fence, grunting with enthusiasm. The sheepgoats seemed to make a point of grazing right up close to them.

A clue to their identity lay beside the stable door: freshly-shorn fleece – two animals’ worth. But then, some goats have fleece. Angoras, for example.

Suddenly, I clocked the lovely long dangly tails the tups were sporting.

“The difference between a goat and a sheep,” our friend Shaunette had once informed me, “is that goats have tails that stick up, and sheep have tails that hang down”.

Pinky and Pinky

5 May

“Heeeere, pig-pig-pig-pig!” sang a voice over the hedge. “Heeeere, pig-pig-piggy!”

I had gone up the lane to photograph some of the lambs that have been gambolling in the fields since the beginning of April, but who can resist a pig-pig-piggy? I hurried to the gap in the hedge, and stepped through to find the two brothers from the manor house leaning on a gate admiring their latest arrivals. Two young large whites trotted through the undergrowth toward us. I was informed they were four months old: born on January 17th.

Don’t they have a nice meadow?

“How long do you think it’ll take ’em to turn it into mud?” the Pig Man’s brother asked. “A day?”

“An afternoon?” suggested the Pig Man.

They ran through some possible names to call them. Pinky and Pinky seemed good contenders.

The sow’s charming floppy ear is the result of a haematoma, poor thing. Perhaps another pig bit her. It’s very swollen, and she seems to appreciate having it held between cool hands.

The pig Man turned to me. “Would you like some freshly-laid eggs?” he enquired. “We’re selling ’em for a pound for six, but I’ll give you a freebie”.

“I’d love some,” I said.

He led me though a patch of woods and garden to the shed where he kept his chicken feed. He pointed out a robin’s nest in the corner, and said it has little blue eggs in it and he has to be careful going in and out. I really wanted to photograph it, but it was too dark to tell whether the robin was in it; she would have been distressed by my flash.

The Pig Man took me to his chicken run and scattered feed, then showed me into the hen house, where a cluster of six eggs lay in a nesting box as though the hens had thoughtfully gathered them together for me. He gave the eggs to me in his feed scoop, asking me to return it later.

In the garden, his wife was planting beetroots and carrots, and I had a little chat with her about the merits of growing different vegetables. The sheer friendliness of these people made my day. What a contrast to that angry farmer last month! It made me realise how unwelcome I had been feeling here lately. Thank you, dear neighbours, for restoring my faith in people.

His Own Private Balcony

15 Feb

Meet Nibbles, the giant lop. His favourite hobbies are frolicking in the snow and lolling on the sofa to watch TV. Nibbles lives up the lane, at the manor to which our cottage is the gatehouse. Like our own furry companions, Nibbles lives the life of Riley, but unlike our lot, he has his own private balcony.

“Nibbles is in the dog’ouse today,” said his owner, who always reminds me of Richard Briers. “Well… rabbit’ouse.”

Richard Briers had settled down on Nibbles’s sofa to watch television, and Nibbles had taken umbrage at this invasion of territory and had peed all over him. The indignant rabbit was promptly shoved out to his balcony to think about what he had done. He doesn’t look very repentant.

I have been gathering the impression that Richard Briers is the one who keeps pets and builds wildlife habitats, and his brother is the one who keeps livestock and goes hunting. I asked if the turkeys I’d seen recently were his brother’s.

“The turkeys are gawn,” stated Richard, with a Significant Eyebrow that suggested it was best not to ask where. “But, yes. They were my brother’s.”

“Still,” he added brightly, “there’ll be some new pigs soon.”

Not Tamworths, apparently. This time, his brother is getting a breed less known for its intelligence and propensity to wander.

Richard Briers