Good Deed for the Day

October 16, 2013

Despite worrying less about other people’s sheep these days, there are still some things I can’t ignore. Riding down to the papershop this morning in the calm before the deluge that arrived this afternoon, I noticed a sheep standing looking through a fence in a slightly strange manner. On my way back, it was still there, and I realised it had got its head stuck through the wire – so stuck that even the approach of the Dread Bicycle was not enough to dislodge it. Now while my putting-lambs-back-into-field skills are second to none, I draw the line at sheepectomies from wire fences so I rode on to the nearest farm to seek grown up assistance. After wandering around a particularly Marie-Celeste like farmyard – there was even an empty Land Rover with its engine still running – I finally scared up someone in overalls who looked approximately 12 (I thought it was policemen not farmers who were getting younger) and let him know the glad news and pedalled off, in the knowledge of a good deed well done.

Two thoughts did strike me on the way home, though. The first is why farmers insist on putting sheep in fields fenced with almost exactly sheep-head-sized wire mesh. Given the whole grass-is-greener situation, that must inevitably and regularly end in tears.

And the second thought was that I should probably have stuck around to see exactly how to remove a sheep from a wire fence, as I have absolutely no idea. I know with children and railings you are supposed to turn the child upside down, although thinking about it I have absolutely idea how that might help. Something to do with the ears, I suppose. But if I could add fence de-sheeping to my other skills, then I could become a truly useful member of rural society.

Muddy Hell…

February 14, 2013

snow covered gardenWe had another ‘snow event’ yesterday – there was snow on the ground when we woke up and it then proceeded to snow all day until about mid afternoon when it switched seamlessly into rain. This seems to be the pattern for this winter – we’ve never seen so much snow, but it’s mostly been pretty fleeting. I didn’t get the chance to get out in it yesterday because I was insanely busy but today things eased off a bit and when the sun came out I couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak out for a walk in a rapidly thawing world…

road running with water

The road outside our house is now basically a stream bed.

cow in mud

It drains into the field opposite which is currently home to some rather depressed looking cattle. I don’t think they’ve had dry feet since they’ve been turned out there – and some of the calves probably don’t know what ‘dry’ means, poor things.

sheep on higher ground

The sheep, meanwhile, were sticking to the higher ground

hens on higher ground

As were the hens (and one duck. Go figure)

ford without depth gauge

I stopped to take the traditional but now pointless record of the ford. Presumably if I had the photoshop skills and could be bothered, I could photoshop back in the depth gauge, but I can’t. The other half did spot the torn off depth gauge lurking in the undergrowth on the other side of the river so I might have to go on a rescue mission and ‘photoshop’ it back in real life.

And then, because it was Valentine’s day and I hadn’t remembered to buy a card, I made my beloved some coconut macaroons instead.

coconut macaroons

They did get semi-dipped in chocolate but didn’t survive long enough to be photographed…

I Suppose it was Inevitable…

January 22, 2013
snowy hills

snowy hills

…after the last post that we should wake up to this sort of thing this morning

snow_2 snow_3

Still, it gave me a chance to further road test the tyres and they coped magnificently – although I should in the interests of accuracy point out that coming to a complete stop when travelling downhill on a mixture of ice, slush and snow is still … interesting.

Fortunately, for most of the ride, I was only stopping to take photos, so I could take my time

Afterwards, we went out for a walk – cut short half way up the local 1-in-5 hill when things got a little slithery underfoot. Time to invest in spiked shoes as well as spiked tyres? Or leave the hillsides to the sheep until spring…


Sheep May Safely Graze

November 30, 2012

So there I was yesterday, waiting for my toast to toast while simultaneously getting my stuff together for an overly complicated two-bike, car and train journey*, looking out the window at the back garden wondering if the washing was dry yet, wondering if the sheep were going to eat it, thinking about what I’d have on my…

Hold on – sheep?

sheep on lawn

It’s a sign of how far I’ve come since moving up here that instead of rushing out and attempting to round up the sheep in a bit of a panic, I waited for my toast to be done, buttered it (got to butter your toast straight out of the toaster), and THEN rang up the person who knows whose sheep are whose and informed them that there were straying sheep to be shepherded back to their field, should anyone want them.

Oh and the sheep? I left them on the lawn. They might as well eat the grass in the back garden as anywhere at this time of year and the alternative was chasing them onto the road, which still has a mini glacier across it where the permapuddle has frozen. I didn’t fancy having anyone see the sheep and try and make an emergency stop on the ice… I did retrieve the laundry, though.

* I had to get my main bike down to the bike shop to be fixed, while taking my Brompton on to Embra.

Earning My Stripes

August 28, 2012

Cycling back from the papershop today on a glorious morning* I was startled to encounter a sheep moving at a fair lick towards me along the road, with a farmer on a quad bike in hot pursuit. The sheep, seeing a person on a bike (the scariest thing in the world if you’re a sheep), faltered for a moment and I – responding to some waving from the farmer – swiftly cut it off at the pass. He was able to then corner the sheep and manhandle it into his trailer, thanking me warmly for my assisstance. I pedalled on, feeling immoderately pleased with myself. It’s a bit like when you’re standing on the dockside in some picturesque fishing harbour and some trawler coming in alongside throws you up a rope to wrap round a bollard in your best seamanlike manner. Undoubtedly had you not been there, the farmer or fisherman would have managed without you, but for a moment you feel entirely as if you too could turn a hand to sheep wrestling, or trawling, or lumberjacking or whatever. There I was, writer, cyclist, blogger and sheep cornerer – escaped livestock a speciality. Anyone might have mistaken me for a proper country person.

Of course, I know I’ll never really be a proper country person, but I do think I’ve made a bit of progress over the past four years with such rural arts as wood stacking, talking to total strangers and not locking things up unnecessarily. In fact, I was thinking there really ought to be some way of recognising such things (apart from my second prize in the ‘any other vegetable’ category in the village show – not the most hotly contested competition, I must admit). I was never a girl guide long enough to earn any badges (they didn’t give them out for ‘making up rude alternative versions to campfire songs’, unfortunately) but perhaps I could earn some rural ones? I could sew them onto the sleeve of my fleece, which is the rural uniform around here. I think I’ll start with my ‘putting livestock back in fields‘ badge, which I must surely have qualified for by now…

*Especially compared to yesterday. I mean, I set out in what turned out to be the only five minutes when it didn’t rain ALL day, and came back so soaked my shoes are still full of water, and still got the best of the day. Can I just remind the weather gods that it wasn’t a bank holiday in Scotland?

We Are Traffic

June 13, 2012

Yesterday, my bike and I found ourselves caught up in a demonstration whereby a legitimate group of road users – who were there long before the cars who currently dominate the roads – asserted their right to move en masse, slowing or even halting traffic where necessary and at times completely blocking the road in both directions.

On the whole the cars who encountered it took it in good part, waiting patiently for the group to finish making their point and disperse although they were held up or forced to move at walking pace for a fairly long time. Sadly, not all the participants were all that well-behaved, with one straggly-haired individual threatening to break away and confront the cars although those shepherding the ride along did their best to keep her under control. I thought there was going to be a bit of a stand off at one point – but in the end she saw reason and joined the bunch and pretty soon the whole group turned off and the cars were able to speed away again without so much as a horn sounded in anger.

And then I went down to Carlisle with my Brompton and joined their monthly Critical Mass.


April 19, 2012

We’re back, after a welcome short break in Killin. This morning we were walking here:

an interesting demonstration of what happens when you exclude what my uncle calls the ‘woolly locusts’ (and the deer) from a stretch of hillside for 20-odd years. Those ickle lambs are cute and all, but they don’t half eat…

Anyway, we got home to find some of our swallows were back! They’re late, but we forgive them as long as they hurry up and start hoovering up the midgies. We’d seen a single swallow a few days back, but these ones appear to be ‘ours’ as they were busy checking out their old nesting spots.

And they weren’t the only ones. Lambs aren’t the only things which are cute but have unfortunate eating habits…

This News Just in: Grass Not Always Greener, Shock

January 5, 2012

So, if your most recent storm felled a tree that blew a whacking great hole in the dyke, and the barbed wire fence to boot …

… and given that life here is regularly punctuated by livestock escapades of one form or another, you would think it was a fairly safe bet that any sheep originally grazing in that field would be halfway to Notso Bigtown by now…

… but you would be wrong.

I’m not sure exactly what’s keeping them there, but I suspect that, like the humans, the sheep are suffering from winter hibernation syndrome whereby leaving home for anything however exciting any time before, say, March just feels like too much effort.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that these sheep originally were in Notso Bigtown and have been having a little break on their travels


Lions and Tigers and Bikes, oh my

November 14, 2011

Cycling back from the papershop today we encountered a woolly rolling roadblock – a flock of sheep en route from one field to another with their shepherd (unusually on foot rather than a quad bike) and his dog. We were happy enough to slow down and follow for a while at sheep speed but the shepherd decided we’d be better off passing and sent his dog off on a complicated parting-of-the-waters manoeuvre, giving us a front row view of sheep herding skill – they should try that one on One Man and His Dog. Of course, it might have worked better if the sheep hadn’t then turned and seen not one but two of the scariest things in the world – cyclists – coming up behind them. Cue close quarter woolly panic as the sheep tried to decide what was worse: the dog ahead of them or the bikes behind them which lasted until the dog won and pushed them past us and we got away before we could cause any more trouble.

And of course, when sheep get scared they do what scared sheep do, which meant cycling through a hundred little puddles of sheep pee at top speed as we made our escape. Any of you who out there still not cycling with mudguards should think about that for a minute. Or make sure you pedal with your mouth shut, anyway…

Half a Sheep, Half a Sheep, Half a Sheep Onward

June 17, 2011

I feel as if we have passed some important milestone in our journey towards full rurification: we now have half an animal in our freezer, bought straight from the farmer himself. I was a little hesitant when the other half suggested buying half a lamb because we don’t have a huge freezer and I couldn’t quite picture just how much meat we were letting ourselves in for. Even knowing that it was coming in bits, not simply sawn in half Damian Hirst style, it seemed quite improbably that you could get it into an upright freezer with little drawers, rather than the sort of monster chest freezer that we used to have in our cellar when I was a child, the kind with mysterious frost-covered packets lurking in the bottom and that, if you reached in to find out what they were, you could quite easily fall in and the lid slam shut and you’d never be seen again.

Anyway, twitter reassured me we were only talking about roughly a drawer-full, and twitter, as it so often is, was right. The lamb arrived yesterday and, by way of a public service announcement – vegetarians should look away now – this is what half a lamb* looks like:

half a sheep

There’s not much to them, under all that wool, is there?

whole sheep

(picture posed by a model, actual sheep not shown, your mileage may vary. Do not buy half a sheep based on the advice contained within this blog without consulting a professional.)

*Although you should bear in mind that this comes from a Hebridean sheep so a bit smaller than the average sheep.