Riddlesden Jacobs

A site about a West Yorkshire flock of Jacob Sheep

Our sheep, my sanity

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This is the first post on the new home for our blog and site. I use wordpress for my other blog and somehow always got on much better with it than any alternative. The old site was up for renewal and it didn’t seem to make logical sense to keep it – so here we are. We will in due course get the static pages up and sorted and the galleries back up so you can get to know all our sheep. For now though I wanted to write about the last few weeks, or maybe just the last week in particular. It’s been a horrible week at work. Pretty much anything that could have gone wrong has. It’s been long hours and high stress and I used to cope with that by  – well actually, now that I think about it I am not sure how I coped with it. What was really noticeable though was that just a few minutes with the sheep, even just driving to the field (which is no more than 15 minutes walk away!), chucking some food at them and leaving almost immediately has massively helped me cope with the work stress of the last week or so. The sheep are both funny and calming to watch. They always make me smile, always. They all have their own personalities and they all react differently to us and to each other.

I love the calmness of the two-horn ewes. They’re like the grandma’s of the flock: wise and gentle but firm. A little nudge in the arm by one of the most tame ones is like a ‘come on, it’ll be fine, I believe in you’. I also like the skittishness of a couple of the 4-horn shearlings. The slightest movement can induce them to run away from a full food trough – but they always come back very quickly – nothing can stay that scary for that long – there’s a pretty good lesson in that, too. We still have with us 4 of the female lambs born in January. 2 of them were bottle fed and are still too small for market, the other 2 are gorgeous and we are keeping them for breeding. All 4 though are full of the exuberance and sometimes petulance of teenagers and I can’t help but laugh watchig them.

I won’t bother archiving the old blog posts from the old site here – we’ll simply start again but, I captured some of what I have felt really keenly again over the last few days in April in a post titled ‘Time Out’ and I thought that would be worth sharing again. So here it is:

“It’s been a busy and difficult few weeks for me (Jess) and as the bad news kept coming my need for time out and time for myself just got more urgent. Today I finally got the chance to do something about it so at lunchtime I detached myself from my PC and walked the 10 minutes to the field to spend some time with the sheep. After checking on the 7 ram lambs in field one, I went and sat with the ewes in field two. I took them a couple of scoops of food and then I  propped myself against a little wall in the field and just watched. All 6 lambs came to see me at one point or another and a couple of the ewes also wandered up to me, sniffed my stretched out legs and then decided it was all a bit too different and ran off.

Watching the sheep like I was today, or actually just being around them, has taught me alot about them individually. They do have their own little personalities and today they seemed to know exactly what I needed. One of the bottle fed lambs came and curled up right next to me and let me absent mindedly pet her as we sat in silent contemplation, the other made me giggle as she investigated the bucket, ended up tipping it on herself and rolling over a couple of times before emerging and trying all over again (to do what I have no idea).

The ewes were also interesting because they seemed to insist on showing me that  it’s ok to deal with stuff in different ways. All were too warm in the lunchtime sun. A couple of the older ewes took themselves off to one side and were lazily grazing in the shade right by the wall. Two gimmers were just hot and bothered and taking it out on each other and on anyone who dared come closer to see what was going on. Another gimmer was bullying the lambs and the others were either stood around too lazy to really move or were wandering around rather aimlessly, sometimes in small groups, sometimes individually.

Then a dog walker came past with the dog not at all under control and as the dog stood barking at the fence I, also too lazy to move and confident in the fence, just watched. The lambs scattered, the ewes reacted in very different ways. A couple moved towards the dog, a couple more tentatively followed the first two, the ones in the shade raised their heads vaguely then continued ignoring the world, two of the gimmers made sure that all other sheep were between them and the dog and one of the ewes ran to me.

As all this unfolded and the dog was put on a lead and dragged away I thought about all the crap of the last few weeks and thought that all emotional responses I have had were present here in the flock. I’ve wanted to fight, to ‘do’, be proactive, I’ve wanted others to do and take the first step so I could follow, I’ve certainly wanted to run away and hide and I’ve also wanted to seek reassurance from people I trust. Of course I’ve also wanted to do what the ewes in the shade did so well which is ignore the world and let it just keep spinning without me for a while. Well for a good hour or so while I sat in the field with my girls, it did just that and let my brain just take me where it wanted to go and for that I certainly feel much better”


Author: Jess Guth

Dr Jess Guth is a Senior Lecturer in Law. She blogs at jessguth.com She also doesn't really run - reallynotarunner.com

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