The lamb

We have had two rainy weeks to end March and start April, with another week of showers forecast. As autumn and what bit of winter we get were dry, we need the water desperately. This rain has washed away the ash from the autumn forest fires and brought up spring grass and plants to green the land again. I have pruned over 120 olive trees and almost finished pruning the vineyards now. Because of the extensive wildfires the government has passed a law that for fifty metres around a house there should be no trees over five metres high, very few trees in any case, and the land under them must be clear. This work has to be completed by the end of May and if it is not done a big fine will be issued, then if the work is still not put in hand the land will be cleared by the local authorities and the bill given to the landowner. I am pushing hard to finish the vines so I can start on the trees and woodlands beside our house.

Our shepherd João brought his flock onto our land yesterday and again today, presenting a forlorn figure slowly ambling through the south olival with his umbrella out against the rain. I watched him as I sat in the study with the log fire burning in the corner, and took this picture from my seat beside my desk, through the conservatory, into the edge of the south olival (olive grove).

After lunch the rain stopped for a while so I togged up and went to prune some more vines. The flock passed beside me and he stopped for a chat; his “We-e-e-e-ll,” bleat makes me smile every time. He had to move on to follow his hundred-sheep flock; they are like an eating machine for grass, making a munching sound as they slowly flow around you, smelling pleasantly of lanolin, grass and, well, sheep.  Nice.

The flock had gone over the hill and I heard an isolated bleat from my south olival. There was a sheep left behind. There was a lamb trying to feed from it. This sheep wasn’t trying to follow the flock but stayed with its lamb. After a couple of minutes I decided they needed help, as the lamb was clearly too tired to follow its mum to the flock. I walked across to it and picked up the lamb; the sheep headed off in the opposite direction, bleating. Long story short, I gave João the wet lamb, he thanked me and said the sheep which had now joined us wasn’t much of a mother.

An hour later the flock came back with him and I saw the little white lamb and its mum again. I remarked that it was hard for such a little thing to walk with the flock and asked how many days old the lamb was.

“Days?” he said, “It’s not got days yet!”

“How old, then?”

“Oh, about two hours. She had it in the olival this afternoon.”

“What, today, this afternoon??”

“Yes, but she hasn’t enough milk for it yet. They stop making milk before it’s born.”   So when I had “rescued” the lamb it was only an hour old!  I asked if it was normal for them to just have a lamb whilst wandering around and he said, “Of course!”

“Oh.”

“Haven’t you seen a young lamb before?”

“Not that young, no. First time for me.  Are there more sheep that might just have a lamb now?”

“You see the ones with a red mark in their back?” From the study window I’d seen about twenty and wondered why only those were marked with a big red “T”.

“He’ll stay in the barn tomorrow and after that . . .” and he shrugged. “They are always running about at seven days, you know,” which I did but only vaguely, being a townie and feeling somewhat simple now. I wanted to give the little lamb a name, and offer the fireside to dry and warm him. And thereby seem even dafter and foreign.

But I’ll be on the lookout now, João !

 

A few minutes later, I asked “What do you call a very young lamb?”

“Cordeirinho or Borrego.”

“And when does it stop being ‘Lamblet’ or ‘Lamb’ and become ‘Sheep’?”

“When you sell it.” Oh.

 

 

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