Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The mare and the maas

Be assured, spring is but a whisper away. Ragged-winged murders of crows hovered, twigs in beaks, over the tall trees bordering the A1 as I drove to work this morning; the partridge family whirred out from almost underfoot as I walked across to the horse field tonight, and things are growing on the grass and rustling in the hedgerows…

To you and I, they’re lambs. Small, usually white, rather cute things which bounce around in fields with their mates. But, if my horse is to be believed, these innocuous little creatures have been hiding their true nature – quite literally like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Indeed, she spends much of the spring trying to convince me that they are equine-eating monsters that creep into the hedge, and wait until she’s walking past so they can pounce. The sharp evasive action she takes when she spots them has saved our lives on numerous occasions.

I don’t know where this fear of lambs comes from; probably the same place as her terror of plastic bags caught in hedges on windy days. There is a definite hierarchy of hedge-monsters – and lambs are near the top. Most years, there are lambs all around the horses’ field, and usually, a flock comes and grazes alongside them to take the top off the rich early summer grass. Those ones aren’t so frightening – she trots passed, shaking her head and pretending to be tough. It’s when they’re hiding that they’re obviously up to something – like the chunky-bodied, thick limbed little fellas that were crouched in the nettles as we cantered along the edge of a field last summer, then shot out at the last minute. The mare had hysterics.

I have no argument with sheep. The only thing that confuses me about them is why such beautiful babies grow up into such ugly adults. I’ve seen some sheep that look like bulldogs, while others appear to have eyes made of marbles, through which they survey the world with glazed expressions.

However, the Herdwick ewes in the field next to my mare are the exception that proves the rule. Looking like a cross between a dog and a sheep (the mare was similarly confused when they arrived), they have such pretty, intelligent faces: you could almost imagine they were thinking. They do everything together and when their husband-to-be arrived, they backed off in a huddle. He must have been a smooth one though, because he soon had them talked around. On warm days, he lay watching them, sun on his back and a smug expression on his face: “Yep, them’s ma bitches.”


The ewes are now just about ready to pop. But no matter how cute the mothers, you can be certain their children will be the spawn of Satan. Just ask my mare.

17 comments:

Arthur Clewley said...

herdwicks are lovely I agree and perhaps the most friendly and peaceable of sheep, but for really beautiful sheep, come to N Yorkshire where the swaledale is king, with lambs like little devils with their baby horns. The wensleydales are nice too, but they are get a bit 'bad hair day' in the fields and only look good in the pens at shows. it is the best time of year isn't it,even driving along main roads lined with hawthorn blossom can life the spirits, unless you're a horse perhaps..

The Grocer said...

Now I reckon them was Rooks not Crows you been seeing girl, whilst one cannot be sure there are several rookeries alongside the A1 and they are putting on some magnificent aerial displays right now. A good indicator at this time of year if there are more than three visible at the same time in the same airspace they are probably Rooks.

mutterings and meanderings said...

I am hopeless at telling the difference unless they are hooded crows... and they were up in the sky!

Anonymous said...

M&M, when Ireland were debating whether to have a tax on plastic bags at the supermarkets there was great shorthand for the bags that get caught up in the branches of trees - Witches' Knickers...

Luckily there are far fewer in the Emerald Isle now, as they charge you for plastic bags, encouraging people to re-use them. Of course those that are already there will not bio-degrade until 3006 and sometime, but it is a start.

As for your comment about how such cute babies turn into ugly adults, I look in the mirror and wonder where my lovely chubby cheeks went..

J.J said...

By strange coincidence I have just sat down at the computer having been trying to help a sheep in the field behind my house who got her head stuck through the gate - daft animal.

Oh yes, and hello! Nice blog already found by many of my blogging mates I see!

Gill said...

Sheep have the mark of satan on them, you only have to look at the way their eyes reflect headlights at night, and they certainly scare the shit out of me when I am driving home at night.

I like the idea that those plastic bags are witches knickers. We call the big black swathes of silage plastic that flutter scarily in hawthorn bushes Nazgul!

Karen said...

I wondered if you'd beat me to it with the Nazgul comment mum.

Sheep and goats definitely are the spawn of satan because of their eyes. Their pupils give me the creeps.

Now if you ask me Helen Lederer is either part sheep or one of satan's minions as she has weird eyes and there's plenty of evidence: http://images.google.co.uk/images?hl=en&q=helen+lederer&gbv=2

I once caught the bus to the village next to where my parents live as this was as far as the bus went. I took the scenic route of walking along a minor road as it was a nice day and wanted to hear the birds singing and look at the wild flowers and hedgerows etc. There are a few fields of sheep on the way so I decided to baa at one that was looking at me. It replied giving a really sinister low baa. Slowly, and one by one the rest of the field joined in, Chinese whispers style, and turned to look at me.

It was a genuinely creepy moment as there were no other people around and no cars passing. I quickened my pace!!

mutterings and meanderings said...

Arthur, I do think Herdwicks are lovely. There is another breed I like as well which is a chunky, teddy bear-like sheep but I can't think what it's called. They had some up the road.

Welcome along JJ.

Like the idea of the 'witches' knickers', anon.

Gill and Karen, how am I going to convince the mare that they're not scary when she has your backing?

Arthur Clewley said...

not sure, are they southdowns? kept more as pets or by rare breed enthusiasts than commercially

Anonymous said...

So if it is a 'murder of crows' what is it of rooks [if that is what they were] ?

What is that other one I can never remember - a murmurration of starlings ? or maybe just a murmur ?

mutterings and meanderings said...

Apparently it is a 'building' of rooks, though other sites are also suggesting a 'parliament' of rooks - I always thought it was a 'parliament of owls'... though I have never seen more than one owl together (apart from on Harry Potter)to earn their collective noun.

However, I'm going to stick with my 'murder of crows' because technically, rooks are members of the crow family.

Anonymous said...

Haven't got time to follow this up now, as the washing up awaits [doh!] but some sites list 'murder' as also being the collective noun for 'lawyers' ! On that point, I think we can agree ! By the way how come it is nearly bedtime, but still before in 1600 hours in Cumbria - different time zone ??

mutterings and meanderings said...

I'm East Coast not West.

The clock on this blog is buggered!

Gill said...

If you want to see lots of owls together you should go to the world owl trust at Muncaster castle and if you want to be able to identify sheep visit the sheep and wool centre in Cockermouth. (or the sheep shagging centre as it is sometimes unoficially called)

Gill said...

If you want to see lots of owls together you should go to the world owl trust at Muncaster castle and if you want to be able to identify sheep visit the sheep and wool centre in Cockermouth. (or the sheep shagging centre as it is sometimes unoficially called)

Gill said...

god I'm repeating myself again- blogger must be having a hissy fit.

Karen said...

Maybe you could get a pet sheep and introduce your mare to it and keep them together so they get pally?

Or maybe you're forever going to have a scaredyhorse because that's her personality!

It is indeed a murmuration of starlings.