Spring has arrived

It’s Saint George’s day, April 23rd. St George is the patron saint of England and is usually portrayed slaying a dragon. “To slay” means “to kill” (tuer). It’s traditional to use the more obscure word “slay”.

Spring lambs

Usually on 23rd April the daffodils (les jonquilles) are flowering in warm spring sunshine. This year they are flowering, but it is blowing a gale (le vent souffler tres fort). It doesn’t seem to have stopped raining for ages and the temperature is more like January than April. But nature continues and this year we have a lot of lambs. The Scottish Soay sheep have demonstrated how tough they are and the tiny babies have been born in the field, in the rain and in the wind. It’s amazing that within 2 hours of birth they are standing, well, wobbling (tremblant) next to their mother and drinking milk. We have been lucky over the years and had very few problems with the lambs. They start to eat grass when they are a week old and continue to drink milk for a few months.

A white-headed Soay lambSpring-time lamb

An orphan lamb

This year was a horrible exception as a dog jumped over the fence into the sheep field and killed one of the ewes (brebis). She had given birth approximately 3 weeks before. Her lamb (agneau) was in the flock (troupeau) and we hoped that he could survive eating grass. After a few days it was obvious that grass on its own was not enough and that he was becoming thin and weak. We caught him and put him in a shelter (abri) and fed him 4 or 5 times a day.

He regained his strength and vitality but it was obvious that he was not happy being alone. He wanted to be with the flock. I guess it’s really important for them learn sheepy (ovine) behaviour. After a few days we took a chance and returned him to the others in the field. He rejoined his chums (copains/copines) and resumed lamb-like behaviour, with one exception! When he saw us he ran over and asked for a drink. He would drink a quick bottle of milk and return to the important business of playing and jumping.

Spring lamb drinking milk from a bottle

This has been continuing for a week or so and we have reduced the number of bottles to 3 a day, but it’s so cute to have him run towards you!

I don’t think we’ll be eating this lamb. I haven’t broken the rule of not giving it a name, YET.

Chickens and ducks

The sheep only give birth in spring but of course the chickens and ducks lay eggs all year. Last year we had a huge number of eggs but only a few successful hatchings (faire éclore). Last year I bought an incubator which is usually successful. The new chicks and ducklings need warmth for the first few days and then they are able to be outside IF the weather is warm. This spring there has been a need to keep them inside for longer. A few days ago the afternoon temperature was 7 degrees C! Keeping them in a box under the stairs with a light on is not my preferred option. The only advantage is that they’re so cute and students love to pick them up.

Spring duckling and chick

When they are adult, Rob and I also love to pick them up, then eat them, roasted or in a curry. But that’s another story.