Sheep dreams are made of this
Rearing a strong and contrary lamb proves to be a surprisingly stinky business.
Ismell like a ripe roquefort. Greg smells like Miles the sheep farmer’s piquant ewes’ milk pecorino. Our house smells like a cheese factory (or a teenage boy’s sneakers).
I was going on a rare outing last week to give a talk to the women of Masterton’s Ranfurly Club. My talk was going to be about sheep farming to a gathering of very nice rural ladies. I know nothing about sheep farming, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I should have been billed as a writer of fantasy fiction.
Years ago, when I worked at a newspaper in Auckland, I worked with a very funny former news editor who, upon his retirement, once sent me a letter addressed to: Michele Hewitson, Fiction Writer, Literary Department. He had always been very encouraging about my journalism career.
Anyway, to give this talk, I had to unearth some semi-decent, or at least semi-clean, clothes. I said to Greg: “I smell funny.” I finally figured out that I smelt funny because, for the first time in two weeks, I didn’t smell like cheese.
The reason we both smell of cheese is that we are rearing a lamb and so we are covered in ewes’ milk. There’s no use getting changed, because the lamb has to be fed four times a day. She also has to be walked (galloped, actually) and played with.
The lamb’s name is Xanthe, after the landscape designer Xanthe White, because she is white and you can’t keep her out of the garden. She at least has the merit of being cheap to buy toys for; she is obsessed with sticks and has amassed a huge collection, which she keeps outside her play pen in the garage. She chases the chickens (good lamb!). She sleeps in her playpen on vintage blankets and a cushion covered in my grandmother’s best crocheted cushion cover. She also has a heated pad, on which she likes to pee. I have not yet given her one of the patchwork baby quilts, of which I have many, that said grandmother persisted in making for me – but I am thinking about it.
That would be a sort of revenge for the giving of baby quilts to someone who has never wanted a baby. This is probably just as well. I previously had a darling tiny black and white lamb called Lady Cordelia, despite Carolyn the shepherdess’s warnings about giving tiny creatures names too big for them. She failed to thrive, alas. This was very sad and also a waste of a good name.
Now we have Xanthe, who is growing so fast that, at two weeks old, she thinks she is already a big grown-up sheep.
She doesn’t know she’s a baby. She’s supposed to be my baby. She is a twin, born so long after her sibling that the ewe had lost interest. I was to be her adoptive mother.
It was me who wanted a lamb to raise, but she won’t have, ahem, a baa of me. She may have been a rejected lamb, but she was born strong and contrary. I carried her into the house to show my lamb to Greg. She should have bonded with me.
But she took one look at Greg and fell in love with him. Greg is now a lamb’s mother. I pretend to be miffed about this.
But really, what could be cuter than watching a chap cavorting on a daisystrewn lawn with a lamb galloping and leaping after him?
He pretends to be miffed about having ewe-hood thrust upon him. I suspect the adoration is mutual. Really, only a mother could love her. She smells like a goat that has been rolling in Époisses de Bourgogne, possibly the stinkiest cheese in the world. Luckily, we are extremely partial to stinky cheeses.
It was me who wanted a lamb to raise, but she won’t have, ahem, a baa of me.
Xanthe the lamb looking for a chicken to chase.