Just come with me a moment, do! Through the kitchen – we’ll keep the lights off, if that’s okay – so as not to disturb her. Tilly, be a good dog and stay in your bed please. Oh, alright then – you want to look at your old friend, too! But be quiet, and don’t get under our feet! If we creep up to the back door, we can see through the full-length glass into the porch – it’s a moon-lit night. Look, there she is, lying flat on her side – completely relaxed, in the corner.
It’s Primrose – a very special ‘pet lamb’ from last year. She’s absolutely exhausted by the fear and struggle of increasingly hopeless entanglement in the thorny briars of a wild bramble. J thinks she will have been caught there since late yesterday afternoon – more than 24hrs. A traumatic experience – and very nearly a fatal one. She’ll have given up hope, and it would be only a matter of time before the ravens or eagles would have found her …
But here she is, back in the porch where, as a wee tiny tot of a lamb – almost a year ago, she used to lay down on the door mat between bottle-feeds, and generally get under everyone’s feet!
J brought her home this evening so that we could be sure she hadn’t suffered an injury – and to feed her up after 24 hours or so without food. All being well, she’ll be returned to the flock tomorrow morning.
My part in this rescue story has been to brush Primrose’s fleece with a carder – a device that I’m using on a daily basis for preparing shorn wool ready for spinning: it was bizarre to be using it on wool still attached to a sheep! The technique might be a bit more awkward, but the process and the end result were no different to normal: wools fibres separated, and cleared of seeds, dried bracken, thistle heads.
Most sheep would hate this handling – they would jump and kick and butt and struggle to be free. But Primrose just stood still, unresisting. No, not just the passivity of complete exhaustion: this was the calmness of being with ‘Mum’. That’s when I knew it was her. I don’t know anything about the ear tags – and even J would have had to look it up. But I do know my own wee baby girl!
It was when, this evening, I found her in the porch, head pressed agains the glass, watching Tilly – and waiting for J or me to attend to her, that I thought it might be her. But it was brushing out her wool – like a mother brushing her teenage daughter’s long hair before bed time: that’s when I was certain.
I’m so happy she’s safe!
I, too, like Denise, recognized Primrose from her responses to being brought here to the walled garden – and being handled and cared for. Denise is quite correct – I would need to look up the number on her ear tag ; but when I see the photos of her taken last year, her face is so recognizable, and then there’s the blue tag in left ear, and the distinctive tear in her right ear, where the electronic tag got torn out.
I’d checked the flock yesterday afternoon, when I went to Eriskay to check how our first lamb of 2017 – born yesterday 1st April – was getting on. (It’s a fine wee boy, born to one of the Scott’s three Little Maids, the one with the blue band on her right horn, Izzy.) Mum and baby were just fine, as were all the other 23 – all ewes and their ewe lambs from last year – who were ‘free-ranging’ in our part of the island.
But this morning, at ‘breakfast time’, the count was only 24 (including the wee lamb). At first I thought it was one of the other two Little Maids that was missing: she too would no doubt – like her sister yesterday – be found at some distant spot staying put with a newborn lamb. I set about finding her – keen to ensure both were safe and well, and to apply ear tags (and any castration ring required!) as soon as possible. Nothing. I searched and searched … Nothing, nowhere. A blank!
I had a meeting early this afternoon (about improvements to Field 1 / Home Park – more on which another time!), but as soon as that was finished I found the flock and started counting … and counting … and counting again. Result: 24 (including the new lamb): so, one missing. Checking the flock one by one, it dawned on me that I’d made a mistake: it wasn’t one of the ewes (and a potential second new lamb) that was missing, but one of the young ewe lambs.
This revelation filled me with dread, as by now she’d been missing for nearly 24hrs, and that as likely meant she’d fallen ill and had been attacked by eagles, or had got caught in fencing, a ditch, or barbed wire or briars ; or was injured or dead from an accident … I searched, and searched again: I searched high and low, near and far, in hidden places and in plain sight. I searched all the ground over which I knew they ranged – and even beyond
But I didn’t explore up the little valley where Primrose was found – simply because I’d never ever seen any of our sheep up there. But I’d been within 20 metres of where Primrose, amongst the briars, was ebbing nearer and nearer to death – and too weak to bleat in answer to my calls of Trobhaibh! Trobhaibh! [Come thou hither!]. Exhausted from searching, I’d driven home demoralized at the thought of losing one of my sheep – and particularly because not finding a body meant no closure. Quite possibly I’d never find anaything to show what had happned to her: the eagles, ravens and gulls would see to that.
But then, this evening – and quite out of the blue, came that phone call. For which D and I are very grateful.
And so too is Primrose!