Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Wintery Spring

Tuesday was a very odd day weatherwise.

As I was sitting in my chair catching up on emails, I looked out the window and saw just a few lovely fluffy white clouds looking like floating marshmallows on a sea of azure blue.

So where was the snow we'd been 'promised' by the BBC weather experts ?

While thinking of the £millions that have been spent on the technology to get us to the point where weathermen can be totally ACCURATE about giving us the WRONG forecast up to 10 days in advance now, I decided to get out and enjoy the spring weather before they messed it all up.

I don't have much of a front garden as life is too short to spend much of it dealing with grass cutting and flower arranging but despite this lack of care and attention, I do have a few hardy and colourful daffs which wanted to stand up and shout out that it's springtime.

And here is one of them........looking smart and clever and not thinking of cold and snow at all......not one little bit. No, no ,no.

I'd also been told by a friend that she had seen some lambs in a field about a mile away around the ring road and so I decided to go and find them myself.

As I got to the car, I noticed a dramatic change in the skies. Arriving from the east were some nasty snow bearing clouds and I wasn't even sure I'd get to the main road before they dropped their load.

I was wrong.......but not by much. As I drove along the ring road, my world went considerably darker and white snowflakes started bouncing of the hood. I was tempted to give up and turn around but decided to at least find the lambs if only so I could come out another day to photograph them more easily.

Just before I got to the Wetherby Roundabout, I glanced to the right and there they were. The field was part of Cobble Hall Farm and a narrow road ran from the main ring road right to the farm and beyond and so I took it to get a closer look.

At this time of year, ewes are even more skittish than usual and those with lambs are naturally anxious to look after their newborns. I drove as slowly and quietly as my old rustbucket would allow and decided to take this initial photo quickly just in case it was the closest I'd get.
You can see that it was still snowing lightly and I really felt for the lambs who probably wondered what on earth they'd let themselves in for.

Then, wonder of wonders, the skies cleared and became mostly blue again. I parked at the side of the lane and got out to do my 'Crocodile Dundee' stealthy approach to the sheep and lambs so as not to scare the bejesus out of them. The high hedge was a mixed blessing - one one hand it shielded me from the field but of course on the other hand it made taking photos quite a bit trickier.

The lambs didn't know what to make of the moving shrubbery and strange grunts (and a few curses) coming from behind it.

The brambles were thick and clothes- rippingly sharp and pointy. I often had to elbow them to one side whilst shoving the camera further into the hedge. Then it was a case of trying to get my eye to the viewfinder in order to compose the image. Oh and remember my subjects were prone to go galloping off like startled deer at the slightlest provocation.

But once I'd got settled and wasn't making any noise, the lambs and their moms did forget about me and would come closer as they nibbled on the grass.

I'd obviously arrived at meal time as I didn't see any examples of gambling or playful running and jumping of any kind. So no chance to test out the sport setting on my camera or my ability to make best use of it.

Maybe another time.

I took all the field shots I wanted but I really wanted to see if any lambs were being held indoors for hand rearing and for this, I needed to drive on up to the farm.

As I approached the out buildings, I noticed activity around a large shed and went to investigate.

One of the two men there was the farm manager and when I asked if he had any lambs indoors that I could photograph, he kindly left his task and took me to them.

I was very conscious of not wanting to waste his valuable time - so I didn't mess about looking for the perfect angle or lighting and basically just snapped away.

This little fella wasn't the most photogenic lamb of the bunch but he did like to interact.......well with the farm manager at least. Any time you put a hand towards a lamb, it'll want to suckle on a finger or three. I'm no Attenborough but it seemed to me that these hand reared lambs had much less fear of humans than the ones out with their moms in the fields. That has to be down to the moms and makes perfect sense.

When I was skulking behind the hedge earlier, I noticed that any lambs that saw or heard me would just stop eating grass and watch. It was only when the moms saw me and made bleating noises as a warning, that the lambs would scatter.

The ones in the shed were getting no such warning bleats and with nothing in their short lives telling them otherwise, they were fearless, curious and even pets.

Maybe this is the basis for the expression 'like lambs to the slaughter' as these lambs would've followed the manager anywhere he went.

We went to another little shed where one classic looking lamb was all alone. I've no idea why the manager was keeping it apart from the others but physically it looked much younger than the rest and so maybe it was just a case of age difference.

I asked if the manager could pick him up as that would provide a better angle than I was getting looking down from above. To his eternal credit, he did so without hesitation and I can't thank him enough for taking time away from his work to be so helpful.

He asked if I wanted to hold the little critter but coming from a farming background, I'd held my fair share of lambs when growing up in Ireland and didn't need to hold this one.

Besides, I couldn't just lay down the camera as we WERE in a farm shed after all and this was a piece of expensive hi-tech gear.

I settled for a quick head pet and he was just as soft as he looks.

The lamb too !!!

Mr Manager then asked if I'd like to see some calves and after the initial exciting thought that he was offering me the opportunity to take some saucy shots of his good lady wife, I soon realised we were heading AWAY from the farm house and towards the cow sheds.

D'oh !!!

The manager first took me to a calf that had been born the previous day. It was still 'damp' and wobbling a bit on it's legs and wouldn't come out from behind it's mom and I didn't get a photo.

The next shed had this calf which was a few days old. I had a quick word with him and asked how he was getting on in his big new world and had he heard about sirloin and rump steaks ? But the little sneak ran to mom and told her you can see in the photo, and she was NOT amused.

By now my white trainers were taking on a distinctly country-fied colour and smell and so I decided to call it a day and let the manager get back to doing what a manager does.

As I left and drove down the lane towards the ring road, I took one more look at the lambs in the field - but they were STILL eating. I think I've a lot in common with them.

Just then the snow flurries returned and I drove home in a mini blizzard.

Maybe those £millions weren't wasted after all.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Look, this is LEEDS not the USA. Two interesting posts marred only by the muddiness of your white trainers. Please get some walking boots, you won't regret it. I bought mine in a sale years ago and wear them loads and clean them never and they're great.

And now, Fun with Word Verification - -

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