Wool is becoming something of a recurrent theme in my blog at the moment, but since I’m an avid knitter and I own an assortment of woolly animals – llamas, alpacas and sheep – then I suppose it’s only to be expected.
First up socks! I have triumphed over the intricacies of knitting in the round using 5 tiny needles and very thin 4-ply wool. By preference I’m a two-needle double-knit-or-upwards wool knitter. But I felt it was time to challenge myself to try something new and I’ve succumbed to the lure of sock knitting. I have finished my first ever pair. Be impressed!
Now the flocks. Well, flock, and it consists of 3 sheep. But 3 sheep are as much of a handful as 300, I’m sure. Our 3 Suffolk sheep have been proving tricky customers and persistently managed to escape from their field. We were sure we’d put up adequate fencing, but they thought otherwise. Seeing that one of the ewes was systematically working her way along the long side fence, nudging it up with her nose to see if she could out that way, we attached a line of barbed wire to the bottom of the grillage. Chris and Benj also whacked in extra poles between the existing ones to help tension the fencing.
No more escapes that way. We also did some pre-emptive work on the back fence, which is one we inherited. (All the rest we’ve erected ourselves.) It was in fairly good nick with a lot of rusty barbed wire attached to poles and trees. We fortified that with good solid chataigniers (chunks of chestnut tree) and more strands of much newer barbed wire.
All was quiet for the best part of a fortnight, but then last week, the escapes began again. The two ewes started squeezing through the back fence. The barbed wire didn’t seem to bother them. It did bother the ram, though. Now, male sheep are remarkably well endowed in the ball department. Decidedly over-enthusiastically so. He clearly didn’t want to risk getting his substantial family jewels tangled in barbed wire so he stayed put in the field, but bleated anxiously whenever his women disappeared, which alerted us to what was going on. A couple of days ago this was happening every half hour or so, which was totally OTT.
So we have now added wire netting to the fence poles and barbed wire. We bought loads of grillage, wire netting, but still ran out. I dashed into Boussac yesterday to get some more, but had to make do with one metre high chicken wire since that’s all I could find. However, it seems to be fit for the job. Chris and I spent our Sunday morning tacking it into place and making holes in ourselves and our clothes with the barbed wire, sharp bits on the chicken wire, the grampillons (U-shaped tacks) and also the trees. There are a lot of hawthorns in that patch of woody hedging that our fence goes through. No pain, no lamb chops I guess.
We paid €340 for our three sheep, and I reckon they’ve cost us at least half as much again in extra poles and fencing. And between Chris, Benj and me, we must have spent at least 40 hours or so on the work. But I think it will still be worth it when we can become self-sufficient in mutton. And it had jolly well better taste good after all this aggro!