Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Morning After The Storm

I was up and out of the house this morning as soon as it was just light enough to see - we had a storm last night.  Well, it's been going since Sunday with another couple of days to run according to the forecast, but last night had the Met Office wind warnings.

Our neighbours had advised about what to tie down and the best place to position the trailer before tying that down.  We'd also gone round the garden and fields picking up all the stuff that might blow around.  I wasn't worried about the ducks or the hens, but my Boreray Boys....... they look so small and are a little more limited for sheltering options in the paddock than in the big field where they'll be spending the winter.  So I gave in to my 'just bought the new baby home' feelings and put a bale of straw where it would create a cosy sheltered corner from the direction of the wind.  Firmly tied to a strainer of course!  For those who know as little about fencing terminology as I used to, strainers are the big posts like telegraph poles that are gate posts and at the corners of fencing.

First to see the ducks, which as usual were pottering about the lawn looking as if they'd been doing that all night.  They do everything in a close gang and their main objective in life seems to be to keep as far away from people as possible.  More about them another time.

 Then a quick look at the burn and pond - normally a lovely quiet place with a gentle trickling of water and a nice stone walkway across it, well above the height of the water.  I could hear from the other side of the lawn that the trickle was now a roar.  Only one of the stones is still above water.  It seems the stone seat has survived the storm though.

 Then further along the drive to the entrance to the paddock.  It was the Boreray Boys I was really concerned about.  We're still at the stage of creeping up on them since I've not been able to get closer than about 10ft so far without them shooting off at high speed.  Anyone thinking of staging spectacular sheep racing should use Borerays.  Or North Ronaldsays, which are equally fleet on their absurdly dainty legs.

A heart stopping moment - there was a motionless white shape lying on the ground by the gate and the wrong side of the bale of straw.  I could see the other 4 sheep comfortably cuddled up in the sheltered corner, which was easily big enough for 5 sheep.  Had my smallest sheep, Bertie, succumbed?  I had to get close enough to check.  Of course they heard me and all, including the previously motionless white shape, shot off down the paddock.  It was Boris the ram who had been sleeping unprotected from the wind.

Relief that they'd all survived the stormy night was slightly hampered by guilt at having woken them.  I must learn to be more trusting of the toughness and intelligence of these Boreray sheep.  Of course I'm a little anxious by the fact that their droppings are now marginally less firm than they should be.  No mucky bums that I can see (some of them have dark fleece on their tails) and a little tummy upset is normal I guess after the huge change in their lives, but I shall be watching them closely till things look at peak health again.

So having shot down the paddock they settled down for a good graze.

 I must say I was not amused though to see a patch of mud on Bilbo's right shoulder.  As soon as I've got these boys tame and listening to my every word we'll sit down together for the 'fleece management' lecture.

Finally the hens, and this seemed to be the only casualty of the storm.  Their metal water container, which I'd made sure was full and heavy to lift, had blown over.  Fortunately that was easy to refill and move nearer to the windbreak on the west side of the hen house that had protected their feeder.  The girls had wisely decided to stay inside but of course came out to see me when I was spotted.

You'll realise that some of the boys have names now.  Well all but one, and I really mustn't leave the one unnamed for any longer. 
From left to right they are Brookes-Wright, Bertie, Bilbo, Boris and yet-to-be-named.

Boris was named even before I met him and as you can see he's the largest of the Boys.  He was a singleton.  The others were all twins.  He has a red mark on his rump, a black nose and what looks like eyeliner round his eyes.  He also has a nice pair of fleecy testicles for future work as the tup.

 Then there is Bertie, the smallest.  He has a green mark on his rump and a similar coloured face to yet-to-be-named but his horns are lighter.  He is a very sweet lamb and is the first to have taken a step towards me.
Next there is Bilbo, who has been named for his possible escapology tendencies.  He's been all round the paddock closely examining the gates and fences and can often be seen gazing at the fields beyond.  He's got a white face with black nose and eyes and a blue mark on his rump.

Yet-to-be-named looks quite similar to Bertie but he's larger and has a distinctive black streak at the base of his horns.  I feel very bad that he's not got a name, but to be honest I'm confident none of the others realise they have names yet so I suspect he's not feeling left out at all.  He has an orange mark on his rump.

Finally there is Brookes-Wright.  He's possibly the easiest to recognise from afar because he's got a dark brown face and his horns show up very well against it.  He's also got patches of dark fleece.  He too has an orange mark.

Those of you who know your horned sheep will already have spotted something - he's got horns as big as Boris the ram........ yes, he was either born a rig and just had the one testicle removed, or one of them escaped out of the scrotum and into his abdomen just after banding.  So he has testosterone and is growing ram horns.  The errant testicle is now clearly felt just under his skin, so he'll possibly be seeing the vet for a minor procedure in the future.

Anyway, with all this complication in his life I decided he needed a name to match.  Several of my ancestors in the 17th and 18th centuries were called Brookes Wright.  Most were Yeomen and land owning farmers.  Some were publicans and one organised boxing matches.

From a 1743 newspaper:
'This is to acquaint all Gentlemen Wrestlers, that at Brooks Wright's, at the Black Swan in Great Brington, near Northampton, will be wrestled for, on Whtison Monday, a HAT OF ONE GUINEA PRICE,  a Free Gift: no less that twelve men to wrestle, and all to wrestle in Pumps, or shoes without nails: to put in by Twelve of the Clock the same Day, and to wrestle at One.  Brooks Wright being a Gamester, is excluded from wrestling himself.'

In 1747, a Statute Sessions was held at the Black Swan in Great Brington:
'for hiring Men and Maid Servants; and for the Diversion of all Gentlemen, Ladies and others, on the Statute Day will be the famous Blakesley Morrice at the same Place, where everyone may depend on good Entertainment, and good and Civil Usage, from their humble servant, BROOKS WRIGHT.'

One of the earliest Wrights had this in his will:

"to William Chambers, my old jacket and petticoat (an undergarment for men): to Richard Masters, another of my old petticoats: to Pettifer, my old hose: to Peter Turlington, a new petticoat: to Richard Kenning, a fustian doublet: to Thomas Hatton, a russet coat: wo William Wright, my best violet coat or my best russet coat, whichever one of them he will choose: to thomas Russell, a russet jacket and a green jerkin: to John Hatton, my oldest green jerkin: and I bequeath to Thomas Sampson, my older violet coat that I wear every day.

So I'm sure you'll understand why I felt it was most appropriate to name my gorgeous coloured-fleece rig, Brookes-Wright.

Here are all the boys relaxing together - before the storm!

From left to right, Yet-to-be-named, Boris, Bilbo, Bertie, Brookes-Wright


  1. What a handsome group the boys make! I'm glad that at least the hens are happy to see you. Hopefully the sheep and ducks will warm up to you soon!

  2. Love the flock and the names you've chosen.