Our morning at our new friends’ farm began much later than we expected. We rarely sleep in, but slept through baby’s squawks, Dave having breakfast, and a three year old who wanted to play.
We had the best breakfast! Milk straight from the cow. Eggs straight from the chooks. Bacon – from the friends of the pigs.
Then Chris went with Dave and the sheep dogs to help sort the sheep. ‘Help’ is a rather generous word, by all accounts.
They had to separate the girl sheep from the boy sheep. Chris, being from a farm himself, does know the difference and how to tell. But, try as he might, he could not identify which was which quickly enough to help Dave. By the time he thought he’d identified one sheep, Dave had sorted about four and had swung the gate one way or the other, to separate them into boy and girl pens.
In the end, Chris asked Dave how he could identify them so quickly.
‘Easy!’ Dave laughed. ‘Every sheep has an ear-tag. The boys on their left ear, the girls on their right. I just swing the gate according to which ear their tag is on.’
I think Chris was a little embarrassed, but he told me the story anyway.
Three Sheep Dogs
But his favourite story was about the farm’s three sheep dogs.
Dot, the smallest dog, is a sheep-dog-in-training. To our untrained eyes he looks like a Kelpie. He was efficient and obedient. Despite being the size of a medium-sized puppy, Dot knew where to be and how to convince the sheep where they should be.
Lucy, the biggest dog, was hopeless…well, as far as usefulness on a farm. A Maremma, a guardian of the sheep, Lucy flunked out of ‘guardian of the sheep’ school. Chris described Lucy’s ability to tend and guard the sheep as ‘She just thinks she is a sheep’.
Then there was Lambie. Apparently, Lambie was quite effective at rounding up the sheep and getting them to go wherever Dave wanted them to go.
The only trouble was that nobody has ever told Lambie that she is not a dog. She is a hand-reared sheep. She grew up around the house with Dot and Lucy and does everything with her two doggy-companions.
Even when Dave tried to intermingle Lambie back into the flock, that only lasted until Dave and the dogs headed back home. Then she’d split from the flock and rejoin her ‘family’ at the back door of the house.
So Dave was blessed with a puppy training to be a sheep-dog, a dog that thought she was a sheep, and a sheep that thought she was a dog.