Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Intelligent sheep

Sheep on the Hillside by Colleen Sgroi

The children are beginning to show signs of holiday fever. Adults in our household have holiday apathy and the two together make an interesting mix. I am happy they are excited, there are many community activities on the calendar. They are all involved in plays and concerts which means transport to and from. It requires organisation and although I am that, the pace certainly quickens to a run at this time of the year. Downshifting has meant that time has a different value for us and we do not necessarily adapt to the rush from the outside as well as we did before. It can seem a stark contrast between the two areas of our life.
It has meant that we have talked about what activities we actually enjoy and not just the ones we do every year and feel obliged to participate in. We have two invites for the same evening. Our little hamlet hosts a drinks event at the local manor house ( a 1 mile walk away) and then dinner will be at one of our neighbours. All within walking distance with people from our community which gives us an opportunity to see what has been going on with eachother while time has been hurtling by.
Today we ventured out for a nature walk with our labrador and looked at some different sheep in the field. We had never come across this type before and when speaking to one of our eccentric villagers about them she announced they were endangered species of sheep and she wanted them to graze her land. We talked about the doormice in the hedge, the owls that patrol the area and the buzzards that occassionally can be heard and seen around. We all stood talking on the drive wearing wellington boots, warm woolly hats and caught up with the world. I love haphazard meetings like that. Home again, I went in search of the rare sheep, Castlemilk Moorit, which apparently are decorative sheep with a short fleece, fawn with chocolate tones underneath that make good tweed. I spin fibre and had never heard of them. Short fibre would be hard to spin anyhow. I bemoaned the fact that an awful lot of animals whose fleeces had a particular purpose have disappeared in favour of one particular type of sheep. There is so much we have lost over the last 100 years through monoculture. Now my neighbour is not going to make any money from these sheep as they do not appear to have either good meat value or fleece so decorative seems a good thing to be. They are indeed beautiful to watch. My Dh and I laughed at the words she uttered ‘ these are intelligent sheep’. Well they have to have something and again, we both laughed because we have always considered sheep to be slightly silly and far from intelligent but maybe we are just ignorant and have ever only met silly sheep. It was good to laugh together at a new discovery.
Home again, the kettle went on, cup of tea in hand I sat down to do some sewing, knitting and spinning of the summers fleece I dyed, carded and quite understand how expensive it would be to produce a cardigan or jumper from animal to person. I am sad that many skills have been lost and yet at the same time my excitement today has been to gaze on a different sort of animal and learn more about it.
There is a whole world out there we have lost and have forgotten about.
Urban girl found a gas camping stove in her attic which will be put to good use next year during the making of potions of plant dyes to dye the fleeces with.
I like to read the foxfire stories about older folk who talk through homesteading things and will share some in another post.

1 comment:

willow said...

I've only just come across your blog so this is a rather belated comment.
I've never spun with Castlmilk Moorit but I have knitted with the commercial yarn. I got mine from Greenfibres about four years ago, aran weight and a great colour. Interestingly, I now notice that it has faded with light, under the collar and the inside remaining mid brown while the rest is becoming more golden brown.
Keep an eye on those sheep and see if they fade!!!