The 'lamb races' are one of our favourite aspects of lambing time here at The Sparrowholding. With a posse of 24 lambs out in the paddock at present, there are inevitably several 'gangs' who regularly race up and down the field for no other reason than... well... who needs a reason when you're young and full of joie de vivre?!
Son&Heir kindly used his techy expertise to add some appropriately energetic music to this video. Hope you enjoy!
And suddenly it was spring! Since 2016 began, life here at The Sparrowholding seems to have been one long, relentless stint of soil sampling and spreader testing (HunterGatherer) or tutoring pupils plus proofreading hundreds of thousands of words (Yours Truly). Our only respite during these four months was a snatched escape at the end of January, which comprised lunch at the rightly renowned The Peat Inn Restaurant in Fife (subject of a future blog post so watch this space!) followed by a rare and relaxing overnight stay at the Dunkeld House Hotel, during which we enjoyed strolling together at leisure along an extremely full, more-grey-than-silvery Tay.
Since that bijou break, it’s been flat out for February, March and April, so it’s quite a relief to see this frenetic period of our respective freelance years coming to an end. The farmers have eagerly returned to working the land (meaning that HunterGatherer now assumes his spring/summer guise of welder/mender of agricultural machinery), and the Scottish exam diet has begun (meaning that my tutoring commitments have reduced dramatically – for a few months at least!).
While we’ve been busy, our Shetland ewes haven’t exactly been idle either… All winter long they’ve been cultivating their own “crop” of bonnie, bouncing lambs, and with lambing now over breakfast time in the feeding area is a guddle of bleating babies and anxious mums, each trying to find the other after all the Ewe-lac nuts and JustGrass Blox (courtesy of FarmerBruv) have been gobbled up. During the day, the 24 lambs split their time between sleeping and playing – just as you’d expect of any self-respecting bambino (or perhaps that should be 'lambino'!).
Here's a mini-video plus a few photos of what our mini woolly jumpers have been up to during the past weeks...
Certain traditional triggers indicate when the time has come to embark on compiling our annual synopsis of life here at The Sparrowholding, and (to my eternal shame) one of those milestones has now been reached. There is no easy way to put this: Yours Truly has now thrice bought, thrice consumed and thrice replaced the – giant – tubes of Jelly Tots, Smarties et alia intended for the offspring’s Xmas stockings. Serious hockeying and myriad visits to the gym will no doubt be required throughout 2016 to make good the damage…
Empty nest syndrome? Not a chance!
Since our three chicks left home, we’ve often been asked if we suffer from empty nest syndrome, and the answer is always an unequivocal ‘No!’, as any void left by their departure has been amply filled by the needs of the ovine, equine and feline members of the Sparrowholding menagerie. This year, for example, Pickle the Pet Lamb – having been rejected by his evil sheep mother – kept his surrogate parents up night and day proffering feeds of reconstituted milk from a succession of Highland Spring bottles while rapidly attracting his own flock of Facebook aficionados. Then later in the year, FatCat unfortunately fell into the jaws of a mysterious canine marauder, thereby losing several of his nine lives in one go and leaving us with the problem of how to wean him back off Sainsbury’s roast beef slices (the only way to get painkillers into him) and back onto his usual diet of Sainsbury’s kangachunks.
'Google me!', quoth Suzi Quatro
News from London and Edinburgh of the daughterly duo and Son&Heir, respectively, is sporadic, but we (are led to) believe that all is well. DD1 (24) is becoming suitably steeped in the dubious practices of the legal profession as she approaches the final two months of her LPC professional training before starting work with a London law firm in February. We harbour a sneaking suspicion that she’s taking her lawyerly duties a little too seriously after a recent random remark revealed she keeps note of how many minutes each telephone conversation home lasts. Consequently, her father is fully expecting to receive an invoice in the post soon for the time he’s spent on the phone to her last month, itemised in ten-minute segments.
DD2 (22) graduated from Edinburgh Uni in June with a B.Mus (Hons).The “Music in the Community” element of her final year of study saw her performing in the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh every night for a week, dressed as a creature of the night, as well as teaching music for a week at a community project in The Gambia, whence she returned with her very own African drum (which is almost as big as her and probably required its own ticket on the plane home). Her action-packed summer also involved a four-day tour of Germany and Belgium, tooting her flute with the Scottish Universities Symphony Orchestra, followed by a week in Crete – allegedly to visit Greek ruins but in reality to imbibe Ouzo with impunity. In September, she moved to London to start work with a film music agency which is regularly frequented by famous people, most of whom Yours Truly – much to daughter dear’s disgust – has never heard of. Mark you, I did smile upon receiving a recent text message asking, “Mum, have you ever heard of someone called Suzi Quatro?” after the eponymous singer was apparently none too chuffed that DD2 didn’t recognise her, informing DD2 that she was 'huge in the 70s'! DD2’s response was to point out, with the tact and diplomacy for which she is renowned (not!) that she wasn’t actually born till 1993…whereupon she was instructed “Google me!”
Son&Heir (20) is still living in Edinburgh and has this year taken up the martial art of Muay Thai as well as starting to practise yoga (which, my trusty dictionary tells me, makes him officially a ‘yogi’). Having spent the month of July sunning himself in Singapore dining on sushi (while the rest of us wallowed in soggy Scotland supping stovies for warmth), he then spent the month of August grafting in a bohemian juice bar during the Edinburgh Festival. September saw him swap pursuits culinary for endeavours academic as he embarked on a B.A. in Marketing with Digital Media at Napier Uni. This should keep Son&Heir busy for the next four years as he learns the digital dark arts required to sell snow online to the Eskimos, which, if global warming continues, could – somewhat ironically – prove an extremely useful skill to possess…
An uplifting story...
The wedding of a close family friend in July meant a rare foray for Yours Truly – accompanied by the daughterly duo – to the shops of Edinburgh, a prospect fraught with a combination of doom and terror. And, as it transpired, my terror was justified, because no sooner had we arrived on Princes Street than I was frogmarched by the daughterly duo into Marks & Spencer and told in no uncertain terms (much to the amusement of the sales assistant in the underwear department) that I was NOT going to be wearing my aged favourite sports bra under my fancy frock for the wedding. With one determined daughter on either side of me, there was no possibility of escape, so I emerged with my reluctant cleavage having been duly restrained in an (apparently) more aesthetically pleasing fashion.
Meanwhile, HunterGatherer has this year split his working time between rescuing defunct farm machinery from near death, calibrating recalcitrant chemical sprayers and reluctant lime spreaders, and piloting a quad bike around thousands of acres of agricultural land in a quest to sample all the soil in Scotland. The downside of this operation is that being perched on a quad means he is exposed to every element that the meteorological gods think fit to throw at him; the upside is that he has close encounters with myriad species of Scottish wildlife (which makes a pleasant change from looking at the wife!). Like Yours Truly, he plays the occasional game of hockey when the local hockey club needs bodies on the pitch (even increasingly middle-aged and unfit bodies). His highlight of the season came recently when an opponent was heard to shout, “Watch that silver fox on the wing” – a reference to his increasingly silver locks, but equally a compliment about his fleetness of foot that he was happy to accept!
So, as another year of family life prepares to be consigned to the Sparrowholding annals (you can’t believe how many times I’ve spell-checked that word…), all that remains is for me to wish all our friends from far and near a peaceful and enjoyable festive period followed by a healthy and happy New Year in 2016.
Slàinte mhath from all of us to all of you, wherever you may be!