Humphrey The House Lamb
Humphrey The House Lamb

Sheep are strange. Come to think of it, no stranger than people, I suppose. Some sheep, after carting the lamb around for all the months of gestation, will just dump it on the hillside and walk away. If the new-born lamb gets lucky, it will be found in time by the shepherd and a kindly passing sheep dog. The other option, is that it is found by an assortment of carrion eaters – crows and the like – and if it is still alive, and so not strictly carrion yet, the crows are not above helping it on its way.

If Fiona, our landlady, wore a hat, she would wear several. She lives, just up the road, in Scotland, where she shares her hearth with an assortment of animals including sheepdogs and their associated shepherd (sheep included). In springtime, she will don one of those frilly pink, Bo Peep caps and, to save her from the drudgery of day-time television, the shepherd will find her a succession of poor, lost and lonely lambs to care for.

This would seem to be a good place to introduce Humphrey who, in these days of industrialised agriculture, is a fitting testimonial, if ever there was one, to all the love and care that is just a routine part of traditional farming.

Rough and Tough


Last year, or maybe the year before, I was telling you all about the Scandinavian Chaffinch. In the north, the male and female birds flock together for most of the year, but as soon as the weather starts to deteriorate, in late autumn, the females pack their bags and head off to the south, back to their mothers, no doubt.

The males stay in the north and just hang out, telling each other how many beers they drank last night and how they had to chop through the ice when they came out of the sauna and how much thicker it was than than the ice they chopped through yesterday. They lounge around talking about motor bikes and car engines and all the other stuff they haven’t been allowed to talk about while their wives were here.

Yesterday we were on our way home, stretching our legs up the hill from the bridge to our lane. Here honesty requires me to admit that, somehow or other, we usually manage to find a reason to stop, now and again, during the journey.

One such pause, for instance, occurred when I stopped to take a picture of a chaffinch about twenty yards farther on up the road – just sitting there. As I aimed the camera, this guy popped out of his section of the hedge and flitted to the road not ten feet away from us.

The males are very territorial – and this extends to photo opportunities, apparently.

Keep On Keeping On

UnionOfSouthAfrica - Cumbrian Mountains Tour
UnionOfSouthAfrica – Cumbrian Mountains Tour

Soon, things will quieten down and I won’t have so much to choose from each week. Hopefully, I will be able to show you some on the pictures we’ve taken over the last month or so while the natural world has been going at full tilt. There is a nice picture of the rabbit warren where I thought I glimpsed someone sitting outside in the sun, I pointed and clicked, just in case – and the picture turned out to have five rabbits in when I looked at it later.

Then, there are a couple of the flowers that Dr Edward Bach used to make his flower essences from, White Chestnut for people who find their thoughts stray off topic too easily and who need to focus and Oak for people who face a long struggle against the odds to win through. A bit like The Little Engine Who Could.

Which brings me on to the excitement of this week, firstly our cows have returned from their winter sojourn to the lap of luxury. I have to confess, with apologies to any bovine reading this, but I don’t recognise any of them. Jackie assures me that they are the same cows though, so that’s that. Secondly, and of much greater import, a real train on our line.

Our embankment is part of the long climb out of Carlisle, over the top, to Newcastle – I’m sure that a few drops of Oak wouldn’t have come amiss.

Crisis Management

Crab Apple
Crab Apple

I’m sorry if I’m a bit blurry today – I’ve just spent a fantastic day at a Social Media Strategy workshop run by Keith McMean, so this evening my head is buzzing with all that went on and I’m finding it hard to stay in focus. Talking about staying focused – have a look at today’s photo. Well, I’m sure you remember our cows went off for a quiet and restful few months at the end of last year. We are expecting them back any day now the weather has warmed up, and the grass, having got its act together, is now calf high.

Now, a fully grown bovine has considerable mass and, while they are not generally aggressive, they do not like dogs. So, The Dog and I allow them to lead separate lives and we don’t go into the field when they are around. As I’m sure you can guess, we have taken the opportunity of their absence to check on the flora and fauna along the beck at the bottom of the field. The fauna turned out to be, particularly nimble, rabbits – much to The Dog’s frustration. The flora turned out to be much more interesting.

Apple trees, growing wild, tend to cross pollinate. This means, if you find a group of them in wood or hedge – they could be anything. Down by our beck we have a single Crab Apple tree – so we know it is a Crab Apple.

Crab Apple is the flower essence recommended by Dr Edward Bach for the treatment of those who act completely out of character – due to stresses and strains in their life.

Hence our title.

Not Straight Black and White

White Bluebell
White Bluebell

Sometimes language gets it right, sometimes you wonder if it shouldn’t go back to school. I’ve mentioned Violets before. Anyone with an ear for music knows that Roses are red and Violets are blue. Leaving aside the question of what colour red Roses are for the moment, I’d like to draw your attention to Violets. There are two interdependent issues here, but I’ll do my best to clear things up for you.

To start with I think I ought to mention Blueberries. They are easy to sort out in the breakfast cereal bowl as they are blue. Then, while we are breaking our fast, perhaps I could mention Orange juice, Oranges are orange. Now we skate off over the thin ice of contention. Strawberries are not straw, they are not even straw coloured. Turnips are, well, just turnips, really. The same could be said for Pumpkins. No, not that Pumpkins are turnipsĀ  – Pumpkins are Pumpkins, as those of us who have had to interface with them outside of fritters can testify. Green Beans are green Baked Beans are baked, it’s only when we get to Butter Beans that the etymology becomes strained.

Meanwhile, back at the florists, Pinks are pink and Lilac is lilac. With Violets we have two choices. Either the flowers should be violet or the name of the flowers should be Blues. That’s it, stripped to its bare essentials. It’s quite simple really.

As you no doubt guessed by now, today’s picture is a Bluebell.