IMG 5514 300x223 A GREAT SHEEP

Belle and Bill

I’m not much of a stockman. In spite of working with them for some forty years, sheep all look more or less the same to me. But occasionally you do come across a great sheep, one that stands head and shoulders above the flock. Such a creature is Belle. She’s known as Belle because at the moment she is the only sheep with a bell… thus Belle. The layman might wonder from time to time how one chooses the sheep to hang the bells on. It’s like this: if a ewe gets too fat, it’s often hard to get her in lamb (pregnant). One way of slimming down a fat ewe is to put a big bell on her. So each time she lowers her head to take a munch of grass, she finds the bell hanging in the way, and her teeth cannot reach the luscious morsel to sever it with a view to mastication, and subsequent regurgitation  and rumination.

Sheep learn fast though, probably as a consequence of not having a great deal to think about, so they soon learn to lay the bell down, tip it on its side, and bite. Of course this takes longer than normal unencumbered grazing, so they quickly slim down enough to enjoy the attentions of the ram, who tends to prefer his ewes slender and shapely.

Belle was the fattest ewe in the flock when I last hung the bell; she also seemed to possess what I can only describe as a positive attitude – although it’s hard to attribute this sort of thing to a sheep.

During the past month half the flock has lambed, and I have shut them in to keep an eye on them. Belle, who was clearly soon to lamb, stayed with the outside flock and ranged by day and night over the hills behind the farm. A week ago the flock came down in silence; Belle had stayed on the hill, obviously having lambed. I went up to look for her but to no avail.

‘She’s a good mother that one,’ said Manolo the Hired Hand. ‘She’ll look after her lamb and bring it down when she’s ready.’

A week passed and not a sign of Belle. I was beside myself with worry and grief for the loss of a great sheep – to say nothing of the bell.

‘That’s the end of that one,’ said Manolo. ‘I saw four foxes at la Herradura this morning.’

I groaned, for I had seen two foxes that very morning at the top of the hill. A fox will take a new born lamb; it looked like bad news.

And then today there was a jaunty bongling, and tripping down the hill came Belle with a lamb at her heels. She had given birth to and protected the little creature high on a hillside that was seething with hungry foxes. That is a great sheep.  I shall keep her lamb for breeding and call him Bill.

Cropped lambs 249x300 A GREAT SHEEP

Some of Bill's mates

11 Responses to “A GREAT SHEEP”

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  1. Comment by Laura — February 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm   Reply

    Wonderful post! I was delighted by the happy ending. Pleased also to read that you will be posting more frequently – a welcome escape for this fan of yours from Oregon, USA who loves las Alpujarras.

  2. Comment by Ann Warren — March 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm   Reply

    Hello Chris
    Trevor told me about your blog, which is great. I have read the books twice but it is still good to have more, with photos.
    Trevor is with us as the moment as he has various gigs around the country with Disassembler. Carmen was here also for a few days, she is very sweet.
    I was so sorry to hear about the parrot, and really felt for Ana.
    Best wishes to you and your wife.

  3. Comment by Eric Huckle — March 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris
    This may not be the place to do this but didn’t know how else to get in touch with you. I am trying to get hold of someone from a long time ago, someone I used to work with in Sussex. His name is Nick and I can’t remember his second name. He’s a carpenter and I worked with him in 1990. I remember him speaking of you and that you lived in Wales at the time.
    Just wondered if you are still in touch and if you are maybe you could give him my email address.
    Thanks Eric

  4. Comment by Graeme Steel — April 30, 2011 at 9:09 am   Reply

    Hi Chris:

    I wonder if you will remember me? We were both on a TEFL course at International House in London in the early 1980s, all those years ago.

    I recall chatting with you over a snack in the nearby park – you talking about your vision of living in Spain, while I was enthusing over my new life in Tangier, where I stayed for eight years.

    I was going to write a section of the Rough Guide to Morocco for Mark Ellingham, but left and moved to Surabaya, Indonesia, where I have now lived for 21 years and where I teach at the international school, and do freelance travel writing on the side. I updated the East and Central Java for the RG to Indonesia for Mark for the last edition.

    I was so pleased to come across Driving over Lemons, and to know that you achieved your dream.

    With all best wishes,

    Graeme Steel

  5. Comment by Rob Jarvis — May 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm   Reply

    I sent this on your contact page but i dont think it worked you might like this Alora 1964,I reckon this was filmed when they made parts of Von Ryans Express in El choro which came out in 1965 A friend who’s lived here for years tells me that there use to be a photo of Frank Sinatra standing outside the Bar on Alora Estation in the Bar

  6. Comment by Angels — May 31, 2011 at 10:28 am   Reply

    Hola, Chris. Otra vez te vuelvo a encontrar. En Listísimo te dejé un comentario y una proposición (animado ese día por un extraño optimismo). Quizás este sea un sitio más adecuado.

    Te comento aquí algo que dices en la introducción (allí no hay sitio para hacerlo).

    No entiendo bien que hagas dos blogs en uno. En algún sitio leí tu sorpresa por lo bien que se han dado tus libros en España cuando iban dirigidos a un publico ingles, igual pienso de las anécdotas que cuentas (esta misma es divertida y tierna -has conseguido que comience el día con una sonrisa en los labios).

    Reinterpretar la España rural nos causa a los españoles el mismo pasmo que a un inglés. Miguel Delives vivió toda su vida creando sobre esto, fomentando la curiosidad y cultivando cierta nostalgia por lo rural (el español es un ser ajeno a lo rural, incluso en el campo tiende a situarse en lo urbano), por lo que muchos miramos el campo a través de la ventana de un buen libro.

    Leerte en inglés es un incordio. No hay duda. Y el traductor de Google tiene bastante menos gracia que tú contando las cosas.

  7. Comment by Patrik Schumann — August 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm   Reply

    heritage fruit varieties…please pass along…mildly important

    Sorry, I lost the private contact info. My wife Camila and I from New Mexico met briefly with Chris at El Valero Sept 2009.

    I would like to jog his memory regarding our interest in comparing notes and light collaboration on collecting, propagating, and re-introducing lost fruit varieties of his region.

    We are up to 600 high- and dry-land varieties out here, some from the Conquista and areas where he has harvested seed.

    Thanks if you can forward this message. I don’t need an involved response.

  8. Comment by Annette Rosengren — September 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris, You don’t know me, but as so many others I know you from reading over and over your books. For ages I have been planning early retirement in the Alpujarra, and it is going to happen soon. Now that has got nothing to do at all with you…except that we might become neighbors ! I don’t want to be too explicit here in public, so if you guess what place I’m referring to, drop me a line please. Cheers. Annette

  9. Comment by Kathy BradySeptember 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris, I am only on disc 2 of “Driving over Lemons” but it is SO funny, just wanted to say “thank you” for publishing such a hilarious memoir!! I have been driving around Silicon Valley in between school drop-offs and pick-ups laughing hysterically all by myself. And your blog is fun to read as well! Cheers! Kathy

  10. Comment by tessa douglas — March 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris

    Thank you for the wonderful reads, have read whatever I have found in the Umhlanga municipal library and have just seen you on my TV (with Rick Stein! ) You definately need your own TV programme!
    Keep writing ………..I read fast!

  11. Comment by Laura Ferreira — February 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris,
    A friend gave me your book to read, Driving over Lemons. The story sounded familiar. I think we read your second book, A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, probably passed on from my son who lives west of Chesterfield in Derbyshire. I was curious to read more about your life. Consequently I have really enjoyed these stories in your blog. Having had a small flock of sheep myself for 20 years along with other farm animals, these stories ring true. I will persevere with the nettles and try soup as we have lots of nettles on our property in the Spring. My cousin actually fertilizes her grapes in her organic vineyard with nettle water. Must go, Looking forward to reading your first book.
    Cheers, Laura Ferreira from Cowichan Bay near Duncan on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada

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