Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Cappuccino milk for the lambs

And this week’s favourite animals are… (drum roll please)… The orphan lambs!

Yep, the orphans have arrived. Three very noisy, very pretty, very noisy, two day old girl lambs. Noisy girl lambs. Little orphan Annie’s (were there any girls in Fagin’s gang in Oliver? Other than Nancy, but she was more to do with Bill Sykes—

—There’s a lovely true story about that. At the time Charles Dickens was writing Oliver Twist he had a friend who was working at the Houses of Parliament as an artist. Anyway a squabble broke out between the artist and one of the MPs over a woman, and the MP got the artist sacked. When the artist relayed this to Dickens, Dickens said he would immortalise the scoundrel by naming a nasty character after him in the latest book he was writing. The MP’s name was Bill Sykes.)

Noisy orphan lambs…

The danger with bottle feeding lambs five times a day is it could send a man off balance for good. They’re far too cute, and the urge to talk in baby speak whilst leaning over them with both hands on knees, screeching “Iccle baby lamber-lambers!” is always there. A lesser man than me might succumb, and certainly all the females.

No, leave all that silly stuff to the girls. Silly stuff. Never catch me doing it. Of course I do have to speak to them, but I do it in a manly way, matter of fact, “Here is your breakfast, please do not slurp.”

Breakfast is a manic headlong rush. The lambs are in the stable next to the goats. I have to dash past the lambs into the goats, get Amber up onto the milking platform and milk her into a bucket. I have a jug and three bottles ready, and I milk her in three separate stages because the milk froths on top like a cappuccino and each bottle has to be the same. Besides, it’s how the lambs like it.

All the while there is utter bedlam from the lambs next door.

Now for the tricky bit.

I’ve a rack in their stable set at the right height from which the lambs feed. All I have to do is fix the bottles in there without trapping a lambs head, or leg, or ear in the bar that secures the bottles in place. Once the bottles are in place, then the bundle can begin.

They all scrum for the same bottle. I’m pulling lambs off and poking their mouths at a spare bottles, and they look like they’re going to go for it… and then they charge back so they can all fight over the same one again.

Eventually I get them all plugged in.

They are little sucking machines, and don’t stop for boring things like breath. Their tails wag, their little tongues poke out from beneath the teat and their tummies swell like a balloon being blown up.

The goats, now milked and free to wander out and about for the day, come over to investigate, and nudge them a bit with their nose. The lambs pay them no attention. The geese go by, the chickens pop in, the dog nips in and out and the sheep stand outside and stare. The lambs ignore the lot of them.

Breakfast is a very serious business you know.

When they’re done, they spend a pleasant minute head butting me affectionately on the leg, before cuddling up together in a corner where the sun pools in the mornings.

That’s how we do breakfast. And in a few hours, we’ll do the same again for lunch. And then the same again in the afternoon. In total, it’s five times a day.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

One Year On

A year ago this week my first book came out. I can say first because I've just signed a contract to write a second *jumping up and down like Lewis Hamilton on the podium, and looking pathetically happy!*. A lot has changed in that year. I feel like I've learnt so much, and i think I've changed a lot as a person too. Certainly all those years of wondering and worrying if it's worth pursuing the dream of getting published have been worth it, and just that in itself has a huge impact. The thing is, when you sign a contract to write a first book, from that second on you're fumbling in the dark. There's no president. The writing process, putting the manuscript together, send it off, the publicity, promotions, it's all new and you're just doing your best moment by moment. It's pretty scary because if you muck it up, that's it baby, you've blown your chance and there's no way back. I loved writing the Self Sufficiency Bible, but now i know a little more, I'm going to love writing this next one a whole lot more. The first chapter is already written (that's what the publisher bought), so I've eleven more to write, and i can't wait to get started. I feel like... you know the night before you start a new job, when you're anxious and worried, but excited at the same time? Well that's how i feel right now. I'll have a bath on Sunday night, iron some clothes, and on Monday morning, I'll start. At least i know the coffee will be okay.