We travel every year to Bendigo for the Australian Sheep and Wool Show. It has become an annual pilgrimage, we catch up with friends and my husband meets with colleagues and clients. But 2017 was different. We hitched the trailer and our young son Edward took his own sheep for his showing debut!
You see aside from our everyday mob we have a little stud of rare English Leicester sheep, purchased on a whim by my husband a few years ago and shipped over from Tassie – it was our farm or the saleyards. So here they are. There are only some 500 of these animals left in Australia today and no more in the UK. They played a significant part in the development of the sheep industry, first arriving in Australia in the early 1800’s.
English Leicesters are comical creatures – the couch potatoes of the sheep world, albeit with British aplomb. They love to sleep flat on their side (we often think they’re dead in the paddock) and won’t arise until poked or the feed bucket is rattled.
Most of all they LOVE to eat and do so with gusto and an extraordinary amount of noise. They rarely exert themselves, though will push past the car at the gate to get into the house-yard and bolt for greener pastures, inevitably making us late for the school bus run.
My older son Charlie stayed behind for school commitments when we went to the Show. He and my dear Dad popped out to the farm to feed the menagerie in our absence. It was during this visit that I got the phone-call from Charlie
“Mum, brace yourself. You are not going to like what I am about to tell you. The gate was left open and the rams are in the garden”.
Any farmer’s wife will know the feeling – racing heart, flashes of trampled garden beds and plants snapped like matchsticks. This time the rams had run straight to my newest garden, freshly planted with fragrant daphne, viburnum and philadelphus intended to welcome guests. With their usual feeding fervour the rams had plucked the plants out roots and all.
Thanks to Dad and Charlie and their swift damage control, some plants will survive. The sheep on the other hand nearly didn’t. The Leicesters won a few ribbons at the show so they have redeemed themselves for now. They may not be so lucky next time!
Encouraging me to look on the bright side my boys found a positive in the debacle – much to their delight the rams had raided the vege patch and devoured the kale.