By Zoe Colville, The Chief Shepherdess
There was a time in my life when “shopping” meant starting the day with a breakfast involving an alcoholic beverage of some kind, giggling with friends in high street changing rooms whilst the attendant looked on disapprovingly, deep marks on my forearms from carrying the heavy shopping bags and my bank account taking a battering. Oh how things have changed since my change in lifestyle.
I no longer frequent famous bustling high streets, lured into shops by their glittery “sale” signs and inviting aromas of bergamot and orange blossom. When we take the day off the farm to go “shopping” now, it’s less mimosas and pancake stacks and more greasy fry up, with a cafetiere coffee in a polystyrene cup to go. Slurping my coffee as I walk down the noisy aisles, this time I’m not browsing rows of perfectly pressed jackets and jumpers. Instead, pen after pen of woolly faces staring at you as if to say “what you lookin’ at?”.
Sheep are pregnant for roughly five months. For the lambs to be born at springtime, in time for the change of seasons and the fresh grass, the males need to be introduced in the autumn. This means from September we are doing a lot of spending.
New females to carry lambs since we will have sold any that are retiring. And we also buy in new males, called tups or rams, also. This can mean we go on dates up the country to buy from breeders that we like or know. It can also mean attending sales, quite often thousands of sheep being sold to the highest bidder.
I used to be intimidated by that environment, feeling the outsider because I didn’t know the names of the breeds or simply not understanding what the auctioneer was saying over the microphone, I thought I spoke fast! Everyone was so welcoming it wasn’t long before I felt comfortable enough to make bids and felt that buzz. There is adrenaline and excitement that comes with buying livestock in autumn that you don’t get at any other time of the year. Will they have good lambs? Is this breed the future of our flock? It’s unknown but it’s fun, it’s not without its risks, the price can fluctuate and so can the weather, but it’s the reason we are in the farming game. We like being kept on our toes, every season and every year brings new challenges.
About The Little Farm Fridge
Zoe spent her childhood outdoors with her imaginary animals and tent making. At 18 she moved to London to train as a hairdresser where she spent all her time until she met Chris and slowly migrated back to Kent. Slowly they have built up their flocks and herds until now they have quite a menagerie of animals, grazing pockets of land all over the county (and beyond). One thing is for certain, the passion they have for their livestock is ever present. Even in the wettest winter or the driest summer they strive for nothing but the best.