For those who know me well, Friday would have sounded like my idea of Hell. Yes, I love animals (with the one exception of dogs) and we were certainly surrounded by animals: 320 brebis (ewes), 6 belliers (rams) and about 300 agneaux (lambs). However, a cloud on the horizon was rapidly approaching. At 10:00 AM today Luc and Nadine were playing host to a pre-school visit of 21 children aged between 2½ and 5 years. We would, of course, enjoy helping Luc and Nadine make ready for the visit on our normal early-morning shift. However, Luc and Nadine tend to appreciate our photographs and wondered if we would document the event. Gulp! 21 young children!!? “OK, certainly – we’d be delighted.”
[Aside: We were a little concerned about taking photos of kids but permission was readily granted by their teachers and we were happy to agree not to publish any on the Internet … so you aren’t getting those.]
The 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM preparation went well. The older group of lambs even seemed to be behaving themselves more by not hiding under the ewes and suckling while we were trying to round them up into their pen. The ewes are distracted with their food on the conveyor belt and held in place while the lambs are rounded up. This is essential to clear the ground for the floor-covering straw to be refreshed. Some lambs take advantage of the trapped ewes, grab teats and start suckling. We play baddy and drag the lambs unceremoniously from mother’s milk, carrying them to their corral. Occasionally, we may pause to cuddle one. After all, cuddling a lamb is one of life’s great treats. Why else did we drive 800+ miles?
After breakfast the bus load of junior terrorists arrived. Carol and I joined Luc, Nadine and the kids, in my case with a little trepidation. I shouldn’t have worried; the children were wonderful and much better behaved than I would have imagined watching English kids. There were only six boys in the group; 15 were girls. Some of them were completely captivating. (Yes, I really said that.) The day was completely awful weather-wise but the children never complained, did as they were told and didn’t run riot. Spirits were high with the lambs but, after all, that’s why they were there. One ewe even dutifully gave birth in their presence. The unfortunate youngster was regrettably “unviable” but, like a true professional, Luc hid this uncomfortable fact from the kids very well.
Everyone had a great time, including me. The kids and teachers came equipped with a picnic, despite the weather, and Luc provided Roquefort cheese for them to taste which completed the cycle nicely. Nadine had spent the previous day making countless crepes for an afternoon treat. Ya gotta love French; the crepe mixture contained rum, for 2½ and 5 year-olds. Brilliant! I love them!! [Aside: It’s not a problem, the alcohol cooks out when the crepes are fried leaving just the rum flavour.]
Slightly less well behaved than the kids on occasion were the lambs. They have a strange habit of sneaking through the access points for the ewes and clambering onto the conveyor belt containing the food. It’s like walking on the adults’ table. They also tend to clamber on the table top covering the food they should be eating, which is a strange mixture of clay and pellets.
Working with this loveable collection for a week has been a pleasure and a privilege. We’ll do tomorrow’s morning shift before we leave but, just to finish off, here’s one of our favourite lambs. Totally irresistible!