Ed Has a Little Bottle-Fed Lamb

If you have been dreaming of Bruges, a guest post by a fellow blogger, dream on, and then may I bring you back to the Cornish climes? This post is about Meg, a border collie, her master Ed, a farmer, and new-born lambs.

Now The Byre is an atmospheric barn conversion in Lostwithiel, Cornwall (you can book it through Cornish Cottage Holidays). We had a fantastic bargain. For 8 nights we paid up £385 and Ed threw in a free night. Now no one in all our years of renting cottages in the countryside has been ever so kind as Ed. A free night! Egad. We had one more day of exploring the countryside in Cornwall which we cannot resist even if it means that we have to return home to Northampton bleary-eyed, post a long day of walks, and then 5-odd hours of driving.

Ed lives with his vet wife Nicki in Lostwithiel in a rambling farmhouse. They have a menagerie of sorts. A tabby cat who likes to lie flat on their guest bed and luxuriate in the fact that Ed’s son and girlfriend has just vacated its quarters, and then there are the two dogs, Meg and Gizzie. Meg is a border collie who does a fair bit of work in rounding up the sheep. Gizzie is a Jack Russell Terrier who was rescued by Ed and Nicki because he had too many brothers too deal with in his previous home and had therefore started to exhibit signs of aggression. You would not suspect his troubled past from his mien now. He is just a typical Jack Russell, as curious and friendly as they come. You have met both Meg and Gizzie, in a face off, in my previous post.

Then there are the couple’s flock of Shropshire sheep which seem to tick off on all counts attributed to the 1929 heritage description of the Shropshire sheep: “Alert, attractive, indicating breeding and quality, with stylish carriage and a symmetrical form, showing the true characteristics of the Shropshire.” I do not know about quality but they certainly possessed style *I hear your sniggers

In the lead photo, you see Ed feeding the lamb. That is not because he is trying to domesticate him. In reality, the little one’s mother had refused him milk so Ed has become his de facto mum and dad. When we left, Ed was trying to get him to join the flock who have 9 acres of land for their grazing and pooping pleasure.

Ed’s father owned a huge farm where he kept a herd of 200 cattle but dairy farming became a part of his history to be talked about because of the change in times, inflation and the fact that his son and daughter were carving out their own niche in life.

“Plus all my conversation was going to be centred around cows, you know,” said Ed.

The son is a communications press officer with a cricket board and the daughter is a psychologist. By and by, Ed sold off his farms and bought the farmhouse with Nicki where they lead a quiet life with their menagerie. They even keep bee colonies, where on a cold grey and windy day amidst a patch of berries, rhubarb and leeks, we heard about the intelligence of bees, how they can figure out ways of stinging you, apart from gazing at an ewe who had just given birth to twins. She was busy licking them clean even as red trails of placenta hung down her behind. You see, the placenta is not snipped off as in humans because they have their own ways of dealing with. They often eat it up if they are wary of predators around their babies. Nature surely equips her creatures.

But beware of Meg’s charms. She is no less of a Madonna. Everyday before leaving the cottage and after our return, we used to have a session of squealing and whining and crooning. There were long conversations between Adi, Meg and I. She had a fairly unladylike comportment, I have to admit, and about which I did berate her but to no avail. Having identified Adi as the Belly Rub Guy, every time she spotted him, she would start crooning, raise her hind leg, and in a brief second or two, lie upside down for her quota of rubs. If you do meet her, carry a big batch of belly rubs for her, will you?

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Meg the Madonna
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Who wants to be a lady?
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Some stylish Shropshires 
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Ewe are looking at an ewe so please do not go ewe once you spot what we’ve been talking about
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Bottle-fed boy. He had a soft and springy feel to him.
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Ed’s bee colonies 
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‘Did you say, you cannot see us seeing you? Take your rude self off our pasture.’

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Frisky Border Collies and Cornish Byres

The weekend has started on a yellow note in the early hours of the morning. Getting up at 4am and witnessing dawn is Early for me. My father would faint (with delight) if he saw such changes in a daughter who has always nursed a penchant for sleeping like Kumbhakarna. Who might you ask, with a frown? K is a rakshasa straight out of the Indian epic Ramayana. If you have not heard of him, he is part of a saga that runs through the ream of bedtime stories reserved for every Indian child. A rakshasa is a man-eater. What I have in common with K, I am relieved to say, is just a passion for sleep. He used to shut eye for 6 months at a stretch – nothing could rouse him – and the legend will have you know that his snores could send tremors through the belly of the earth. When he did wake up, K would devour every living creature within his line of vision.

Post sessions of heavy partying on Saturday nights in Delhi, I would wake up on Sunday well past midday. I was the only young individual in an old building, its exteriors peeling off with the years since partition when the landlord’s family had moved in as refugees. The other occupants were a family of three on another level. The latter colluded with my parents (when they would visit me from Calcutta) to get me married off. A girl in her mid-20s living on her own and single is the neighbour’s alarm. The wife would often bang on my door to deliver the food she had cooked (which was extremely sweet but a bit of a test for someone nursing a ferocious hangover almost every weekend). This was followed by incessant banging on the door by the cleaning lady. She indulged in it with as impressive a ferocity as the hangover and, Saroja, I am convinced, enjoyed this routine. So there I was, your quintessential Kumbhakarna.

That is but the long and short of it.

Back to my lush surroundings in the Cornish wooded valley of Lostwithiel where we are staying for the long weekend, with a few extra days bunged in. I stood with my back to the door of our byre – old English for cowshed – busy loading up the fridge with our haul of groceries, when a huff and a puff and then patters on the flagstone floors startled me into a low scream. I almost felt back upon an enthusiastic border collie called Meg.

We had just arrived at the byre, a converted detached accommodation at a farm.

The strange dog turned over. I decided to do what I do when a four-legged boy/girl does that. Administer vigorous belly rubs till she had stopped whining and cooing, ‘Ooh yeah, don’t stop!’

A bit abrupt but the succulent chicken kebabs barbecued by Adi have just arrived on the table and I think I shall have to abandon this incessant chatter. Bless Adi for saving you from all of that.

Rapeseed fields in the Cotswolds as dawn breaks over a silent countryside. Courtesy: Aditya Varma
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Searching for the byre in Lostwithiel
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Wooded valleys of Lostwithiel
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Our nest for the next week
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Snuggling can be a serious preoccupation
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Cream tea put out thoughtfully by Ed and his wife
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Clotted cream without blackberry & strawberry preserves made in-house? Good heavens!
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Meg and Gizzie (the Jack Russell terrier in the foreground) 
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Adi’s smoky, spicy handiwork for this nippy evening along with some jacket potatoes. Bliss.

Till tomorrow then, toodles.