Not dead yet

It is has not been a year of abundant blogging, and certainly not recently. Easter at Douai is a busy time if one is simultaneously sacristan, cantor and shepherd: lots of liturgical services to set up for, sometimes single-handedly; lots to sing at those same services, and to practise for naturally; and it is lambing season.

The last lamb popped out during vespers on Friday, the reluctant mother Hildegard finally conceding to Mother Nature. She gave birth to this year’s only single lamb, Ambrose (Samson, though now a single, had a sister at birth who sadly only lasted a day). Our much reduced flock of six ewes has had ten lambs, which is a more easily manageable number. Of those ten, eight are rams and only two ewes. Their father, Spitfire, has not interrupted the ewes’ tendency to produce rams. Is this a subtle accommodation to the cloister in the domain of which they live?

Continue reading “Not dead yet”

An Easter Surprise: Magdalene

This morning a little surprise awaited in the meadow: Magdalene, a surprise newborn lamb, bonnie and bouncy. If you ever get the chance to hold a new or newish lamb, make sure you get a good whiff of its fragrance – simply heavenly.

Magdalene meets Thelma

Magdalene has a little frolic in the shelter

Magdalene, out with the others for the first time, takes a moment for a welcome feed from her mother, Hildegard.

Holy leaping lambs, Batman.

Time for a less serious post. Photos of the lambs are piling up, over a week’s worth, and drowning will soon ensue. Every now and then I was able to get a shot of the lambs at play, in particular when they leapt. The leaping of lambs is one of those sights that brings a smile to the stoniest face. The photos, taken at a distance with a point-and-shoot camera, do not really capture their sheer exuberance and joie de vivre. Nevertheless, it makes for the occasional cute photograph.

So in chronological order some leaping lambs from the past week. As always the photos get bigger if you click them, but they are of varying quality.


Changing pace for a moment, a few pictures from the sheepfold, in particular our 8 lambs. After the daily feeding for the adults (in which the lambs are now taking an increasingly vigorous part), the adults tend to wander off, and the lambs take their afternoon nap, mostly in the shelter. As the sun fought its way through a day-long mist, bestowing a pleasing warmth, it was a rather soothing scene. As usual, clicking a photo will take you to its larger version.

**WARNING** – the following photos are not for the hard-hearted, as they contain explicit schmaltz and gratuitous cuteness.


The creche, after lunch.

Thelma and Nonnie.

Patch, dead to the world.

Nonnie (the rejected lamb, though after some serious persuasion, now tolerated), dreaming of the day when her mother comes to love her.

Bianca, sunbathing like a pro.

Patch slumbers on.

Nonnie awakes, ever so briefly.

News from the sheepfold… and a prince

This post was begun yesterday but last night I received the monastery cold. We have a pet cold here, and the community has been taking turns holding it the last few weeks. It seems it is my turn now. Time spent in the cold outside with Nonnie, our vulnerable lamb, must have marked me out as sufficiently caring to mind the cold. The whack on the head when trying to re-odorize her with mother’s scent yesterday (mother is a handful) clinched the deal.

Naturally the first to capture the camera’s attention was Patch, who has a natural camera-awareness that many celebrities would admire. He is now four days old. (All pictures should get a little bigger if you click them)

Patch is a pro

Keeping him company was Thelma, flashing something of a vamp’s smile. She too is now 4 days old.

Thelma flashes a wicked grin.

Popping next door to the isolation shelter, all seemed calm and I was relieved to find Non Nominata (Nonnie) still alive. Mother was still pushing her away but not as violently. She kept coming back to mother nevertheless, and here for once mother does not move when Nonnie gets close, probably distracted by Bianca.

The troublesome pen

After re-odorising Nonnie, involving a less than delicate rubbing of mother’s backside (and a knock to my noggin), the sisters continued to bond while mother remained uninterested. In fact both little ones hopped and skipped like the world was their oyster… but not when the camera was on them.

Bianca and Nonnie

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the cheeky older girls Zsa Zsa and Eva have rounded up three of the little ones (Louise rather pointedly stayed with her mother) and took them for a rollicking good romp around the field. Zsa Zsa seems to think she is a gazelle.

The lambs gambol and frolic

What goes up must come down.

Zsa Zsa again

They all get up a great head of steam.


The little ones were getting pooped so they all stop for a breather. And of course, Patch spots the camera.


Indomitable, Zsa Zsa and Eva come charging back for some more attention-seeking.

Back for more

It was almost impossible to get good shots of the lambs at play since they were far off, and too quick for my camera. But you can get a sense of their liveliness.

Now the question remains, how is Nonnie this morning?

**An aside – when one drafts a post on WordPress it suggests tags and links as one progresses, according to the content being typed. For some reason WordPress is suggesting the tag “Frederic Prinz von Anhalt“. The continental nobility is not my forte so I have no idea why he should  be suggested. But since WordPress knows more than I do, and since I would not begrudge the Prince getting his name out there, I will include the tag. Maybe he breeds sheep….


I was wrong about the prince. He is married to Zsa Zsa Gabor. He might still breed sheep though….

Update 2

Oh dear – I just Wikipedia-ed the man. A prince in name only, and quite bizarre. His “son” is even less appetising. There is no way they keep sheep.

Woe in the sheepfold?

The title is literal not metaphorical. Two more lambs were born today, twin girls to a first time mother. One, an all-white lass obviously to be named Bianca, has been accepted by mother. Disturbingly, mother is not so keen on the other, letting it feed but then ramming it quite hard to keep it away from her. Shortly, if I can get some help, we will try to cover the little one in some of mother’s smell. But I have that sinking feeling…

For the time being we have 8 lambs, and I would put money on one more ewe being pregnant so we may get up to 10! Anyway, meet Bianca and Non Nominata.

Bianca and Non Nominata

The fecund fields of Douai

Plans for another blog entry have had to take a back seat after the birth on the same day of 4 lambs, twin boys and twin girls. Having expected none this year after our old ram’s summer death, the 6 lambs we now have are quite the surprise. There may be another ewe or two pregnant. Obviously our little boys, all only just turned 1 year old, have been able to fill their father’s hooves.

Twin sisters, Thelma (front) and Louise. They are already springing.

Twin brothers, Patch (left) and Flash, a little pooped after a frolic in a passing rain shower.

Eva and Zsa Zsa, now close to a month old, are excited about all the new friends they have. Here they manage to avoid a protective mother to acquaint themselves with Flash yesterday, not long after his birth.

Yesterday Patch gave reason to think he is going to cut quite a dash; he poses like a pro only hours after birth.

So, now that the tail rings are on, I can think about that blog post.

Births in the Monastery

Well, not quite births in the monastery. Rather, births among its flock… of sheep, that is. Yesterday twin sister lambs, Eva and Zsa Zsa, were born (pics get bigger if you click them).

Just born

Mother busied herself for a long time indeed giving the little girls a makeover.

A tongue lashing of the best kind

This ewe lost both her twins last year when they emerged together. This confused her and she only managed to get one free of its birth sac, and then only belatedly. The encased one died before I arrived, and the second never recovered from the trauma and died not much later. This year, things worked to plan. I arrived shortly after Eva was born, and she was already clear of the sac, on her feet, and feeding. Having dashed back in for lunch, I returned to find Zsa Zsa had been born, and was also on her feet though having some trouble finding the teat. About Compline time it began to snow and I had fears for the lambs on this chilly first night for them.

So I was relieved to find this sight when I went out this morning…

Both lambs and morning, fresh

Zsa Zsa still has some trouble getting to the milk in timely fashion…

It's there somewehre

In all the lambs seem to be in good form. In fact, they are rather enjoying the attention from the paparazzo.

Taking the adulation like pros


Last night we had enough snow to blanket the earth in a soothing veil of white, fitting on this feast of St Scholastica, Virgin and Nun. There are two “photo essays” of scenes around the monastery this morning. You can see them on the Tumblr page (which is much better suited to pictures).