Friday 2 March 2012

S.A.S. (Special Assignment Sheep) and a Jam Giveaway

The three fields immediately visible from the house were looking a bit shaggy. One of our neighbours has a lot of sheep. It was only a matter of time before I figured out that this was a marriage made in heaven and so they arrived.

It's very relaxing to look out over the fields to see dozens of contented girls munching or standing or lying about the grass, great woolly eating machines. These sheep had one red dot on their backs, indicating they had just one lamb growing in their rapidly expanding tummies.

It is my belief that some animals have more personality than others, most of the creatures that live at The Larches have been overly blessed with personality! To prove this rule, one of the sheep, that had been bottle reared last year, was determined to choose her own grazing. No matter the height of the fence or electrical tape, she jumped it. I did suggest to the farmer that she might try out for the Olympics, but with so many sheep to lamb, I think he's rather too busy to undertake the training required as coach. She wasn't a bother really, she just preferred the grass on the other side of the fence - I'm sure we've all felt like that at some time. At bed time she hopped back over to the rest of the girls and settled down for the night.

All was peaceful.

Then, over a weekend, the tegs arrived.

The tegs [new word for me] are the yearling sheep that will be put to the tup, the ram, at the end of this year. They are the sheep equivalent of hoodies. No fence, gate or bolt of electricity can keep them from exploring their environment. It was like fat camp for me.

As I continued with my chores around the house between bouts of writing; I'm Head of Relocations for Chez Archer don't you know and my duties include returning an endless amount of c.r.a.p. back to the sproglets' bedrooms as well as piles of laundry from the utility room to bedrooms, usually via an unlimited stay in a blue Ikea bag etc, etc... I spied the escapees from the long Gothic window on the stairs.

This was my 95th journey upstairs that day, a teetering stack of neatly folded fresh clothes in my arms, I glanced out across our rural view, usually a pleasurable moment. It took me a couple of seconds to realise that these new commando-girls weren't munching the grass in Home Field but rather had surrounded my fenced-off allotment in the bottom left of the field. They were salivating over my cabbages, kale, leeks and celeriac. My eyes narrowed as I observed one determined girl rise up on her back legs and headbutt the corner post. Three more crack shots and the post began to teeter.

'Noooo,' screamed I, chucking the laundry to the floor.

I was too late, by the time I'd got down there they had pruned the cabbages. Everything else was fine. For the rest of the day I was on guard, they ran off whenever I chased them, returning to the far paddocks, but as soon as I turned my back to go to the house they formed an orderly queue and trotted back towards the restaurant allotment. In the end I bribed enlisted the children to continue to repel the siege of the cotton balls, till my neighbour came to secure them with more electical torture wire.

Sheep. Who'd have thought they could be so naughty?

I was thinking of getting two orphan lambs this year but, bearing in mind the fact that our fences are clearly less than sheep-proof and that every farmer and his dog round here has warned me not to do it AND the fact that I can't get the sproglets out of bed in the mornings, (so how the heck will they get up to clean and feed lambs?) - I was just coming down on the side of saying 'No, I'm not doing lambs this year.' It was really rather unfortunate therefore that a friend should turn up to the house last night with a cardboard box in the boot of her car..... Inside was a day old lamb, a triplet. She had been given him by another farmer and was going to try to latch him onto one of her sheep, a sheep that had lost a lamb. It had died not long after being born.

The sproglets had just returned from school and begged to hold him.

He was gorgeous and all my delay tactics flew out of the window. So, if there are any cades going, we'll probably have two. I'll let you know.

Next Tuesday I'm off to be a slave for a day, lambing on a friend's farm. I can't wait and yes, I'm fully aware that there will be poo, blood and my toes may get stamped.. or worse. Still can't wait.

It's definitely Spring here, the pond is full of frog and toad spawn and in the greenhouse sown seeds are sprouting without the need for the propogator, calundula, sunflowers and cosmos to name but a few. I've re-potted the tomatoes already, planting their leggy stems deep into larger pots. I may do that several more times yet.

I feel my novel, The Perrys at The Berries, is progressing well and I'm well on my way to finishing. In fact, if you would be so kind I'd be grateful for your opinion of the first three chapters, I'm a little nervous to upload any more of my book at this time but you can read this excerpt in Authonomy. I'd be so grateful for any opinion from you, the readers of The Archers at The Larches, as it's a fictionalised account of a family, like us, trying out the rural life for the first time. Try it, see what you think.

Lastly, I'm offering the chance to win 2 pots of home made Larches jam. This draw is open to all followers.

To be eligible for the draw on Sunday 11th March. The first name pulled from a hat by hubby will get 1 pot of yummy, scrummy Blackberry and Plum Jam and 1 pot of delicious Damson Jam.
  • register yourself as a Follower before Saturday 10th March with Google Friend Connect (add your little picture or logo to my Global Friends gallery,)
  • AND add a comment to this post
  • Existing followers need only add a comment to this blog post to be eligible for the giveaway
Good luck!


  1. I have enough trouble with chickens, so sheep are definately out. Fortunately, we have a friendly farmer who likes our wine, so we get a regular supply of grass fed lamb. I hope I get a chance tonight to enjoy your book. Fingers crossed.

  2. I would gladly pay the postage!

  3. Wally B: Oh yummy. We had local lamb yesterday for Sunday lunch. Could eat it again now.... Really hope you get the time to read my book. Please let me know what you think.. (don't be kind)

    James: You are very kind, but if win we will gladly send the jams to you with all our thanks for being such a great pal to us Archers at The Larches.

  4. Oh Lou, I was gripped! I couldn't believe I'd got to the end of the extract, I was completely absorbed and had tears in my eyes when Sophie said that she wanted the house! I guess we put our comments here rather than on the Authonomy website?

    Chapter 1: I loved the unexpected comedy of Sophie's thoughts. Your own personality from here is very evident! She is very charming and likeable. As a reader, I could really relate which is really important to me with this genre of book.

    Chapters 1 and 2: The Mother in Law, and the friends, are perhaps too exaggerated for me - I can totally believe in the family, but not the other characters and that bothers me - I want to believe in everyone so that this book can really take me away, so I can really be Sophie when I read the book! Such characters do appear in other popular novels, but the direction of Chapter 3 really does set you apart from the 'run of the mill' popular novels - it's wonderful. It flows beautifully, everything you describe is spot on. I love getting the viewpoint from all four family members, running so smoothly alongside eachother. Your writing style is so superb, I think if you more subtly hint at the other characters, it would be more effective - less is more? The description of the friends garden for example - he was showing off but it felt too much.

    I also felt that you could limit readership and age your book by some things you mention. For example, The Beach (your description alone sets the scene, it doesn't, to me, need to be backed up by the mention of the novel), and Relocation Relocation - a reader in five years time, or to an overseas reader, this may not mean much to them - the description of a property programme would be enough. The Harry Potter key was great though - the series of books/films are so well known and will be for many years to come, but The Beach would perhaps be unheard of to some so really doesn't add anything.

    I love the contrast between Chapters 1-2 and 3 - the change of pace, Sophie's feelings and thoughts - the huge change of tone from Chapter 3 will really grip your readers and set the theme for the rest of the book.

    It rather reminds me of the hugely successful Tessa Hainsworth books - about her move from London to Cornwall (from high profile businesswoman to postie!). She really embraces her new life which I'm sure we'll see Sophie do henceforth. Also, but not so much, it made me think of Liz Jones' account of her move out of London.

    Just to mention, the red text in a lot of Chapter 3 makes it quite hard to read on screen.

    Please keep us posted on your book, I can't wait to read it! Fab job!

  5. Lucy: Thank you so much - that was a brilliant critique with good solid advice from a proper reader. I promise to take lots on board. If you could join Authonomy and copy your critique there too I would be eternally grateful.

    I hope to upload more chapters soon (when I'm feeling brave!)so hopefully you'll enjoy the unfolding story.

    Thank you - you've given me a great big electronic hug today. Mwah!

  6. I have enough trouble with my Nannies, forget something that needs shearing! Yikes. But thank you for my new vocabulary. I'm very anxious to head off to Scotland or Wales and try it out. :-)

  7. Bless you Lou, it's a pleasure!

    I've just posted on Authonomy too, no problem!

    Do feel brave, and have total faith in what you're doing! It is, hand on heart, a fantastic story! I can't wait to read more!

  8. I'm So Fancy: If you needa the lingo just wait till the next blog post - you may even qualify as a animal midwife!


The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon