Sue Woodcock: Spring lambs are a ray of sunshine

AT last spring is almost here. A beautiful little ewe lamb arrived, a pure bred Jacob with an attentive and loving mother. She and the lamb are remarkably tame and she is playing with the twin boys already. When I feed the sheep in the mornings the three of them stand on the edge of the bustling throng of sheep and goats and yell at their mothers to hurry up because they are hungry too.

Then the chickens and now the new ducks rush in a flotilla and spend some time squabbling over the corn. The turkeys take charge and the guinea fowl sit and sing (very badly) from the roof until they spot what they want and fly down and weave in and out of the sheep feet and around the other fowl for their breakfast.

I know spring is on its way because the fields are suddenly the haunt of oyster catchers with their plaintive cry and the little birds such as the pied wagtails, are back, scavenging what they can.

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We have been blessed with warm sunshine during the days but there is still a heavy frost at night. First thing, I go out and break the ice and check the stock for new lambs and any problems. In the valleys there are buds emerging on the trees ready to burst forth.

I was looking round the churchyard before church on Sunday. In among the carpet of snowdrops were some crocuses and new growth is shyly emerging everywhere.

It has been a good week for the dogs too. The young collie bitch that came last week has already been rehomed. Mary, the disabled collie, is down in the village with a friend of mine. Life is eerily quiet without her. I am down to four dogs. I have to remind myself of this every time I call them in.

In the clear air, the views are spectacular. I can see Pendle Hill most days and it is cloaked with snow, almost like a wedding veil. A trip over to Ribblesdale showed me that Ingleborough was the same. Driving over Bucker Brow from Settle I could see the peaks of some of the Lake District with clarity.

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I went to help friends move some stuff from storage in Leeds. It was a good thing they knew where they were going because I can get lost in cities. As I waited for the next trolley load to arrive from within the warehouse, I watched the activity on the road. A beautiful horse-drawn hearse we had seen earlier passed by and made me think how peaceful my place is, even if it isn't quiet. All I can hear is nature and tractors and occasionally the explosions from the quarry. The RAF also contribute their noise but you get used to it.

I ventured back towards city life to give a talk at Shipley. I had time to kill and sought a place to wait and found a pleasant pub by the canal. I had time to watch a stunning sunset through the trees. An evening spent with interesting and intelligent people, a fabulous meal and a happy atmosphere was quite a boost.

Another friend turned up with a lorry load of ducks that need getting clean and fit before he can sell them. They were like a moving carpet of quacking, mud-bathing and multi-coloured feathery delight. There was a bit of a squabble with the chickens over the prime site in the shippon but they sorted it out.

Up on the moor and on higher ground the snow is lingering. For some reason the sheep have taken an interest in the lane outside the gate. I have to carry a bag of proven in the car to distract them while I make my escape. Life is never dull.