Fade To Black

Nearly thirteen years ago, we took on a small flock of Soay sheep, ranging in ages from lambs born that year through to Oakapple, the twelve year old matriarch. In amongst them was Cilla the black sheep, Oakapple’s grand-daughter and an amiable middle-aged ewe we came to call Aunty Cilla on account of the way she would lamb-sit for the rest of the ewes.

Strolling in the sun

I wrote about Cilla this time last year – the seventeen year old ewe who just kept on going, and shuffling steadily towards being eighteen. No longer the blackest of black sheep, more of a rusty brown, but what can you expect at her age. When her grandmother collapsed and later died of a heart attack aged fourteen, the vet was amazed to meet such an old ewe.

If Cilla were a fictional character, she would be the sheeply reincarnation of Terry Pratchett’s Nanny Ogg – no teeth, no inhibitions and inclined to do things her own way. Even at the ripe old age of almost eighteen, Cilla would still greet us with a deep and loud BAAAA – where’s my breakfast? – and wave her tail at the rams in the next field.

Two weeks ago, Idris the Gander decided (again) to prove what a big bird he is by beating up Cilla. He tries that with Cilla’s companion, Lily, but she just stares down at him, and his beak full of wool, using the length of her long and haughty nose to give her weary contempt a nice slope to build up speed and hit him squarely in the self-esteem. Cilla, on the other hand, is a sitting target. Or a snoozing target. She’s a truly ancient sheep and doesn’t move very fast.

I’ll ‘ave yer!

I heard the commotion and got there after Idris had knocked her off her feet and was still lunging and pecking. He’s fast when he sees trouble coming, otherwise there’s a high chance we would have been eating goose two weeks ago.

I rolled Cilla back on her feet, which is perfectly normal. She falls over from time to time, or moves wrong in her sleep, and no longer has the agility to get back on her hooves without help. Part of my morning routine has become checking on her and rolling her upright if needed. She just needs a push and then a firm knee to rest against until she finds her balance. Once straight and steady, she trundles away at her own pace in search of a nicer piece of grass.

Wake me when the sun stops

Two weeks ago seemed no different – she ambled away as usual. An hour or so later I couldn’t see her, went looking and found her in the bottom corner of the field unable to stand. The shock had caught up with her, so we did what we do with poorly sheep at this time of year – put her in the greenhouse. In the summer it would be too hot, and too full of tomatoes, but just now is perfect.

It’s not the first time we’ve nursed a poorly sheep back on her feet, so we set about the job for the next week, keeping her fed and watered, allowing shock and bruising to settle, holding her steady so she could get the hang of standing.

A week ago, we drove Idris (and Choccie) to a new home as pets on a farm west of here. We’ve been talking about re-homing the geese for a while, but kicking the proverbial out of Aunty Cilla was the last straw. He had to go before we could let Cilla out of the greenhouse and, much as he was in the dog house (as opposed to the goose hut, a much scarier place) he’s been here longer than Cilla so we weren’t comfortable with the roast goose dinner option. Besides, Choccie is a perfectly inoffensive goose, and we couldn’t really put him out of our misery and leave her pining.

On the Monday, I built a new sling to hold Cilla up, because even an ancient and skinny old sheep is a heavy, back-breaking lift. Step by step, so to speak, we were getting Cilla back on her feet. She still had strength in her legs, still had the will to walk and as for food, well Cilla has always had a healthy appetite, even if she has developed a tendency to doze off with her nose buried in her breakfast.

Still digging into my sack of rough-cut mixed-metaphors, our step-by-step progress turned into one step forwards, two steps back over the next few days. Cilla still had the will to shuffle, but the legs were getting less cooperative. Supported on the sling she increasingly just hung there, unable to coordinate, although the mouth still worked, slurping whatever was offered gradually slowing towards to bottom of the bowl like an old clockwork toy running down.

Even so, the one step forwards got less certain, and the two steps back more pronounced.

We brought the vet in on Friday.

As it turned out, we had done everything we could. Cilla had had a stroke – either when Idris attacked or sometime during the following days.

Fade to black.

The #BlogBattle writing prompt in March 2019 was Dusk, which coincided with recent events on the farm.

8 thoughts on “Fade To Black”

  1. Poor old Aunt Cilla. It sounds like she had a wonderful life, despite being lowest in the pecking order. I love the image of Nanny Ogg, though I’m not sure she’d have taken Idris’ bullying laying down!

    I’m glad you chose a non-fiction piece this time. I will have to peruse your blog for more farm tales! We have an acreage, as well. But so far the only animals we’ve attempted to raise are dogs, cats, and children. Thank you for sharing this! It was a great read.


    1. Thanks! Cilla will be missed – she’s been a part of the furniture both figuratively and literally for a long time. We have various photos of lambs standing/sleeping on her, but can never find them when we really want them. As for Idris… I think Cilla has always been a bit too-laid back to tell him where to go. Some of the other ewes are more forthright. About ten years ago, roughly this time of year, the ewes with lambs cornered and injured a fully-grown young gander, breaking one of his wings so badly that we had to put him down.

      My ‘original blog’ was primarily what the animals got up to around the farm, and most recently was dominated by the regular visits of Thug, the monster cat from down the hill. I decided to migrate to wordpress when I started attempting the #BlogBattle prompts. It just happened that the two came together this month. I’m still tinkering with the layout of the main page – I’ve got a menu thing at the top with “Farm, Fur and Fowl” and one for #BlogBattle but I’m not sure how well it works. My partner takes a look from time to time and suggests changes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the tabs look good! I think for your last two pieces, we were redirected to Medium so I didn’t spend any time exploring WordPress. I’ll check it out 🙂


    1. Thank you. Cilla was one of the real characters – seven or eight years back she was one of four middle-aged sheep who pottered around together and we called “The Ladies Wot Lurch” (there was a tv ad about ladies wot lunch). When that four got down to two, they became “The Baggages” and then finally there was only Cilla left. I’m sure one of the other sheep will emerge as a “character”, but Cilla is a tough act to follow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that your “characters” are real, and have such a loving home where they can be truly appreciated. And that you’re willing to share them with us. 😁


      2. It’s really where the blog started – my partner said a writer should have a blog, but I wasn’t comfortable trying write about writing, so I wrote about what was happening with the animals. At the time I was having a daily “conversation” with a very feral tom cat I was feeding in the barn. If cats could carry guns, I think he would have fired a few warning shots each morning. It was very much “put the food down slowly and back away, two-legs…”
        It just happened this month that the #BlogBattle prompt meshed with what happened with Cilla.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.