Animals. You just gotta love ’em. Or do you? I think yes, if you’re a smallholder. It’s hard to get up at 5am, slog through the snow/mud/rain, open metal fasteners that stick to your fingers in the winter, break ice on water troughs and wrestle with doors that have frozen shut in the night for an animal you don’t love.
OK, I know Ranulph Fiennes has lost a handful or so of finger ends to frostbite during his polar explorations, so I readily admit my trials and tribulations are as nothing compared to his.
I have never had icicles hanging painfully from my beard (although I am admittedly sporting ‘time of life’ hairs in the wrong places on my face, if I am ever as hirsute as Brian Blessed I will take to full-time Balaclava-wearing) or had hypothermia after fighting my way across the chicken run in a snowstorm.
If I’m honest, Gamford does most of the poultry graft, schlepping backwards and forwards with food, water, sawdust and hay in all seasons.
Well, they say being active is the key to a long and healthy life, so we like to keep him busy. Wouldn’t do to let him doze all day in a high-backed chair.
But I think it would be hard to give that kind of all-weather commitment to, say, Llamas. I just don’t get the Llama thing. Or the Alpaca thing.
I never fancied being a llama farmer. Odd enough to type, never mind say. Try it out loud three times – llama farmer, llama farmer, llama farmer.
I know they cost as much as a decent pony, but you can’t ride them. I’ve seen holidays advertised where you pay to go and lead a Llama about – ‘Walking with Llamas’.
Erm, no thanks. If I have the urge to go walking whilst leading something about, I have three dogs. That’s what they’re for. I’m afraid for me, Llamas/Alpacas are like sheep, but with their necks stretched. Weird and deeply unappealing.
Sheep themselves are not attractive to me either. Despite the fact that we’re surrounded by sheep in the Borders, I am afraid I come from a long line of lamb-dodgers.
My family didn’t particularly like lamb and I didn’t eat it growing up, so I’ve never had the urge to keep a sheep or two. Another thing that’s put me off is that they seem to get ill a lot, or just die for no apparent reason.
Plus they seem a bit thick, which is really odd when you look at lambs – inquisitive, playful and friendly then suddenly, wham! Overnight they grow up into big, dull, stupid things.
No, I think I’ll stick to what I know, and what I like. To eat, that is. As a lover of bacon and roast chicken, that’ll be pigs and poultry then. Sorted.