This week we have knotted the circle with the sheep. The second batch of ram-lambs came back from the butcher in neat chunks, so that's all that we're going to get out of the flock for this season. At more or less the same time, we have borrowed a grown-up ram from Paddy the Shear and he has been doling out teaspoonfuls to start the cycle again. If he's any good, he should have spread his largesse round 15 adult ewes with delivery of the product five months hence. In February we'll ask the ultrasound man to come round with his contraption to give us an interim count. On Saturday we asked Paddy to take his chap home and we'd just finished loading the big feller into a trailer when Mick, the talkiest walker of our hills. appeared at the gate, just too late to distract the work. Hillmen all, we fell to talking about poor Paddy Looney who died in February: characteristically while cleaning out a drain that probably needed cleaning although it could have been left alone just as well.
The following day, being the solstice and not raining, we all put on hats and coats and headed up the lane in the late afternoon. The clouds were low over the hills and it looked overcast as far as the sea 40km to the East, but god's spotlight lit up some patches of field in the middle distance. In the fading light the wet ground in front was still glinting patchily and the broad bright sky above had a hint of pink; this pastel composition was sawn in half by the black edge of spruce forest running down into the valley. You could see why some people would prefer to be out even if it meant missing the big match on the telly.