Life-changing books? Do they exist? If our life has not been changed by a book, at least it has become more colourful because of a book.
Keeping sheep had been in our minds for a long time. We even became members of a sheep association ten years before our sheep finally arrived. During those years of dreaming and planning, a certain book was given to us. The first reading of this book took place while we were living in Scotland – and totally surrounded by sheep. Our destiny was sealed. One day we would keep sheep and we even knew what would be their names!
Our life-colouring novel was Leonie Swann´s “Three bags Full”.
This fabulous fiction (a detective story) gives sheep some human-like features, but the sheep of the story are still truly deeply sheep. They have sheepy habits, sheepy values and sheepy gestures. They observe us humans from a sheepy perspective… and trust us: we humans and our habits look pretty pointless when investigated from a sheepy perspective.
Before our sheep finally arrived, many other changes and projects took place: moving back to Nordic Region, moving from Sweden to Finland, moving to countryside, building a house, building a stable for animals, reading a pile of sheep keeping books… to mention some of the numerous developments in a random order. One beautiful February day, there they were: our five beautiful (pregnant) Åland Island Sheep ewes.
In the end of May and early June, 14 little lambs had appeared to our world. One more reading of Three bags full” was required, to clarify what was essential about each character of the book. Then we started to observe the lambs – to figure out who is who!
Mopple The Whale and his mom Janita, surrounded by other sheep and guarded by Lyyti .
Mopple the Whale was easy to identify. Due to the large number of lambs each mother ewe had, supporting food was given. Baby Mopple was always first on the feeding bottle and just could not have enough. It was obvious he would be named after the always hungry ram in the story. Now, as a three-year old ram, his appetite differs only slightly from other sheep. He has though some other Mopple features: he is large and his memory is rather good.
The fictional Zora loves to stand on a cliff. The Zora of our flock was easy to identify. The little Zora kept climbing to high rocks and earth piles already as a tiny lamb. She even slept on the stairs to the cockerel balcony, until she became too large to fit there. As an adult, she is always first out of the stable and last in, enjoying the feel of freedom.
Cloud was the fluffiest lambkin (just like the fictional Cloud) and still as adult she grows an amazing quantity of wool. As a lamb Heide had the highest lambkin-voice and therefore was named after a lamb-character. Heide´s voice is still quite high. When all the little lambs were running about together, our Lane was the fastest one – and therefore she carries the name of the fastest sheep of the fictional flock. She is still a swift creature.
In the story Sir Richfield and Melmoth are brothers and it is difficult to tell which one is which. The real life Sir Richfield and Melmoth are actually cousins but they are the rams that look most like each other. As a lamb our Sir Richfield wanted to ram everyone and everything. Therefore he simply had to be named after the old lead sheep of the fictional flock.
As an adult Sir Richfield is not interested in ramming or leadership, but he is a very balanced and responsible ram. When doggy-puppy Lyyti joined to the family, Sir Richfield guarded the little puppy while the puppy was sleeping. Now the roles are opposite and Lyyti already helps the older dog Aapo to guard the sheep. Melmoth is a big self-confident ram just like his fictional paragon.
The fictional Othello had mighty horns. Already as a tiny lamb, it was obvious that our Othello would grow really fancy horns. And his horns today are absolutely beautiful.
The fictional Maude has a very good sense of smell and she can be rather opinionated. The real-life baby Maude was always sniffing something. As an adult she is a very social sheep with attitude and always where something is happening.
Cordelia of the story loves words and stories. We actually tested, which lamb responses most strongly to reading a book, to find out who is our Cordelia. The adult Cordelia is a quiet sheep, who looks like she is dreaming. She only seems to wake up from her own dreamy world when she wants food or a scratch.
Zora, Miss Maple and Ramses
Real-life Miss Maple is Mopple´s and Maude´s sister. Already as a lamb she seemed like the clever observer of the story and still seems like that. Ramses is a young ram in the story and our Ramses is still as an adult full of young energy.
Mother-ewe Jutta was the last one to give birth. She (“the Trojan Sheep”) was so huge in the end of the pregnancy that we started to suspect that there might be even more lambs than the three : Willow, Heathcliff and Zora. This little family still spends a lot of time together, the bond is strong.
The fictional Willow is the second-most-quiet sheep in the flock. Our Willow was several months old before we heard her saying anything at all. She still seldom speaks. Our Heatcliff was named after the winter lamb of the story, simply because he is the youngest ram. This time the name became a self fulfilling prediction: in the second book “Garou”, the winter lamb climbs to an oak tree. Our Heatchliff was the first fully grown sheep to climb stairs. Nowadays, Mopple often joins Heatchliff – obviously when he expects to find something delicious.
The real-life flock does landscape work and contributes to recovery of the valuable traditional meadow biotope. They also produce wool. In this remote, solitary place, in Finnish Lapland, they are guarded by Maremmano Abruzzese dogs Aapo and Lyyti. As a difference to the fictional flock´s life, there is no herding sheepdog in this farm.
Just like sheep in “Three bags full”, this flock certainly keeps eye on other species. There are not many humans here, but this flock observes also horses and chicken – and occasionally also wild birds.
When you turn you back on the sheep, you can feel them staring at you. And when you turn around and stare at them, you can almost hear them talking to each other – just like in the book – “pretend to be just grazing”.
Päivi & Anthony
23rd March, in Teeriniemi