“We are tree-herds, we old Ents. Few enough of us are left now. Sheep get like shepherd, and shepherds like sheep, it is said; but slowly, and neither have long in the world. It is quicker and closer with trees and Ents, and they walk down the ages together.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
When I first started farming I planted trees for my own sake, for the aesthetic of copses to break up the grassland expanses, and for the pleasure of hearing wind in the boughs. Then, as I learned more about how ecosystems work, and the pivotal role of diversity in creating resilience, I planted trees for the sake of the land.
Back in my university student days, I took up photography with all the enthusiasm you would expect. I even learned how to develop and print my own photos. In my zeal, I took my trusty SLR camera with me everywhere, on every adventure. After a couple of years, though, I realised my world had shrunk to what I could see through the lens: I was framing my experiences by what would fit in the limited rectangle of the viewfinder. So I quit taking photographs, relying on the emulsion sheet of memory to record my adventures, hoping to regain a wide-angle experience. I regret not having a photographic record of those years, but I'm sure I was more present in each moment as a result.
As often happens to me, I mis-remembered this quote. It's not from the original Wilde play "The Importance of Being Earnest", but rather is a song entitled "A Handbag is not a Proper Mother" from the musical Ernest in Love, based on Wilde's play. Nevertheless, I'm sticking with my version, as I frequently feel like more like a suitcase than a handbag in the context of raising bottle lambs!
On Friday, before breakfast, I finally gave in to Clara's silent pleading to go back to the flock, and walked Team Zac up to the place I thought the flock would be. They weren't. But Zac valiantly followed me up there, with Clara, Robert and Johannes in tow.
It was a chilly, windy day on the hill yesterday, but a perfectly lovely winter's graze. The flock currently have the run of White Gum Wood, the Grass Gully, Eagle Tree and the Back Gully. While there is a certain amount of biodiversity in all of those paddocks, the best native ecosystems are in the adjoining reserves.