I get far too much homework at school, and it just doesn’t seem like it will be useful to me when I am an adult. How do you learn what you need to know as you're growing up, to be good and useful flock members?
The flock has chosen SAM to answer this question. Sam is a shearling, which means that he is a year old, and is therefore still learning life skills!
Gosh, I am honoured to be allowed to answer a question! I will do my very best to help. I am only a little shearling, but I wasn’t born in the Alfie Purl flock, so I have had some difficult times in my life already. I came here with my two brothers Arthur and Teddy when we were only 6 months old, and I was scared about what would happen to me. But when I arrived, my Uncle Zack, who is my mother’s brother, was already here! We were so happy to see one another, and Uncle Zack helped me to fit in. The key was that nobody expected me to know anything, and they showed me what to do. There are lots of things to learn when you are a lamb! You have to know where you are, to start with - the layout of the farm is really important. We sheep are excellent at knowing where we are and what things happen where. You have to know who is in charge in the flock (here, it is Lily) and what sort of a leader they are. Lily is very lenient with all the lambs, and so I found it easy to get on with her. When you are a tiny lamb, the adults are very careful with you, and so you get to go first at the feed troughs and your mummy will find you nice things to eat. When you are a bit older, you have to fend for yourself, and this can get difficult. Uncle Zack noticed that I was very unconfident (although I was old enough to leave my mummy, the humans think that I wasn’t really quite ready in my head to leave her, and I missed her a lot) and he helped me by letting me stick close to him.
One of the biggest things a lamb has to learn about is humans, of course. To be honest, although I like humans, I am a bit suspicious of them, because one minute they can be all nice and friendly, and the next minute they are trying to catch you. I don’t think they are very reliable. But I have noticed that they always seem to want to catch me when I have got some sort of problem, like an overgrown foot or a bramble caught in my fleece, and when they let me go again, I don’t have the problem any more! Amazing coincidence.
Having said all that, I must say that we are very lucky with our humans. They know that lambs don’t know what to do, and that they find some things difficult. Adult sheep can work out all sorts of things which lambs can’t - but isn’t this true for human babies and small children too? - and so the humans don’t expect us to know. They also know that if you scare a sheep, it is harder for that sheep to learn anything. So, with this year’s lambs, the humans started taking them out to the field with their mummies during the day and in again at night, not worrying about how quickly the lambs went, and helping them when they didn’t know what to do. After a few attempts, the lambs knew exactly what to do, and nobody got stressed. Humans also tend to be in charge of that delicious food which comes in a bucket, and so it’s good to know how to behave when the buckets come out. A BIG skill which it is hard to master is eating some of that food from the hand of a human. It’s such an unlikely place to find food! It always takes lambs quite a few attempts to work out how to do that. But the humans seem to enjoy it when we do this, and we don’t really mind (although sometimes their hands smell horrible and we don’t want to eat anything that’s been in contact with something that stinky).
But the most important thing for a sheep to learn is the Flock Lore. We are very good at remembering things, and this is one of our functions in life. We pass down the legends of the flock from ewe to lamb, and we make sure that everyone in the flock knows about our ancestors. We know the story of Alfie Purl, even though I never met him. We know the tales of our own breeds - I listen to the Cotswolds’ stories of enormous flocks of sheep in the lush Gloucestershire countryside, and I tell them the legends of vast flocks of Lincoln Longwools on the Wolds, with the black Lincolns such as myself being highly prized. We hear Betsy, Idris, Teatime and Sister telling the stories of their Lleyn ancestors, in Welsh pastures overlooking the island of Anglesey. These stories will never be forgotten, as long as there are sheep.
So, dear Student, when you are a lamb in the Alfie Purl flock, you learn the things you have to learn by copying your elders, using your wits, and repeating what you are taught. You honour your history and your ancestry, you study your environment, and you slowly get the skills you need. It is OK to not know things when you are a lamb, and indeed it is OK to not know things when you are a shearling. I am sure there is nothing Lily doesn’t know, and when I am as old as her, I shall be very wise indeed!
Disclaimer: The sheep will select an email from their inbox to answer. (You can send them a message via our Contact page.) They cannot enter into personal correspondence, and can't guarantee to answer everyone's queries. The flock answers your questions to the best of their ability. However, you should note that they are sheep, and therefore we recommend you seek a second opinion from a member of your own species.