Book Report: A Short History of the World According to Sheep

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I buy most of my books from Amazon, and they, of course, keep track of your buying history. They know I like books on wool, sheep, knitting, and so on, so I got this book, A Short History of the World According to Sheep, by Sally Coulthard (2020), on Amazon’s recommendation. I also thought the cover was pretty.

Beautiful cover, isn’t it?

Absolutely, I was right; the cover is great, a pastoral scene of grazing sheep by Nathan Burton, beautifully printed on textured paper. The book is a great tactile experience all around. These days you don’t often get books bound this well, so kudos to the Head of Zeus Press, whoever they are. I guess quality bookbinding is still alive and well in England today.

This sheepy little tome is indeed quite British, which lends a lot of charm. There are so many mentions of the names of tiny towns and villages in England, Scotland, and Wales that I got an urge to go look up photos of the whole lot of them. Sadly, there are no photos of sheep or villages to be found, though each chapter begins with a really lovely etching of something to do with sheep or wool.

The illustration of the chapter on wartime wool use.

I guess I should get around to Sally Coulthard’s content. It’s quite charming, and just full of fun tidbits about sheep, wool, word origins, and such. There are a LOT of English place names that refer to sheep and wool. And a bellwether was not a type of stock originally, but a very tame neutered ram who wore a bell to lead sheep where the shepherd wanted them to go. I want a bellwether. Well, I want any kind of wether, actually. I am so fond of them.

Each chapter in the book moves along through history and tells how sheep and humans have coexisted throughout history. There’s no doubt about it: sheep have shaped human life in many ways. They are darned useful animals, and Coulthard’s delightful way of telling stories about them makes for a pleasant read. I admit I could have used more details, but then, I’m a detail-oriented reader.

If you’re like me and enjoy reading about history through the lens of one particular commodity (after all, I’ve read books on salt, the pencil, various colors, and so on), you’ll get a lot out of this charming book. If you get bogged down by a bunch of place and people names with which you’re not familiar, or really aren’t enthusiastic about sheep and wool (how could you?), then you may want to go find another topic.

I’m glad to have read this one, as it cleansed my palate before starting the last unconscious bias book in my current stack of books.


An Offer!

Speaking of wool, I have a wooly offer for those of you who listen to the podcasts I make from these blog entries. The first person who sponsors my blog on Anchor for over the minimum $.99 a month will get a knitted throw by ME (and you can choose colors). The first ten people will get TWO knitted cotton dishcloths. Now, don’t you want to run over to subscribe?? Go to anchor.fm/sue-ann-suna-kendall/support to get set up!

Of course, you can make me (and maybe yourself) happy simply by following the The Hermit’s Rest podcast on any platform you like (here’s the Spotify link) and listening to an episode or two. My friend Mandi said it’s so much like talking to me that she kept trying to answer me back.

Mandi’s Bruised Behind. Yes, Really: A Guest Post

We have a guest blogger today, my friend and fellow member of the Hermits’ Rest community, Mandi.

First, I will go back to lay the scene. When the sheep first came to the ranch, I set out to make them understand I was a friend, because sheep and goats can get through any fence that water can get through. Many years with goats and every fencing imaginable has taught me that. I needed to be able to call them somehow, if I ever needed to put them back in the pen (hich has happened).

Pardon me, but do you happen to have any treats?

I am very much one of those people who is going to give my animals, your animals, a passing by animal, etc. a treat if I have the chance. The two sheep would hang around, fascinated when we fed the horses. They wanted what was in their feed bins.

This made Fiona (or FiFi as I call her) very annoyed. Apache (Patchtastic) and Spice (No real nickname, I just yell, “Hey Spice! Tell me what you want, what you really, really want!”) had the “Munch, Munch, GET BACK, Munch, Munch.” reaction to them. But Fiona is only little, so to the sheep she is just a really weird looking sheep with big ears.

Continue reading “Mandi’s Bruised Behind. Yes, Really: A Guest Post”

A Grand Welcome Home

cranes
Sandhill cranes, just passing through. Loudly.

We returned to the ranch over the weekend, with zero seconds of downtime, but we jumped right into the swing of things and enjoyed visitors, both human and otherwise.

Flying Friends

The most glorious visitors were just passing through. Many flocks of sandhill cranes flew over. We also saw a few snow geese. I just love the sounds of the cranes!

blue_heron
One of my favorite neighbors.

While I was taking crane pictures, two blue herons squawked, so I got nice close photos of them. Of course, they are blurry iPhone pictures, but some day I’ll get a new battery and learn to use the good camera again!

There have also been a lot of visiting starlings, which we don’t usually have. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they make lots and lots of noise when they are all lined up on the electric wires, but when they take off as a flock to rearrange themselves, they are totally silent. It’s really eerie when you are standing around in the field listening, and suddenly all you hear are the coyotes.

bluet
These are so delicate.

Most of the dragonflies are gone, but we did see a lovely bluet by the small meadow pond. These sure are pretty. They curve their bodies where you see the stripes.

turtle
Why won’t the turtle play with me? (You can sort of see it in the grass.)

More “Friends”

Because it’s rained so much (have I mentioned that? Lots of flooding while we were gone), animals seem to be wandering around. Yesterday, Carlton the dog found an extra large pond turtle in the middle of the pasture. He was most dismayed that it would not come out and play, so he stood there for 15 minutes and barked at it, poking it with his nose a lot. Treats had to be used to save that poor turtle from the torture.

water snake
This dirty part of the porch is where we harmless snakes like to hang out. I want to date this electric cord.

And later yesterday, I once again spotted a large snake on the front porch, in the icky dirty part, of course. I was pretty convinced it was a water mocassin, but the folks at iNaturalist talked me down, and asssured me it was a water snake trying to look like a poisonous one. I am pretty sure this is the same snake I’ve seen over by the pond. It hisses. We kept the dogs away, and it slowly meandered off.

Our house guest was not thrilled that we didn’t kill it. I repeated a number of times, “I don’t kill snakes.” I do understand many people aren’t good with them. My dad sure wasn’t! He’d kill them 3 or 4 times!

scorpion
It’s a scorpion, all right. Small.

In the early evening, we found our first scorpion at the ranch. It was pre-dead, so we didn’t have to do anything to it. We used to see lots more in our house in the karst area of Williamson County

Not Friends at All

We apparently have a visitor over to the chicken coop who is not our friend. It has killed at least 4 of the chickens (at least two roosters, who were probably trying to defend the flock). It gets them IN the chicken coop. Yet another reason for them not to lay eggs in there!

The Neighbor is sure it’s an owl. I think it might be a bobcat, since both hunt at night. A cat could get in there easily from the tree, then scale the fence to get out.

sheep
Leave us ALONE! We just want to eat grass. And escape from these non-sheepproof fences.

Something also went after the four new sheep the Neighbor brought in, and one of them lost a LOT of wool and some flesh, but seems OK. We are hoping the culprit is not the cabin occupant’s dog, who went after the sheep when he first saw them, so they don’t want to leave the pen to eat in the pasture.

Nice of all these creatures to wait until I got home to show up, isn’t it?