17 April 2015

Dark Skies and missing sheep.

It's been dark skies week 
We're fortunate enough to have plenty of dark skies which makes for wonderful star gazing, particularly in the winter under those amazing high pressure clear but cold nights.  We are slightly affected by the orange glow of Teesside in the west and the 24/7 illumination from RAF Fylingdales to the north east of the village.  I've been hoping all last week and this that we'll get a nice clear night to catch some of it on film (pixels if I'm honest!) but it never happened so you'll have to make do with this stock shot instead.
Milky Way, via Unsplash
"it's rather dark"
Years ago a city-dwelling friend from uni was coming stay for the weekend, I collected her from our nearest railway station (Malton, 20 miles away). We stayed in town for a meal before going home, she was chattering away quite happily but as we began to leave the town behind the conversation became a little more sporadic until after crossing the A64 and heading into open country she shut up completely. I asked if she was OK, "it's rather dark" was all she said!  She'd never before been anywhere that didn't have street lights, over the weekend she got used to the darkness and began to enjoy the night skies but struggled with the countryside night-time noises of owls and sheep.

Gathering
Talking of which (sheep not owls) it's the time of year when the moor sheep are gathered in for lambing.  AW's in-law's farm, has an extensive stray (the area of common land the sheep graze) and the ewes sometimes wander down into the village to help themselves to bits of garden shrubbery overhanging walls and fences and the odd ice cream donated by stunned tourists. When they'd gathered their flock back in they found they were a dozen missing and asked anyone to let them know if they saw any in the village.  Sure enough the next morning there were three loitering around the bins on the car park and a couple heading off towards school.
Here's sheepdog Ten at Morton Close watching the flock.
A sheep's a sheep right? 
So how do you know which belong to which farmer? Simple they're all marked with different coloured stock marker paint - a greasy, waterproof dye which today is sprayed on the sheep, the office team remember it in battered tin cans being applied by hand.  Morton Close (AW's in-laws) have a red splodge of paint on the back of the neck, Friar's House Farm have the same spot but it's green, Liberty Hall has a red stripe across the middle. The mark is for the stray and is linked to the farm not the farmer or shepherd.  With so many farms and originally a limited range of colours not to mention part of a sheep to colour some of the marks could be quite inventive, Hill Farm no longer have sheep but theirs was officially a red crow's foot on the right hip / top of leg although it often looked more like an arrow or even a hand print!