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February 21, 2012

Sitting at my desk in a little cloud of steam, having just taken delivery of hay and sheep feed. Rosie, Broachy and I raced to get it all into the byre as it’s a filthy day here and raining and the last thing the sheep want is wet, foosty hay. It’s all in and the sheep are happily munching away. From my office window I can see them. Apart from the ones munching hay, the rest look dejected and bored, huddling behind the trailer. It’s tough on them.It’s been a long winter and they never come in, so they are badly needing some sun, warmth and fresh grass. The old lady (the oldest in the flock at 14 !) is standing slightly apart. She’s all skin and bone but is a fighter. I’m a bit concerned for her as she has a snotty nose this last couple of days and looks down in the dumps. I’ll give her a little extra food later as a treat.

Luckily Lagandorain has lots of rocky outcrops so they can always find shelter from the wind and rain. The trouble is that with the amount of rain we’ve been having the ground is water-logged and there is really nothing of nutritional value left for them to eat. Amazingly, they look in good shape and 007 somehow is still managing to look fat. How does he manage it ? For those of you who don’t know 007, he is a six year old castrated male (wedder). Having spent his first few weeks by the fire-side being bottle fed, he is convinced he is human and should by any standard be allowed in the house. He is greedy, opinionated and likes throwing his weight around. As hostel guest-ambassador, he is invaluable -until he starts stealing guests food from their carrier bags. Below is a photo of him having just discovered a tub of ice-cream.007 discovers ice-cream

The sheep are Hebridean and of the same genetic stock as Ronaldsay, Soa and Jacobs: Northern European Short Tailed, I think. Or is it long tailed …? The story goes that they were brought over to Scotland by the Norse, a thousand years ago. They are what is called ‘co-evolved’ to this landscape, that is, they can thrive in this landscape and climate and the native plant species are adequate for their needs. Like any native breed, they are wily and still have their brains intact: I’ve heard that the brains of  native sheep are something like 25% larger relative to body weight than domesticated or crossed sheep. That’s a lot of extra brain. They are a pleasure to work with and have loads of character. More about them another time.

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