The Sheep of the Croft

The reason I first found this croft was back in 2015 when I was looking for a place to visit with Hebridean Sheep. I had seen them at a sheep show in Melton Mowbray in 2011 and really liked their looks and temperament. Doing an on-line search, I found the Hebridean Woolshed.Hebridean Woolshed. This sounded very promising. Turns out, it was! This is my third trip to stay at one of their self-catering cottages. The really important one – the one with the An Garradh Mor flock of registered pedigree Hebridean Sheep.

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The sheep are currently divided between three of the four fields. Here Jonathan and I discuss some of this at the roadside gate to field 2.

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Last year, Jonathan made a really nice hand drawn map of the croft which he posted in his blog, The Big Garden and Croft. He has kindly agreed to let me insert a copy here. This may help you follow my descriptions in the rest of this post.

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Starting at the north end and going south, we begin with number 1: Home Park. This is where the most of the rams and wethers live. They have access to a shelter to get out of the wind and rain but also have to put up with those pesky geese and chickens who try to “share” their treats. A trade off, to be sure. A later post will look at the shearing of some of them. There are six there all together. And, depending on the time of day – and their routine – we catch site of them from our self-catering cottage on the croft.

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Moving southward, across the street from Field 1 is Field 2: Near Park. Here lives the ram, Scott, who was the sire for this year’s lambs. He is joined there by Rhubarb (his fleece looking a little brown right now but will be black when sheared) one of last year’s bottle babies, and another little wether. They shelter nicely with the rocks. These sheep are extremely hardy and are meant for this rugged landscape. As much as I say I would love some in California, it just wouldn’t be right. They belong here.

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Field 3 is Bothy Field, so named because it contains a bothy. A bothy is a small hut or cottage and, according to Wikopedia, usually left unlocked for anyone to use. This one would have been in use a long time ago.

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Things are always in flux on a croft as they often are on a farm in the States. Right now the Bothy Field is housing the ewes and lambs. In the future Jonathan expects to be using it for the ewes after they come back from their time in the hills in fall and they will use it until it is grazed out.

Jonathan drove me part way up the old road this trip and then we hiked the rest of the way up to the Bothy Field. I had wanted to see the ewes and lambs close up. Fantastic! I hope from this you can get a feel for the ruggedness of the setting and how perfectly suited to it these sheep are.

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Finally, Field 4: High Field. This is not fully enclosed yet. Jonathan has been re-doing the fencing on these fields, dragging all the materials up these steep hills by hand, digging and drilling through rock to put up fences that will securely contain the sheep. Jonathan: “When High Field is fully complete, it will be used for late spring-early summer grazing – until we’re satisfied the lambs (and their mums and last year’s lambs) are okay (and sheared!) to go through the gate up on to the common grazing.”

And now, a few words about this year’s bottle baby, Windy. On our trip up that late afternoon, we brought Windy’s evening bottle. Jonathan’s philosophy about bottle babies is that it is important for them to associate their feeding with where they live – with the flock, not at the house. So, she gets her meals on the croft, especially as time goes on. I got to feed her again today, up here on the hill.

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Jonathan would be collecting her now to go back over to their house where she snuggles down in her straw in the trailer for the night. We walk along, talking, with Windy running alongside and exploring.

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Suddenly, Jonathan says, “Do you notice anything? How many are there of us?” And then I realize Windy is no longer with us. She has rejoined her flock. Where she belongs.

Another great visit with the An Garradh Mor flock. Hope to see them again.

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Published in: on May 22, 2017 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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