Greetings from South Uist, on the Outer Hebrides! Day five of my work here with the crofter, L, and I’ve been told that I’m bringing him good luck this lambing season…we haven’t lost a single lamb since I arrived. We’ve had a number of tiny babies, weak babies, but they are all seeming to be doing well, at least as I write.
A typical day, I rise at 5:45, dress in five or six layers of warm clothes and raingear, jump on my bicycle and ride the 1/2 mile to L’s croft, first passing the free grazing flock of another crofter, and a pair of domestic geese that act as traffic cops down by the stone bridge. I stare down the gander as he hisses and tries to nip me and warn him off, telling him he’ll make a good dinner if he’s not careful. This seems to do the trick and he lets me pass.
The first thing I do at the croft is walk the hills to see if anyone has lambed in the night. The other day I spotted a ewe in difficulty and when L. arrived, we herded her into the shed and L. pulled the fat lamb from her. Later that day we had triplets, something very rare here and most unwanted because the grazing can only sustain a ewe nursing a single or twins at most. Because of this, we take a triplet and subsequently have “orphans” to feed… currently we have five bottle babies. It’s my job to make up their formula and feed them…a true joy sliding open the metal door of the shed and hearing the chorus of babies all wanting me… or at least the bottle I make them! After the babies and the girls, the ewes who are in the shed because of problems, are fed, I cycle home for breakfast and return at 11, 1, 4 and 6 pm. L. does the night shift because he knows where the sheep lamb.
And so my day goes. I write when I can, take a short rest, and visit with B. who runs the hostel. Today I had a ride down to Dalibrog to interview the priest who says mass in Gaelic. This will appear in a Catholic paper called the Prairie Messenger. Tomorrow B. and I are going to Nanton Steadings, a former byre which is now a tea shop, and then to Balivanich on the isle of Benbecula.
The hostel is a revolving door of fascinating faces, the most interesting by far being a rather large man in a rather large camper van who arrived with four women and a boy…. originally a local, this character has proved most entertaining as the locals fill me in on his past… and an intrigueing past it is… wait for the book or the movie to come out.
The weather has been good for the most part, beautiful sun to begin with and grey and cool but still no rain, still I’m glad I packed all my rain gear. Well that’s all for now from Uibhist a Deas… send me a message/write me/send me a text!