In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quiet island corral

For two days each year the sheep corral is filled with ewes and lambs and shepherds and intense activity. But the rest of the time it is empty. Sometimes a solitary mink glides across the grass in search of prey. The eagle sits on the opposite cove shore and eyes the water. The corral is part of the cove's landscape. When the shepherds have faded into a vague memory again, the sheep wander past these fences as they will. They act as if this place belongs to them.

After they have been gathered from all around the island -- an arduous task that takes many hours -- the ewes and their lambs will be brought into this large fenced meadow. It's a sort of waiting room for them.
The corral is made up of permanent fencing along the perimeter, and a combination of permanent fences and moveable doors, gates and partitions within it.
The buttercups have been corralled in an area that will be filled with lambs in a few weeks, when they are gathered for de-worming and tail docking.
A narrowing passage allows the shepherds to funnel lambs from the wide fenced meadow into the buttercup paddock.
This same narrow passage funnels the ewes, one at a time, toward the shearing platform. After the ewes have been sheared they will run through the wider passage, shown on the left, back to the big fenced meadow. There they will mill about, feeling unaccountably lighter.

The shearing platform is to the right in this photograph. Fence sections are put up and taken down as the need arises. The shepherds will bring over a generator for the shearing, and set it up inside this area.
In October the shepherds gather the flock for the second time. On this trip they will cull the lambs. The lambs will move down a fenced chute here, defined by these posts, into a waiting boat that will ferry them to the mainland.

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