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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

harvest and culling

The shepherds arrived on Saturday to gather the sheep into the pens. That's really an all day job, walking from one end of this two thousand acre island to the other, sometimes more than once. They returned on Sunday to walk from the lighthouse to the sheep pen again with the stragglers they had missed the day before, to collect the few northern sheep who had remained at large on Saturday, and then to take the designated ewes and lambs off the island.

When I walked down to the sheep pens to take pictures I just missed Leroy, his nephew Taylor, and their neighbour Parker. They had gone off in the skiff with the dogs to pick up a couple of lambs they had spotted near the Horseshoe. But I didn't know that until later. I thought Greg had taken pictures but he was busy with provisioning the crew and trying to get various recalcitrant vehicles to start up. So I don't have any pictures of the shepherds actually doing their work. You can see the pictures from last year here, though. But Taylor and Parker are such adorable guys (and of course Leroy, too) that I'm sorry I don't have pictures of them.
Last year Leroy explained to me that I had used the word culling too broadly. "We harvest the lambs," he said, "and we cull the ewes." He and Mary were pleased that their more extensive culling and harvesting a year ago seemed to bear fruit this year. It was a smaller flock that overwintered, and so the new lambs are bigger. (There are other factors to consider too, like the weather and how devoted the rams are to their purpose in life, which is not after all to laze about and eat birdseed. The size of the flock is the easiest factor to control, though. A smaller flock will have more to graze on.)
The d'Entremonts continued to winnow down the flock this fall.
The goal is gradually to increase the overall size and condition of the fall harvest lambs by leaving only the healthiest and most productive ewes on the island and by continuing to introduce Scottish Blackface traits.
Yes, the lambs are adorable. Especially when they look at you in that soulful way of theirs.
But sheep raising is a business, and raising wild sheep on the islands is a particularly traditional form of it.
It's hard work, and it involves a lot of risk, and many years of patient investment.
I don't know if anybody else is doing it on these offshore islands except Leroy and Mary. It's an important and endangered part of Nova Scotia's heritage and culture, and so the flock of wild sheep on McNutt's is really a benefit to the whole province.

I have written quite a lot about the island's sheep over the past two years. If you'd like to have look at the whole story thus far, you can go to the label "wild island sheep." Some of the entries are brief and others try to add some history or context.


Hotel California said...

Has the wind been merciful these past few days? Or the propane plentiful?

Janet said...

Hi Anne: Thanks for your support of this particular aspect of our heritage and culture - so many specific activities that set us apart are being dumbed down and diluted by the North American popular megaculture. When we lose the specifics of our culture that set it apart from others, we lose diversity; and Halifax is a good case in point. For years the fortified hilltop and the old town clock were very visible signs of where you are - today, with the flatfaced reflective highrise profile of downtown you could be anywhere.