Day 93 - 102: Home alone (... with 6 dogs, 10 cows, 28 chickens, 64 sheep & 14 lambs)
Updated: Apr 19, 2021
5.4. - 14.4.2021
With the water fasting behind me, food in me and a lot more energy the new week began with preparations for operation 'Home Alone'. Both my hosts would leave for the mainland on Friday to bring their son back to school, which meant that I would be left to tend to all the animals by myself. This would be the first test run, seeing as I would be doing that exact same thing when I return in November. It truly is an exceptional time and a very intense one because a lot of sheep are due to give birth almost all through April. Once again I was lucky enough to have the best support and preparation from my hosts without any pressure and a 24/7 availability for calling them. Although I felt prepared for the task ahead, there was a little doubt as well. So many things could go wrong, so much could happen, so little was my experience with animals in general. But doubts would do no good and I am able to cope with anything life throws at me, I was determined to do the best job I could do and leave both Sarah and Andrew with the knowledge that their animals are in the best hands.
The only thing I knew for sure was that I was to go three times a day to the croft. In the morning to feed the chickens and sheep and make a control run throughout the area to spot newborns and check in on them, give them a special paste with nutrients and vitamins, mark them with a number and color code and see if the lamb was in need of additional warmth of bottle feeding. During midday I needed to feed the cattle on a different grading ground, come back to the sheep and give them hay as well as another round around the grazing area to spot newborns. Last job of the day in the evening consisted of another round of feeding the sheep and have a lamb watch run. In between the three working dogs Wisp, Rock and Glen wanted a good walk, the two lovely Golden Retriever pet dogs Freyja and Bolt as well as Marjorie needed adventures as well. So far, so good, in theory at least.
Emergency Sheep Rescue
On my first day and my second walk around the sheep area I spotted one sheep that got stuck in the ditch- that is a deep dug out where water can run through and consists of a lot of mud and dirt where one could get stuck in. To my own surprise I did not panic and tried for over forty minutes to get the sheep to a less steep part of the ditch so that it could make use of its legs again, without any results. It was shivering and aboslutely exhausted, meaning totally reliant on me. Having fallen into the ditch two times already, I was swimming in a mix of my own sweat because of the efforts I took and the water that leaked through the flap trousers I wear for work. As I became weaker and knew there was no way I could carry the weight of the sheep myself, I also knew that by the minute this mom-to-be got weaker and colder. And then I had an idea, I needed a platform of some kind to have a better stand for pulling her up and also give her a better stand! From my previous walks I knew that there were old fence posts that I could use, so I got back to the gate for the wheel barrow and some rope, collected the fence posts and was back after ten minutes.
It took me another half an hour but I did it, and when I got confirmation from Sarah over the phone that there was nothing more I could do for the sheep, I felt very proud to have done it by myself, without panic, just logic and determination. She seemed fine when she got to her feet again and ate the food I layed out for her, so with a good conscious I went home to take a hot shower in order to warm myself up again.
During my watch another four lambs were born. Each of them unique in their own way and each of them, even what at first delicate and fragile, only hours or a few days later part of the lamb squad that was playing and jumping around while their mothers were eating.
It is hard to describe what goes on between the job you have to do when catching them, marking them, nurturing them and documenting their birth, and the difference when you witness the wonder of life while seeing them afterwards fooling around with their peers. At first it is your duty and your job to make sure they are strong and healthy, give them a gender color code and number, write down their special fleece appearance and possibly tag number of the mother. Then afterwards when you see them walk on their wobbly feet towards their mum, drink instinctively, without anyone showing them where or how, from her milk, see how the mom cares for them, never strays to far, encourages them to go with her, protecting her little lamb cautiously from other sheep - it stirs something in you, more than just the cute little lamb picture in your head, it stirs up the feeling of awe, the sense of astounishment of how little we know about nature, what a marvellous intelligence is hidden in every being, billions of cells all collaborating together in order to stay alive. An organism much like our Mama Earth is, lies within all of us animals, in all of the plants and it is simply nothing short of mind-blowing.
Awesomeness or Dogsomeness
Walking with the Golden Retrievers Freyja and Bolt was nothing new to me at this point. I have been out on walks with Freyja since February. Bolt, though he was older and needed a lot more ease and short distances on his walks, still jumps with delight at every opporuntity he gets for a beach walk. A little more concern fro me were the working dogs as I have never been out with all three of them before and they needed a much firmer voice and grip on them to realise that I was in charge. Moreso as Glen has only been with us for the last three weeks and therefore seemed to be the most challenging one to stay with me.
It turns out that all three of them, Wisp, Rock and Glen, were listening fabolously from the getgo and my own dog, Marjorie, turned out to be the one wandering of and doing her own thing in her own tempo and her own gusto for timelessness (mixed with the occasional intended deafness when it suited her).
For me Freyja and Bolt are the beach Goldens and Wisp, Rock and Glen are the adventurous explorers, Marjorie accompanied me on all of the walks. It was such a delight having four dogs on mountain and moor scouts and three dogs for running on dreamlike white sand beaches with turquoise waters and the salty breeze from the open sea.
Especially enjoyable was the development of the relationships between the newest addition to the pack Glen with Rock, Wisp and Marjorie. Glen and Marjorie both seemed to be delighted by each other's company, they both have this quiet, self-sufficient, self-reliant aura about them, all the while appreciating to sniff at the same spot or following the same trail of an interesting scent. Wisp always snapped at Glen, he really gives Glen a hard time with sheperding him and never letting him out of his sight, correcting him when Glen attempts to play or get cuddles from me. But just after three days of constantly daring Wisp to stop everytime he misbehaved towards Glen, those two can now explore the same spot without getting into a fight. I am very curious how this relationship will progress because now I cannot imagine that they would ever become besties, however I shall see when I return in November and hope for the bromance of the century, fingers crossed! Rock and Glen however slowly developed some sort of brotherhood, at least whenever there was an opportunity and Wisp was off doing his own thing.
I think that the playfulness of Rocky adds some lightness to Glen, as if behind the perfect conditioned working dog hides a twinkle-toes. Marjorie was in a great spirit whenever we were out with the working dogs and even had a little thing going on with Rock here and there, animating him to have a running competition or play around.
It is just the most glorious, rewarding thing watching dogs interact with each other, see their personalities sparkle through and being lucky enough to witness their development of relationships with one another. I am beyond happy that I was invited to return here and see all of my favourite paws again.
There are no words that would be able to describe the beauty I saw. Sometimes I can't even grasp the reality of being here, it seems so unreal that I am here now, seeing all the glory of what Mother Gaia has to offer. Only yesterday did I see for the first time ever an authentic, realtime swarm of geese in their V shaped flying pattern, the first thing that came to my mind was the cartoon series of Nils Holgerson from my childhood, the second thing was nothing because I was just watching in astonishment as they flew past.
There are moments where tears spring to my eyes because I am so grateful, moments were I close my eyes and try to take everything in with all of my other senses, moments where I was on auto-pilot and suddenly spring back to being in the Now, moved by the intensity of those sudden changes in perception. There almost always is the time to take a picture or video, to immerse myself into a state of serenity and gratitude of being, breathing tranquility and indulging for a few minutes or even the whole of a walk into the sweetness of thinking nothing else but how unfathomable my luck is to be alive, living my life like this.
However, as I said, I have no words so I need to show the pictures that only catch so little of the wholeness of what this island, this country, has to offer.
Awareness and Self-Perception
To remind myself of how far I have come I often think back on the times when there was nothing more important to me than fashion, my self-presentation, the picture others would have of me. I did not own a cupboard, I owned a whole room just for my clothes and accesories. I also was obsessed with my body, my weight, my looks and since I was around seven or eight years old I was constantly fighting with my eating disorder and mental health issues. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to go about my daily business in flap trousers, messy hair or wellies. Nowadays however I feel more at home with all of the above than in any silk blouse or fancy high-heel. Isn't it amazing how life changes, how one adapts and becomes whatever one wants to be?
On my walks in swampy moors, on snowy Bens and in muddy Glens, through crystal clear rivers, sandy beaches, over rocky bays and beside spray-covered, crashing waves, with up-jumping dog paws, I never think about how I look at all. There is no thought in my head about what anyone might think of me, no uncertainty crossing my mind if I am good enough- I concentrate on the next step, on the dogs with me, on the beauty around me, on the deep breaths I so cherish, the scents I smell, the sounds I hear, the opportunities for barefootedness, the next wave coming in or the next yoga pose, the nicest spot to meditate, simply put, the life around and in me.
Even writing this now my eyes fill with tears of appreciation for being able to experience this kind of freedom which I never thought I would be able to experience. How often did I weigh myself and had a devastating day or even week because of the number the scale showed me. How often did I buy something to help me feel prettier in order to be loved by others, accepted by others. How often did I thought the world would be a better place without me, I would feel happier without a body and back in the realms of souls. How often was I not being my true authentic self because I thought I wasn't good enough, beautiful enough, interesting enough. How often did I not live in order to live?
I am beyond grateful, so abundantly grateful for the woman I have become, the opportunity I have now to love myself and live my absolute, most precious gift of life.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for staying connected with me through my blog, reading my adventures and turbulences, challenges and wins. I send you all my love and most positive energies!
Love and light, beloved souls