[This post is the last (and shortest!) of a series of three posts concerning the two most prominent ewes – Primrose and Queenie – of our flock of Hebridean sheep.]
So, you’ve got a good insight into the key characteristics of both Primrose and of Queenie. In this post we’ll consider how it is that a young ewe – not yet three years old, and only having given birth once, to a single lamb – can usurp the alpha-female status of a ewe nearly ten years old, vastly more experienced, and equipped with an array of ewesful skills.
Hebridean Feeding scrum
When we were away from home for a couple of months, last autumn, our daughter Becky commented to us, on the phone one day, that she thought Queenie was showing her age. I didn’t recall noticing before we left home – any loss of vigour or aged appearance (other than the slow and gradual increase in white fibres in her fleece, but then what we see every day we don’t notice the gradual changes in, whereas Becky hadn’t seen Queenie for eight months or so. So maybe she had a point.
Hebridean feeding scrum
When we got home, at the beginning of December, I immediately noticed something different about Queenie ; in fact quite striking differences. No longer was she right at the front as I arrived in the morning, anxious for her special ration before everyone in the flock got fed. She was lingering at the back, keeping her distance along with the handful of older ewes who had never learned to be confident (or trusting) enough to jostle amongst the others for special treats : and some of those pretended indifference at the prospect of a tasty and nourishing breakfast, regardless of the weather and paucity of grazing.
I don’t want to be accused of anthopomorphism, but there was something in her eyes which to me looked like a mixture of confusion and sadness. I wonder if she looked rejected. She’d an accident whilst D and I were away : an ear tag had got caught in a hay-net, and in her frustration she’d ripped the tag out of her right ear, and now that ear flopped down, looking a bit ragged. The grey hairs on her face (though they weren’t anything new), the distant and detached expression, the floppy ragged ear : she didn’t look quite the Queenie I’d come to know well and to love.
My thoughts turned back to the idea that she might feel rejected, and thiking about that transported me back to our life in south-west Shropshire – very close to the border with Wales, and a spell of unemployment. That’s another story entirely, but suffice it to say that during that period I suffered with chronic depression, and in particular a feeling of rejection – that all the skills I’d honed and which were very well regarded in Germany were now worthless. Not because of a difference in standards, but because in the UK, technical excellence is not respected, it’s just a comodity.
So, okay, you’re wondering how this relates to Primrose and Queenie. Well, it was that experience of my own that made me question why Queenie might feel like that. The answer came immediately : it’s because, this year, we did not send the flock up on to the Beinn Sgiathan hill grazings for the summer, instead we kept them on our croft only, – in the fields we’ve created by enclosing and dividing the croft with new fences. We kept them in partly because of the very cold dry spring – followed by a cold wet summer – had resulted in very little grass to eat up on the hill. Also, it takes an additional hour of work each morning to trek up to the hill to check their okay, and then back down again. And then, after the summer, when we have in the past let the sheep out to graze freely among the low ground in and amongst the croft houses, we kept them in again – to cut down on the work for Becky, as the paucity of forage in winter means the sheep don’t always come to to our croft store to get their breakfast – we have to go and find them.
Breakfast time at the Big Garden Croft, Isle of Eriskay
Our fields are not small and flat – there are in each field a number of small ravines, rock outcrops, cliffs, streams and dry sunny slopes, and other variations in landform and topography ; but – it doesn’t require any special qualities to find your way round even the biggest field : the opportunities for shelter or fresh forage are limited, and indeed during this winter almost all the feed they need is being brought to them as bales of hay and buckets of concentrate. There is, quite simply, no need for Queenie’s skills, character and experience. In that sense, she is redundant.
Instead of grazing throughout the day, there is instead a scrum for the food rations, and to get to the head of the scrum you either need to be big and tough, or you need to have the right connections ; like, for example …
The shepherd himself being your mummy-daddy : that seems to work a treat! Isn’t that right, Primrose dear?
Dec 2010 : Ewes 11 and 12 [Queenie – at the back] in rare snow
[This is the second of a series of three posts, concerning two prominent ewes of our flock, Primrose and Queenie.]
The ewe that we now know as Queenie joined our flock in late 2009 as one of about three ewes we’d bought from a breeder of Hebrideans in the island of Benbecula, to the north of us. They all came with their Hebridean Sheep Society registration certificates, so were pedigree Hebrideans.
According to her certificate she’s Finlas Ewe 12 : that is, born into the Finlas flock, and was the 12th ewe-lamb born to that flock. No name, pedigree or otherwise : she was indistinguishable from the others – other than the numbers on her ear tags.
11 April 2012 : Queenie [then just known by her ear-tag number] with her just-born lamb
For the first year of our newly-formed An Gàrradh Mòr flock, I was working away from home most of the time (blog posts from that era used to be in a category titled ‘In Exile’ !) : Denise was in charge of the sheep, chickens, geese, cats and – and indeed almost everything! – whilst I was away. Even after I returned home for good, in late 2010, I had such a long backlog of work that it was a two or more until I could to see the unique character and qualities of each individual sheep. In fact the first mention of Queenie by that name is in the Scottish Holding Register (a log book – actually a spreadsheet – required by law to be maintained by every keeper of livestock) for the year 2014 : ‘Queenie’ has been added in the Comments field. The first post of this blog that mentions her by name is at the start of lambing season 2015. It seems that Queenie had already established a reputation for lambing first – which almost always means first to accept the ram. In fact I think she very quickly established a reputation for herself of being first in line for everything!
Nov ’15 : The ram’s first day on the job, and Queenie has already caught his eye
Nov ’15 : Queenie alone with Baghasdal
Apr ’16 : Queenie’s lambs first – two twins, in the cold wet rain
Apr ’17 : Queenie with her twin lambs
But it was when we started to let the sheep out to wander freely (as we’re entitled to do) the hills in summer (May to mid-October), and the lower land in winter (remainder of the year), that I started to realize her qualities extended well beyond being a good feeder, a good breeder, a good lamber, and a good mother. She was all those things, and a good leader as well : by Autumn 2016 it was obvious that where she went, the others followed ; what she did, the others copied ; and they respected her too, giving way to her whenever there was something on offer. And yet there was one more quality that became apparent through and after extended spells of bad weather, and through each successive winter of storms – especially cold wet winds out of the North West : she is a survivor, and more than that, she shows the rest of the flock how to survive with her. But let me give you some examples – from events that really occurred just as I describe …
The flock is up on the hill, and it’s late October, with the weather increasingly unsettled. For the past three days winds from the South East have hurled squally showers down on the hill, and the wet is weighing down the sheep’s well-grown fleeces, and is beginning to penetrate through to their skin, chilling their bodies. They must keep moving to generate some heat, but they must also graze. What they need is a sheltered spot. Now the islands do rock as other lands do trees, though being hard they are as likely to exacerbate the windy conditions as provide shelter ; but there nonetheless certain possibilities. Queenie knows just the right place that will give not only provide shelter from the wind but will provide relief from the rain – which will fly nearly horizontally above their back over the top of the rock outcrops. Climbing up the hill to check on the flock, day after day, I began to learn to observe the weather conditions, and head off towards where I think the sheep are most likely to be found. If the weather is still bad, Queenie will keep the sheep there, but returning my calls of ‘Trobhaibh! Trobhaibh! Trobhaibh’ [Oh come hither dear ones, come hither …] she will lead me to them, and they will take their feed there in their rocky refuge. But if the weather is abating, Queenie will break cover and, calling back to me as she runs full-pelt towards my own calls, I’ll lead them back towards the ‘hill gate’ at the top end of our croft – which is their normal feeding station when up on the hill.
Another example would be when the wind has been belting in off the Atlantic – so from the West – for day after day, gale force or more – without a pausing to let us catch breath. The rain is only light and intermittent, but enough that the wind is very chilling. But it’s the the sheer unrelenting brute force of the wind that makes it exhausting even for the sheep, with four feet on the ground and a thicky woolly fleece to keep themselves steady as they move across the slippery rocks and grass and try to graze. So, Queenie leads the flock off to Rosinis, an abandoned crofting township nearly a mile to the East : there’s a valley there, hidden-away with lush grass in the valley bottom, almost completely sheltered from westerlies. But Queenie wants the flock to be ready to put in an appearance in the morning, when I arrive to feed them back at the rocky outcrop above our hill gate. So at dusk she leads the flock up the slope of the valley to just below the top, where they’ll be out of the wind – when they’re lying down. In the morning, I climb the hill with a bag of feed – and a pair of binoculars : I’ve got to know where they’re likely to be. The rain has stopped, and the wind has eased a little, but still from the west, and will carry my voice to Queenie and the others. I turn to face south, cup my hands to my mouth and cast my call up against the rocky buttresses of Beinn Sgiathan : ‘Trobhaibh! … ” I pause, waiting for the first echo to return to me from Beinn Sgiathan ; and then second and third echoes, successively weaker than the first, rebound from the rocky slopes of Easabhal and Roineabhal, each two miles or so away to the north in South Uist, the other side of the Sound of Eriskay. I repeat the call : ‘Trobhaibh! … ” and immediately raise the binoculars to scan the the many low ridges and outcrops to the east. I spot a pair of horns and the upper head of a Hebridean – and I break out in a smile : it’s Queenie. I call again ‘Trobhaibh! … ” and through the binoculars more heads appear – and Queenie stands up, in full view. I call one final time, Queenie breaks into a run, her two half-sisters are up too and set off behind her. I can’t hear them, but I know they’re bleating, full-throated. Within seconds a bevy of ewes and lambs have appeared at the crest of the rise, and the quicker-witted waste no time in chasing after the others ; but Queenie and her leading posse have already disappeared and reappeared several times as they cross the many gullies and bogs, Queenie navigating as straight a line as the treacherous ground allows.
Queenie leading the flock, – though this time the Eriskay ponies arrived first!
Soon, the whole flock is gathered about me, the bolder crowding close, the more timid holding back from the throng, but Queenie has already recieved her reward – a half-ounce or so of sheep pellets taken direct from my cupped hand, and the others will feed from the troughs on the ground. I never make any fuss of Queenie other than that small reward after exceptional feats of knowledge, wisdom, skill, and determination. I don’t pet her or molly-coddle her : in fact she doesn’t care for such things at all. Filled with pride and joy in our flock, I watch over them, singing Queenie’s praise to the hills and anyone who cares to pause from hauling up their creels or slating a roof or fixing broken power lines after the storm. The flock having had their fill, Queenie pauses, surveying the landscape, and sets off in the direction of the best grazing for the conditions, and the others follow.
Queenie posseses all those qualities and skills that are necessary for a sheep to survive in the extreme conditions of the Outer Hebrides, but which, even so, most sheep possess only in part or weakly. But as for Queenie, she possesses all these attributes in full measure, pressed-down and overflowing : she doesn’t just survive, she thrives! But it would be fair to say that Queenie’s status rests on her outstanding survival skills.
[Tomorrow this series of three posts will conclude by considering why Queenie seems to have lost her leading position to the younger, smaller Primrose.]
[This is the first of a series of three posts, concerning two prominent ewes of our flock, Primrose and Queenie.]
I pulled out the lynchpins, let the ramp down to the ground and stepped well aside. After a few moments of hesitation, the first sheep stepped out onto the ramp and quickly he and others close behind had disappeared into the darkness beyond the reach of the trailer’s tail lights. But stomping and anxious bleating at the front of the trailer told me that there were more sheep there – too fearful to leave it’s safety, however unpleasant it might be. I let down the shallow side flap, reached in as far as I could and – as I couldn’t see them, the sheep being as black as was the night – I hoped that by sweeping my arm forward repeatedly, I would at least exert a degree of psychological pressure on them – how many there were I wasn’t sure – to leave the trailer and join their friends somewhere in the darkness of the pen. Once even the first of them had stepped onto the ramp, it just needed a ‘bark’ from me and they, too, were gone. Groping my way after them – and cursing my stupidity for leaving the torch at home, I found the big gate and swung it gently closed, rattling it to check the pen was secure. I reached through the bars of the gate to set down food and water, stood up and turned away and that was it, my job was done. Eighteen months of dedicated care and attention – from their first day of life until this day, their last-but-one – and a final night sheltered in the lairage of the abattoir. It was the logical conclusion of all that invested labour and care. This was where I let go of my charges : doing so is intrinsic to all farming, compassionate farming included! I don’t look back – just walk away.
Back at the trailer, I raised and secured the ramp, and did the same for the side flap. The vehicle engine was running (with the lights on I didn’t want the battery running flat), and it was a blustry night – with occasional passing sleety showers pinging off the trailer roof, so there was a lot of background noise. But, just as I secured the last lynchpin, I thought I heard a soft bleating – the sort of bleat by which a lamb calls to its mother – from close by – for recognition, for affection, for protection against the elements, for milk. And there it was again! I bent forward, my ear to the mesh of the trailer’s side-flap. And again! I turned to look, and against the darkness I could see no further than a disembodied nose – glistening with damp in the faintly reflected light of the vehicle tail lights. In that moment, I understood.
“Denise!” She couldn’t hear me, above the noises of engine, wind and rain. She had come to offer help if I needed it, to keep me company on the long journey (and ensure, on the drive home, that I was concentrating on the single-track road, not dwelling on the events of such a day) ; and if neither of those was immediately called for, she would be knitting. I opened the driver door of the van, and looked across. “Denise, I need you”. Her pins ceased their motion and her hands dropped to her lap : “Why, what’s the matter?”. I paused, still unsure as to the right name : but no, it could only be her : “It’s Primrose. She’s coming back with us”
According to her registration certificate, issued by the Hebridean Sheep Society, An Gàrradh Mòr Cara was born on 8th May 2016. That’s very late for our flock, and as I write this I recall that we’d already given up hope that her mother, Finlas Ewe 11, would give birth at all that year. She – like most of our older ewes, had come to us in 2010 from a croft in the nearby island of Benbecula, when she was little more than a lamb herself. To be honest, she didn’t prove to be a good mother : yes, she produced twins more reliably than the others, but no sooner had she given birth to them she’d be off, searching out grazing for herself, but never giving the poor lambs a chance to catch up or suckle. Most years we ended up taking the lambs off her and caring for them ourselves. In 2013 or perhaps ’14 she developed mastitis in one udder (the only ewe of ours ever to have mastitis), and then – and ever since – the other udder would swell up so much with milk that notwithstanding help from us no lamb could feed from the engorged teat. Most shepherds would have drawn the line there, and … But the fact was that she was in all other respects a very good sheep, kept herself in tip-top-health – by thrifty grazing, and dumping her progeny on us to feed! – be first-in-line for the ram, and being in such good health she would be sure to give birth to two lovely lambs … And so it would be year after year, round and round we’d go! That year – 2016, however, she was late – and there was only one lamb.
It’s been our practice to give every ‘pet lamb’ a ‘pet name’. Other sheep might be given a pet name (in addition to any pedigree name on their certificate) but only if they do something to warrant it – and that name might prove to be temporary. (Pet names are useful, as they allow D and I to converse easily about the latest sheepy adventures – and to apportion blame rightly for the naughtiness they get up to!) Naming is the prerogative of Denise ; and in the case of new-born lambs the name comes from the first natural thing that D sees after she is first introduced by me to the lamb in question (which, incidentally, is usually at mid-morning coffee break). It being May, and the banks of the crofts and the headland by the walled garden being speckled with wild Primroses, that’s how that particular lamb got it’s name.
Primrose’s upbringing was much the same as all our other pet lambs, before and since. She was lucky to have company : unusually, another ewe had difficulty that year, and so Primrose had a little playmate – Rhubarb, a boy born a week earlier. Their first few weeks are spent in the back garden, with a hay-lined shelter for the nights, or cold wet weather. After the first feeds of collustrum, they are bottle-fed milk-substitute (made up from powder bought in big sacks) four times a day. At first, feeding them can be fraught with problems – especially if they are weak (but neither Primrose nor Rhubarb were weaklings!) or if they are fidgety. Sooner or later, all lambs get fidgety and greedy, and then feeding time moves from the kitchen by the Aga to outside, us sitting on a joiner’s hop-up and later just standing still holding out the bottle with the lamb attached to that, sucking greedily and energetically!
Denise feeding Primrose at An Garradh Mor
Primrose and Rhubarb
Mary feeding Primrose at An Garradh Mor
Before long, the lambs understand where to go to get a feed – the back door. We must have forgotten about that when we renovated the house, making the back door triple-glazed, full-height! Our kitchen/breakfast table is right across the room from the door : there’s no escape. Soon the lambs are making themselves comfortable on the door mat of the porch : the porch is a nice place to empty their bowels too … Yuk! A barrier across the porch opening seems a good idea, but the height required to stop lambs jumping over it, and the bracing necessary to stop them battering it down, make such barriers too awkward for us to use, with our hands full of garden produce or the shopping. For reasons we don’t fully understand, Hebridean lambs will not, when they start to eat solids, eat hay – or the nice green and rather too-long grass of our lawns and grass paths. Hebridean lambs only like to eat the leaves (and flowers) from our garden flowers, bushes and trees. Perhaps they think they are goats? By now the lambs will be down to three feeds a day, and we’re desperate to get them out of the garden and off our hands!
Tilly loves our pet lambs : she licks them after they’ve finished their milk, and cleans them up after they’ve been busy at their other ends. Our pet lambs love Tilly! After all, she is black and has four legs, like them. But Tilly doesn’t give them milk : Jonathan gives them milk! Tilly must be an Aunt : Aunty Tilly! A good-fun sort of Aunty, who plays with you when she comes to visit! Tilly and the lambs trot along with me across the road to Cnoc-a-Deas, a headland of rock and rough grasses – which our pet lambs immediately start to eat. (Perhaps the taste of what their mother grazes on, out on the hills, gets through to the embryo lambs via the placenta and umbilical cord? That way they recognize what is good to eat, without a mother to teach it to them? Well, that’s my theory!) Then it’s down to the beach, and Tilly leads the races across the dazzling bright shell-sand. Too-and-fro, too-and-fro … and then I lead the way back to the walled garden. Time for a bottle of milk for the lambs, a bowl of water and a wee biscuit for Tilly, and coffee and toast for D and J In such things there is pure joy!
But it’s a joy that is transient, if only because …. well, we can’t keep every lamb that’s born, can we : that wouldn’t be practical ; it wouldn’t be financially possible.
By this stage I’ll already be taking the lambs with me over to the croft in the morning : if there’s just one, he or she may just jump up into the footwell by the front passenger seat. If there’s two, then there’ll be a cage in the back of the van. They soon learn to jump up and back out themselves.
At first the lambs go to the croft with me, follow me around as I do my duties – checking fencing, feeding the chickens, looking out for the geese (they mostly feed themselves without help from us), and – of course, feeding the sheep. The pet lambs are, as you might expect, fascinated. So too are the non-pet lambs : their mothers, less so. A ewe will ID-check the pet lambs with their noses, but will always push them away with a toss of their heads.
After a week or so, I’ll stay longer at the croft, working on fencing, ditching, or one of many other jobs that need doing. At first pet lambs will stay close to me, then later I’ll leave the lambs with the flock, collecting them when I go home for lunch. At first they’ll be bleating for me, but very quickly I’ll be calling them – away from their games with the other lambs! The next step is to leave the pet lambs at the croft all day, collecting them at dusk to spend the night at home : by then, bottle feeds are just twice a day, and the pet lambs will be eating grass.
Lambs and and un-sheared ‘shearling’.
Primrose and Rhubarb
Primrose and Rhubarb
The next step is to take a bottle of milk over to the croft to feed the pet lambs, but to leave them there. Oh, the pitiful bleating as we walk away, and the emptiness of the drive home! But, as the year advances and the days lengthen, before long, the bottle being emptied, the pet lambs prance off back to their friends. Far too quickly, the lambs’ interest in their evening milk slackens : they’re not waiting for you, bleating frantically, when you arrive ; they’re bleating, but not frantically ; they don’t finish the milk ; they don’t come when you call – you have to go and find them ; they come to you, take just a little milk, and then they turn and are gone. Soon, it’s the same with the morning feed, too. Then, I know the time has come to let go. D and I make an occasion of it, if we can. The last evening, we go over to the croft together and it’s Denise that feeds the lambs for the last time. We pause to watch them play. That’s the last time we will use their pet names, or single them out for special attention.
Primrose and new friend racing to the gate. Just because they can!
Primrose and new friend settling down in the lengthening shadows
Unless something happens. Like a certain ewe-lamb who, not having a ewe-mother to tell her where and what to graze – and where and what to avoid (though we’ve always suspected that Queenie, as alpha-female, keeps an eye on these motherless lambs), strayed into a patch of briars, her fleece soon snagging on a briar. As soon as a lamb or sheep turns to look at what was holding her, or to escape, the hold of the briar is made firmer, and every movement snags the sheep more and more, round and round, tigher and tighter and eventually … In such circumstances, if not found soon, a sheep will die a slow and pitiful death of exhaustion and dehydration, and may possibly be attacked by carrion crows, who don’t wait for death. Alas, the hill grazing (where the sheep go for the summer months) is big and wild, and a lost sheep could be almost anywhere – but it’s the known danger-spots that I would first think of searching. That particular, unusually, I had reason to go back to the croft, and my task being done, I thought to check the sheep, up on the hill grazings. One was missing! I set off immediately on a search of the nearest briar patches, and thankfully she was found there, and couldn’t have been caught there long. I didn’t recognize Primrose at first – it was more than six months since the evening D and I had fed her for the last time. It was Primrose who recognized me – perhaps by smell, as I bent over working to cut away the briars. But you can read more of this in Primrose Amongst the Briars – the post D and I wrote at the time.
It was to be another six or seven months before I next had any dealing with Primrose – and that was that fateful night at Lochmaddy Abattoir, late Autumn 2017. And that was long enough for her to completely let go of me, and me her. Let go, but never forget – or not completely. If anything, I’d say a lamb – a sheep – has a better memory for faces, voices, smells – and certainly the combination of these things, than we humans have. There is scientific evidence to support that assertion, but not so my belief that a sheep will never forget the face, voice, and smell of a human who has saved that sheep from danger – from death. Even the most unapproachable, awkward blighter of a sheep will, if rescued from entanglement or blow-fly attack, or some other great danger, will become your most devoted friend thereafter – and will never forget you, though you may him or her.
But that night in Lochmaddy, Primrose remembered me as her mummy-daddy who had fed her, nurtured her, released her to be with her kind, and then found and saved her from death. And on that strength she appealed to me, not to send her out into the dark night with the others. In her fear, she clung to me. She came home with us. What would you do with her?
We got home just before midnight – too late to drive on to Eriskay, so Primrose stayed in the trailer that night. The next morning, after Primrose had rejoined the flock, and having resolved that she would join the older ewes as breeding stock, D and I submitted a registration form and payment to the Hebridean Sheep Society. Thre was no doubt that she was very well qualified : excellent bloodlines, very good breed conformation and with excellent health (thanks to that mother of hers!). Officially, she would be An Gàrradh Mòr Cara : that is, she was born into the An Gàrradh Mòr flock, and her personal name is Cara. But in practice? Primrose!
So, now you understand that there is a close bond between Primrose and me – a familial bond. The other sheep – especially the ewes who are mothers – can see that, and hear it : in the way Primrose behaves towards me ; and in the way she calls to me – the call of a lamb to its mother for food, protection, affection. No other sheep in the flock does that. It’s those skills – those social skills, that gives Primrose status in the eyes of her peers. And that’s how Primrose has come to be the one who pushes through the throng of sheep to reach me, and the others pull away and let her through, and I’m sure will often wait for her to take the first mouthful of hay, or give way to her at the trough of sheep pellets. She is, I’m sure, quite aware of this by now, and exploits it as naturally as a Princess will amuse herself directing the servants, flirting with the Chancellor or the sons of a Duke. Primrose does now seem to have pre-eminence amongst the flock on account of her social status and social skills.
[Tomorrow, the next part of this series will consider what qualities put Queenie at the head of the flock for such a long time.]
That night in Lochmaddy, November 2017, had started at the croft, late afternoon, with Denise and I getting the sheep into the fank and separating the hogget lambs (those 18months or so old) from the others and transferring them to the trailer (we also had to check the health of all the ewes and the ram to ensure they were in good condition for tupping.) By a twist of fate, hundreds of miles away in Pamplona, our daughter Catherine was representing D and myself at a meeting with the seven siblings who owned, and were selling to us, their old family house in San Martin de Unx. Agents and lawyers were there too. There were final checks to make, confirmation and assurance to be given on various matters. and then, all being well, Catherine was to sign the contract on our behalves. Extraordinarily, all this was being relayed via WhatsApp to my mobile phone, laid on the roof of the trailer under a plastic bag to proct it from the rain. Every time I crossed the road from the fank to the trailer, the phone beep-beeped and I had to read find the new message – in English from Catherine, open the attachment, read Spanish legalise and if necessary use Google Translate to, er, Translate, then compose a response and check its translation and then send … On and on it went. When Catherine eventually signed, we set off for Lochmaddy, already exhausted.
At midnight, sitting on the stairs at home with a glass of wine, discussing the day with D and with Becky (she’d been looking after the sheep whilst we were away – we had returned from that first trip to Navarra only the night before) I found myself sobbing uncontrollably from the drama of the day and night, and what it signified : Our life in Uist, and our crofting endeavour in particular, had changed direction, and we were moving into a period of great change in our lives, that might take several years to come to their conclusion.