After a few days of clear skies and warm summer sunshine, and more than week since the last rain, today’s low cloud and drizzle are good for the walled garden and the croft ; but they also make the morning rounds just a bit harder work – not least climbing the hill in waterproof jacket and trousers.
I reach the hill gate to find none of the sheep waiting for me – not even little Windy, anxious for her morning bottle of milk. (I’m going to have to start weaning her, soon.) I climb to a prominent high point and call Trobhaibh! Trobhaibh (Come hither! Come hither!), and listen for the echo resounding from the steep north face of Beinn Eisabhal. Satisfying, but unlikely to reach far in the low cloud.
I wait a while and listen: distant bleating: but from where ; from whom? And what’s that … neighing, too?
The cloud swirls and clears, opening up a view of the corrie above Seonaidh‘s crofts. In the distance, appearing over the high ground between Bun a Mhuillin and Roisinis, appears a few black heads, and the bleating becomes clearer and just perceptibly louder.
Suddenly, looming out of the cloud to the right, not the corrie below, appear two white Eriskay mares. A trail of others appear behind them. All uninvited guests, here for a free breakfast!
They’re friendly enough, and one older mare accepts my strokes around her head, but is more interested in the bag I have with me, containing the sheep’s morning ration. Within moments, I have twenty Eriskays pestering me for sheep nuts. “No way! These are for Queenie and her flock : you can [beep] off!”
Queenie herself soon appears at the head of the rise, Windy close behind, and the rest of the flock trailing along, all bleating ‘Wait for me!” “Don’t forget me” and more on that theme.
I lay down big fistfuls of sheepnuts, arranged in an irregular line (as tussocks and puddles permit), keeping it short so that the sheep crowd together and there’s few opportunities for the ponies to stick their heads in and steal.
But the sheep are skittish, nervous of the (to them) huge Eriskays: I stomp around the ewes in a circle, defending them and their breakfast from any disturbance by the avaricious Eriskays.
Soon, the sheep have had their fill, and move on: the ponies move in and comb the ground with their soft whiskers, their lips parting as they detect the occasional sheepnut missed by the sheep.