What do Soay sheep see on a snowy day?

Far be it from me to presume to know, actually, but I do know their shepherds see all sorts of lines and angles and curves in everyday objects that can delight the eye and provide an additional layer of pleasure to what sometimes feels like pretty humdrum stuff — feeding, watering, filling the mineral feeders.

On my way out to feed early one recent morning after a lovely big soft snowstorm — no wind, no drifts, just the fluffy stuff coming straight down — my eyes were greeted by all sorts of arresting scenery and it occurred to me that what we see, and our sheep see, on a wintery morning, is all part of the fascination in raising small livestock on a small acreage.  I hope you will enjoy these images of life in the country.

Corduroy comes in all colors, including “fence beige”


One of Steve’s dreams for our farm ever since we got serious about formal conservation breeding with our British Soay sheep has been to have breeding paddocks consolidated in one place.  He figured it would make chores more manageable, and our livestock guardian dog’s protection more effective, than having the breeding groups spread throughout the pastures.  And besides, he has had a hammer in his hand and a tool kit slung on his hip since he was a toddler, so there generally is no way to dissuade him from taking on yet another project, improving on the 4th generation of shelters, thinking up new ways to protect the mineral feeders from getting rained on — you get the idea.

This year, with the help of our trusty summer ranch hand Shawn, the breeding paddock dream came true.  I have never seen so many angles and Frank-Lloyd-Wright-like surfaces on a farm before, but I find them very pleasing to the eye.  Here is the Saltmarsh Sheraton, a four-star breeding hotel:


Let me know if you are interested in a detailed description of how these pens are put together.  On a flat surface, they actually would be quite manageable to construct.  On land as slopey as ours, that’s another matter.

Not everything at Saltmarsh Ranch is as meticulously constructed as the new breeding pens, nor as pleasing to the eye, but I thought you might smile at this picture of our sheep trailer, which I maintain must have started life as a circus wagon, parked in the snow next to our trusty old pickup Willie (as in Nelson), filled to the brim with snow-covered scrap metal, largely from the building project.  The angular trailer has its own story, but that’s for another day.


And last and most, here is the legendary Berci Box all decked out in its winter finery when it got caught out in the snow, with snags of snow hanging from the air holes on its side.


The Berci box has carried countless Soay sheep up and down the west coast, but one of its earliest and most notable uses was to carry Soay sheep into the U.S. from Athelstan, Quebec a decade ago. If you don’t know Kathie Miller’s saga, I commend it to you.  It’s a great tale about legendary sheep (and their crate), and about Kathie, an even more legendary pioneering Soay sheep maven.

For now …