Our sheep go to the mountains in July and graze in an area that is 2.280 square kilometer big. We drive them there in the beginning of July and then we go and get them home in September.
Many have asked me how we get them all home, so I thought I might describe it to you.
The area in the mountains is huge and it is far away also. There are two cottages, located on each end of the area, that we call AFRÉTTUR in Icelandic. It is almost three hour drive to the one that is farthest away, so we drive few horses up there, and atv’s and carriages. And then we start to look for the sheep. In that area (furthest North) are not so many of them to be found and if they do, they are caught and put on the carriages and driven to the stable by the cottage. This is done for three days, looking everywhere that a sheep can be found, focusing on finding each and everyone of them.
It is almost impossible for them to survive the winter, so we must find all of them.
The fourth and last day, the herders double their number and we form a line over the AFRÉTTUR, from West to East, keeping a visible distance between each herder. That way we help each other to herd the sheep in front of us. This day is through the main pastures and most of the sheep are to be found there. The flock gets bigger and bigger and they all head the same way; towards home in front of those who are herding them. Now half of the people is on horses, and a quarter of them is on foot, few on cars and atvs. Everyone has the same goal; GETTING ALL THE SHEEP HOME!
We start early each morning using the daylight that is now starting to get shorter since the autumn is falling in. At 7 o’clock we are off and at 9 we have started to herd.
The last day, which is the Saturday, we are usually at the paddock around 5 or 6 in the evening. Sheep, people and horses a bit tired, but happy after a good day’s work. Everyone gets to relax and have something to eat. The sheep go into the “nights-pasture” which has good grass and running water, the people get a good meal, now in the other cottage at the mountains (closest to home) and the horses get some hay or grass and after few hours of relax, they are driven home, since their job is now done.
On the morning of Sunday we start by having a good breakfast. Then we check if the paddock is in order and get it ready for the days work. And at 9 am the RÉTTIR start.
A group of sheep is herded in the paddock and then each farmer goes around with his helpers and gets the sheep in a smaller pen belonging to different farmers. Each sheep has an ear-tag with a number of the farm. Our farm’s number is 45R1 and all the sheep with that number get pulled into our pen. When it is full, we load a wagon of sheep and drive it home with a tractor, releasing the sheep into a grassy field to graze when home. And then we do it over and over until all the sheep have been taken from the nights-pasture and are safely home.
This is our heritage and a time of joy and reunion. Family members come together and enjoy working together with the sheep.
I get to meet my sheep again and see how they have been doing during the summer. A reward for the work we have put on by raising, feeding and breeding good animals, providing the best of life for them, trying to fullfill all their needs. – AND… I will get fresh new wool to work with.