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Lambing Life

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Two bright white Cheviot lambs, newly arrived.

Amid lockdowns and finding our normal lives on hold, some things simply can’t be put on pause here in the Outer Hebrides.

The seeds were, quite literally, sown last November as eager rams were released to run rampant among bands of Blackface and Cheviot ewes in their annual carnal outing.

Roughly 150 days on from that month of matings, the results of their hard work have been appearing on crofts and moors across these islands.

Lambing days on the west-coast machair.

The lambing season is upon us, a sure sign of spring and a reassuring spark of seasonal joy, reminding us that, in the natural world at least, it is business as usual.

Often heralded by the last cold snap of the year, known in Scottish Gaelic as ‘sneachd beag nan uan’ or the ‘small snow of the lambs’, the bad weather of winter has now given way to bright sun, blue sky and gentle breezes.

For those that keep sheep, it is a hectic time in the island calendar, with long hours and round-the-clock challenges as shepherds keep a watchful eye on the spectacle unfolding before them.

Chris from the distillery with his hands full at lambing time.

The traditional Blackface and Cheviots of old are now joined by other breeds, from sharp-horned Hebrideans to short-tailed Icelandics, but all will require some semblance of stockmanship to ensure safe arrivals.

Some of our distillery team will be busy tending to their flocks right now, like Head Distiller Kenny Maclean, apprentice Phil Bertin and Chris Thomson from the Guest team.

It will be a messy affair for each of them, with old clothes and waterproofs quickly covered with all manner of fluids and foul smells, as helping hands are regularly brought to bear on difficult births.

Head Distiller Kenny Maclean on crofting duties.

But, through all the Agri-gel and iodine, colostrum powder and squirts of Spectum, there is much pleasure to be found among the blood, sweat and tears of this yearly toil.

The difficult days are soon forgotten with each new arrival, the miracle of nature laid bare as mothering instincts take hold and these fragile, wet-fleeced creatures quickly find their feet.

Within weeks, the once timid lambs will be racing across the machair-lands in great gangs, bouncing and full of boundless energy.

Another day, another new arrival.

It can be a sight to behold and as the rest of the natural world comes alive around us too we can find solace and feel heartened.

We also remember that the seasons never cease to turn and the hard times we face right now will surely pass.

As we discover peace and reassurance in these rare moments of lambing life, we wish you good health and every strength as this unusual spring unfolds.

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