Back to Journal

The Snow Of The Lambs

Posted on

The last cold snap of the year sees snows across the high Harris hills.

The lambing season is upon us, a sure sign of spring and a reassuring spark of joy alongside the bursts of bright yellow daffodils and gorse blooms.

Their arrival is not always sunshine and light however and, as always, April brings  with it a fall of snow to dust their fresh white fleeces.

Despite happening almost every year at this time, it often surprises people but local crofters have long memories of keeping watch on these cold days and nights.

Lambs keeping warm on a fresh bed of hay.

Often heralded by the last chilly snap of the year, these 'lambing snows', also known in Scottish Gaelic as ‘Sneachd beag breith nan uan' are usually short lived and the bad weather quickly gives way to bright sun, blue skies and gentle breezes.

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

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

A proud mum keeps a watchful eye on a brighter day.

Some of our distillery team will be busy tending to their flocks right now, like distiller Phil Bertin, and it will no doubt be a messy affair for them over the next few weeks.

Old clothes and waterproofs will quickly be covered with all manner of fluids and foul smells, as helping hands are regularly brought to bear on difficult births.

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 annual toil.

Finding their feet and ready to face the cold.

The difficult days are soon forgotten with each new arrival, the miracle of nature laid bare as mothering instincts take hold.

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

It can be a sight to behold and although Harris has far fewer lambs these days than it did in the past, there are still plenty to be found finding their feet.

We wish all the crofters and their families a successful lambing season 2022, and hope there's some Isle of Harris Gin waiting to warm you from the cold at the end of each long day.

Basket Alert

Go to basket