Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sheep gathering

Wow, yesterday was a great adventure. Some students and the land lady's (Dora) family gathered in our house at 8am, Jacob borrowed a car from the director of the University Center, Peter, installed the borrowed car seat and we were off. We were following Edda who was driving 3 other students, Henry, Tanja and Tran to Betty's farm. She warned us that her car was not too powerful:) Before we knew it she was off and we were quite a bit behind.

Ima is going to take over this blog since she was more involved in the sheep gathering than I...I am sad to say. I stayed in the farm house with Zelia, Dora, her daughter Suuna (4 yrs old) and Effi. Our job was to wait for the sheep to be chased down the mountains and get them into the barn. Finally, I went in with Suuna who really wanted to get out of the hail and rain while Dora and Effi put up a fence to keep the kinta (sheep in Icelandic) from running away. While Zelia napped and I colored with Suuna, this is what Ima was up to...she begin with today...and then gets to the sheep gathering.

Yesterday gave me flashbacks to Outward Bound as I donned my hiking books and raingear to cross rocky fields and steep riverbanks, taking position on the leeward side of out-croppings to get protection from the wind, rain and hail and eating berries while left to watch others climb higher while waiting for the sheep to get down to my area.

There is something mystical about being alone on a hillside with the elements being so fickle that you keep turning around to see what is coming next from over the mountain top.Your feet may be cold but you can’t leave your position; you get thirsty but since Jacob has your water you eat handfuls of crow berries. You constantly scour the hills looking for sheep; they often stand still for so long that it is hard to tell them from the rocks until a shower makes the rocks glisten with moisture.I wished I could have been with those who went higher though I am probably not nearly as nimble as the young guys. row of sheep appear high up, looking like train cars moving along a track; how frustrating to see them pass onto the far side of the mountain because there is no one up there to herd them downward. As a larger group get down to my area two riders on Icelandic ponies help gather in some strays and we try to push one old, tired and blind in one eye ewe down the hill (you’ll see her picture, too).After joining the two boys (Thor,9, and Gerd(?) 12) in the barn, we had a wonderful lunch in the farm house. A delicious vegetable soup with ground oxen and ground pork and lightly creamed with a thin white cheese, bread, cheese, ham and a loaf of some kind of German pork fat product. We’ll have to ask Emily and Ulf what it is.Coffee, cookies and oranges (Zelia sucked on an orange for the first time and really enjoyed it) and we were on our way. Back over the narrow gravel and mud road with partially washed out patches with some snow squalls to add to the thrill of the drive.All the waterfalls we had seen on the trip to the barn were running fuller and faster and a couple of on coming cars had to pull over in the one lane section of the 6 kilometer tunnel.After a yummy dinner of locally farmed cod we went to join the evening portion of the day long music festival which we had had to miss.All afternoon there had been short concerts in people’s homes and now everyone gathered in the town square to hear more music and to sing.The weather drove all of us to the music center where, much to our surprise people were quite pushy getting into the hall (and a good portion of the population was there). We had to leave because the music and vibrations were too loud for Zelia.We took a walk and had an ice cream (soft serve dipped in chocolate) at the gas station.As we got close to home the sky lit up with fire works and with that we said good night to another exciting day.So back now to the story I lost. The night we went to dinner at the restaurant that looks and feels like a tavern from the Middle Ages, it was pouring as we walked over so we were all soaked when then unbolted the door for us. When the woman saw my jeans she said I would get sick and disappeared into the kitchen. She came out holding a pair of slightly holey, black tights and a fleece blanket and said I had to get out of my wet pants before I got sick. At first she pointed to the ladies room but that was across the plaza which would have meant getting soaked again so I just changed right there behind the table. She took my pants and said she would put them in the “oven” and out she went to another building to take care of them. We all shared the blanket, putting it over our legs, under the table. I think Andea has described the dinner already. I think we have scored a lot of points with the land lady letting her know how much Andrea and Jacob are willing to do around the house and that they are so environmentally conscious. Her daughter loved Zelia and it was mutual. (They have just left for the airport as they now live in southern Iceland. They are German as is a friend of hers that we met today. This woman is connected to the school and has only been here 4 years. She said that what we have noticed is true, that Icelanders are not very open and friendly. It takes time and patience to “fit in”. I think with all that Andrea has to contribute, they’ll break in easily. It also seems that they get quite a bit more snow than we had been led to believe; also the average, winter temps are around freezing, that doesn’t include the wind chill! We are off for a walk to the forest. I won’t be ready to leave here on Wednesday and really look forward to returning.