Monday, June 18, 2012

A little lamb family: Svedal farm, Sogndal, Norway (6/16/2012)

12:00, 18/6/2012.  I am sitting in my dormitory in the Nansen Academy, where in a few hours I will begin the Peace Scholar program.

    I woke up at 9:30 on Saturday morning, and had a delicious breakfast of open-faced sandwiches with Kari, Hans’s wife who had gone to bed early the night before.  As we chatted, I very much enjoyed sampling the assortment of toppings-- various jams and cheeses, including the famous Norwegian brown cheese, a caviar spread squeezed from an aluminum tube, a spread made from diced radishes, and a sweet buttery spread called Prim.  Hans joined us after a while, and we sat around talking until almost noon. 
    The night before, I had offered to help Hans with work on the farm, so after noon I put on some of his farm clothes and boots and got to work!  Our task for the afternoon had a few steps:
1. Gather the lambs from their outdoor grazing pen, and lure them into the barn with a special feed.
2. Give a dose of anti-bacterial medicine to all of the lambs, and record it on their record.
3. Lead the sheep up the mountainside, and through a gate to a higher part of the mountainside, where they will live and graze for the rest of the summer.  (A few weak lambs and their mothers would be brought back to the nearby pen, where they would be safer from the elements and wolverines.)
    It was a rip-roarin’ good time. We shook the bucket of tasty candy-feed, and twenty or thirty sheep and lambs came racing down the mountainside to get the snack, bells jangling around their wooly necks.  We did our best to lead three or four sheep and each of their one or two lambs out of the pen and fifty feet down the road to the barn, but occasionally a sheep or a lamb would veer in a different direction, compelling us to chase them back towards the barn.  There were three or four times where I chased the same rowdy lamb twenty feet up the rocky mountainside, darting right and left trying to snatch it in my arms, and eventually getting behind it and chasing it into the barn.  From there, Hans ran around the pen inside the barn with a large syringe, grabbing lambs between his legs and feeding them a helping of medicine, which they occasionally spit onto his shoe.  As a novice shepherd, he gave me the task of simply recording on a clipboard which lambs he had treated.  From there, it was another round of Lamb-chop Round-up, with Hans leading the flock with a bucket of candy feed and me following behind, trying to make sure all of the sheep and their lambs followed Hans instead of running in the opposite direction.  After a few hours of bucket-jangling, frantic running and chasing, sheep-grabbing and clipboard-writing, we had treated all of the little lambs and and led them to their new homes. 
    After the sheep shenanigans and a snack, I went for a hike up the mountainside with Kari and a Belgian couple who were staying in a cabin on their property.  Although Kari is about six months pregnant, she was enthusiastic to lead a hike, and in fact set a fairly quick pace for the hike-- classic Norwegian.  The Belgian woman was a flight attendant, and I asked her some questions about her work (since I think that it could be a good job for anyone who loves to travel).  She told me that she speaks Dutch, English, and French, and little bits of several other languages; and gets huge discounts on flights all over the world.  We hiked for about forty-five minutes to a mountain cabin owned by Hans and Kari, where we had a nice view of the mountains.  It began to rain as we began our return journey, and Kari and I talked about Norwegian history, policies on maternity leave, and folk music (she is a folk musician).
    The rest of the afternoon was very relaxed: I showered, uploaded photos to Facebook, and chilled out. I asked Hans and Kari if I could help out with anything, but there was nothing that needed doing.  Around 10:00, Hans, Kari, and I had a delicious homemade pizza, stuffed olives, and pineapple as we watched the EuroCup game between Russia and Greece.  In conversation, they discovered I had never seen the great Monty Python film The Life of Brian.  We made a point to watch it before bed-- hilarious.

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